Me Thinks

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Great MS

No, I am not talking about Microsoft here. Its been a year since MSSubhalakshmi passed away. Tilo remembers this diva in her post.

Madurai Shanmugavadivu SubhaLakshmi, often called MSSubhalakshmi, was born as a
daughter of Shanmugavadivu, a "dasi" in Madurai. Shanmugavadivu was a well-known Veena artist. MS made no bones about her origins, never felt the need to lie about the profession of her mother nor did she feel ashamed. Her mother was the one that indoctrinated her into the world of music. Its very progressive of a lady to have her mother's initial and that was MS, who always did things that were not considered "normal" by most people.

She along with her brother Sakthivelu were always interested in music. She entered the films, mostly because of her singing prowess. Those days, males used to dress up like females as not many females would come forward to act. She sang Carnatic music in the simplest of forms. She broke the trend or dispelled the myth that Carnatic music was for brahmins. She captured the audience with her mellifluous voice. Remember, she did all this when big artists those days never used to patronise people who were from the so-called lower caste. Her foray into films was a huge success. Even now people remember the song "katriniley varum geetham" from Bhakta Meera. She not only had the tamil audiences spell bound, but also impressed the N.Indians with her extremely gifted talent. No other carnatic music singer has ever been as popular as MS has been with the entire music circle of the country and she also represented India in various world fora and rendered songs. The most famous one was when she sung a sanskrit song on world peace "Maitreem Bhajatha" in the UN
when U.Thant was its head.

Not only music patrons, even politicians held her in high-esteem. Lot of people say that she had an affair with Nehru. She never agreed or denied such talks and continued to do what she does best, sing. She was the second wife of late Dr.Sadasivam. If one listens to her song or even a simple slogam (like the Suprabatham),its very diffiult not to get mesmerised by the voice that makes music sound very simple. She has always been a charitable person. What differentiates her class from the likes of lesser mortals like the Lata Mangeshkars is that she withdrew herself from the music scenario or the December season (considered to be the music season where musicians display their talent & give concerts) & restricted her performances to charity concerts & invocation ceremonies. She wanted the youngsters to be given a chance & didnt want to hog the limelight till her voice died. She didnt have kids but adopted Radha Viswanathan, who sings too but only alongside MS. She entirely stopped singing after her husband's demise and confined herself to the four walls of her house. She is not only a great artist but also a great person, an inspiration to many people like me.

19 Comments:

Blogger Nilu said...

"She entirely stopped singing after her husband's demise and confined herself to the four walls of her house. She is not only a great artist but also a great person, an inspiration to many people like me."

Please explain how statements 1 & 2 follow each other, they way they do.

1:50 PM  
Blogger Ginkgo said...

Nice piece:-)

Have always been mesmerized by her voice..

Ther used to be this song, which my mom used to play regularly every morning at 6...at one point of time..in Distant memory :-)

Used to wake me up at sharp 6.
guess itz suprabadam..

'Kausalya supraja raama poorva sandhya prabatyadhe..'
Guess thts the one..

I swear, at one point of time, I cud sing along with the tape, word for word...:-)

That Tape like her voice remained for ever..even now I guess.

Just that, the Tape recorder cudnt survive the passage of time :-D

3:11 PM  
Blogger tilotamma said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:13 PM  
Blogger tilotamma said...


Old post with a book reco


Please read this book on MS if you can, because it is very well-written and factual.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Deepa said...

Nilu, statement 1 is a fact though I dont know the reason behind her decision and statement is aother unrelated (to stmt 1) fact and the "inspiration" stems from her charity work and her personality which had always been very endearing. Hop its clear now. Looks like you thought I said she was great coz she stopped singing after her husband's demise. I can be credited with a little more sense:-)
yes, ginkgo that Suprabadam is one of her gems.
Tilo, thanks for the link. I'll check that out.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

"She broke the trend or dispelled the myth that Carnatic music was for brahmins."
This, I think humbly, is a wrong statement. MS was famous alright but she became really popular in the Carnatic world only after getting baptised into Bramhinism by marriage to Sadhasivam. Till then she was having cine fame much to the likes of today's Nithyashree's Mahadevan that brought her some concerts.
Although there were not many non-Bhramin classical singers the musicians were mostly non-Bhramins.

A good read that vouches for me.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
http://203.200.89.68/full.asp?fodname=20020121&fname=Chennai+Festival+%28F%29&sid=1&pn=1

12:31 AM  
Blogger Deepa said...

Rajesh, MS started singing much before she met Sadasivam. Her indoctrination into Carnatic music was thanks to her mother, a very popular veena player of her times. I know your are talking about her popularity but then we know for a fact that the class distinction was very much present then.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

Probably I was not clear in making my point.
Okay, can you name any female singer of equal fame to a Pattamal or MLV or MS from before their era. If you are able to find one, tell me if they are Bhramins. I doubt that you will find anyone because the Bhramin women were not allowed to attend kutcheris leave alone singing in public. It had always been Devadasis who performed this role and MS was no exception. She was however mesmerising entire Madurai before she was invited to sing in Mylapore. But those honours were anyway given to the best women singers irrespectively. MS, after her acquaintance with Sadasivam, changed her outlook. With Sadasivam's influence in the Congress and with the journalists, he was able to position MS as a saintly diva from a cinema heroine. Sadasivam was Rajaji's aid and he took her as far as Gandhi and Nehru. Upon Gandhi's (I don't like to put a ji after his name)request, she started learning Bhajans and different styles of singing from Semmangudi, Musiri Papaasam Sivam and some bhajan singer. All of them were reluctant to teach her before being persuaded to. MS could not have envisioned that far inspite of her magical voice. The world would have lost her into cinema or only Tamil songs but for Sadasivam's role. MS not only learnt music from these starwalts, she also got to adopt the Bhramin way of life. So it is unfair to say that she is a non-Bhramin and it is also wrong that Bhramins dominated the Carnatic music field before her.
I mean in the women's category.

Sorry if I am not clear but you will understand what I am saying when you read her biography here.

http://sun.science.wayne.edu/~vhari/ms/

6:30 PM  
Blogger Deepa said...

Rajesh, I understand what you mean. Women in mainstream leave alone barhmin ones was not very common those days and you are absolutely right about Sadasivam's influence on MS. Apparently, he asked her to severe her ties with her family and she did. All that aside, MS is being liked & revered for her talent first and foremost. Thanks for the link. I am gonna check that out.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

My favourite is her Baja Govindam/Vishnu Sahasranamam.

Probably I should not say this, but I can't stand it when I hear Vishnu Sahsranamam in public placces, sung in a monotone by a group of ardent devotees whth all good intentions. May be Maha Vishnu, Himself, may not like to hear anybody else sing VS after listening to MS.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

All yours.
http://www.udbhava.com/

12:22 AM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

Indian govt. has released a Rs.5.00 stamp in honour/memory of MS. Nice gesture just when I started feeling that this was "Nanri ketta ulagam".

11:24 PM  
Blogger The Practical Idealist said...

"Singing prowess" is perhaps stretching a bit too far. I don't doubt her sincerity, devotion, dedication and that incredible voice much, but when it comes to sheer musical artistry, she's nowhere the peak occupied by stalwarts like SSI, MMI, MDR, ARI, and many others.

Her voice is just something that shines through in spite of all this. Clear, like crystal.

5:50 AM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

MDR - I love him but limited to slow tempo and was unable to sing in Madhyamam. who is mmi? Madurai Mani Iyer? But can we say she was the best female artist?

4:04 PM  
Blogger The Practical Idealist said...

Best female artist? No way! Not after you've heard MLV sing.

And yes, MMI is indeed Madurai Mani Iyer.

2:59 PM  
Blogger tilotamma said...

Have you read the short story "selvi" by RKN?

10:42 PM  
Blogger nityakalyani said...

Hi- one important piece of information - Sadashivam had another daughter named Vijaya Rajendran- married to Kalki's son. She also used to sing songs with MS . It is sad that she is not included with MS . It was always said that MS used to order 3 sarees of same color/zari etc. https://www.pinterest.com/sstyleshrink/amma/ when Radha was not able to sing - Vijaya stepped in and sang with MS - pl update ur information

12:15 PM  
Blogger nityakalyani said...

here is the link of MS singing in UN along with Vijaya in those days Vijaya used to play the tambura n sing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qli9tU5MJa0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArOsyp6dSLE

12:26 PM  

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