Eminent musician, teacher, administrator

by C. Ramakrishnan

Nellai T.V. Krishnamurthy was a respected musician and teacher who served as Principal of Swati Tirunal Academy of Music, Tiruvananthapuram. Scion of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, he was born in Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu, to Muthulakshmi Ammal and Viswanatha Iyer on 24 November 1920. His is an unusual story of a boy born in Tamil Nadu going to Kerala to emerge as a Carnatic musician. Noticing the boy’s innate talent in Carnatic music, uncle Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar took the seven-year old under his wing as the child’s mother and his wife were sisters. Although the parents named him Sankaranarayana Sarma, his guru would affectionately call him “Krishnamurthy” which became his identity for life.

Krishnamurthy learnt the rudiments of Carnatic music from gottuvadyam Sankaranarayana Bhagavatar, one of the early disciples of Muthiah Bhagavatar, before coming under the direct tutelage of the stalwart himself. He underwent strict training under the watchful eyes of the maestro and practised assiduously which enabled him to internalise the kritis and to develop the manodharma aspects essential to become a concert musician. He travelled widely with his guru to neighbouring states and remained a support to him. Krishnamurthy presented his first public performance at the Tyagaraja Utsavam in Tiruvaiyaru when he was seventeen. It was the beginning of a successful career in music.

Krishnamurthy had a brief stint in the tinsel world when the talkies had more Carnatic based songs than dialogues. As a young boy, he acted as Lavan in Sangeetha Lava Kusa in which he sang 36 songs (in D-sharp sruti) tuned by his guru Muthiah Bhagavatar. He acted in films like Radha Kalyanam, Tirumangaialwar, Valli Kalyanam and Tirugnanasambandar. As Carnatic music was his first love, he moved away from the film world… read more