Friday, June 11, 2004

Ilayaraja - 3 ( Subhapanthuvarali, Panthuvarali, Mayamalava Gowlai, Lalitha )

By DR. Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan

Subhapanthuvarali is a 'bayangara soga' ragam. If you hear it you will cry; I will cry; 'saraa loag' will cry. Given the conditional event of Rajiv Gandhi or Indira Gandhi's death occuring, Subhapanthuvarali played on the radio or TV by some 'thenga moodi' bhagavathar during the days of mourning will make even those music insensitive Indira congress leaders shed atleast 'crocodile tears'! Can you imagine this ragam being used in the cinema for a sexy scene like that in 'Hot Shots' in which the hero Charlie Sheen fries eggs on the heroine's umbilicus as though it was a bunzen burner?! Yes, there is a song in Subhapanthuvarali for a situation like the above said, in the movie 'Getti melam'. That was the first movie in which director Visu joined Ilaiyaraaja, starring Karthik and Sasikala. Visu had tried some sexploitation in that song sequence by bringing Sasikala in swimsuit for few minutes, Karthik grazing over her all the time! The song is 'dhagamae undanathe, thindaaduthe manamae..' That was pure subhapanthuvarali. Maybe it evoked sexy mood. Maybe not! Neither the movie nor the song was a big hit. Perhaps the failure was only due to the ineptitude of the raga selection. Visu never joined with Ilaiyaraaja after that!

Ilaiyaraaja has used Subhapanthuvarali umpteen number of times for sad situations. His first Subhapanthuvarali came in 'vaigarayil vagai karayil' in Payanangal modivathilai. S.P.B had done a wonderful job in that. The song was a big hit as were the other numbers in that movie. Ilaiyaraaja and director R.Sundarajan reportedly had a physical fight about who was the main reason for the movie's hit! Childish fellows! After sometime, R.Sundarajan became a pal with Ilaiyaraaja once again, reconciling to the fact that Ilaiyaraaja was indispensable at that period of time when he was at his peak. Some of his other Subhapanthuvarali are 'madhavan azhakiraan' in Rajni's Ragavendra, one song in valli (enna enna kanavu kandayo). In paadu nilaavae he used subapanthuvarali for one situation in which the hero and heroine enter into some sort of music competetion. That song is 'vaa veliyae intha kootai vittu'. Mano and Chitra. Mano had shown his vocal gimnastic skills in the thara sthayi sancharas in that song.

Subhapanthuvarali is the 45th melagartha ragam. One raga before that,(ie 44th) we have Bavapriya ragam. Ilaiyaraaja has composed one song in this scale. That is 'kandupudichen kandupudichen' in Gurusishyan. One of my friend said that some carnatic big shot (Sudha Raghunathan or someone) told in an interview in MTV that it was a good Bavapriya and that Ilaiyaraaja had used this 'soga ragam' in that funny situation in which Prabhu humours Rajini about his new love affair with Gowthami. I would simply say that it was a good song in Bavapriya scale. Thats all! Similarly there is a good song in the suddha madhyama raga scale of Subhapanthuvarali, that is , Dhenuka. It is the song in 'thooral ninnu poachu': en soga kathaya kaellu... Let us simply call this as set in Dhenuka scale (with few slips) and not as Dhenuka ragam.

The sixth raga from Subhapanthuvarali, ie, 51st mela ragam is Panthuvarali. Ilaiyaraaja has conspicuously not produced any good number in Panthuvarali.The only one that I know is the re-recording in 'Raja paarvai' in which blind Kamal plays violin with the troup. I forgot the situation for that in the movie. Sa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Sa Ri Ni Sa....That is how the recording goes. Though it is usually quoted as good Panthuvarali, I did not like it very much. He had tried some fusion in that. Nothing can beat MSV's aezhu swarangalukul in Panthuvarali. It is like listening to a katcheri. Vani Jayaram's performance was terrific. Did she get national award for that song? Perhaps, it is because of this song that she always says that MSV is the best music director who gave carnatic music in pure form, forgetting about Ilaiyaraaja's 'indraiku en intha' (vaidhegi kathirunthal) and other innumerable etcetras. Maybe, Ilaiyaraaja stopped giving her chance to sing in his movies only because she praised MSV all the time!

Ilaiyaraaja was very prolific in the sudha madhyama counterpart of panthuvarli, that is mayamalavagowlai. Since mayamalavagowlai is relatively very flexible, you can distinctly show the colour of the raga just by traversing its notes alone. Not much of gamakam is needed. You can use this for all kinds of situation like sadness, happiness etc. Ilaiyaraaja has completely exploited this ragam to the point of its fullest use, so that no other music director can bring out any better than him from this raga. His first song in this scale probably came in ponnu ooruku pudhusu (enna paatu paada enna thalam poada!). His other mayamalavagowlai are manjal nilavuku inru (pagalil oru nilavu), anthi varum neram (munthanai mudichu), madhurai mari kozhundu (enga oru paatukaaran), uyirae uyirae urugadhae (oruvar vaazhum aalayam), illam kaadal veenai (vellai pura onru), rama naamam oru vedamae (ragavendrar), maasaru ponnae varuga (thevar magan), en thayaenum koyilai (aranmanai killi), kottu kali kottu (chinnavar), poova eduthu vachu (amman koil kizhakaalae) There are so many songs, that quoting all would be cumbersome. Some of them have actually been tuned in tappanguthu situations. In Bharathiraja's ennuyir thozhan, there is a song 'machchi en mannaru'. It is a pukka Mayamalavagowlai (even though it is tappanguthu). That song has the following lyrics:

Machchi en mannaru mansukkula bejaru,

Touch pannaru, takkara poanaru,

Daavu oru daavu naan kaatum naerum...

Sammunu sammunu vaasam sallunu sallunu veesum...

Though I've not seen this movie, from the lyrics I guess that the song situation should be like this: The poor pettai rowdy hero buys a new autorickshaw and shows it to his lady love and sings a song! In the charanam of that song look what the heroine asks the hero to buy for her! Not jewelry! Not house or 'bahuth keemthi property'! Not new silk dresses! Just two tickets for matnee show to a rajini's movie so that they both can go! Thats all! Also, in the charanam the hero says to the heroine 'kaaveri aaratam odathae nee mae..koovam than naamae..' Funny! Isn't it? It is as though these people are just talking in madras language in that song. Good depiction of poor class life. Even though the thamizh kaavalargal purists might say that this song is a kuppai, I liked the lyrics very much. How else can you write for a situation in which 'pettai rowdi' sings a song? In kottu kali kottu (chinnavar), he has extracted heavy vocal support from SPB and Chitra, making them go up and down the scale in beautiful array of swaras. You should have listened to it to appreciate it. One of his Mayamalavagowlai closely resembles one of MSV's song. It is 'enge naan kanbaen' in A.S.Prakasam's Sadhanai. It is just like 'kallellam maanika kallaguma' (alayamani). He should have definitely got the idea for that song from MSV's above said song. Some MSV fans might call this as blatant plagiarism! Is it? I don't know.

Considering the panchama varjaya ragam of Mayamalavagowlai, he was the only one who ever used it so far! That is the Lalitha ragam. It seems to be a recent attraction to him. The first Lalitha came in unnal mudiyum thambi,when Kamal sings a duet with L.A.K.Malam, as the heroine Seetha calls herself (as shit!) derogatively in that movie! 'Idhazhil kadhai ezhudhum' is a great Lalitha. Ilaiyaraaja should have definitely got the idea for this tune from Muthuswamy Dikshitar's heranmayim lakshmim. To me, the movements of both the song and keerthanai seem similar. But Dikshitar ingeniously starts the keerthanai in suddha daivatam. The continuity of the tune that Ilaiyaraaja has aintained in 'idhazhil kadhai ezhudhu', the step by step progression from one swara to another, the development of superb sangathis, each and every bit in that tune is simply excellant. This song is like a milestone in Thamizh cine-music. Gangei Amaran's lyrics is unusually wonderful, matching his another brother paavalar Varadharajan's 'mannil intha kadal' (keladi kanmani). He proved himself a poet in this song! Subsequently, following the hit of his first Lalitha, Ilaiyaraaja tried another shot of 'half-boiled Lalitha' in illam kuyilae, kuyil tharum isayae (priyanka). The start of this song is like Ma Ma Ma Da Sa Ni Da Ma Ma Da Ma Da Sa Ni Ma Da Ga Ma Ri Ga Sa. A beautiful start indeed! But the tune gets spoiled in the charanam. Iam told that there is another of his Lalitha trials in 'veera' too. I understand that it is like a small virutham (thirumagal un) sung by Arun Mozhi. I have not heard it so far.

With Love,

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,


karthi said...


Your write up was good without any bias to any MD which is very rare! I am a great fan of MSV and some of IR. I know nothing of ragas but The unnal mudiyum thambi song of IR's is onr of my favorites of his, too. Infact, in the 80's (post rajapaarvai era) there is just a handful of his duets that I like and this is one of them!

I detest almost all his songs that have the same beat as in "veLLi kolusu mani" so much so that I even used to dismiss of his good ones using the same beat (for eg., maunamaana neram). I don't know why but those slow insipid beats just got on my nerves and I usually moved away from the radio when such a song came on radio in those days - ie 80's when I was in my teens!

Thank you, Karthi.

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