She probably submitted her life to a man who promised her freedom from her birth. Freedom from the family of courtesans, catapulting her to national fame, managing her etiquette, her manners, her style, her life, her very being and gave us the doyen of music- MS Subbulakshmi. That MS is revered by one and all and that she is undoubtedly the Queen of Birugas, no doubt.
|MS Subbulakshmi in her famed MS Blue saree|
Freedom fighter turned firebrand press man T Sadasivam held the strings, married her as his second wife, controlled her in toto and held a vice like grip on her, alienating her from her family. MS was forbidden even from visiting her ailing mother.
The picture where MS appears in her youth, posing with a cigarette has been doing the rounds in social media much to the uproar of the 'upper caste' patriarchy that still holds MS blue and besari as revered. Had she remained Madurai Shanmukavadivu, a courtesan and sung the same birugas, we'd have given the same respect to the humanity that overflowed in her.
|The lady posing with the cigarette is said to be MS|
What as a patriarchal society we failed to do is realise that she was a simpleton woman with dreams who was pushed to the limits by both Sadasivam and his confidante Kalki to perform the 'life of a Brahmanical high society lady'. Though we can draw comparisons with Eliza Doolittle of Pygmalion, what hits right on our face is very own RK Narayan's short story Selvi (published 1982) which is a blow by blow account on the life of none other than MS.
Right from the name 's...i' to the life the leading artiste leads, her trials, her smooth submission to her agent Mohan (Sadasivam) and how the protagonist shuns all riches to reach her ailing mother ( in reality MS was forbidden to visit her dying mother), RK Narayan leaves no doubt in making us clear that he felt MS must have left her glass castle by then.
Here is what Gowri Ramnarayan, the grand niece of MS has found and written- the pencil corrections of a small vignette of MS is found on the first page of the story Selvi. Proves beyond doubt he read into the soul of MS and had written about what she could have done, as usual we failed to take the cue.
MS might have lived a satisfied life as a globe trotting, high- flying, society wife, singing her bhajans and collecting awards. Yet, there isn't the need to revere her, putting her in the high pedestal and treating her God! She is, by all means human, a real pitiable one at that and though I'm no big fan of Carnatic music, I sincerely doubt that if I would ever think cheap about her humble beginnings. What matters to us is, she isn't the typical TamBrahm domesticated singer. No sir. She has the right to hold the fag and drag it too!
|Screenshot from dna india, article by Gowri Ramnarayan|