MS Centenary Tribute – Born to Sing

Excerpts from Gowri Ramnarayan’s  script for Born to Sing with links to the songs referenced

Read the full script in the book Song of SurrenderA Centenary Tribute to M S Subbulakshmi published by JustUs Repertory and the Sruti Foundation ; excerpts being shared with Gowri Ramnarayan’s permission.

Ma Ramanan – Tamil

‘MS made her film debut in Sevasadanam, 1938 one of the earliest Indian films to advocate women’s emancipation. The film had music by the venerable composer Papanasam Sivan with whom MS shared a special rapport. These songs were set in the usual devotional kriti mould to familiar ragas. They have therefore passed into the Carnatic concert repertoire. But in the context of the film, MS sang them as pleas, urging God to emancipate women, to educate women, to empower women.

Brochevarevarura – Telugu 

‘MS had the privilege of singing Brochevarevarura in Kalakshetra with the nonagenarian composer Mysore Vasudevacharya sitting before her !  And when Vasudevacharya came up leaning on Rukmini Devi’s arm to felicitate her, he began with a story: “There was a father who was so poor that his daughter had to be married in a cheap cotton sari, black beads and glass bangles. However, a few months later, the daughter comes home from her in-laws home to pay a visit. Dressed in silks, she is adorned with gold and diamonds from head to toe. Today, hearing Subbulakshmi sing my Brochevarevarura, I feel like that poor father who sees his daughter is transformed., oh so gloriously, from a simple girl into a stunning goddess. I wonder, Is this my song ? How did it become so divine?”

Kahan ke Pathak – HIndi 

“One morning when MS came to the spacious verandah in Kalki Gardens to find Devdas Gandhi on an easy chair, newspaper in one hand, filter coffee in the other, teaching young Anandhi, a favorite song of his. MS listened for a minute and quickly sat next to Anandhi and started learning the song. Other children came to swell the group. That is how Kahan ke Pathak, a Tulsidas poem, became a part of the MS repertoire.

Narayana nu – Gujarati


“Before a concert at St Xavier’s college in Bombay, MS hesitated to include Narayananu as she was unsure of the words. Sadasivam closed his eyes and sang the whole song for his wife. She listened, asked him to sing it once again, and rendered it that very evening.”

Mallika bone – Bengali

“What made her deploy that perfectly toned voice was her sensitivity to poetry. When she taught a new song she invariably began by explaining the meaning first. How could she not fall in love with Tagore’s moving scene of the jasmine wood ?

When the jasmine wood in my heart bore its first buds

I strung the blooms and my offerring to you

Will you not come ?”

Dhav Vibho – Marathi


” A Marathi abhang that MS learnt from a gramaphone plate in her youth. The year is 1933, the place Kumbakonam during the once in 12 years Mahamagham festival.  Sadasivam is in charge of the khadi stall at the fair. He hears music from the makeshift theatre. He stops spellbound. The voice implores the Lord to save humanity, Janana marana bhaya.  He did not know it then, but he would meet her years later.”

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