In the Carnatic musicscape, it truly doesn’t get bigger than what Maniyosai, an upcoming biopic on mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer, aspires to be. And it is no PR oversell to call it one of a kind. How often does one see a dozen leading musicians on a single stage, acting as yesteryear stalwarts? Think singers Sudha Ragunathan, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Vijay Siva, Sowmya S and Sikkil Gurucharan, playing legends like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Madurai Mani Iyer, DK Pattammal and Dakshinamurthy Pillai.
It was no mean task to put together this ensemble, agrees Mahadevan, granddaughter of the mridangam maestro, whose brainchild this is. “Thankfully, a lot of our friends from the music fraternity pitched in. This is a production in which every supporting character is a legend, so we had to ensure they were well represented,” says the singer, who ideated this in 2012, after Iyer’s centenary celebrations. Her uncle, and son of the legend himself, TR Rajamani, undertook the scripting and completed it in 2013. “With this 150-minute biopic, we want to inspire youngsters by showcasing the life of my grandfather—his hurdles, interesting encounters and how he ended up as a trailblazer in his field,” says the 43-year-old, who lost Iyer when she was seven. “The musical opera starts with the year he was born and covers his lifetime. It is an honour that we were entrusted with producing it, as it is our one hundredth,” says Ilango Kumanan, director of SS International Live. Thespian Kuriakose Ranga is directing it, with music by flautist Balasai, he informs us. The roles played by the musicians, although, are being kept under wraps.
Three years since he was roped in for Maniyosai, singer Gurucharan admits he is still nervous and excited about it. “Senior mridangam artistes I’ve worked with have told me that the place of the mridangam today, as the king of percussion instruments in the kutcheri, came about largely because of Palghat Mani Iyer’s positioning of it—the way he played it and how he ensured the instrument was given its due in tani avarthanams,” says the musician. Ragunathan, who, as vocal support, has shared the stage with the maestro when he played for her guru, ML Vasanthakumari (MLV), recalls how he did not usually play for women vocalists. But he accompanied MLV in kutcheris in the latter part of his career. “It’s a privilege for me. My role involves some dialogue and a few kritis,” she concludes.
On August 28, at 6 pm, at the Music Academy. Tickets between Rs 100 and Rs 1,000. Details: 24994420, in.bookmyshow.com