Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan is a very popular carnatic violinist. He is one of the successful rebels in the field. His katcheris are a mixture of classical and commercial blend. In his classical concert he will play kallum muLLum kaalukku meththai (Iyyappa song) and in the end say ‘samiyae saranam Iyyappa’ in his violin. If you go to his house he will say ‘vaanga saar vaanga, enna sappidaringa? Kaappiya, teaya?’ in madhyama sthayi in his violin. If you say tea then he will turn inside and signal his wife in the kitchen ‘adiyae… saarukku oru cup tea konda’ in thara sthayi, of course, in his violin! He doesn’t talk much, you know…. Only his violin….!
Kunnakudi produced one family movie. It was a true family movie in the sense that he produced that movie, his son-in-law Mr. Ramakrishnan directed that movie (hope it is correct), and maybe, a couple of his other relatives were employed as the light-boys in the production of that movie. Unfortunately,the movie became an example of a perfect family movie in another sense too, that is, only Kunnakudi’s family saw that movie! I was one poor soul who got to see that movie Thodi Raagam by the quirk of wicked fate! The hero was T.N.Seshagopalan. His lovely heroine was Nalini! Kunnakudi had tried to make some typical cinema story like, Seshagopalan, a famed musician pledging Thodi raagam to the villain, and finally redeeming it in the last scene. I forgot if there was any heroic stunt sequences in the last scene, when Seshagopalan redeems his Thodi back by befelling a dozen villains in a single punch with his fist! In this materialistic world who can escape ‘sabalam’? Seshagopalan probably thought that the movie would be a big hit like Shakunthala starring G.N.Balasubramaniam and M.Subulakshmi, and that he could become super hero like Rajini and make lot of money!
Anyway, coming to the point, there was a good song in that movie in the raagam Kalyani. It was vaa vaa thalaivaa vaa. As I vaguely remember, it was a good Kalyani. But, because of the dismal fate of that movie, that song did not become a hit. Even if the film had been a success, I doubt whether the song would have been received favourably by the common rasika. Because, the song is like a mini-katcheri! It is unlikely that a duet in which the hero and heroine exchange their love in a katcheri format will be liked by the common audience of the present day cinema world. So, you have no other go other than cinematizing a raaga so that it is appealing. You may have to compromise in loosing some purity of the raagam.
Considering this tight situation that music directors face in handling a raagam in cinema, I really wonder how Ilayaraja could give the same Kalyani as in Kunnakudi’s vaa vaa thalaivaa without even an iota of compromise in the purity, and yet be very appealing to the common rasika. Oh God! How many Kalyanis he has to his credit! The single most common melakartha raagam that he used was Kalyani. He should have scored at least 25 songs in Kalyani. This 65th melakartha raagam, is neither too much gamaka oriented nor very light. It is this quality of Kalyani that made him use it left and right! You don’t have to employ violent shakes of the swaras to show the colour of Kalyani! Simple swara phrases would suffice, to establish the raaga identity. Since not much of gamaka is needed, you wouldn’t be violating the so called cinema melody.
Probably his first Kalyani came in Uthiri Pookal. It was a fantastic movie, directed by the avant garde director Mahendran. Aswini and Vijayan are husband and wife. Vijayan is hero cum villain. Aswini’s younger sister (I forgot who it was) is a jolly type teen female. She is the one who sings that Kalyani song naan paada varuvaayO in that movie. She sits in a small sand crest in the middle of a river and sings that song. S.Janaki had done a real good job making all sorts of ‘konashtai’ in that song! This female is later raped by Vijayan, and that becomes the key knot in that movie. Uthiri pookal was a much talked about movie. After that, how many Kalyanis followed like train of programmed events from the recording theatre of Ilayaraja!
jananI jananI in the movie Thai Mookaambigai was a terrific hit song. It was an excellant classical piece sung by Ilayaraja, Deepan Chakravarthy & Co. (He had the arrogance to push better singers to the back row, you know!). That song was rich in lyrics too. He has taken extra care to pronounce Sanskrit words in that song like ‘shakthi peetamum nee, sarva mokshamum nee’ as Sanskrit sounding. Good job! Look at the ‘dhamathoondu’ version of Adi Sankarachariyar’s advaitha philosophy in that song. ‘Janani janani, Jagam nee agam nee’. He said the same thing, right?
Then came his superb Kalyani in director Maniratnam’s first movie Pagal Nilavu. That is vaidEgi raaman kai sErum nEram. S.Janaki again. Radhika dances for this song. The rhythm in this song is wonderful. A blend of guitar and mridangam. He gave some of his Kalyanis in lighter form like those in the songs thEvan thandha veeNai (Unnai Naan Sandhithen) and veLLai puraa onRu Engudhu (Pudhu Kavidhai) etc. thEvan thandha veeNai has one speciality to it. It was a song written by Kaviarasu Kannadasan and it was posthumously used in the cinema. Look at Kannadasan’s opening lines in that song: thEvan thandha veeNai, adhil dhEvi seydha gaanam, thEdum kaigaL theeNdinaal adhil raagam inRi pOgumO? Yes, anybody could have a veenai, but to get a raagam out of it only some fingers can do it!
In the movie Sindhu Bhairavi he tried to do some technical innovation in Kalyani raagam. That is, in the song kalaivaaNiyE, it was widely publicised by K.Balachandar & Co, (who were literally at the mercy of Ilayaraja for the success of the movie), that that song was composed in aarohanam alone. Okay, what if a song is set in aarohanam alone, does the rasika get a special kind of melody? It was just an ordinary song. But a good piece of Kalyani. The song in Uyarnda Ullam, vandhaaL mahaalakshmiyE was a fantastic Kalyani. The situation for that song was funny. Kamal Hassan, a derilict, who loses all his money sings that song in praise of Ambika’s entry into his house (of course, she sets him right and stands a great support to him). S.P.Balu had made all sorts of ‘konashtai’ in that song. This is one good example for how to popularize classical music. It is pure 24 carat Kalyani. In Soorasamharam he has given another form of 24 carat Kalyani (naan enbadhu nee allavO). He introduced his troup’s flautist Arunmozhi as singer in that song. In the charanam, when they sing paadinEn paN padinEn, it is beatiful combination of swaras Ni Ri Ga Ma Pa. It is simply superb. A similar song is malayoram mayilae in the movie Oruvar Vazhum Aalayam. Almost each of the lines in this song, he renders in two sangathis, like for example vilayaattai solli thandhadhaaru first in Pa Pa Pa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Sa Ga Ri GA Sa. Then later, the same line is given in Pa Pa Pa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Ma Ga Ri SA. Great Kalyani! I think his latest Kalyani is ammaavenRazhaikkaatha uyirillaiyE (Rajni’s Mannan). In Thalapadhi also there is one good Kalyani: yamunai aatrilE… Some north indian singer (Mithali) sang that song.
Amir Kalyani is a janyam of Kalyani. Though it is Amir Kalyani, it is ‘garib’ in its scope. Not much, you see…! The key phrase in it is Ma2 Pa Da Ma1 using both the madhyamams. Viswanathan/Ramamurthy made an indelible mark in this in their ‘ennuyir thozhi’ in karnan. Then, V.S.Narasimhan established his classical heritage (I heard his father is some carnatic big shot) in the song manasukkuL ukkaanrdhu maMiyadiththaay in Kalyana Agadhigal. At last came Ilayaraja’s Amir Kalyani, in veeNai Endhum vaaNiyE (Vietnam Colony). I heard that Bombay Jayashree has sung this song. It is a good Amir Kalyani. Let us see if Bombay Jayashree attains eminance like Unnikrishnan in cinema music. More ‘dabbu’ in cinema, man!
Saranga is another Kalyani janyam. A beautiful, vakra raagam, again with double madhyamam. (Why Kalyani has many double madhyama janyams?) MSV has scored an excellant Saranga in konjum nEram ennai maranthen. TMS voice is honey in this song. Ilayaraja gave one pure Saranga in kanniyar paarvai thanai in the movie Parvathi Ennai Paradi. It is the title song. When the title song was in such pure Saranga, I was lead to beleive that the subsequent songs might be in classical raagas too. But, alas, a big disappointment! You can never try to speculate what you will get from Ilayaraja at all. He has composed a fantastic song in one of Vijayakanth’s latest movie with Kasthuri. That song is kunkumam manjalukku inRu thaan nalla naaL. In that song he has used all the swaras in Kalyani other than daivatam. I don’t know whether any such raagam exists with Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma2 Pa Ni3 Sa aarohanam and avarohanam. If so what is its nomenclature?
Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Austin, Tx 78701.
From Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These are the quotes I found most… how shall I put it… eye-opening. Paradigm-shifting.
“..the patriotic archbishop of Canterbury found it advisable-”
“Found WHAT?” said the Duck.
“Found IT,” the Mouse replied rather crossly. “Of course you know what ‘it’ means.”
“I know what ‘it’ means well enough, when I find a thing,” said the Duck: “it’s generally a frog or a worm. The question is, what did the archbishop find?”
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where-” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
“To begin with,” said the Cat, “a dog’s not mad. Do you grant that?”
“I suppose so,” said Alice.
“Well, then,” the Cat went on, “you see a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags it’s tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.”
“I can’t believe THAT!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” said the Queen in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”
“I can’t remember things before they happen.”
“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else – if you ran fast for a long time as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep you in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
“Fan her head!” the Red Queen anxiously interrupted. “She’ll be feverish after so much thinking.”
“Five nights are warmer than one night, then?” Alice ventured to ask.
“Five times as warm, of course.”
“But they should also be five times as cold, by the same rule – “
“Just so!” cried the Red Queen. “Five times as warm, AND five times as cold – just as I’m five times as rich as you are, AND five times as clever!”
Subhapanthuvarali is a ‘bayangara soga’ raagam. If you hear it you will cry; I will cry; ‘saraa log’ will cry. Given the conditional event of Rajiv Gandhi or Indira Gandhi’s death occuring, Subhapanthuvarali played on the radio or TV by some ‘thenga moodi’ bhagavathar during the days of mourning will make even those music insensitive Indira Congress leaders shed at least ‘crocodile tears’! Can you imagine this raagam being used in the cinema for a sexy scene like that in ‘Hot Shots’ in which the hero Charlie Sheen fries eggs on the heroine’s umbilicus as though it was a bunzen burner?! Yes, there is a song in Subhapanthuvarali for a situation like the above said, in the movie Getti Melam. That was the first movie in which director Visu joined Ilayaraja, starring Karthik and Sasikala. Visu had tried some sexploitation in that song sequence by bringing Sasikala in swimsuit for few minutes, Karthik grazing over her all the time! The song is dhagamae undanathe, thindaaduthe manamae. That was pure Subhapanthuvarali. Maybe it evoked sexy mood. Maybe not! Neither the movie nor the song was a big hit. Perhaps the failure was only due to the ineptitude of the raaga selection. Visu never joined with Ilayaraja after that!
Ilayaraja has used Subhapanthuvarali umpteen number of times for sad situations. His first Subhapanthuvarali came in vaigaraiyil vaigai karaiyil in Payanangal Mudivadhillai. S.P.B had done a wonderful job in that. The song was a big hit as were the other numbers in that movie. Ilayaraja and director R.Sundarajan reportedly had a physical fight about who was the main reason for the movie’s hit! Childish fellows! After sometime, R.Sundarajan became a pal with Ilayaraja once again, reconciling to the fact that Ilayaraja was indispensable at that period of time when he was at his peak. Some of his other Subhapanthuvarali are madhavan azhakiraan in Rajni’s Raghavendra, one song in Valli (enna enna kanavu kandayo). In Paadu Nilaave he used Subhapanthuvarali for one situation in which the hero and heroine enter into some sort of music competetion. That song is vaa veliyae intha kootai vittu. Mano and Chitra. Mano had shown his vocal gymnastic skills in the thara sthayi sancharas in that song.
Subhapanthuvarali is the 45th melakartha raagam. One raaga before that, (i.e. 44th) we have Bavapriya raagam. Ilayaraja has composed one song in this scale. That is kandupudichchEn kandupudichchEn in Guru Sishyan. One of my friend said that some carnatic big shot (Sudha Raghunathan or someone) told in an interview in MTV that it was a good Bavapriya and that Ilayaraja had used this ‘soga raagam’ in that funny situation in which Prabhu humours Rajini about his new love affair with Gowthami. I would simply say that it was a good song in Bavapriya scale. Thats all! Similarly there is a good song in the suddha madhyama raaga scale of Subhapanthuvarali, that is, Dhenuka. It is the song in Thooral Ninnu Pochu: en sOga kathaiya kELu. Let us simply call this as set in Dhenuka scale (with few slips) and not as Dhenuka raagam.
The sixth raaga from Subhapanthuvarali, i.e. 51st mela raagam, is Panthuvarali. Ilayaraja has conspicuously not produced any good number in Panthuvarali.The only one that I know is the re-recording in Raja Paarvai in which blind Kamal plays violin with the troup. I forgot the situation for that in the movie. Sa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Sa Ri Ni Sa… that is how the recording goes. Though it is usually quoted as good Panthuvarali, I did not like it very much. He had tried some fusion in that. Nothing can beat MSV’s ezhu swarangalukul in Panthuvarali. It is like listening to a katcheri. Vani Jayaram’s performance was terrific. Did she get national award for that song? Perhaps, it is because of this song that she always says that MSV is the best music director who gave carnatic music in pure form, forgetting about Ilayaraja’s inRaikku yEn indha (Vaidhegi Kaathirundhaal) and other innumerable etceteras. Maybe, Ilayaraja stopped giving her chance to sing in his movies only because she praised MSV all the time!
Ilayaraja was very prolific in the sudha madhyama counterpart of Panthuvarali, that is Mayamalavagowlai. Since Mayamalavagowlai is relatively very flexible, you can distinctly show the colour of the raaga just by traversing its notes alone. Not much of gamakam is needed. You can use this for all kinds of situation like sadness, happiness etc. Ilayaraja has completely exploited this raagam to the point of its fullest use, so that no other music director can bring out any better than him from this raaga. His first song in this scale probably came in Ponnu Ooruku Pudhusu (enna paattu paada enna thaaLam pOda!). His other Mayamalavagowlai are manjaL nilavukku inRu (Mudhal Iravu), andhi varum nEram (Mundhanai Mudichu), madhurai mari kozhundhu (Enga Ooru Paattukaaran), uyirE uyirE urugaadhE (Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam), illam kaadhal veeNai (Vellai Pura Onru), raama naamam oru vEdhamE (Sri Raghavendra), maasaru ponnE varuga (Thevar Magan), en thayenum koyilai (Aranmanai Kili), kottu kali kottu (Chinnavar), poova eduththu vachchu (Amman Koil Kizhakaalae). There are so many songs, that quoting all would be cumbersome. Some of them have actually been tuned in tappanguthu situations. In Bharathiraja’s Ennuyir Thozhan, there is a song machchi en mannaru. It is a pukka Mayamalavagowlai (even though it is tappanguthu). That song has the following lyrics:
Machchi en mannaru mansukkula bejaru,
Touch pannaru, takkara poanaru,
Daavu oru daavu naan kaatum naerum…
Sammunu sammunu vaasam sallunu sallunu veesum…
Though I’ve not seen this movie, from the lyrics I guess that the song situation should be like this: The poor pettai rowdy hero buys a new autorickshaw and shows it to his lady love and sings a song! In the charanam of that song look what the heroine asks the hero to buy for her! Not jewelry! Not house or ‘bahuth keemthi property’! Not new silk dresses! Just two tickets for matinee show to a Rajini’s movie so that they both can go! Thats all! Also, in the charanam the hero says to the heroine ‘kaavEri aaraattam odaathE nee mE… koovam thaan naamE..’ Funny! Isn’t it? It is as though these people are just talking in Madras language in that song. Good depiction of poor class life. Even though the thamizh kaavalargal purists might say that this song is a kuppai, I liked the lyrics very much. How else can you write for a situation in which ‘pettai rowdi’ sings a song? In kottu kali kottu (Chinnavar), he has extracted heavy vocal support from SPB and Chitra, making them go up and down the scale in beautiful array of swaras. You should have listened to it to appreciate it. One of his Mayamalavagowlai closely resembles one of MSV’s song. It is enge naan kanbaen in A.S.Prakasam’s Sadhanai. It is just like kallellaam maaNikka kallaagumaa (Aalayamani). He should have definitely got the idea for that song from MSV’s above said song. Some MSV fans might call this as blatant plagiarism! Is it? I don’t know.
Considering the panchama varjaya raagam of Mayamalavagowlai, he was the only one who ever used it so far! That is the Lalitha raagam. It seems to be a recent attraction to him. The first Lalitha came in Unnal Mudiyum Thambi, when Kamal sings a duet with L.A.K.Malam, as the heroine Seetha calls herself (as shit!) derogatively in that movie! idhazhil kadhai ezhudhum is a great Lalitha. Ilayaraja should have definitely got the idea for this tune from Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s heranmayim lakshmim. To me, the movements of both the song and keerthanai seem similar. But Dikshitar ingeniously starts the keerthanai in suddha daivatam. The continuity of the tune that Ilayaraja has maintained in idhazhil kadhai ezhudhum, the step by step progression from one swara to another, the development of superb sangathis, each and every bit in that tune is simply excellant. This song is like a milestone in Thamizh cine-music. Gangai Amaran’s lyrics is unusually wonderful, matching his another brother paavalar Varadharajan’s maNNil indha kaadhal (Keladi Kanmani). He proved himself a poet in this song! Subsequently, following the hit of his first Lalitha, Ilayaraja tried another shot of ‘half-boiled Lalitha’ in iLam kuyilE kuyil tharum isaiyE (Priyanka). The start of this song is like Ma Ma Ma Da Sa Ni Da Ma Ma Da Ma Da Sa Ni Ma Da Ga Ma Ri Ga Sa. A beautiful start indeed! But the tune gets spoiled in the charanam. I am told that there is another of his Lalitha trials in Veera too. I understand that it is like a small virutham (thirumagal un) sung by Arun Mozhi. I have not heard it so far.
Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Austin, Tx 78701.
There are very few instances in which the identity of a rare raaga in a cinema song is so well handled and shown (to the extent that) we could even use these songs as good a reference as keerthanas for those respective raagas. To quote a few, K.V.Mahadevan’s paattum naanE (Thiruvilayaadal) in the raagam Gowrimanohari, M.K.Thiagaraja Bhagavathar’s soppana vaazhvil magizhndhu in the raagam Vijayanaagari. These are uncommonly sung raagas. It is true that there are excellant keerthanais like gurulekha (Gowrimanohari) in these raagas. But to a common rasika, it could be gone ahead and suggested paattum naanE to understand Gowrimanohari, because KVM has handled it in splendid form. The way T.M.S starts the song in thara sthayi rishabham with his perfect voice and renders it, it is like eating a ‘nila pournami’ feast in the banks of kaveri. That song has become an absolute reference for Gowrimanohari. The question is: Has Ilayaraja any such ‘reference’ songs to his credit? Yes. Many!
Bhaavani is the 41st melakartha raaga. It is the 2nd raaga to the right from Jalavarali! It has the following arohanam and avarohanam: Sa Ri1 Ga1 Ma2 Pa Da2 Ni3 Sa, and Sa Ni3 Da2 Pa Ma2 Ga1 Ri1 Sa. I have never heard any keerthanai in this raaga. How did Ilayaraja get the sudden idea of scoring a tune in this complex vivaadi raaga? Would it be a hit with all its vivaadi swaras? Did he or Kamalhaasan have any apprehension? If they had had, maybe we would’t have got this wonderful song paarththa vizhi paarththa padi in Guna. It is a perfect song suiting the situation in which Kamal (a nut case) sees the heroine in a temple and falls in instant love with her. That heroine, Roshni (or something) was a delight to see in that movie. The song starts like this Sa Pa Pa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Da Sa Ri Ga… Before the song there is a virutham like piece sung by the chorus. He has handled the beauty of the vivaadhi swaras in that raaga very very nicely. When you hear the words ‘charanam charanam’ set in the swaras, Sa Sa Ga Ri Sa it sends a thrill in your perceptual apparatus. Since the uttaranga swaras of this raaga consist of chatusruthi daivatham and kaakali nishadam, it has a quality like that of Kalyani (with a pradhi madhyamam). In the interlude of this song the chorus traverse in the melodious regions of the raaga (Pa Da Ni Sa). Unfortunately I don’t remember the words. Maybe the lyrics is good too. Yesudoss has done a fantastic job. Even though the recording scale of this song is only around ‘oru kattai’, how is that it sounds as though he is reaching big heights when he sings the same pallavi in the thara sthayi? It sounds so pleasant to hear! This song is a very good good referance for Bhaavani raagam.
Are there any cinema songs in raagam Hemavathi? It was a good surprise recently when I came to know that Ilayaraja has ventured into this raagam also for first time (maybe, in thamizh film song history). That song is in the movie Pudhupatti Ponnuthayee starring Radhika. manam pOla maangalyam is a good example of Hemavathi. S.Janaki (the best vocal support he ever got) has sung this song. This movie is like some modern Thillana Mohanaambaal. Some big shot has given accompaniment in nadhaswaram in this song. He has started the pallavi in thara sthayi gandaaram. Ga Ri Sa Sa Ni Sa NI Sa Ni Da… That is how the song goes. It is really good and pure!
Considering the sudha madhyamam of Hemavathi, the raaga giant ‘Karaharapriya’, Ilayaraja has few pure numbers in it. Of course nothing can beat M.S.Viswanathan’s maadhavi pon mayilaal. Probably Ilayaraja first tried Karaharapriya in pure form in poo malarndhida in the movie Tik Tik Tik. The interlude violin pieces and K.J.Yesudoss’s swara alapana in that song are fantastic. For such a good tune, the lyrics was very bad. I distinctly remember how the triple x filled words in the charanam like ‘padukayil…’ got more famous than the tune in our school! Ilayaraja should have paid more attention to the lyrics at least when his tunes were purely carnatic. Mmmmm…. Who cared? It was all money for him! His other pure karnatic Karaharapriya are aanandham pongida pongida (Sirai Paravai), thaanaa vandha sandhanamE (Ooru Vittu Ooru Vandhu). In aanandham pongida pongida, the upper sancharas are excellant, like Ga Ga Ri Sa Ri Ga Ma Ga… Again,the song has been sung by Yesudoss. His voice is superb for this kind of songs. thaanaa vandha sandhanamE came as a pleasant surprise in his brother Gangai Amaran directed movie. This song was not a big hit. Probably all the attention went to sorgamE enRaalum in the same movie in raagam Hamsanadam (but for few slips). In ‘thaana’ (SPB), he has handled some wonderful nuances of Karaharapriya, like Ga Ri Ni Da Ni… There are few more of his semi-classical tries in Karaharapriya, like maappillaikku (Netrikann) etc. Even his first song, machchana parthingala is in the Karaharapriya scale. He liked this scale a lot. Maybe, neo-rasikas would call all of them as pure Karaharapriya.
Probably the purest of his Karaharapriya came in Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi. The situation is Kamal and Gemini fight over something. The quarrel gets very intense. At this point Gemini’s dumb son (Kamal’s brother), takes his nadhaswaram and starts playing loudly, to stop his kin from quarreling further. You know what raaga Ilayaraja selected for this situation? Karaharapriya! That scene was a musical feast in that movie. The raaga was appropriately used. K.J.Yesudoss gave a charming vocal support to Ilayaraja (singing for both Kamal and Gemini). It was like a duet between Yesudoss and the the nadhaswaram! K.Balachander used this situation to show how music was a common enjoyment in Gemini’s house and how it could abate the heat of the quarell between the son and the father.
Talking about the panchama varjaya raagam of Karahapriya, that is, Sriranjani, probably Ilayaraja was the best music director to use this wonderful raaga. His first Sriranjani came as a tail bit in veLLi chalangaigaL (Kaadhal Oviyam). It was a very fast bit sang by the chorus ‘thannanthanimaiyil iru vizhi’. Even though veLLi chalangaigaL was tuned in Chandrakounse raagam, I don’t know what made him give the tail bit to Sriranjani (a very strange guy, you know!) The second Sriranjani attempt came in naadhavinOdhangal in Salangai Oli. Even in this song he tuned the pallavi alone in Sriranjani, with charanam in Hamsaanandi. This is what I dislike in cinema music directors. Why can’t they adhere to a single raaga? Why do they have to change from pallavi to charanam? Ilayaraja was the one who did best justice to carnatic music among modern music directors. But even he fell a prey to such deviations (from purist point of view) like changing the raaga for each line in few songs. His best Sriranjani came in naadham ezhundhadhadi in Gopura Vaasalile. Again, Yesudoss! It was really fantastic. Karthik had given a comic act in that song. Probably that song toppled M.S.V’s best Sriranjani naadham enum kOvililE. Dit it? I would say yes.
Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Austin, Tx 78701.
Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on education is brilliant and funny. Some quotes that struck me:
If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that has been on parade the last four days, what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.
If you were to visit education as an alien and say “What’s it for?”, I think you’d have to conclude, if you look at the output, that the whole purpose of public education throughout the world, is to produce university professors. Isn’t it? They’re the people who come out on top, and I used to be one. (So there!) And I like university professors, but you know, we shouldn’t hold them up as the high watermark of all human achievement — they’re just a form of life.
I watch a lot of movies. Over the last year, I’ve watched over 250 movies (and read 50 books, but that’s another story). Other than making time to watch movies, my biggest problem is figuring out what to watch next.
The IMDb top 250 is a good guideline, and I’m running my way down the list. Twofifty.org has been useful to track what I’ve seen as well. But I have interests outside of the IMDb Top 250, and I need a way of tracking these.
I started a “to watch” Excel sheet. But there were three problems:
So I wrote a program to do this automatically and create a Movie Wishlist. I just write the names of movies I want to see, and the program finds these movies on IMDb, gets their ratings and links them. It also goes through my “seen” movies and strikes out stuff I’ve seen.
So I can just click on the movie to see what it’s about. I can sort by rating or votes to decide what to see next. And I don’t have to manually strike out anything.
Recently, I watched the movie Chembaruthi on video. One of those unethical, “kuppai” screen printed video cassette, you know, that gives you a vision like that of a “soda-butti” watching TV without his spectacles! Ilayaraja has done a fantastic job in that movie. Though I had heared all those songs many times while I was in India, watching that movie created a reminiscent train of thoughts in my mind, about Ilayaraja, his music, the dramatic change he brought about in Thamizh cinema. I thought that it would be worthwhile to discuss his music, particularly the CLASSICAL aspect! I am aware that it is not possible to write about all his carnatic oriented songs, about how he has handled those raagas, how he has deviated from the classical style etc. But it would definitely be interesting to pour out our ideas once in a while in a random order of the raagas covered by him.
In Chembaruthi there are six songs, out of which 4 are carnatic based. All the songs were “sooper hits”. To a guy who knows carnatic music, the raagas are explicit, and to a non-classical rasika, they are just great tunes! This was one of his specialities, to give the raaga in almost good shape and also make a good cinema tune out of it. And of course, the rhythm should give scope for good dance movements so that the hero and heroine could share their love by dancing! Maybe, many of his tunes have to be branded as semi-classical or light music (even though the raaga form might be pure) only because of this rhythm factor.
Chalakku Chalakku Selai is one good number in Chakravaagam. There is no impurity in the tune (like any anniya swaram). He has confined to classical 16th, Sa Ri1 Ga3 Ma1 Pa Da2 Ni2 Sa. Of course, not to mention, that the lyrics are very bad, fighting to degrade the song from semi-classical to light music. In the charanam the heroine says kalyaaNam aagaama paay pOda vENaam, ennaala aagaadhu aamaam. You know, some good heroines with morality do say such deterrant, anti pre-marital sex things to the always advancing heroes!
Ilayaraja has only few Chakravaagams in his account. In the janya raagas of Chakravaagam, he has excellent numbers. Like, Malayamaarutham…. Sa Ri1 Ga3 Pa Da2 Ni2 Sa, Sa Ni2 Da2 Pa Ga3 Ri1 Sa. His first malayamarutham came as a pleasant surprise in Sridhar’s movie (for whom he always had a soft corner) Thenralae ennai thodu. I distinctly remember how the ‘Ananda Vikatan’ magazine wrote in glowing terms about kannmani nee vara kathirunthen song in Malayamaarutham. Yesudoss and Uma Ramanan had done a wonderful job in that song. Ga Pa Da Sa Ni Da Pa Da Pa Ga, Ga Pa Ga Sa Sa Ri. What a wonderful start! The sharp rishabam gave a beautiful colour to this song. Maybe Ilayaraja’s first Malayamaarutham was poojaikkaaga vaazhum in Kaadhal Oviyam. That was a good song too. Deepan Chakravarthi had struggled to keep in pace with that tune (like some violinists get into trouble with Seshagopalan’s pace!). Then came thenRal vandhu muthamittathu in Malayamaarutham in Oru Odai Nadhiyaagiradhu (another Sridhar’s movie). Gosh! That was a fast song too. Krishnachandar and S.P.Shailaja tried their best, but probably spoiled it. Particularly, S.P.Shailaja has sung like the shrill sound you hear when you apply the breaks on a car that you bought for $500! There are two other songs in which he has deleted both Ni and Ma in Chakravaagam. I don’t think that such a raaga exists in carnatic music with any known name. Those two songs are amudhE thamizhae (Kovil Pura), and nila kuyilae (Magudi). They are simply excellent. One should be an artist and play those songs to know their quality. amudhE thamizhae starts like Sa Ri Ga, Sa Ri Ga, Sa Ri Ga Pa Ga Ri Sa, Sa Ri Sa Da Sa… Pulamai Pithan’s lyrics glorified that song. In the charanam he says, if you listen to and speak Thamizh, oon mezhugai urugum, athil ulagam karainthu pogum, such is the beauty of this language! One cannot write any better, about the greatness of Thamizh language. (Those people like Thamizh Vendhan & co, who have no other job other than inundating the S.C.T with meaningless news about Thamizh Ezham, now, have a point!).
I vaguely remember a song “naan irrukka bayam etharkku” (Kuva Kuva Vaathukkal?) At that time, when I had primitive carnatic music knowledge, I had diagnosed that song as “Valaji” (Rishabam deleted in Malayamarutham, Sa Ga Pa Da Ni Sa, Sa Ni Da Pa Ga Sa, you can say that it is a janyam of Chakravaagam too, even though theorists might say ‘janyam of Harikambodi’). Maybe, that song is indeed Valaji. Ilayaraja has few songs in Revathi, another 16 Janyam. Perhaps the best onces are sangitha jaathi mullai (Kaadhal Oviyam) and kanavu onru thonruthe (Oru Odai Nadhiyaagiradhu). But I personally feel that MSV’s melodious use of Revathi is unparalleled in the song manthira punnagai (Manal Kayiru).
So much about Chakravaagam and its janyams and Ilayaraja. In Chembaruthi, two of the 4 carnatic songs, are in Sindhu Bhairavi raagam. They are kaadhalilE ezhumbura alaigaLai and “kadalile thanimaiyil”. Ilayaraja himself has sung the former (thso, thso rendition) and Nagoor Hanifa the latter. Both these songs are excellent Sindhu Bhairavi’s. One in three of all cinema songs are in Sindhu Bhairavi scale (one of the commonest cinema melodies, like the 20th mela Natabhairavi). Ilayaraja has innumerable songs in Sindhu Bhairavi, a variegated population from valai osai kalakala ena to shenbagame shenbagame etc. One cannot list all of them. But, probably MSV’s Unnakenna Mele Ninrai (Simla Special) is the best of Sindhu Bhairavi. In kaadhalilE ezhumbura the lyrics is unusually good. Probably, Muthulingam or whoever was the lyricist, had a strong tea before writing that song! That song goes to tell the pathetic life of fishermen. The lyrisict says in pallavi kadal thaneer karikudu kaaranam irukkudu, meenavar vidugira viyarvaikal kadalile kalakudu… (Sea water is saline because of fishermen’s sweat). Good idea, ain’t it?
Lastly,there is one song in Kaappi raaam in Chembaruthi: chembaruththi poovu (after decades, Banumathi Ramakrishna sang a tail piece of this song). His other Kaappi are ada maappiLLai (Siva), hei paadal onru (priya). As far as I know Ilayaraja is the only one who used Kaappi in cinema. All of them are good. He starts ada maappiLLai like, Ma Ga3 Ga3 Ma Pa, Pa Ma Ga3 Ma Ni2 Pa Ga2 Ri Sa Ni3 Sa Sa. Wonderful start! To start Kaappi in madhyamam and use its key phrase ‘Ga3 Ma Ni2 Pa Ga2 Ri Sa Ni3’ at the very beginning is an excellent approach to the tune. This is one of the instance in which his classical ‘vidwat’ was manifest. Even in chembaruthi poovu he uses the bashangam of Kaappi, in the very beginning, like, ‘Pa NI2 Ma Pa Ni3 Sa’. Why did he choose to score tune in Kaappi for both these above situations in which the bride and the groom are humoured by the ‘thozhan’ and ‘thozhiyar’ on the occasion of their betrothal. Is their any definite pattern that he follows in scoring tunes for situation? Maybe.
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