Sunday, 22 November 2015


I read something today and I found it to be very interesting.

The bird species, it seems knew about the impending rains in TN much before. That they knew this without Mr.RamaNan and the advancedequipments is amazing. About 3000 flamingoes which were spotted near Pulicat lake a couple of weeks back are totally missing now. Sensing what was coming, they have moved to SHAR road in Sriharikota away from the sea. The Great frigatebird-a sea bird- was spotted in a place away from the sea recently. Reason for this unusual activity? Cyclonic currents are felt by these pelagic birds much ahead. The Dark-sided Flycatcher was spotted in a suburb in Chennai some 4 days back. These species were spotted exactly 4 years ago when the city had similar kind of heavy rains. And this sixth sense is not restricted to the avian friends alone. Even the insects (‘puzhu’ in tamizh) can sense the heavy rains.Beetles and red velvet mites wriggle from beneath the soil onto the surface because they know that the water table goes beyond the considered safe limits.

Apart from this of course we have our own beautiful peacock which dances the moment it sees the dark clouds..

Ah..This reminds me of a song.

As a matter of fact, I have been humming many rain songs since two days(recall that I have already discussed some rain songs in the group). And the moment I read about our avian friends today, this song crossed my mind.

Mazhai Varuvadhu Mayilukku Theriyum’ from ‘Rishimoolam’(1980) may not be a typical rain song. But it does give me a feeling of getting drenched in a drizzle (an act which enjoy a lot). Just like many of his compositions, it is great melodically and technically. And when we haveKaNNadasan, aren’t we assured of a poetic treat as well?

First of all, it is not an easy song to sing. Many phrases in the Pallavi and the CharaNams demand a lot of breath control and who else can one think of except Janaki? The present day singers must listen to this song repeatedly to understand the importance of breathtraversing from higher octave to lower octave and most importantly, the diction.

So, what makes this composition great and why do I call it a tough song to render?

Look at the Pallavi. It starts with the lower octave ‘pa.’ and ascends from there on up to ‘ga’ ( ri ga). After a ‘sa ga ri’, in between, it climbs down as ‘sa’ That is, it starts from the lower ‘panchamam’, climbs up, climbs down and ends with the lower panchamam. To put it simply, the last phrase is the reverse of the first phrase. I am not aware of any other first line in the Pallavi following this kind of a pattern.

The third line has a smattering of lower octave notes but the following two lines clearly show the ‘Gnani’ to the world. The lines have only oneswara-‘ma’ which occurs continuously 22 times!

The third, fourth and the fifth lines are rendered in single breath!

If Pallavi is like this, can CharaNams be quiet and sober?

In the first line, we see the repetition of the gandharam(ga) in the first half while in the second line, the swaras go on the ascent-up to thedhaivatam(dha). The third line is another beauty with the lower octavenishadammandara stayee ni.) occurring suddenly after the mid-octave ‘ni’and this continues in the fourth line as well.

What can one say about the ‘akaaram’ at the end where swaras pair up and go descending as Sani nidha dhapa pama maga gari sani. Note that it goes up to the lower octave ‘ni’ after starting with the higher octave ‘Sa’. The humming ‘lalaa lalaa..’ sees the repetition of the rishabham(13 times) and finally end with the ‘pa’.
Hope by now you all know as to why I said it is beautiful technically as well as melodically. Before we look at the orchestration, I want to mention one more feature.

Generally, many film songs are based on Natabhairavi and this is because of this combination of notes being the minor scale in western classical music. However, almost all these songs(99%) can be said to be in Natabhairavi scale(and not raga). ‘Mazhai Varuvuvadhu’ is an exception as one finds clear elements of the raga with brigAs and even the gamakAs.

Let us now look at the orchestration and arrangement.

The initial sound with the keys shows us the drizzle in a matter of few seconds. After cycles of chatushra ekam, the guitar plays a short melody with the bass guitar supporting it-albeit with different sets of notes. The tabla tarang plays the tune of the first two phrases of thePallavi with the violins responding with another melody. After a while, theviolins tread a beautiful path of western classical. The flute takes over and plays an undistilled Natabhairavi and the  veeNa responds with √©lan. The violins enter again, play the tune of the first two phrases of the Pallavi with the keys nodding their heads. The final flute piece which goes in a circular motion, shows us the dance of the peacock!

The higher octave strings appear after the two lines in the Pallaviadding a special colour to the entire Pallavi.
Western Classical Music and Carnatic Music alternate in the first interlude. The solo violin plays a piece in the minor scale with anotherinstrument appearing now and then. The bass guitar and the rhythm guitar act as percussion here. The flute then enters with a smile and brings along the tabla too, charting a melodic course in natabhairavi.The veena which first responds to the flute, now plays its own melody (again in natabhairavi). The guitar-which by all means can be said to be the western counterpart of the veena- repeats the notes of the veena with an unmatched resonance. The strings appear again but this time to the accompaniment of the tabla tarang which sounds after every beats.

The strings play in western style for 2 cycles after the first two lines like how they do in the Pallavi. But note that the notes are entirely different here. That is ILaiyaraaja for you!

One sees the rain drops jumping, flying, dancing and singing in the firsthalf of the second interlude. It starts with the tabla tarang which playsnatabhiravi/chatushram. The piano follows with the strings backing it. The tabla tarang joins again playing the same melody which it plays in the beginning of the interlude. Heavenly music indeed!

The flute and its friend veena then flow like a river with the higher octavestrings adding that golden tinge.
Is it Saraswati or Vaitarani?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t overflow like the floods in Chennai.
The flamingoes, the flycatchers and the frigate birds watch this spectacle with glee. After all, they are all well prepared unlike theauthorities who ‘govern’ us, and therefore enjoy the Rains and also Lifebetter than us humans!

Ps: When I started writing this post, I wanted to be as short as possible. However, as I went along it got expanded.This post has a lot of technical details almost like a post in my other blog and nothing was intentional. Probably, the weather made me go berserk!!

Thursday, 1 October 2015


’Maanjolai kiLithaano maan thaano..what a song! What a tune! But you don’t give such songs or music for my movies..” , said that gentleman to the young composer.

It was the 200th day celebration of ‘Kizhakke Pogum Rail’ in the presence of a galaxy of stars in Tamizh Cinema at that time (early 1979). No points for guessing who that ‘young composer’ was. But I am not sure how many will get it right if I ask them to say the name of the gentleman who made this statement.

It was none other than Sivaji Ganesan.

There is more than one irony in that statement but the most striking one is that the tune of the song quoted, was first composed for ‘Deepam’- the first film in Sivaji-Raaja combination- but was rejected by the director and the producer, a fact which Sivaji did not know. But the fact remains that the music ‘Deepam’ was no way inferior. This being the case, what would have made Sivaji say that in a public forum?

I feel that Sivaji, a man of details noticed the spark in the composer long back and he wanted him to raise the bar when it came to composing for his movies. And that is what happened after this. Irrespective of the quality of the movie, Raaja sir’s music was always special for Sivaji movies from then on.

Almost 14 years after this, Sivaji Ganesan openly admitted the admiration and awe he had for ILaiyaraaja and called him one of the greatest ever after the release and success of ‘Devar Magan’.

The admiration was of course mutual. When the great actor passed away, Raaja sir, who was running a high temperature, rushed from Bombay (he had just then completed the BGM of ‘Lajja’) and led the funeral procession along with the two popular actors.
Before I take up the rare gem, let me say a few words about Sivaji Ganesan, who I consider as one of the greatest actors Indian Cinema has seen.

In my opinion, Sivaji is one of the most misunderstood artistes. At one end of a spectrum, we have people who appreciate his histrionics in all sentimental movies and at the other extreme, we have people who ridicule the actor. Of course, in between there are saner voices who know who the real Sivaji is.

Somehow, he has always been identified with that sing-song dialogue delivery. But Sivaji was a great actor not because of this alone. His expressions are unmatched and can never be imitated. I remember reading how Rajaji-who hated films- appreciated his role as Bharata in ‘SampoorNa RamayaNam’(1958). Sivaji stole his heart in one particular sequence when Rama(NTR) leaves him in the forest after handing over his foot wear
The expression on Bharata’s face is incredible’, Rajaji would say later.

One of the many great qualities of Sivaji was his propensity to assume a great figure as his role model. For example, for his role as ‘Thirunaavukkarasar’ in the film ‘Thiruvarutchelvar’(1967), he chose  Kanchi Paramacharya as his role model, visited the Mutt, observed him very closely and enacted the role.

Before donning the role of a mrudanga vidwan in ‘Mrudanga Chakravarti’(1983), he studied in depth about the great legend and genius Palghat Mani Iyer. His movement of lips, aggressive body language while playing and even sitting with his elbow rested on the instrument and palm on the face before a concert were inspired by Shri.Mani Iyer(it is a different issue that people who have never watched the mrudangam legend in action and people who haven’t even heard that name in their life, criticized Sivaji for his ‘over-acting’  ).
Sivaji was also very well informed and had all details of the places (international) in his finger tips including the history and the geography. He had a photographic memory. During his make-up sessions, an assistant would read out the dialogues to him and that was it. To imagine that the lengthy dialogues which were part of the movies of the ‘50s and the ‘60s, were read out to him only once, is quite unbelievable but it is true.

I feel the synergy between ILaiyaraaja and Sivaji Ganesan was mainly because of the fact that many qualities are common to both. Punctuality, Dedication, Setting a totally new trend and starting a new era, eye for details, Photographic memory and above all the love, passion and devotion for the profession..

Time now for the Rare Gem.

In fact, this song used to be very popular those days but unfortunately not many from that generation remember this now. Supposing somebody asks me the meaning of ‘energetic melody’, I will play this song- ‘ThoraNam Aadidum’ from ‘VetRikku Oruvan’ (1980) without batting an eyelid. Though there are many features in this composition, the first thing that strikes one is the prelude. Look at the way the composition starts. A very different kind of percussion (is it an African drum?), playing ‘ta ki ta’ta ki ta’ 16 times(4 cycles of chatushram)..Isn’t it amazing? Then we have two different sounding instruments(not sure if both are sounds from key boards or if those are rare instruments) followed by the zestful flute. The strings move with precision to lead us to the humming.
Rain of melody in a matter of 40 seconds!

Before I turn my attention to the interludes, I must say a few words here. At times I have been accused of saying only good things about a composition. So for a change, let me say a couple of negative things too. First is the voice of TMS who sounds totally out of place. Mind you, he was past his prime and it would have been nice if SPB had rendered this song. Secondly, the lyrics. I am surprised that Panchu AruNachalam could write so badly. If there is no link between the lines in the first stanza, the awful and below average words in the second stanza make it even vulgar to a certain extent. Perhaps, this is where the tune ‘covering up’ pedestrian lyrics comes into play(remember his recent show dedicated to MSV sir!).

Now that I have expressed myself candidly, let me focus on the interludes.

The scintillating flute plays with finesse in the beginning of the first interlude and is intercepted by the special sounding instrument as it completes one part of the melodic piece. Yet another sound from the keys takes over and the complexion changes with the higher octave strings joining and the two making merry showing a burst of colours. The keys play ‘ta ki ta’ ‘ta ki ta’ continuously and acts as the percussion. The guitar enters with poise and moves along with the special sounding keys. The flute which was watching the fun from behind,now takes joyous flights and leads to the first charaNam.

The second interlude is yet another example of his mastery over orchestration. The strings first play impeccably pausing for a fraction of a second every time. The keys (another new sound) respond briefly after each piece. Now, the flute takes over and expands the melody played by the keys. What a progression!

The flute continues to delight etching a beautiful melody in the process. The resonant guitar enters and sounds with a touch of poignancy. By the time Janaki sings ‘aararo aaraarira ro’ to the backing of bass guitar, we are in a spell..
..  a spell cast by the musical magician.

Why man he doth bestride the narrow world…and we pretty men walk under his huge legs’, said the Bard of Avon.

It applies not just to Caesar..but to the two gentlemen  as well..
Sivaji Ganesan and ILaiyaraaja!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Being a wo(man)

’Is God a man or a woman?’’

When my 10 year old daughter Dhenuka asked me this question, my first reaction was shock. Somehow, I got reminded of the dialogue from one of the most popular Tamizh films- ‘Are you a good person or a bad person?’. Like the protagonist in the movie, I too replied ‘I don’t know’, though not in his tone.  Sadly enough,I also did not have the backing of the leitmotif of the Maestro.

But jokes apart, the question made me think. ‘Why should a 10 year old girl worry about the gender of God? What would have made her do this?’

I asked her the reason. She said ‘’ I am sure it is He. Otherwise why do only girls have some problems? If it was a She, this wouldn’t happen’’.

The reply left me dumbfounded. She was of course talking of physiological problems unique to women. Nowadays, schools also educate the children about many things and this includes certain things considered as taboo traditionally. Forward thinking people should definitely welcome this. Therefore, I had no qualms about her getting to know about some details regarding the anatomy and physiology. But what troubled me is the way a girl perceives her being a girl. Is it a healthy trend or not?

Is it a fact that women undergo a lot of hardships in the world when compared to men? Is it then a sin to be born as a girl? Then why did the Mahakavi sing ‘Mangaiyaraai piRappadhaRkku maathavam seithida veNdumamma’?(it needs a lot of penance indeed to be born as a girl). This is a very vast subject and requires reams of pages to discuss. Therefore, let me try and touch some pertinent points here.

The main point in my opinion is not so much the physiological problems as the emotional and the mental trauma. By this I mean the way the society looks at and treats women. The term society has a larger connotation and without any doubt, includes women too. We Indians have a confused mind when it comes to women. I am not exaggerating when I say that we are a bundle of contradictions. At one end of a spectrum, we put a woman on a pedestal, make her an epitome of patience, tolerance, love, compassion and shower encomiums on her. At the other end, we look down upon her giving some stereotyped roles and go to the extent of saying ‘Being a woman, you can’t and shouldn’t do this’. It is in this band of spectrum that we see her as a glamorous creature created for men and to satisfy men in all aspects. We expect women to act as per the whims and fancies of men. No, not just ‘of men’ but also ‘of women’ who carry the tag of ‘mother’ by law (or is it in-law?).

Both the ends of the spectrum are dangerous. We deify women so that they remain on the pedestal like statues without any emotions. ‘Oh , how many sacrifices a woman makes!’ we shed crocodile tears. We trample them at the other end, first by branding them as symbols of beauty and then setting rules. How confused we are!

Isn’t there a disconnect between the two ends here? Yes and no. ‘Yes’ because the two are contradictory. ‘No’ because the other is responsible for the one.

No, I am not contradicting here. We put women on the pedestal because we know that if we do that, we can get away with everything. ‘God created mother because He can’t be present all the time’, we say (here itself there is a contradiction anyway as God is supposed to be omnipresent). Aftersaying this, we go ahead and disrobe women (literally and figuratively).

That is why, we have men who say ‘If a diamond is displayed on the road, dogs will surely take it’, ‘ It is the girl who invites the boys with ‘inappropriate dress’’, ‘ There is nothing wrong in a rape. Boys just want to have fun’.

Mind you, these were said by men who are supposed to be ‘leaders’.

But when we have the leader of the country himself saying ‘Depite being a woman…’, can’t we understand the kind of stereotyped images we all have in our mind?

So, where are we now?

Durga’ to ‘Maa / behenji’ to ‘kya maal hai yaar’ to ‘girls should not wear jeans’!!
If this is not a bundle of contradictions, what else is?

However, the solution lies within us. Let us stop deifying women. Let us stop denigrating women. Let us understand and appreciate the problems of women, respect them in the real sense and treat them as fellow human beings without any set of written or unwritten rules.

The rare gem of the day ‘PaavaiyargaL Maan Pole..’ from ‘Ore Muththam’(1980)  precisely talks about this but in a slightly different way.

The brilliantly written song by Kaviyarasar puts across both the viewpoints- the ‘traditional typecasting’ and the modern one. Needless to say that the former is by a man (brilliant rendition as usual by SPB) and the latter by a woman (again a beautiful rendition by Janaki).

What is most striking is the way the composition traverses through two totally different genres, qawwali and modern pop. Brilliantly symbolic!

Qawwali, a genre which was ubiquitous in the old Hindi songs(till late ‘70s) has appeared in some old Tamizh songs too. But here it is very special because of the seamless transition. The Maestro has also tuned it in Mishra Khamaj, a Hindustani raag used prolifically in qawwalis.

The song starts with the harmonium playing with sensitivity and making some smooth glides. It plays without percussion for 3 cycles of chatushra ekam and then moves along spreading warmth for the next 10 cycles.

The pallavi is in anaagata eduppu and the male sings ‘ Women are like the deer; like the Cauvery river; If only they tread the path laid for them and live accordingly, they are angels. Why this modernity?’

The first interlude gives the quintessential flavour of a qawwali with the shehnai, the clapping and the harmonium. It is simple and at the same time zestful.

The first charaNam talks about having beautiful plait decorated with flowers and at the same time says ‘ Jewellery and dress don’t make you beautiful. Sport a smile and walk with a proper gait.Read Tamizh’.

 Let it be understood here that ‘reading tamizh’ is used as a euphemism here for ‘following tradition’.

Musically, the stanza is marvellous with the akaaram after ‘choodungaL’ shining like gems on a nose ring.

There is a sudden shift in the interlude which follows. The electric guitar appears with a grin and moves along dancing. The saxophone follows and traverses upwards. The healthy competition between the two is amazing!

The female now sings, ‘ A good woman can live anywhere. I know what I am doing and let there be no barriers . I am like the pure Ganges’.

The TaaLa pattern now changes to tisram as the saxophone again goes on a melodious spree. After a brief intervention by electric guitar, the male sings ‘Wear a silk saree and you are protected. God comes rushing to you when you wear  bindi and flowers’
(Doesn’t this contradiction between the first charaNam and this charaNam typify the mentality of the society?).

The female replies that even if God comes here now, He will accept me as times are changing.

Now, it is the shehnai that follows and moves with a verve.

The stanza that follows has the male sarcastically refer to the smile of a woman.

Those days, women would walk with their heads bowed down. And now you all smile directly looking at our faces.’ The old adage about a lady’s laughter being very dangerous, used even in Mahabharata, is used after this.

The saxophone follows with unobtrusive energy.

Ok, now let us come to an agreement. Point out if I make a mistake.  And I shall point out your mistakes. After all, are’nt women and men equal?’

This is a beautiful line and one sees Bharati in KaNNadasan.

The last part is rendered by both the male and the female saying ‘Let us be friends. There is good and evil in everything. Let us unite’.

The inherent message is obvious.

So, will we all follow this as well?

And by the way, is God a man or a woman?
Well..God only knows!


Monday, 8 June 2015

The Fourth Dimension


A word used at least in 12 different occasions each time conveying different meanings (note that the previous sentence itself has two words- occasions and time- denoting this word). Without this, we cease to exist.  It just moves on without waiting for anything or anybody. If one puts it to use effectively and uses it efficiently, it becomes one’s friend. I get very surprised when people say ‘to kill the time’ or ‘time- pass’ or ‘boring’. If we want to kill the time, it will kill us; if we want to ‘pass’ the time, it will pass over us; if we find it ‘boring’, it will get bored of us and the result will be there to see.

Recently, I read that a famous personality remarked that he found the music of the ‘70s and the ‘80s boring and that is why he decided to ‘ bring about a change’. In fact, about 6 years back, the same person in an interview to an international channel said “People were bored of the same kind of instruments like Tabla, Violin etc., and ‘I’ changed it.''

People are entitled to have their opinions and most importantly music is subjective. So, should one not leave it at that and move on? Answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. ‘Yes’, because I agree about respecting others’ opinions and music being subjective. ‘No’, because I felt I must voice my opinion too.

Three things are common in the two statements made by the famous personality-‘ I’Change’ and ‘Bored’.  I shall leave the ‘I’ now because there is no single person on the earth now who has shed the ‘I’. We always feel great about ourselves and most importantly when others heap praises on us (only deep inside we know we don’t deserve it, but why should we accept it..).

Let us look at the ‘change’ aspect. Film music has changed over a period of time and I am not an ostrich to bury my head in the sands. From the days of MKT when pure classical music ruled, to the days of MSV when classical music was given  a lighter shade without in anyway affecting the melody(in fact, melody ruled the roost despite this).  Since this is not about the history of cinema music, I am leaving it at that.

But at the same time, I must also write about what happened after 1976(purely from my perspective). Until then, though the tunes were melodious, not much attention was paid to the orchestration .It was only after May 1976 that orchestration acquired a new meaning. I would say that the sounds heard in the preludes and interludes (did anybody know these words before 1976?), were not heard in Indian Film Music until then. Very different and new instruments were used (and not just the ‘same tabla, violins and veena). New kinds of experiments like ‘superimposing techniques’, ‘song using only the chorus voice as instruments’, ‘using only a solo voice in humming’. And I am not getting into the new ragas part anyway since the discussion is on something else.

Despite all this, if people who are into music, say that the music during those days was boring and not accepted by the West (this is the only criteria, you see!), then there is something wrong somewhere not the least in the thinking process of the persons concerned. That reminds me. Paul Mauriat, one of the greatest musicians of all times was spell bound after listening to ‘Edho Mogam’ and this happened in 1983 when ‘music was boring’ here.

What is more amusing to me is the way some people in social media have concurred with the ‘boring’ view and have ridiculed the music during that period. I bet that all these people have hardly listened to the gems during that era. I don’t have any problem in agreeing to disagree. At the same time, I would like these people to first listen to the gems and then say ‘Oh..boring’ rather than simply criticising sitting in an arm chair and in the cool confines of the air conditioners.

The rare gem of the day is surely one such song in my opinion. ‘Nee illaadhapodhu..’ from ‘ILamaikkolam’ (1980) is an evergreen melody. I call it evergreen not only because it gives goose bumps and gives me nostalgia moments whenever I think of it but also because the song is melody personified.  The entire composition is beautifully structured (done spontaneously in one go and not in ‘bits and pieces’). But what steals the show here (too) is the way each instrument is sounded.

It has a rather unusual start. A very special sound from the Keyboard fills the air. The sustained notes  for 3 cycles and the descent for the next  1 cycle of Chatushram prepare us for an eerie song. The Strings sound sustained notes for one cycle. We then hear the sound of ankle-bells (only). A special sound (similar to a santoor ) from the Keyboard joins. The Guitar, another Keyboard and the Bass Guitar enter with a brief response from the special sounding Keyboard. A single Violin appears and plays in Indian classical style and this is backed by the double bass. The Keys respond after two cycles for one cycle and this happens twice. The group of Strings takes over and plays for two cycles. The Keys repeat the notes of the Strings which now play subtly. 
And then.. the Pallavi starts!

So many variations in a matter of 42 seconds..

The Pallavi starts in the voice of Malaysia Vasudevan. The first phrase ‘Nee..’ itself is sustained for one full cycle. A very different combination of swaras of ShankarabharaNam follows in the second half of the first line, ‘yengum nenjam’-(paga3 ma1ri2 ga3sa ri2ni3). The Tabla too plays the Chatushram very differently as ‘ta ta ta ta’. The Keys sound at the end of the second and the third lines. There is a twist in the lines that follow. ‘ma2’ appears suddenly making it KalyaNi. Though it does not have the ‘ni’, one can surely feel the KalyaNi shade. The last line reverts to the ‘ma1’.

Sujatha(her fourth song for the maestro and her last song before she got married) joins now and sings the first two lines of the Pallavi.

The twists and turns continue in the CharaNams too. The first two lines use only ‘sa ri2 ga3 pa ni3’ making it Hamsadhwani. The third line is in KalyaNi(sans ‘ga’) and the fourth line is in Valaji scale-with ga3 pa dha2 ni2. The last line has both the ‘ni’ s!

But these changes and variations appear and sound innocuous to me. It must be because these were conceived spontaneously and not over a period of time (weeks/months).

The special sounding Keys enliven the first half of the first interlude. After playing alone for 2 cycles, it is joined by the higher octave Strings which are then joined by another set of Strings after one more cycle. The two romance very briefly to the backing of the Drums which sound just now and then and that too subtly. Another new sound from Keys and now it is the Tabla which backs as the percussion. The bending of the Keys continues before the Strings take over. Do these take over normally? No..One set of Strings race in the mid-octave while the other set goes in the higher octave. In Western Classical Music parlance, this is ‘March music’.
In the second interlude, the Keys and the Strings combine to give a dash of poignancy perhaps to depict that feeling of ‘missing somebody’

The piercing Flute brings back the romance with the ‘santoor’ acknowledging it. The Strings sound with a unique emotion and play in Hamsadhwani- exactly the same notes as the first part of the first line of the CharaNam.

The song composed 35 years back has always excited all the time. At the same time, I can’t help feeling sorry for the people who claim Times have changed and like ostrich bury their heads in sand. But this time I can see something smiling at them. ..

…It is called as the Time..

Monday, 6 April 2015


Recently during the World Cup match between West Indies and Zimbabwe, a question popped up on the screen. It was the usual kind of question where 4 options were given and the viewers were asked to cast their votes. I am sure most of you remember that it was a match in which a batsman by name Chris Gayle got a double hundred, the first in any WC

The question was- Which is the best  ever World Cup Innings by a West Indies batsman and the options were 1.Clive Lloyd 1975, 2.Viv Richards 1979  3.Brian Lara 1996 4.Chris Gayle 2015.

A majority voted for Chris Gayle. This was not surprising since people were still in the euphoria of having watched the innings just a few hours before. But what was disappointing to me was the percentage of votes for Clive Lloyd- an abysmal 2%.

Why was it disappointing to me? Am I a Lloyd fan? Or was it because I recalled that innings and the radio commentary on BBC (please remember that the Indian viewers saw a WC match for the first time on the 25th June 1983 and until then one had to depend on the radio commentary on BBC) and that the West Indies recovered from an early loss of quick wickets solely due to this innings and his partnership with Rohan Kanhai? Or the mental vision of the ball flying from his bat when ODIs were in a nascent stage was so enthralling to a school boy who until then had known only test match cricket(again through the radio) and Ranji Trophy?

The reason for my disappointment is a combination of all these. But there was something else too. And that was- This generation does not seem to respect History and things which are not familiar to them.

Ask any Indian born after 1980 about the most memorable moment of World Cups in the previous century and the reply would be Kapil Dev holding the Cup at Lord’s on the 25th June 1983. While there is nothing wrong in basking in the glory of an Indian cricket team’s first ever success in a major tournament, I feel people must also make an effort to know about happenings before that.

Yes without a trace of doubt, that day was a very significant day not just in terms of pride but also in terms of inspiring youngsters across the country. But does that mean that one should be totally ignorant of History?

Now consider this. ODIs were played in all whites with the red cherry and without any fielding restrictions. Bats were not heavy and boundaries were not short. Analysing the opposition teams in terms of SWOT and using videos(what is that?) were all unheard of. Despite all these unfavourable factors, a batsman scored his hundred in 85 deliveries with 12 boundaries and 2 sixes? If this is not an achievement, what else is?

No, I am not the one who believes in living in the past and criticise the present crop saying ‘You know those days..’ Nor am I a cynic who believes that the ‘present’ is nothing and has zero talent while the ‘past’ is everything and nothing can match the talent. But at the same time, it pains me that hardly a few are even aware of the inaugural World Cup and one of the most remarkable innings played with limited resources.

I find a lot of similarities between this and the way ILaiyaraaja’s music is being perceived. A majority of his fans (and this includes the so called ‘die-hard fans’) does not know much about his songs from his early years. Between May 1976 and Nov 1980, he scored music for 100 films. At the most, people can list out about 20 movies and some 50-60 songs. The impression in many- ‘70s songs are not great, his magic started only in the ‘80s’. This impression has more to do with the mindset which in turn is due to ignorance. It is a fact that some of his greatest compositions happened during this time and if ILaiyaraaja has to be seen as whole, his ‘70s songs must be listened to and cherished.

The Rare Gem of the day has some interesting stories behind it. The first story  which is rather simple- though not known to many- is that this was singer Sujatha’s first ever Tamizh song(a fact not known to even her daughter Swetha, who in one of the TV shows mentioned that ‘Oru Iniya manadhu’ was her first). This song was released a full 3 years before ‘Oru Iniya Manadhu’.But if one goes to you tube looking for the visuals, they can never find it.

Yes, the song was released as part of the EP record, but the song was unceremoniously ‘chopped off’. This in fact is the most interesting and intriguing story.

If at all in his early years Raaja sir was very upset with something, it was the film ‘Kavikkuyil’ and the reasons were many.

One- For the first time, his album had 7 songs.

Two- For a person being accused of having little knowledge in Carnatic Music, he composed two songs in pure Carnatic ragas and made a great Carnatic legend sing those two. To top it all, the raga of one of these songs was never used by any film music composer until then and the ragas of the other song were specifically from a particular chakram in the mela karta system. Almost all are familiar with the former which is in a raga called Ritigowlai while many are still not familiar with the latter, a song which I took as a special song in Geetanjali -2012.

Three- He did some beautiful experiments with a particular song but this song was not ‘liked’(no, not again!) by the distributors who insisted that the song be taken out from the movie so that the movie will appeal better to the masses.

Four- Despite his best efforts, the movie bombed.

Let us now focus on the third one and see if it appeals to you and me.

The song starts with a very simple humming of Sujatha and this happens to be the prelude.

The Pallavi is simple too-or that is what it seems to be.

However, there are some hidden intricacies. First, we have the ‘podi sangatis’ in ‘Oviyam’ and also a sudden jump from ‘pa’ to the upper ‘Sa’. ‘KaNden’ ‘Kanavo’ ‘Ninaivo’ also have some beautiful sangatis with the last mentioned going in lower octave as ‘dha.’. The last line is interesting as well with prayogas like ‘ga ma dha ni pa dha ma pa ga ma’.

The composition essentially has the swaras of Harikambhoji with the last line in the CharaNam mixing the other ‘ni’. However, the unmistakable Hindustani flavour forces me to classify this under ‘Mishra Khamaj’. In any case, nomenclature doesn’t matter as long as one is able to enjoy the song.

The CharaNams too are beautifully structured with some pleasing sangatis(note the one after ‘maalai pozhudhinile’ in the first CharaNam which extends for 12 cycles of Tisram) and higher octave swaras predominantly in the second and the third lines.

The Tabla is the only percussion which goes in the ‘mel kaala tisram’ from the second line in the CharaNam(s).Apart from this, of course there is that subtle bass guitar which backs the vocals.

Now, for those interludes.

The norm those days was three CharaNams and Raaja sir consistently gave three different interludes.

The Violins which start innocuously in the beginning of the first interlude effortlessly touch the higher octave. The subtle Santoor and the Bass Guitar are not to be missed. The Chorus suddenly appears from nowhere and sing in perfect harmony as the Strings and the Bass Guitar back it with elegance. The Strings take over and play in Indian Classical Style with gamakam , while yet another set of Strings responding briefly and gracefully. The Santoor follows and adds a different touch totally. One hears traces of Raag Mishra MaaNd here.

The second interlude is dominated by the Veena (played with finesse by E.Gayathri) with the humming of the Chorus super imposed and the Santoor nodding its head now and then. It is two sets of the Strings again involved in a brief ‘call and response’.

It is the third interlude which is my most favourite. In fact, it never fails to give me goose bumps even when I think of it.

A single Violin first plays very briefly as if to give a cue and the set of Strings play a melody. The Tabla alternates between ‘ta ka dhi mi ta ka’ and a gap for the same number of beats. After two rounds of this dialogue between the single and the group, a couple of more Violins join the first one and sketch a melody with the other set of Strings playing their original melody. The Bass Guitar plucks a String and then starts the magic. The Chorus hums with exactitude with the Bass Guitar caressing the humming with some beautiful patterns. The VeeNa joins and plays its own melody. Now, this is heavenly indeed! It seems as if Tyagaraja and Bach meet in the heavens with the angels showering the flowers. Finally, the Strings enter and the VeeNa responds to them with an unmatched majesticity!

Is it possible to evaluate the purity of this Gold?

I don’t think so. How about you?

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