What a Waste of Intellect and Ink


For this third re-review of Shri. SVK’s review, we first focus on the similarities of the muddle in two of his reviews, appearing in the same day’s newspaper. The first of his review on Lakshmi Rangarajan begins:

How well with ease her felicitous and appealing voice carried her musical mind marked the concert of Lakshmi Rangarajan in the T.T.Devasthanam’s Navaratri series. Soothing calmness reflected her refined vision in raga alapanas and rendering of songs. There was a caressing content in her sleek presentation.

In a second review on vainika Revathy Krishna he begins:

The excellence of Revathy Krishna’s performing style rested on how with ease her fingers on the frets and her melodic meettu subserved the subtleties of veena. Her technique in this respect lay in the way she reflected her perceived aesthetic expressions on the instrument.

Her play stood for gentle, persuasive, soothing calmness, her refined vision echoing through alapanas and rendering of kirtanas. This factor contributed in her recital at the Krishna Gana Sabha Gokulashtami series to delineation of the poetic sensitivity couched in sleek presentation.

A short note on the similarities on the above two beginning paragraphs:

1) identical starting sentences (“how well…”) with only the sentence constructions trying to differentiate one review from the other.

2) Use of the ridiculous “soothing calmness”. I have lamented earlier about this trademark of Shri. SVK, the use of inappropriate juxtaposition of double adjectives. For instance, soothing means “to bring peace, composure, or quietude” and calmness means “free from agitation, excitement, or disturbance”. So what is conveyed by a “soothing calmness”?

3) Use of “sleek presentation” – while Lakshmi had a caressing content in it, Revathi couched a “poetic sensitivity” in it.

4) Notice one more thing here: the use of “poetic sensitivity” while praising (describing?) a veena – a string instrument – concert. Like you, I am curious to know what sort of babel fish Shri. SVK had swallowed to discern the music from a stringed instrument to contain (or not) the elusive component of “poetic sensitivity”.

I strongly suspect Shri. SVK has a few templates of English paragraphs that he has honed over the years, stashed in the mixed jolna bag that he carries along with him to every concert. Upon coming out of a concert – attended in full or in parts – he shuffles randomly these pre-laid paragraphs of verbose review content, promptly inserting the songs, concert performers and sabha names appropriate to that day and shoots of one or many review(s) next day to the Hindu.

One of these days, I am sure he could submit (and successfully defend) a dissertation to the London School of Music titled, “An Algorithmic Approach to Carnatic Music Review in Victorian English” – of course, second in style only to that of Thiruvalar Vairamuthu, as noted by Mahadevan Ramesh, father of all Internet Indian Student Humor.

Let me proceed with the second paragraph of the Lakshmi Rangarajan concert review

Exceptionally feminine in measuring the lyrical dimensions of ragas, the delineations revealed the essential difference between skill and flamboyance.

I don’t know about you, but I need a support to steady my nerves to comprehend what that single sentence could mean, leave alone what it actually does. For instance, how is one to measure the “lyrical dimension” of a raga? Agreed, a raga may not be made of one or two or three dimensions. Agreed it could not even get defined on a Lobochaveskian space-time continuum or on the n-dimensional hyperspace conceived by over imaginative arm chair mathematicians, like those lurking in the Matscience or the Raman Research Institute. But to measure the raga using a “lyrical dimension”? Only Lakshmi Rangarajan can do it, in the imagination of Shri. SVK.

Further, she not only measures the raga in lyrical dimensions, she does it in an unique way. An “exceptionally feminine” way – as it is normal of others to measure the raga in a lyrical dimension through a mediocre feminine way, or, say, a poor, botched-up eunuch way.

Having read the first part of that sentence, one would be tempted to assume from that muddle that Shri. SVK is vaguely praising Lakshmi Rangarajan. But lo! There lies the devious deception and delectable cunning of the verbiage of SVK.

The next part of the sentence is a “revealed the essential difference between skill and flamboyance.” One is always stumped of such a remarkably well directed googly of a sentence. Having read that sentence in full, one is now left to wonder whether the singing of Lakshmi Rangarajan is skill-full or flamboyant or both or neither and whether all these are essential while giving a Carnatic music concert.

I can go on, but I shall stop.

Before I end, if you are a music fan reading my re-reviews of the reviews of SVK (God save you), you might even be tempted to collar me and ask “What else do you think one should write in music reviews?”

To make one of my points let me stop this re-review of Lakshmi Rangarajan’s review and take sample paragraphs from the other Revathy Krishna review by Shri. SVK.

Revathy Krishna’s temperament in the alapana of Thodi and following ragamalika tanam served to project herself as a vainika dedicated to give distinction and respectful dignity to veena.

She achieved this role with effectiveness and aesthetics moving hand-in-hand. Here, the contact between manodharma and reposefulness was intact – an image of one with a superior faculty to perceive sukham in music.

The kirtana she played was 'Vaaridi Neeku’ from Prahlada Bhakta Vijayam in Tillaisthanam patantharam.

Let me curb the temptation to take the usual dig at the “respectful dignity” in the first paragraph. Notice the last paragraph.

Shri. SVK mentions a “Tillaisthanam patantharam”. His discerning ear could observe this subtlety in the kirthana delivery from a Veena. I for one – an average carnatic music listener – is now curious to know what is this “Tillaisthanam patantharam”. Isn’t it the duty of an educated and trained reviewer (who is paid to do his reviews for a national newspaper) of the stature of Shri. SVK to explain it to me in his review space?

Instead of all the disproportionate, often misplaced grandiloquence and polysyllabic muddle that is his review (notice the middle paragraph in the above quote), why can’t this knowledgeable gentleman concentrate on educating the audience on the important, objective, to be appreciated, aspects of Carnatic music — our sacred and remarkable heritage?

What a waste of intellect and ink.


Original version written on Oct 19, 2007