Thursday, 11 August 2016


There is danger in being a third man.

No, I am not talking about the cricket fielding position and surely not about attempting a catch for an ‘upper cut’.  The ‘third man’ I am referring to is a person who enters a specific field (not cricket) when there are already two people(considered to be icons) around. Take the case of Vengsarkar. When he entered the Indian Cricket Team, there were two ‘little masters’ who were considered to be two of the greatest batsmen in the world. So, despite being a highly talented batsman who could handle pace, swing and spin with consummate ease, Vengsarkar had to live in their shadows for a long time. Even now, people who recollect the names of Gavaskar and Viswanath within a split second, take a while to recollect the name of Vengsarkar.

This could well have been the story of Panchu AruNachalam too. When he entered Tamizh film industry as a lyricist, there were two ‘Jaambavaans’ already. It is a different issue that one of them was his own uncle. But not the one who enjoys being in somebody’s shadows, he spread his wings and though he did not write too many songs till 1976, he wrote story-dialogues for some movies and also started producing movies. This of course continued post-1976 too but significantly he started penning more songs after this and the reason is not difficult to guess. More about this soon, but the fact that his lyrics were distinct and beautiful is not known to many. Today he is known more as a story-dialogue writer and producer who also wrote songs. This according to me is the saddest part.

Sad, because he wrote so many songs using very simple words but with powerful meanings and yet many don’t seem to recognise his greatness in this aspect. People may quote his lineage but the fact that he had a unique style cannot be denied by serious lovers of Tamizh songs. Take ‘Vizhile Malarndadhu..’ Though it is inspired by Kamban, the very first line tells a beautiful love story. ‘She blossomed in my eyes/And mingled with my soul’. Doesn’t this line alone stir the soul? And see the line in the CharaNam- ‘Paalil nei aLavu parandha punnagai’(Her smile is like the ghee in the milk). Fertile imagination!

And see this line from ‘Vaa ponmayile’..

Kaadalin Jaadaiyellam Kannazhagile’(sign of love shown in the beauty of her eyes).

And from ‘Kaadalennum Kovil’- Kaadalennum Kovil Katti Vaiththen Nenjil/Poojai Seithen Paatisaiththen/Devi VandaaL Neril( I built a Temple of Love in my heart/ I worshipped doing Pooja and Sang/ She came).

If these show his romantic side, songs like ‘Vaazhkkaiye Vesham’, ‘Oru Veedu Iru ULLam’ showed his philosophical side.

That reminds me of an eternal favourite of mine- ‘Oru NaaL Unnodu Oru NaaL’- in which he ends the song with ‘Kaaviyam Pole Vaazhndiruppom/Aayiram Nilavai Paarthiruppom’. The irony here is that the couple knew they would die very soon.

These are just samples and I can go on and on. I remember writing in one post sometime back in one of the online forums that whenever possible, I would surely write more about his poetic sense. Finally, it had to happen today. But this will be an ongoing process and I shall take up his lyrics now and then in my posts.

The fact that he was the one who introduced somebody -despite some stiff  resistance and opposition- who has now become my raison d’ĂȘtre, is reason enough for me to thank Panchu sir a million times. But it is also a fact that I love his lyrics which sound more beautiful in Raaja sir’s music. I am reminded of my childhood days when I would jump with excitement whenever the announcer (on radio) said ‘Paadal- Panchu AruNachalam’ because I knew what would follow(Isai-ILaiyaraaja). Of course occasionally I have been fooled too when they played ‘Ponnezhil Pooththadhu’ or ‘Nalla Manam Vaazhga’-though these are good songs too!

Let me pay my gratitude by taking up a song in this combination- a song not known to many now.

One of the qualities of Panchu sir’s is his compassion. A very soft spoken person, he was very affectionate to his family and most importantly with all his crew members. He did not have even a single enemy as he was loved by all. Precisely because of this, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss about a song in which affection runs like Cauvery.

Whenever I listen to ‘Sandanamittu Sadiraadum Mottu’ from ‘Rusi KaNda Poonai’ (1980) my heart melts. The tune in a classic ShankarabharaNam plays no smaller part in this, but the wordings too play a huge role and this is undeniable.

Long back, his uncle wrote ‘Thottaal MaNakkum Javvadhu’( feel and touch the child and you can smell ‘javvadu’) in ‘Naan PetRa Selvam’. Here the nephew calls the child as ‘a dancing bud with the sandal paste (on its forehead)’ and ‘words as sweet as the honey’.

He continues saying ‘My mind blossoms the moment my eyes catch the sight of your face’. Of course the ‘He’ refers to the poet but let me start saying ‘she’ henceforth as the song is rendered by the mother (Suseela at her best!).

‘Beautiful smile on the lips/Golden smile on the eyes’.
‘A mother knows her child and a child knows her mother’.
‘Song from the tender heart/Dancing Memories/Resonance of relationship’.

Compassion personified!

And that honey-soaked language called Tamizh.

Without any doubt, the words shine more in the beautiful tune. But more than the tune, it is first the ‘L’ Raaja who captures my attention. So, let me start the description with the Laya aspect.

Percussion (Tabla) makes its appearance only towards the end of the Prelude though it follows the 4-beat chatushram. Even in the Pallavi, it enters only after 4 phrases. Now, it plays just one syllable-ta- for each beat and plays the first and third at the end of the second cycle.

In the first interlude, it is the western percussion and that too only in the second segment with the first and the last segments going without percussion. It is seen for a lesser duration in the second interlude.

But it is the tabla in the CharaNams that calls for a special mention. It yet again makes an appearance only at the end of the first cycle playing the first and the third syllables. Right from the next cycle, it plays one syllable per beat for the first three beats and then the first and third at the fourth beat. This continues but the master innovator makes a subtle change in the second part. The Tabla plays ‘ta’ for all the beats in one cycle and then plays the first and the third at the end of the next cycle. This pattern continues for the next two cycles. Note also the sangati when the first line is rendered the second time.

The Master of Orchestration and Arrangement does it yet again with the wonderful use of the violins, flute, the keys and the guitar.

The interplay between the violin and the flute in the prelude is tranquil. The violin in fact gives the special ‘pidis’ of ShankarabharaNam effortlessly with the flute following suit. All through, the keys bubble with energy.

It is the violin again in the first interlude. Or rather violins.. The interlude starts with the solo violin which plays with a finesse. Suddenly two violins decide to enter with one playing in Indian classical style and the other in Western classical style. Of course both play together giving a very special experience.

The violin enters again in the second interlude but this time playing the same piece repeatedly to the backing of the bass guitar. It does this because it wants to give a chance to its friend –the flute- a chance and what an opportunity it is for the flute now. It glitters, sparkles and dazzles.

It is O’Henry Raaja again with the guitar making a sudden vibrant entry.

It is vibrant, dazzling, serene and most importantly compassionate.

And this was what was Panchu AruNachalam’s life all about..

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