Rajkumar Bharathi speaks about Kalki and Subramania Bharati
Rajkumar Bharati is the great-grandson Subramania Bharati, the greatest Tamil poet of our times, one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all times. In this Kalki Biography Project exclusive, we are privileged to have Rajkumar Bharati sharing his views on Subramania Bharati and Kalki Krishnamurthy. An engineer by qualification, Rajkumar Bharati worked for some time in that capacity before taking up Carnatic music as a full-time pursuit.
Initially taught by mother Lalitha Bharati, later by Valliyur Gurumurti, he received intense training in Carnatic and Hindustani music under doyen TV Gopalakrishnan. The guru played a major role in shaping his disciple’s musical career. He also had the opportunity of learning vidwan M Balamuralikrishna’s compositions from the composer himself.
After establishing himself as an acclaimed and award-winning musician, Rajkumar Bharati turned music composer. Today he is also a figure to reckon with in the field of Bharatanatyam, as a sought-after composer for solo as well as ensemble presentations.
Rajkumar Bharati talks with deep feeling about the connection between his great grandfather Subramania Bharati and Kalki Krishnamurthy, the master of prose, who idolized Bharati the revolutionary poet.
TALK SUMMARISED IN ENGLISH:
As a member of Bharati’s family, I am sharing some thoughts about Kalki as a writer whom I greatly respect, and about Kalki’s devotion to Bharati. From the time I was young, I had felt the impact of Kalki’s writings in his works like Sivakamiyin Sapatham. Ponniyin Selvan and Alai Osai. My mother told me about how everyone used to wait eagerly for the weekly issues when those novels were being serialized in Kalki magazine.
I also hold Kalki in high regard for launching a movement to raise funds through his magazine for building a memorial to Subramania Bharati. He fulfilled his plan and built the edifice. What devotion and reverence he must have had for Bharati!
Kalki was ten years old when he first read Bharati’s poems. From that day, right through his life, not a single day passed without Kalki singing some song of Bharati, or reciting verses from Bharati’s poetry, or running over Bharati’s lines in his mind. Visiting Bharati’s native town Ettayapuram, Kalki was exhilarated by the thought that he was walking on the streets where Bharati had walked. Imprisoned as a freedom fighter, he rejuvenated his energy, ardor, and courage by singing Bharati’s songs in the cell. He believed that Bharati banished negative attributes like self-pity, lethargy, apathy, and lack of self-confidence.
For Kalki, writing was no mere pastime, it had to provoke thought. The impact of Bharati contributed to the development of Kalki’s progressive ideas and social consciousness. Kalki wrote two songs on Bharati where we can see how he had internalized Bharati’s ideals until they became his own.
I will end with a small incident about Subramania Bharati.
Bharati’s household in Puducheri was such that anyone and everyone was welcome, strangers and friends. One day a stranger came, engaged Bharati in animated conversation, had lunch with him, and took him away on an outing. Wife Chellammal became extremely worried because night came, but not her husband.
In the morning, he was brought home by a friend who was a local advocate. The advocate happened to catch sight of Bharati in a neighbouring town and asked him where he was going. Bharati replied that he didn’t know, but he was with a friend. The advocate recognized the “friend” to be a spy for the British government, trying to take Bharati away from French territory into the British, where he could be arrested for sedition against the British Raj. He managed to detach Bharati from the “friend” and bring him safely home.
Two days later, the “friend’ returned. Wife Chellammal was angry to see her husband chatting happily with him. Suddenly, the man fell at Bharati’s feet and begged forgiveness. Bharati turned to Chellammal and said, “See this? “ and burst into verse. “Pagaivanu-k-arulvaai!” he sang. “God lives within the enemy, just as fire burns within the miasma of smoke.”
Our land, and our nation, can never come to harm as long as we have someone like Kalki, someone like Bharati, and other noble writers like them.