It is of course a known fact that he was a Musician par excellence. His mastery over Telugu and his ability to compose with consummate ease is very well established. He was also one of the greatest Bhaktas(Devotee) of all times.
But there are certain qualities which make him and his compositions unique .
One is his ubiquitous reference to Music in his Krithis proving how steeped he was in the Ocean of Music.
The other is his Probing Questions.
In an endeavour to make himself and his mind pure, he constantly questioned himself, and his mind .He did not just stop there...
He also raised a lot of meaningful questions to the Lord himself.
He asks, ‘Dwaithamu Sukhama Adhwaithamu Sukhama?Chitanyama vinu Sarvasaakshi Vistharamukhanu Telupumu Natho..’
‘Which one gives happiness-Dualism or Anti Dualism? Will you Please Tell Me-Oh!The Omnipotent..?’
In another Krithi , he asks ‘I am like a Woman tormented by seperation . When will you come and save me Oh , Rama..’
In yet another Krithi he says ‘In the Garland made of gems called as Ragas, Rama shines’
‘Raga Rathnamalikache Ranjillunada’.
All the above mentioned Krithis are set in that beautiful Raga called Reethigowlai.
In Carnatic Music, we have Heavy Ragas called ‘Gana Ragas', Popular Ragas called ‘Janaranjaka Ragas’ and Ragas full of Mellowness called ‘Rakthi Ragas’.
Rakthi Ragas pierce our hearts and kindle the hidden (deepest) emotions.Sahana, Reethigowlai, Ananda Bhairavi are some of the examples of Rakthi Ragas.
I shall now try and explain how the Maestro has used the Beautiful Raga to bring out the Rakthi Bhava.
Like Thyagaraja, ILaiyaraaja is also one of the greatest musicians of all times.His ability to compose in a jiffy is a well known fact and is like the Holy Grail.
What sets him apart is his ability to question and his propensity to experiment.He has been the purveyor of rare ragas and has redefined the idioms of Film Music.
The zeitgeist of Film World-Tamizh Films in particular-in the late ‘70s was one of appreciating Light Music with the Melody element though there was a smattering of songs based on Classical Music.It needed a lot of guts on the part of this Rustic from Pannaipuram to compose a song in a pure and a slightly difficult Carnatic Raga.
Though he had used the Raga Kaapi wonderfully in ‘Sugamo Ayiram’(Thunai Iruppall Meenakshi), it was his use of Reethigowlai in ‘Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiran’ which made the so called ‘Arbiters’of Carnatic Music look up.This composition got buried somewhere deep down in their subconscious mind.
The composition starts with the effervescent Flute playing ‘Ni Ni Sa Ni Sa Ga Ri Sa’and Reethigowlai comes dancing towards us.The Santoor then plays repetitive Swaras embellishing the already beautiful Raga.
When the Mellifluous voice of BalamuraliKrishna sings ‘Chinna Kannan Azhaikkiran’, it looks as if the Lord Krishna himself is inviting us to play with him.
The Sa Ga Ri Ga Ma Ni Ni Sa and Ga Ma Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa usage delineate the beauty that is called as ReethiGowlai.
The interludes have Flutes playing counterpoints and the Santoor giving a charming smile .
The highlight of the composition is the brevity in Orchestration.Not many instruments have been used but still it sounds Great.
Contrast this with the Pathos version of the same song.
The song starts with the Divine Nagaswaram and as Janaki sings the first line, the Violin Orchestra takes over in Western Classical style.The short pause after this is the stamp of the Master!
The interludes have the Violin Orchestra in Western Style followed by the Flute in Carnatic Style which sings with Meloncholy this time-though the notes are the same as that of the Happy Version-and the Santoor.
The second interlude deserves a special mention here.The Orchestra takes us to the Western Classical mode initially playing Reethigowlai, and later on deviating in pure Western Stlye finally catching up with the Raga towards the end.
In the last Charanam, as Janaki’s Voice reaches a Crescendo, the Violins play the Postlude .
ILaiyaraaja –the Eclectic Musician!
Rama weds Sita .This is a known story.But what happens when the Swayamavara and the Wedding take place in Reethigowlai?
Reethigowlai reaches new heights in ‘Raman Kathai Kelungall’from ‘Sippikkul Muthu’(Swathi Muthyam-Telugu).
Though the song has other Ragas as well, Reethigowlai sounds very sweet.
The beautiful Sita is decorated in Reethigowlai .The Veena plays as Rama walks into the gathering full of Great Warriors, Kings and Learned Men.
When each warrior fails in his attempt to lift the Bow and finally when Rama succeeds in lifting the Bow,one gets a wonderful taste of Andhra Folk -albeit not in Reethigowlai.
Reethigowlai joins us again towards the end after a brief Madhyamavathi.
The most riveting Reethigowlai in Film Music is ‘Thalayai Kuniyum Thamaraiye’ from ‘Oru Odai Nadhiyagirathu’.The composition is woven with a clear and concise understanding of the Dos and Don’ts of this Raga.
It starts with the Divine Nagaswaram again.The Electronic Synthesiser follows the String.
Ni Sa Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa and Sa Ga Ri Ga Ma Ni Dha Ma-sketch Reethigowlai before we bat our eyelids.
The 4/8 Chatusram beats are wonderfully split to sound as 1 123.
The Flute followed by Strings and the Violins playing in Harmony in the first interlude give us a sense of mirth.
But the best piece of Reethigowlai is heard in the second interlude when there is an undulating Wave-Pattern with the sound of the Ankle Bell in the background.
Even people who do not know to dance move their feet involuntarily mesmerized by this piece!
The structure of the second Charanam is another beauty.The eleven lines move so effortlessly that one is left wondering as to how such a Rakthi Raga is handled in a Filmy duet without in anyway losing its Charm or Grandeur.
The same Reethigowlai flourishes with flamboyance in ‘Meethatha Oru Veenai’from ‘Poonthottam’.The mellowness of the Raga is felt in the modern instruments as well.
The composition is set to the 5 beat Kanda Chapu Talam-Thaka Thakita -but the Mridangam makes its appearance only in the second interlude along with the Veena.
Until then we hear Western Instruments.
The Violins also alternate between High and Low Pitch.
The entire song gives us a feeling of seeing a Snow Capped Mountain surrounded by a thousand Flowers.
‘Aayiram Malaragall Malarum Allava Avarathu Isai Kettu’?
His Music makes Thousands of Flowers Bloom…...