Classical Ilayaraja 15

This is the 15th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

Dharmavathi is the 59th melakartha raagam. Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma2 Pa Da2 Ni3 Sa as arohanam and the converse as avarohanam. It is the prathimadhyamam of Gowrimanohari (23rd melam). About couple of years ago Rahman tuned a superb Dharmavathi song in Vandicholai Chinnarasu. The song is sugam sugam vendum. I think the singer of the song is Vani Jayaram. It is one of the best songs that Rahman has tuned in his short career so far. It is a very sexy song. He starts the tune in the madhyama sthayi like Sa Ga Sa Ga, with a very very prominent chord sequences in the background. While another song from the same movie became a good hit (senthamizh naatu thamizhacheeyE sung by the late Shahul Ameed), this lovely song based on a pure classical raagam did not become a hit. Earlier, Rahman has tuned one more Dharmavathi in the movie Gentleman. The song is ottagathai kattikko, which came as an unbelievable melody in that movie with a fantastic rhythm played in the pukka South Indian instrument “thavil”.

Of course, Rahman had exhibited the usual (predictable) “cinema musician’s tendency” of deviating from the raagam by using some foreign swaras in both the above songs. Even though there is predominant use of Da2 in sugam sugam, in the charanam he uses Da3 Ni3 prayogam like Neethimathi raagam (60th melam). In ottagathai kattikko, he very liberally uses both Ni2 and Ni3, making it difficult to bring it under either Hemavathi (58th melam) or Dharmavathi. For our purposes to discuss Dharmavathi, I called ottagathai kattiko as Dharmavathi in this essay.

Rahman said in one of his early interviews that he avoided listening to contemporary music as did not want to get influenced by that music. He wants his music to be original and new! Alright bro, make music without the influence of your forefathers! Let us see, if you can!

This is an ever changing world. People are born constantly and people are dead similarly. We all have come into the world not like Mr. Jesus Christ without a father. We have our roots strongly based on our immediate previous generation, and less significantly on the innumerable generations in-between from the ages of origin of man to now. Newtonian concept of gravity was put to disuse by the “nascent” Einsteinian concept in the 20th century. The important thing to remember and appreciate is that Newton did prominent work on gravity before, and his ideas pre-existed the period of Einstein. If it were not for Newton to intrigue Einstein, the latter would not have become such a great scientist. If it were not for the stimulus of advaitha of Sankara, neither would have Ramanujam come up with his visishtadvaitha, nor Madvacharya with his dvaitha philosophy. Nature requires a pre-existent state to progress to the next state. It sends Nagesh first in the time window to do his comedy and then Vadivelu. It sends Shatrugan Sinha first and then later Rajnikanth. We are all a small part of the continuously self-propagating enormous force that originated in the big bang. Nobody can molt the profound ancestral influence to become a “new” creator (in absolute terms).

Ilayaraja too, has tuned wonderful Dharmavathi’s. His first was probably in the movie Vikram. The song is meendum meendum vaa. S.P.Balasubramaniam and S.Janaki! He starts his song in madhya sthayi like Sa Sa Sa Sa (meendum meendum) and then all of a sudden jumps one octave to the thara sthayi Sa (vaa). He has used Mridhangam as a wonderful rhythm support in that song. In the charanam the tune is just excellent. Pa Pa Pa Ma2 Da2 (thekku marathil) Pa Pa Pa Ma2 Da2 (sedhukki vaitha) Pa Pa Ma2 Pa Ga2 Ma2 Pa (dhegam idhu thaana). Even in the charanam he frequently jumps from madhyama sthayi Sa to thara sthayi Sa. To me, it seems like Rahman got the idea to tune his sugam sugam from meendum meendum vaa. Both are very sexy, romantic playboy channel duets! Both of them are great in their own aspects.

Ilayaraja’s possibly second Dharmavathi is illam cholai poothadha in the movie Unakkagave Vazhgiren. This was not a big hit like kanna unai thedugirEn vaa in the same movie. However, illam cholai is one of the milestones in his career. I would say that it is one of his top bests. It has been sung by S.P.B. He starts like Ma2 Pa Sa (illam cholai) Sa Ri2 Sa Ni3 (poothadhaa). He prolongs the kaakali nishadham and beautifully gives a gamakam and then travels down to panchamam. Initially he uses tabla for accompaniment and then in the charanam there is wonderful mridhangam, the usage of which is very typical of him. Listening to this song is one of the best musical experience that I have had in my life! In Varusham Padhinaaru his E aiyyaasaami is a kind of Dharmavathi with lot of mixture of Ma1. In Veera, his konji konji is quite a pure Dharmavathi. Maragadhamani has given a very pure Dharmavathi in thaththithom in Azhagan. He has excellently used keyboard with fantastic gamakams in that song.

Dharmavathi has two very melodious janya raagas. One is Ranjani. Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma2 Da2 Ni3 Sa; Sa Ni3 Da2 Ma2 Ga2 Sa. The best song in Ranjani in cinema is muthupandhalil rathina oonjalil sung by T.N.Seshagopalan in the movie Thodi Raagam. Kunnakudi has tuned it in an unparalleled manner. MSV has used Ranjani in few of his cinema raaga-malikas (Ezhuswarangalukkul has a bit of Ranjani in Aboorva Raagangal, and also ranjaniyai azhaithEn in the movie Mrudhanga Chakravarthi). The other popular janyam of Dharmavathi is Madhuvanthi. There is a subtle Ma1 usage in this raagam. In the movie Nandha En Nila, obscure music director V.Dhakshinamurthy has tuned one excellent Madhuvanthi song. The song also starts like nandha en nila. My Houston room-mate Karthik used to repeatedly listen to this song again and again for hours. If you listened to this song, you will know the addictive potential of this song. Like “heroin addict”, “ganja addict”, we can proudly call ourselves as “nandha en nila addict”! It is one of the best ever recorded Thamizh cinema song!

The 10th chakram (in other words, the 4th chakram of the prathimadhyama melaraagas) has probably the more popular raagas among the prathimadhyama melams. The 55th is Shatvidhamargini, 56th – Shanmukhapriya, 57th – Simhendra Madhyamam, 58th – Hemavathi, 59th – Dharmavathi, 60th – Neethimathi.

Ilayaraja has given a lot of Shanmukhapriya songs. thamthanathamthana thalam was his first Shanmukhapriya (in Bharathiraja’s Pudhiya Vaarpukkal). One of his very early classical ventures that proved to the Thamizh cinema world what kind he was! It is a very fast song sung by Jency. In his earlier days he seems to have really liked tuning fast songs (like mazhai varuvadhu in Rishi Moolam)! In thamthana song, the thabla rhythm, veenai and flute interlude are mesmerising. His other Shanmukhapriya songs are kaadhal kasakkudhaiyaa (Aan Paavam), thakita thadhimi (Salangai Oli), ooru vittu ooru vandhu (Karagaattakaaran), sollaayo vaai thirandhu (Moga Mull). We have to remind ourselves of the earlier music directors contribution in this raagam that includes pazham nee appa (Thiruvilayadal), muththaitharu (Arunagiri Naadhar), kurangilirundhu (Thookuthooki), maraindhirundhu (Thillana Mohanaambal). Devendran has tuned kannukkul nooru nilava in Vedham Pudhidhu. One interesting thing to note is that even Thyagarajaswami has given only one krithi in this important raagam, while cinema fellows have been handling it quite often, the maximum number being by Ilayaraja!

Shanmukhapriya uses Ri2, Ga2, Ma2, Da1 and Ni2. If we change the Ni2 to Ni3 we get Simhendra Madhyamam. Probably, his first number in this raagam came in Panneer Pushpangal. The song is aanandha raagam. This song has got one of the most abnormal starts! It starts in thaara sthayi Ga! It goes likes this: Ga2 Ri2 Sa (aanandha) Sa Ri2 Ri2 Sa (raagam). A beautiful start and a wonderful job by Uma Ramanan! His second song in this raagam came in Mukta Sundar’s debut film Kodai Mazhai. The song is kaatrodu kuzhalin naadhamE. The song has been sung by Chitra. A highly classical song. The heroine gives a dance performance on stage for this song. This song also starts in a very high pitched Ga2 of thara sthayi! I first listened to this song while watching the movie in the theatre, and the song was just gripping! His next Simhendra Madhyamam came in Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam. The song is nee pournami. He starts this song in middle octave Ri2! The song goes like this: Ri2 Ga2 Ri2 Ga2 Sa (nee..) Ga2 Ma2 Pa Ma2 Pa (pournami). The swara structuring of this song is just marvellous. He uses groups of swaras up and down like a thrilling roller-coaster ride, and later in the end of the song he starts presenting alternating swaram-sahityam sequences that are just wonderful! His last Simhendra Madhyamam song is thalaattum poongaatru in Gopura VaasalilE.

We have discussed Hemavathi raagam in our earlier essays. Nobody has tuned Shatvidhamargini or Neethimathi in cinema! These are extremely rare raagas even in classical sadas. If we just change the Ga2 to Ga3 in the raagas discussed above, we get all the important raagas of the next (11th) chakram. 63rd – Lathangi, 64th – Vachaspathi, 65th – Mesakalyani (commonly, called as Kalyani). We know that Ilayaraja was the most prolific music director in tuning Kalyani in cinema. Did anybody think that he would use the other important raagams from this chakram in the nineties?!

Once upon a time there was a director called as “P.Vasu”! He used to shoot whatever perversion that came to his mind during the most uninhibited of his dreams as films! He had the extreme fortune of getting “Ilayaraja’s kadaaksham” in most of his movies, and the films would be jam-packed with superb songs! Just because of Ilayaraja, those films would “runno runnunu run” tirelessly in the theatres, with money “fallo fallunu falling” down the roofu! Mmmmm…… Did P.Vasu know that he got one of the two great Lathaangi songs ever tuned in one of his junk movies? The first popular Lathaangi is aadaadha manamum uNdO in Mannadhi Mannan. The song has been sung by T.M.S and M.L.Vasanthakumari. Great song!

The other popular Lathangi came from the harmonium of Ilayaraja! The movie is Walter Vetrivel. The song is raasavE chitterumbu. He has presented an incredibly pure Lathangi in a “tappaanguthu kind of format” in this song. It was a mega-hit song reverbrating throughout the Thamizhnadu, from the slums to the elite! Prabhu Deva and Sukhanya dance for this song. It is one of the songs, which, when a common laymen rasika listens, he just feels it as a “great” tune, while a knowledgeable rasika immediately recognizes the intelligent use of a hardcore classical raagam and becomes wonder-struck! Ilayaraja has tuned another Lathangi in eeramaana rojavE (adhO mEga oorvalam). But, that song was not a big hit. He also gave a Vachaspathi in one of his songs, nikkatumaa pOgattumaa neela karunguyilE (Periya Veetu Pannaikkaran). A beautiful song. But, it was not a big hit. I don’t think anybody else has tuned Vachaspathi in cinema.

Vijayanagari is a janyam of Hemavathi. Actually, this raagam was “discovered” by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar in this century. He just omitted Nishadham in Hemavathi and called it as Vijayanagari. There is a famous M.K.T song soppanavaazhvil magizhndhu in this raagam. Ilayaraja tuned one Vijayanagari in paadaadha thEneekkal. The song is vanna nilavE vaigai nadhiyE. He has beautifully used the Ma2 of this raagam. But, from puritans point of view, he has done a mistake. He has also used Ga3 to give a very sad appeal to the song. That is not permissible.

Vijayanagari is very closely related to Sivaranjani. While Sivaranjani is a janyam of the 22nd melam (Karaharapriya), Vijayanagari is a janyam of the 58th (the prathimadhyamam of the 22nd). Sivaranjani is also a very “soga” raagam. Kadalai urundai is called the poor man’s meat, as it has reasonably all the essential amino acids as meat, but at a lesser cost! Like that, we could call Sivaranjani as the “cinema rasika’s Mukhari or Bhairavi” as it has the same dose of “sadness”, but, in a lighter form. Sivaranjani’s arohanam and avarohanam are: Sa Ri2 Ga2 Pa Da2 Sa; Sa Da2 Pa Ga2 Ri2 Sa. Nowadays musicians liberally use Ga3 to add beauty to this raagam.

To list all the Sivaranjani songs of Ilayaraja is impossible. To list a few that comes to the mind immediately: adi aathaadi (Kadalora Kavidhaigal), unnai thaanE (Nallavanukku Nallavan), poovaNNam pOla nenjam (Azhiyaadha Kolangal), solai pushpangalE (Ingeyum Oru Gangai), kaathirundhu (Vaidehi Kaathirundhal), pon manE (oru kaidhiyin dairy), vaa vaa anbE (Agni nakshatiram), valli valli Ena (Deiva Vaaku), adhikaalai nera kanavu (Naan Sonnadhe Sattam), kuyil paatu (en raasavin manasilE) etc. Also, Sivaranjani is one of the unique raagas in the sense that, it is probably the only raagam that has been handled by every Tom, Dick and Harry calling himself as a music director. Manoj-Kiyan tuned tholvi nilayEna (oomai vizhigal), S.A.Rajkumar tuned paattu oNNu naan paadattuma (Pudhu Vasantham), Shankar Ganesh tuned aval oru menagai (Nakshathiram), lately Rahman has tuned kannum kannum (Thiruda Thiruda), thannerai kaadhalikkum (Mr.Romeo). In Karuthamma, Rahman has scored a fantastic song (poraalE ponnuthayee). It is also Sivaranjani based, with weightage given to Ga3 (like Mohanam) in the happy version, and to Ga2 in the sad version. This song unquestionably proves that Rahman is one among the most remarkable music directors in Thamizh cinema now.

The present continuous success in the Indian filmdom might make Rahman feel as though he has gone to the top of the globe. The total ouster of Ilayaraja from the #1 position might give a feeling of superiority than other creators now. Perhaps, that is the reason why he said that he avoided listening to contemporary music! Ilayaraja had the same status once upon a time. He behaved like a narcist then! He quarrelled with everybody in the cinema field because of his superioritic complex. He spoke ill of Vairamuthu on air when both he and Vairamuthu had been selected for national award! This behavior pattern is not unique to Ilayaraja! Almost everybody who comes to the limelight for some reason seems to become gripped by the evil “conceit”! Jayalalitha performed the marriage of her step son in such a grand manner only because of “conceit”! The mind seems to constantly work with the central thought “I”, “ME”, “MINE”! Nothing else matters to the mind!

Pigs like Jayalalitha and Sasikala, Maestro’s like Ilayaraja, Rahman, superhuman beings like Mother Teresa, billionaires like Bill Gates, and all of us would be dead and sleeping in our graves in just another millennium from now! We will all be forgotten and even our own progeny would not know us! When that be the likely practical eventuality, then why conceit? 65 million years ago, in the Jurassic age, the dinosaurs ruled the earth! Where are they now? 65 million years from now, the homo-sapiens species might be extinct, and even Ilayaraja’s microgram worth of dust might not be found in that world! Then, why conceit? In the inconceivably large space-time co-ordinates of Mother Nature, the infinitesimally small human being fails to realize his mortality during his life time. He dances proudly for “HIS” achievement, fails to acknowledge other’s talents, yells at his competitor with contempt and conceit! Oh, the director of all such conceited activity – THE MIND! You are a conundrum!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 14

This is the 14th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

The invincible AIDS virus is fast spreading in India. That is news! (Accidentally turned) bigamist Thamizh writer Balakumaran once stated in an interview that women are like masturbating bowl to men in India. Yeah, lorry drivers acknowledge that statement candidly! They will take the “sarakku” from Chennai to Thirunelvelli by their overnight lorry-borne express. In the gloomily lit bus-stations in-between, they will stop not only for “barota kuruma”, but also looking for their in-expensive bowls of masturbation! There… will come the familiar figure of the betel-nut chewing red-mouthed sexy queen! Our driver’s mouth will twist into a lusty leer! The indomitable Freudian force will drive the male instrument to do its procreative job in few minutes. There… will go our night queen, having earned few bucks to support her indigent family of innumerable malnourished children. In the above encounter between the two beings, not only the rapturous joy of sex, and money will have transacted, but possibly, the seemingly indolent “HIV” fellow too!

Ilayaraja writes in his nila adhu vaanathu mElE song,

pasikkudhu pasikkudhu dhinam dhinam thaan
thinnaa pasiyadhu theerndhiduma?

Good question, boss! The hypothalamus in the brain is a “dhammathoondu” structure! You can place it on your nail top and squeeze it, like your grandmother used to squeeze the helpless lice from her hair! But, it is this “thammathoondu” structure that orchestrates the various vital functions of the body. When you have not eaten for a while, and when your blood sugar concentration falls, it is your hypothalamus that feels your hunger and instructs you to eat! When you’ve not drunk water for a while, and when your blood sodium rises (dehydration), it is this hypothalamus that senses it and drives you crazy to drink! But, Ilayaraja tries to equate “hunger for food” to “hunger for sex and pleasure”! It is true that TTC bus driver gets free food at those unhygienic hotels in Thindivanam for bringing lots of customers and business for the hotel. Maybe, that is the reason why he eats three days worth of meal when he stops for those 20 minutes during your trip from Chennai to Srirangam! That is an unusual case. Most of us eat because our hypothalamus commands us to eat after sensing our low blood sugar concentrations! But, why does the lorry driver seek courtship in the shady towns of India during his long distance operation? Nothing decreases in his blood, making the hypothalamus “hungry for sex”. The hypothalamus simply feels like having sex!

Ilayaraja showed an abnormal choice of raagam (Reethigowlai) when he tuned thalayai kuniyum in Sridhar’s Oru Odai Nadhiyagiradhu. He had done that earlier in choosing the same raagam for his chinnakannan azhaikiraan in Kavikkuyil, and then in tuning raamanin kadhai kElungal in Sippikkul Muthu. It is a very easily identifiable, very classical janya raagam that was relished by composers like Thyagaraja. But, none in the cinema arena seems to have used it in the pre-Ilayaraja period. In mid seventies, here comes the uneducated music director from Madhurai jilla….! He tunes a couple of “tappanguthu” that marks his initial success! Within 2 to 3 years after his debut, he calls one of the most memorable geniuses of Carnatic music, Shri Balamurali Krishna to sing one cinema song for him. “Alright thambi” says Balamurali, and goes to the recording theatre…..

Was Balamurali surprised initially when Ilayaraja played the tune for him in his harmonium? If I were him, I would have been! First of all, out of the blue, why Reethigowlai? Why not the hackneyed Hindholam or Mohanam? This absolutely classical raaga selection shows his desire to venture into pure, traditional raagas! It is like A.R.Rahman springing a surprise by tuning purely classical Yadhukula Kamboji interludes in kuluvaliyE (Muthu)!

Reethigowlai is the janyam of Karaharapriya (22nd melam). It is a vakra raagam and hence with a convoluted arohanam and avarohanam. Sa Ga2 Ri2 Ga2 Ma1 Ni2 Da2 Ma1 Ni2 Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Da2 Ma1 Ga2 Ma1 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ri2 Sa. Its raaga lakshanam is so unique that it gets imprinted in our mind easily. Beginners in carnatic music identify Reethigowlai rather facilely and this gives great encouragement to venture into learning other raagas. The jubilance of identifying a raaga by ourselves initially is unparalled and even a triple 800 score in GRE Pre-Test wouldn’t make you that happy! Oh man, what a joy! In that aspect, Reethgowlai could be compared to a steroid shot to Ben Johnson! In all his three Reethigowlai songs Ilayaraja presents the raagalakshanam excellently in a very concise 4 minute form.

He starts his Kavikkuyil song as Sa Ga Ri Ga (chinnakannanan) Ma Ni Ni Sa (azhaikiraan). He has just used the arohanam of Reethigowlai without any extraneous manipulation of the raagam. In his Sippikul Muthu song he goes like Sa Ga Ri Ga (raamanin) Ma Ma (kadhai) Ni Ni Sa (kElungal). A very small variation to chinnakannan song. He made lakhs of rupees for the former and lakhs for the latter! That is why he often says in interviews “there are only seven notes in music. Musicians have made infinite number of songs only with those seven notes by cheating!”. He is in a way right and in a way wrong. The above two songs are cheating of the first order. He has cheated less in thalayai kuniyum thamarayE where the pallavi goes like Da Ni Sa (thalayai) Ni Da Ma (kuniyum) Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa (thaamarayE).

Music is not just the melodious manipulation of different discrete frequencies of the continuum of “energy” commonly called as the sound. It is much more than that. There is another important variable in good music. That is the TIME! If I sing Sa today and sing Ga tomorrow, and Ri day after tomorrow and so forth sing one by one note of Ilayaraja’s chinnakannan azhaikiraan in whatever period it takes to complete the song, will it still be good music? This tells us the importance of MIND in music! There is NO music out there in the physical world! It is all in our MIND! When different swaras are sung, it is the MIND that intelligently concatenates the swaras and sees it as music. It sees a musical quality that is in actuality nonexistent in the frequencies of sound, and derives pleasure by listening to it! Following the same concept, the MIND derives “sexual pleasure” from the physical intercourse of two bodies, or “eating pleasure” from eating buttered pecan ice cream, when it is set for those appropriate moods. Behaviourly, the MIND seems to be a big pleasure seeker. Philosophically it seems to be the greatest fool in the world, constantly seeking the ephemeral, mundane pleasures that are never-the-less, virtual!

Reethigowlai is in no way related to Gowlai, Mayamalavagowlai, Kedaragowlai or Narayanagowlai. It is indeed closely related to Ananda Bhairavi about which we have discussed in our earlier essays.

Other raagas that beginners start recognizing very easily in their journey through the vast empire of carnatic music are Sahana, Kanada, Atana, Natai, Gowlai, Anandha Bhairavi etc. All the above are vakra raagas. We have two popular songs in Sahana that had a tremendous impact on the common rasika. ParthEn sirithEn (Veera Abhimanyu) and indha veenaiku in Rayil Sneham. The former tuned by K.V.Mahadevan and latter by V.S.Narasimhan. I hear that there is a song rukku rukku in Sahana in Avvai Shanmukhi. BTW, Sahana is a janyam of Harikaambojhi (28th melam) with Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma1 Pa Ma1 Da2 Ni2 Sa and Sa Ni2 Da2 Pa Ma1 Ga3 Ma1 Ri2 Ga3 Ri2 Sa. Strangely Ilayaraja does not have any Sahana product from his industry! Atana is a janyam of Sankarabharanam (29th melam) with a complex swara sequence. It is a bhashanga raagam as it has a double Nishadham. K.V.Mahadevan gave a superb Atana in yaar tharuvaar indha ariyasanam (Mahakavi Kalidas). In Salangai Oli Ilayaraja used balakanakamaya (Thaayagaiyer’s Atana composition) in the scene when Manjubarghavi dances on the stage and Kamalahasan starts dancing in the kitchen (unable to control his inherent dance flow). Atana is a very brisk and “gambeeramaana raagam”!

Chalanaatai is the last (36th) melam in the suddha madhyama raagas and hence using 3rd Ri, Ga, Da, and Ni. Ilayaraja is the only one who ever chose to use this rare raagam in cinema. The song is panivizhum malarvanam in the movie ninaivellam nithiya. Sridhar directed that movie. Oh boy, Sridhar- Ilayaraja combination has given several marvellous songs to Thamizh music! Vairamuthu’s lyrics reached wonderful heights in that song. Ilayaraja’s use of this vivadhi raagam is very intelligent and guarded, avoiding any un melodious use of the vivadhi swaras. This song proved to be a terrific hit when compared to his use of the last (72nd) melam in the prathimadhyama raagas, which is Rasikapriya. He used that raagam to tune sangeethamE in kovil pura. He starts his Chalanatai like Ga3 Ma1 Pa (unpaarvai) Ma1 Pa Ma1 Ri3 Sa (oru varam). Then he goes Ga3 Ga3 Ga3 Ga3 Ri3 Ri3 Ri3 Ri3 (inivarum munivarum) Sa Sa Ri3 Ri3 Sa Sa Sa Sa (thadumaarum kanimaram). A beautiful interplay of immediately adjacent vavadhi swaras with an unanticipated melody that is much more than you could bargain from using such raagas. In the charanam he starts using Da3 and Ni3. He starts the charanam like Sa Ni Sa Sa Pa (chelai moodum) Da Da Da Pa (illam cholai) Sa Ni Sa Sa (maalai choodum) Ri Ri Ri Sa (malar maalai). The tune development is just excellent!

I was in Srirangam when this movie was released (in early eighties). In the Vadakku uthirai veedhi sandhu, there was a guy called as “paaku cheeni”. He was so crazy with this song that the cassette would be playing all the time in his house. While playing kabadi or cricket in the streets I used to get the benefit of listening to this lilting song for free, not knowing what a rare raagam it was! Look what Vairamuthu writes in that song:

Just being seen by you is a great boon;
even an ascetic to come in future would
loose his hold on celibacy on seeing you;
you are a tree bearing beautiful fruits (breasts)

You are a garden that wears sari
you are a flower that is worn by flowers
twenty moons would shine in your finger nails;
youthful dreams would bud in our eye corners
as our fingers play on each other,
as the distance between us decreases,
the glowing light would dim and our
eyes would close (in the ecstasy of love)

Oh man, what a language he has written! An unbelievable choice of words and thought in describing the beauty of a women. In a recent song (telephone maNipOl in Indian), look how the poet describes the beauty of a women in modern terms incorporating the latest technological advances in his poetry!

Is she the one who laughs like a telephone bell
is she the one who is like a Melbourne flower
did lord Brahma use a computer to sketch her figure
has her voice been made up of digital signals
is she the latest cellular phone

A wonderful movie by Shankar with great songs by A.R.Rahman. I think the above song is by Vairamuthu. It is amazing how these poets get such novel ideas to describe a simple thing. Grandiosity seems to be an essential quality of a poet’s mind.

Naatai is a janyam of Chalanaatai. The arohanam and avarohanam of Naatai are Sa Ri3 Ga3 Ma1 Pa Ni3 Sa and Sa Ni3 Pa Ma1 Ga3 Ma1 Ri3 Sa. Notice the vakram Ga3 Ma1 Ri3 Sa. Often singers sing Natai like Chalanaatai using all the swaras. Ilayaraja used Muthuswamy Dikshidhar’s Naatai krithi mahaganapathim in the movie Sindhubhairavi. Apart from that he has tuned one Natai (peigalai nambadhE – a jolly song in Mahanadhi). Only Kamal can make such daring pictures about sexual abuse of children. In the early part of the movie, “peigalai” song has been used to show what a happy family Kamal leads. It has become a common feature in India for the government to crumble to dust once in two years costing crores of tax-payer’s rupees for re-election! People have gone immune to all these and they just seem to mind their own business (like finishing B Sc and then studying a crash course in C language programming at NIIT to become a “consultant” to come to the USA). Who cares if the government survives or falls! But, a “mahanadhi” viewer is left with tears rolling down the cheek and extreme sympathy for Kamal at the horrendous turn of events in his life (even though it is just a movie). Kudos, to Kamal!

Ilayaraja’s use of Naatai for that song is quite a surprise. He has presented a pure Naatai in that song. Ga Ma Pa (peigalai) Pa Pa Pa (nambadhE) Pa Ni Sa Ni (pinjilE) Pa Pa Pa (vembadhE). The song ends with S.Varalakshmi singing the tail piece. Gambeera Naatai is a pentatonic raagam where there is no vivadhi swaram. So, it is distinctly different from Chalanatai and Naatai. The aarohanam and avarohanam of Gambeera Naatai is Sa Ga3 Ma1 Pa Ni3 Sa and Sa Ni3 Pa Ma1 Ga3 Sa. You could call it as a janyam of Sankarabharanam or Chalanaatai. Ilayaraja’s innum ennai enna seyya pogiraai in Singaravelan has been tuned in Gambeera Naatai. He has used the raagam remarkably. S.P.B and Janaki have done wonders in the charanam where most of the tune is set in thara sthayi! Earlier T.Rajendar scored one song in the same raagam (kaadhal oorvalam ingE in Pookkalai Parikkadheergal). That is also an excellent song.

If we change the 3rd Ni in the avarohanam of Gambeera Naatai to kaisiki Nishadham (2nd Ni) we get Thillang. Ilayaraja has given few Thillangs so far. Probably the first one was kothamallee poovE in Kallukkul Eeram. His other Thillang song is manadhil urudhi vEndum in Sindhu Bhairavi (a fantastic Bharathiyar poem). Look what Bharathiyaar says in that poem: PERIYA Kadavul kaaththal vendum!! Webster’s English dictionary gives the meaning for God as “the one supreme being, the creator and ruler of the universe”. If so, how can we have a “Periya” Kadavul (big God)? I guess Bharathiyaar compares God to human beings and says “Periya Kadavul”. In Kaiveesamma Kaiveesu there is one Thillang (anbE thaan thaay aanadhu). MSV has given a great Thillang nalladhOr veeNai seidhEn. That is in K.Balachandar directed Varumayin Niram Sivappu. Kamal is a big Bharathiyaar fan in that movie. Nalladhor is also a Bharathiyaar song. Ilayaraja has used a raagam that is closely related to Thillang in Kavarimaan (Thyaagaiyer’s Brovabaarama in Bahudhari raagam).

Because of the unique “vakra” phrases, many of the above mentioned vakra raagas are very easily identifiable. Vakra raagas are a boon to beginners as they help to get a start in carnatic music. If there is a vakram in a raagam, and if that is what gives the important raagalakshanam to the raagam, then that is how it has to be sung! You cannot go like Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma1 in Reethigowlai or sing like Ma1 Ga3 Ri2 Sa in Sahana. These are absolutely not permissible. Why these strict strictures?

I read in a book recently that there was a Chinese sage called as Li Ling. He would usually be naked in his house. When somebody asked about it to him, he said “I consider the whole world as my house and my house as my cloth. So, why the hell are you entering my trousers?”!! Nature made men to intercourse with women to procreate and sustain life on earth. That is a rule. If man tries to enter into another man’s trouser ignoring the ordinance of Nature, AIDS awaits him inside the other man’s trouser! If the lorry driver in India defies the present day societal norms and seek polygamous pleasure, then AIDS awaits him at the gates of pleasure! Regulations and rules make our life go smooth. Rules enriched carnatic music and gave rise to an excellent variety of raagas. Till Nature gives her treatment of gradual evolution to things, what be now, let be in future!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 13

This is the 13th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

A.R.Rahman is the number one copier in the world. My friend is very much convinced on this matter. He called A.R.Rahman as a mammoth recycling bin that takes its own previously tuned songs and polishes it and presents it in a different form. How dare he copy the great kousalyaa suprajaa tune and use it as the interlude music in maargazhi poovE (May Maadham). My friend boils with anger. How dare the freshmen music director of the movie Meendum Savithri (Ravi Devendran) copy the interlude of maargazhi poovE (which is itself a copied bit from kousalyaa suprajaa) and present it in his song. A chain of copying! My friend has lost his peace and is now a terribly agitated individual. His head is hot with anger!

Is it correct to call the flute interlude in maargazhi poovE as a copy of kausalyaa suprajaa? A.R. Rahman has tuned his maargazhi poovE in the raagam Hindholam. Subbulakshmi’s Kausalyaa Suprajaa is in the raagam Sudha Saveri. If Rahman indeed copied willfully, how could he present a Sudha Saveri tune in a Hindholam song?

The concept of Sruthi is very illusory. We know that if we sounded a note with any frequency (X) and another note twice its frequency (2X), then there is an entire octave between these two notes. Be X = 1 hertz, and 2X = 2 hertz, or be X = 100,000 hertz and 2X = 200,000 Hz, there is one and only one octave inbetween these two respective sets of notes. Thus we will have an entire Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa between these notes. So, you can take any frequency (Sa) and play the 2X frequency of that fundamental frequency (upper Sa) and make a shruthi. Additionally if you played X x 2 * 7/12 (read this as X times 2 to the power 7/12) with X and 2X, then, you are adding the panchamam to the two Sa’s and you get panchama shruthi. Instead, if you played X x 2 * 5/12 (X times 2 to the power 5/12), you are adding madhyamam to the two Sa’s and it is called as the madhyama shruthi.

Shruthi forms the territorial boundaries in music. Any swara derives its identity only with reference to the shruthi. A single note when played alone is probably meaningless in classical music without the Shruthi. Shruthi by itself is pleasant music. In katcheris you may often see somebody sitting on the stage and playing the thambura. The thambura just gives the Sa Pa Sa notes to the Katcheri. That is the SHRUTHI!! Ilayaraja has many times just used the Sa Pa Sa shruthi as the background score in cinemas and lilted the audience by the magical effect of the SHRUTHI! Rahman also has used the drone of the Shruthi conspicously in many of his songs and added great melody to the songs (eg: the Panthuvarali song in Rangeela sung by Swarana Latha and Udit Narayan. What a classical piece!!)

The swaras of Sudha Saveri are: Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Da2 Sa; Sa Da2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Sa. If we played Kausalya Supraja the tune goes like this: Sa Ri Ri (kausalya) Sa Ri Ri (supraja), Sa Ri Sa Ri (Rama poorva), Sa Ri Sa Ri Sa Sa (Sandhya pravarthadhE). The above swaras have meanings only within their respective Shruthi. If you viewed these notes from within the boundaries of a different musical territory, then it might have a different meaning. What if you viewed these notes from the reference shruthi of “Ri2-Da2-Ri2″?! The raagam might change totally. It is like Pandiyarajan and S.V.Sekhar travelling overnight and going to Kerala in Kadhanayakan!! Though Thamizhnadu and Kerala are adjacent states, words might have totally opposite meanings there! If a Thamizh doctor prescribed a sleeping pill to a Malayalee and told him “ee guligai ravilE kazhicho!”, he will be in trouble. Because, “ravilE” means night in Thamizh and morning in Malayalam! See how different the meanings are?!

What A.R.Rahman has done is, he has skillfully “copied” the Sudha Saveri swaras and transliterated it into Hindholam as Ga2 Ma1 Ma1, Ga2 Ma1 Ga2 Ma1 and so on. We don’t know if he purported to copy or if it was a strange co-incidence. But, the fact is that a Coke can got recycled and came back to us as a Pepsi can! Sometimes, Coke cans can get a new sticker on its face (with no shruthi change and stuff!) and can be sold as Goli soda locally. That has happened in the background rhythm guitar score in kuluvaliyE (Muthu) song. The same piece comes in Sister Act. Ilayaraja too has got incriminated many times for such blatant similarity of his songs to other popular songs (en purushan thaan enakku mattum thaan in Gopurangal Saivadhillai was called as a copy of dham maarO dham).

Aandholika is a pleasant janyam of Harikaambodi raagam. Its arohanam and avarohanam are Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Da2 Ma1 Ri2 Sa. Thyagaraja swamy has got a terrific krithi in this raagam, which is mostly sung as a thukkada in Katcheris. The krithi is raaga sudha rasa. I have heard a story long ago. That Padma Subramaniam had a song tuned for her dance performance in this raagam. At that time Ilayaraja was in someway conected with Padma’s troup to earn his daily bread (probably as a “mike” boy or something!). Then, later he became picked up by “Ms. Luck” after he made his debut in Panchu Arunachalam’s film Annakili. He had lot of chances flowing in his way then. Mullum Malarum is a terrific movie. It must be within first 50 films of Ilayaraja. He gave a great musical support to the director, Mahendran, tuning few totally unheard kinds of lilting tunes then. But, he also got his name spoiled in that movie because of “copying” Padma’s Aandolika raagam tune.

The song is raaman aandalum raavaNan aandalum. That is a very crucial song in the movie. Rajni looses one of his arms in the climax of the song in an accident. The song is actually a tappanguthu. But, in the interlude of the song the chorus sings a bit which goes like “samiyai kumbitta namaku nalladhu thaan varumE”. The tune is supposed to be in pure Aandholika (the same tune that Padma used in her Dance performance earlier). Reportedly she complained in some interview about how Ilayaraja had “copied” her tune. We know that music directors like Ilayaraja and Rahman have got very fertile mind and they have proved it by generation of wonderful tunes. The judgement that these eminant people copied other people’s work cannot be passed so easily. It is in the innermost conscience of these personalities that the secret dwells if they are felon or not. Perhaps, it can never be known to the outside world unless they frankly admit like Anand Milind (“yes, we are fans of Ilayaraja, we do use his tunes in our songs”)!

Madhyamaavathi is a grand janya raagam of Karaharapriya. Perhaps it is the greatest of the pentatonic raagas (oudhuva oudhuva raagam). Its arohanam and avarohanam are: Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Sa. Ilayaraja liked this raagam so much that he has at least tuned 40 to 50 songs in this great raagam. Madhyamavathi is distinct among other pentatonic raagas. It is a very much gamaka oriented raagam. It is like the Thodi of janya raagas. You can just play the notes of the 45 melam (Subhapanthuvarali) in the harmonium and make the raagam evident. Similarly you can just play Sa Ri2 Ma2 Pa Ni3 Sa in the harmonium and make Hamsanadham raagam evident, but, you cannot get Madhyamavathi by just playing the notes in a plain “bland” way. You have to make the notes spicy! Gently make the Rishabham and Nishadham oscillate above their baseline frequency, there comes the unparalled beauty, Ms. Madhyamaavathi!!

Ilayaraja has tuned a great Madhyamavathi in Mullum Malarum (adipEnnE). I think the singer is Jency. Each time I listen to this song it creates an inexplicable feeling in my mind. The song is so romantic, so sexy, so well sung that it directly stimulates some unknown erogenous zones in the psyche. Ilayaraja has reasonably used the gamakas well. This was probably his second Madhyamavathi, the first one being sOlaikkuyilE in Ponnu Ooruku Pudhusu. sOlaikuyilE starts like Pa Pa Ri Sa Ri…. A lofty jump from madhyama sthayi Pa to tharasthayi Rishabam. MaalaikadhirE goes like Sa Sa Ni Sa Ni…..Pa, such a prolonged nishadham. Most of the melody of this raagam resides with the Ri and Ni. The gamakam is absolutely important, period! Look at the beauty of Papanasam Sivan’s opening in Madhyamavathi in “karpagamE kadai kann paarai” – Sa Ri Sa Ri…. Actually the gamakam of Ri encompasses the sadharana gandharam too. It is like RiGa, RiGa…! Ilayaraja’s use of impeccable gamaka adorned Rishabam at the very opening of the song is too classic. It is like Krishnamachari Srikanth sending the first opening ball to the boundary!

Ilayaraja has given few more Madhyamavathi’s in quite pure form. en kalyaaNa vaibOgam in the movie Azhage Unnai Aradhikkiren is one early number. Sridhar’s first venture with Ilayaraja. Vani Jayaram has sung this song. Then, aagaaya gangai in Dharma Yuddham, nee thaanE endhan ponvasantham in Ninaivellam Nithiya, thulli thulli nee padamma (Chirpikul Muthu), thalattu pillai ena thaalaatu (?Achchani), thazham poovE vaasam veesu (Kai Kodukkum Kai), kuyilE kuyilE poonguyilE (Aan Paavam), anandam then sindhum (Man vasanai), azhagiya thirumaganE (Rajarishi), eeramaana rojaavE (Illamai Kaalangal), kavidhai paadu kuyilE (ThendralE Ennai Thodu), malargalil aadum illamai (Kalyaraman), nee kEta naan matEn (movie?) etc. A.R. Rahman has used small bits of Madhyamavathi in the interlude of his song thee thee thithikkum then (Thiruda Thiruda). Some singer called Jadhiraja has sung some fast swaras with pungent electric guitar sending shocks of Madhyamavathi vibrations with his voice! (I heard that Mr.Jadhiraja is none other than Rahman himself!) Madhyamaavathi by earlier music directors include ponnondru kandEn, muththukkaLO kaNgaL, aagaaya pandhalilE, etc. Can we forget the great presentation of Devarajan in Swamy Iyyapan hariharatmajam viswamasrayE sung by Yesudoss. It is a divine feast to listen to this slow song.

Madhyamavathi is supposed to be a Mangalakaramaana raagam. Tradionally when we end the katcheri, it is customary to end the katcheri in one of the three raagas: Madhyamavathi, Suruti, or Sowrashtram. Ilayaraja used Madhyamavathi to end the song in one of his raagamaalika songs! enna samaiyalO in Unnal Mudiyum Thambi. The song starts with Mohanam and ends with Madhyamaavathi. When SPB sings ilaiyai pOdadi, Madhyamavathi starts. Of course, each of the raaga change in that raagamalikai is made by the accompanying nadhaswaram.

If we change the kaisiki nishadham (Ni2) of madhyamavathi in the arohanam to kaakali nishadham (Ni3) then the raaga form changes drastically. It is Brindhavana Saranga. It is a bhashangam because of double Nishadham. Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni3 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Sa. Some of Ilayaraja’s song in this raagam are fantastic. poongaatrE poongaatrE (Kunkuma Chimizh), kallukuLLE anbin eeram enna (Unakaaga VazhgirEn) are both enthralling songs. I cannot forget how I used to tune to Coimbatore radio station between 10 to 11, Trichi – 1 to 2 PM, Madras – 4 to 5 in the mid 1980′s to listen to these great songs. These Brindhavana Saranga’s are as captivating as Subulakshmi’s Sriranga Pura Vihara or Balamurali’s kamalaptakula. The later songs that he tuned in this raaga are dheyvangaL kan paarthadhu (Pudhiya Raagam) and indha jilla muzhuka nalla theriyum (Priyanka). Brindhavana Saranga by earlier music directors are kattithanga raajavukku, thottilil thodangidum (nilavE malarE). In the latter song MSV has used double Nishadham in the arohanam itself (like Pa Ni2 Ni3 Sa)! It is one of the best songs that he has ever tuned, sung by Vani Jayaram.

Mullum Malarum has another fantastic song. senthaazham poovil is a kinda try in Bowli raagam (with lot of foreign notes in the interlude). Bowli is one of the early morning raagas. Other early morning raagas are Boopaalam, Revagupti, Malayamaarudham etc. When your cousin is getting married, you are very tired during the night of Janavaasam because you went out with your other cousins and had a “thanni” party and came back to the Kalyana chathiram only at 4 AM to sleep. You have hardly slept for 30 mts, and you hear the irritating Nadhaswaram vidhwan playing “pee pee” to wake up everybody. He is playing one of the above raagams! Boopalam is Thodi janyam: Sa Ri1 Ga2 Pa Da1 Sa; Sa Da1 Pa Ga2 Ri1 Sa. Bowli is Mayamalava Gowlai Janyam with Ga3 instead of Ga2 in Boopalam. I have heard of one good Bowli in the movie called as Kuzhandhai Yesu (kannE vaa, kanmaniyE vaa). I don’t know who is the music director. Recently I heard Ilayaraja’s another (probable) Bowli: kOzhikkoovum nErathilE (movie?). I don’t remember the tune very well. But, the best Bowli came from T.Rajender. salangai ittaaL (Maithili Ennai Kaadhali) was a tremendous success at that time. It is unfortunate that Rajender, a guy with full potency to challenge big time music directors, got lost in the political imbroglio, loosing his place in the cinema. He gave such a wonderful Kaappi raagam in his very first movie (idhu kuzhandhai paadum thaalaatu in Oru Thalai Raagam), superb Gambeera Naatai in Pookalai Parikaadheergal (kaadhal oorvalam ingE). Those are unforgettable tunes.

Madhyamaavathi is closely related Sriraagam (Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ri2 Ga2 Ri2 Sa) and Manirangu (Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ri2 Sa). There is one film song in Sriraagam. thoda thoda vaa mella (Dharma Devadhai) has been tuned by Malayalam music director Ravindran. Two years ago, I heard another Sriraagam song (andhi maalai) that has been exactly tuned in the tune of Thyagraja krithi entharo mahaanu bavulu. That song was in a music album. I don’t know who realised it. But do know that it was someway connected with Rahman. As far as I know, there is only one Manirangu song in cinema. Music director: Ilayaraja! Isai rajanE un illam veenai naanE comes in Kanni Rasi (first film directed by Pandiyarajan). Malaysia Vasudevan has sung in two voices (his normal voice for Prabhu, and Chidambaram Jayaraman’s voice for Janakaraj), accompanied by Vani Jayaram. The fact that Ilayaraja used such rare raagas during his carreer is a standing testimony to his classical interests.

Now, coming to the original discussion about shruthi, look what happens to our Madhyamavathi when you start viewing it from different angles. Increase the reference shruthi by two notes, ie., Ri2-Da2-Ri2, then the raaga changes to Hindholam. Increase by 5 notes, ie., Ma1-Sa-Ma1, then the raaga changes to Sudha Saveri, by 7 notes, ie., Pa-Ri2-Pa, the raaga changes to Sudha Dhanyasi, by 10 notes, ie., Ni2-Ma1-Ni2, then you get Mohanam from the same swaras!! Is it not wonderful! It is like the same man being a son, brother, father, and as uncle to different people by virtue of different relationship.

Mohanam is a nice, melodious raagam. Ilayaraja is a real Mohanapriyan. No other music director in India would have given so many Mohanam as him. Among his hundreds of Mohanam hits we have kannan oru kai kuzhandhai (Bhadrakali), geetham sangeetham(Kokkarako), malarE pEsu (Geethanjali) vaan polE vannam (Salangai oli), kanmaniyE kaadhal enbadhu (aaril irundhu arubadhu varai), poovil vandu (Kadhal oviyam), meenkodi theril (Karumbuvil), naan oru ponnoviyam kandEn (Kannil Theriyum Kadhaigal), abc nee vaasi (Oru kaidiyin dairy), naan undhan thaayaga vendum (Ullasa paravaigal), oru raagam paadalodu (Ananda Raagam), nilavu thoongum nEram (Kunkumachimizh), aathodu kaathaada (Engeyo Ketta Kural), oru thanga radhathil (Dharmayudham), kasthoori manE (Pudhumai penn), ninnukori varnam (Agninakshathiram), kaathirundhEn thaniyE (Rasamagan), idhayam oru kovil (Idhaya Kovil), kukku koo koovum (Valli) etc. Some of the recent music directors seem to be handling Mohanam very well. ManamE thotta chinungi in Thotta chinnungi is a great piece of Mohanam. Oh God! what a terrific rendition by Hariharan! He is an asset to Thamizh music industry. In Kaadhal Kottai, Deva has given two amazing Mohanams (vellarikka pinju vellarikka, I forgot the other one).

In katcheris, the shruthi is constantly vibrated either by the thamboora artist or the electronic shruthi. This reminds us the reference shruthi for that concert and we can identify a raagam with respect to that shruthi. But, in film music, where there is no background reminder of the shruthi, how can we identify the raagam correctly? As discussed above, it could be Madhyamavathi, Mohanam, Sudha Saveri, Hindholam, or Sudha Dhanyasi for the same swaras. And now comes the “nuances” or “raagalakshanam” issue! We can still identify by figuring out the kind of treatment that has been given to the swaras.

While you are singing in one particular shruthi, if you suddenly assume a different shruthi and sing the same swaras implying a different raagam, then it is called as shruthi-bedham. It is a highly scientific game that some muscians like T.N.Seshagopalan relish playing on the dais. He could sing Thodi and do a 1/2 kattai shruthi-bedham and make it sound like Kalyani. The maestro has ingeniously tuned a song recently in which he suddenly assumes a different shruthi in the middle of the song. This is in vandhaal vandhal rajakumaari (Oru Oorila Oru Rajakumaari). In the Piano prelude he clearly indicates the shruthi initially . He starts the song like Ga3 Ma1 Pa, Pa Pa, Pa Da2 Pa, Pa Da2 Pa, Pa Da2 Pa Da2 Pa Ma1 Ga3 Ri2 Ga3 Ma1 Ga3 Ri…..If you were to call this pallavi as a raagam you can call it as Sankarabharanam. It is pukka! In the interlude he follows the same opening shruthi. But, when the charanam starts, he suddenly raises the shruthi by 4 notes and assumes the previous Ga3 as the Pa and develops a wonderful Charukesi from there on. It is ectastic to listen to this song again and again. Charukesi is the 26th melam with Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma1 Pa Da1 Ni2 Sa. His other Charukesi are: amma nee sumandha (annai oru aalayam), siriya paravai (Andha oru nimidam), aadal kalaiyE (Sri Raghavendrar), thoodhu selvadhaaradi (Singaravelan), chakkarakattiku chakkarakattiku (UllE VeliyE), poovaagi kaayagi (movie?), and maNamaalaiyum manjalum (Vathiyaar veetu pillai).

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 12

This is the 12th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

Thamizh film actress Kushboo has been deified to the status of a Goddess and a temple has been built for her in Trichi! Often I hear news like the deification of Jayalalitha, M.G.R., and other related “chota” news like a man in rural Thamizhnadu seeing God M.G.R in his cow’s eye! These are all instances that narrate the conspicuous births of Gods, or rather, the conspicuous deification of ordinary human folks. Given the evidence that these farcical news items do happen in the gullible Thamizhnadu, one has the right to make conjectures that Jesus Christ could have been a very very ordinary man, just like Kushboo. He could have had good human qualities and could have helped his neighbours to buy kerosene from ration shop and old ladies to cross busy roads like Bhagyaraj in Inru Poi Nalai Vaa! His unfortunate, pathetic death at an young age at the hands of local villains could have created a sympathy wave. And now, in this 21st century it will be castigated as an outright act of profanity, if someone dares to question the divinity status of the messiah.

In any religion, Gods seem to make their genesis in a very subtle way. Particularly, in Hinduism, the births of Gods and the appearance of temples in a region are so insidiuous. The onset invariably starts with a small stone or a rock under a neem tree turning holy (it is heaven’s secret, how these stones are selected!). Sandal paste and “kunkum” appear on the stone shortly and a group of people start worshipping the stone. A cascade of events follow and a figurine appears there to replace the stone. The figurine might take any shape in the world, a huge “Phallus” like Lord Shiva, an elephant headed form like Lord Ganesha, a cow headed form like “Thumburu”, a fierce looking lady like “Mariatha”… Soon, a nomenclature comes into vogue to denote this newly born “God”. It could be anything, a highly calloquial one like “vedi uppu beerangisami” or a beautiful Sanskrit word imported from the Indus valley! As an appendage to the name, a story too, comes into vogue, to denote the relationship of this new “God” to the older Gods, like “Lord Shiva’s uncle’s son”. Look at this place after 100 years…! No kidding, a grand temple has come into being there! Loud speakers are in eternal function, broadcasting divine songs by Seergazhi Govindarajan, L.R.Easwari, Veeramani! You may find some of our imbecile brotheren doing “anga pradakshanam” with their tongue bloody and impaled with a holy needle! Oh, mother Nature! When is this alarming increase in the population of Hindu gods going to stop (small “g” intentional)!

Carnatic raagas are like Hindu Gods. Their birth in this world is so subtle. A tune can be born from the harmonium of Ilayaraja just in a matter of few minutes. But, raagas? Raagas encompass all the tunes in the world. A tune could be created by Ilayaraja. But, raagas? Do raagas have creators? Raagas creep into “being” from amidst the masses. No single person creates a raaga. Can any person in this world raise his hand and claim patency to the creation of Lord Shiva or Vishnu? The creation of gods is the result of a community effort! Similarly raagas are the unintentional creative result of the musical community. The creation of a raaga is not bound by any time frame. It might take ages for the raagas to take form. The form of a raagam is not static. It keeps on changing with ages, like the present day Lord Ganesha sitting before the computer screen with sunglasses and dirty jeans! Remember seeing this form in your neighbour’s kolu during Dasara festival? Really?!

Thodi is one of the greatest of the raagas. It is the 8th melakartha raagam. We know that there are 72 melaraagas in carnatic music. These 72 melakartha raagas are divided into groups of six, according to the numerical order. Each of this group is called as a chakram. Thus we have a total of 12 chakrams. The first 6 chakrams (comprising 36 raagas) use suddha madhyamam and the later 6 chakrams (comprising 36 raagas) use the prathi madhyamam. Within each of the chakrams, all the 6 raagas will have the same poorvaanga swaras (ie., Sa Ri Ga Ma). The difference is only in the utharaanaga swaras (ie., Pa Da Ni Sa). Each chakram has a got a name to denote it. The 2nd chakram is called as the Nethra chakram. Thodi is the 2nd raagam in the Nethra chakram.

Has Ilayaraja ever tried his hands on this great raagam? Yes! Just in one song alone so far. Was he successful? Perhaps not! The challenge that Lakshmi Parvathi poses to Chandra Babu Naidu is nothing when compared to the challenge that Thodi poses to the cinema music directors. If Ilayaraja tuned a song in the Thodi scale (Sa Ri1 Ga2 Ma1 Pa Da1 Ni2 Sa), then it will sound like Sindhu Bhairavi! Because, just playing the notes of Thodi in the harmonium will only manifest the raagalakshanam of Sindhu Bhairavi (even though Sindhu Bhairavi has Ri2 in its arohanam, using Ri1 plainly without gamakam in the arohanam will be perfectly Sindhu Bhairavish). Thodi and Sindhu Bhairavi are so closely related to each other, yet so different. The drastic difference is because of gamakam. But for Sa and Pa, all the other swaras of Thodi have aesthetically beautiful, terrific gamakam. So, to get Thodi raagam out of Thodi scale, you’ve got to shake those swaras (Ri,Ga,Ma,Da,Ni), like the way a Richter 8.0 earth quake shakes California once in a while! California residents may stay at home despite such shakes, but the cinema rasikas would simply leave the theatre at once, to “drink” beedi or cigarette, if the swaras started shaking in a cinema song!

Ilayaraja’s attempt came in the movie Varusham Padhinaaru. The song is gangai karai mannanadi. It is pure Thodi. Within the constraints of tuning a cinema song, he has tried his best to give a proper Thodi, with all the gamakams. K.J.Yesudoss has sung that song. In the pallavi and charanam the “heavy” Thodi identity is quite clear. But, in the interlude music, the raaga degenerates to a “lighter” status, Sindhu Bhairavi. In his Saramathi raagam song, paadariyEn padippariyEn (Sindhu Bhairavi movie), when Chitra sings “sonnadhu thappaa thappaa” he has introduced an unwarranted Thodi sangathi there. Why did he do that? Also, he had erroneously used Da Pa Ma (like Marga Hindholam), in Saramathi. When the movie was released, Ananda Vikatan made a big issue about these gramatical mistakes in that song, and even interviewed vocalist Dr.S.Ramanathan regarding this matter! One of my friends said that he heard Ceylon Radio identifying the raagam of akkam pakkam parada (Unnal Mudiyum Thambi), as Thodi! What a joke! Sindhu Bhairavi raagam is like potato curry. My wife can cook it, your wife can cook it, all wives can cook it! Ilayaraja has cooked it many times, from maNi Osai kEttu (Payanangal Mudivadhillai) to maNiyE maNikkuyilE (Nadodi Thendral). akkam pakkam is one such Sindhu Bhairavi cooking! Let us not praise our wife as excellent for this potato curry, which doesn’t need any skill to cook!

Thodi is unique among the 6 Nethra chakra raagas. Even though these raagas share the same Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa, look at the way the gamakam of Ri,Ga,Ma has evolved so specially for Thodi! Denuka is the immediate next raagam to Thodi (the 9th melam). In his Denuka krithi theliyalEdhu raamaa, Thyagaraja swamy has preferred to use these swaras plainly without much gamakam, like in Sindhu Bhairavi raagam! How did these adjacent raagas evolve so differently from each other? Can we question the Ganesh getting an elephant face, and the Kumeresh getting a beautiful human face, in the differential evolution of the sibling gods?! I know of a song in which Ilayaraja has used the Denuka scale. The song is en sOga kadhaiya kELu (Thooral Ninnu Pochu). He predominantly uses Ni3 in this song (like in Denuka) and occasionally Ni2 (like in Thodi). The next raaga to Denuka (the 10th raagam) is Natakapriya. Recently I happened to listen to one superb Natakapriya song tuned by Ilayaraja! It came as a pleasant surprise in the movie Moga Mull. The song is nenjE gurunaadhanin! It is a lovely song! The situation is similar to the one in Sindhu Bhairavi, where distraught hero Shivakumar, begs for alcohol and sings the song thaNNi thotti thEdi.

In Moga Mull, the hero Rajam is a music student. He gets a chance to perform in the house occasion of a local big shot. He refuses that chance. Later, his guru (Nedumudi Venu) falls sick and needs lot of money for hospitalisation. So, the hero becomes a victim of circumstance and is forced to go to that big shot for monitary help. The villain makes the hero sing in his house when there is no occasion. All his friends form a crowd and sit before the hero. While he sings, the insensitive audience talks aloud, giggles, and humiliates the hero in all possible ways. The song is nenjE gurunadhanin in the raagam Natakapriya. Arun mozhi has sung this song. Fantastic job! I have heard a classic krithi “geetha vadhya” in this raagam. If I remember correct, the Ri,Ga,Ma had been handled like in Thodi (with gamakam) in that krithi. Ilayaraja has used plain swaras in this song. But, even then it is very classical and the raaga identity is quite clear. Oh, what a pathetic situation it is, to be in a financially needy state, and to unwillingly sell one’s music skill to a shameless crowd that is absolutely deaf to music! That scene only reminded me of the nowadays very popular marriage reception katcheris! Amidst the total chaotic environment of maamis (talking about their jewelry), maamas (talking about their gas trouble) and kids (playing with water gun), the musician has to sing! Often the musicians eyes will be tightly shut up, feigning full engrossment in his music! If not for the eye closure, who will come to save the musician from seeing the terrible audience!

To get the prathi madhyama raagam of any sudhdha madhyama raagam, just add 36 to the order of the raagam! The prathi madhyamam of Thodi (8th) is the 44th melakartha raagam. It is Bhavapriya. Ilayaraja has tuned a song in this scale too. That is kandu pudichchEn (Guru Sishyan) song. The upper half of this raagam will be like Shanmukhapriya, and the lower half like Subhapanthuvarali. Reportedly, some big shot (Sudha Raghunathan or somebody) told about this song in the TV (Doordarshan). It seems that they wondered how Ilayaraja could use this raagam (normally implying sad mood) to suit a situation in which Prabhu humours Rajni about his new, clandestine love affair with Gowthami! Can we dare call this song as set in the raagam Bhavapriya? I don’t know. But, it is definitely an appreciable thing to notice him venturing into unchartered areas in scale selection, say like Bhavapriya.

Those mothers living in squalor in the Nungambakam railway station might not have any idea about “naalanaavuku moonu samacharam” and might populate the station with their innumerable underweight kids! That is bad for India! As a mother, even Thodi doesn’t seem to have any idea about family planning! But, that has turned out to be good to the musical heritage of India! Oh boy, how many kids (janya raagas) has it given birth to! Most of the janya raagas of Thodi are hardcore classic raagas. The trinity seem to have enjoyed very much, composing in Thodi and its janya raagas. One of its prime janyam is Dhanyasi. Sa Ga Ma Pa Ni Sa; Sa Ni Da Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa. Probably these raagas can never be made light and presented to the common rasika! Ilayaraja used one of the Thyagaraja krithi in Dhanyasi in the movie Moga Mull. Again, the situation is similar to Sindhu Bhairavi, where Shivakumar goes to a katcheri and takes over the singing of the musician on the dais. Ilayaraja used the Thyagaraja krithi “lochana” In the raagam Dharbar to indicate the kind of musical talent that Shivakumar has (despite loosing his sobriety). In Moga Mull, a drunken musician gets on the stage and sings with a lot of abhaswaram. The hero gets on the stage and then sings sangeetha gnanamu bhakthi vinaa in Dhanyasi. K.J.Yesudoss has sung that song in the movie. In that situation there is a strong lecture by the hero’s guru that many present day musicians take alcohol etc! Does not a musician (or any public figure) has every right to do whatever he wants in his personal life? Let him drink McDonalds, smoke 555, and have a couple of women in bikini (as cinema villains often do) around him! As long as his hedonistic pursuits do not affect his public performance, why should we care? Lest, alcohol companies might sue us for causing a drastic decline in their sales!

Sudha Dhanyasi is another janyam of Thodi raagam. Sa Ga Ma Pa Ni Sa; Sa Ni Pa Ma Ga Sa. You can also (more appropriately) call it as a janyam of Nadabhairavi. Ilayaraja has been very generous in using this scale. MSV made an indelible mark in this raagam earlier by presenting neeyE unakku enRum nigaraanavan in Bale Pandiya. That is really fantastic! He has wonderfully used the Ga and Ni with gamakam in the song. Ilayaraja’s first Sudha Dhanyasi is perhaps siru ponmani in Kallukul Eeram. Later he gave raagavanE (Ilamai Kaalangal), pudhiya poovidhu (Thendrale Ennai Thodu) poojaikEththa poovidhu (Needhaana Andha Kuyil), vizhiyil vizhundhu (Alaigal Oivadhillai), theem thanana (???), manasu mayangum (Sippikul Muthu), maasi maasam (Dharmadurai), punjai undu nanjai undu (Unnal Mudiyum Thambi), kotti kidakudhu (Theertha Karaiyinile), kaadhal vaanilE (Rasayya), unnai edhir parthEn (Vanaja Girija). In many of these songs he uses other swaras like Ri2 etc., and hence cannot be called as pure form. In punjai undu, he has not used any foreign notes. Then is it classical raagam? No! K.Balachandar (a boot licker to Ilayaraja at that time, so that he could sell the movie by publicizing Ilayaraja’s name), made a big argument in the movie that even “punjai undu nanjai undu” was a pure Sudha Dhanyasi. Dear sir, to call something as classical, you should present it in a real classical form! Just going up and down the scale wouldn’t make the raaga form appear in that tune! Use the gamakam, use the nuances of the raagam, then even Semmangudi will call it as Sudha Dhanyasi!

If one changed the kaisiki nishadham (Ni2) of Sudha Dhanyasi to kaakali nishadham (Ni3), then is there any raagam like that? If so, what is it called as? Ilayaraja has given a couple of songs in this type of scale. One of them came in the movie Poonthotta Kavalkaran. Radhika gets pregnant and then the song goes in the background! I have read in my school biology class (with lot of curiosity!) that a sperm and an ovum “join” to form a baby! Look at the way the poet says about this scientific phenomenon in his poetic language…. sindhiya veNmaNi sippiyil muththaachu!! What a nice euphemistic way of saying a vulgur thing! Gangai Amaran proved himself as a poet in that song! Ilayaraja’s tune is so wonderful in that song. It is so melodious. Vijayakanth specifically said about this song in one of his TV interviews! Another song that I know in this scale is o vasantha raja in Neengal Kettavai. Since Ilayaraja changed the Ni2 of Sudha Dhanyasi to Ni3 and made a new raagam out of it, can he proclaim himself as the creator of this new raagam?

Perhaps Balamurali Krishna was very much pleased with his wife’s filter coffee early in the morning every day. He has created a raagam called as Abhayambika! Perhaps Kunnakudi expected Jayalalitha to give medical college admission to his last son (like MGR did for his older son). He has proudly joined the sycophant family of ministers and created a raagam called as Jayalalitha. If these conceited musicians called themselves as the creators of those raagas, then Ilayaraja too, could…!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 11

This is the 11th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

V.G.Pannerdass has got an experimental animal in his V.G.P Golden Beach near Madras! That is his “goorka”. He pays that watchman only to stand near the gate with an expressionless face. Whatever the passersby do, he would stand there with the same old expressionless face! Let Kamal Hassan do all the “seshtai” that he does in the last scene of Moonram Pirai, the VGP goorka’s mask like face would show neither happiness nor sadness! He’d neither cry nor laugh. The VGP management is so proud of this guy that it is even ready to bet a hefty prize money if that would motivate somebody to make this guy cry or laugh. I cannot help wondering at VGP’s morbid taste in having this kind of a person at their gate.

Now, can we consider the usage of raagas to make this person change his emotions? If Ilayaraja goes before this person and sings his Valli song (enna enna kanavu) or Payanangal Mudivadhillai song (vaigaraiyil) in Subhapanthuvarali raagam, would it make his affect sad? It perhaps would, because some of the raagas indeed have a powerful negative effect on one’s affect, causing him to go to the lows! Let SPB go before this person and sing his Mayuri song (idhu oru mananaatiya medai) in the raagam Brindavana Saranga, or L.Vaidyanathan sing his veeNaiyadi nee enakku (Ezhavadu Manidhan) in Kalyani, would it make his affect happy? It perhaps would, because some raagas indeed have a very powerful positive effect on one’s affect, causing him to go to the highs! (This is what music therapy basically aims at, right?). Now, the question is, are there any raagas that can really make this person laugh or at least to open his pursed lips and give a smile ?!

The human species is very conceited that only it can laugh! It has concluded that the sense of humour is an essential human quality. Maybe, during the innumerable years of evolution, it is the only species that has somehow successfully learnt to expressively manifest its inner humourous feelings. Just because the animals do not widely open their mouth and laugh (as many of us do often, much to the disgust of our neighbours!), the old ancestral members of our species seem to have concluded that the animals do not have any sense of humour. I at least know of one another species that can express its humour well! Buy a pocket of “kadalamittai” and start ascending the stairs of Trichi Malaikotai to have Lord Ganesha’s darshan. Those garrulous monkeys ‘gumbal’ there will stealthly follow you and at one oppurtune moment “rag” you and snatch away your kadalamittai with a swift agile attack! While they recede away from you (or rather you recede away from them) the victims report noticing a kinda derisive laughter by the monkeys! Anyway, if raagas can cause sadness and crying, can it also cause a person to laugh!

Music directors often face this challenge, when directors tell them a comical situation in their movie and ask for a tune. M.S.Viswanathan has done a fantastic job in the movie Bale Pandiya. The song is neeyE enakku enRum. MSV tuned that song in chaste Sudha Danyasi. The situation of that song is a very comical one, Sivaji Ganesan and first class actor M.R.Radha vying with each other in their jest. The lyrics too is quite comical. But, the question is, does the Sudha Danyasi raagam of the song have an element of humour in it! Probably not.

Ilayaraja too has used pure classical raagas to suit humourous situations. In Thambiku Endha Ooru, Madhavi is a city girl. Hero Rajini is a country brute! Madhavi happens to come to Rajini’s village once. And now, even a small “paapa” with a rubber nipple in its mouth will tell the rest of the story: Rajini will sing a song critisizing Madhavi, Madhavi will get irritated, then she will fight with Rajini and vice versa, and when the villain comes, both of them will start loving each other and finally, the extras in police dress will come and arrest the villain….! Can you try to guess what raagam Ilayaraja has used for the comical song! Arabhi!

Arabhi is a Sankarabharanam janyam. Its arohanam and avarohanam are Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Da2 Sa; Sa Ni3 Da2 Pa Ma Ga3 Ri2 Sa. It is a very pleasant raagam. It is closely related (sanchara-wise) to Devakandhari. There are no cinema songs in Devakandhari. But, in the pre-Ilayaraja period we have got one Arabhi song. That is Erikkarai mElE. I guess it has been tuned by the then giant K.V.Mahadevan. T.M.S starts the song in his “ganeer” voice in the madhyama sthayi dhaivatham. Ilayaraja’s first Arabhi song is “aasai kiLiyE arai kilO puLiyE..”

Malaysia Vasudevan has sung this song. He is one of the best singers of our time, who has been appropriately used only by Ilayaraja. Malaysia does not seem to have got any proper training in classical music. His voice is like a resume with record of BA (history) from Madras University and 2 months of computer training in NIIT! If you give it to a proper bodyshopper it will come to California. Otherwise it will just go to teach 7th standard history text in Madras Corporation school! (Thou shall not take offence, dear resume!) Like Rahman uses the “thagara dappa” voice of Suresh Peters wonderfully and sells it, Ilayaraja has used Malaysia’s unpolished voice excellently in many of his highly classical songs. aasai kiLiyE is one such instance….The song starts like this Ma Pa Da Sa, Da Sa Da Pa, Pa Pa Da Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Ri, Ri Ma Pa Da Da Pa Da Sa….It is a fantastic song, giving all the raaga-lakshanam of Aarabi in a very pure form. Even though the avarohanam of Aarabi just lists all the swaras of Sankarabaranam plainly, there is a specific way by which you got to use those swaras to make it sound Aarabi. The temporal duration (karvai) of Ma is usually protracted while the gandaram is just touched upon very rapidly. Thus Ma Ga Ri Sa is sung like Ma….GaRi Sa. Also, we can practically omit the usage of nishadam and the raagam would still be unblemished. Ilayaraja has not used Ni in this song. The lyrics of this song is funny.

aasai kiLiyE arai kilO puLiyE
azhugina thakkaaLiyE
mEyura kOzhi ellaam aaguradhu kariyE
adiyE en arumai thavakkaLaiyE

If the hero taunts the heroine by calling her as “spoiled tomato” then it is understandable. When the hero calls her as “half kg of tamarind”, what does it mean? But, that is how the song goes…. Now, lately Ilayaraja has given two more Aarabi songs. One song goes like mannavanE mannavanE manasukkEththa thennavanE (Thandhu Vitten Ennai). I think it is a Vijayakanth movie song. The song has been sung by SPB and Janaki. It is a very melodious song. He has used Ni in this song. The last Aarabi that he has given comes in the movie Pudhupatti Ponnuthayee. The song is madhurai vaazhum meenakshiyE. This is also an unbelievably classic song sung by K.J.Yesudoss and Janaki. One can very easily learn Aarabi with the help of these cinema songs! But, does Arabi have an element of humour? Probably not.

Carnatic music is like Choolaimedu 24 hours polyclinic in Madras. You go there with just symptoms of common cold. But the Doctor there (who has not yet cleared the subjects that he failed in final MBBS) has lots of surprises for you. He says that you are very week and almost coerces you to have the supposedly invigorating 5% glucose drip (which hardly has a total of 25 gm of glucose in it!). Carnatic music has got lot more surprises to give you than this Doc! There is a raagam which has got the same arohanam and avarohanam as Aarabi (Sa Ri Ma Pa Da Sa; Sa Da Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa; Since we can sing Aarabi without using Ni, we can say so) The raagam is Sama, another janyam of Sankarabaranam. Even though Aarabi and Sama are swara-wise identical, they are totally two different raagas sanchara wise. The difference comes in the way we deal with the gandaram. In Aarabi, the Ga is just touched upon while we go from Ma to Ri. In Sama, we can be little more liberal (time-wise) with Ga. Also, there are certain special prayogams in Sama like Ma Pa Da Ma. So, these minute details make a drastic difference in these raagas.

MSV is the only one who has beautifully used this wonderful raagam, Sama in cinema. He has given two Samas. One is in the movie Sirai. The story is a revolutionary plot charecterizing the pathos of Lakshmi, an innocent rape victim. She is the wife of a Brahmin priest, Prasanna. After the rape the priest finds her repulsive, and she decides to go and live with the rapist (Rajesh)! In the first few scenes there is a song to portray the kind of love the priest and his wife have for each other. The song is naan paadi kondE iruppEn in the raagam Sama. Oh, boy! What a song! What a classic Sama piece! Vani Jayaram has sung this song. The heroine says:

saahithyam naanaaga sangeetham neeyaaga
naal thOrum isai archchanai
en paadal nee kEtka un kaNgal enai paarkka
naanE un varadhakshinai

How beautifully the poet (Kannadasan?) has written about their love. Later, after the rape, the hypocrisy of the hero’s love gets fully exposed. Very rarely, we get to see such classic song, classically acted and classically picturised (director: R.C.Shakthi). The second Sama that MSV has given is mounaththil viLaiyaadum manasaakshiyE (Nool Veli) This song has been sung by Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna. It is a great song. These are all great contributions of MSV to Thamizh cinema music.

Recently, in the movie Sathi Leelavathi there is a very humourous song. The song has been sung by Kamal Hassan himself. This maarugO maarugO is in the raagam Kaanada. Kaanada is a major gana raagam. It is probably now less sung in the katcheris than about a few decades ago (the popularity of a raagam seems to go through a cyclical change through years!) Kaanada is a janyam of Karaharapriya. Its arohanam and avarohanam are Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma1 Pa Ma1 Da2 Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ma1 Ri2 Sa. The key prayogam that gives Kaanada its identity is Pa Ma Ga Ma Ri Sa. Ilayaraja has followed the grammer of this raagam sincerely in the pallavi and charanam. But the interlude music is not very good. Because, he used this raagam for a humourous situation, does it mean that it has an element of humour in it! Probably not.

Earlier, he used Kaanada in a very majestic way in the movie Sindhu Bhairavi. The song is poomaalai vaangi vandhaan. Yesudoss! With the drone of the Thamboora, and the usage of very minimal instruments, it is a fantastic song. Rahman has few Kaanada’s to his credit too. First, pudhu veLLai mazhai in the movie Roja. There is another number kisu kisu nammakul kidaiyaadhu (Manidha Manidha). There is a liberal Ni3 in this song. Deva scored a Kaanada song too (thennamara thoppukullE kuyilEMichael Raj) Earlier, how can we forget the old gem mullai malar mElE by the music directors of yesteryears. Dharbari Kaanada is closely related to Kaanada. While Kaanada is the janyam of the 22nd melam (Karaharapriya), Dharbari Kaanada is a janyam of the 20th melam (Nadabhairavi). Thus we use sudha daivatham (Da1) instead of Da2 (sathuchrathi daivatham) in Darbari Kaanada. Ilayaraja has a few songs in this raagam. The best example is aagaaya vennilaavE in the movie Arangetra Velai. Uma Ramanan and Jayachandran (or Yesudoss?). Uma Ramanan is another unfortunate singer (like Malaysia). Only Ilayaraja has exploited her marvellous voice to the maximum capacity. Recently he has used her in Paatu Paadava (nil nil nil; an half boiled Vasantha) and in Pudhupatti Ponnuthayee (oor urangum nErathilE; a superb Hindholam). Perhaps his first Darbari Kaanada is isai mEdaiyil (Illamai Kalangal) sung by SPB and Janaki. There is another one in the movie Mounam Sammadham (kalyaana thEnnila) by Yesudoss.

A couple of years ago, cinematographer Ashok Kumar directed a Hindi movie called as Kamaagni. Reportedly he had sexploited the heroine from top to bottom as the story was some kind of abstract Freudian theme! (P.C.Sriram did the same to Ishwariya in his movie Meera. Is there any association between camera-men turned into directors and hard-core sexploitation?) My brother tells me that there is a very good Darbari Kaanada song in that movie. And, it seems Ilayaraja has done a very rich re-recording in that movie, mostly in Darbari Kaanada!

There is a song in the movie Enga Ooru Paatukaaran in which (I presume) that our village hero “pasu nesan” Ramarajan milks his cow (the meaning of the song goes like that). I don’t know if that scene was supposed to be comic in that movie, but since Ramarajan would have mostly come in his “touser”, probably it was a comedy scene! Can you imagine what raagam Illagaraja has used to tune this song azhagE nee pErazhagi? Kunthalavarali! Look at the selection of raagam! Kunthalavarali is a Karaharapriya janyam. Sa Ma1 Pa Da2 Ni2 Da2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Da2 Pa Ma1 Sa. He has used this raagam very beautifully in this song sung by SPB. Particularly the thara sthayi Sa Ma prayogas are very good (veerangalum dheerangalum…) Maatai paal karakaradhuku Kunthalavarali kEkudha! I don’t know if there are any more kunthalavarali songs in cinema music.

Man is essentially a visual animal. He gets most of the information from the external world as a tremendous fund of visual input. The visual information interacts with his intellect and can cause all different kinds of emotions. Just look at the “heart-wrecking” scene of an old thaatha accidently walking on a banana skin and falling on the ground! It might be a real humourous scene! Just look at a self-assumed hero (trying to show film in front of a ladies hostel with his 2 stroke Kawasaki Bajaj!) skid and fall on the ground! It might be a real humourous scene. Strangely, just auditory input alone doesn’t seem to have the capacity to evoke man’s sense of humour! Sure that music can cause sadness and happiness. But, humour?! Recently, Music Television showed Beavis and Butt-head farting in public, with a fantastic “background” score! That music indeed seemed to be very humourous. But, if I had put off the TV and let my room-mates hear that “music” alone, I doubt if they would have at the least made a smile!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 10

This is the 10th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

The mind is a wondrous subset of the terrific biological entity, the brain. Literally, the heart is often alluded to as the site of thinking. In old Thamizh cinemas, the heroine would invariably say to the villain at some point (like the inevitable rape scene!) “naasakkaara, unakku idhaiyamE illaiyaa?” while the unmindful villain would be busy disrobing her with a terrible “ha ha ha” laughter! Why does the heroine have to say this kind of a scientifically preposterous statement, while it was the villain’s brain that decided to rape her, and not the poor “heart”! Does the evil mind of the villain exist in his brain? If so, where is it in the brain? Or, is the mind just the product of the functioning of the brain? A disease process affecting the frontal lobe of the brain might make an individual loose all his social inhibition and pee in the public, or to go to Bourbon street in New Orleans, or to Mardigraz in Galveston! Damaging the visual cortex of a villain might make him blind, but he might still try to follow the heroine with the help of her bangle noise! Damaging his temporal lobe might render him hearing impaired, but he might still try to get to the heroine with the help of “koondal” scent cues (refer: Thiruvilayadal!). As a last effort you may want to damage his parietal lobe, but then he would still see the heroine, even though he might not know what to do to the heroine! So, where the heaven is the so called MIND?!

The intellectual power of the mind is amazing. More than 2000 years ago, Eratosthenes sits in his ill-built mud house and thinks in the deepest crevice of his neural network “what will be the circumference of the earth”. He does a simple calculation and concludes “about 22,000 miles”! Somewhere amidst the tangle of their neural network the Indians think abstractly about the non-existant numeral and make their magnum opus contribution of “nothing” to the field of mathematics! Just give Einstein a pencil and a paper and a chair and a table. He will fire a couple of neurons in his brain and say a radical theory that the matter and energy are one and the same and that they are interchangeable. As though he was the incarnation of the God himself, he would start theorizing the rules and regulations that govern the movement and functioning of various celestial bodies that are millions of light years away from his chair in New Jersey! His brain might be now floating in a jar of formaldehyde in Missouri city, but where the heaven was his MIND?!

Orchestral music is one of the greatest contribution of the minds of the westerners. Indian classical music, be it carnatic or hindustani, has always encouraged the imagination of the mind to pour out extempore, like a spontaneous volcanoic eruption on the stage. This is evidenced by the weightage that has been given to originality and spontaneous creativity on stage during alapanai (raagam elaboration), sangadhis (singing the same line in different tunes), niraval (singing the critical line of a krithi in different tunes, with lot of emotional appeal), kalapana swaram and lastly in thani avardhanam for the percussionists. On the other hand the orchestral music of the westernists is a well planned one. There might be hundreds of musicians in the orchestra. Each of them play the notes that is given to them. Unlike the Indian classical music, it needs a lot of rehersal and they have several practice sessions before going on the stage. There is creativity involved in western music too, but it is not spontaneous. The composer creates the tune sitting in a serene atmosphere, and it is brought to the public by the orchestra, with a complete suppression of any effort for individual creativity.

One of the greatest achievement of Ilayaraja is that he appropriately used the best of the western and eastern classicism. To wield a huge orchestra is no joke. In many of his carnatic songs he has shown an uncanny skill in organising the orchestral music with a classical splendour.

Vasantha is a fantastic raagam. It is a popular janyam of the unpopular melam Suryakaantham (17th). Its arohanam and avarohanam are Sa Ma1 Ga3 Ma1 Da2 Ni3 Sa; Sa Ni3 Da2 Ma1 Ga3 Ri1 Sa. While traditionally it is believed that Boopalam is the raagam suitable for the dawn, Vasantha is the raagam suitable for the dusk. So, no wonder Ilayaraja used this raagam for a duet which talks about the rain pouring during the dusk! andhi mazhai pozhigiradhu is a great song in the movie Rajapaarvai. Kamalhasan sings this song with Madhavi. It is one of those early songs that showed the full fervency of Ilayaraja’s mind for creativity. The classical orchestral grandeur of this song was unbelievable at that time. I distinctly remember hearing this song for the first time in “Oliyum Oliyum” in Madras Doordarshan. Those days we were living in the Telephone quarters in Kilpauk, Madras. Since we did not have a TV, we used to go to our neighbour’s house. They had a merciless “hundiyal” right at the door, which demanded 25 paise for each program! Well, getting to see songs like andhi mazhai for just 25 paise was definitely worth the money!

Ilayaraja starts the song with a prelude of “pop pop pop poboppo” by the chorus. The sudhdha madhyamam in Vasantha has served as the starting point for many classical krithis. Ilayaraja too starts his “pop pop” in the madyamam like “Ma Ma Ma Ma Ga Ma Da”. Classically, the transition from Ma to Da is not a straight one. There is a subtle Ni in between. That is, when the musicians say Da they go all the way to Ni and then drop down to the daivatham. Ilayaraja starts the pallavi “andhi mazhai” like Ma Ma Ma, Ga Ma Da Ma Ga, Ga Ma Da Ma Ga Ma Ga Ri, Ma Ga Ga Ri Ri Sa. It is a beautiful start. All the hidden melody in the swaras of Vasantha are extracted in the pallavi itself. Even in the charanam his mind seems to be bent upon extracting all the melody in the Ga Ma Da transition. He starts the charanam like Ga Ma Da Ma, Ga Ma Da Ma, and the tune lingers there for a while!

This song also marked the early classics of Vairamuthu. His lyrics became a controversy too, in this song. He writes:

andhi mazhai pozhigiradhu
ovvoru thuLiyilum un mugam therigiradhu
indhiran thOttathu mundhiriyE
manmadha naattukku mandhiriyE

Look, the hero who sings this song is a blind man in the movie! How can he see the heroine’s face in each of those beautiful rain drops?! Perhaps that is what defines a poet’s world. Physical defects get nullified in their world of fantasy! But, surely Vairamuthu got into trouble when he called the heroine as “the cashew nut of Lord Indira’s garden”! Basically he means to say that the heroine is like a kind of sex bomb to the hero! She is the bible that the hero reads in the night! That is understandable. But what does this cashewnut stuff mean? Lord Indira is not known for romantic deeds like Manmadhan! Just for matching the alliteration of the words he made a senseless statement. (Recently Vaali got into trouble when he said inji iduppazhagaa in Thevar Magan. Sure that ginger has got all degrees of sharp bends in its structure, but what has it got to do with the hero’s hip!) In Demolition Man, Sandra Bullock may feel very much disgusted about what she calls as “biological transfer of fluids”. But look how Vairamuthu characterises the feelings love creates during the youthful period of fantasy. He says “dreams torture”, “eyelids weigh heavily”, “it is like suturing a thorn inside the eye” and so on…

Ilayaraja made T.V.Gopalakrishnan sing in the second interlude of this song. A short piece of Vasantha. (Earlier he had made him sing a short piece of Keeravani in idhu oru nilaa kaalam in Tick Tick Tick). There are few classical people who have tried the orchestral expedition of carnatic music. I remember the recordings of Y.M.Kamasastri often played in the radio long time ago. Invariably he would pick up a rare vivadhi raagam for his exploration and have his orchestra play it. Albeit high technical quality, those recordings were not very much enjoyable. I would dare say that Ilayaraja was the first guy who could appropriately use the orchestral music in a very “enjoyable” way. Later he got so much used to composing a tune for his orchestra that he started doing everything in his mind. That is an unbeleivable state of knowledge. When the song goes like Ma Ma Ma Ga Ma Da Ma Ga, the background violin may be going like Da Ni Sa Ga Ri Sa in the upper octave. The chorus might be traversing in the Da Ni of the lower octave. The guitar chords might be vibrating in the F major area! If you could figure out that all these individual musical events would unify in a perfect harmony to give a superb Vasantha melody, just by imagining in your mind, then is it not a great task?! Where the heaven is this enigmatic MIND?

Ilayaraja has given three more Vasantha songs. maan kaNdEn maan kaNdEn in Rajarishi is a equally classical song . It has been sung by K.J. Yesudoss and Vani Jayaram. The song goes like Sa Sa Ni Sa Ni Da Ni, Sa Sa Ni Sa Ni Da Ni, Sa Sa Ni Ri…Sa. The second interlude is especially good. Pulamaipuththan has written this song. In the charanam he writes “kaatrukum ull moochu vaangum”! That is, when the thalaivan and thalaivi embrace each other during love, they would do it so tightly that even the wind that got caught between their bodies would feel breathless! This kind of personifying the pancha boothams and writing poetry like “fire itself would feel very hot” “wind itself would feel breathless” was started by Thiruvaalar Vairamuthu! Pulaimaipiththan too, seems to have changed his style to suit the modern trend. There is a short piece of Vasantha in the raagamalika song in Unnal Mudiyum Thambi. enna samaiyalO starts with Mohanam. Then it is followed by Vasantha (raagam vasantha, naan rusithu parka rasam thaaa..), Kalyani and lastly Madhyamavathi (ilayai podadi). Recently he has tried Vasantha in a half boiled way in Paatu Paadava. The song starts like nil nil nil. It is a very different tune. But unfortunately, these good songs seem to have got lost before the incredible power of Rahman, like the local “super 501 bar” soap in Thamizhnadu got lost to the “national” washing powder Nirma!

Hamsanandhi is one of the popular janyams of the unpopular 53rd melam Gamanachramam (the prathimadhyamam of Suryakaantham). The other popular janyam of Gamanachramam is Poorvi Kalyani. I don’t know if there are any cinema songs in Poorvi Kalyani. But there are a lot of songs in Hamsanandhi. Ilayaraja has used this raagam both for happy and sad occasions. Probably his first song in this raagam came in Rajni’s Thanga Magan. raaththiriyil pooththirukkum is a great song. The orchestral music is lilting. The song has been sung by the evergreen pair S.P.B and Janaki. Look at the classic “briha” (rapid vocal journey between multiple swaras in a split second) involving Ni Sa Ri Sa Ri when they sing “rathiriyil”! Pulamaipiththan has written this song too. One of his imagination in this song is ultimate! He says in the pallavi “pagalum urangidum rathiriyil..” Is it not a great idea to qualify the night as the time in which “even the day sleeps”! There is one superb Hamsanandhi in Salangai Oli. vEdham aNuvilum oru naadham is the last song in (the climax) of the movie. It is a crucial song because Kamal dies during this song. The recording scale seems to be very high, S.P.B starting in the thara sthayi gandaram. The other Hamsanandhi songs are vaanam niram maarum (Dhaavani Kanavugal), Eraadha maiyil mElE (Mudhal Mariyadhai), Or poo maalai (Iniya Uravu Poothadhu), raaga dheebam Etrum nEram (Payanangal Mudivadhilai). Needless to say there is a great masterpiece by an earlier music director (kaalaiyum neeyE by A.M.Raja).

Hamsanandi is the panchama varjaya raagam of Gamanachramam (ie., having all the swaras except Pa). Cinema music directors tend to use a lot of Ma1 in Hamsanandhi. The introduction of sudden Ma1 gives a great change to the tune. In kaalayum neeyE, A.M.Raja introduces a beautiful Ma1 when he sings ‘katrum neeyE’. Ilayaraja does the same treatment to the raagam when the charanam goes like “vazhai ilai neerthelithu” in raaththiriyil. This kind of use of double madhyamam makes a great change to the tune! Recently he has also given a song in Gamanachramam. That song comes in the movie Vadhiyar Veetu Pillai (Sathyaraj). The song is hEy oru poonjOlai. It is a great song. One raagam before the order of Gamanachramam in the melakartha scale (ie., 52nd) is the raagam Ramapriya. Ilayaraja has given a marvelous Ramapriya in the movie Moga Mull. The song is kamalam paadha kamalam, sung by K.J.Yesudoss. It is like a mini-katcheri in cinema! No wonder he gave such a pure Ramapriya because the hero is a carnatic vocalist in the movie. It is so unfortunate that such kind of “gems” go unnoticed because of the failure of the movie.

Now they say that Ilayaraja makes a tune in just a matter of few minutes. He writes the tune not only for the song, but for the entire orchestra in just a matter of few minutes! He doesn’t seem to follow the primitive way of playing his tunes in the harmonium and seeing how it sounds. He seems to hear the tune in his “mind”. It is amazing how these minds in the creative industry could be used in such an intelligent and time efficient manner. The creation of good tunes by Ilayaraja’s mind could have been only a secondary act to fulfill its primary intent of aggrandizement by demanding 6 lakhs for each movie. Poor Ramanujam’s mind might not have even got a penny for all those giant leaps in mathematics that it made. The reality is that it is the benefaction by these great minds in the intellectual and scientific fronts that keep the society functioning between yugas.

Coming back to the age old question “where the heaven is this MIND”? There are some people who believe that the mind doesn’t exist in the brain. Maybe it is an extracranial entity. May be it surrounds the head like an electro magnetic field surrounding a magnet. Perhaps the “once upon a time” unrealistic halo around the head of Lord Buddha in my state board history book only referred to his mind! Then, P.V.Narasimha Rao, T.N.Seshan, Cho. Ramaswamy and their other (bald) kind would have a bigger halo, as more mind is likely radiate through their unprotected head!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 9

This is the 9th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

There was a great furore in the Indian parliment a couple of years ago. Since the daily scene there is pretty much so, does this furore need any special mention? Yes. This furore was a meaningful one! It happened when the Indian government signed the GATT agreement. No wonder, the stupid “swadeshi” oriented parties like the Bharathiya Janata party opposed the selling of India to the “videshi” through GATT. But as an aftermath, signing the GATT agreement had a terrible effect on the interest of India in certain areas. For example, the medical value of neem oil has been well known in India for centuries. It seems some of the western pharmaceutical companies re-discovered the medical value of neem oil and started proceeding to claim patent for the product! In that case, any Indian company which tries to “manufacture” neem oil and tries to market it has to pay money to these western companies! Is it not funny and outrageous at the same time? Patenting is a powerful tool to protect ownership. It seems that it will be better if we patented both of our meaningful and meaningless traditional techniques to protect our interests. You may not know what will be re-discovered (and patent claimed) in the western hemisphere in days to come! Maybe, some scientist here will discover that giving unboiled rice with its hard covering (husk) to new born babies will result in the immediate death of those babies within few hours and secure patent for this finding! Conisder how this will affect the interest of our Indian mothers in the far south, who have been using this traditional technique to “close the chapter” of their unwelcomed, stigmatic female children! Poor mommas!

Saint Thyagaraja was one poor man who totally did not know anything about patenting or copyrighting one’s invention or literary work! He probably did not even know that his krithis were worth anything! If he had known that his krithis were going to draw international attention in the subsequent centuries, would he have copyrighted his works? Nay! He was such a naive sadhu, the word meaning in its strictest sense. He was a perfect example of a brahman, getting up early in the morning, much before “sandhya poorva pravarthathE”, and doing all the routine daily religious chores like the thrikaala sandhyavandhanam regularly. A brahman is supposed to eat only “moonu kavalam choru” (the amount of metabolic fuel necessary to keep the body and mind functioning), and he should not succumb to the pleasure of eating. I can see that Saint Thyagaraja didn’t, from the way he looks so thin, like a freshly fleeced goat, in his portraits. A brahman should only indulge in priestly and teaching duties. He should have no malice for others. He should only think of “lokha kshemam”. Thyagaraja had all these qualities. He was such a sharp contrast to those brahmin scoundrels like Selvi Jayalalitha, Subramaniam Swamy etc in the political scene now, who are the incarnation of corruption, greed and evil. Thyagaraja obtained his food by doing “unchivrithi” daily, ie., going around the temple, singing bhajans etc and accepting the rice that people had to offer as a matter of voluntary donation. He was a Telugu brought up in Thiruvaiyaru in Thanjavoor jilla. He probably knew Thamizh well. But he chose to write his compositions in his mother tongue Telugu. Valmiki, the creator of “Rama” character, would not have anticipated that his fictitious “hero” was going to have such a profound influence on people to be born later in the time window, like Thyagaraja (and of course, BJP, for political reasons!). Thyagaraja was literally in love with Rama, like Meera was with Krishna. He had such a powerful theoritical understanding and practical mastery over carnatic music that he could compose in any raagam. He chose to appeal to his Lord Rama through “bhava” margam, ie., tackling the God, through emotional appeals. This was in sharp contrast to his contemporaries like Muthuswamy Dikshitar, who used “bhakthi” margam. His compositions were never a verbal diarrhoea! Just a few lines, thats all. He never tried to project his knowledge in his krithis. He was so simple and such a wonderful vagheyakara, that nature would take another millenium to ordain such a man be born again in this world!

Thyagabrahmam’s compositions have often been ridiculed in the cinema arena. Nobody has the right to change anything in another persons belongings, even though the person might be dead. Thyagaraja’s compositions are his belongings. He used them to reach heavenly abode. He left his compositions for the world to cherish and enjoy, as they were written and sung by him. Nobody can tamper with his treasure, which are ours now. We have to protect them as he had it! K.V. Mahadevan opened the gateway to the free musical society where anybody could do anything to anbody’s compositions! What kind of arrogance was that, in changing the Thyagaraja form of Dhorakuna in the movie Sankarabaranam without his consent? Having been shown the way of ridiculing Thyarajaja, Ilayaraja too embarked on that task. That was his technically first innovative adventure of presenting a raagam in the light form and then in the classical form. He knowingly insulted the uncopyrighted work of the greatest saint composer the world has ever given birth to.

That song came in the movie Sindhu Bhairavi. The song is paadariyEn padippariyEn. The heroine Suhasini has terrific interest in carnatic music. She is one of those proponants of the so called thamizhisai. She feels that one has to sing krithis in local language so that the local mass also understands the krithis. She busts into one of J.K.B’s (Shivakumar) katcheri and sings this song. She starts the song like an ordinary folk song with a simple rhythm and finally ends the song in a classic Thyagaraja krithi. Throughout the song the grammer of the raagam is maintained, with a light music type of rendition in the beginning and then culminating in carnatic type of ending. She starts the song all alone. Later the accompaniests of J.K.B start admiring the tune and then accompany her.

The raagam of that song is Saramathi. It is a major janyam of the 20th mela raagam, Nadabhairavi. Its arohanam and avarohanam are Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma1 Pa Da1 Ni2 Sa and Sa Ni2 Da1 Ma1 Ga2 Sa. Saramathi evokes a gloomy mood. There is a fantastic Thyaraja keerthanai in this raagam. That is mOkshamu galadha. Whenever some VIP puts down his head (may I translate ‘mandaya poataan’ like this!) B grade and C grade TV artists appear in the screen and play mOkshamu galadha with a pretentious sad face (feeling very happy inside regarding the unexpected death of the VIP and hence the sudden TV chance)! Ilayaraja’s selection of this raagam for that situation is very appropriate. Because a major proportion of cinema songs are set in Nadabhairavi scale. What you need to do is to avoid Ga Ri Sa and Da Pa Ma prayogam, thats all! When you end the song in a keerthanai, give a little gamaka touch here and there to make it classical (after all, strictly following the swara grammer, using specific prayogams, and appropriate gamaka soaked swaras are the essential ingredients of classicism).

Ilayaraja starts that song like: Ri Ri Ri Ri, Ri Ri Ri Ri, Ri Ga Sa Sa, Ri Ri Ri Ri. Then for EdariyEn EzhuthariyEn Ezhuthuvagai naanariyEn, he goes a little further like: Ri Ri Ri Ri, Ri Ri Ri Ri, Ri Ga Ma Ga, Sa Sa Sa Sa. Thus he starts following the grammer of Saramathi perfectly right from the start, but with a light music like technical approach initially. There is lot of “thamizhisai” preaching by thiruvaalar Vairamuthu in that song. He says

paadariyEn padippariyEn paLLikkoodam dhaanariyEn
EdariyEn ezhuththariyEn Ezhuththuvagai naanariyEn
Ettula Ezhudhavilla Ezhudhi vachchu pazhakkamilla
elakkaNam padikkavilla thalakkanamum ennaku illa

In the charanam he refers to the katcheri rasikas as ignoramus crowd who nodd their heads without understanding anything (thalaya aatum puriyaadha kootam). Then he goes ahead and suggests a remedy to this deplorable state.

chErikum sEra vENum adhukkum paattu padi
enniyE paaru eththanai pEru
thangamE neeyum Thamizh paattum paadu
sonnadhu thappaa thappaa? sonnadhu thappaadhu appa!

Though the obvious matter of controversy in this is the language, there is much more in the issue. Nobody can deny the fact that the enjoyment of music becomes supreme if we can also understand the sahithyam. But is it not also equally true that music and emotional feelings transcend petty barriers like language etc.. When you see a hidden sadness in the portrait of Mona Lisa, it is that sadness that matters. You have to look at that piece of art as it is! You cannot try to find a replacement to that Leonardo Da Vince’s monumental work by having a thamizhan draw an equivalent with a thamizhachchi’s face with a sad look! When Thyagaraja’s reckless brother Jalpesan throws away his pooja idol (Rama vigraham), and when Thyagaraja sings a keerthanai in that situation of utter frustration, mental turmoil and agitation of not finding his favourite idol, what matters there is the emotion that is packed in the sahityam, and not the language of the sahityam!

I heard recently that many people in the Hindi belt above have actually started listening to A. R. Rahman’s original Thamizh version of songs rather than the dubbed Hindi version. Would not Vairamuthu be extremely happy to see his “mukkaala mukkaabula” Thamizh version being such a popular song even in northern India? What would his reaction be if all his songs were translated and in due course the original writer of the songs, ie., he, forgotten by the people. I think that the mature way of dealing with this issue is to agree to learn the translated meaning of a krithi and then continue to sing the krithi in the language the composer made it. In this way we can get involved with the emotional framework of a krithi and enjoy it thoroughly. If the slum dwelling population of Thamizhnadu can understand “choli kE peechE kya hai” and enjoy the untranslated version of the song with a “kick”, then, they can also understand “Thyagaraja’s Telugu krithis kE peechE kya hai”. People only have to come out of their narrow minded caccoon that they have built for themselves.

Ilayaraja had to end this “padariyEn” song in some classical krithi to boost the character of Suhasini in the movie. He could have ended it in Thayagaraja’s “mokshamu galadha” or in some other original Saramathi krithi. But instead, look what he did! He chose Thyagaraja’s marimari ninnE which had been originally composed in Kamboji raagam. He changed the raagam of that krithi to Saramathi and annexed it to his “padariyEn”! Can anyone be more disrespectful to the innocuous, innocent and pious athma of the dead saint? Ilayaraja is a present composer. He should tune his songs to fit the previously written ones. He has no right to tailor the previously written krithis to suit his thalam, and ganam. After shooting the film “Veedu” director Balumahendra used some portion of Ilayaraja’s “How To Name It” as background score to the film (anyway, the music director was Ilayaraja). But, there were reports that Ilayaraja got furious at Balumahendra for not getting his consent for using his music album. When he is so sensitive to the way his musical works are used by his own friends like Balumahendra, how could he ruthlessly lay his hands on the Thyagabrahmam’s krithi? He writes in one of his own songs (idhayam oru kOvil in the movie Idhaya Kovil):

naadha thiyaagaraajarum ooNai urukki
uyiril kalandhu iyatrinaarammaa
avar paadalil jeevan adhuvE avaraanaar
en paadalin jeevan edhuvO adhu neeyE

So he knows about the greatness of Thyagaraja and his compositions. Yet he has commited the disgraceful deed in Sindhu Bhairavi.

Saramathi is technically called as sampoorna oudhava raagam, ie., sampoornam in the arohanam (having all the seven swaras of its parent raagam, Nadabhairavi), and oudhavam in the avarohanam (five swaras). There is a raagam that has the same avarohanam as Saramathi, and the same avarohana swaras in arohanam too. That is Hindholam. Sa Ga2 Ma1 Da1 Ni2 Sa; Sa Ni2 Da1 Ma1 Ga2 Sa. It is a great “light” raagam. Ilayaraja has used it several times in his music. Subu’s raaga based database has a good list of the songs in this raagam. As far as I know his first Hindholam came in the movie Ilamai Kolam. The song is sreedEvi en vaazhvil sung by K.J.Yesudoss. It is a very slow tempo song. One of his another early Hindholam came in Alaigal Oivadhillai. The song is dharisanam kidaikkaadha. He has himself sung that song. Oh, it is terrible! While su-swara rendition of even a simple tune can make the listening experience magical, abha-swara rendition of even a complex tune can give a real harrowing experience! The later has happened in the above song. His unconditioned fledgling vocal cords have worked very hard like a powerful gravitational force pulling his voice down when he desperately tries to reach the upper shadjam in one instance. But the tune is good though. His other songs are Om namachchivaaya (Salangai Oli), naanaaga naan illai (Thoongadhe Thambi Thoongadhe), poththi vachcha malligai mottu (Mann Vasanai), unnaal mudiyum thambi thambi (Unnal Mudiyum Thambi), naan thEdum sevvandhi poovidhu (Dharmapathini), kannaa unai thEdugirEn vaa (Unakkagave Vazhgiren), O janani en suram nee (Pudhiya Raagam), viLakku vaippOm viLakku vaippOm (Athma). naan thEdum sevvandhi poovidhu is a terrific piece with a wonderful rhythm (very novel at that time). It is a good westernised Hindholam. A. R. Rahman has given one very pure classical Hindholam too. The song comes in May Madham (maargazhi poovE maargazhi poovE). It is very good. I was told that it was sung by some Houston based new singer.

If you changed the Ni in Hindholam from Ni2 to Ni3 then we get Chandrakauns raagam. Ilayaraja has got a couple of songs in this raagam too. His first Chandrakauns came in Kaadhal Oviyam (veLLichchalangaigaL). It is a fantastic song. Great job by S. P. B. What a great change does this small alteration in the location of Ni in Hindholam makes to the mood quality! The tail piece of this song is in Sriranjani raagam. His second Chandrakauns came in Thai Mookaambigai (isaiyarasi). My brother tells me that it was called by a different raagam in one TV program in Doordarshan. Anyway it should be very close to Chandrakauns. The best of his Chandrakauns is azhagu malaraada abinayangaL soozha in Vaidehi Kaathirundhaal. Oh, what a song! Vaali has done a great job writing the status of an unconsumated young celibate widow. In his short story “siluvai” master writer Jayakanthan daringly writes about the cruelty of being a celibate just in the last line of the story narrating a nun’s short bus travel. Vaali has written about the same terrible celibacy from a young widow’s point of view. In Varusham Padhinaaru there is another Chandrakauns karaiyaadha manamum undo. Lately we got two more idhunaaL varume in Chembaruthi, and unnai ninachu urugum in Rasaiyya. A. R. Rahman has also tried Chandrakauns in his Bombay. The Hindi version goes like “ruk jao, ruk jao”. I don’t know the Thamizh version.

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 8

This is the 8th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

South Indian classical music has got an excellent treasure of superb names. Most of the raaga names seem to be Sanskrit derivatives. Even though there are some Thamizh equivalent names for raagas such as Sankarabharanam, nobody uses them. Ki.Veeramani is probably very sad about this. Maybe, Vairamuthu has some plans like translating all the raaga names into Thamizh as he tried translating Thyagaraja’s ‘nee dhayaradha’ in Sindhu Bhairavi movie as un dhayavillaiyaa (if only Ki.Veeramani was ready to fund the project, from the 5 lakh rupees that he got for perpetrating the deeds of thandhai Ee.Vae.Ra. Periyar, from Selvi Jayalalitha). Alternatively, Ki.Veeramani may get somewhat sensible and appreciate the high-level idiocy in trying to translate the proper nouns in raaga names. And he may rather to encourage a lower level of idiocy by goading his clan to replace all the Sanskrit sounding sounds like ‘ksha’, ‘jha’ etc in all the raagas to their Thamizh equivalents and then accept the raaga names. Then, Shanmukhapriya would be called as Dhanmukapriya (as Vibhishanan in Valmiki Ramayanam became Vibidanan in Kamba Ramayanam)!

Some raagas seem to follow the first, middle and last name system! The only difference is, you don’t give a space between the first and last name. For example, Kalyani has a first name (which is commonly omited), and that is, ‘mesa’. This mesa helps in identifying the number and position that it occupies in the melakartha scale. While there is no dearth of names, for some unknown reason, there is lot of repetition in naming the raagas. Thus you have Mohanakalyani, Amirkalyani, Yamunakalyani and so on. In this case, the above said raagas are all ‘DNA’ testified offsprings of Kalyani. But there are some other unrelated raagas that have common last names. For example, the Ranjani group of raagas. We have Ranjani, Janaranjani, Mararanjani, Megaranjani, Sivaranjani, Karnaranjani and so on. Of these, Mararanjani is the 25th mela raagam. Ranjani, Janaranjani, Sivaranjani, Karnaranjani are janyams of the 59th, 29th, 22nd and 22nd melams respectively. See, how unrelated they are!

Unlike the Ranjani group, some of the Bhairavi raagams are indeed genitically related. In this group we have Nadabhairavi, Bhairavi, Sindhu Bhairavi, Ananda Bhairavi, Salakabhairavi and so on. Of course, there are other few Bhairavis like Ahir Bhairavi (the Hindustani equivalent of Chakravaagam) which are not related to the above said Bhairavi group.

Nadabhairavi is the 20th melakartha raagam. While it is such an important raaga in the western music (the C minor scale), its importance is completely undermined in our music. The fecundity of Nadabhairavi has been fully exploited in carnatic music to get innumerable janya raagams which are commonly sung, while the parent raagam has become totally ignored. There are not very many keerthanais in Nadabhairavi. But in cinema music this C minor scale is the supreme king. Probably one third of all the cinema songs are set in Nadabhairavi scale. Ilayaraja has scored countless songs in this scale. None of them is classical. So, even though one might know thousands of these songs, he might not be able to identify the Nadabhairavi raagam when sung in the classical sadas! Some examples for the songs in this scale would be kannE kalaimaanE (Moonram Pirai), kalyaaNa maalai (Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal), engirundhO iLamkuyilin (Brahma), raakku muththu raakku (Yejamaan), ennulE ennulE (Valli – what a song!), then thenpaandi seemaiyilE (Nayagan) etc…. A.R.Rahman’s chandralEkhaa (Thiruda Thiruda) is another fantastic example of the C minor scale. In many of these songs, the music directors tend to present a hybrid by incorporating Da2, and Ni3 usages. Ilayaraja, who is known for his very minimal deviation from the chosen scale, also seems to enjoy presenting an (expected) vagary of occasional Da2 and Ni3 usage in these songs.

Bhairavi is a major ‘gana’ raagam. It is a sarwaswara bashangam. Thus the aroganam is that of Karaharapriya and the avarohanam – Nadabhairavi! Hence you could call it as the janyam of either Karaharapriya or Nadabhairavi. However, since it is more closely related to Karaharapriya (sanchara-wise), it might be appropriate to call it a janyam of Karaharapriya, with a reduced daivatham in the avarohanam (from Da2 to Da1). The movements of Bhairavi have got a very powerful quality to evoke a gloomy mood. It is much worse than Subhapanthuvarali (the raaga which is oft used in the cinema for sad situations – a very ‘light’ one when compared to Bhairavi).

For a guy who daringly ventures into the bermuda triangle of classical music, that is, the rare vivadhi raagas such as Kanakangi, Bhaavani etc, it is a kind of surprise why Ilayaraja so far did not bother to touch upon the greatest of all the janya raagas, Bhairavi, in at least one of his songs. Even in his classical music albums like the ‘how to name it’, I don’t remember there is any Bhairavi piece. On the contrast, MSV has tried Bhairavi twice (as far as I know) in cine-music. Both of them are excellent. They are ‘oru puram parthal midhilayin mydhili’ (the second charanam in the song adhisaiya raagam in the movie Aboorva Raagam. MSV says that the rest of the song is set in some vague raagam called as mahathi); The second Bhairavi that MSV gave was thiruppaarkadalil paLLikondaayE (Swamy Iyyappan). What a lovely song! What an unbelievable classical presentation of the essence of Bhairavi! What a marvelous rendition by K.J.Yesudoss! You have to enjoy this song atom by atom (anu anuvai rasikanum!) There is no doubt that the ultimate classicism in carnatic music lies with few raagas like Bhairavi, Thodi, Sankarabharanam, Begada, Karaharapriya and Kalyani etc. The ascendency in the scale of knowledge and performance of even the classical musicians would be evaluated by the critics according to the mastery and proficiency that they show in handling these raagas. Such is the weightage that a raagam like Bhairavi deems from the purely classical people. Ilayaraja miserably failed in this aspect.

There was a wonderful opportunity recently for him to handle Bhairavi. That is, in the movie Moga Mull. The author of that book Thi.Janakiraman, writes pages about this great raagam. In the novel, he actually writes few paragraphs of just Bhairavi swaras alone, and about the beauty of those swaras. This he writes in the context when the hero Babu and his friend Rajam sit in the Kumbakonam public park and listen to the Bhairavi raagam broadcasted in the park radio. Since so much emphasis was given to this raagam in the story, I was lead to believe that the director Gnana might have told Ilayaraja and got a superb Bhairavi song. But, alas! There was just a small piece of re-recording in Bhairavi alone, that too, Bhairavi varnam, when Babu’s music master Ranganna teaches music to his disciples. Thats all.

Mukhari and Husseni are raagas very closely related to Bhairavi. Though it is generally said that Mukhari is the apt raagam for gloomy mood, perhaps Bhairavi suits more to such a situation than the former. Cinema musicians have preferred to use Sivaranjani or Subhapanthuvarali for sad situations than Bhairavi or Mukhari, probably because of the terrific gamakam involved in these raagas. Too much of gamakam and cinema music don’t go together! However, MSV has taken a shot at Mukhari too, in two songs: vaadaa malarE thamizh thEnE (Ambikapathy), pOgaadhE pOgaadhE (Veera Pandiya Kattabomman). I have not heard both these songs. But have heard people say that they are very good Mukharis.

Ananda Bhairavi is a fantastic raagam. It is a sharp contrast to Bhairavi. As the name indicates, Ananda Bhairavi does not have a sad quality like Bhairavi. It brings ‘aanandam’ to the listener. It is traditionally used in real ‘mangalakaramana’ situations. During the celebration of marriage occasion, when the bride and the groom sit in a swing and play ‘oonjal’, there is a kalyana sampradhaya song. That is ‘ponnoonjal aadinaalae’! The raagam is Ananda Bhairavi! You should have listened to that song, to appreciate how pleasant it is, particularly when a group of ‘maamis’ sing this song in an early morning muhoortha schedule! It will even make the father of of the bride who is performing a ‘dowri’ kalyanam, lacrimate due to aanandam, forgetting all the sufferings he had to go through to perform the marriage.

Ilayaraja has given two Ananda Bhairavis so far. The first one came in Rajni’s Raghavendra. The situation is: Manorama sings this song humouring Lakshmi, who develops an affair with the Raghavendra (future swamy). That song starts like: parthalae theriyadho naeku, adiyae sarasu… The second Ananda Bhairavi that Ilayaraja gave came in Sridhar’s Iniya Uravu Poothadhu. The situation is: the heroine (Nadhia) or somebody gets pregnant and the ‘thozhiyar’ crowd sings this song (during valaikapu?). The song starts like chittu pOlE mottu pOlE piLLai vara pOraan kattil mElE. Both those Ananda Bhairavis were good ones. Look, he has used the raagam to suit happy occasion in both the instances! Mangalakaramana situations!

Ananda Bhairavi is one unique raagam in carnatic music. It defies the general grammer that regulate the structure of all raagas! We know that there are 12 (normally) definable swaras in an octave (from lower to upper Sa). They are Sa, Ri1, Ri2 (Ga1), Ri3 (Ga2), Ga3, Ma1, Ma2, Pa, Da1, Da2 (Ni1), Da3 (Ni2) and Ni3. If you count in terms of the number of individual swaras considering each of them seperately (like Ri1, Ri2, Ri3, Ga1, Ga2, Ga3 and so on), then you would say that there are 16 swaras in an octave. Of these 12 swaras, we use almost all the swaras in Ananda Bhairavi. The ‘namkevastha’ arohanam and avarohanam of this raagam is Sa Ga2 Ri2 Ga2 Ma Pa Da2 Pa Sa; Sa Ni2 Da2 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ri2 Sa. But there is much much more than this arohanam and avarohanam. You have Ga3, Da1 and Ni3 proyogams in this raagam. You can use Pa Ni2 Sa prayogam. With so much of bashangam, it looks as if it is very ungrammatical. Yet, it follows perfect grammer of its own, that define its raaga-lakshanam. Ga3 and Da1 is mostly used in making Ga3 Ma1 Pa Da1 Pa sancharam. Ni3 is used in making Da2 Ni3 Sa Ga2 Ri2 Ga2 Sa sancharam. In short Ananda Bhairavi typifies the purely aesthetic hallmark achievement of carnatic music.

Recently, Thamizh cinema music has got two more Ananda Bhairavi additions, from the now very famous Deva and Rahman. Deva’s one is konja naaL poru thalaivaa in the movie Aasai. Hariharan has sung this song. It is a great piece. Superb job by Hariharan. Look at the way the gamakam of gandaram is used in this song. Katcheri type of gamakam in a cinema song! Yet, it seems that this song has become a big hit! A welcomable change in Thamizh cinema music! In this song the lyricist (Vaali?) says ‘thEnaara paalaara paanja en kaNNukuLLa’ to indicate what a visual delight the heroine’s beauty is! Look how he is crossing the gustatory (taste) and visual sensory modalities! How can honey flowing into the eye give any pleasant sensation? Perhaps we should not look at a poetic usage from the scientific stand point of view! Then he says ‘dhEsiya kodi pOlE poththi vachchEn nenjukkuLLE’! What an atypical analogy to indicate the preciousness of the heroine to the hero!

Rahman’s Ananda Bhairavi is the song mettu pOdu in the movie Duet. Prabhu and Ramesh Aravind sing this in a light music concert. It is a fantastic song. Rahman has used this raagam in a very intelligent manner. The song starts like Sa Sa Sa Ri2, Sa Sa Sa Ri2, Ri2 Ma1 Ga3 Sa, Ri2 Ma1 Ga3 Sa, Sa Sa Ri2 Sa. Look at the way he uses Ga3 in the begining of the song itself! Classically when you sing Ananda Bhairavi, when you descend like Pa Ma1 Ga3, there is a caveat right at the Ga3 “don’t go any further down”! But Rahman goes further down to Sa from Ga3! In this poor grammatically ungrammatic raagam, what can you say about this usage? When you listen to the song it is so illusory and sounds perfectly Ananda Bhairavish! Intelligent musicians can re-define raaga lakshana! Perhaps this is one instance. I don’t know if classicists will agree with the way the raagam has been used in this song. Vairamuthu’s lyrics is just wonderful in this song. He advises the janatha to achieve success like the tender roots of a germinating seed inside a hard rock (paaraikkul vErai pOlE vetri koLga)! What a powerful analogy to boost one’s confidence to achieve success! Maybe, I could add ‘dinosaurai pOlE tholvi adayaadheer’ (don’t attain failure like the dinosaurs)! One of the theories for the extinction of the dinosaur family is that the females could not bear the weight of the males during mating! What a stupid reason for such a mammoth species to perish and become extinct! Shame, Shame, Shame…!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 7

This is the 7th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

Kanakangi is the first melakartha raagam. It is also called as Kanakaambari (what a wonderful name!). While man’s aesthetic sense gave birth to raagas like Mohanam, Sudha Saveri etc, his increasing scientific knowledge about the structure of music over a period of many centuries gave birth to raagas such as Kanakangi. In the days of yore, when man began exploring the music world, there was no Kanakangi. All he knew were those tunes or raagas that were immediately appealing to his mind. No wonder, simple pentatonic raagas like Mohanam made their genesis during that early period of man’s irresistable pursuit for melody. Later, as is usual, science took over the aesthetic sense. The dominance of MOOD, which often served the purpose of being the mighty commander of raaga creation, was pulled down by the even mightier science. That the central theorm governing the whole of music was only simple mathematics became evident. The tip of the iceberg eventually lead to the unearthing of the whole of the rest! String instruments like the veenai and gottu vadyam etc., helped the ‘music thirsty’ thathas of yesteryears apply some good logic and figure out the progenitor raagas of the already existing raagas and narrow it down to the 72 melakartha system. It became a relatively simple task like filling in the unknown elements in the periodic table once you knew the general structure of the atom in various elments! The first melakartha became christened as Kanakangi.

There are not many keerthanais in Kanakangi. There is a Thyagaraja keerthanai on lord Ganesha (who seems to have decided to rock the whole hindu community by resurrecting from his idolhood to drink vitamin D fortified milk!) in Kanakangi. Thats all. I know of no other Kanakangi keerthanais. There are few short pieces like the one in M.Subulakshmi’s cassette in all the melakartha raagas. If you want to listen to pure Kanakangi in cinema go to KB’s Sindhu Bhairavi movie. Ilayaraja scored a marvellous Kanakangi in that movie. The situation is: Sivakumar (called as JKB in that movie) is a famous vocal musician. His wife Sulakshana is a carnatic music ag-gnani. Hence, to quench his music thirst at home too, Sivakumar falls in love with Suhasini, who is a great gnani in carnatic music! This dual love creates problems in his public performance. He tries to forget Suhasini, but not able to do so. He is haunted by her thoughts all the time. In that situation he sings a song mOgam ennum theeyil en manam vendhu vendhu urugum. It is this song that gave the first and last Kanakangi to Thamizh cinema music.

Kanakangi is a difficult raagam to handle properly. The reason is that it has got vivadhi swarams at two levels. Sa Ri1 Ga1 and Pa Da1 Ni1. The transition from one note to its immediate adjacent note is discernable by human ear. But when you get such transitions consecutively like in Sa Ri1 Ga1 and Pa Da1 Ni1, it becomes jarring to the mind! Often, to score background music to eerie situations, cine-musicians press immediately adjacent keys in the harmonium in a row, say, Sa Ri1 Ga1 Ga2 Ga3 Ma1; or if the music director doesn’t have any knowledge about musical grammer or a taste for melody, he may even press all the above said keys together to startle the audience by his unpleasant music, than by the situation per se! So, that’s the only use for raagas like Kanakangi in cinema! But, Ilayaraja made a fantastic song out of this raaga. The tonal quality of that song appropriately suits that situation. He has handled that raaga in a very intelligent way. Nowhere in that song does he travels the entire octave. Because if you travel like that, it will be very jarring and unmelodious. He has divided the raaga into bits, delivering sancharas around Sa Ri Ga first, and then going over to Pa Da Ni later, carefully avoiding the sancharas of both the vivadhi levels in the same stretch! Only at the very end, while he goes to the climactic thara sthayi panchamam, he travels from madhyama sthayi panchamam in a single stretch, covering all the notes in between. K.J.Yesudoss has sung that in a wonderful manner. Nobody else could have sung that song as he did, because it needs lot of ‘akara’ practice. One should be a carnatic musician himself and be well versed with such vivadhi sancharas to do justice to the raagam.

Kanakangi is one example that proves the old saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. The concept of a raagam and mood is only in the mind of the beholder! Because, look what happens to Kanakangi, when you change the reference shruthi from Sa-Pa-Sa to Ri-Da-Ri. This jarring, inharmonious vivadhi raaga becomes Panthuvarali, a superb meloncholy! The same vivadhi swaras exist in Panthuvarali too, but because of the change in reference shruthi the quality of the mood changes! Similarly, if you knock off the Ri and Da in Kanakangi, you get Sudha Saveri, a superb melody! These are all wonders in our perceptual system, the beholder’s mind!

Ilayaraja has got many songs in Sudha Saveri, a very melodious, ‘desiya’ raagam (Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Da2 Sa). His first Sudha Saveri probably came in Bharithiraja’s Kizhake Pogum Rail. kOvil maNi Osai thannai has been sung by Jayachandran and Janaki. His other Sudha Saveri are maanaada kodi in Mudhal Vasantham, kaadhal mayakkam (AVMin Pudhumai Penn), raadhaa raadhaa (Meendum Kokila), maNamagaLE maNamagaLE (Thevar Magan). In maNamagaLE, he has given a sad quality to Sudha Saveri. The shanai interlude evokes a gloomy mood. Ilayaraja’s latest Sudha Saveri came in Prathap Pothan’s recent movie (Aathma). That song has been sung by T.N.Seshagopalan. The song is innaruL tharum annapooraNi. Even this song has wonderful shanai interlude. T.N.Seshagopalan has done a good job in this song (his first song with Ilayaraja). However, the best of TNS’s voice has not been brought out. Perhaps just ordinary cinema vocalists would have been enough for this song! I am sure Ilayaraja has got a lot more numbers in Sudha Saveri. Only thing is my senescent mememory seems to be failing!

Rasikapriya is the last melakartha raagam. Hence, Sa Ri3 Ga3 Ma2 Pa Da3 Ni3 Sa. I don’t know of any keerthanai in Rasikapriya. Ilayaraja has tried this raaga in his early days. It seems like a daring venture at that time. The first and last Rasikapriya in cinema came in Kovil Pura. The three songs in that movie became very famous even before the movie was released. The movie starred ‘Oru Thalai Raagam’ Shanker as the hero and Saritha as the heroine. But, alas! Despite the wonderful songs, the movie was a big flop. The Rasikapriya song was sangeethamE en jeevanE. I vaguely remember the tune of that song. It has been sung by Janaki. It starts like Pa Da Ni Sa; Sa Ri Sa Ni Sa and so on. The tune in the charanam is fantastic. Unlike the first melakartha, the last melakartha sounds melodious to me. Ilayaraja himself had told in one of his early interviews that he expected national award for this song. But, he did not get it.

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.

Classical Ilayaraja 6

This is the 6th of 15 articles titled Classical Ilayaraja appeared on Usenet in the 90s.
I’ve added links to the songs, so you can listen as you read.
You could also try my Tamil song search.

In carnatic music, while we have three kinds of rishabham, gandharam, daivatham, and nishadham each, the madhyamams are only two kind. They are the suddha and prathi madhyamam. If only the madhyamams had life, they are certain to demand reservation for the reason that the other more populous swarams like the rishabhams are dominating the music scene, not giving enough space for the madhyamams to come up in life! However, any species that is less in population become precious in due course. That is the general law of the nature. That is true for the madhyamams too. They are wonderful precious swarams.

The prathi madhyamam is the second madhyamam. In the perceptual scale the distance between any two adjacent notes in the harmonium is the same, irrespective of whether the notes are in the manthra sthayi, madhyama sthayi or the thara sthayi. (This is in contrast to the physical scale, where the frequency difference between any two adjacent notes in the harmonium keeps on increasing as you go to the right). In other words, the perceived tonal difference between any two swarams is the same. Thus the transition between Sa and Ri1, Ri1 and Ri2, Ri2 and Ri3, Ri3 and Ga3, Ga3 and Ma1, Ma1 and Ma2, Ma2 and Pa, Pa and Da1, Da1 and Da2, Da2 and Da3, Da3 and Ni3, and Ni3 and Sa will all be perceived as the same by our mind. However when you sing with the Sa-Pa-Sa shruthi vibrating from the thamboora, the ‘aadhara’ swarams for the shruthi, ie., the shadjam and the panchamam will have a pulling effect on their immediate adjacent swarams. It is this phenomenon that gives the beauty to the prathi madhyamam. It is for the same reason that the gap between Ri2 and Ga2 appears wide while that between Ma2 and Pa appears so narrow, giving an illusion that these notes are extremely close to each other.

The beauty of the prathi madhyamam can be well appreciated in raagas like Hamsanadham. There has been quite a good discussion about this raagam for a while in (rmic). It will become hackneyed to recapitulate it once again. Just to present the gist of the material: Originally a Neethimathi janyam and hence using Sa Ri2 Ma2 Pa Da3 Ni3 Sa (and the converse as avarohanam), it later became reduced to a pentatonic raagam when singers practically preferred to eschew the usage of shatsruthi daivatham (Da3). Thus, the Hamsanadham that we hear nowadays seem to be a janyam of Kalyani, instead of the 60th melakartha Neethimathi.

Ilayaraja was the only music director who tried Hamsanadham in cinema. His first Hamsanadham came in Sridhar’s ‘Harry Met Sally’ kind of movie, Thenrale Ennai Thodu. It was a typical ‘Mills and Boons’ plot, the heroine first fighting with the hero and later developing love, while the hero first develops love and later fighting with the heroine. ‘Moadhal/oodal/kaadhal’ sequence finally culminating in love signal from both the sides! Ah Ha! This type of plots seem to be like a never ending amudhasurabhi, giving the cinema directors innumerable situations, song sequences, and help them make lot of money. Rarely, such plots give us songs like thenRal vandhu ennai thodum in superb Hamsanadham. Sridhar who was almost dead at that time could make a comeback in the cinema world, because of the richness of the songs in that movie. Also, he introduced Veenai S.Balachandar’s sister’s grand-daughter Jayashree (who is also a cousin of the actress Sukanya) as the heroine in that movie.

Ilayaraja starts his first Hamsanadham like Ma Pa Ma Pa Ri Ma Ri Ni Sa…. An excellant start! An ingenious start considering from the scientific aspect of music, because this is the first and the last song that I have heard with a start in prathi madhyamam. When you are bred in a society wherein there are certain established styles, you would automatically imbibe them and then start manifesting them. Saint Thyagaraja starts the pallavi of his ‘pantu reethi kolu’ (Hamsanadham) in panchamam. In this raagam, anybody would be tempted to make a start in Pa or Sa. If somebody started in Ma2, then it is an abnormal behaviour. If he doesn’t deviate from the classical style even a teeny-weeny bit, and is able to sell it to the public and make a mega hit song, then it only means that he is brilliant! Ilayaraja did it! He has shown this kind of non-traditional start of his songs (from the point of view of the trinity’s approach to raagas) in many songs. Another example would be the kakali nishadha start in jananI jananI‘ and ammaavenRazhaikkaatha in Kalyani.

The background rhythm in thenRal vanthu is a fantastic monotonous tabla beat, not exhibiting change for every line in the song. This is in sharp contrast to the newer Rahman style, wherein there is lot of high tech scientific manipulations of the rhythm, with a change for each line of the song. As usual, our cinema kavigner (Vaali?), has made lot of ‘paethals’ in lyrics in such a wonderful raaga based song.

Thendral vandhu ennai thodum
aaha saththam inri mutham idum
pagalae poi vidu; iravae pai kodu
nilavae, panneerai thoovi oaivedu!

Look at the audacity of the poet, asking the ‘night’ to give a mat, moon to sprinkle scented water, so that the hero and heroine could indulge in carnal love! Literally, he is trying to drive the ‘daytime’ away so that night time could come!

The second Hamsanadham that Ilayaraja gave was Om namahaa in Maniratnam’s Geetanjali. It was a good one too. The third number came in his brother Gangai Amaran’s Ooru Vittu Ooru Vanthu. The song was sorgamE enRaalum. Our village hero ‘touser payyan’ Ramarajan and Gowthami go to some foreign country and become nostalgic about Tamizhnadu and then sing that song. That song was one first-class example of how to popularize carnatic music. From the pallavi ‘hei thanthana thanthana thantha’ to the very end of the song, it is absolutely classical. In such a short piece, he has brought out the full essence of Hamsanadham. Of course there are few slips, like the usage of Da2 when he sings ‘namnaadu poalaguma’, and the use of Ma1 when he sings ‘paaka oru vazhi illayae’ in charanam. He could have avoided these, and rendered a ultra pure Hamsanadham. But, what to say, cinema music directors seem to have all the right in the world to do anthing to any raagam!

He has daringly ventured to test his vocal skills in that song with S.Janaki. There are real fast sancharas covering one entire octave in such short span of time. Somehow he has done a good job! Perhaps, he thought that Ramarajan does not deserve any better voice than his! The lyrics of that song is also funny. I think he himself (or Gangai Amaran) has written that song. It goes on to narrate how village life in Tamizhnadu is much superior to that in other foreign countries.

Maadugalai meika, adhu maeyuradha paarka
mandhaiveli angu illayae hei!

In the short story collection of Fredrick Forsyth’s ‘No come backs’ the hero happens to go to Tamizhnadu. He takes note with disgust, how people urinate in public places, defecate in streets, in Tamizhnadu. Ilayaraja could have written that in his song.

Avasarama onnuku vandha sattunu
oru oarama onnuku adikka
nalla roadu illayae….

If the DMK succeeded in getting a seperate country ‘Thamizhnadu’, as they demanded the centre in early 1960s (beleive me, they had the arrogance and foolishness to do that, while Thamizhnadu didn’t even have basic necessities like water of its own!), it would definitely make this song as the national anthem! Perhaps, LTTE Prabhakaran has already made a note of this song as the national anthem for his Thamizh Eazham!

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,
Internal Medicine Department,
Brackenridge Hospital,
Austin, Tx 78701.