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,
Austin, Tx 78701.