|When former economist N Pattabhi Raman decided to start a magazine on performing arts in English in the 1980s, he went about it methodically: He did project reports to assess its viability and networked with contacts across the world to draw the best talent. His pet project 'Sruti' magazine is now in its 30th year. It is one of the few in the country that exclusively covers Carnatic music, various forms of classical dance, Hindustani music, and theatre. The Sruti Foundation celebrated the founder-editor's 80th birth anniversary from October 19 to 21 with a variety of programmes, including a function to honour Bharatanatyam guru K Kalyanasundaram and Carnatic musician Suguna Purushothaman.
"Pattabhi Raman's passion for Carnatic music and classical arts led him to start 'Sruti' in 1983," says editor-in-chief V Ramnarayan. He and his wife Gowri, who is also a singer and a theatre director, assisted his uncle Pattabhi Raman with the first issue that had in-depth profiles of artists and features on music."Uncle was a great networker and brought in people with a strong professional background. He didn't think twice about asking the Sangeet Natak Akademi for endorsement. We still get a grant from them," says Ramnarayan.
The early days were heady for both writers and readers. While writers chased artists and came up with pen-pictures, readers got insights into the legendary musicians. "The pieces were the first of their kind. There were personalised accounts of meetings with legendary musicians like G N Balausbramaniam, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and D K Pattammal. I remember reading how 'Flute' Mali was also very good at playing the violin," says musician 'Chitravina' N Ravikiran.
The magazine also touched south Indians living elsewhere. Executive editor S Janaki remembers reading it while living in Dhanbad in Jharkhand. "The salary was meagre at first but I stayed on because we were documenting the arts. Getting to know legends like dancers Padma Subrahmanyam, Sonal Mansingh and Vyjayanthimala Bali was great," says Janaki, who is also a Bharatanatyam dancer.
The documentation was crucial in the pre-internet era. Since it didn't mince words, the magazine gained credibility. There was stinging criticism about poor acoustics, stage decor, and bad toilets at venues. "The editor was concerned about the aesthetics of the art. We still write about the need to remove advertising banners from the stage," says Janaki. It even had a chatty 'Whispering Gallery' column, which left readers guessing about the people mentioned. Soon, 'Sruti' started writing about Hindustani music. It covers western classical and folk music occasionally.
The magazine, which survived a lean period following Pattabhi Raman's death in 2002, is now owned by the Sanmar Group and is trying to win more subscribers.
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