This morning’s lecdem by Subbu Arumugam and team reminded me of mAnADa mazhuvADa. In that verse everyone in Shivalokam danced. Here everyone laughed. The Sangita Kalanidhi laughed, the Experts Committee laughed, the Executive Committee and President laughed, audience laughed. I won’t be surprised if the Sangita Kalanidhi portraits, T Brinda included, also laughed. It was one riot. What a wonderful Monday morning.

The content was simple – the evolution of villu pATTu under Subbu Arumugam. He was assisted most ably by his daughter Bharati Tirumagan who apart from speaking most fluently in wonderful Tamil also kept the old man from wandering off into side stories. Arumugam’s son Gandhi sang and played the uDukkai apart from providing the AmAms and the starting cues. There was a tabla player and a person who helped in keeping the bow in position.

As per Bharati, the villu pATtu of some form existed even in the ancient past for there is mention of Urai Isai iTTa pATTu in tolkAppiyam. Known as yAzhaDi pATTu, it is referred to by Desikavinayakam Pillai as villaDi pATu in more recent times.

The beginning is with a tirmAnam -thandanattom enrE.

Villu pATTu is only hAsyam – humour.
AmAm pODaradhu is another aspect ( the concept of saying yes to the main singer)
There is a folk tale as to its origins – The King wept after going on a successful hunt as he had killed many animals. To absolve of his sins, his minister advised him to sing using his bow and arrow as instrument. To prevent it from bending the bow was rested a simple pot.

Arumugam said that the text was a straight expression of yearning – Beginning with no Sruti, no tALa but plenty of bhAva.
During the freedom struggle, men and women sang villu pATTu – this brought a spirit of nationalism. Subramania Bharati used villu pATTu chandam in his works.
Arumugam got his big break when Kalaivanar NS Krishnan visited his college in Tirunelveli and he sang a song on how Tirunelveli was on Aug 15. NSK was full of praise. He then was asked to write a script on Gandhi and this was demoed by NSK at MS Subbulakshmi’s house. In 1960 he met Kanchi Swami. As per his desire, Arumugam did villu pATTu on Adi Sankarar and on VaLLi tirumaNam. He recalled how the Mahaswami blessed him and also explained that the villu reminds one of Rama and uDukkai reminds one of Siva.

When Doordarshan began in Madras in 1975, it did so to music by MLV , Subbu villu pATTu nalla samayam idE. While the old texts said that villu pATTu used instruments such as Pambai, Urumi and takkai, Arumugam found they drowned the words. So these were dropped and a tabla was substituted. UDukkai was kept as it is given its connotation with Lord Shiva.

The team has put villu pATTu to good use, adapting it to spread messages from spirituality to evils of alcohol to medical issues.

I know what I have written above has not captured even one millionth of the spirit of the presentation. The summing up by Sanjay was equally apt. He recalled that they had used some Tyagaraja Pancharathnam tunes for some songs as well.

The event ended with the team singing their customary vAzhiyavE pallANDu.