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

Vol. XXVII No. 20, February 1-15, 2018

Sruti – still going strong at 400

V. RAMNARAYAN

(Continued last fortnight)

Sruti

No succession plan had been made and Sruti was suddenly without an editor. Its indefatigable team however carried on the fight and brought out two issues of the magazine before Pattabhi’s successor as editor-in-chief was identified and took over in February 2003. K.V. Ramanathan, executive editor S. Janaki and her assistants Sudha Narayanan and co., kept the magazine going against overwhelming odds. In this, they were greatly supported by Sruti trustee M. Subramaniam, who, among other things, mobilised funds by garnering life subscriptions, publisher P.S. Narayanan, and manager E.R. Viswanathan. Sruti continued to come out month after month, at least partly because of the availability of material accumulated over the years and held over. Sriram V., with his profiles and Sangeeta Sthalam-s, Lakshmi Devnath, Manna Srinivasan, S. Rajam, P.C. Jayaraman, V. Karpagalakshmi, Pappu Venugopala Rao, Deepak S. Raja, S. Sankaranarayanan, Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, and V.A.K. Ranga Rao were some of the regular contributors during those difficult days.

The hard work put in by all these people not only helped Sruti keep its head above the water, if only just, but also made a seamless transition possible when the Sanmar Group took over the magazine towards the end of 2006.

Soon after Pattabhi’s death, a number of people connected with Sruti asked me to assume the responsibility for the magazine, as I was related to Pattabhi, had been part of the team during the magazine’s beginnings, continued to be its friend, had been a practising journalist, and was doing similar work in the Sanmar Group. I felt very uncomfortable with the idea, as the Sruti team had been doing a splendid job of the magazine while I was away doing other things, and my entry would seem such a nepotistic thing to do. Moreover, my day job did not permit me to take on the assignment. Still, I continued to be a friend of Sruti, dropping in every now and then, and taking part in brainstorming sessions with the team on the way forward for Sruti.

As a fall-out of one of these sessions, P.S. Narayanan came up with the suggestion that we approach the Sanmar Group with a request to take over Sruti, an idea strongly seconded by M. Subramaniam. Narayanan, in fact, made the first move by discussing his proposal with Mrs. Chandra Sankar, director of Kalamkriya, the Group’s creative agency, and someone who had the experience of running the city magazine Aside some years earlier. It was left to me to take it forward. By this time, it was pretty much agreed within the Sruti team that I would take over from KVR, who, past 75, was keen to retire now that he had put the magazine on an even keel. I had by now retired from Sanmar service, though still a consultant to the group, which meant I was no longer prevented by the rules from joining Sruti. I had a few discussions with Sukanya Sankar of Sanmar, and after a few hits and misses it was eventually agreed that I first assist KVR and at some point take over from him. Things moved quickly thereafter, and soon there was a new Sruti Foundation, headed by Sanmar Group chairman N. Sankar, with Subramaniam and Narayanan continuing as trustees along with new trustees V. Vaidyanathan and Sukanya Sankar. The trust remains unchanged except that it has one fewer member after Narayanan’s death in November 2017.

Sruti had its website launched by the venerable Semmangudi as early as the early 1990s. The website has been refurbished a couple of times, and it is now possible for visitors to subscribe to the magazine online via the facility Magzter. Individual issues or articles can also be bought online, while a number of e-books brought out by the magazine are an attractive option online.

The Sruti blog, around for about a decade now, has a reasonably good following.

Sruti’s mobile app was launched as a free download four years ago. The app offers some popular features including podcasts of prominent artists, apart from regular content from the magazine.

While readers still subscribe either online or by cheque to read the magazine in its physical form, there are those who prefer to subscribe to the online version alone. At the other end of the spectrum are those who make an annual visit to the magazine to buy yearly bound volumes of the magazine. Older subscribers tend to hoard back issues and offer to return them to the magazine when they are unable to store them any more for lack of space.

We have tried to profile all the senior artists in Indian classical music including past masters and go to great lengths to ensure that we cover substantial ground in this respect. We have also turned our attention to current practitioners in recent years.

To showcase young talent has also been an ongoing initiative, and artists who play supporting roles, for example, musicians performing for dance programmes are also given the importance they deserve. In the process, we have inducted a number of performing artists as contributors of articles to Sruti.

In addition to music and dance, Sruti now covers theatre as well. Veteran dramatist Indira Parthasarathy’s column on theatre has a keen following among Sruti readers, and some of India’s leading woman theatre personalities have been sharing their stage experiences with them during the last year or so.

With more and more young readers preferring to read online, Sruti faces many challenges as it steps into the new year, its 35th year in existence. At the same time, it must satisfy its old readership, which is still predominantly interested in the print version of the magazine. Attracting young talent is perhaps an even greater challenge.

Sruti remains self-sufficient thanks to its expert navigation in a competitive business environment by managing trustee Sukanya Sankar, aided in her efforts by the magazine’s advertising consultant S. Sivakumar. It is also secure in the knowledge that it enjoys solid support from The Sanmar Group, with the Group’s Chairman N. Sankar heading the Sruti Foundation as well. Located in the Sanmar headquarters on Cathedral Road, Chennai, its operations are backed by the excellent infrastructure of the Group.

On January 4th, Sruti celebrated its 400th edition in a pleasant function at Amethyst. Much warmth and goodwill for the magazine were in evidence at the event, a good augury for its future.

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