Classical Ilayaraja 5

This is the 5th 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 cinema music, starting from the period of Ilayaraja, the lyricists got into a pact of servitude with the music directors. They were dictated by the mighty music directors. Since the selling of audio cassette and the success of the movie were only depended upon ‘how catchy’ the tunes were, and not on the quality of the lyrics, it became the unquestioned ‘rajyam’ of the music directors like Ilayaraja. He would come early in the morning to the Prasath recording theatre. Probably by that time the lyricist would be waiting there already. Maybe they even routinely prostrated before him as he entered into the theatre like the God incarnate himself! Then he would fill the theatre with his tunes in the ‘thanthana thaana thathana thaana thaana nanana’ form. The lyricist had to get this into his intellect and rack his brain to get words that would replace the ‘thaana thathana’ junk! What a pity! If Subramania Bharathiar had been alive he would’ve shed blood tears at the sordid state of Thamizh in cinema! Ilayaraja was definitely one important reasons for this abyssmal degenerancy in the state of ‘kanni’ Thamizh! (Maybe the LTTE/DMK/DK combo have Ilayaraja in their murder hit list for causing this change to their beloved Thamizh!).

There is one guy who repeatedly proved that he could stand upto the pressure of Ilayaraja. He gave new form to cinema songs. After the period of Kannadasan (even though Vaali and the lot were giving some good meaningful songs), on an average, Vairamuthu gave much much better cinema songs. Some of his cinema songs even had splashes of supreme ‘kavithuvam’. The song in which he made his debut was a feast both in music and lyrics.

That song came in the movie Nizhalgal. The situation is that, hero Rajasekhar (a ganja case in that movie) returns back to his home in an elated mood. It was not shown whether he has a puff of ganja before that song! If you were the music director, what tune (to our discussion, what raaga) would you want to score in this situation? The points that director Bharatiraja gives you regarding this situation is: ‘evening time/hero/ganja case/very happy/sings.’ Thats all. Isn’t your mind fully blank about what raagam to choose? Okay, if you were the lyricist (that too, making your entry into the cine-world in this song), what would you write? Ilayaraja chose to use the all time pleasantry of Kedaram in this situation! Vairamuthu decided to write pon maalai pozhudhu.

Kedaram is a fantastic raagam. It is one of the innumerable janyams of the 29th melakartha Sankarabharanam. It has got a small U turn in its arohanam (vakram!). Sa Ma Ga Ma Pa Ni Sa. Avarohanam is Sa Ni Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa. Though this looks simple, there is a specific phrase in its avarohanam to make the raaga identity clear. That is, Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa is not just the same when you sing, you have to sing/play like Pa Ma Ga…. Ri Sa Ga Ri Sa. The temporal duration (kaarvai) of gandaram is more. This is what gives beauty to this raagam. Before Ilayaraja used, I know of only one song which is in Kedaram. That is, raamasaami thoodhan naanadaa in Sampoorna Ramayanam. Lord Anjeneya sings this song to Ravanan!

Ilayaraja’s use of Kedaram is splendid. He uses the key phrase of Kedaram in the opening of that song itself like ‘Sa Ni Pa, Pa Ma Ga, Ga Ri Sa, Sa Ni Pa’ travelling from madhyama sthayi upper shadjam to manthra sthayi panchamam in a single stretch. At the time when the movie was released, I was amused by the chirping of birds in the prelude. How could they catch many birds and bring it to the recording theatre and make them chirp according to their will and wish and record it? Now that I’m a little older, and know that you can make birds chirp, lions roar, kuyils ‘koovufy’, just by pressing a single button even in your $ 30 casio, I’m more amused by the use of Kedaram in the song. The use of accordion in the first interlude ‘Sa Ni Pa Ni Pa Sa Ni Sa Ni Pa, Ga Ma Pa’ is excellant. In the second interlude he suddenly introduces a meloncholy with a solo violin piece well within the scope of kedaram. I don’t know why he did it. Why that sudden sadness in the tune?

The intellectual, poem writing part of Vairamuthu’s neuro-circuitry reached the boundaries of imagination in that song. He writes:

Idhu oru pon maalai pozhudhu
vaana magal naanugiraal
vaeru udai poonugiraal

Oh God! What a ‘karpanai’! He personifies the evening sky as a girl and says: she is changing clothes from evening to night, and blushes out of shyness because everybody is seeing her! Can anybody refer to redness in sky during dusk any better than this? There might be light scattering and such kind of hi-tech physical events that might cause this phenomenon! But, look, what the poet has to say about this from his point of view! In the charanam, he goes a step further and starts characterising the normal events occuring during dusk in a poetic way. He says:

Aayiram nirangal jaalamidum
raathiri vaasalil kolamidum
vaanam iravukku paalamidum
paadum paravaigal thalamidum
poomarangal saamarangal…

Proper translation would be: Birds would sing and clap welcoming the night; evening sky would establish the bridge for the coming of the night; all the trees would sway hither and thither and produce gentle breeze welcoming the night; the appearance of thousands of colourful lights all over the world would be magical; it would be like a ‘kolam’ in the gates of night!

The second Kedaram from the theatre of Ilayaraja came in Kamal’s Michael Madana Kaamarajan. sundhari neeyum is a fantastic song. It is not as pure as pon maalai, but it is a good Kedaram. Though, it was MSV who discovered Kamal’s singing capabilities (nyayiru oLi mazhaiyil thingaL kuLikka vandhaan; was it Kamal’s first song?), it was Ilayaraja who gave him chance to sing repeatedly in his movies. In fact, in one non-Kamal movie he made him sing for some other hero (ponmaanE theduthE, en veeNai paaduthE: O Maane Maane). Kamal and Janaki have done a wonderful job in sundhari neeyum. Ilayaraja has given the required weightage to manthra sthayi Pa Ni Sa sancharas in this song too. In the charanam, during ‘kannana kannae en sontham allo’ he uses, Sa Ga Pa Ga Pa Ni, Pa Ni Sa Pa Ni Ri which is definitely unbecoming of kedaram. But, I guess we have to forgive this, because this is cinema music and not a katcheri! The second interlude flute pieces are exceptionally good.

A.R.Rahman’s ennavaLE ennavaLE in Kaadhalan is very frequently alluded by some as Kedaram. Reportedly ‘thatha’ Suppudu also commented about this song in some interview as ‘Kedarathuku sedharam’, meaning damage to Kedaram. Personally, I am not able to place this song under any raagam. It starts like Sa Sa Ni Pa Ma Pa Pa Ni Pa Ma Ga, Sa Sa Ga Ma Pa Ga Ma Pa…later it deviates with liberal usage of chatusrathi daivatham, chatusrathi rishabam, with one flash of shatsruthi rishabam too (kaadalinaal varum avasthai enru kandu kondaen). But it is a very good song, establishing A.R.Rahman’s typical marks throughout the song. Unnikrishnan has done a good job. But unfortunately, Vairamuthu has made lot of ‘paethals’ in that song. Time and again, Thamizh ‘pudhu kavignars’ have written (to emphasise the dramatic impact of love on the lovers) ‘after seeing you, and falling in love, I’ve even forgotten my name’! Vairamuthu has gone a step ahead and tries to characterize why the hero lost his speech (literally) after seeing the heroine:

Vaai mozhiyum enthan thai mozhiyum
vasappada villayadi.
Vayitturkum thondaikum naduvinil oru
uruvam illatha urundayum uruludhadi.

Poets frequently indulge in abstract thinking trying to define inexplicable ideas. In another song he says, ‘pookal pookum osaigal kaadhil ketpadhilai’ (engE en jeevanE in Kamal’s Uyarntha Ullam), when he writes about the onset of love. That is, as the sounds of flower blooming cannot be heard, the onset of love is indiscernable! That is a good abstraction. But in the above said song he has grossly failed in his abstraction, trying to explain the effect of love on an individual. In the charanam of this song his ‘paethals’ continue: Unthan koondalil meen pidipaen, Un viral sodduku edupaen… and so on. Luckily he did not go to say ‘Oh, my love, when you shout from the toilet, I will bring the tissue paper’!

Nalinakanthi is another Sankarabaranam janyam. Structurally, it is closely related to Kedaram. It has got a sharper U turn (vakram!) in its arohanam. Sa Ga Ri Ma Pa Ni Sa. The avarohanam is Sa Ni Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa. So kedaram differs from Nalinaganthi in only in the arohanam. Of course, you can sing the avarohanam of Nalinakanthi as it is, while in Kedaram, you have to add some special dealings of the swaras. Ilayaraja has one good Nalinakanthi in Kamal’s Kalaignan. It came as a surprise in that movie because all the other songs were ‘kuppai’. endhan nenjil neengaadha has been sung by Yesudoss and Janaki. Ilayaraja captures the essence of the raaga in the start of the song: Sa Ga Ri Ma Ga Ri Sa Ni Sa Ga Ri Ma GA…There is no deviation in that song at all. In the second interlude there is a short thara sthayi swara alapana too. He should have avoided that alapana, and that person too, in that song! (I think it is he who has rendered that short piece!). It seems like he has used gottu vadyam in that song.

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

  1. abuubakkar says:

    egshdte lu v xmhjs xnsmd

  2. jimmy says:

    Great analysis. Thought only I was crazy about these sort of analysis and good to know there is company. Learnt a lot from here. Thanks

  3. raj says:

    u’r posts not ony praise vairamuthu butoffends other lyricists..