Thursday, November 18, 2010

Godess' abode

When this building was constructed, there was a proposal to name it after the 'lead founder' of the Sabha it houses. But Chittoor V. Nagaiah, a leading character actor of the 1940s was humble enough to veto such thoughts and insisted that the hall be named after Saraswati, the Goddess of music and learning. Over the years, 'Vani Mahal' has become so recognizable a landmark that it overshadows the Sabha's name in the non-musically inclined Madrasi.

The Sabha's name was itself seems to have been a cheeky gesture at Mylapore; the story goes that Nagaiah was seized with the idea of forming this Sabha after seeing a group of people huddled under a bus-stop, braving the rain to go for a kacheri at Mylapore. Maybe Nagaiah was so fond of where he lived, that he could not imagine the place without a Sabha when there appeared to be so many rasikas; gathering together a few of his influential friends, he led the founding of the Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha - the name as much paying tribute to one of Carnatic music's holy trinity as reinforcing its roots in Thyagaraya Nagar (which, incidentally, was named after Sir Pitty Theagaraya Chetty).

The Sabha was founded in 1944; in quick time, it became so popular that it had to find its own space, having to move out of the Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha's premises. Thanks to T.A. Rangachari, who sold them 10 grounds on G.N. Chetty Road for a song, the Sabha was able to raise its auditorium in quick time, constructed by V. Ganapathy Iyer. Inaugurated by Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, Vani Mahal became a much sought after venue - and over time, it has seen many talented performers take their bows. The most famous among those who had their debut on the Vani Mahal stage are Nagesh (though I seem to recall Mohan Raman averring that it was at Gokhale Hall) and Waheeda Rehman.

The original auditorium was knocked down a few years ago and in its place came up three very well equipped halls. But despite that, it is the original building that is honoured today, as Vani Mahal celebrates its 65th anniversary!



Hi Shantaram,

The main auditorium has fantastic green on either side converging to the "front" of the backstage..has always given me the feel of the player's dressing rooms leading out to the ground!!!

Having performed there, I can tell you that the acoustics are also good...

Sandeep said...

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