Guide to Rendering Yeoman Service to Rasikas By Writing Formulaic Carnatic Concert Reviews in The Hindu

Bollywood has The Formula and it involves shirtless, six-packed heroes, shampoo-model bimbettes and graceless music. Jerry Bruckheimer has The Formula and it involves car chases, lots of explosions and cliched dialogues. Back in class 12, even I had The Formula and it involved mixing Toluene and concentrated Nitric acid in the vain hope that I could mass produce TNT. Carnatic artistes have The Formula, and it involves RTPs, tukdaas and thani-aavarthanam coffee breaks.

But did you know that The Hindu Carnatic concert reviews also had The Formula?

This blog has been offering useful career advice, no, wait, let’s try saying that in thehindusanctimoniouswindbaggy style. It has been rendering yeoman service to the blog-reading public on alternative careers.

So let’s straight get to the Guide to Rendering Yeoman Service to Rasikas By Writing Formulaic Carnatic Concert Reviews in The Hindu.

We first need a title. It must be short, sweeping and entirely uninformative. For mostly positive reviews,

  • Brilliant Collaboration
  • Lingering Effect
  • Stirs the Intellect
  • Rich Tapestry of Emotions
  • Of Harmony and Melody
  • Strict adherence to Baani.
  • Fast tempo settles intro sober stride

For a slightly censorious effect,

  • Needs more refinement
  • Touched the intellect, not the heart.

In case the reviewer, i.e. you, fell asleep during the concert and didn’t pay too much attention, best to play it safe and stick to details you clearly know, like,

  • Talent from Bangalore
  • An evening of beauty

Now that we are done with the title, we proceed to the meat, sorry, the curd rice of the review. Make a list of song verses and raaga names, and use the following sentence constructs around them.

  • The artiste set a fast tempo and then subsequently settled into a sober stride with {Song}
  • {Artiste}’s exposition of {Raaga} was {evocative/solemn/filled with emotional hues}
  • Longish phrases and full of catchy brigaas
  • {Raaga} with its intrinsic melancholy filled the air with a solemn feel.
  • Extrapolation at {specific verse of song} backed by emotional hues and varying streams of kalpanaa swaras.
  • The gradual development by {Artiste} surfaced several of the bhaava-loaded angles of the raaga with a few touches of fast-moving brigaas included in between.
  • {Artiste}’s voice easily traversed all the levels
  • {Artiste}’s aalaapana in {Raaga} always steered clear of unwanted flights but strong and solid phrases progressing step by step by emphasised the core of the raaga
  • It was a fluent, breezy aalaapana, very brigaa-oriented, the notes clearly emerging from the depths of {Artiste}’s throat.

And at the end of the review, add a few words about the able accompaniment of the violinist/percussionists and you are done.

And now, it brings me to the obvious question. Why? Why does The Hindu do this? Why this formulaic, politically correct insipidity? Why don’t we have English equivalents of Subbudu? Not that I completely approve of that man, but imagine the sheer entertainment value.

ps: For the uninitiated, Subbudu was a legendary Carnatic critic whose reviews were mostly droplets of concentrated sulphuric acid masquerading as Tamizh words. His wit wasn’t just biting, it was a T-Rex. A hungry one.

So what would a contemporary English Subbudu-style review look like? Some snippets.

If notes were goats, this artiste’s rendition of Karaharapriya would be the equivalent of a lost herd, roaming aimlessly in unfamiliar pastures, bleating plaintively for help from the shepherds in the audience who have already given them up for dead.

He went on to plead “Mokshamu Galada” and I was inclined to suggest that our chances might improve if he, in particular, stopped pleading.

Her attempt at the raaga almost made me stand up and ask her to stop and instead, ask the audience to play random ringtones from their cellphones in unison. One had good reason to believe that the random ringtones have a greater chance of hitting the right bhaava of Saaveri than her rendition.

It’s good that Vedanthaangal is far away from the Music Academy, because the migratory swans there might mistake {Artiste}’s dhwani as being the sounds of the enemies of Hamsas.

I would advise the singer’s voice to take some training from her hand. During the concert, it seems to reach greater heights with far more facility than her voice.

It was not Kalpana (imagination) swaram. It was Kal Banaa (Made yesterday) swaram.