Monday, 10 September 2012


‘It is elementary Watson’ is one of the most popular quotes in English. Though this quote itself would sound elementary to some, I feel it conveys a lot to us. In fact, it guides me to do things in a better and efficient way.

To solve anything, one needs to understand the basics. Even the most complex things in this world are simple if we make it simpler.

The song I am going to take up today ‘En KalayaaNa Vaibhogam Unnoduthaan’ from ‘Azhage unnai aaradhikkiRen’(1979) in my all-time favourite list simply because it is a very simple song. Simple in terms of the way it sounds. But there are of course a lot of intricacies and nuanced beauties in the composition and I would prefer to mention these later..

When I was a school-going boy, one of the most fascinating things for me was the sound coming out of that instrument called Flute. I was so mesmerized by this instrument that when any flute concert was played on the radio, I would listen to the entire concert despite the fact that I was not a great lover of classical music then. It did not matter to me whether I knew the name of the ragam or if the composition was by Tyagaraja or by Dikshithar.

Therefore, any film song with a flute piece was my favourite. That Raaja sir gave a new dimension to flute is a well-known fact. Most of his compositions during his early years had a flute bit.

Is it then a surprise that ‘En KalyaNa’ with the rather elaborate Flute piece in the first interlude, the lucid bit in the second interlude (though I would have given a blank expression if somebody had mentioned these terms word to me then) and the sizzling piece after the first line in the CharaNam(s) instantly attracted me?

Next is the beginning of the song. The first line is sung straight without any prelude (again a term which I learnt much later) and the next line is sung after a host of instruments play the ‘welcome notes’..

VaNi Jayaram’s honey-soaked voice with clear diction was another reason for me to rush to the radio whenever the song was played.

Then, the tune. ‘How simple it sounds’, I used to wonder.

Is the composition that simple?

It is based on Madhyamavati, a very deep and classical ragam. It is set in Misram, the 7-beat cycle. It has the ateeta eduppu with the taLa cycle starting before the Pallavi

In the first interlude during the flute bit, the Misram beats ‘ta ki ta ta’ is played by one instrument, there is a gap for one beat and then the ‘dhi mi’ is palyed by another percussion instrument. No percussion is used in the piece before this or after this. In the one that follows this piece, the strings show the western contours of Madhyamavati with the guitar in the background. The very brief solo violin piece in the end draws a beautiful sketch of the raga.
The strings and the sitar, and the strings and the flute play with each other in the second interlude while the gleeful keys play the same set of notes twice- after the first flute piece and then just before the end of interlude.

The CharaNam ends in ‘Sa ni pa’ with the Pallavi starting with ‘pa Sa’ adhering to the concept of ‘poruththam’ in Carnatic music.

The meaningful lyrics that typify the thoughts of a young girl in love, too need a special mention- ‘Malar kooottam edhir paarkkum iLavenil kaalam, poovaiyum oru poovinam adhai naan sollavo’ , uRangaamal nenjam uruvaakkum ragam unakkallavo ketpayo maattayo’.

Now these 5 paragraphs that have gone some what into the depth of the composition would not have been possible without what I have described in the paragraphs before that.

As a boy, I was not interested in any of the technical details. I liked the song because it sounded good to me. As simple as that.. When I started exploring more, I started understanding the details.

I don’t want to get into the debate of which is better. All I can say is that I have always been like Watson trying to understand the mysteries while Raaja sir- the Sherlock Holmes- smiles and says ‘It is elementary Watson. Can’t you understand even this?”

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