Friday, June 11, 2004

Ilayaraja - 10 ( Western Classical, vasantha, Poorvi kalyani, Hamsanandhi)

By Lakshmi Narayanan

The mind is a wondrous subset of the terrific biological entity, the brain.Literally, the heart is often alluded to as he site of thinking. In oldThamizh cinemas, the heroine would invariably say to the villain at somepoint (like the inevitable rape scene!) "naasakkaara, unaku idhayamaeIllayaa?" while the unmindful villain would be busy disrobing her with aterrible "ha ha ha" laughter! Why does the heroine have to say this kind ofa scientifically preposterous statement, while it was the villain's brainthat 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 themind just the product of the functioning of the brain? A disease processaffecting the frontal lobe of the brain might make an individual loose allhis social inhibition and pee in the public, or to go to Bourbon street inNew Orleans, or to Mardigraz in Galveston! Damaging the visual cortex of avillain might make him blind, but he might still try to follow the heroinewith the help of her bangle noise! Damaging his temporal lobe might renderhim hearing impaired, but he might still try to get to the heroine with thehelp of "koondal" scent cues (refer: Thiruvilayadal!). As a last effort youmay want to damage his parietal lobe, but then he would still see theheroine, even though he might not know what to do to the heroine! So, wherethe 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 deepestcrevice of his neural network "what will be the circumference of theearth". He does a simple calculation and concludes "about 22,000 miles"!Somewhere amidst the tangle of their neural network the Indians thinkabstractly about the non-existant numeral and make their magnum opuscontribution of "nothing" to the field of mathematics! Just give Einstein apencil and a paper and a chair and a table. He will fire a couple ofneurons in his brain and say a radical theory that the matter and energyare one and the same and that they are interchangeable. As though he wasthe incarnation of the God himself, he would start theorizing the rules andregulations that govern the movement and functioning of various celestialbodies 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 thewesterners. Indian classical music, be it carnatic or hindustani, hasalways encouraged the imagination of the mind to pour out extempore, like aspontaneous volcanoic eruption on the stage. This is evidenced by theweightage that has been given to originality and spontaneous creativity onstage during alapanai (ragam elaboration), sangadhis (singing the same linein different tunes), niraval (singing the critical line of a krithi indifferent tunes, with lot of emotional appeal), kalapana swaram and lastlyin thani avardhanam for the percussionists. On the other hand theorchestral music of the westernists is a well planned one. There might behundreds of musicians in the orchestra. Each of them play the notes that isgiven to them. Unlike the Indian classical music, it needs a lot ofrehersal and they have several practice sessions before going on the stage.There is creativity involved in western music too, but it is notspontaneous. The composer creates the tune sitting in a serene atmosphere,and it is brought to the public by the orchestra, with a completesuppression of any effort for individual creativity.

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

Vasantha is a fantastic ragam. It is a popular janyam of the unpopularmelam Suryakaantham (17th). Its arohanam and avarohanam are Sa Ma1 Ga3 Ma1Da2 Ni3 Sa; Sa Ni3 Da2 Ma1 Ga3 Ri1 Sa. While traditionally it is believedthat Boopalam is the ragam suitable for the dawn, Vasantha is the ragamsuitable for the dusk. So, no wonder Ilaiyaraaja used this ragam for a duetwhich talks about the rain pouring during the dusk! "Andhi mazhai pozhigi-radhu" is a great song in the movie rajapaarvai. Kamalhasan sings this songwith Madhavi. It is one of those early songs that showed the full fervencyof Ilaiyaraaja's mind for creativity. The classical orchestral grandeur ofthis song was unbelievable at that time. I distinctly remember hearing thissong for the first time in "Oliyum Oliyum" in Madras Doordarshan. Thosedays we were living in the Telephone quarters in Kilpauk, Madras. Since wedid not have a TV, we used to go to our neighbour's house. They had amerciless "hundiyal" right at the door, which demanded 25 paise for eachprogram! Well, getting to see songs like "andhi mazhai" for just 25 paisewas definitely worth the money!

Ilaiyaraaja starts the song with a prelude of "pop pop pop poboppo" by thechorus. The sudhdha madhyamam in Vasantha has served as the starting pointfor many classical krithis. Ilaiyaraaja too starts his "pop pop" in themadyamam like "Ma Ma Ma Ma Ga Ma Da". Classically, the transition from Mato Da is not a straight one. There is a subtle Ni in between. That is, whenthe musicians say Da they go all the way to Ni and then drop down to thedaivatham. Ilaiyaraaja starts the pallavi "andhi mazhai" like Ma Ma Ma, GaMa Da Ma Ga, Ga Ma Da Ma Ga Ma Ga Ri, Ma Ga Ga Ri Ri Sa. It is a beautifulstart. All the hidden melody in the swaras of Vasantha are extracted in thepallavi itself. Even in the charanam his mind seems to be bent uponextracting all the melody in the Ga Ma Da transition. He starts thecharanam like Ga Ma Da Ma, Ga Ma Da Ma, and the tune lingers there for awhile!

This song also marked the early classics of Vairamuthu. His lyrics became acontroversy too, in this song. He writes:Andhi mazhai pozhigiradhuOvvoru thuliyilum un mugam therigiradhu...Indhiran thottathu mundhiriyaeRagasiya rathiri puththagamae....Look, the hero who sings this song is a blind man in the movie! How can hesee the heroine's face in each of those beautiful rain drops?! Perhaps thatis what defines a poet's world. Physical defects get nullified in theirworld of fantasy! But, surely Vairamuthu got into trouble when he calledthe heroine as "the cashew nut of Lord Indira's garden"! Basically he meansto say that the heroine is like a kind of sex bomb to the hero! She is thebible that the hero reads in the night! That is understandable. But whatdoes this cashewnut stuff mean? Lord Indira is not known for romantic deedslike Manmadhan! Just for matching the alliteration of the words he made asenseless statement. (Recently Vaali got into trouble when he said "injiiduppazhaga" in thevar magan. Sure that ginger has got all degrees of sharpbends in its structure, but what has it got to do with the hero's hip!) InDemolition Man, Sandra Bullock may feel very much disgust- ed about whatshe calls as "biological transfer of fluids". But look how Vairamuthucharacterises the feelings love creates during the youthful period offantasy. He says "dreams torture", "eyelids weigh heavily", "it is likesuturing a thorn inside the eye" and so on....

Ilaiyaraaja made T.V.Gopalakrishnan sing in the second interlude of thissong. A short piece of Vasantha. (Earlier he had made him sing a shortpiece of Keeravani in "idhu oru nila kaalam" in Tick Tick Tick). There arefew classical people who have tried the orchestral expedition of carnaticmusic. I remember the recordings of Y.M.Kamasastri often played in theradio long time ago. Invariably he would pick up a rare vivadhi ragam forhis explorat- ion and have his orchestra play it. Albeit high technicalquality, those recordings were not very much enjoyable. I would dare saythat Ilaiyaraaja was the first guy who could appropriately use theorchestral music in a very "enjoyable" way. Later he got so much used tocomposing a tune for his orchestra that he started doing everything in hismind. That is an unbeleivable state of knowledge. When the song goes likeMa Ma Ma Ga Ma Da Ma Ga, the background violin may be going like Da Ni SaGa Ri Sa in the upper octave. The chorus might be traversing in the Da Niof the lower octave. The guitar chords might be vibrating in the F majorarea! If you could figure out that all these individual musical eventswould unify in a perfect harmony to give a superb Vasantha melody, just byimagining in your mind, then is it not a great task?! Where the heaven isthis enigmatic MIND?

Ilaiyaraaja has given three more Vasantha songs. Man kandaen man kandaen inRajarishi is a equally classical song . It has been sung by K.J. Yesudossand Vani Jayaram. The song goes like Sa Sa Ni Sa Ni Da Ni, Sa Sa Ni Sa NiDa Ni, Sa Sa Ni Ri...Sa. The second interlude is especially good.Pulamaipuththan has written this song. In the charanam he writes "kaatrukumull moochu vaangum"! That is, when the thalaivan and thalaivi embrace eachother during love, they would do it so tightly that even the wind that gotcaught between their bodies would feel breathless! This kind ofpersonifying the pancha boothams and writing poetry like "fire itself wouldfeel very hot" "wind itself would feel breathless" was started bythiruvaalar Vairamuthu! Pulaimaipiththan too, seems to have changed hisstyle to suit the modern trend. There is a short piece of Vasantha in theragamalika song in unnal mudiyum thambi. Enna samayalo starts with Mohanam.Then it is followed by Vasantha (ragam vasantha, naan rusithu parka rasamthaaa..), Kalyani and lastly Madhyamavathi (ilayai podadi). Recently he hastried 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 goodsongs seem to have got lost before the incredible power of Rahman, like thelocal "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 melamGamana- chramam (the prathimadhyamam of Suryakaantham). The other popularjanyam of Gamanachramam is Poorvi Kalyani. I don't know if there are anycinema songs in Poorvi Kalyani. But there are a lot of songs inHamsanandhi. Ilaiyaraaja has used this ragam both for happy and sadoccasions. Probably his first song in this ragam came in Rajni's Thangamagan. Rathiriyil poothirukum is a great song. The orchestral music islilting. 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 ina split second) involving Ni Sa Ri Sa Ri when they sing "rathiriyil"!Pulamaipiththan has written this song too. One of his imagination in thissong 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 theday sleeps"! There is one superb Hamsanandhi in salangai oli. Vedamanuvilum oru naadam is the last song in (the climax) of the movie. It is acrucial song because Kamal dies during this song. The recording scale seemsto be very high, S.P.B starting in the thara sthayi gandaram. The otherHamsanandhi songs are vanam niram maarum (davani kanavugal), aeradha mayilmaelae (?needhiku dhandanai), o poo manae (iniya uravu poothadhu), ragadheebam aetrum neram (payanangal mudivadhilai). Needless to say there is agreat masterpiece by an earlier music director (kaalayum neeyae byA.M.Raja).

Hamsanandi is the panchama varjaya ragam of Gamanachramam (ie., having allthe swaras except Pa). Cinema music directors tend to use a lot of Ma1 inHamsanandhi. The introduction of sudden Ma1 gives a great change to thetune. In kaalayum neeyae, A.M.Raja introduces a beautiful Ma1 when he sings'katrum neeyae'. Ilaiyaraaja does the same treatment to the ragam when thecharanam goes like "vazhai ilai neerthelithu" in rathiriyil. This kind ofuse of double madhyamam makes a great change to the tune! Recently he hasalso given a song in Gamanachramam. That song comes in the movie Vadhiyarveetu pillai (sathyaraj). The song is "hei oru poonjolai". It is a greatsong. One ragam before the order of Gamanachramam in the melakartha scale(ie., 52nd) is the ragam Ramapriya. Ilaiyaraaja has given a marvelousRamapriya 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 hegave such a pure Ramapriya because the hero is a carnatic vocalist in themovie. It is so unfortunate that such kind of "gems" go unnoticed becauseof the failure of the movie.

Now they say that Ilaiyaraaja makes a tune in just a matter of few minutes.He writes the tune not only for the song, but for the entire orchestra injust a matter of few minutes! He doesn't seem to follow the primitive wayof playing his tunes in the harmonium and seeing how it sounds. He seems tohear the tune in his "mind". It is amazing how these minds in the creativeindustry could be used in such an intelligent and time efficient manner.The creation of good tunes by Ilaiyaraaja's mind could have been only asecondary act to fulfill its primary intent of aggrandizement by demanding6 lakhs for each movie. Poor Ramanujam's mind might not have even got apenny for all those giant leaps in mathematics that it made. The reality isthat it is the benefaction by these great minds in the intellectual andscientific fronts that keep the society functioning between yugas.

Coming back to the age old question "where the heaven is this MIND"? Thereare some people who believe that the mind doesn't exist in the brain. Maybeit is an extracranial entity. May be it surrounds the head like an electromagnetic field surrounding a magnet. Perhaps the "once upon a time"unreali- stic halo around the head of Lord Buddha in my state board historybook 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 moremind is likely radiate through their unprotected head!