Remembering Manna Srinivasan
- Dr. Sunil Kothari
Photos courtesy: India International Centre
April 18, 2012
A memorial meeting was held by Dance Alliance, Asia Pacific Performing Arts Network (APPAN) in collaboration with India International Centre, New Delhi on 12th April 2012 at 6pm in the main auditorium. A large number of scholars, dancers, organizers of cultural institutions, members of IIC and friends of Manna Srinivasan gathered to pay tributes to him. He passed away on 9th March 2012 at New Delhi.
From Chennai, a number of well wishers, scholars, dancers and institutions including Dr. Pappu Venugopal Rao, Secretary of The Music Academy of Madras, Editor in Chief V Ramnarayan and executive editor S Janaki of Sruti monthly (their messages are quoted below), dancers Sudharani Raghupathy, VP Dhananjayan and CV Chandrasekhar had sent warm tributes for Manna Srinivasan’s services and selfless attitude.
Rama Vaidyanathan acknowledged guidance she received from Manna for her work on Brihadeeshwara temple and the Varnam she performed. Manna assisted her by giving her all the relevant material. Recently at the Music Academy festival in Chennai, she performed a Tanjore Quartette varnam for which Manna had provided many suggestions. She said that he used to tell her to be happy with whatever she was doing in dance and carry on her good work.
S Kalidas, a disciple of Mallikarjuna Mansoor and a journalist, remembered how when he was barely 15 and was visiting Tanjore, Manna had helped by introducing him to various festivals. Recently when he was there once again, he called Manna to tell him about it and Manna and he met once again sharing so many memories. Because of his catholic interest and love for classical music, be it Carnatic or Hindustani, Manna was there to assist all musicians.
J Veeraraghavan, Director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi, S Subramaniamswami of Delhi Tamil Sangam, S Krishnaswami of Shanmukhananda Sangeet Sabha paid glowing tributes to Manna as he had lent his support to the activities of these cultural organizations for the past forty years.
Leela Venkataraman, dance critic of The Hindu, recalled how Manna would go to great lengths to provide information on relatively unknown artists, supplementing it with clippings. Rita Ganguly, wife of Keshav Kothari, former secretary of Sangeet Natak Akademi, acknowledged Manna’s assistance in her career at Kalakshetra, when she was studying Kathakali and later on studied Bharatanatyam under Rukmini Devi. She met Keshav Kothari through Manna. After her marriage, she took to learning vocal Hindustani music from Siddheswari Devi and in all her efforts Manna would help her, filling up forms for scholarship and introducing her to cultural organizations. Manna helped Keshav Kothari a lot for multifarious activities of Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Kathak doyen Pandit Birju Maharaj remembered how Keshav Kothari introduced Manna to him and for so many activities of Sangeet Natak Akademi and Kathak Kendra, Manna always lent support. Jai Chandiram, formerly working in documentation and film making department of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), spoke as if she was upset with Manna for leaving us like this. Manna had suggested so many projects which she will now have to take up without his help. Manna had an abiding love for documentation and he will be sorely missed, said Jai Chandiram.
Prof. MGK Menon, renowned scientist and former President of IIC, remembered Manna for his services to the IIC, in planning performances, concerts, annual IIC week long celebrations, recent Golden Jubilee celebrations of IIC, organizing rare recitals of musical instruments, in particular of Jalatarang by a South Indian musician, oral history, need for documentation. Though he became member of IIC later on, he was always available for any work at IIC. He had formed New Artists Forum with help of Tarveen Mehra through help of some high official at the company of philanthropist Tatas. Prof. Menon said Manna used to say IIC means auditorium, where artists perform. Innumerable music and dance events at IIC received his total guidance.
Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan could not come as she was unwell. Her message is very moving and I quote it. “We are meeting at a very sad moment. The passing away of Manna Srinivasan is an irreparable loss to the entire community of musicians, dancers, scholars, both in the North and the South. Self effacing, humble, always helpful, altruistic, Manna was a rare human being. His role as a communicator between and amongst artists will be remembered for long. Manna made bridges of communication between South and North in particular, but also other regions of India. He was not only an organizer, a facilitator, a one-man promoter, he was more. He delved deep into the traditions of music and dance, particularly of South India. He knew the villages and the temples, the kutcheris, the vidvans, the sabhas as few would know. He was a mine of information.
Manna Sinivasan was as familiar a figure in Chennai as he was in Delhi. Through his selfless dedication, he was responsible for bringing to light many hitherto unknown traditions as also musicians and dancers. Manna matured as a scholar and documentation person, which is evident in his work with regard to the Brihadeeshwara temple in the IGNCA and his latest direction of the presentation of Rama Vaidyanathan.
I could say more but my heart is heavy because I have had the privilege of knowing Manna Srinivasan for nearly sixty years. I hope Sruti will dedicate a special issue to his memory and I hope that this assembly will find a suitable manner to perpetuate his memory, preferably through an award in his name. I am sorry I am not able to attend this meeting in person, but I am present amongst all of you in spirit. May his soul rest in peace.”
Dr. Sunil Kothari is dance historian, scholar, author and a renowned dance critic. He is Vice President of World Dance Alliance Asia Pacific India chapter, based in New Delhi. He is honored by the President of India with Padma Shri, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Senior Critic Award from Dance Critics Association, NYC. He is a regular contributor to www.narthaki.com, the roving critic for monthly magazine Sruti and is a contributing editor of Nartanam for the past 11 years.
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