Hogging the limelight has not been his cup of tea. Even when mridangamist Kuzhalmannam G Ramakrishnan owns two coveted Guinness World Records, he longs to hear the name of the art louder than his name. He made his way to the records for doing the longest solo concert and longest hand-drum marathon in the world with a 501-hour long performance held at Nandavanam Hospital at Ottappalam in 2009. The reason for choosing the venue has something close to his life. It was there his second sister K G Prabha, breathed her last following lung cancer in 2004.
“Hence the performance was not meant for creating the world record, a ‘rhythm therapy’ too was going on along for the many who suffered from various ailments. It was a tribute to my sister and I could feel the presence of her soul somewhere around there then,” he says. Before that, Ramakrishnan had entered the Guinness records thrice, all for percussion. But somebody or the other cracked all of them later. Still he was determined enough to make an attempt for the fourth time.
The plot of his about-to-release movie ‘Neeranjanam’, too revolves around his toughest mridangam recital. “The crux of the movie is taken from an unpublished work about my days-long mridangam performance. Witnessing the physical trauma I underwent during those times, it was my student, Manoj who wrote a book on that,” he explains. He even considers his acting in the movie, just another way to elevate the status of ‘mridangam’ to greater heights.
Ramakrishnan, who looks upon with awe his tryst with filmdom, says he rolled up sleeves for the role just because the film tells a tale on mridangam. He is not a neophyte to silver screen for he had got the hang of acting through his brief appearances in some movies in Malayalam. For ‘Neeranjanam’, the biggest thing he had to do was to grow a long beard to suit the character. The film also has five songs, all penned and set to tune by him.
Ramakrishnan, a commerce graduate, attributes his life as a percussionist to his father K R Gopalakrishna Iyer, who is a mridangamist and his first guru. “He was very keen on making his only son and the youngest of six children follow his path. He really feared whether my attention would be taken away from ‘mridangam’ with the involvement in other activities or art forms,” he says. Therefore he had to limit his penchant for painting, ghatam, violin and tabla. For the past four years, he has been on a revival path in popularising ‘mridangam’ through fusion. He, who did not play accompaniment to classical dance for long, is now experimenting with it as he found several rhythms common to both.
Asked him what comes next, Ramakrishnan does not wish to make any big announcements as of now, for he believes that there is a time for everything to happen.