Friday, August 2, 2013

Jesuit Theologian - Samuel Rayan

by Shalet Jimmy
published in The New Indian Express
May 2013
Photo Courtesy : P K Jeevan Jose

A spiritual discourse - Fr. Samuel Rayan

Fr Samuel Rayan was gazing intensely at a book that bore the image of Sree Narayana Guru. After a while he says “Kumaranasan was a dedicated disciple of Sree Narayana Guru and I am an ardent admirer of Asan and his poems. With that, he began reciting his favourite poem from Asan’s ‘Veenapoovu’ ‘Ha! pushpame, adhikathungapadathilethra  Shobhichirunnithoru ranjikanakkye nee Sree bhuvilasthira -- innu ninte yabhuthiyengu, punarengu kidappithorthal and he went on reciting the full 40 slokas of the poem.

Fr Samuel Rayan, fondly called as ‘Rayanachan’ is a Jesuit theologian who has written more than 300 articles. He was at Kochi a few days ago to release his book ‘’ Naleyilekkoru Neelkazhcha’, a collection of his articles organised by OLAM. Though his memory was sharp while narrating his child hood days, it played hide and seek when asked about the contemporary times. After giving much stress to his memory, he says. “It is about future I have talked about in most of these articles in the book.”

‘Fr Samuel Rayan’ was a name which reverberated among the Christian radical humanists during 1960’s and 70’s. His articles in Christian theology were often discussed in national seminars organised to compile opinions on what changes should be brought into the church in the wake of second Vatican council. When the voice of liberation theology started spreading its wings to other continents from its birth place, Latin America, Fr Rayan’s  voice was the strongest from India. As the definition goes,  Liberation theology, an interpretation of Christian faith through poors suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor, Fr Rayan gave a human Indian face to liberation theology in the country.

Fr Rayan’s apathy towards the rigidities of Catholic church was evident in his writings. He vehemently protested against the hollowness of rituals. He wrote in his book “Rituals should always stand for humanity. Jesus always indulged in discussions and arguments concerning the rituals offered in the Church. He discussed about Sabbat, sacrifice. But every time it was his intention to break the myth and redefine it. For instance, observing Sabbat should be for the goodness of humanity and not to put shackles on them. It is not the sacrifice, offering or rituals that ‘lord’ prefers but compassion and justice.”

In another section of his book, he narrates a story told by Masao Takenaka, a Japanese Theologian. In Seoul, one of the biggest garment factory owner sacked four women for they urged to improve the working conditions and also asked not to make going to church compulsory. The garment factory owner was one of the elder in the church. The factory has appointed a chaplain to counsel the workers.

 It blatantly denied freedom of religion and advised complete surrendering and patience. The four girls raised their voice against it and submitted a memorandum with the church and the latter did not even bother to inquire the veracity of things. They were keen on listening to Billy Graham, an American Christian evangelist.

Fr Rayan asks in his book, in such a situation who will salvage the poor? If their rights were not listened to, who will pay heed to the cries of poor people, asks he.
He says, “Rice is for sharing, bread must be broken and given. Every bowl, every belly shall have its fill, to leave a single bowl unfilled is to rob history of its meaning; to grab many a bowl for myself is to empty history of God.”

Kuchipudi dancer - Anupama Mohan

by Shalet Jimmy
published in The New Indian Express
July 2013
Photo Courtesy : Mithun Vinod

In Memory of her loving Guru

Little Anupama walked with her parents through a coconut grove. At the far end of it, she saw a large hall with hundreds of footwears at its entrance.

Around the hall, there were small huts reminding of the ancient gurukul system. A large sculpture of Nataraja mesmerised her when she entered the hall. There she saw a lean and tall man but with a charismatic face. He asked her in his usual hoarse voice to perform. Without any inhibition, eight-year-old Anupama danced before him without knowing that, she was pleasantly flaunting her passion before the legendary Kuchipudi exponent Vempati Chinna Satyam, who is no more.

Thus started her journey as a dancer under his tutelage.

Several years later, renowned Kuchipudi dancer Anupama Mohan reminisces about her guru, whose first death anniversary fell on July 29 and the days she spent with him performing across the globe. Anupama has organised Guru Smarananjali, Nrithya Samarpana Dance Festival - 2013 at Changampuzha Park, Cultural Centre, Edappally, from July 27 to 30, the first festival organised in the country in memory of the veteran.

“It was in the late 60’s and I still remember his address - No 5, Prakasam Road, T Nagar. I came to Chennai with my parents to see the great maestro. After my performance before him, guru told my father that I was cut out for dancing and that I should take the residential course to learn the great art form. But as girls were hardly allowed to move into such an arena, my parents took six months before enrolling me into the gurukul system of the guru. Later, convinced of my destiny, my parents decided to shift me to Chennai and my mother and two younger sisters accompanied me,” she says.

Anupama fondly remembers that she was totally unaware of the aura of the great man when she met him for the first time. “Hence I learnt and performed under him without any restraints. But as time flew, respect grew immensely. I was in awe for him for everything,” she remembers.

Anupama started performing with her guru right from the age of 10 and says that guru was very particular about lots of things.

“He was very adamant about returning once the performance was over. Lingering around was not allowed. He was of the opinion that the client would lose interest in one party once their performance was over. In order to avoid such a situation, he insisted on returning by the next train. If we did not get a train, he used to take us sight seeing. If there were no accommodation arranged to spend the night in the railway station, we would place all our bags in a circle and every girl would sleep inside it. The orchestra and other males who accompanied us would stay awake giving us protection when we had to spend a night in the railway station,”she remembers her master with gratitude.

Anupama says that her guru never ever chided his students for making mistakes. “If he gets  angry, the only thing he would ask us to do was to keep away from the line of dancers. For us students, it was like severing our head. He had never ever once beat his students,”she says.

Anupama was perhaps the first Kuchipudi dancer in Kerala who always reiterated the fact that Kuchipudi is all about dancing rhythmically in the brass plate. “The art form has never exerted any pressure on the performer to show any kind of acrobatics on the stage especially by putting a brass pot on the head. The fact is that it needs a balance of body and mind to dance on the edges of the brass plate. It is tough too. My guru and his guru late Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastri never favoured any sort of unwanted strain on the performer,” she says.

Anupama says with a satisfaction that after much effort, the artists are waking up to this reality. “For the past two years, things have changed dramatically,” she says.

Anupama has also organised an All India Classical Dance Festival- 2013 titled ‘Naatya Kousthubh Nrityotsav’ in Thrissur. It was organised to by her academy Sathyaanjali Academy of Kuchipudi Dance to give a platform to the art lovers across the country to popularise their respective dance forms.  Besides, the festival also gives an opportunity for the budding artists to share the stage with prominent artists of the time. Anupama says that in memory of her master, a life time achievement award has been constituted which will be conferred to art promoter Soorya Krishnamoorthy.

Singer Jayaram Ranjith

by Shalet Jimmy
published in The New Indian Express
July 2013
Photo Courtesy : Mithun Vinod

From Jingles to Playback singing

About 10 years ago, when Jayaram Ranjith sang ‘Manasinte mayathalangalil engo’ for a light music competition and topped in it, he never imagined in his wildest dreams that it would become a turning point in his career. Within no time, he was ushered into the world of music industry.

Though an ardent fan of Bijibal, little did he know that it was the national award winner’s composition that earned him the award for the contest. Impressed with his rendition, Bijibal rang him up to congratulate him. Since then, there was no turning back for the budding singer.

“That’s how I happened to commence my singing career under my mentor,” he says. As his namesake was already a known name in the music industry Bijibal took the liberty to tweak his name into Jayaram Ranjith. Earlier, Jayaram was known for his jingles. “I have sung for Bhima Jewellery with Rahul Raj’s music.

After singing a solo, ‘Ethanee kattu,’, in the film ‘Thank You’, the singer was in seventh heaven. “With so many singers competing in this field, solos give a budding singer an opportunity to expose his voice. Though I have sung many duets, I was happy with the rendition of the solo,” he says.

Jayaram Ranjith has sung in films such as ‘Da Thadiya’ and ‘Sevens’. His song for the character Thadiyan did not offer him enough space for relishing it. “It happened all of a sudden. One fine morning, I was asked to sing the song and I did not get enough time to do the necessary preparatory work. But Thank You’ was an altogether different experience and brought with it satisfaction,” he says with a smile.

The singer has sung for Telugu and Kannada films too. Jayaram reminisces of music composer Jassie Gift who had the confidence to give him a melody. “That was a great recognition. He offered me a song as he heard me singing in a studio. He offered me a melody and that was a great experience,” he says.

Before success started knocking at his door, he had sung for many a less known film such as ‘Perumal’ and ‘Black Stallion’. He has also sung ‘Manasa maine’ for Shyamaprasad’s ‘Off Season’ in ‘Kerala Cafe’. ‘Ginger’, ‘Crispy Chicken’ and ‘Charso Bees’ are some of my other works.”

Ranjith believes that ‘acquaintanceship’ and ‘camaraderie’ are a must when things have to work out in the industry. “One tends to recommend someone whom they really know rather than pointing out to a total stranger. However, talent matters the most,” he says.

Jayaram Ranjith is script writer Rajesh Jayaram’s younger brother but he says that he never used his brother’s name as a ticket to the industry. “I believe in my own merit. By God’s grace I have never run out of songs since I began my career,” he says.

A native of Ernakulam, Jayaram Ranjith lives with his father Jayaram and mother Ratnavalli.