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..