The modern concert format or kutcheri paddhati was formulated by the late Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar in the 1930s when Karnatak music was going through a period of flux, which the elite of Madras, which dominated bodies like the Madras Music Academy, trying to streamline it to suit the middle classes who were also growing in musical maturity.
By introducing the compact formula in his own concerts he set a new trend. Ariyakudi reduced the concert to manageable proportions and duration, with a mix of heavy and light items so as to sustain audience interest.
The introductory Varnam is followed by a kriti dedicated to the deity Ganapathy, the remover of obstacles, and a few other short kritis with or without brief alapana.
Midway through the recital a kriti with scope for an elaborate alapana, niraval and kalpana swara is selected. Taken on to the end of this piece is the tani avartanam, where the percussionists display their skills.
After a few short items, the weighty Ragam-Tanam_Pallavi is offered by some (though many get away without it), which takes up three-quarters to one hour.
The recital then begins to wind up with hymns, padams, javalis, tillana, slokas in ragamalika (a chain of ragas), folk songs… The concluding piece is the auspicious Mangalam composed by Tyagaraja.
The Madras Quartet by Indira Menon, Roli Books, New Delhi, 1999