CHENNAI: The steady ascent and descent of the melodious 15th Melakartha raga, Malahari filled through a household. Harmonising in unison with the chirping of the evening birds in Indira Nagar, where Vidya Bhavani Suresh, musicologist, researcher, choreographer, and author grew up. Training in both Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music at a tender age of 5, she found her peace in her craft.
“My mother, who used to work at All India Radio as a Station Director, came back from the office and trained me in Carnatic music. One of my fondest memories of training is my mother teaching me the raga Malahari. As a child I found it very difficult to follow and would often crib and whine. But now I am glad she taught me such a beautiful raga,” she says.
Vidya received her formal training in Bharatanatyam under the guidance of Guru V P Dhananjayan and later continued her training under Guru K J Sarasa. She had her arangetram at the age of 16 and strayed away from Carnatic music for a large part of her life, due to her focus on Bharatanatyam. “Bharatanatyam was something I pursued for my mother. It became like my second skin, that is how comfortable I am with the craft. But, Carnatic music resonates with my soul and my passion for it is evident whenever I talk about it,” Vidya smiles.
Her husband, B A Suresh, who recognised the way she perceived and explained complex ragas with great ease, encouraged her to talk more about Carnatic music in several talk shows and events. The couple later slowly ventured into writing and publishing of her books under the publication, Skanda Publications.
“When Suresh and I began Skanda Publications, I would write and he would edit. Now our daughter, Harshitha has officially joined us as the Joint Editor. She is a wonderful writer who understands my craft and is able to give better words the times I fail,” Vidya says.
Talking about her latest book, Melakarthas: The Gems of Carnatic Music, which explains several ragas through anecdotal stories, she says, “Whenever I write, I like to write about my world; which is the immediate reality for me. A lot of my writing has me in it and I am transparent that way. It was not a conscious effort to make it anecdotal, but it just happened because I live in the moment. Every moment leading up to something is interesting.”
Having pursued her Masters in Folklore from St. Xavier’s College, Palayamkottai, she says, “During my study, I understood performing arts even better and realised the responsibility that entails while curating a performance, and I hope to always remember that lesson.”