Tuesday, 29 October 2013

On Eroticism..

There are many questions in my mind for which I don’t find convincing answers.
Why are politicians always mean and cunning?
What is the relation between acting and politics?
Are actors clever politicians or are politicians great actors?
Why do we Indians behave so well and disciplined, care for environment, follow traffic rules strictly and be good when we go abroad (or live there) but when we visit our country we go to our old ways?
Why do we get up and go when a concert is still on?
Why do we still consider sexuality and eroticism as taboos?
The list of my questions is somewhat huge and since this is not the forum for listing them all, let me stop lest I be accused of defaming my own countrymen. Moreover, of the 7 questions listed, the first 6 are not relevant at least to my today’s post. So, let us focus on the 7th question alone for the time being.
The replies-if at all some people bother to reply- may vary from ‘Our culture does not permit discussing these aspects openly’ to ‘We Indians are hypocrites’.  But is it true that our culture is rigid and does in no way encourage open discussion or even for that matter views sex as a very personal thing and has refrained from open exhibition?
People who say ‘Yes’ to this question must visit Khajuraho, Konark and also many temples in India and look at the sculptures. If indeed it is a fact that our ancestors considered it as something very personal why would such sculptures exist and that too in places of worship?
Our ancestors had an aesthetic view of everything including sexuality, but somehow it lost its value over a period of time. What is strange is that there are extreme views about this subject. Either it borders(many times even crosses the border) on vulgarity or there is hushed silence.This is very obvious if one watches the so called ‘comedy sequences’ in the present day movies where all the ‘popular comedians’ thrive only on vulgarising sex corrupting our minds and making us believe that sex means vulgarity and obscenity or even the other way around.
Continuing with eroticism, some of the great works in Indian literature are erotic. By great works, I mean even the Bhakti literature. Take the Azhwars for example. AandaL pines for the Lord Ranganatha and some of the verses ooze with eroticism. In one of the Tiruppavais, she describes the private part of a friend. In her Naachiyar Thirumozhi, there have been references to the ‘fiery bosoms’. Thirumangaiyaazhwar, assuming the role of a naayika has penned down the sufferings of a beloved separated from her Hero and his descriptions include the way the organs of the naayika’s body is affected because of the separation.
Jayadeva’s Geeta Govindam which talks about the love between Radha and Krishna is full of erotic descriptions. So are Annamacharya’s many kritis, with some kritis even talking about the nuptials. As you know Annamayya was a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara who is the Naayaka in his kritis with the naayika being Padmavathy alias Goddess Lakshmi.
AruNagirinathar, who ‘saw it all’ before becoming a devotee of Lord Muruga describes the act itself in many of his Thiruppugazhs at the same time spewing venom on all the women in the world!
I have mentioned all these not with any intention to degrade the gods (as many of you know, I am a Believer and atheism is no longer part of my system); nor is it my intention to show all the great poet-devotees in poor light. I love all their poems. I am only trying to show that the subject under reference was never a taboo in our culture as widely believed. Of course I do not want to get into the deeper meanings of the poems at this juncture. All I can say is that these poets did not have any qualms in mentioning or describing these things and they even found it a way to reach higher and sublime plane.
This in fact answers my question which I raised long back in some of my posts about ILaiyaraaja. I had asked as to how it was possible for this gentleman known for his spiritual leanings to compose erotic songs. In fact, one of the accusations against him has been that he was instrumental in bringing in and infusing vulgarity in film songs. People who make such comments without doubt miss the wood for tree. They do not understand the compulsions of a film music composer. Of course, there have been songs that surely border on vulgarity(Madani Madani in Kadal MeengaL for example) but what can a composer do when the lyricist, director and the producer are convinced about certain things. ‘Nila Kaayudhu’(Sakalakalavallavan) and a few other songs too fall under this category.
But what is great about this gentleman is that not only does he compose such songs like a true karma yogi and like the water drops on lotus leaf but also brings out the subtle emotions. It maybe because he acts more like a catalyst while composing such songs or even maybe it does not attract him as much as it attracts a majority of us and it is just another day in office for him.
Even his ‘just another day’ produces some great compositions and that is where the beauty lies. ‘Enge enge’ from ‘Iniya uRavu pooththadhu’( 1987) is a classic example.
This erotic song in the voice of Janaki’s shows how beautiful eroticism could be.
The humming, bass instruments, beats and of course the tune make it a complete composition. But there is one amazing thing about this song which makes it a song par excellence. I have heard devotional songs, romantic duets, pathos songs, lullabies in KalyaNi but have ever across an erotic song in this raga. Probably this is the only one in that genre.
I have also often found that he liberally uses a host of Bass instruments in such songs and also in the BGM for such sequences. In the prelude of ‘Enge’, we find a horn like instrument as bass while the interlude has an instrument almost sounding like the one in the prelude but is more ‘guitarish’.  When both these meet and mingle in the second interlude, it is pure bliss.
Yet another highlight of this composition is the way percussion is used to depict the emotions.In the Pallavi-which is in ateeta eduppu- there is Bass guitar, Rhythm guitar and the drums all sounding in Tisram. The first interlude has yet another new instrument, some kind of a S.E.Asian percussion instrument that accompanies the guitar. It is the Tabla in the CharaNams that creates the mood with some subtle variations in Tisram, sounding  ‘ta ta ta  ki ta ta’ with a gap of 3 beats before the next ‘ta ta ki ta ta’ in the first two lines and playing without any gap in the following lines.
The same Tabla sounds ‘ta ta taangu ta ki ta taangu’ in the second interlude along with the guitar.Goes to show how even rhythm can be exploited to give the erotic feel.
The melodic instruments are not far behind.The flute in the first interlude playing staccato notes first and then cooing like a bird and the guitar in both the interludes jump with a twinkle in their eyes.
The last lines in the CharaNams tell us what this composition is all about..
Or do they convey more?

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