The concert spirit for Ranjani and Gayatri comes from each other and themselves as much as from the large audience that they usually attract. The absence of physical audience did little to dampen their exuberance. Besides their execution skills and finesse, they crafted a well-thought-out performance as well. The Vaikunta Ekadasi day concert had them featuring five languages, five composers and five ragas, all in praise of the deity whose special day it was. They also do not leave it to the main piece to score the bulk of laurels. Every song had its bright spot.
They began with ‘Santhana gopalakrishnam’ (Khamas, Dikshitar) that starts at the upper shadjam, giving the sisters the start they would have aspired for. Swarams at the sprightly ‘Nartana Muralidharam’ swayed in their alternating styles. Ranjani’s Varali raga alapana followed a characteristic course and L. Ramakrishnan embellished it with pleasing phrases.
Andal’s ‘Aazhi mazhai kanna,’ in statistical terms, must be the most prolific Thiruppavai sung in concerts and was, therefore, a foregone choice. There was a brief swara segment at ‘Vazha’ that had a sarvalaghu streak. Purandaradasar’s beautiful Manirangu composition in misra chapu, ‘Ikko namma swami,’ was like a carrom ball, its flight lingering in the mind even after it ended. Ranjani and Gayatri handled it with the tenderness the raga and lyrics demanded.
The Kamboji alapana by Gayatri was not in their default runaway style. It was poignant, even soft, and the finishing meandering at the ga, ma, ri was exquisite.
Ramakrishnan’s sangatis were serene and grammatically saatvik. You never tire of listening to some kritis — ‘O Rangasayee’ by Tyagaraja is certainly one such. Ranjani and Gayatri revelled in the vast range of sangatis, the scale span and the kriti’s stream-like tempo, embroidering it at every stage, especially in the niraval at, you guessed it right, ‘Bhooloka vaikuntam.’ The sisters’ natural effervescence reflected in the swarams and the kuraippu at ‘da’ that followed. Ramakrishnan maintained a good balance of vilamba and pep in the niraval and swaram. He managed to keep the contest even, matching the sisters’ performance.
The adrenaline piece for a large section of the audience was the abhang, ‘Vithoba chala,’ in Maruva Behag, which was rendered zestfully.
Ramakrishnan revelled in the strong melody component of the Ranjani-Gayatri template. Manoj Siva (mridangam) and Anirudh Athreya (kanjira), largely played supporting roles, but had the skills to make it count.
The concert largely settled on one tempo perhaps because of the short duration. It is, of course, a travesty to some extent to have a 90-minute concert for singers capable of a long flight of substance and delight, but that is the price of going virtual.