The greatest composer in the world of Carnatic Music is at present suffering the celebrations associated with the 250th year of his birth. The Man from Madras Musings uses the word suffer guardedly, for the travails of this personality are nothing compared to what a deceased nightingale had to go through when her birth centenary was observed a year back. Melody Sublime, as she was known, would have become Misery Supreme had she been around.

But to come back to the composer. This was a personality who held up a mirror to society, laughed at their foibles, and, above all, detested praising anyone of the human variety. It would be assumed that a programme associated with his memory would have adhered to some modicum of simplicity. But evidently nobody has learnt from his teachings. As to whether they learnt anything from his music is also a moot point, but MMM will not go into that.
It was a programme to celebrate the 100th staging of a play on the composer’s life. When MMM states life he uses the term loosely, for this is a personality whose time on earth appears to have been extraordinarily miracle-prone – Gods descending on terra firma at all odd hours without so much as a by your leave, idols resurfacing in rivers, dead men waking up on hearing a song, burglars being chased away by mysterious bow-wielding warriors and what not. MMM is pretty sure that the above play was no different. But then he had received several invitations to attend the stagings all of which he had missed and so he decided to go for the 100th.

The programme said kick-off was at 6.30 pm and so MMM was there, his good lady in tow. Seats in the front row were found by a kind usher. The curtains went up to reveal a full row of VIPs seated on stage. It was then that MMM realised with a sinking heart that the play would be preceded by what is locally known as ‘Felicitation’. And since there were six VIPs, it meant at least half an hour of delay. MMM was prepared for that. What he did not expect, and which smote him like a thunderbolt only when the proceedings got underway, was that each speaker was -going to take 15 minutes. And the burden of each one was to praise the others assembled. And praise them sky high. Each one was compared to a divine being and one unfortunate, though not in any way  due to his looks, was compared, for want of anything better, to the monkey God who jumped across the Palk Straits. Then a speaker began picking out certain people in the audience for praise and that went on for a goodish bit of time. In between everyone presented everyone else with mementoes (you know the Tamil standard – a gopuram-shaped wooden whatnot with a silver roundel on it). And to think this was a play about a composer who mercilessly lampooned those who praised mortals.

There appeared to be no end to the speeches, even though the initially enthusiastic applause had begun to taper off rather sharply and later came to be replaced by a deathly and resigned silence. An hour and ten minutes later, MMM’s sciatic nerve, which he considers to be the best indicator of whether a programme is worth sitting through or not, began urging him to get up and leave. There was a lull in the proceedings as one speaker had just taken his chair while another was preparing to grasp the mike. MMM upped and left, rapidly followed by his good lady. Shakespeare put it all rather aptly – Exit hurriedly, pursued by bear.