Unlike most poetry recitals, this session successfully presented the literary work of Mahakavi Subramania Bharati, not just through Tamil recitation and translation but through a fusion of of Bharatanatyam and classical singing.

The event opened with Usha Rajagopalan, founder and chairperson of PNLIT, and ardent poet, taking the audience through the various important stages of Subramania Bharati’s life. She began right from his youth to his contribution during the struggle for freedom. “Bharati used to address us through the bird or the wind or, in this case the parrot,” she said referring to Bharati’s ‘Kilipaatu’.

Brought up by his grandfather, Subramania Bharati was exposed to music and nature very early in life. Breaking traditional norms of pursuing an education in engineering and making a future in the specialisation, he preferred looking out the window and marvelling at nature. He sought solace in the laughter of the river and cascading falls, in the swilling waves of oceans, in the tinkling of bangles of dancing women, and in the notes that melt the heart and a melody that is heard all day long. Bharati lost himself to the world of literature through his love for nature. He was conferred with the title of ‘Bharati’, i.e one blessed by Saraswati, for his very poetic prowess.

What made the session even more delightful was the artistic presentation of the literature in dance form by Ramaa Venugopal, a practicing dancer for the past two and a half decades, and the musical rendition of the poetry by Geetha Srikrishna. Beginning with Bharati’s poetic appeal to ‘parashakti’ in dance form, Ramaa Venugopal wooed the audience with her graceful performances.

The pre-British era saw Bharati as a threat, especially after the publication of his works on freedom for the country. He sought refuge in Pondicherry to avoid being arrested following which his works were not as appreciated by an audience that favoured British Raj – another little throwback to how far back in history the issue of tolerance really travels. Unfortunately, the poet’s works were not published before his demise. By 1949, the government of Tamil Nadu had bought copyrights and now anyone has the freedom to publish and translate his works.

At the close of the session, the artists and poetess paid tribute to Chennai, the land of Bharati through his own works. At a time when Chennai is reeling with rain, closing the session with a poem by Bharati on the power of the rain, brought the session to a perfect close with an appeal to the audience to support those struggling in the southern city, in any way they can. After all, what Bharati wanted for people is pleasantness of mind and speech, and peace. In his words – “May your truth prevail and the almighty guard us all.”

By Apoorvah Sankaran