Voice of the Veena -
S Balachander | A Biography


Launch at Chennai - 19th January 2012

A day after the 85th birth anniversary of veena maestro Late Padmabhushan Dr. S Balachander, on 19th January 2012, the 'Voice of the Veena' that traces the ups and downs in the vidwan's life was launched in his hometown, Chennai. The Governor of Tamil Nadu, Dr. K. Rosaiah launched the book in the resplendent Darbar Hall of the Raj Bhavan in an event that was hosted by the Madras Book Club in association with Raintree, the publishers.

The event was attended by a large and enthusiastic group of music aficionados and book lovers of the city. Author Vikram Sampath introduced the book, his motivation behind writing it, the sources he tapped including the voluminous and delightful personal albums of SB and interviews with several of his eminent contemporaries from the film and Carnatic music fraternity. An audio clip of the late maestro in Raga Saramati, 'Mokshamu Galada', a composition of Saint Thyagaraja was only apt as it questions whether those who are unaware of the beauty of the music that emanates from the celestial Veena can even hope for salvation!

The first copy of the book was received by Smt. Shantha Balachander, wife of the late maestro. She recounted her days with the master musician, his quirky ways, his generosity and his love for everything that was good in life. Her heartfelt speech left many moist-eyed. Danseuse and veteran actress Dr Vyjayanthimala Bali showered encomiums on the book and also recounted her own association with Balachander in his films like Penn in the 1950s. Classical vocalist and guru, Sangeeta Kalanidhi Dr Vedavalli lauded the biography as an honest one, which like music, had all the requisite turns and glides, with no exaggeration and with an honest assessment of the characters who played an important role in Balachander's life.

Film-director Mani Ratnam choked with emotion as he recalled his childhood reminiscences and association with the late SB, whose son was his classmate. He also mentioned that it was Balachander who had in a way inspired him to turn to film-making as he goaded him to see Akiro Kurasawa's Roshomon that had a lasting impact on the then young Mani Ratnam. He recalled being crestfallen when the news of the maestro's sudden demise reached him in the midst of a shoot in 1990. Governor Dr Rosaiah lauded the book as a 'masterpiece' and commented that "it is befitting that this biography has been authored by Shri Vikram Sampath, who is himself a devoted student of carnatic classical vocal music...the efforts taken by the author Shri Vikram Sampath to give a vivid description in every chapter deserves commendation. His cogent and descriptive narration has made the biography very interesting and captivating to read." He also added that the life of the late artist was worthy of emulation, especially for the youth as his adherence to truth and dedication to his art were exemplary values to be followed.

The evening ended with delightful discussions and reminiscences of several old-timers, friends and fans of the Veena vidwan and his family.


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