Seated beneath the gaze of the stately Sabhas of Madras city, Eco Café, on Chamier’s Road, featured a conversation filled with homebred youthfulness and honest insight as Revathy Kumar, a city-based upcoming artiste, narrated the story of her beginnings, inspirations and ideas.
“I don’t remember if it was my individual passion or my parents’ insistence which initiated me into Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam,” recollects Revathy, making her candour more than obvious.
First Steps At Five
At the age of five, Revathy began her training, parallely, in both music and dance. “While I attended music classes at a school near home, I trained in Bharatanatyam under a teacher named Radhika,” she mentions, “It was roughly three years later that my dance classes were taken-over by Shobana Akka (the famed artiste, Shobhana Chandrakumar), who continues to be my Guru till date.” Similarly, it was around the same time that Revathy’s music teacher at school guided her away from the “grouped” music classes that she was attending and began tutoring her on an individual basis.
Very significantly, in 2002, at the age of 11, Revathy rendered her first full-fledged concert at the VDS Arts Academy in the MOP Vaishnav College. “The sheer process in preparing for a performance – internalising a raga, elaborating it and developing a firm knowledge of the same – made me grow very significantly in my pursuit,” she recollects. A year later, at the same academy, she presented a 90 minute concert and consequently won her first award.
In 2004, Revathy reached a very transformational stage of her musical pursuit as she came under the tutelage of Sulochana Pattabhiraman, a renowned musicologist and a contemporary of M L Vasanthakumari. “Under Sulochana Maami, I began to realise the sheer depth and expanse of Carnatic music,” says Revathy, “It was this realisation which led me to understand what I am doing and figure out how important music was to my person.”
Best Of Both Arts
Around the same time, Revathy’s Bharatanatyam Guru, Shobana, called-upon her to render the Nattuvangam during her dance recitals. “To sing for someone as senior and established as Shobana Akka was something which not only got me nervous, but, more significantly, motivated me to a great extent.”
Having gone through a very fundamentally important phase of her artistic career, Revathy was still not sure about whether she wanted to pursue art as a full-time career or not. It was after her 12th grade, when she was preparing for her CA examinations that she had a very significant conversation with her Guru, which affected her notions to a great extent. “Akka prompted me to lend attention to what my heart was saying,” she says, “She told that having come so far, I cannot let my heart down. Provided I give it all I can, she reiterated her confidence in the fact that she saw me going places.”
Shobana’s words and the confidence that she instilled in Revathy then prompted her to accompany the danseuse on international dance-tours around France and the United States where she performed in more than 10 shows.
Till this point in her life, given that she was trained intensely in both dance and music, one would wonder if Revathy saw a connection between both forms of art and, if she did, how soon she came to realise the same. “Carnatic music, both in its individual presentation and through dance embosom the same tradition and hence to acknowledge a connect is obvious. However, I found it relatively easy to recognise and feel comfortable with this connection at a very early age because Shobana Akka, prompted me to understand the nuances of our musical tradition and its prevalence in Bharatanatyam”.
Having gone through her formative years in dedicated training, it was in 2008 that Revathy received one of her most celebrated awards yet, the Spirit of Youth award for best female vocalist from the Music Academy – released between September and October each year. Later on, in 2011, she received the Yuva Kala Bharathi from Bharat Kalachar. “This award is particularly special to me not just because of its prestige but because my Guru, Shobana Akka, who rarely recommends anyone for awards, deemed me fit,” says Revathy, “This stood, and continues to stand, as a tremendous source of inspiration for me.”
In addition to mainstream classical music and dance, Revathy mentions that she enjoys both listening to and presenting a varied spectrum of musical genres.
‘Fusion’ – The easy way out?
Fusion music and dance, off late has been grabbing a lot of ears in most musical arenas across the country. Artistes like Shubha Mudgal, for instance, who recently performed at one of MusicUniv’s events at Chennai, has a marked aversion towards the idea of “sugar-coating” classical music under the ‘fusion music’ tag with an aim to appeal to the public.
On enquiring about her take on fusion music, Revathy says, “I am certainly interested in pursuing a fusion project soon. I am understanding of the fact that the whole concept of fusion art invokes a whole range of definitions but to not establish the nature of one’s music and go about things in a haphazard manner is, I feel, not correct. Even contemporary music and dance, for instance, possess established motives and ideas.”
In addition to pursuing music and dance as an upcoming professional, Revathy is a full-time professional at the legal department at Cognizant. “My superiors and colleagues understand my passion for the arts and are immensely supportive of the same,” mentions Revathy, “In fact, I’m also a part of my company’s recently-formed band, ‘Euphony’.”
Despite her commitments to her professional life and performances, Revathy continues religiously attend dances classes under Shobana and music classes under P Vasanth Kumar, Sulochana Pattabhiraman’s son.
We wish her all the best in her future endeavours!
PHOTO CREDITS – SUBHAN SHEIKH