Monday, 24 June 2013

On relationships..

Relationships are always special. In an Indian milieu, these acquire more meanings since ours is one of the few cultures in the world where the term nuclear family has not yet become a passé and where respect to elders is given a lot of importance.

It is not that other cultures do not care for relationships but the way we treat the concept of family is entirely different. By nature we are also more emotional and many a times let the heart rule over the head. Whether this is good or not, one doesn’t really know and it surely depends on the situation, how far these emotions are carried.

Today’s rare gem revolves around a lady perfectionist to the core and therefore emotional to the hilt and who parts ways with her husband because he had hidden his dark past to her. The son is brought up by the father. Over a period of time she mellows down (isn’t that what a woman is supposed to be in tamizh movies?) and has a yearning to see her grown up son.

What will she do now?

Well, if it is real life, overridden with emotions, she would either write a letter to her son or try to speak to him at least on the phone. But in movies, the lady would sing and dance. This again is a debatable topic. Though this part-a song and dance sequence – is the most artificial part in an Indian movie, it is still the most enjoyable. If only this was not there in a movie, how would we have got some great songs and listened to some great music? Blessing in disguise!!

Nowhere do I find artificial elements interesting than in a song sequence in our movies. But again, let me hasten to add that this applies to not all the songs. For a song to be great, it must have a nice tune, melodious but sensible orchestration, good voice and lyrics that are unforgettable.

At least 95% of songs in ILaiyaraaja’s music have the first two aspects. I do not want to comment on the third aspect now and maybe write a separate post on that. The last mentioned aspect is surely found wanting now. That is why, I keep wondering how it would have been if only one lyricist was alive and had not had a premature death.Nothing is in our hands. I would like to leave it at that.

Though it would surprise many, the fact remains that I started paying attention to KaNNadasan’s lyrics only after he left this world. The more I listened, the more I liked. The more I liked, the more I learnt. The writings in this community are never complete without a post on the 2nd June and on the 24th June. On this day-which I would like to call as ‘Poets’ Day’- I yet again offer my praNaams to the genius.

Let me go back to the sequence we saw in the beginning. The sequence I was referring to is from the movie ‘Rishimoolam’(1980). Though I have not yet watched the sequence (thankfully!), the song ‘Mazhai varuvadhu’ has always been one of my most favourites.

All the aspects-tune, orchestration, voice and lyrics- are great to say the least.

The tune is in Nata Bhairavi. There are innumerable number of songs in Tamizh Film Music in this ‘scale’ but not all follow the classical Nata Bhairavi. As some of you know, Nata Bhairavi is one of the minor scales in WCM. But ‘Mazhai varuvadhu’ gives the shades of the raga so beautifully.

The Pallavi is in ‘ateeta eduppu’. However, more than all these, there are certain aspects in this song that makes it one of the best.

Tamizh Film Music has hardly had the kind of structure that this song has.

 Take the second part of the Pallavi-‘ini avaLathu ulagaththil pagalenna irvenna magane kathiravanaam avaL ninaivinil avane pudhu nilavaam’. This line which runs for 1 1/4th avartanam,  is sung in single breath. Secondly, the line appears to be flat but it is sung with a rolling voice.

The line of the charaNam flows smoothly with the violins galloping for a full cycle of taLam. However, what makes the charaNams unique and beautiful is the way the lines take an ascent slowly and steadily.

Mid octave>lower octave>higher octave.

The ‘akaaram’ at the end,  that again runs for one cycle is simply out of the world.

Can’t imagine anybody else apart from Janaki singing this song with such a great felicity..

In terms of the lyrics, the Pallavi itself gives the gist.

‘Like the peacock which knows about the rain, a mother knows her son’.

Comparison that stumps us!

And to convey that from now on her son is her world, the poet says ‘ he is the sun, he is the full moon’.

The first charaNam talk about her outspokenness ,her tendency to make hasty decision s and her transformation while those in the second talks about the past, the present and her eagerness to announce to the world that ‘yes, I am his mother’.

The orchestration and arrangement prove yet again as to why he is considered to be one of the greatest ever.

The opening itself is dazzling. The guitar is vibrant with the Tabla tarang first giving a very short sketch of the first phrase of the Pallavi. The strings trundle, the sublime flute takes a flight, the veena replies with a serene smile, the strings play a part of the Pallavi and the flute like instrument jump.

So many variations in a matter of 52 sec!

The first interlude sees the single violin first, playing in western style. The flute then charts its own journey followed by the pristine veena . The guitar repeats the notes of the veena .It seems like  micro composition by itself. The strings then move with vigour with the table tarang jumping once every two beats.

We see myriad images in the second interlude with the Tabla tarang which is joined by the piano. It is ripples of melody for a while and then it is a fountain of western classical music played by the strings. The flute joins again in Indian classical style backed by the veena.. The keys follow and the strings complete the proceedings.

This relationship between the swaras, words,instruments and voice-isn’t it very special?