Palani Shri.M.Subramania Pillai
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Palani Shri.M.Subramania Pillai
An Innovative Gentle Giant

A break in personal relationship between Chittoor Subramania Pillai and Palani was more than compensated by the concerts with the brothers. By this time, Palani had started gaining fame and popularity mainly because of the support extended by the then immensely popular Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar whose regular mridanga vidwan had deserted him for greener pastures. Ironically there was also a personal rift between Palani and Alathur Sivasubramania Iyer and for a few years Palani chose not to accompany the brothers but Venkatesa Iyer for whom the only mridangam vidwan worth listening to was Palani, brokered peace but although they got together, the old camaraderie was gone.
But with Chembai?s enthusiastic backing Palani got into the mainstream and was soon the preferred accompanist to most top ranking artists including GNB, Madurai Mani, Semmangudi, Musiri, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer and others.

With the increase in concerts, Palani?s income also grew manifold. He bought a palatial bungalow with lots of open spaces in Boag Road, an aristocratic locality in upscale T.Nagar in Madras (Chennai). Actor Sivaji Ganesan who was the uncrowned king of Tamil Cinema then lived a few houses from Palani?s. Palani lived life in great style but never was his taste outrageous; it was always refined, exquisite. Only the best perfumes would do for him. The whitest of muslin shirts and the best khadi dhotis would do for him. He was very fond of cars and at that point of time, Fiat millicento was considered the best indigenous car. Not only did he own one but changed for a new car every two years or so. Only he would drive the car; no bumbling driver for him. It was not clear whether he loved his wife or car more! He had three frisky pomeranians which enjoyed his total affection. He had no issues himself but his wife?s sisters? children formed part of his extended family. There were hardly two or three vidwans who enjoyed similar life-style. His presence in a music concert was majestic; spot-less white attire, well-groomed hair, costly perfume, fair and handsome personality, glittering diamond ear studs. In fact rasikas used to say that whenever GNB, Mayavaram Govinda Raja Pillai and Palani came together on the concert platform, it was as much a feast to the eyes as to the ears!

He was a very religious person and would visit swamijis, famous or otherwise very often. When he sold his Boag Road property and bought a very spacious property in Venkatanarayana Road, also in T.Nagar, he gave away a major portion of the land to the Sringeri mutt.
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He trained a large number of students and in most competitions, whether conducted by the Radio or other institutions, his students would come out first. Many of his students became very successful concert artists. Among them were Trichy Sankaran, T. Ranganathan, M.N. Kandasamy, Dandamudi Ramamohan Rao, Udumalai Mayilsamy and others. They have more or less retained their master?s style.

Palani did not forget the trouble he had in his youth to gain acceptance and fame. He made it a point to support young talented vidwans of the younger generation. Lalgudi Jayaraman, as a teenager was his find and he did all that was possible to build his career. Other beneficiaries included M. Balamuralikrishna, K.V. Narayanaswamy, Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, T.M. Thyagarajan and even younger mridangam vidwans like T.K. Murthy and Palghat Raghu who were not his disciples but in whose talent, he had faith.

Unfortunately Palani?s health was never very good. At least on three occasions he is reported to have suffered heart attacks and the one that finally killed him was a massive cerebral haemorrhage which resulted in a coma from which he did not recover. His end came when he was merely 54 on 27.5.1962. Surely God takes away those he loves early!

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