At 8th Cross, Vontikoppal, a 24-day extravaganza

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes:  Life in Mysore is mostly on the quieter side but come September, the City wakes up from an extended siesta, as it were, and slips into a period of intense cultural activitiy that borders on the frenzy for a couple of months.

There is, of course, the grand Dasara festival where there is a State-sponsored programme in every nook and corner of the City. Depending on your age, either you could quietly sit in the main Amba Palace and listen to nonagenarian R.K. Srikantan, who is still in fine fettle to give a 3-hour Carnatic classical receital, or dance to the popular hits in Kannada or Hindi by Sonu Nigam at the Yuva Dasara in Maharaja College Grounds.

But the musical extravaganza that really gives a headstart to the cutural calendar is a private one.

The Sri Prasanna Vidya Ganapathi Mahothsava Charitable (SPVGMC) Trust on 8th cross road in Vontikoppal, brings classical music to everyone’s doorstep during Ganesh Chathurthi.

Under the art patrons K.V. Murthy and R. Vasudeva Murthy and their tireless man for all seasons, secretary Himamshu, the 8th Cross Ganesha music festival is usually a no-nonsense ten-day feast, but this year, on the occasion of its golden jubilee, it has been extended to an amazing 24 days.

The who’s who in Carnatic music vie with one another to come to sing in the permanent pandal erected on the tiny stretch of the 8th cross between fifth main and sixth main roads.

Padma Vibhushan Umayalapuram Shivaraman, who has a law degree from Madras University, left his preparation for the IAS to take up law practice, and left that too to learn percussion instruments, is coming again this year. He has taken his mrudangam to concerts with Pandit Ravi Shankar, Hari Prasad Chaurasia and recorded for ECM in a new age jazz direction with L. Shankar.

So are veterans, Padmabhushans both, T.V. Shankarnarayana and T.N. Krishnan, who will rub shoulders with software techie kids like Saket Raman and Pattabhiram Pandit, and Soumya who holds a masters degree in chemistry.

Local violinists Mysore M. Nagaraj and Mysore M. Manjunath, who are now bracketed with international performers, somehow find time to be in Mysore to accompany the stalwarts as it happened when Pandit Rajeev Taranath came to perform here from the United States last year.

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What is it here at 8th Cross that attracts performers and rasikas alike?

We discussed it at length last year, but it bears repetition: the absolutely informal ambience.

Life goes on in the narrow space on the two narrow footpaths, where chairs are put up for the swelling crowds. In this needle eye-hole, students walk back from their inevitable private tuition, dogs which come running in the middle of the road suddenly remember it is music time, walk back and use the needle space to amble along.

There is a flamingo tree in the middle of the foot path with roots spread all around. The tree is probably 60 years old and must have been a small plant when the SPVGMC Trust started.

Both have grown together and have not come in each other’s way. The organizers have not, thankfully, made any effort to remove the full blown tree and this is the crux of the matter. Co-existence is a better alternative for people who hanker for development at any cost.

This year the renowned neurosurgeon Dr V. Bhaskar gave a fantastic Hindustani classical recital.

This year is also the centenary anniversary of the Carnatic music singer who sang English notes. Yes, that’s Madurai Mani Iyer, whose rendering of ‘Sarasa Saamadhaana’ still has no parallel.

This year, Dr L. Subramaniam, the violinist, has been felicitated.

8th Cross Ganesha brings old memories back to those who have grown and left Vontikoppal. But they can be sure of one thing. Himamshu and his band of enthusiastic friends will always ensure music flows here year after year, to places that were once their homes.

For those who can’t make it, the entire programme can be seen by visiting www.8thcrossganesha.org

Also read: At 8th Cross, even Ganesha wants a good concert

Once upon a time, Govinda, Venky, Seshu, Gundu…