Saturday, 11 December 2010



This is how one can ‘describe’ Bharati.One can of course keep writing pages and pages about the greatness of his poems but those 2 words define who Bharati is(pl. note I am not saying ‘was’).
Songs on and for:
Tamizh Nadu
Freedon movement
Freedom fighters and leaders
Major revolutions in other countries
Women (with brains)
Kannan songs
Paanchaali Sabatam(a small but very important portion from Mahabharata)
Kuyil Paattu
Autobiography (in poetic form).

Tell me now if he is not Multi-Dimensional….

What is to be noted is that there are not just few songs in the aforementioned subjects. And most importantly, each and every poem is great and can be cherished by one and all irrespective of the time.

There lies the greatness of the person!!

My salutes to the Mahakavi on his 128th Birthday..

The rare gem of today is a rather short song.

Though it is short, it does convey a lot of meanings, and is contemporarily relevant.

Bharati was a rebel and hated stereotypes and conservatism. One of the major things he wanted to change was the status of women in the society.

He coined a new word ‘PudhumaipeN’(New Woman) and described her attributes.

Today’s gem is taken from the 7th stanza of his poem.

It is ‘Nimirntha Nannadai’ from the film ‘Etthanai KoNam Etthanai Parvai’(1984).

Set aptly in Mohanam by the Maestro, the song enters one’s soul.

The plain ‘Nimirntha’, ‘gamakam’ at ‘Ner koNda Parvai’, the aalap after ‘Iruppathaal’ the sangati for ‘Semmai Maadhar’….who else but Raaja can show such a magic in a matter of seconds?

Malaysia Vasudevan does full justice with his flawless rendering and perfect diction. How beautifully he pronounces 'ற' in ‘திறம்பு’!Is there any singer in Tamizh now who can do this?

The meaning of the song is:

‘With an upright gait, straightforward look, fearless ideals, proud with great knowledge and wisdom, a woman never goes wrong nor does she falter..’

The key words to be noted here are ‘நிமிர்ந்த‌’(upright), ‘நேர்கொண்ட பார்வை’(straightforward look), ‘அஞ்சாத’(fearless) and ‘செருக்கு’(pride).

We all know that women have been branded as inferior since ages and are supposed to possess four qualities ‘அச்சம்’(fear) ‘மடம்’(dependence) ‘நாணம்’(shyness) ‘பயிர்ப்பு’(tolerance).

Bharati breaks these so called attributes with just a single stroke of his pen. He goes one step further and says ‘ஞானச் செருக்கு’(pride of knowledge).

Mind you.. This was written nearly 100 years back..
And how relevant it is even now!

In one of his other poems, he is supposed to have challenged ‘Yama’, the Lord of Death by saying ‘ near my feet.. I shall stamp you’ -காலா!உனை நான் சிறு புல்லென மதிக்கிறேன்.என்றன் காலருகே வாடா!சற்றே உனை மிதிக்கிறேன்!! shows his fearlessness.. But I feel it also challenges ‘Time’ (‘Kaalam’ in tamizh also means Time).

Are not his poems timeless?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

My Quest..

The word 'Rare' is generally used when we come across something unusual.

But we all know that Raaja's music itself is unusual and therefore is rare.

In this blog, I have been trying to analyse his unknown compositions. Unknown to many in the present generation.

The danger in any analysis is that it tends to get subjective.

For example, for people who grew up with his music right from AnnakkiLi, not many songs can be called as rare.

Therefore, let us take an objective view.

Moreover, a song cannot be classified as rare just because it is old.

While 'Machanai paartheengaLa' and 'AnnakkiLi Unnai Theduthe'(Janaki version) are not rare despite being 32 years old, the TMS version of 'AnnakkiLi Unnai..' can be classified as rare.

Just ask these simple questions:

1.Is this song being aired by any Radio/TV channels at least once in a while?

2.Are many people aware of this song?

If the answer to both the questions is 'yes', then it is not rare irrespective of the year of release.

If it is 'no', then it obviously deserves a place in this Blog.

I started this Blog 2 years back and have been on a journey since then..

And what a journey it has been!

A journey that took me back to the days I listened to these songs for the first time as boy.. to the days where my transistor radio would be playing the songs with me doing my home work.. to days where I would be all alone on the terrace gazing at the stars with my ‘lover’ very close to my ears(now, don’t jump to any conclusions.. people who know me well know what I call as my first ‘love’).

Almost all the songs discussed by me belong to the period mentioned in the previous paragraph.

And most of the songs have been inside me all this while waiting for an opportunity to jump out and show their smiling faces to the world.

They come out depending on the place, time and most importantly my mood. For example, when I was travelling in Tanjore in Feb 2009 , my i –pod was playing ‘MaharaNi unai thedi’(Aayiram Vaasal Idhayam) when the bus was plying close the Palace.The result?

A post on the 28th of Feb!

At times there would be some unexplained reasons too.

But what I am going to narrate now is something unique.

One day my friend Govindarajan called me up and asked me the name of a movie of a particular song that goes like ‘Kanna..Vaa’.He said it was sung by Janaki and Jayachandran. My brain immediately thought of ‘Kanna Vaa Kavithai solla va’.But it is a Janaki solo and as far as I knew there was no Jayachandran in that. I asked him to send the song but he found it very difficult to trace it in his I pod since all files were jumbled and the nomenclature given as per the whims and fancies of the people who uploaded (in the site).

After about a week on a busy Friday morning, he called me again and played the song from his phone. Though it was not clear, it did ring a bell.. I asked him to mail the song which he did the following day. The moment I heard it, I knew that I know the song. But frankly speaking I could not place the name of the movie. After racking my brain(that already has only a little stuff), I finally remembered that it is from a movie called ‘MalargaL NanaiginRana’(1983) and that it used to be played by AIR those days.

I wondered how it got missed out from my little brain all these years.

I have had the experience of people requesting me to write about a song they like.

I have had the experience of people asking me the name of the movie of a familiar song (that is familiar to me).

I have had the experience of people saying they were listening to the song(s) for the first time when I play the song(s) or write about the song(s).(as i write this, I get a call from one of my friends who has fallen in love with 'Engengo Sellum',the song which was sent by me about 2 weeks back and says he is addicted to it!)

But this was the first time that a person-that too a close friend of mine- made me rediscover a gem.

That is the Power of ILaiyaraaja!

Now, let us look at the song.

Raaja’s Mohanams are always special. Right from ‘Kannan oru kaikuzhanthai’, he has been giving special treatment to his Mohanams. He has fondled it like a child, has romanced with it like a lover, has been very strict with it like a father and has friendly banters with it like a friend.

‘Kanna Vaa’ is no exception.Even when he mixes the other ‘ga’ and makes it sound like Shivaranajani, Mohanam looks as beautiful as ever.

The prelude itself is very interesting.

We hear the santoor followed by the shrill flute and this is enough to give us an image of flowers nodding their heads and swaying in happiness.

The weighty and the sprightly violins that follow hold our hands and take us inside the musical garden. The shrill flute and the exotic santoor play with each other in pure Mohanam showing us the cuckoo and other birds perched on the trees.

Does the prelude (especially the violins section) remind you of the prelude of ‘KaNmaNi nee vara Kaathirunthaen’?

‘KanmaNi..’ is based on Malayamarutam while ‘Kanna..’ is based on Mohanam-ragas that have no direct relation.

However, the variants of ‘ga’ ‘pa’ and ‘dha’ are common for both and the Meastro brilliantly uses these swaras to make Malayamarutam sound like Mohanam (and vice versa)!

Incredible Innovation!

The Pallavi in the voice of Janaki is reposeful. The alien note in the third line gives a kind of poignancy and pulls the strings of our hearts.

The violins in the beginning of the first interlude are as tender as the breeze. The flute and the santoor ride on romance.

The CharaNams are steeped in melody.

The structure is interesting too with the first charaNam rendered by Jayachandran, the second charaNam rendered by Janaki while the third charaNam alternates between the two.

The second interlude has the violins wending their way through. It is sheer magic after that with the Shivaranjani peeping in as the flute and santoor crisscross each other.It is lie a musical rainbow!

The third interlude unfurls another beauty.

It begins with the chorus that gives an aural imagery.
The Horns and violins now enter with a flourish soaking us briefly in Western Classical Music.
The lilting violins now play in folk style sustaining the glory and evoking sweet memories.

It was Horace Walpole who coined the word ‘serendipity’ in his work ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’ and it means making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which one is not in quest of..

I would term this discovery of the song is somewhat serendipitous..
But my quest continues..

Monday, 1 November 2010

Dedicated to..

Recently, in the much touted, much publicized and much hyped World Tamizh meet(செம்மொழி மாநாடு ), a lady ‘poet’ (poetess sounds chauvinistic to me) while reading out her ‘poem’ said tamil(தமில்) for Tamizh (தமிழ்), aval(அவல்) for avaL (அவள்), panam(பனம்) for paNam (பணம்).To top it all, the gentleman who was the Head of the gathering- who calls himself as ‘Kavi perarasar’- while introducing her said 'தமிழ் இவரது பாட்டன் வீட்டு சொத்து (Tamizh is her grandfather’s wealth) referring to her lineage.

Can there be a greater insult to the language?

But this is not an isolated case. Tune in to any satellite channel. Listen to the anchors. Watch any new tamizh movie. Listen how the actors pronounce the words. Listen to the present day songs.Forget even the North Indian singers. Look how the ‘so called Tamizh singers pronounce the words .Cold blooded murder!

At times, one feels a law has to be enacted and the offenders punished very strictly. They must be put behind the bars and an intense training on pronunciation must be given. Their release date will purely depend on their ability to grasp what is taught and their seriousness in implementing it. But there is a serious problem here. As things stand, I feel at least 70%-80% of the Tamizh population does not pronounce the letters properly. This being the case, will there be enough space in the prisons? And even if there is space, do we have enough people to teach the huge crowd?

Point to ponder!!

Today’s rare gem is a very interesting song. Nearly 3 decades back, Raaja sir had envisaged this situation and composed a song as a parody. Malysia Vasudevan, known for his clear diction sang it admirably well. I know how difficult it is for a person who is attached to the language religiously to murder that language.

The song also takes a dig at self-styled moralists who banned songs at their will. The second charanam makes specific reference to the 2 songs that were banned.

Another speciality of the song is the Thyagraja Bhagawathar style of orchestration.

Without any further delay, let me tell you that the song is ‘Vaalvinil un ninaivaal’ from Pattanam pogalam vaa(1981).

We hear the ripples of melody from the jalatharangam followed by the energetic violins. The saxophone follows in the ‘old’ style rather sarcastically. The Raga Charukesi looks at us with glee.

Malaysia Vasudevan starts the ‘murder’ with pin point accuracy. The pause for almost one cycle gives an opportunity for the mridangam to dance with joy.

The first interlude follows the Bhagawathar pattern.But what is admirable is the fact that though it has that old flavour, one can also easily make out the ‘Raaja style’.Isn’t this one of his many strengths?

The CharNams are designed very interestingly. If one forgets the funny voice and the pronunciation, it can easily be called as a pure classical song!

The second interlude gathers momentum with the violins and the Tabla Tarang giving a swirl of patterns. It is graceful and at the same time is very sharp. The tender saxophone and the captivating flute exude brilliance.

As already mentioned, the second charaNam is full of sarcasm. The niraval swarams at ‘Oram po..’ give us loads of laughter. If only the ‘authorities’ who banned the songs were to listen to this, they would squirm in their seats with their conscience constantly pricking them all over.

The ‘kolluthe’ line typifies the present day Tamizh.

This song is dedicated to all the murderers of Tamizh language with a fervent plea to learn the language properly!

Otherwise Tamizh would turn back to them and say ‘Vaazhvinil un ninaivaal azhugindren..’(I am crying!!).

Friday, 1 October 2010

World of Divine Music and Divine Acting..

T.M.Soundarajan recently said in a show:

‘He kept listening to ‘Neeyum naanum kanna..’(Gouravam) continuously for 4 - 5 times. When an assistant director asked him the reason, it seems he said ‘TMS has given so much of life to the song.Don’t I have to bring out those emotions when move my lips and act?’

That is Sivaji Ganesan for you..

Mind you, this happened in the year 1973 after 2 decades of his entry into cinema.
He set an example to all the artistes in film world with his dedication, devotion, discipline and eye for detail.

Today is the 82nd birthday of the legend.

I have written a lot about this genius -and the similarities between him and Raaja- on the 1st of 2009.Today, I shall narrate just one small incident before moving on to the rare gem.

During the shoot of ‘Mudhal Mariyathai’, there was one particular shot -of his tasting the ‘Fish kozhambu’- when the entire unit was stunned and even the EE Bharatiraja (EE-Ever Emotional) forgot to say ‘cut’ at the end of the shot. It seems Bharatiraja went to Sivaji, held his hands and started crying.

The relationship between ILaiyaraaja and Sivaji and the mutual admiration have also been narrated by me earlier in this Blog.

The Sivaji-Raaja combination has always been special and people who know my all time favourite song know the reason for my saying this.

Today’s rare gem is unique too.

It is unique because of the very unusual combination of singers-TMS and Shailaja.As far as I know, this is the only song in this combination.

The song is ‘Muththamizh Charame’ from Vetrikku Oruvan(1980).

I have said this many times.

I always wonder as to how Raaja conceives a tune, writes notes for the orchestra and arranges the instruments and all these in a matter of minutes.

The Hero is shy, reserved and docile in the first half of the movie.He expresses his love to the Heroine and (as usual) the song starts.

This is the situation. Or at least this is how the director would have explained it.

Now listen to the prelude.

The violins play crisply for some 15 seconds and then a funny sound to depict the ‘sober’ Hero.The sound continues and is joined by the violins this time playing very differently. It gathers further momentum with the piano like sound playing with harmonious precision. The tender flute joins the party and it is romance all over..

The melody packed Pallavi follows with the same romantic flavour.

The beginning of the first interlude gives a jazzy feel with the sharp piano sound and the exquisite trumpets. The violins then invite the diaphanous flute. It bends gracefully, twirls and echoes evocatively.

The prelude is rounded off with the ‘funny sound’.

The CharaNams are beautifully layered with the first two lines exuding soft radiance, the third line moving with verve and the following lines careening us gently.

The second interlude sees the romance between strings and the wind instruments.
The violins which by now have gathered momentum moves sprightly and the charming trumpets match their speed. In the second half, the tender saxophone moves with poise along with the violins.

There is a sudden deviation and we see the impeccably deep violins and a very different electronic instrument take us to an entirely new world.

A Brave new world of divine music and divine acting..

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Wind and Music..How beautiful these feel and sound..

It is amazing to know how a particular thing acquires different names depending on the quality/character/circumstance.

Take the seven basic notes for example. Same notes used in different contexts give a totally different flavour. Though my intention is not to get too technical, the notes ‘pa’ ‘dha ‘ and ‘Sa’ are present in both Mohana Ragam and Kamboji Ragam. However, we call the same combination by different names depending on how they are rendered.

Examples galore..

In Tamizh language, the wind has many names.

If it blows from the east, it is ‘KoNdal’ (கொண்டல் ).
If it blows from the west, it is ‘Kodai’(கோடை).
If it is from the north, it is ‘Vaadai’ (வாடை) and when it blows from the south, it is 'Thendral'(தென்றல்).

A hurricane is called as ‘SooRai’ (சூறை) while a snowy breeze is known by the name ‘Oodai’(ஊதை ).

Out of these, 'Oodai' is supposed to be sensual and therefore the union while ‘Vaadai’ kindles the Viraha feeling.

Today’s rare gem is a wonderful mix of both these qualities.

It is ‘Oodai Kaaththu Veesaiyile’ from ‘Gramaththu Athyayam’(1980).

The entire song is an example of how folk tunes can be brilliantly used in films (of course he is a master in this!).

The song starts without a prelude with the melodious voice of Jayachandran. A very simple folk instrument accompanies the voice.We are transported to a beautiful village as Janaki now takes over.

The first interlude is a wonderful combination of folk and western as instruments vie with one another.If the sharp percussion sound gives the rustic flavour, the electronic instruments give the western contours without in anyway spoiling the mood of the song.The interlude ends with a mesmerizing piece.

The charanams are as tender as the ‘Oodai’ and as innocent as the ‘Thendral’.The way the female voice takes over in ‘Naan Ennaththai Seyya..’in the first charanam and ‘Adhai Solladi Pulla’ in the second interlude is wonderful.

The second interlude is a kind of ‘question/answer session’. The playful question and answer takes place between the electronic and bass guitar in the beginning and the flute in the end. In between, we have the santoor acting as the referee.

This is my most favourite interlude and I cannot help now swaying whenever I listen to this.

The third interlude is again different. The Santoor is sensual while the graceful flute is nostalgic and evokes viraha.
‘Oodai’ and ‘Vaadai’.

Wind and Music-How beautiful they sound and feel…

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Slangs in Tamizh Cinema..

Tamizh Cinema is known to have songs with slangs.

One of the most popular songs I can think of is ‘Muththu KuLikka VaareegaLa’ from ‘Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi’.It had the Tirunelveli slang rendered beautifully by TMS and LR Easwari with wonderful acting by Nagesh and Manorama.

‘Elantha Pazham’(PaNama Paasama) and ‘Vaa Vaadhiyare Voottande’(Bommalattam) had the great Madras slang.

In a similar vein, the Directors enjoy dragging a particular community.

It all started with ‘Ethir Neecchal’(Aduththaththu Ambujaththai paartheLa) went on to become ‘Iyeraaththu ponnu Sonna’ and ‘Engaathukku maappillai nee’(sorry, don’t remember the movie names).

‘Vaangonna’ was banned by AIR, the reason being ‘hurting the sentiments of a community’.
Now-a-days, it is fashionable to robe the ladies in the group dance sequence with the 9 yard sarees and make them gyrate to the horrible beats(yes..this does not hurt anybody’s sentiments!!).

The point to be noted is that except one or two none of the directors is politically correct.

For example, in a movie where a very popular hero appears as a ‘paatti’, (s)he wears the nine-yard saree throughout and the ‘thaththa’ who loves her(?) is shocked when she says she is already married.

The fact of the matter is that any lady is ‘eligible’ to wear the nine-yards only after she is married.

One of the other ludicrous things is the group of women wearing white sarees during a pooja.
White is anathema to married tamizh ladies in that particular community and even this fact is not known to that great perfectionist!

One feels very bad looking at such comedy of errors.

My idea is not to defend or offend any particular community but the film makers must realise the implications of wrong depictions and portrayals.

Today’s Rare Gem also uses the slang.

Though the song does not show the community in poor light, the diction and pronunciation of the slangs by Shailaja and Vasudevan leave a lot to be desired.

I honestly feel SPB and Suseela would have done a better job.Janaki of course does a good job in the song!

However, one can enjoy the song for the mesmerising Mohanam and the hypnotising Orchestration.

The song starts with a humming by Shailaja.

The Veena and the flute combine to give us a scintillating Mohanam and then the Nagaswaram takes over in the higher octave.

The first CharaNam has questions and answers (rib tickling?).The Raga again flows with great fluency and my most favourite line is ‘Thoppanaaru Panjapakesan..’(for the sheer beauty of the raga).

The Nagaswaram plays with evocative joy in the second interlude.The Jalatarangam and the tabla are the specialities of the Maestro.

The second charanam is structured in a different way. The voice of Janaki is a great relief here!

In ‘Nal Vaazhvu Vaazha Naam Vaazhththa VeNdum, Mohanam shimmers and looks at us with glee..

Listen to ‘Enthaththu Paiyyan Avan’ from ‘ILaiyaraajavin Rasigai(1980) and be blessed!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

His words..His silence..

The chubby faced actor said this recently in a TV show:

“My father was very close to him. They would have friendly banters and quarrels now and then. One day, he landed up at our house early in the morning and said he wanted to see my father.My father was sleeping upstairs and I called him on the phone through the phone using the extension button.My father refused to see him.When I told him this, he smiled and said ‘Oh..he is still angry with me. Doesn’t matter. Please tell him that I am going to the US and will be back after a month. I came to say Bye to him..".

"But he never returned.This happened in 1981.My father was alive for another 10 years and not a single day passed without my father saying ‘He came to see me the last time.But I didn’t see him.. How bad on my part! ”

The ‘He’ here is Kannadasan.

Friendly banters and fighting with friends were not new to this gentleman. But the best part is he would do this only with a select few ‘just for the fun of it’.

Once he and Shivaji had a fight and both were not on talking terms.But he continued to write for his movies.That was the time when the Shivaji-Bheemsingh-Kannadasan-Viswanathan-Ramamurthy combination was at its peak.He wrote a song and asked MSV to show it to Shivaji.It seems Shivaji started crying the moment he read the pallavi.

The song was:
‘Ennai Yaarendru Enni Enni nee paarkiRai..Idhu Yaar Paadum paadalenru nee ketkiRai..’

MSV sir and Kannadasan too had a very special relationship.Their composing sessions were a treat to watch.It seems MSV would tell him ‘What are you writing anne..Even I can write better’ and Kannadasan in turn would say ‘You are not able to set my song to tune and are shifting the blame’.Both would even use unprintable language. But the session would end with one praising the other.Their mutual admiration was something that cannot be described in words.

People who have watched such spectacles live describe the events with awe. But all of them maintain that it was Kannadasan who would initiate the ‘fight’Why?Because he loved MSV so much that he enjoyed pulling his leg.

Not only did his face look like a child. He was a child at heart.
But when it came to writing, he was unparalleled and incomparable.

That is Kannadasan.

I have already said this many times.There has never been and there can never be any other lyricist as great as Kannadasan.There can only be one ‘Kaviyarasar’.If some people claim themselves to be ‘Perarasar’,they are cheating themselves!

Today is the birthday of Kannadasan and MSV. I wish a Happy Birthday to both. The physical body of Kannadasan is no more.But he lives and will continue to live with his immortal songs.

Before I take up the Rare Gem of today and Raaja sir’s association with Kannadasan, I would like to quote a few lines from a MSV-Kannadasan song:

The Hero, a writer who writes with a pen name Gowrimanohari falls in love with a lady. What is great or different about it? He is a widower with 6 children and is in his middle ages.
The Heroine sings ‘I saw Gowrimanohari in the form of a man’(the brilliant MSV set this song in pure Gowrimanohari ragam!).

The second charaNam shows us why Kannadasan is a genius.

‘Malai meethu adiththaalum Kaatru.Adhu Kadal meedhu tavazhnthaalum kaatru.Vaythodu vanthaalum kaadhal,Adhu Vayathaagi Vanthaalum kaadhal.’

(Breeze is breeze whether it blows over the mountain or over the sea Love is the same whether it comes during youth or in old age!).

With this, let me turn my attention on Raaja sir and Kannadasan and today’s rare gem.

In fact, I had written about their association and the mutual admiration many times in this community.

Raaja was a great follower and fan of Kannadasan right from his younger days.He still remembers the poem Kannadasan wrote when Jawaharlal Nehru passed away in 1964.

Kannadasan warmly welcomed Raaja to Tamizh cinema music adding the line ‘Raaja vaa..Raaja vaa.. ‘ in the song ‘Kannodu Kannu’(Paalootti VaLarththa KiLi-1976).

The combination gave some unforgettable songs(many of which have been discussed in this community) for 5 and half years.As fate would have it, Kannadasan wrote his last two songs for Raaja on the eve of his departure to the US in 1981.

There are many personal favourites but today I am taking up a song from ‘Pagalil Oru Iravu’, a 1979 movie. Somehow one song ‘obscured’ the beauty of other songs in this album.Maybe that song is very powerful and is indeed one of my all time favourites. But the gem of today is ‘Kalaiyo Silaiyo’, another beautiful composition not known to many.

The most striking aspect of the composition is the silken softness.The song describes the beauty of a young and innocent girl.

Other lyricists would have resorted to simple ‘Maane Thaene..’and gone on to write some nauseating words.. or would have given computer to Brahmma and imagined about her laugh being like the sound of a telephone. But not Kannadasan!

Before that, let us see the musical part first.

The prelude itself is so meditative that it makes our eyes close automatically. The sound of bells and the mesmerizing flute are steeped in tranquility.

The tune of the Pallavi in the melodious voice of Jayachandran is simple and beautiful.

The Violin orchestra in the first interlude is infused with haunting air. A very different combination of sitar and flute is the icing on the cake.The twin-violins with the Bells and the bass guitar in the background captivate our hearts.

The CharaNams radiate softly .The lines are tender and are piercingly sharp.

The second interlude is impeccably deep.The first part sparkles with the violins and the Bass Guitar while the second half-again a combination of sitar and flute but this time sounding very different- is dainty.

Let us now look at the lyrics.

He says ‘Are you the epitome of fine-arts?Are you a sculpture? Or are you like the Golden Deer? Are you a fruit? Or are you the parrot? Or, are you the moon who came on a walk to see this Earth?’

Though the words sound very simple, there are a lot of inner meanings.
Awed by the beauty of the girl, he sees her as a sculpture as well as the art form; Bird as well as the Fruit.

He also feels for a moment that maybe this is not true..Because it is impossible for such a beauty to exist.So, he says ‘Are you the Golden deer’?(we all know the story of Golden Deer in Ramayana).

He then imagines that the Moon has descended on the Earth(it has come on a picninc!).

Poetic beauty at its best!

In the first CharaNam, he says ‘Is this the dancing chariot walking? When will the mind shed its innocence and blossom like a flower? A beautiful maiden with the youth like the rain of flowers..’

Please do not miss the ‘Blossoming of the flower’ followed by the ‘Rain of flowers’!

The second CharaNam is a marvel.

We all know the power of silence.Here, the poet gives a completely different dimension to the silence of the girl.

He says ‘Is your silence the code/secret language?’(the use of ‘paribhaashai’ here is very noteworthy.I am not aware of any other film song using this word!).

‘Gestures that I am not able to understand-maybe it is the respect you have for me and my love’.

‘Child-like enthusiasm and energy –a beautiful girl!’

The last line ‘Thogaiyin Bhaavamo’ can be interpreted in many ways.
Thogai-means a girl. It also means a peacock feather.
Peacock is known for dancing.
Therefore, one could interpret it like ‘a beautiful girl’ or ‘a dancing girl’ or even ‘as beautiful as a peacock’.

His words mean so much…

At times, I even feel how would it be if only he was alive today.. But I thank God that he is not alive to see the murder of Tamizh. Murder in the name of ‘semmozhi’ by people who can not even say ‘Yaathum oore yaavarum keLir’(யாதும் ஊரே..யாவரும் கேளிர்..) properly.

As I said, Kannadasan’s words mean so much.. Now, let silence carve new meanings and teach all these people who murder the beautiful language and who ‘adorn’ the language with vulgarity and expletives..

Mouname Paribhashai..

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The simple musical instrument..

The 12 year boy was very excited. He was alone at home and in front of him was a musical instrument. He had been wanting to lay his hands but his elder brother would never let him do that. It was his brother’s prized possession.

What is so special about that instrument?
Coming to think of it, it just has black and white keys and is not very melodious.

But the boy was too excited with the instrument that he started playing it..And then.. suddenly his brother appeared from nowhere and needless to say what happened after this.

But that did not deter the boy from playing that instrument.He did not know the swaras.He did not even understand that.But he was capable of playing any song in that instrument.

His brother was running a drama troupe and was also an active member of a political party.One day, the instrumentalist was absent and without any hesitation, the brother asked the boy to play!

The Instrument-Harmonium
Brother’s name-Varadarajan
Boy???Do I need to say who it was?

Paavalar Varadarajan was a genius. He was a musician, a poet and an orator.
He was also very actively involved in the communist movement during the ‘50s and early ‘60s.

Daniel Rassiah (yes..this is the original name of the man whom we know as ILaiyaraaja now)used to accompany him along with his brothers Amar and Bhaskar.Rassiah would sing in the female voice.

Paavalar Varadrajan penned lot of songs on the working class.He would use the popular tunes from films, modify and make Raasaiah sing.

He also did a lot of research on folk music.

Today, we are going to see one of his songs used by Raaja sir in a film.

The song is ‘Ellorum Poranthom Onnaga VaLarnthom Enna KoNdu Poga Porom..’from Agal ViLakku(1980).

The opening sounds very humorous..

The Flute bit that follows gives us traces of Valaji Ragam.

Ha.. ..before that is the harmonium bit. In fact, no film music composer has used harmonium as extensively as Raaja sir (and don’t we know the reason?).The folk beats add spice.

And then we hear ‘We were born here and we grew up here.But finally what are we taking with us?’(rendered beautifully by Malaysia Vasudevan and Sai Baba)

Surprsingly enough, I find traces of Harikamboji in the song now.
The interludes have the Raaja trademark.Folk instruments with Shehanai and the drums!

The first Charanam take a dig at the society;at the people who cheat;who are deceitful.

The second interlude is another beauty.Very few instruments but look how the pattern changes.

The second charanam subtly attacks the so - called bonds between siblings.

A very thought provoking song with a simple but beautiful orchestration.

As simple and thought provoking as the Harmonium!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Musical Fragrance..

Mimusops elengi.

Ever heard of this name? intention is not to threaten you nor take any class in Botany.

But somehow, I find this name to be very interesting and musical too. Remember my post on ‘Yaar Maamano’ where I had written about the musical sound of ‘Mediterranean’.

Mi mu so pu s-sounds like ma ma sa pa sa.

Well..this is the botanical name of a lovely flower.A flower that is small, stra-shaped, yellowish white with a crown rising from the centre.This flower is better known as ‘Magizham poo’ in tamizh.

‘Magizham poo’ has a very rich fragrance and the odour lasts several days. This quality of maintaining the fragrance without any change in the intensity makes this flower a very special one.
‘Magizham poo’ is also known by the name ‘VakuLa’.

More about the musical quality of VakuLa later.

Though most of Raaja’s songs have this quality,there is something very special about today’s rare gem.

The song itself is a ‘magizham poo’.It is based on Pahadi and is set to the 7-beat misram.

The prelude is enticing with a very different bass instrument. The combination of Bass Guitar and the Flute is amazing indeed! Wonder from where he gets such ideas.

The sweet voice of Yesudass now joins with the violins following him very closely.

The first interlude is dominated by the violins and the guitar in the beginning.Suddenly, the flute takes over and plays with spry freshness.It sings like a cuckoo while the guitar and the violins then gently caress us..

The Charanam is delicately nuanced with the voice of Suseela adding luster.If the first two lines are imbued with energy, the following lines are lucid and flow like a gentle stream. We swim like a fish and jump like a deer.

The second interlude has a swirl of patterns.We feel the aromatic flavour of the village garden with the stringed folk instrument and the flute. It entices us..It mesmarises us..It hynotises us..

The soft touches of guitar make us forget ourselves.
The exquisite phrases continue in the second charanam but this time with a different orchestral arrangement in between the lines..

Mimusops elengi ..

This Magizham poo will continue to spread the fragrance even after centuries.

ma ma sa pa sa..

Saturday, 17 April 2010


Cricket is a very funny game indeed!

Most of you must be familiar with the famous quote ‘Eleven fools watched by eleven thousand fools’ of Bernard Shaw(if he was alive today, he would have said ‘Eleven Fools watched by Eleven million fools’!).

Now, look at this.
A bowler delivers the ball and even when one can see the ball live, it is called as a ‘no ball’ just because his foot was outside the crease.
But a batsman can stand outside his crease and yet it is not a ‘no bat’.

Then there is a leg spin ,a leg- cutter and a leg-break..If you are wondering how a leg can be is the answer:
The leg-side is the left side of the batsman and if a ball pitches on or outside the leg stump and turns to the right, it is leg spin.

Then there is ‘swing’. is not that the players sit on a swing on the ground.If the shining side of the ball moves in the air, then it is said to ‘swing’(there is reverse swing too when the other side swings later when the ball becomes older).

Let us look at these terms: Fine-leg, Square-leg, Short-leg, Long-leg.
If the uninitiated among you think that over a period of time (of playing cricket), the legs of the players become like this, you are way off the mark.
These are just names of some of the fielding positions.

There is a ‘silly point’ too (who is silly is the question).

And a person wearing all kinds of protective gears, gloves etc., stands behind the stumps(called as wickets) and while his job is to see that the wickets fall, he is called as ‘wicket-keeper’.

The bowlers and fielders also ‘appeal’ to the umpires very often as though it is a court of law!

There is something called 'Chinaman' too..China and Cricket?Am I kidding? is the name given to a delivery bowled by a left arm spinner!

The best part is while two teams can have a game of just 20 overs each (one over consists of 6 balls), they can also play the game spread over 5 days(6 hours per day).To top it all, the one spread over 5 days can end up in a ‘draw’.Criminal waste of time, energy and money!!

Well.. if by now you have concluded that here is an heir to Bernard Shaw or that this guy hates cricket like how Aurangazeb hated music, you are thoroughly mistaken.

I am a great cricket buff and I go to the extent of seeing music in Cricket.

Then why write all these?
It is always nice to see the lighter side in any event or for that matter in life.
Laughter –the best medicine for any ailment!

In Film music, there have been some great humorous songs starting with the KalaivaNar(the one and only) NSK, Chandrababu, Manorama and a host of others.I can include Nagesh also though he only moved his lips(perfectly) for the played back voices.

These are of course comedians. But there have also been comedy songs involving heroes.

Unlike the popular perception, Raaja sir has a great sense of humour. His first song as a lyricist was ‘poda poda pokke’ from UdirippookaL in the year 1979.’Samaiyal padame’(the original of ‘Enna samaiyalo’) was written by him for the film ‘Manippoor maamiyaar’(1980) and people who do not smile after hearing this song can join the ‘most serious people’ club!

I can quote many more songs but let us look at today’s rare gem. This song was not written by Raaja sir but by Kannadasan.It is ‘Varuvai Kanna’ from ‘Pattakkaththi Bhairavan’(1979).This movie with the weird name must be already familiar to all those who follow this community very closely.

There are some specialities to this song.
First and foremost, it is composed in Kedaram ragam(though many people think that this ragam was first used in ‘Pon maalai pozhuthu’).

Secondly, in between the song, he used the tune of one of the most popular hindi film songs.. In the film 'Avar Enakke Sondham' he beautifully used ‘Kabhi Kabhi’ . In ‘Varuvai kanna’ too, the hindi film tune is used wonderfully.

Let us have a look at the song.

The prelude has the flute, veena and the violins in pure Kedaram and we all begin to expect a classical song.

The pallavi in Suseela’s voice more or less confirms this.But suddenly, we hear catcalls(donkey calls?) followed by the flute still in classical style but in a totally different ragam (traces of vakhulabharanam and punnagavarali).The western instruments like guitar and the trumpets join now.

A very different voice sings a very familiar tune.
Different voice-SPB
Familiar tune-Mehbooba from Sholay.

The interlude is classical again with the flute, clarinet playing Kedaram.
In the first CharaNam Suseela sings about ‘Srungaram’ ‘Krishna’ and ‘Radha’ followed by a beauty. The interlude of Mehbooba played in kedaram.Music for Raaja is like Srungaram to Krishna!

As the CharaNam ends, it is ‘donkey calls’ again and the song seamlessly changes its ‘Bhavam’.
The second interlude has classic touches with more focus on the laya.

The second charaNam talks about the ‘Bow and Rama’ and ‘fine arts and Krishna’.

It is ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ after this.
The orchestration is amazing here.
The same words are repeated in modern style.The song ends with claps in ‘rock and roll’ style.

It is the applause for the many dimensions of the this gentleman’s music!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Colourful Musical Garden..

In tamizh cinema, some intelligent directors (though it is a rarity!) use songs very effectively.

Balachander used to boast that people would find to get up during the song sequence in his movies because he would narrate the story in the song itself.

One of the intelligent directors in tamizh cinema who could not cope up with the demands of the distributors was Mahendran.I am saying in past tense because he no longer makes any films.

Though he became popular with ‘Mullum malarum’ and very popular with ‘UthirippookkaL’, some of his movies have not been popular.

‘Poottatha PoottukkaL’ was one such film.
It was a story about a childless couple.I do not want to get into the story now.

But what I would like to get into is the way he introduced the characters using a song sequence.The picturisation was great.But most importantly, the song(lyrics by Panchu Arunachalam), the tune, and the music are fantabulous.

It is ‘Vanna Vanna Vanna Pooncholaiyil’.

The prelude is very interesting.It starts with a violin prelude juxtaposed with the string.

The tempo that was very slow suddenly gains moment as the guitar and the flute start.Janaki’s humming takes over now.

The pallavi is simple and attractive and the guitar piece in between the lines add to the beauty.

The first interlude transports us to the western countryside and suddenly we are brought back to a South Indian village as we hear the flute and the throbbing of the Ghatam.
The wonderful guitar piece-a kind of 'theme music' of the song-in the charanams is possible only by one gentleman.

The second interlude has the beautiful violins and the Dilruba and of course Janaki.Do we need to say more?

The way Janaki renders the word ‘NaaNam..’ is a lesson for the bunch of younger lot who pretend to sing with expressions.

Don’t we all want to be part of this musical colourful garden?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Power of Music

‘Bol re Pappihara..’.During early ‘70s(extending to mid ‘70s), if there was one song that held almost the entire nation hostage, it was this song.

Of course, there were also peppy songs like ‘Roop Tera Mastana’, ‘Dam maro Dam’ etc., but ‘Bol re..’ was unique.Unique because it was purely based on a Hindustani Raag.Unique because it was plain and simple.Unique because it was rendered by a hitherto unknown female singer.Unique because despite being a south Indian , her diction was impeccable.

This female singer created ripples (melodic ones of course!) and also tremors. I shall come to the last mentioned a little later.

The female singer is none other than VaNi Jeyaram.

‘Bol re Pappihara’ based on Raag Miya ki Malhar and ‘Humko manki Shakti Dena’ based on Raag Kedar (again sung by VaNi) were composed by Vasant Desai for the Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed film ‘Guddi’. The film was about a teenager (played with aplomb by Jaya Baduri) who is obsessed with actor Dharmendra. How she is made to distinguish between the real and the reel was shown poetically by the director. It is an undeniable fact that the songs played a great role in the success of the film.

It is not a surprise that this voice which was as fresh as early morning dew and as sweet as the honey attracted all leading Hindi film music composers and offers started pouring in for Vani Jeyaram. What happened after this is very interesting..or is it?

Let us now go back to the‘tremors’ part.

Unable to stomach the success of the new comer, the ‘leading female singers’ did the unthinkable.. The two sisters (I do not want to name them since it is obvious whom I am referring to. Moreover, both of them are legends in their own ways and I respect that!) requested, cajoled and finally threatened the Music Directors. The ‘threat’ was a kind of Satyagraha and they said they would never sing again. The final ‘assault’ worked. Music Directors budged. Hindi Film music lost one of the most beautiful and melodious voices.

Looking at it objectively, it is a case of jealousy getting the better of aesthetic sense. After all, aren’t musicians connoisseurs first? Should they not appreciate anything that is good? And most importantly, if only they are confident and feel good about themselves, can the feeling of insecurity ever creep in at all?

Questions that can be easily answered..

But in a way, it was a blessing in disguise since VaNi Jeyaram became a household name in the South. Hindi Films’ loss was South Indian Films’ gain.

What stands out in VaNi Jeyaram’s voice(apart from the sweetness) is the clear diction. In fact, I have found it easier to remember lyrics of her songs and I am sure this has to do with her crystal clear rendering and pronounciation.With a very strong foundation in classical music (Gurus-Cuddalore Srinivasa Iyengar-Carnatic and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan-Hindustani) , her adherence to Shruti is perfect.

Not many know that her family itself is full of artistes.N.Rajam, -a very famous Hindustani Violinist and sister of the legendary T.N.Krishnan –is married to one of the brothers of Mr.Jeyaram while Gayatri, a Bhratanatyam artiste from Kalakshetra is married to the other brother.

Though she is classically trained, she renders even dabbankuththu songs with consummate ease.

Her association with ILaiyaraaja is rather interesting. Though she did not sing too many(compared to Janaki and Suseela) in his music, almost all her songs in his music are gems.Can one forget the peppy duet ‘Poonthendrale’(Bhuvana Oru KeLvikkuri-1977), the folksy ‘Niththam Niththam Nellu Soru’(Mullum Malarum-1978), the intriguing ‘Ennullil Engo’(Rosappoo Ravikkaikari-1979), the beautiful Vivadi Ragam Chitrambari ‘Sangeetam En Degam Andro’(Bala Nagamma-1981), the romantic duet with Yesudass ‘ABC Nee Vaasi’(Oru Kaidhiyin Dairy-1985)?

When Raaja sir introduced the superimposing technique for the first time in ‘Kaatrinile Varum Geetam’(1977), he gave similar songs to Janaki and VaNi Jeyaram(of course different orchestrations). In fact, until the records were out, the singers were not even aware that the song had two versions!

In the song ‘Vizhiyil Vizhudu’( ‘AlaigaL Oyvadhillai’), VaNi Jeyaram’s humming in Sudhdha Dhanyasi in the telugu version- ‘Alalu Kalalu’(Sitakoka Chiluka) was retained in the movie though the Tamizh version was not rendered by her.This humming appears only in the movie(wish she had sung the Tamizh version as well!).

The Sridhar(whose wife Devasena was a classmate and a close friend of VaNi) directed ‘Azhage Unnai AaradikkiRen’(1979) saw VaNi Jeyaram crooning 5 songs-each sounding so different. ’Naane Naana’ was a rage those days.

Today’s rare gem is a song that can also be classified as a ‘disco song’.I have taken this song because it is relatively unknown and also to show as to how versatile the singer is.

The song is ‘Mayakkama oru Thayakkama’ from ‘Naan Potta Savaal’(1980).

It has contours of jazz with a unique mix of rhythms, trumpets, saxophone and guitar.

The prelude is dazzling.The bass guitar throbs while the trumpets are intoxicating.But the most beautiful thing here is the way the saxophone emerges.
Dizzyingly beautiful!

The Pallavi gives ripples of melody in the sparkling voice of VaNi Jeyaram.The way it reaches a crescendo towards the end is remarkable. The flute bits interspersed between the lines carry the stamp of the Emperor.

In the first interlude, the drums thrum with life and the trumpets come up trumps. The Sax which is sandwiched between the two, roar with blazing intensity. The enthralling electric guitar sparkles.What is to be noted here is the synthesizers and other electronic instruments.

It is believed by the present generation that the synth and other techno sounds came into existence in Indian films in ‘90s.Such people must listen to this song (and ‘Vaalibame Vaa Vaa’-Ram Laxman).In any case, is there any use in waking up people who pretend to be sleeping?

The CharaNams are marked by lively touches with notes jumping suddenly and unobtrusively.The flute bits are elegant while the sax just at the end is euphonic.

The second interlude rocks us.It is agog with excitement moving at a fleeting pace.It is enticing and intoxicating. The harmony makes it quite irresistible.
Makes one forget everything.

Anger, Jealousy, Sorrow, Hatred,Enmity..
That is the power of Music!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Trident-The Power of Women!

1980 was a very significant year.

Yes, it was the beginning of a new decade and trends were changing (or trends were being set).

In London, Prince Charles married Diana.

In India, the first coalition govt. crumbled and the Congress took over yet again.

Indian Cricket team defeated the Pakistan team in a test series.

In Tamizh Nadu, the first batch of Higher Secondary(plus two) successfully passed out.

Most importantly, the 100th movie of the Master (Moodupani) was released.

The year also saw the advent of a new lyricist in Tamizh Film industry.
This gentleman,whose name is Vairamuththu hails from a village called Vadugappatti in Madurai district.

He was already a known figure in (a section of) the Tamizh literary world for his ‘Puthukkavithai’ form. .

Puthukkavaithai(literally translated as ‘new poem’) is easy to understand and at the same time is very powerful. In fact , Mahakavi Subramania Bharatiyar is the father of this form-though some people have chosen tol call themselves as the ‘father of this puthukkavithai’.

Vairamuththu’s collection of poems like ‘Intha PookkaL ViRpanaikku alla’was already popular in 1980.In one of the collections, he had beautifully described about evening.

That was the time when Bharathiraja was looking for a ‘suitable replacement’ for Kannadasan.Until then Kannadasan had written at least one song in each of his five movies.Why they fell out is not relevant here.

ILaiyaraaja gave a tune in Kedaram and Vairamuththu responded with ‘Ithu Oru Ponmaalai pozhuthu’(most of the words were from his own poem written sometime back).

It was a ‘pon kaalai pozhuthu’ for Vairamuththu then since ILaiyaraaja developed a special liking for his lyrics.

This combination was almost like a MSV-Kannadasan combination and ruled Tamizh cinema for nearly 7 years until there was a misunderstanding.

For many, it still remains a mystery as to why the two parted ways.
Though I know the background and the reason, I am not getting into that now.

The song became an instant hit as soon as the music was released in July 1980.The Film ‘NizhalgaL’ was released in Nov 1980.

Raaja sir being Raaja sir, introduced Vairamuththu to many producers and Directors..
Songs were recorded and strangely enough some movies were released much before NizhalgaL.

One was ‘KaaLi’ and the other one was ‘Soolam’.

So though his first recorded film song was ‘Ponmaalai Pozhuthu’, ’Soolam’(Soolam) and ‘BadrakaaLi’(KaaLi) were the first to hit he silverscreens(in Jul ’80).

Yes, truth is stranger than fiction!

Vairamuththu, a ‘proclaimed atheist’ wrote a song eulogising KaaLi and another song on ‘Trisoolam’, the weapon of Durga Devi .

Today’s rare gem is the latter and is also our 'Women's day' special!

The first thing that strikes us when we listen to the song is the use of electronic instruments.

This was the first Revathi Ragam by Raaja sir in films!

My most favourite is the second interlude where the Master has weaved magic just with the percussion instruments and the chorus voice.Simply exhilarating!

The third interlude is another beauty where the swaras dance and the traditional and modern instruments compete with each other.

The first interlude has the vibrant flute and the mellifluous Shehnai.

The opening of the song(prelude) itself makes us visualise the Trisoolam with a wonderful laya pattern.

The powerful lyrics give more energy to the Trident.

The Stree Sakthi-the Devi concept is described wonderfully.
The explanation about the Trident is very thought provoking-valour,modesty and knowledge symbolising the woman.

In fact the song is peppered with feminist views, a rarity in film songs.

Let us all realise the Stree Sakthi, and celebrate 'Women's day'..not just by deifying or glorifying.......
......but by respecting women!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Images of Krishna..

Kannan(or Lord Krishna) has a magnetic charm. People get attracted to him so easily that at times one even tends to forget the ‘divine’ tag.

Periyaazhwaar, one of the 12 Vaishnavite saints treated him as his child.

AandaL-daughter of Periyaazhwaar- considered Krishna as her lover.

Subramaniya Bharati went one step ahead and made him his servant, his master, his guru,his lover…In fact he even created a feminine version of Kannan and called her(him?) Kannamma.

There are many others including Poet Jayadeva and Meerabai and Muththiah.

The first two names sound very familiar.But who is that third person?

Muththiah was born in a small village in Karaikudi district who ran away from his home during his early teens. He became a great follower of the Dravidian ideology and became an atheist.

And what does this atheist has to do with Kannan?

Nothing much except that one day after reading the verses of AaNdaL, he became a devotee of Kannan and changed his name to Kannadaasan.

Yes, I am referring to the greatest lyricist Tamizh cinema has ever had.

I had already written about him and the synergy between him and Raaja sir in one of my posts in this blog.
Truly a Genius!

Whenever and wherever possible, he would ‘drag’ Kanna (or Krishna) in his songs.

Today, we are going to see one such song.

And what a song it is..

It is a competition between lyrics, tune, orchestration, and the voice.

The song is ‘Kannan NaaLum Podum Vedam..’from ‘Ilamai Kolam’(1980).

It is based on Gowrimanohari ragam.It is generally a soft ragam that gives us peace and tranquility.

But the Emperor of Film Music shows us a completely different dimension of this Raga here. In fact, he poses a challenge to the Emperor of Film Lyrics.

Listen to the first two lines in the Pallavi. You will know what I mean.

It goes as very short phrases with each phrase almost sounding similar and suddenly it goes up like a crescendo.

Imagine the Music Director singing phrases like ‘Thaa Na Thaa Na Thaa Na Thaa Na Thaa Na Thaa Na Thaa Na Thaa Na Thanananaa Thana Thanananaa Thana Thanananaaaaa..Tha Na Na..Tha Na Naaa..’to the lyricist.

The great ‘poets’ of today would have walked around parks like Thiru.Vi .Ka Park(in Chennai) at least for one week before coming up with suitable words. Or they would have written ‘Naanum Paarthen Neeyum Paarththe Avanum Paarththan AvaLum Paarththaa..’

The Lion(of poetry) replies to the Lion (of Film music)-Kannan NaaLum Podum Vedam KangaL engum Pennai Thedum Gopalanin Antha KolangaL Thaan Nenjil Aanandamagum..Hey Krishna!Jey Krishna!!

And yes..just before this Pallavi is the prelude. And what is that prelude?

A sweet aalap by the evergreen Janaki.

What can one say about the first interlude?

Jazzy to start with..
Flute peeps in suddenly with a Carnatic flavour.
It is then the violin in typical Hindustani style.
Bass Guitar rounds it off in Pop style.

In the first Charanam, it is the Saree and the Garland.
Gowrimanohari wears a beautiful Saree wearing a garland of Swaras.

Beauty at its best in the second interlude as the seductive bass guitar races ahead with the synthesizer following very closely.As we begin to get lost in this beauty, the Violin in Hindustani style appear from nowhere giving poignant images. The question and answer session between the Violin and the Harmonium(?) makes us raise lot of questions.

Is it a poignancy of parting and separation?
Or is it nostalgia?

Is it the sadness?
Or is it the compassion?

I would say a feeling that cannot be put in words.

Just like the feeling when one gets to see the different images of Krishna..

Thursday, 18 February 2010


Sports, Life, and Music –How many similarities!

Full of ups and downs..

But first congrats to Team India!

A very professional display proving yet again that the no.1 tag is not a fluke.
Today’s victory is more special because it came while playing on a very sporting track somewhat different from the usual dusty pitches where the ball hardly bounces and starts turning right from Day 1.

While it is a very happy moment for all Indians, one should not take the credit away from the South Africans for putting up a fight almost till the end-thanks to the gritty man called Hashim Amla and that handsome bowler called Morne Morkel whose defence was as solid as any known batsman in the world.

On this special day, let me dedicate a rare gem to Team India.

A song that uses the words from a traditional tamizh folk game.
People who watched the ‘Andrum Indrum endrum’ show may recall Raaja sir rendering this line while talking about tradition(though he did not mention about using these words in one of his compositions).

The game is almost like the Kabadi and one has to catch the opponents rendering these words holding the breath.

The words are ‘Naan da ungappan da ..nallamuththu devan da..’

The rare gem of the day also uses the same words but in a very different situation.
It is a fight sequence!

How often do we find a song during Fights?
Balachander used it in ‘Ninaiththale Inikkum’ and it is rather surprising that this idea was used in a pure masala Devar Films production!

The film ‘Ram Lakshman’(1981).

Of course it is not uncommon for Raaja sir to use some very innovative sounds-like Mrudangam, Ghatam or even konnakkol- in a fight sequence.

But this song is very special because it beautifully blends folk with western and makes us all jump and hit all our hidden enemies.
The major highlight of the song-apart from the music- is SPB.

Though we all know his versatility, it is amazing to see how he renders the lines in a single breath leaving all of us breathless!

The song starts with beautiful folksy beats with trumpets showing their faces now and then.

The arrangement that follows is really breathtaking with the wind instruments in full flow!

The Karate and the boxing sounds coupled with the voice of SPB make Pallavi an enjoyable one.

The CharaNams too have beautiful, aggressive sounds but what distinguishes this song from the Dappan kuththus of today is the melody element.
Look how the lines ‘Paaganillatha Yaanaiyai pola’ and how the first two lines are linked to the last two lines..

The interludes are very interesting too..

Bass guitar, Saxophones,Trumpets playfully fight with each other in the first interlude.

The second interlude has the folk drums and seamlessly change to a western pattern. Don’t miss the synthesizers!(who said synthesizer is a ‘90s instrument in Indian Cinema?)

Listen to the Pallavi after the first CharaNam and ‘NoRukki Vaippen’ in the second CharaNam.

All present-day singers! Don’t you think you people need to learn a lot from this legend?

‘NaaNda ungappan da..nallamuththu peran da..’

Team India might as well sing this to all the rival teams now..

Monday, 15 February 2010

Music of the Breeze..

P B Shrinivas is a multi- faceted personality.

We all know that he is endowed with a Honey Soaked voice.
But not many people know that he is a linguist. He knows 14 languages.

The surprise does not end here.
He can write poems in all these languages.

Now in his 80s, this gentleman can be seen in all major Sabhas of Chennai like the Music Academy , Narada Gana Sabha etc., during any good music or dance shows.

Until recently his favourite spot was a very popular restaurant in Chennai near the Gemini Fly- over(which has since been demolished) and he could be spotted there almost everyday with sheaves of papers either writing or reading..

His association with Raaja sir is very interesting.

Sometime back in the same thread, I had written about the two hindi songs of NaNdu(1981) penned by PBS.

In 1993, Raaja sir was honuored by the film fraternity for scoring the symphony and this function was attended by a galaxy of stars across India.

The great legend of Indian Cinema Naushad(another poet) spoke about Raaja sir in Urudu and PBS was the translator.

At one point, PBS stopped and gave a perplexed look. Naushad asked him to translate what he said verbatim.

After lot of hesitation, PBS translated it.

‘’ILaiyaraaja has lot of stuff. I will never hesitate to learn many things about music from this gentleman.’’.

Everyone including Raaja sir was stunned.

It is not that PBS did not like what Naushad said. But he thought perhaps Naushad was getting emotional and was being overwhelmed by the occasion.

But Naushad said it was his true feeling coming straight from the heart and that PBS could translate what he said without any hesitation.

PBS and Raaja knew each other even when Raaja sir was GK Venkatesh’s assistant.

He admired Raaja sir’s talent and his quest for innovation.

I still remember him praising the song ‘Naane Naana’(Azhage Unnai Aardhikkiren) in one of the Tamizh magazines.

He has also sang one song in Raaja sir’s music and according to me the song is a marvel.

‘Thendrale Nee Pesu’(KadavuL Amaitha Medai-1979) has the contours of a ghazal.

It is based on Sindhu Bhairavi, a Raaga with many dimensions.Maybe Raaja sir composed it in this Raaga as a fitting tribute to a legend like PBS,who is a multi faceted personality.

The composition starts with the santoor that itself sets the tone for the beauty that is to follow.

The violin orchestra and the flute towards the end of the prelude make us feel the gentle breeze.

The breeze follows us throughout the composition.

Whether it is the lovely Flute or the dulcet violins, the wonderful santoor or the amazing bass work, it is mellowness all the way.

The Sarod in the second interlude plucks the strings of our hearts.

Charanams are constructed with melody as the edifice.

The way notes jump in the last lines of each Charanam is the speciality of the Master.

And the voice of PBS makes us all close our eyes and meditate.

In tamizh, ‘Vaadai’ is the breeze from north and it depicts ‘Viraha’ or separation.
‘Thendral’ is the breeze from the south and this depicts happiness.

In this song, we feel both Vaadai and Thendral.

Yes, it is the Music of the Breeze!

Saturday, 23 January 2010


Today is a special day for me since I met the Maestro exactly one year back on this day.

On this special day, let us see a special song..

Spontaneity has its own charm.

Anything that is spontaneous has no pretensions. Most importantly, it comes straight from the heart.

Given a chance to choose between the head and the heart, I would choose the heart. If the heart is pure, the entire system is healthy.

When an artiste realizes the beauty, internalizes the feelings and expresses himself/herself without any pretensions shedding all the pedagogic stuff, the performance reaches great heights. On the other hand, if the artiste indulges in gimmickry and tries to show off whatever he/she knows (or doesn’t know), it looks like a circus. The main objective of such artistes is to get applause. Yes, one can appreciate the ‘knowledge’ of the artiste but finally is that an art all about?

Our traditional folk music is great because it is without any pretensions. People who composed the music and the lyrics are illiterates. They do not perform in front of any audience (folk forms are performed on stage as well now-a-days but most of these artistes do not perform just to please the audience).

They sing to themselves.
They sing when they are happy.
They sing when they are sad.
They sing when they fall in love.
They sing when they long for their beloved.
They sing when a child is born.
They sing when somebody dies.

Singing here is only a form of expression for them.

But surprisingly enough, most of the songs fall under a scale/raga.

It is said that classical music originated from folk music and traditions.

I do not want to get into this debate now.

All I know is that Ragams like Sankarabharanam, Harikamboji, Mohanam, Sudhha Dhanyasi, Karaharapriya, Nata Bhairavi, Mayamalawagowla, Naadanamakriya, Punnagavaraali, Mukhari…are found in folk songs.

The song we are going to see today also follows the Mayamalawagowla.

It is ‘Enna Paattu Paada’ from ‘Sakkalaththi’(1979).

Here is a driver. No..he does not drive a motor car..nor does he drive a bike.

He is driving the Bullocks sitting on a cart.

He is enjoying his trip and wants to express it. Wants to sing but does not know what to sing..Suddenly, he listens to the chime of the bells tied to the neck of the bullocks.

He decides this will be the rhythm.
The song itself starts with the sound of the bells.

The voice innocently asks ‘What shall I sing?’

The beauty is after asking (literally) this thrice, he sings in tune.

The entire song then follows the rhythmic pattern of the Bullock carts.

We join this gentleman in his journey. We see the road-not a highway- a path full of stones and mud. A path that is dusty. But we also see the green fields. We also see the birds on the trees.We feel the joy of the ‘driver’ and it is infectious.

We see all these in the first interlude that has the flute, and other folk instruments.

The Guitar, the Shehnai, and the Flute show the betrayal, the hypocrisy, the hatred, and the arrogance of the mankind in the second interlude.

The voice of the Master adds to the beauty..

It is spontaneous!
Yes, it is without any pretensions!!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Breeze from the coconut tree..

I have often been awestruck by the beauty of Coconut trees.

Always standing in a slanting position, the tree is a treat to watch.The coconuts are hidden behind the pinnate leaves and smile at us rather cheekily when the leaves sway.
The swaying of the pinnate leaves is another beauty.As we look up, they tend to nod their heads and somehow I am reminded of the elephant trunk!
The trunk of the tree is also very smooth.

The breeze from a coconut tree is special and in tamizh, it is called as ‘Tennankaatru’.
It touches us, embraces us and envelops us very gently.
Just like the song ‘Tennamaraththula Thendral Adikkuthu’ from ‘Lakshmi’(1979).

What strikes one first is the way the prelude and the pallavi have been composed.The flute, the bass guitar and the strings move so fast before we beat an eyelid.The different rhythmic patterns in Tisram within a space of few seconds are amazing.

The young voice of the master is as fresh and sweet as the coconut water.The very short flute piece adds to the taste.

A brief interlude and we hear Suseela. Honey mixed in coconut water.
The way the swaras are ‘packed’in the first two lines in the charanam , the way they move up and down and the way the last line is rendered in two octaves make it an aural treat.

The second interlude is dominated by the flute but let us not miss the other instruments that play different notes.

The clarinet greets us in the third interlude as the other folk instruments join the Village Party!

I remember reading the review in Vikatan that criticised the picturisation of this song.Thankfully, I have not seen the movie nor have I seen this song in motion.

That is why, this song still remains in me….just like the breeze from the coconut tree in my school and in my cricket ground those days!

Naan thinanthorum rasichaalum thigattathu pasikkathu ..