Sundaram Balachander

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Sundaram Balachander
Veena S Balachandar 1950.jpg
Born 18 January 1927
Mylapore, Madras Presidency , British India
Died 13 April 1990 (aged 63)
Bhilai, Chhattisgarh, India
Occupation Veena player, director, dancer, singer, poet, cine actor, playback singer, music composer, photographer, string artist
Years active 1934 to 1990
Spouse(s) Shantha (1953–1990)
(his death)
Children Raman (son)
Awards Padma Bhushan

Sundaram Balachander (18 January 1927 – 13 April 1990) was an Indian veena player. He was also an accomplished filmmaker. He directed and produced while also having composed music for a few of them.

Early life[edit]

His ancestors were from Srivaajiyam village in Tanjore area, which is acclaimed as the seat of culture and fine arts in South India. His grandfather is Rao Saheb Vaidyanatha Iyer. He was born to V. Sundaram Iyer and Parvathi alias Chellamma. His father bought a house in Mylapore in 1924, at the suggestion of Pudukkottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai he added a hall in the first floor exclusively to entertain and be entertained. Stalwarts like Ariyakudi Ramanujam Iyengar, Madurai Mani Iyer, Ambi Deekshithar, Muthaiah Bagavathar, Karaikudi Sambasivam and Papanasam Sivan have all performed in that hall. In fact, it was Sundaram Iyer who took Papanasam Sivan under his fold when Sivan relocated to Madras from Trivandrum to earn a livelihood. Papanasam Sivan in his reminiscences (1900) refers to the popularity of Swathi Thirunal compositions in Trivandrum and ironically, the acquaintance with such a person in the childhood itself did not help Balachander to escape his prejudice against Swathi Thirunal and Kerala Music.

His elder brother S. Rajam was a well-known singer and teacher, and a gifted artist as well. His elder sister is S. Jayalakshmi (who later acted as M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar's pair in Sivakavi), S. Saraswathi was his younger sister, followed by the twins S. Karpagam and S. Gopalaswami.

From the age of five he showed an interest in classical music and his first musical attempt was with the kanjeera, which is a small, circular percussion instrument. Within a year he was accompanying his brother and other musicians on the kanjeera during regular concert engagement, in Sabhas, in temple festivals, in devotional congregations, etc. From age six on his career achieved steady growth. He also learnt to play tabla, mridangam, harmonium, bulbul tarang, dilruba, and shehnai .

Music career[edit]

On the sitar, Balachander was a fully fledged solo concert artist by age twelve and it is interesting to note that he performed South Indian Carnatic music on that instrument. From age fifteen to eighteen he served as an artist on the staff of "All India Radio", Madras, playing many instruments during the almost daily broadcasts, while also performing in solo recitals, participating in orchestral ensembles, accompanying other artists and composing and conducting pieces of his own.

A hectic period of playing and working for All India Radio playing came almost simultaneously to an end with the entry of the veena into his life. Falling in love with the instrument, from the beginning he felt that it deserved his undivided attention and every skill. Without a tutor or master to guide him, within two years he was an established concert veena player. He felt that "by the grace of god" was he able to bring credit to himself as for his achievement of having evolved a new trend, a new style and a new school of veena-playing.[1]

Balachander also possessed a substantial knowledge of North Indian Hindustani classical music, and a keen appreciation of Western classical music.

He travelled all over the world, and won international fame as an instrumentalist of rare repute. The famous electric bassist Mark Egan cites Balachander as a major influence on his music. At one time, Balachander held the record for cutting the highest number of records (21 in India, and 6 outside India). The 12-LP set encompassing the 72 melakartas is a piece of work that has no parallel. Magic Music of India (World Pacific), Sounds of the Veena (WPS), Veena Virtuoso (World Music Library), Immortal Sounds on the Veena (Oriental Records), veeNa (EMI), The Music of the Veena (JVC, Japan), and The Music of India (Nonesuch Explorer) are some his releases that have been best-sellers worldwide.

He is also known for his work in cinema, his writing and his polemics. Balachander was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1982.[2]

Recordings[edit]

  • The Music of India: S. Balachander – Veena; Sivaraman – Mridangam. Nonesuch Explorer Series HS-72003, 1965.
  • Veena Virtuoso: S. Balachander. Columbia Records Japan, 2006.
  • Veena Chakravarthy S.Balachander In Concert – RAGAM – THANAM – PALLAVI in Ragam SRI. Swathi's Sanskriti Series CD.
  • Veena Vidwan S. Balachander In Concert – Dhyname. Swathi's Sanskriti Series CD.
  • La Vina De S. Balachander (Krishnamurthy: mridangam) / LP 1978 Sonodisc ESP 165510

Cinema career[edit]

His cinema career began in 1934 when V. Shantaram, who was making movies under his Prabhat Film Company banner in Kolhapur, wrote to the editor of a Madras based film magazine called Sound and Shadow, requesting their help in making a Tamil movie called Seetha Kalyanam, using the sets and props of his Hindi movie Sairandhiri. The men behind the magazine – Muthusami Iyer alias Murugadasa, A. K. Sekar and K. Ramnoth, together with their patron G. K. Seshagiri, readily acquiesced, and set forth to Kolhapur with a hand-picked cast and crew.

He began as a child artist in Tamil film Seetha Kalyanam in 1934 as a child musician in Ravana's court, and his immediate family members form the cast where V. Sundaram Iyer as Janaka, S. Rajam as Rama, S. Jayalakshmi as Seetha and S. Saraswathi as Urmila. Followed by Rishyasringar (1941) and Aaraichi Mani or Manuneethi Chozhan (1942).

His other Tamil movies that he acted include Devaki (1951), Rajambal (1951), Rani (1952), Inspector (1953), Penn (1954), Kodeeswaran (1955), Doctor Savitri (1955) and Maragadham (1959).

In addition to acting and composing film music, from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s Balachander directed a number of Tamil films. He had acted, directed, composed music and sang in Idhu Nijama (1948), En Kanavar (1948) and Kaidhi (1951).

He directed Andha Naal (1954) a movie with no songs, has a very superior cinematography and classic in B&W. It has developed a large cult following. Other directions include Bhoologa Rambai (1958) (where he and D. Yoganand stepped in to complete the movie upon the demise of K. Ramnoth) and Avan Amaran (1958).

He has directed a Telugu film in 1956 entitled Edi Nijam produced by Ghantasala Krishnamurthy of Pratibha Films.[3] He has also acted as a friend of N. T. Rama Rao in the Telugu film Sangham with Vyjayanthimala of AVM Productions remake of Penn.

In the 1960s, he formed his own production company called S .B. Creations where he made 3 movies, produced, directed, composed music and sang in Avana Ivan (1962), Bommai (1964) and Nadu Iravil (1965).

Feud with the Kanchi Shankaracharya[edit]

Balachander, though himself a Brahmin heavily resented the influence that the Kanchi mutt held over Brahmins in Tamil Nadu. His remarks calling the Kanchi Shankaracharya Chandrashekarendra Saraswati "A senile old man" and calling the Kanchi mutt a "420 organization" deeply hurt the feelings of the Brahmin community.

Feud with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer[edit]

In Balachander's last years, he feuded with vocalist Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Semmangudi had written a book on Maharaja Swathi Thirunal of Travancore (1813–1846), a famous composer. Balachander claimed that Semmangudi was trying to ascribe his own compositions to a king, and to argue this he suggested the maharaja did not compose a note and tried to prove the king had never existed. The allegation that Maharaja had never existed has been proved absolutely wrong whereas his arguments about a very small number of compositions of Swathi Thirunal being written by others remains a fact. Latest research on the subject published in 2008 Madras Music Academy Journal and 2013 Sruthi Magazine expose the allegations of Balachander as highly prejudiced and contrary to facts. The language that Balachander used in the controversy (calling Swathi Thirunal as not born to a mother) has been deeply resented. Balachander loved to stress how this was a much greater outrage than the Bofors corruption scandal in India. He argued the point in The Indian Express on 26 March 1990[4]

Death[edit]

Balachaner died suddenly of a massive heart attack on 13 April 1990, in Bhilai, where he had gone on a concert tour.[5] He was survived by his wife Shantha whom he had married in Thirupathi in 1953 and his advocate son Raman.

Awards[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Language Banner Actor Director Music Director Singer Producer Note
1934 Seetha Kalyanam Tamil Prabhat Film Company YesY
1941 Rishyasringar Tamil Tamil Nadu Talkies YesY
1942 Aaraichi Mani or Manuneethi Chozhan Tamil Kandan & Co YesY
1948 Idhu Nijama Tamil K. G. Productions YesY YesY YesY Assistant Director
1948 En Kanavar Tamil Ajit Pictures YesY YesY YesY YesY Editor
1951 Kaidhi Tamil Jupiter Pictures YesY YesY YesY YesY
1951 Devaki Tamil Ganapathi Pictures YesY
1951 Rajambal Tamil Aruna Films YesY YesY Music Composer along with M. S. Gnanamani
1952 Rani Tamil Jupiter Pictures YesY
1953 Inspector Tamil Jupiter Pictures YesY
1954 Andha Naal Tamil AVM Studios YesY
1954 Penn Tamil AVM Studios YesY
1954 Sangham Telugu AVM Studios YesY
1955 Koteeswaran Tamil Sri Ganesh Movietone YesY
1955 Doctor Savithri Tamil Aruna Films YesY
1956 Edi Nijam Telugu Pratibha Films YesY
1956 Edhu Nijam Tamil Pratibha Films YesY
1958 Bhoologa Rambai Tamil Ashoka Pictures YesY Director along with D. Yoganand upon the demise of K. Ramnoth
1958 Bhooloka Rambha Telugu Ashoka Pictures YesY Director along with D. Yoganand upon the demise of K. Ramnoth
1958 Avan Amaran Tamil The People Films YesY
1959 Maragadham Tamil Pakshiraja Studios YesY
1962 Avana Ivan Tamil S. B. Creations YesY YesY YesY YesY
1964 Bommai Tamil S. B. Creations YesY YesY YesY YesY
1970 Nadu Iravil Tamil S. B. Creations YesY YesY YesY YesY

References[edit]

  1. ^ Liner notes. Nonsuch Explorer Series LP, 7/2003 "The Music of South India", 1960s.
  2. ^ "Padma Awards". Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (India). Retrieved 10 June 2009. 
  3. ^ Edi Nijam in Naati 101 Chitralu, S. V. Rama Rao, Kinnera Publications, Hyderabad, 2006; pp: 134–5.
  4. ^ http://www.hypercomp.net/personnel/mrk/music/let1.gif
  5. ^ "THE LEGENDARY GENIUS S.BALACHANDER: REMEMBRANCE AND TRIBUTE FROM A NEPHEW". Sulekha. Retrieved 16 April 2017. 
  6. ^ "2nd National Film Awards" (PDF). Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "4th National Film Awards" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 

External links[edit]