Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVII No. 10, September 1-15, 2017

The new face on the old block

Preeti Srivatsan

R R SABHA_1 Greyscale

The old and the new

The brand new Rasika Ranjani Sabha in Mylapore which opened its doors recently, has stirred the memories of a legion of Mylaporeans, whose cultural and social life was closely entwined with the programmes at this cultural space on Sundareswarar Street.

For Renuka Krishnamurti, it was time to rewind. She is the daughter of V.S. Krishnamurthi, the man who had re-modeled the R.R. Sabha in 1958.

Renuka’s mother, K. Saraswathi, a resident of Mylapore all her life, recalls “R.R. Sabha was first constructed in 1929. It was the only sabha in the Mylapore area then. Kutcheries were held twice a month, and sometimes dramas too. When I was ten years old, I started learning music there. My teachers were B. Rajam Iyer and K. Natesa Iyer. I remember the fees was two rupees a month for the beginners’ class and five rupees for the varnam class.”

She goes on, “We did not have music books at the time. All of us would copy the songs from our teacher’s notes in class, and that was the case till music books were written by the then principal of the sabha, A.S. Panchapakesa Iyer.”

The renovation of R.R. Sabha was undertaken by Saraswathi’s husband in 1957. “He was a building contractor and was friends with Natesan, Srinivasan and Kuppuswami, the three people who ran the sabha at the time.”

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Saraswathi recalls, “The old sabha building, before it was demolished and reconstructed, had one big hall and a stage at one end of it. Two rooms were there for the drama artistes to use. Music classes were held in the hall. My husband, who was a civil engineer, stuck to the original design, but added an office room. The ceiling was built by another person.

“It took about a year to complete the work and M.S. Subbulakshmi’s kutcheri was the highlight of the inaugural function in 1958 when it reopened.”

Saraswathi also recalls, “My husband constructed several buildings in the city which are landmarks, including the Ananda Vikatan building on Mount Road and the Thygaraja Vidwath Samajan building in Thyagarajapuram, Mylapore.”

Renuka adds, “When I was young, I would accompany my parents to several dramas at the sabha. The last time I watched a play there was in 1981, the dance drama Maduranayaki featuring the late Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.” – (Courtesy: Mylapore Times)

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