Friday, June 11, 2004

Ilayaraja (featuring Vairamuthu, Rahman, ) - 5 (Kedaram, Sankarabharanam, Nalinakanthi)

By DR. Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan

In cinema music, starting from the period of Ilaiyaraaja, the lyricists got into a pact of servitude with the music directors. They were dictated by themighty 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 onthe quality of the lyrics, it became the unquestioned 'rajyam' of the music directors like Ilaiyaraaja. He would come early in the morning to the Prasath recording theatre. Probably by that time the lyricist would be waiting therealready. 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! Ilaiyaraaja was definitely one important reasons for this abyssmal degenerancy in the state of 'kanni' Thamizh! (Maybe the LTTE/DMK/DK combo have Ilaiyaraaja 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 pressureof Ilaiyaraaja. He gave new form to cinema songs. After the period of Kannada-san (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. Itwas not shown whether he has a puff of ganja before that song! If you werethe music director, what tune (to our discussion, what raga) would you want to score in this situation? The points that director Bharatiraja gives youregarding this situation is: 'evening time/hero/ganja case/very happy/sings.'Thats all. Isn't your mind fully blank about what ragam to choose? Okay,if you were the lyricist (that too, making your entry into the cine- world in this song), what would you write? Ilaiyaraaja chose to use the all time pleasantry of Kedaram in this situation! Vairamuthu decided to write 'pon malai pozhudhu'.

Kedaram is a fantastic ragam. It is one of the innumerable janyams of the 29th melagartha 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 theraga identity clear. That is, Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa is not just the same when yousing, 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 ragam. Before Ilaiyaraaja used, I know of only one song which is in Kedaram.That is, 'ramaswami thoodan naanada' in ?Sampoorna Ramayanam. Lord Anjeneyasings this song to Ravanan!

Ilaiyaraaja's use of Kedaram is splendid. He uses the key phrase of Kedaram inthe 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 bythe 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 willand 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 NiPa, 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 thepoet has to say about this from his point of view! In the charanam, he goes astep further and starts characterising the normal events occuring during duskin 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 Ilaiyaraaja came in Kamal's 'michael madana kaamarajan'. Sundari 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 ( gnayiru oli mazhayil thingal kulika vandhan;was it Kamal's first song?), it was Ilaiyaraaja who gave him chance to sing repeatedly in his movies. Infact, in one non-Kamal movie he made him singfor some other hero (ponmaalai theduthae, en veenai paaduthae: ?movie).Kamal and Janaki have done a wonderful job in sundari neeyum. Ilaiyaraaja hasgiven 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 'ennavalae ennavalae' in Kadalan is very frequently alluded bysome 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 ragam. It starts likeSa Sa Ni Pa Ma Pa Pa Ni Pa Ma Ga, Sa Sa Ga Ma Pa Ga Ma Pa...later it deviateswith liberal usage of chatusrathi daivatham, chatusrathi rishabam, with oneflash of shatsruthi rishabam too (kaadalinaal varum avasthai enru kandukondaen). 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 mozhiyumvasappada villayadi.Vayitturkum thondaikum naduvinil oruuruvam illatha urundayum uruludhadi.Poets frequently indulge in abstract thinking trying to define inexplicable ideas. In another song he says, 'pookal pookum osaigal kaadhil ketpadhilai'(engae en jeevanae in Kamal's uyarntha ullam), when he writes about the onsetof 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 effectof 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. Ofcourse, you can sing the avarohanam of Nalinakanthi as it is, while in Kedaram, you have to add some special dealings of the swaras. Ilaiyaraaja has one good Nalinakanthi inKamal's kalaignan. It came as a surprise in that movie because all the othersongs were 'kuppai'. Enthan nenjil nee paadum has been sung by Jesudoss and Janaki. Ilaiyaraaja captures the essence of the raga 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 alapanatoo. 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 hasused gottu vadyam in that song.

With Love,

Lakshminarayanan Srirangam Ramakrishnan,


Sundar said...

Interesting article, but I tend to disagree with some of the observations...especially on the Ennavale song of Vairamuthu. I think the author may have misinterpreted the words here... What I believe Vairamuthu was saying is that the hero found himself dumbstruck/tongue-tied and even his mother tongue deserted him on his trying to approach the girl...only a lump formed itself in his throat and choked him...which is a very apt desciption of what many young men feel in such situations...

Vairamuthu is the only poet to bring the most pristine of thoughts and interpretations/descriptions of day-to-day life in the whole Indian music industry. At least, my life has been enriched by reading/listening to his wonderful mind at work. I hope others share this perception.

Madras Chick said...

Thanks for this lovely write-up on the Nizhalgal song. I came across this when I googled "Pon Malai Pozhudhu". I really wanted to understand the meaning of this song, as it was beyond me - this after listening to it many a times. I had no idea it was written by Vairamuthu. Thanks for the wonderful (underlying) translation.
I really wish I understood the rest of your article about ragas - but I'm to blame.

Anonymous said...




















Anonymous said...

Its the catchy tunes that decide the fate of album and not lyrics. So degrading Ilayaraja is stupidity!

Anonymous said...

Do I hear Kedharam in Ra One's Chammak Challo ?