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C Saroja & C Lalita - The Bombay Sisters ( http://bombaysisters.com/ )Read More...
The sisters, Saroja and Lalita are a prominent duo, who are known for their balanced approach to concert presentation. Disciples of T K Govinda Rao, the Bombay sisters, as they're popularly known, have graced the Carnatic music stage with distinction. They are known for neat renditions of songs and competent handling of improvisations. They have a large number of cassettes and albums to their credit and have performed globally. Through their Muktambaram Trust the sisters have been promoting many young artists in a big way.
(Source: http://www.carnatica.net/artiste/bombaysisters.htm )
They are better known by their common name, ‘Bombay Sisters,’ rather than their individual names, C. Saroja and C. Lalitha. Each and everyone of the lover of Carnatic music know them more as Bombay Sisters. Even the few who know their names will certainly have difficulty in identifying who is Saroja and who is Lalitha! Playing with their grandson, ‘He is the grandest of all rewards for the year,’ they beam. Excerpts from a conversation with them…
Whom do you consider as your inspiration to tread the path of music?
M. S. Subbulakshmi, D. K. Pattammal and M. L. Vasanthakumari, without doubt. These three are our forerunners and also the ones who showed to the world that women could enter this field, establish themselves and also shine as their male counterparts.
Unlike the life of a man, that of the woman is full of turns and changes. They have to move from one family to another on one fine day suddenly in their lives when they get married. And it is followed by several changes demanding readjustments and repositioning quite so frequently when they assume the roles and responsibilities of a wife, a mother, a grandmother and even a mother-in-law. In many cases each change causes a shift in the environment that makes it difficult for them to make a career in any field. These three stars of Carnatic music have shown by their life to all of us that a woman can cross all these hurdles and carve a niche for herself. They inspired us and continue to inspire us.
It is their popularity, respect and influence among the general public that attracted us to this field and work towards that goal. To tell you the truth, we are the first pair in our family to perform in the public platform.
Any unforgettable performance or experience in your career…
Years back we were reciting the lyrics of Purandhara Dasa to a very large audience - several hundreds of them - in Hassan, Mysore. There in the midst of the audience was a thin person, who by his very appearance - torn clothing, unkempt hair - bore the signs of poverty. He looked more a beggar than the usual listener of classic music. ‘What could he understand of music,’ was the thought that ran in our minds at that time. At the end of the performance when we got down from the stage, he walked to us and fell flat on the ground, in our direction. We were taken aback. ‘You are elder to us. Don’t do this,’ we protested. ‘You have brought out the heart of Purandhara Dasa and enabled even ordinary persons like me to understand them,’ he told us with tears welling up his eyes.
It was then that we understood the power of music. It cuts across barriers of age, class, language or status in society. Looks may be - and are - deceptive. Music has the power to touch the heart of even the illiterate, who does not posses even the rudimentary knowledge of its nuances.
You have given vocal recital before international audiences. What were your experiences with them?
Music programmes in our country are an everyday affair. They are a part of our life. But for the international audience, it is a very rare occasion. They do not get such opportunities frequently. Therefore their enthusiasm is naturally high. They do not stop with listening. They put number of questions at the end and get their doubts clarified.
We sang to a 500 strong audience in Seattle once. More than 300 of them were non-Indians. They were curious about everything. Just everything. ‘Why do you wear the tilak? Why do you wear the toe-ring?’ Their questions were innumerable and were not limited to music alone. We were impressed by the interest shown by them.
What’s your opinion about the complaint that the onslaught of Western culture is affecting the popularity of Carnatic music?
The popularity of Carnatic music would never diminish. Even if people go to other countries to make a living, it is their motherland that has that distinct kind of charm. Well, the feelings towards Carnatic music are very similar to this, because it is the basis of all other forms of music. Even those who fall in love with the Western now, would someday or the other, realise the value of Carnatic.
About bringing in something new and of a different kind…
(Laughs) Where is the time? We don’t have time for our present number of performances. Moreover, Carnatic music is an ocean and it is not possible for anyone to complete what is there already. It is more important to maintain quality rather than doing something new. That’s what we feel.
We have come out with audiocassettes that contain particular varieties. Take for instance the lyrics of Saint Thyagaraja. Though most of us know the lyrics, many of us do not know the situation in which each composition was made. We have tried to include this information in our collections. And then we have come out with songs for specific occasions, like our traditional wedding songs, lullaby etc.
About your experience in the film industry…
We have sung only in two films. ‘Arunagirinadhar’ and ‘Yaar Jambulingam.’ And then it so happened that offers that we received were for either one of us. ‘Decide among yourself and take this opportunity’ was the kind of offers. We were not interested in singing alone, even if that sounded as a prosperous option. That would lead to unnecessary misunderstandings between the two of us and therefore, we very happily said a big ‘no’ to all of them!
What in your view are the good and the not-so-good points of the recent music season?
Well, the good point is that many performances were arranged in almost all parts of the city. It was not necessary for a person living in one corner of the city to travel all the way to another part for the sake of enjoying music. But it so happened that there were too many programmes arranged in every single area. That led to a lot of confusion. An enthusiast would sit in one programme for half-an-hour and would then hop to the next programme only to spend another fifteen minutes there and then would migrate to a third. That would not give a wholesome experience.
But we don’t know how this happened, who is responsible for this state of affairs or even how to avoid such things happen.
You both are performing together right from 1963. Has there not been any occasion during these years that led to one kind of friction or other between the two of you?
No, no. There was not any occasion that caused any kind of friction. But it cannot be said that our relationship is devoid of differences of opinion. It is so natural that such differences are to be there! Whenever there is one, we adjust between us and we have no complaint on that score.
Music is our very life. We do not take such small and negligible differences in the larger interest of our pursuit of music. Added to this, we are fortunate in living in a family that lends all support and co-operation and do not come in our way. And we will not allow anything to come between our pursuit and us.
Transcript by Hari Krishnan
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