CUDDALORE: A noted thavil player’s comment, reducing parai to a mere music instrument played during funerals, has kicked off a row, reigniting the decades-long debate on according parai isai its rightful recognition.
Noted thavil player and Padma Shri award winner ‘Valayapatti’ AR Subramaniam had objected to his photo being used along with a parai player on a poster for a cultural programme scheduled for January 15 by Marudham, a cultural organisation in Villupuram.
Speaking to Express, the event’s organiser, Ravi Karthikeyan, said, “When I gave him the invitation for the function a few days ago, he expressed his resentment over the arrangement of parai isai and thavil concert together. After seeing the posters, with the pictures two days ago, his anger mounted, and he shouted at the person who took the poster to the player’s house in Puducherry.”
According to Ravi, Subramaniam argued that parai isai was meant only for funerals, hence, was inappropriate to be played at an auspicious occasion. “He asked whether anybody would allow parai isai to be played during marriage ceremonies, and added that only thavil was played at weddings,” Karthikeyan added.
Speaking to Express, Subramaniam said that he respected parai isai. He said there was no differentiation based on caste, religion, race and language in the fields of music, dance and sports. However, an audio recording available with the organisers proved otherwise. In the clip, a voice, purportedly to be of Subramaniam’s, insults parai isai, stridently opposing equal treatment for thavil and parai.
Upset over Subramaniam’s comments, Ravi Karthikeyan sent a letter informing him about cancellation of his programme, and asked him to return the advance amount.
However, his comments managed to kick off a row with many raising objections to his statement. “There is a popular perception that parai is meant for funerals, while thavil is for auspicious occasions. This is absolutely wrong because thavil is also played during funerals in many districts in the State, while parai is being played at many weddings. We have played parai isai at innumerable marriages ceremonies, temple festivals and moments of victory. Parai isai programmes are also held during cultural programmes at schools,” said Manimaran of Buddhar Kalai Kuzhu, a folk troupe, which specialises in parai isai.