Thursday, 31 December 2009


Poetry is a very beautiful thing indeed!

In fact, our life itself is poetic.

Coming to think of it, there is a close relationship between poetry, music, nature and life.

Sometime back I had written in my other Blog Ragaranjani
‘’Whenever we read something beautiful, we say it is poetic.
Whenever we hear something great, we say it is musical.

But we also use these expressions whenever we undergo a great experience…
We say ‘The journey was Musical’ or ‘The valley is poetic’.

At times we also say that the Music is so poetic or that the Poem is so Musical..

This is because there is a Connoisseur in all of us!’’

For some people, this ‘connoisseur’ is dominant.

They see poetry in all forms.

They feel music everywhere.

This is what Bharati was. He saw the almighty in everything. So poetic and of course philosophical was his outlook that even while touching the fire, he felt the pleasure of touching the God(‘TheekkuL viralai vaiththaal Nandalala, Ninnai TheeNdum Inbam Thondruthaiyya Nandalala’).

Another great poet Rabindranath Tagore describes a flower:

‘Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not!
I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust.

I may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of
pain from thy hand and pluck it.

I fear lest the day end before I am
aware, and the time of offering go by.

Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower
in thy service and pluck it while there is time.’

Bharati and Tagore.

South and the East!
But look how poetic their approach to life was.

Such people are born to make mortals like us also feel poetic.

Another gentleman who is a living legend and who can be considered on par with Bharati and Tagore sees music everywhere.
To him even silence is musical.

Long back, he was asked as to what his most favourite instrument is.

Without any hesitation, he said the Tanpoora. Unable to comprehend what the Maestro meant, the interviewer-a cynic, who considered himself to be an authority in Carnatic Music and Dance- later ridiculed this.

There is indeed nothing to beat the drone of the Tanpoora. Only people who feel music everywhere can understand this.

At times, I have even wondered as to what makes his compositions so special.

Though there are a variety of reasons, I feel that his propensity and proclivity to appreciate nature is the main reason. And for this, we must all thank his rural upbringing.

If only he was born in Madras or even Madurai.......
He would have become a musician but I doubt if his music would have had this much of impact on all of us..

On this day as we step into a new year, let us look at one of his most beautiful compositions that sees the beauty of a village through the eyes of a city-bred young girl.

Generally,one would expect a folk melody for this situation(though this kind of a situation itself is a rarity in the present day movies!).

But the Emperor of Film Music has composed the song in a pure Carnatic Ragam, Madhyamavathi.

The song is ‘Solaikkuyile’from ‘Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu(1979).

This was also S.P.Shailaja’s first song for Raaja.

The song starts with a beautiful humming that is deep and crisp..

The musical piece that follows make us jump from our seats. The mesmerising flute transports us to a village effortlessly. The prelude winds up with a short piece that encapsulates Madhyamavati.

Musical images of a village!

The short Pallavi is delightful and prepares us for the treat.

The first interlude makes us see the wonderful vistas of the village as the flute plays with lucidity and fluidity.
The different rhythmic patterns in Tisram show us how musical the nature is.
The guitar piece is appealing and reveals the ravenous beauty of the place.

The vibrant end piece sustains the glory of the musical village.

The CharaNam is a dexterous display.

The first two lines are tender.

The third line is moving. A word of appreciation for the lyricist M.J.Vallabhan(his first film song!) for the line ‘Asaivil Isiayil Kanni Tamizhe’(‘The movements and the music is as beautiful as the Tamizh Language’).

The lines that follow are luminous.
It is Laya Raaja in full flow as he indulges in a beautiful rhythmic pattern.
Shailaja renders this rather tough piece lines with felicity.

In the second interlude, he weaves a silken thread.

The violins take us to a beautiful river in the village.
We immerse ourselves when suddenly we see the clear blue sky and looking at this grand spectacle, we shake our heads in disbelief as the guitar resonates.

Steeped in tranquility, we begin to swim as the violins play with harmonious precision.

The shrill flute makes us feel the stillness.

Nature’s overwhelming beauty!

Poetry, Music and Nature..
…And the Living Legend!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Darkness follows Light..and Light follows Darkness..

I have often wondered at the beauty of the Raga system.A simple permutation and combination of same set of swaras give us what is called as Raga.This set pattern gives us various patterns and the probability of the same pattern getting repeated is very low.

Let us take just three compositions of Saint Thyagaraja- ‘Amma Raavamma’, ‘Nidhi Chaala Sukhama’, ‘Ethaa Unaraa’.All these are in Kalyani but still each one evokes a different kind of emotion.

‘Amma Raavamma’ extols Tulasi,’Nidhi Chaala Sukhama’ridicules the materialistic world and ‘Ethaa Unaraa’has philosophical contours.

While it is a fact that each Raga is unique, the mood of the raga also depends on how the composer conceives the composition and importantly how successful he is in terms of communicating this to the listener.

Hindustani music is very strict in even the time of a raga.For example, a Raag like Yaman(Kalyani in Carnatic music) can be sung only in the night while a Raag like Bhairav(Mayamalawagowla in CM) must be sung in the morning only. It is considered sacrilegious if these rules are broken. This is because it is believed that certain ragas evoke certain emotions and these are directly related to our biorhythms.

Carnatic Music does not have such strict rules though it does have morning ragas(Bhoopalam, Bowli, Bilahari), afternoon ragas(Madhyamavathi,Sriragam,Manirangu),evening Ragas(Vasanta, Lalita).There are also ragas for each rasa.

But the greatness of Carnatic music lies in its ability to be flexible and at the same time adhering to the rules.

That is why great composers like Thyagaraja, Dikshithar, and Shyama Sastry have been very successful in bringing out the emotions so subtly.

Long back, the great G.Ramanathan broke a rule.Mukhari, a raga considered to bring tears in our eyes was used by him in a romantic duet in a movie called Ambikapathi.Of course, there was a reason behind this as well.The movie was based on a (supposed)romance between Kamban’s son Ambikapathi and the King’s daughter Amaravathi with the Hero meeting a tragic end. GR sir brilliantly used Mukhari to foretell what was to come later.

Musicians are great indeed!

The Genius whose other name is ILaiyaraaja has used ragas so differently that at times it is difficult to believe that such ragas are also capable of evoking such emotions.

Mohanam was used in a pathos song-Oru Raagam Paadalodu Kaadhil Kettatho.
Kalyani in ‘Alai meethu Thadumaaruthe siru odam’.

Subhapantuvarali in a humourous song-‘Kandu Pidichchen’
Chakravaagam in a love duet-‘Nee Paathi Naan paathi’
VakulabharaNam as a philosopher-‘Aarum Athu Aaazham illai’.

These are just some examples.More examples will be shown in my 'Ragaranjani' Blog.

But I have always been intrigued by his use of one particular raga. Not a single human emotion has he left out using this raga. Not a single facet of this raga has he left uncovered in this raga.

In ‘Madha Un Kovilil’, the raga prays.

In ‘Mani Osai Kettu Ezhunthu’, the raga cries with the lover.

In ‘Shenbagame’, it waits patiently for her husband.

In ‘Enna Saththam intha neram’,it cries,laughs,dances,walks,runs,sits,meditates.

In ‘Enna solli naan ezhutha’, it writes a letter.

In ‘Aaatama Therottama’,it is a cabaret dancer.

In ‘Aasai Adhikam Vaichchu’, it is a tribal dancer.

In ‘Poongaatru Puthithaanathu’, the raga jumps with joy totally oblivious to the uncertain future.

In ‘VaLai Osai ‘, it is the naughty love.

In ‘Muththu Mani Maalai’ it is the newly married couple.

One can go on and on…

The rare gem of today is also based on the same raga.

It is ‘Hey Masthana..’ from ‘Azhage Unnai Aaradhikkiren’(1979).

The sequence is somewhat interesting.Two young lovers travel to Goa and dance with the hippies in the evening.The girl’s aunt- ditched by a man(villain!)-and a man totally devoted to this lady accompany the couple.

Listen to the prelude.The long flute slowly takes us away from the hustle-bustle of city life while the guitar and the chorus leave us in the midst of hippies.
A short interlude with the strings and the trumpet and we start dancing to the voices of Jayachandran and Jency.

The next interlude is what shows us the genius.

The western fast –paced beats suddenly give way to the violin evoking a totally different and contrasting emotion.

The next CharaNam is slow in keeping with the mental state of the senior couple.Vani Jayaram and SPB do full justice to the situation.

As the CharaNam ends, we start jumping with joy with the young lovers.

We continue to dance in the next interlude as the Shehnai and the other instruments stare at us with glee.

This continues in the CharaNam as well.

Now comes the beauty.
The flute and the violin making us close our eyes and just relax.
We become sober in the following CharaNam.

Contrasting emotions depicted so musically.

Well..after all what is life?
Darkness after light..and Light after Darkness..

Just like the Ragam-Sindhu Bhairavi!

Friday, 18 December 2009

It is raining music...

It is raining in Chennai..
Yes..natural rain and musical rain(isaivizha).

Now talking about the rain,

Most of us have had the experience of watching a Drizzle..

Many of us have run out of the house to get drenched..

Some of us have danced to the beats of the rain drops..

Here is a song that makes us do all these!

This is a song for the 1977 film 'AaLukkoru Aasai'.

What makes this song great?

Is it the base voice rendering ?

Is it the very different tune ?

Is it the orchestration ?

Is it the modulation ?

Is it the acoustic Guitar that appears now and then?

Is it the Bass Guitar?

Is it the Spanish Flavour?

Is it Yesudass?

Is it Suseela?

Listen and tell me if you can find the answer..

If I was asked to describe this song in two different words,I would say


This is the real "Isaimazhai"!

Rain of Music!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Musical Hatari..


This is what Hatari means in Sawhili language.Swahili is one of the many dialects of Africa.’Hatari!’ is also the name of a 1962 film directed by Howard Hawks and John Wayne.The film was very popular in the ‘60s and the ‘70s because of many reasons.

It had some breathtaking live wildlife chases never seen before on the screen.

It was shot near the picturesque Mount Meru, a dormant volcano near Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

The actors (and therefore the characters) were from different parts of the world like the USA, Mexico, Germany, France, Italy.

One of the most popular tunes in the world , the ‘Baby Elephant Walk’ was composed for this film by the world renowned composer Henry Mancini. Mancini was the winner of Academy and Grammy awards and has also scored music for the ‘Pink Panther’ theme- a beautiful piece in Jazz.

Another world- class composer, who hails from India and who has given many excellent songs over the last 33 years gave a song that according to me is a Musical Hatari!

And that is today’s Rare Gem.

The song is ‘Nandavanaththil Vandha Kuyile’ from the film ‘Annai Oru Aalayam’(1979).

The Hero takes the Heroine for a ride(literally and metaphorically!).

Hunting is his hobby and the Heroine- as usual- is scared of animals and the forest.
He takes her on his jeep to show her the myriad hues of the forest.

The entire song is very fast and moves aesthetically like a Cheetah!

The opening itself is very beautiful and prepares us for the Ride.

The Pallavi in the magnificent voice of SPB is an incredible combination of power and elegance.

In fact, the entire song brings out the subtleties and the contrast. For example, the beginning of the first interlude is westernised with the electric guitar and the allied instruments and suddenly the flute appears from nowhere.

It gives traces of the Raag Jog. The beats then change when the trumpets take over.

The CharaNam is also astonishingly beautiful and we feel like being in KaLakkad forest.

We get to see the lions, tigers,antelopes,jackals, elephants in the second interlude.

The Bass work is so wonderfully conceived to give us the feel of the forest, the animals and the ride.

Truly a musical Hatari!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Immortal Poems..Immortal Music..

Subramaniya Bharati is one of the greatest poets of all times.

A very radical personality,he simplified Tamizh language. His poems covered a gamut
of subjects.

India, Tamizh Naadu, Tamizh languge,Freedom movement,Patriotism,National leaders,Other Countries,Bhakthi,Philosophy,Society, Feminism, Nature, Love,Kannan songs..well the list is endless.

What is amazing is that he was able to visualize India’s independence as early as 1910 and was able to sing ‘Aaduvome PaLlup Paaduvome..Aananda Suthanthiram Adainthu vittom Endru’(Let us sing and dance!We have attained freedom).

His clairvoyance is shown in another song where he says ‘Kaasi nagar Pulavar pesum Uraithaan Kaanchiyil Ketpatharkkor karuvi Seivom’(We shall invent an instrument that will make people in Kanchipuram listen to the speech of a poet in Kaasi).

In the days of Satellite televisions, DTH and the internet it is easy to ask ‘what is so special in this?’

But this poem was written much before a gentleman called Marconi invented Radio.

Bharati is also considered to be the father of New Poetry(Puthuk kavithai).

As we celebrate his 127th Birthday today,it is with great pride that I write about one of his songs set to music by the other genius, who is the Bharati of Film Music.

The Film Kavarimaan(1979), directed by Sp Muthuraman has some wonderful songs.It has a Thygaraja Keerthanam in Bahudari Ragam as well.We shall see this sometime later in this Blog.

The song ‘Solla Vallayo KiLiye’is very special.Sung by the veteran singer S.Varalakshmi, it is the first Bharati song set to tune by Raaja sir.

The entire song is in pure carnatic style.

The Pallavi is in Surutti, a beautiful and different raga considered to be very auspicious.In fact, it is not easy to handle Surutti since a small slip could land in Kedaragowla or at times even Madhyamavati.The sweet aalap in the beginning gives the essence of the Raga.

The first Charanam is in AtaaNa, a Raga full of valour.I am sure you all remember ‘Baala Kanakamaya’in Salangai Oli..

The brief sangathis after ‘AllikuLatharuge’ take us directly to the pond full of flowers.

The second charanam is in Shanmukhapriya and the Swara singing passages have a charm of their own and give us an exhilarating experience.

The Parrot seems to say this:

Long live the poems of Bharati! Long live the Music of Raaja!!

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Saturday, 5 December 2009

I think of your Music..and it is so...sweet!

What determines the mood in music?

Is it the Raga?
Is it the Tala?
Is it the way it is sung?

If it is the raga, then the Mukhaari(considered to be a ‘crybaby’ raga) song by G Ramanathan in ‘Ambikapati’ should sound sad. But did he not do it for a romantic duet?

And what about the Mother of Pathos-Subhapantuvarali?

Raaja sir composed a song humourous peppy in this Ragam(‘Kandupidichen Kandupidichen'-Guru Sishyan’).

Maestro often says that music is nothing but a kind of ‘Sithtu Velai’(black magic).Of course, words of such geniuses should not be taken literally. They carry lot of meanings.

He has even composed a pathos song in Mohanam(Oru Raagam paadalodu-Aananda Ragam) and happy duets in Sivaranjani(Adi Aathaadi-Kadalora KavithaigaL, Vaa Vaa Anbe Anbe-Agni Nakshatram).

But I am still amazed by one of his compositions-I must say two compositions.

In 1979, he composed two different songs for two different movies.Both were based on the same Ragam, Suddha Dhanyasi.Both followed the same Tala structure,the 7 beat Mishram.

But one was a slow (somewhat sad) song and the other a romantic solo.

The slow song is ‘Aayiram MalargaLe’(Niram Maraatha PookkaL).

The peppy number is the one we are going to see today.It is ‘Ninaiththaal Inikkum’from ‘KalyaNa Raman’.

‘Ninaiththal inikkum..’ starts with a humming of Janaki.And yes’Aayiram MalargaLe’ also starts with a humming.But look at the contrast!

The subtle bell sound the violin and the flute that follow are enough to create the right mood.

Now listen to the beats.

The ‘Tha Ki Ta Tha ka Dhi Mi’ that moves our hearts in ‘Aayiram malrgaLe’ sound so sensual in ‘Ninaiththal inikkum..’

In the first interlude, the guitar at the end plays almost the same notes as the Violins..but how different it sounds! The Flute appear now adding to the beauty.

We get to hear a classical western piece in the beginning of the second interlude and suddenly it becomes folksy.

The third interlude is aggressive and sensual at the same time.Of course, this has to do with the sequence in the movie where the Hero holds and throws away at a snake ‘hurled’ at him by one of the villains while the Heroine keeps singing at her house.

One has to also notice the difference in ‘speed’ between the Pallavi and the Charanams. But are they really different? They follow the same tala.It is the pattern played in the percussion instrument that gives us such an illusion.

So, now what determines the mood?

Whether it is ‘sa ga ma pa ni Sa/Sa ni pa ma ga sa’ or ‘Tha ki ta tha ka dhi mi’, it is the composer who determines and gives us the mood.

And aren't such compositions sweet even when we think of them?

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Friday, 27 November 2009

Garden of Music..

It is a garden of flowers.We see the trees, plants, and creepers.We hear the song of the birds..

Is it just the birds?

Hey, wait! We feel the trees are singing; the plants and creepers providing the orchestra; the birds and animals dancing.

It is a garden of Swaras.. A Musical Garden!

‘Nadhiyai Thedi Vantha Kadal’(1979) was yet another novel adapted for movies.Written by the tamizh writer Maharishi, the novel revolved around one middle aged woman.

This was the last film of Jayalalitha who played the middle- aged woman.

But let us focus our attention on the musical garden.

The composition starts with the simple but beautiful humming of Shailajaa.

The birds welcome us ..and…the floodgates open.

It is a dazzling canopy as one hears the flute and we jump and run with joy.We chase the birds as the strings and the violins play.

We get to see the jumping rabbits, romantic deers, majestic lions, astonishingly beautiful monkeys, and sweet parrots in the first interlude.

In the second interlude dominated by the violin (and how wonderfully conceived!), we see the multi hued butterflies flapping their wings and playing with the flowers.We see the luscious fruits.We see the covey of birds.

A grand spectacle!

It is palpable blithe in the third interlude as the violins follow the strings.

Harmony all around.

Yes, harmony of nature.Harmony of his music.

Garden of flowers-Garden of Swaras-Garden of the Emperor of Film Music!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Musical River

Rivers are Very Musical.

Saint Thyagaraja lived in the village Thiruvaiyaaru-meaning the confluence of Five Rivers.

The River Danube flows in Vienna considered to be the Temple of Western Classical Music.

One can give more and more examples..

Apart from these facts about the composers and rivers, we also know how musical the river sounds when it flows.

It is said that in the olden days, Carnatic Musicians used to do Saadhakam(practice) standing neck deep in the river.

The River gave their voice a special charm and Shruti unison.I have a feeling that it also gave them the Laya Gnaanaa(sense of rhythm)!

The Emperor of Film Music also grew up in a place very close to where the Vaigai River flows rhythmically.. And I am sure this has had a great impact on him.

There is an old composition of his where the river Cauvery has been dealt with romantically.

The song is ‘Cauviriye..’ from ‘Archchanai PookkaL’(1980).

River and Romance..

Is there any surprise then that he chose the Mohanam Raga for this?

With just the sound of the strings, we are transported to the banks of Cauvery.

We see the white water birds welcoming us.

The Bass Guitar and the strings play and river smiles as we place our feet somewhat stealthily on the water.

The golden voice of SPB hums blissfully with the repartee from the flute and there..we jump into the river ready to taste the beauty of the music.

Janaki joins with her sweet voice and we begin to swim.

We see the sinuous waves as the violins play and we go with the stream.We see the playful fish under the water as the Flute throbs.

As the Charanam is sung, we look up at the golden sky and are mesmerized by the sight. As the alien note is used now, we take a turn and watch a grand spectacle.

We see the celadon green fields as the river speaks to the plants and trees.

The raindrops now fall on us and now it is the romance between the river and the rain.
It is the vibrant Flute again.

The River now passes through craggy surface and is slightly obstreperous as it gushes out spraying water all around.

It is in perfect synchrony as it continues to flow nonchalantly .We get out of the river and step on the banks reluctantly…. only to take a plunge again!

What an enchanting experience!

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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Shruti and Laya..

Status of women in the society- a pet topic of many. A topic that will be discussed/debated/argued but finally end up doing nothing. The way society (society includes women too..) contradicts itself baffles us.

At one extreme, women are glorified as Gods(or is it goddesses?).At the other extreme, they are considered as glamourous creatures meant for providing fun and entertainment.In between are the various roles that they are expected to perform without fail.

Why should they be deified in the first place and then pushed to a corner?

Let us look at films. Of course, a majority of the films is ‘hero-oriented’ and the heroine speaks like a doll, dances like a doll, runs like a doll, cries like a doll, laughs like a doll.. But what about the ‘Heroine-oriented’-or rather ‘Women-oriented’ subjects ? Here, the lady invariably sheds tears, does a lot of ‘sacrifices’, brings up her children/brothers(or even husband!) but reveres her ‘mangalasutram’ and finally dies on her husband’s lap.

One of the very few exceptions was a film called ‘Thyaga Bhoomi’(1939)-story by tamizh writer Kalki-where the main protagonist fights for her rights till the end.This movie was a box-office hit and was later banned by the British Govt. for its pro-Freedom movement ‘propaganda’.More about this later in some other thread(maybe Vintage thread).

Though Rudraiah made an effort in ‘AvaL Appadiththaan’(1978), the film failed to make a real impact because of the weak screenplay.

It is rather unfortunate that exceptions have always been exceptions and no film maker dared to make a movie to show the woman as woman.

The film songs too echo the same sentiments.

The Lady Love will be addressed as ‘Maane Thenae’(Oh..Deer/honey) and will be mainly described as one who fulfils the wishes of her lover.

However, today’s Rare gem is an exception. Here too, the male sings ‘women are like deer’ with the female countering him. But the end is very interesting.

The song is ‘PaavaiyargaL Maanpole’ from ‘Ore Muththam’(1980).

The song starts with a beautiful harmonium piece- that lasts for at least half a minute- giving a Qawaali flavour.

The Pallavi-rendered by SPB- says ‘Women are like deer; like the Cauvery river.If only they lead their lives properly, they are more than angels. Why be modern?’

The Qawaali flavour continues in the first interlude with the Shehnai, harmonium and the claps..

The first charanam talks about the looks of an ideal woman-well-braided hair bedecked with flowers..It also asks the woman to read tamizh(does the poet mean tamizh culture or tamizh language?)

The second interlude changes beautifully.The Qawaali now becomes jazz with the trumpets, electric guitar and a host of other western instruments.

The tempo too changes in the charanam as Janaki renders ‘A virtuouswoman can be found in a forest or even in a ‘Daasi’s house(I am sure no translation is required for this word!).I know what I am and I don’t need anybody to preach me’.

The next tempo change is very interesting and intelligent too..The 4-beat Chatusram changes to the 3-beat Tisram.The orchestration is jazzy again and makes us tap our feet.

The male now sings ‘The heavens protect you when you wear a saree(silk!!).God comes to you when you are with your sindoor and flower(wow!what a way to suppress woman by glorifying her beauty!)’

Repartee by the female: ’Even if the God comes now, he will be by my side since times are changing.Please put things in the proper perspective.If you can’t ask me’.

The next interlude has the Shehnai bit alone indicating how the momentum has picked up.
The tempo changes yet again and the male now sings’ Women those days would only look at the ground while walking (so scared of the silly men folk!) but the present day woman smiles directly looking at our faces(maybe so handsome!).If a woman laughs it is doomsday’.

One more jazzy interlude followed by my favourite charanam.

The female says ‘If I make a mistake, you are welcome to tell me and similarly, if I find a problem in you, I shall point out.After all, Men and Women are equal.’

Now both sing, ‘Good and bad exist in everything. Let us discover the world.Let us unite!’.

Yes.. let us learn this.

Men and Women differ physically.. biologically...maybe emotionally..
But both have equal rights. One cannot exist if the other ceases to exist.

Like the Sruti and the Laya..

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Friday, 30 October 2009

Flowers that bloom once in a century..

The Music Director said ‘Thaanaa Thaanaanaa’ and the lyricist wrote’ Rajavai Paarunga’. Everyone in the composing room said ‘ok’. But the Youngman, an assistant to the Music Director said ‘No’.The perplexed lyricist looked at him and asked him the reason. The Youngman said ‘The tune is ‘Thaanaa Thaanaanaa Thaanaana Thaanaanaa’and therefore the word ‘Rajavai’ will not fit in ‘Thaana’.The lyricist changed it to ‘Raja Paarunga Rajavai Parunga’.But obviously he felt insulted.He had been there in the industry for more than a decade and here was a small assistant finding fault with his writings.

He vented his anger at the Senior Music Director in a party the same evening. He accused the MD of insulting him using a ‘chotta guitarist’.But the senior did not budge. He said ‘If there is a mistake, there is nothing wrong in pointing out’.
This incident happened during the composing session of a Tamizh movie ‘Piriyavidai’.

Music Director - G.K.Venkatesh
Lyricist – Vaali
Guitarist/Assistant-Do I need to say?

The story does not end here. During the composing of BadrakaaLi, Vaali recalled this and asked Raaja if he remembered the incident.
Any other lyricist would have held a grudge against a junior- who found fault with his lines- and would have waited for an opportunity to give it back. But not this gentleman.

That is Vaali!

I wish a very happy 78th birthday to one of the most brilliant lyricists (next only to Kannadasan).

Vaali’s original name is Rangarajan. He was born in a conservative family in Srirangam and right from his childhood showed a lot interest in sketching(both pictures and poems).Not many people know that he and writer Sujata(whose real name was also Rangarajan) authored a kind of magazine in Srirangam in their younger days. I am saying ‘a kind of ‘because this magazine was not printed and the contents were handwritten. It was called as ‘Kai Ezhuththu Paththirikkai’ and the concept was unique (unfortunately such concepts do not exist now. First of all, do we write anything at all? We only type!).

Rangarajan-the poet and the aspiring lyricist went to Madras during early ‘60s.Those days, it was very difficult for a newcomer to enter the film world. Repeated door-slamming and insinuations made him disillusioned. The Youngman decided to end his life…

It was at this point that he happened to listen to two songs-‘Vaazha Ninaiththaal Vaazhalam’(Bale PaNdiya) and ‘Mayakkam Kalakkama’(Sumai Thaangi) both penned by the great Kannadasan. The wordings had a deep impact on him. He gained confidence.
His outlook and perception about life changed.

Rangarajan became Vaali.

His first song was for the K.S.Gopalakrishnan directed ‘Karpagam’(1963) and there was no looking back after that.He has seen four generations of Heroes(I am sure it will continue for the 5th generation too) and has written the most number of songs in Tamizh Cinema.

Vaali’s words are very simple but sharp. Of course, though he considers Kannadasan as his ‘Maanaseeka Guru’ he has his own style that is impeccable. He is also adept in writing ‘Pudhukkavaidhai’(a form of poetry that does not necessarily follow grammar).Unlike some other ‘poets’ who with their bloated egos call themselves as masters of this form and use dry meaningless fillers most of the times, Vaali’s Pudhukkavidhai is unique, is rich in design and is very meaningful. He penned many wonderful ‘Pudhukkavithai’s in the Balachander directed movie ‘Agni Satchi’.

His works in Pudhukkavidhai like ‘Paandavar Bhoomi’, ‘Avadaara Purushan’, ‘Krishna Vijayam’, ‘Ramanuja Kaaviyam’ were serialized in a tamizh magazine and I would say they are sure to find a place in the annals of Tamizh Literature. In fact, even a non-believer like KaruNanidhi appreciated these works on Hindu mythology. It seems he would read them first thing in the morning every week when the magazine was out and would pick up the phone to speak to Vaali.

I was also very happy to see the lines from PaaNdavar Bhoomi being used in a Bharatanatyam performance recently.

Like all great artistes, Vaali is a very sensitive and his short-temper is well-known. He never hides his feelings when he is upset. However, he also understands that it is all part of the game and gets on with the wrok. Once it seems Kamal was not happy with a song and Vaali had to keep changing the lyrics 5 times. The sixth time, he wrote something, threw the papers and said ‘This is it. I can’t write better than this’ and walked out.
The song was ‘Unnai Ninaichen Paattu Padichen’ from ‘Apoorva Sagodharargal’

He is also very sharp with a great sense of humour. Once a scribe asked him the reason for his pen name. He replied that like the mythological Vaali -who had a boon of absorbing half the power of any opponent thus becoming doubly stronger- he also wanted to take and absorb good things from the people he met. The naughty scribe told him ‘But you don’t seem to have so much of power or knowledge’. Pat came the reply from Vaali ’That is because I come across only people like you in my life. ‘The scribe was zapped.

That is Vaali for you.

Vaali’s association with Raaja is very special.Pl. refer the beginning of this post. What started as a kind of spat between the two has now become a very healthy relationship, one of mutual admiration. Was it just a coincidence that he wrote ‘Raja Paarunga..Raajavai Paarunga’ when Raaja was just a guitarist?

All of us saw how he spoke about Raaja and Semmangudi sir’s appreciation for his music in the live show organized by a TV channel 4 years back. It came straight from the heart. He also said it was Raaja who taught him to write ‘VeNba’(a form of classical poetry in tamizh).Though I do not have numbers and records to back, I feel Vaali has written more number of songs for Raaja sir(than for any other composer).Their combination has produced some of the most memorable songs in the history of Tamizh Cinema.

Today’s song is one such gem. It is ‘Kurinji Malaril Vazhindha Rasaththai’ from ‘Azhage Unnai AaraadikkiRen’(1979).
Raaja sir is known for giving tough and very long pallavis.Most of them will have to be sung in single breaths(examples:KaNmaNiye Kaadhal Enbathu, Thiruththeril Varum Silaiyo..).

This song is no exception.

The Pallavi has 27 phrases. Imagine the plight of the lyricist listening to the ‘Tharana Tharana..’.Any other lyricist(of course with the exception of Kannadasan) would have asked for sometime to write and get back.Some lyricists also take a stroll in a park(it is not the metaphorical ‘walk in the park’) in the night and go back with the lyrics after a day or two!

Vaali wrote ‘Kurinji Malaril Vazhintha Rasaththai Urinja Thudikkum Udhadu Irukka Odiyathenna Poovidhazh Moodiyathenna En Manam Vaadiyathenna Oru Maalai Idavum Selai Thodavum VeLai PiRanthaalum Andhi Maalai Pozhuthil Leelai Puriyum Aasai PiRakkatho ‘

Romance bordering on eroticism..

Look at the rhyming words ‘Thudikkum’, ‘Odiyathenna’, ‘Moodiyathenna’, ‘Vaadiyathenna’ and Maalai, Selai,VeLai, Maalai,Leelai.’Maalai’ in the firs instance means ‘garland’ and in the second one means ‘evening’.

It is interesting to see the response of the lady.When she sings the Pallavi at the end of the first CharaNam, she changes the words and says ‘Kurinji Malaril Vazhintha Rasaththai Unrinja Thudikkum Udhadu Irandum Vaadiyathenna Poovidhazh Thediyathenna Ennidam Naadiyathenna Oru Maalai Idavum Selai Thodavum VeLai PiRakkatho Andha VeLai VaRaiyil KaaLai Unadhu Ullam PoRukkatho’.

Imagination and Creativity at its best!

I can go on writing about the CharaNams as well but would like to leave it to the readers to listen and appreciate the beauty.

Let me say a few words about the music now.

The prelude itself is brilliant. Look how the flute entices us with repeat notes, how the delightful electric guitar surrounds us and how the stirring violins play with harmonious precision.

In the first interlude, the accordion (?) is crisp, the Violins are deep, and the electric guitar enterprising.The lilting Veena and the soulful flute take over giving us an enchanting experience.In fact, the Veena dominates all the interludes and the reason for its sounding melancholic is because of the situation in the movie.(I am sure you all remember ‘Hey masthana’ from the same movie which was discussed in the same bolg sometime back).

The melancholy mood is seen in the second interlude as well while the third interlude is somber and intense.

All the three charaNams have melting phrases and both SPB and Vani Jayaram have done justice to the song.

‘Kurinji’ flowers are unique to Tamizh Nadu and its culture and one finds a lot of reference to this flower in Sangam Literature.This flower which is purple-blue in colour blooms once in 12 years -in Kodaikanal and Ooty and the name Nilgiris was acquired because of this flower only.

People like Kannadasan, ILaiyaraaja and Vaali are also like the Kurinji flowers..except that we get to see such flowers once in a century..

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Grand Chariot!

Said Kamalhaasan, '‘Like BC and AD, Tamizh cinema can be divided into two eras –BS and AS.There is no actor in the AS era who does not have the influence of ‘S’ '' .

What is AS and BS? First of all, who is that ‘S’?

I am sure most of you would have guessed who it is.

Yes,it is none other than Sivaji Ganesan, one of the greatest actors cinema has ever seen.

Vizhuppuram Chinnasamy Ganesan was born on the 1st of Oct 1928.
He dropped out from the school at the age of 12 to join a Drama Company(yes..such things were existing those days!).

He learnt things the hard way.Small ,minor roles to start with ;supporting roles over a period of time;major roles; finally a Hero.

The play ‘Sivaji KaNda Hindu Saamraajayam’ was watched by none other than the great Thanthai Periyar who was so enthralled with the performance of Ganesan that he called him ‘Sivaji’ Ganesan.

And that was the beginning (that has no end).

His first movie 'Parasakthi' brought him many accolades.The story and dialogues of Kalaignar KaruNanidhi uttered with clarity by Sivaji Ganesan was the talk of the town then.

He also joined the Dravidian movement and came out of it in the mid ‘50s to become a staunch Congressman and a disciple of Kamarajar.

What can one say of his acting skills and talent?

Words like Multi Dimensional and Multifarious have no meanings in front of this Himalaya.

Though he was a natural actor, he constantly updated his skills and never hesitated to learn from anybody.

For his role as the poet Thirunaavukkarasar-a.k.a.Appar-in the movie ‘Thiruvarutchelvar’, his inspiration was the Paramacharya of Kanchi.He spent time observing the seer and brought out his mannerisms wonderfully.

Rajaji who hated cinema has watched only two movies in his entire life ,one of them being ‘Thikkatra Paarvathi, a story written by him on the evils of alcoholism.The other movie was SampoorNa RaamayaNam where NTR played the role of Rama and Sivaji,the role of Bharata.

He was so captivated by just an eye movement of Sivaji in one of the sequences that he said that alone is enough to show the genius of this man.

Very recently, I had the opportunity to attend a function to falicitate the great Bharatanatyam dancer Shri.Dhananjayan,who is very well known for his facial expressions.He remarked that Sivaji Ganesan was one oF his inspirations.

There are many souls across the globe who have been inspired by this great man.

There are also some who say he tends to ‘overact’.Fine..but is cinema itself not an exaggerated art form?

Sivaji and ILaiyaraaja were great friends and had mutual admiration.

I had written about Sivaji-Raaja story in my write-up on Deepam in the Vintage Raja thread.

In fact, some of the common traits are striking.

No formal education.
Born geniuses.
Came up the hard way.
Very punctual(both of them will be in their respective studios at 7 am sharp!).
Inspiring.(Tamizh cinema music also has two eras-BI and AI).

In fact, the day before Sivaji Ganesan passed away,Raaja sir was away in Mumbai doing the re recording for the Hindi film 'Lajja'.He was running very high temperature and as soon as he came to know that his idol was critically ill, he flew down to Chennai.

By then, it was all over.

But Raaja being Raaja accompanied the body-along with Kamal, Rajini,and Bharatiraja-in an open van till the crematorium-a four and half hour journey despite the high fever.

That is the regard and respect he had for the great actor-sorry,the greatest actor!
And maybe that is the reason he gave some unforgettable music for almost all Sivaji movies-starting from 'Deepam' to 'Devar Magan'.

Coming to think of it, my all time favourite ‘Engengo Sellum’ is also from a Sivaji movie.

Today, we are going to see one of the gems.Incidentally, the three doyens-the three lions-of Tamizh Cinema,Kannadasan, Sivaji Ganesan and ILaiyaraaja are present in this song.

There is another interesting story-though personal.

My seven year old son loves this song and asked me to write about the song a year back.

Maybe it is destined to happen on this special day.

The song is ‘Thiruththeril Varum Silaiyo..’from ‘Naan Vaazha Vaippen’(1979).

The opening of the song itself is special.
The Guitar jumps with joy as the violins join the party.
Yes,it is party time!
Party in Mohanam...

We see the beautiful Statue(of liberty?)coming to life with SPB’s voice.
We see and hear the parrot as Suseela joins.

In the first interlude, we see the Statue and the parrot play-running around, hopping,dancing,and hide and seek.

The first Charanam epitomises Mohana Ragam.

Lullaby?Lotus Dance?Fragrance of flowers?Shower of Musical notes?

A beautiful Raga embellished by a beautiful composer.

The second interlude is another marvel.

Musical notes of one orchestra repeated by the other two-canon in western music parlance-produces a magnetic effect.

As we immerse ourselves in this beauty, we are stirred by the guitar that makes us sway giving us goosepimples.

In the second Charanam, we see the temple.We hear the music.We feel the breeze singing in chaste tamizh.

And there we see the masterstroke of the lyricist.

He describes the month of Karthigai as the one full of brightness -meaning Kaarthigai,the festival of lamps.Maargazhi,the following month as per Tamizh calendar is considered to be the most divine month.

The heroine here sings ‘Devan Varum Maargazhi’-the month when the Lord comes.Pl. note that Christmas is also celebrated in Maargazhi and it is believed that Jesus would one day come back here to save us all.

That is why the poet says ‘En Devan Anuppiya Dhoothuvan’(Jesus is considered as Deva Dhootan-the ambassador of the Lord!).

The one who comes on the Grand Kannadasan, Sivaji and ILaiyaraaja..
Are they also not the ambassadors of the Lord?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

My Dream...

Call it luck.. Call it fate.. Call it even destiny.
The entry of the genius into Film music happened during my formative years.

It has been proved scientifically that the formative (or adolescent) years shape up one’s personality. What we are likely to be/ how are likely be in future is determined to a great extent during these years. I am not sure if I would have got into appreciating music, literature and aesthetic things in general if not for my exposure to his music during those years.

And if I were asked to thank somebody/something for my exposure to his music, without any hesitation I would thank Radio Ceylon(Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation, Tamizh service).

Listening to radio nowadays is confined to a plethora of FM Channels. But those days, one had to listen only to the State controlled AIR which had its own whimsical ways. Long back, I had mentioned about the banning of songs like ‘Vaangonna..’ and ‘Oram Po’.It was not just this aspect.They were also very choosy in airing songs.For example, they would play only two songs from a particular movie repeatedly making one feel there were no other songs from the album. Songs like ‘Gyaan Gyaan Paadanum’(PoonthaLir) were anathema since it had Malayalam lyrics(sounding crazy?).Of course, the only thing we all enjoyed was the commercial show between 9.30 and 10.30pm every night where the promos of movies would be played along with the songs.

In this scenario, SLBC was a Godsend to lakhs of people in Tamizh Nadu.The Programmes would start at 7 am in the morning and go on till 6pm in the evening.T he versatility of the programmes that ranged from very old songs to brand new songs was amazing!

In fact, they would even bring us recorded versions of a Live Studio Recordings.I remember listening to the recordings of ‘Kaaththodu poo urasa’(Anbukku Naan Adimai) and many wonderful songs.

The versatility was not just in the programmes. It was also in the way it was presented and this is where the announcers(sorry..I don’t want to call them RJs) played a major role. The majestic Mayilvaganan(Senior), the flamboyant K.S.Raja, the honey-soaked Rajeswari Shanmukham, and my idol B.H.Abdul Hameed..the list goes on.

All these Super 10s, and singing competitions that we get to see now on TV were conducted by SLBC more than 30 years back without in anyway compromising on the decency and decorum.

I am now sad not just because we no longer get to listen to this channel but also because of the present condition in Sri Lanka. I had a very unique bond with thousands of people who would regularly write/participate in the programmes there.
I am not sure how many of them are alive.I am not sure how many of them are homeless. I am not sure how many of them have lost their parents, their brothers, their sisters.

My heart bleeds for these brothers and sisters who were instrumental in developing my taste.

Today’s Rare Gem is dedicated to all these people.

It is a song which used to be aired at least 15 times in a week (at times even thrice on a single day!).

It is ‘Aasai Nenjin KanavugaL VaLarpiRai’from ‘Mugaththil Mugam Paarkalaam’(1980).

On first listening, the song appears to be very mundane and simple. But once it gets into our system, it is very difficult to separate.

The strings of Santoor supported by a rather sharp percussion; melodious flute playing Mohanam;the violins making an appearance in western style; the resonant Veena joining gracefully.
This is the 30 second prelude magic for you.

Malaysia Vasudevan starts the Pallavi in his own unconventional style.

The majestic Violin orchestra in full flow in the beginning of the first interlude. The Flute takes over in a folksy style as we travel from Vienna to Vaadipatti. The Veena joins again pulling the strings of our hearts. Carefully listen to the counterpoints here.. and of course the very subtle bass work. The mix of alien swaras in the Veena only adds to the beauty.

It is now Suseela’s turn as she starts ‘Pongi Varum alai..’ with the violins and the flute following her closely. Vasu now replies ‘Malar kaNaigaL..’ and we become drunk with the beauty.

The stringed instrument -that is ubiquitous in Raaja’s ‘70s compositions- partners with Bass Guitar and it is the Violin Orchestra yet again that flow like a clear stream with the Veena welcoming them with a smile. The Flute now jumps with joy and literally dances.
This second interlude is one of my favourite interludes and I would be playing this mentally whenever I feel like it.

The graceful Veena dominates the third interlude. The repartee by the Violins is the mark of the Master.The effervescent Santoor greets us all..

Though all lines are unforgettable, the second CharaNam has some special wordings that are very relevant:’KanavugaLe Ninaivil Varum..NinaivugaLe Nidamum Sugam’(Dreams come as thoughts and these thoughts are always enjoyable).

The thoughts linger in me.. the nostalgia.. the formative years.. the Radio channel…and the people of Sri Lanka..

And my dream is to see my brothers and sisters live peacefully again.

‘Enathu Nenjin KanavugaL VaLarpiRai’

It is like the waxing moon..Let us hope to see the Full moon soon!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Pearl(s) in an oyster!

Kannadasan, according to me is the greatest lyricist in Tamizh Cinema.

There are a lot of similarities between Raaja sir Kannadasan.

Both are spontaneous and can compose in a jiffy.

Both are from rustic background.

Both do not have formal education (school drop outs!).

Both are very frank and do not hesitate to speak their minds (and earned enemies/detractors because of this).

And yes, spiritually inclined..

Kannadasan had a special liking for Raaja sir though his favourite was MSV sir who was like a younger brother.

In fact, Panchu Arunachalam who introduced Raaja sir in Films is Kannadasan’s nephew.

Raaja sir also had(and has) the highest regard for Kannadasan.

Before leaving for the US in the year 1981, Kannadasan wrote two songs for Raaja and it seems told his assistant ‘Raaja is very lucky because I probably wrote my last song in movies.After returning from the US, I wish to focus fully on spiritualism and don’t intend to write anymore for films.’

How prophetic it turned out to be!

Kannadasan died in the US and would never write again..

And the last songs were written for ‘Moondram Pirai’.

Though there are lot of gems in the Raja-Kannadasan combination (‘Engengo Sellum’, ‘Devathai oru Devathai’, ‘Kovil Mani Osai’-just to name a few!), I am taking up a very rare song which cannot be seen anywhere..

Cannot be seen anywhere?

Yes, because though it was composed for a movie, it was not present in the final cut.

It is ‘Aazhak Kadalil Thediya Muthu’ from ‘Sattam en Kaiyil’(1978).

The whole song follows the ‘wavy’ pattern and is as soft as any lullaby could be.

The song starts with a whistle like sound followed by the flute in lower octave, Santoor and the violins.

The interludes are simple but great. The sudden surge of the strings in the first interlude looks like a huge wave raising and kissing our feet.

The ‘Heyyy..’ in the second interlude takes us straight to the catamaran on the sea.

The third interlude makes us close our eyes and enjoy the sea breeze.

In the third Charanam the mother and father sing to the child.

The mother says,’Your father gave the pearl.’
Father says’Your mother is a golden oyster’.
Both of them say ‘We swam and had a dip to bring you out’.

‘Chippikkule Muthu vaichu unnai thantha appa kanne..
Chippiyilum Thanga Chippi Unnai Pethha Amma Kanne
Neendhinom muzhginom unnai edukka’

Very subtle (sounds more subtle in the original ..)

I wish Lyricists of today who tend to take a dip and dunk in vulgarity took a leaf or two from the Master Lyricist..

Aazha Kadalil Thediya MuthukkaL-ILaiyaraaja and Kannadasan!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Musical march of the flowers..

One of the many beautiful things in this world is the flower.

Flowers give us fragrance.
Flowers give us happiness.
Flowers make us soft.
Flowers make us mellow.
Flowers give us strength.
Flowers give us a new meaning in life.

Coming to think of it, that great thing in the world called as Music also gives us all these..

Our Literature is also replete with references to Flowers.

Music, Literature and Flowers..
Lot of similarities!!

What happens when flowers take out a march accompanied by Music and lyrics?

Is it not a triple treat?

‘Azhagiya MalargaLin Pudhu Vidha Orrvalame..’ from Ullasa ParavaigaL(1980) gives us this treat.

We see the buds swaying their heads in the first part of the prelude and these begin to dance to the beats in the middle part.

These buds now begin to smile as the western flute is played and …start blooming to the background of violins.

What a great sight it is!

Has anyone ever watched the buds turn as flowers..

His Music makes us see this marvel!

The first interlude is sheer magic as the flowers nod their heads to the pure western classical tune..

We see the Lily, We see the Daisy.
We see the Daffodil, We see the Ambrosia.
We see the Carnation, We see the Lavender.
We see the Marigold, We see the Sunflower.

It is the Painter’s Palette!

The second interlude is a riot of colours as all these flowers march ahead acknowledging the music of the Great Composer…

The voice of Janaki flows like the honey from each of these flowers..

The phrase ‘Vannam Vannam Kannil Minna.. nana.. nana..’ makes the decoration even more beautiful.

Yes..It is the Musical March of the Flowers!!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Music is Universal..

Music is Universal!

The more I think of music or the more I listen to all forms of music, this phrase keeps coming in my mind and I cannot help it!

Maybe that is the power of Music itself.

Though Raaja sir has melded all major forms of music in many of his compositions, I would like to take up one of the songs today as an example.

It is ‘Eriyile Elantha maram’ from ‘Karai Ellam Shenbagappoo’(1981).

The story was by Sujata and it came as a serial(sorry!not a TV serial) in the Tamizh magazine Ananda Vikatan between 1978 and ’79.

A very interesting fact about this story was that Sujata wrote this after Raaja sir asked him to write something about the folk songs of Tamizh Nadu.

The hero visits a village to research on the folk music.The story takes an interesting twist and becomes a murder mystery.

Sujata in his inimitable style had woven the story interestingly giving a special colour to each colour.

If the case of‘NaNdu’(Sivasankari-Mahendran) was one extreme where the story was changed (rather abridged), ‘Karai Ellam Shenbagappoo’ was another extreme.The Director G N Rangarajan stuck to the story religiously. But he failed to bring out the flavour of each character.

Therefore, it was like a replica but without any life.

For example, Sujatha touched upon the platonic love between the hero and Valli, the village girl in a very subtle poetic way. This was absent in the movie.

Subtle and Poetic?

Are we not expecting too much from Tamizh Cinema Directors?

But, yes, we are fully justified if we expect this from a Genius whose other name is ILaiyaraaja.

And he has never disappointed us.

Though all songs in ‘Karai Ellam Shenbagappoo’ are great, my pick is ‘Eriyile..’
Not without a reason..

The song gives us Carnatic, Western classical, Folk within a matter of seconds.

The notes of this raga form the Major scale in Western music.

The prelude starts with the bass guitar and the chorus voice sings ‘sa ri ga ma pa dha ni Sa’ followed by ‘Thanthana naadeenam Thanthananna’.

Any other proof needed for the universality of music?

And in the hands of the master, the universal music takes a wonderful shape.

The Pallavi gives us all shades of the scale in different octaves.

What does one say about the versatile Janaki amma?

Look at the way she sings like a 12 year old boy..

The interludes are great-as usual -starting with the flute in western style, chorus( in harmony), and the folk instruments in the first interlude, a mini percussion ensemble- called as ‘Tani avarthanam’ in Carnatic Music parlance-in the second interlude show the Emperor of Universal music in full flow.

Eriyilum Karaiilum Shenbagappoo, Isai poo..

(Musical flowers on the Lake and on the banks!)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Midair romance!

When we listen to great music, we say it is out of the world..

We feel as if we are floating in the air..

We feel as if we are flying..

What happens if the song itself is sung in mid air?

Yes, the Hero and Heroine fly in different aircrafts and sing..

Absurd? Well.. maybe .But do movies follow any logic?

In a way it is good because we would not have got some gems.
As long as we get great music, I do not think we should complain.

In Guru(1980), Kamal is a modern day Robinhood and the Villain tries to ‘sell’ military secrets of India to another country. This he does by hiring a small private aircraft. He is accompanied by-no prizes for guessing-the Heroine, Sridevi who has no inkling of what the villain is doing(pl. read the line again!). And thinks the Hero is the Villain.

Of course role reversals do take place everywhere..right?

The Hero-in another private aircraft- follows the Villain to thwart his attempts. Not just this..

He follows the Heroine as well and expresses his love..

How does he express his love?

Any other Music Director would have used ‘I Love You’..

But not the Maestro.

As soon as the situation was explained to Raaja sir by the Director I V Sasi, he devised an ingenious way.. musical way..

He used the aircraft signal (somewhat similar to morse code).
The song starts with the beep sound which when translated means ‘I Love You’!

This beep sound forms the theme music of the entire song.

That is why I keep saying he is the eighth wonder…

He creates the atmosphere of aircrafts just with the Bass Guitar the wind instruments, and the violins..

The beautiful Flute in the second interlude makes us see a bird’s eye view of …not just the village/town/city/country but also the entire World. The Music World of the wonder called ILaiyaraaja!

Whenever I fly (normal aircraft of course!), I too say ‘Paranthaalum vida matten’-meaning I will not leave you even when I fly..

Yes….. I will not leave his music even when I am in midair..

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The Queen goes looking for the King of Music!

It is a well known fact that Raaja had done many experiments.

He brought a new dimension to orchestration and arrangement.He used different kinds of instruments and each one would overlap on each other producing harmony..He used Bass Guitar in almost all his compositions and the bass notes would be entirely different from the main tune but still it would gel well with the song.

Bass Guitar was also used for rhythm following Carnatic rhythmic pattern.’Endrendrum Aanandame’(Kadal MeengaL) is a classic example.

He also composed a song without any instruments in the prelude and the interludes(Thaam ta Dheem ta).

Apart from all these, his use of vocals needs a very deep analysis.Many songs(esp.his vintage stuff) start with the humming and the podi sangatis in the humming are amazing!

Today’s Gem also starts with the beautiful humming of Janaki.

It alternates between long and short phrases.I still keep wondering if she sang it continuously or was it punched..But whatever it is, it sounds great.The higher ocatave ‘aaaaa..’takes us to an entirely different world.

The song I am talking about is ‘MaharaaNi Unai Thedi’from ‘Aayiram Vaasal Idayam’(1979) sung by Janaki and Jayachandran with lyrics by M G Vallabhan.
As soon as the humming ends, the violins start very gradually reaching a crescendo.

Honey flows as the flute blows.
The pallavi starts.

Here too, I wonder how Raaja composes his preludes and interludes.
He always ensures that the words given by the poets attain musical form.I can quote many examples.

Look at this song.

The pallavi is ‘MaharaaNi unai thedi varum nerame..engum kuzhal naadame..Thendral theril VaruvaL..Antha kaaman viduvaan KaNai IvaL vizhi’(When the Queen comes to you, there is music of flute all around..She comes on the Chariot of Breeze with eyes like the arrow of the cupid).

Now, listen to the prelude carefully.

The first part of the Humming-The Queen looks for you.
The second part of the Humming(the long one with sangatis)-She has seen you.

Violins-Sound of the Breeze.
Strings-She rides the Chariot.
Flute-She comes with the sound of the flute.
The last string section-She embraces you.

The first interlude:
The violins, strings , flute and the guitar.
The first two lines in the CharaNam talk about the sweet voice of the queen(parrot!), compares it with the sweetness of Tamizh and the lips that utter the words.

Go back to the first interlude.

The violins sound as if somebody is speaking in a beautiful tone.The flute sings showing us the sweetness(of Tamizh!).

The following lines talk about the heavenly bliss.
This is indicated by the wonderful guitar piece followed by the violins in the higher octave.

The second CharaNam:
The snowfall on the flower in the month of Maargazhi and the ecstatic blooming of the flower.

The Second interlude starts with the violins in low tone indicating the snowfall followed by the strings that show us the flower, and its petals.The interplay between the two is musically depicted by the flute!

This song is just an example of how well the Maestro understands the situation,the words and the mood to give us the best possible compositions! Though he remarked to me during the personal meeting that he does not think of all these while composing, I feel his brain captures everything(at times without his being aware) and pours out in the form of music. Certainly not possible for mortals like us!

His music is like the queen that comes looking for us in the Chariot of Breeze!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Divine Dream..

The Tamizh month of Maargzhi(Mid Dec-Mid Jan) is very special.

Lord Krishna refers to this month in Gita.

Astronomically, the Sun turns towards the north at the end of this month.

Scientifically, the ozone layer is very close to the earth during this month especially early in the morning.

For people living in Chennai, it is a real bonus since the entire city reverberates with music during this month.A host of other activities also take place this month-like the Book Fair, Circus,Trade Fair etc.,

But there is one thing that is an intrinsic part of Maargazhi.That is ‘Tiruppavai’.

In my post on ‘Sundari Kannal..’ in my other blog 'Ragaranjani', I had described about AandaL , her Thiruppavai and Naachiyaar Thirumozhi.

Each day of the month is identified with one Thiruppavai finally climaxing with two Thiruppavais on the last day(there are only 29 days in Maargazhi).

AandaL followed a very unique concept called ‘Paavai Nonbu’ where she along with her friends take a vow on the second day where she says

‘Eschew all carnal and even worldly desires like eating
ghee,drinking milk etc.
Bathe early in the morning.Don't adorn your eyes with
collyrium,or your hair with flowers till the completion
of the vow’.

After 26 days, she ends the vow with the Paasuram ‘Koodarai Vellum’(the one who wins over his enemies).Sri Vaishnavas celebrate the 27th day(which is today) as a day to make friends with enemies.

Apart from the 30 Thiruppavais, AandaL is known for her 143 verses called as Naachchiyaar Thirumozhi.Though all the verses are special, the verses 61-71 are very very special because she dreams of becoming His bride and shares this dream with her friends.

This set of 10 verses is more popularly called as ‘VaaraNam Aayiram’.

While reading the verses or even listening to these, one clearly visualizes the entire wedding as it unfolds scene by scene.

That is the beauty of AandaL’s imagination and her mastery over the language.

The Maestro brilliantly used some of these verses in ‘KeLadi KaNmaNi’(1990).

There are two versions in the album-one sung by Janaki and the other by SPB.The Janaki version is Raagamaalika while the SPB one follows one Raaga.

The film has the former version only.

The song starts with Mohanam(at times it sounds like Mohana Kalyani too to me!) as she says ‘With one thousand mighty tuskers arrayed, the Lord gracefully comes in procession. The Town is adorned with beauteous festoons and welcomes the groom with gold vessels.’

The Tavil gives the wedding ambience as the Raaga seamlessly changes to Nayaki-a very special Raga not used by any film music composer.

She sings,’All the celestials including Indra, the king of Devas assemble and speak to my parents as my sister-in law, Parvati adorns me with flowers and the wedding saree.’

The flute piece after ‘Devar Kuzhamellam’ is heavenly.

The Raaga now changes to Kapi and she says’As learned Pundits chant the Mantras and spread out the Holy grass laying twigs encompassing the sacred fire, He-Lord Krishna-comes like a raging tusker circumambulating the fire holding my hand-fast in hand!’

Unfortunately, the song has only these three verses.

The SPB version follows Kalyani ragam throughout.

My Divine Dream is to listen to all the verses tuned by the Maestro!

1.Janaki's version:


Thursday, 1 January 2009

Musical Angel-She came , She saw , She conquered!

Music gives us Power..
gives us Energy..
gives us Strength..

Just imagine..

If music took the form of an angel and came in front of us, what would we do?
Or just watch with amazement?

The Film ‘Pattakkaththi Bhairvan’(1979) was a remake of a telugu movie. A very ordinary story of an orphan (certainly not Oliver Twist!) who turns ‘anti social’.

At times I wonder as to how somebody could score great music for movies that are below par.It needs that ‘attached detachment’ defined by Krishna in the Gita.
In fact, Kedaram Raga was used by him for the first time in this movie.
While reviewing this film, the Tamizh magazine ‘Aananda Vikatan’ said that ‘the Director has succeeded in caging a lion called Sivaji Ganesan and tried to cage a tiger called ILaiyaraaja.But this tiger growls and we get at least two great songs!’

One song is of course very well known to the people familiar with my other Blog-Ragaranjani-and ‘yours sincerely’ because that happens to be his most favourite composition.

For the benefit of newcomers , let me tell you that the song starts with the lines ‘Engengo Sellum En EnnangaL’whose description can be found in 'Ragaranjani' under the caption 'ILaiyaraaja-The Wonder'.

The other duet in the film is great as well..

Of course, I am not talking about the ‘Kedaram’ song-which will be taken up later.

I am referring to a song ‘Devathai.. Oru Devathai’.

Generally, I avoid talking about the technical details of a composition in this blog.

But at times a brief mention is required.

The Ragam of ‘Devathai’ is subject to dispute.Some of the sites mention this as ‘Sudhdha Saveri’ while some others say it is SankarabharaNam.

Yes…Swaras of Sudhdha Saveri are used but in Madhyama Sruti(shall explain this concept in detail in the other thread soon..).The Raga we get is Pahaadi.

He has done wonders using this concept in many of his compositions.

As Bharati says in Paanchaali Sabatham

‘ each moment is different.. different from the previous moment.. full of surprises!’(KaNam thoRum maaRi maaRi oradimatroradiyoloththalandri..), Raaja sir’s music is full of surprises and full of beauty!

Let us look at the Flute piece that appears throughout the composition. It is in fact the ‘theme music’ of the song..

The Violin piece in the second interlude.. purely in western classical style but without deviating from the tune..

The percussion in the third interlude that makes us sway.. And the flute bit that follows ..

The way each instrument speak with one another in the first interlude..

Similar kind of syllables appearing one after the other in the CharaNams(ex-‘Swargaththin pakkaththil vetkaththai vaiththuk koNdaaL’, ‘Aaramba maagattum Kaveri Koodattum Inge’)

The lilting tune..

Yes..As the greatest poet Kannadaasan says ‘The Angel came (flying), saw and conquered’ (a la Caesar?),

‘This Emperor came, composed and conquered millions of Hearts!’