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?