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.

  1. ramesh viswanathan says:

    Hello Sir, This was an excellent piece of information about carnatic raagams. I would like to know more about 1. Abheri. 2. Shanmukhapriya. 3. Devagandiri. 4. karnataka Devagandiri 5. reethigowla. there are many more, if you let me know something on the similarl lines will be thankful to you. Rgds Ramesh

  2. A.R.VISHNU VARDHAN says:

    Hai every body, Any one can send me all songs of MOGA MULL.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Kalamaadu onnu karavai maadu moonu- Magalir mattum is also ananda bairavi

  4. dayanandhan says:

    informative post.. hats off..
    one clarification:
    the song vaadaa malarey thamizh theney from ambikapathy and pogaadhey pogaadhey from VP -Kattabomman are the compostions of Isai Maedhai G Ramanathan.. and not MSV..
    pls clarify..

  5. Sai Magesh says:

    Thanks Anand. Nice piece of information. I don’t know carnatic music but I listen. I was listening to “Paluke Bangaramayena” from yesterday and the songs from duet and aasai were coming to my mind. I came here and confirmed that they are of same raaga.

  6. augustine says:

    well done and keep it up your wonderful task in music world