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Vol. XXXII No. 23, March 16-31, 2023

Kannan – A Karma Yogi for Art, Literature and Heritage

-- by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan

Aindu Karangal Kannan, Natyarangam Kannan, TAG Heritage Kannan who passed away a few weeks ago was a man of action. His passion for literature, heritage, Carnatic Music, Bharathanatyam and Vaishnavism manifested in several courses of action to propagate them and bring to the fore the artists, writers and speakers. And all done in the most self-effacing manner as a true Karma Yogi described by the Geeta. Very few knew the extent of his contribution in each of the fields.

Three decades ago, I met him at one of the meetings of Ilakkiya Chindhanai, where he came forward and introduced himself. That again is a Kannan trait. He wanted to know and befriend anyone associated with the arts and literature. And closely follow their progress. When I invited him to join our Natyarangam team as a committee member, he confessed that he did not know much about dance, but was eager to help. Very soon he became quite a connoisseur and we were surprised when he spotted a young outstation dancer and recommended an opportunity to perform a solo thematic dance choreographed by her. Not only was it a stellar creation, but it also won an award for her from Natyrangam.

He had a large personal library of rare books in Tamil and English, collected over decades and he had read everyone of them and could discuss them at length. Whenever I was working on a topic Kannan would bring books, urging me to go through them and quote significant lines from them. He once brought a work of historical fiction by Masti Venkatesa Iyengar when I told him that the author Prapanchan had mentioned it in his preface to his novel. He treated his books with love and care like his children and whenever he lent one of them he inserted a slip of do’s and don’t’s for the borrower. One of them I remember was that the book should never be taken to the dining table.

With Carnatic music he had a unique equation. Bypassing the razzle dazzle of front line performers he would seek out less popular artists of sterling quality and up and coming youngsters who showed promise. He would try to spread the word among other rasikas about these unseen gems and fledgling newcomers. One of the rare occasions when Kannan showed impatience and annoyance was when his friends did not bother to attend concerts of such artists. He would also use his voice to recommend them to organisers and ensure exposure to these musicians.

His friends in the literary field were many and with his help Natyarangam was able to bring several of them to collaborate with dancers. Thematic festival Bharatham Kathai Kathaiyaam , where Thamizh short stories were presented in Bharatha Natyam, saw Kannan in his element. From finding collections of several authors for scrutiny and choice, helping to coordinate with them, reading stories for the audio CD, to watching the rehearsals of the dancers, Kannan participated with joy and enthusiasm.

He was happiest when he could be of service. A true thondan, expecting nothing, not even an acknowledgement of his contribution. At Natyarangam’s annual camp at Thennangur, he would be everywhere, attending to the needs of the participants, faculty members and even us, the committee members. A senior dancer once wanted to visit the unique Vishnu temple at the nearby town of Uthiramerur. Kannan was her guide and she was awed by the kind of knowledge he had about the temple and lore and philosophy of Vaishnavism.

The annual series of heritage lectures he organised, dealt with a variety of topics and had an array of speakers known for their erudition and communication skills. Spreading of knowledge was the key factor, whether it is the raga reckoner booklet or a compendium of Vaishnavite vocabulary compiled by him single handed.

In spite of his indifferent health, he would be flitting from venue to venue on his two-wheeler, trying to catch up with as many events as possible in an evening. He was always the friend in need, looking out for ways to help quietly, unobtrusively. He found beauty and joy everywhere and could not rest unless he could share them with others.

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