Thursday, 11 December 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Sculptor-Part I

It is a well - known fact that Tamizh language is one of the oldest languages in the world.

Not only is it old but also it is very rich in literature.

But what makes Tamizh unique and special is that it has survived the ravages of time and is still spoken by millions of people across the globe. Sometime back I had written about the translation of a 2500 year old ‘Kurunthogai’ poem appearing in London Tube Rail(in my post on ‘Daagam Edukkara’).

Dance and music (or for that matter any form of fine arts) has always been part of Tamizh culture.

‘Tholkaappiyam’, the authentic work on Tamizh Grammar that was written in 500BC by Tholkaapiyar-considered to be a student of the great sage ‘Agaththiyar’ mentions a lot about classical dance.

‘Pancha Marabu’by Arivanaar-which was also written almost the same time as Tholkaapiyam - describes in detail about music and dance. It talks about various hand gestures,abhinaya,kooththu,,naatyam.It also describes the letters to be used for jathis-tha,thi,tho,ki,k.

Then there is ‘Kooththa nool’ authored by Saaththanaar.
This is the oldest available text on the grammar of classical dance.

However, ‘Silappathigaaram’-one of the five major epics in Tamizh-is considered to be a complete book on classical dance.

Though there are lot verses, I am giving below one sample verse that speaks volumes about the quality of the work.

It says ‘One must start learning classical dance at the age of five without any compromise on Musical, Dance and Aesthetic Elements, practise rigorously for seven years and perform at the age of twelve.’

ஆடலும் பாடலும் அழகும் என்று இக்
கூறிய மூன்றில் ஒன்று குறைவு படாமல்
ஏழு ஆண்டு இயற்றி ஓர் ஈர் ஆண்டில்
சூழ் கழல் மன்னற்குக் காட்டல் வேண்டி.

As mentioned earlier, Dance, Music, Sculpting, Painting were part of Tamizh Culture and these flourished under the Pallavaas and then the Chozhaas..In fact, one can even include Temple architecture because even now one can find the dance poses in many ancient temple Gopurams.

The Thanjavur Big temple depicts 81 Karnaas(loosely translated as poses but they are not just poses) out of the 108 karnaas. Nobody has a clue as to why the balance of 27 is not depicted.


You must all be wondering as to what relevance these have in this community.

Time to clarify.

Starting today, I shall be writing on the music of ‘Uliyin Osai’. The story revolves around a sculptor and a classical dancer and a fictional account of the ‘facts’ behind the missing 27 karanaas during the construction of the Big Temple.

I shall be discussing the ragas and the techniques used by the ‘great sculptor’ whose other name is ILaiyaraaja.

A brief account of the evolution of classical dance will also be given everyday.

The first composition is ‘Agandhaiyil Aaduvatha Aadal Kalai’.

Before I take up the composition, I must mention that Shriram Parthasarathy, a disciple of the great Carnatic Singer Neyveli Santhanagopalan-who in turn is a disciple of the legendary singer T N Seshagopalan- has done full justice to the song.

Now for the techniques used by the sculptor.

The composition is based on Rasikapriya, a very special Ragam.

Very special because it is the last (72nd) Melakartha.

Very special because it uses two vivadi notes(‘ri’ and ‘dha’).

Very special because no film music composer has used this raga.

Very Very special because Raaja sir has used it in films after a gap of 27 years.The last time he used it was for the song ‘Sangeethame’in Kovil Pura(1981).

The structure of Rasikapriya is:
Sa ri3 ga3 ma2 pa dha3 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha3 pa ma2 ga3 ri3 sa.

The second technique applied is the Tamizh verse rendered with panache with amazing breath control by the master himself.

The third technique is the Gruha Bedam(or Shruti Bedam).

Let us look at the composition now.

We get to see the perceptible musical impulses as the pallavi unfolds.It is like a breath of freshness.The percussion that follows the first line is tuned to play the raga itself and it climbs up and down like a cute baby.

The Tamizh verse rendering begins as soon as the pallavi is over.The Master renders it with passion, intensity, crystal clear enunciation and pronunciation.
People can not only learn music from him. They can learn the language of tamizh as well.

In today’s world where murdering a language is considered to be an achievement-especially by people in Cinema and the Television- Raaja sir shows the beauty of the language.

In the process, he also mentions about the ancient books on music and dance, the various musical instruments, the seven notes as per Tamizh Music.

We are grooved to our seats mesmerized by the voice, the language, the diction, the expression, and the meanings.

The Master also wonderfully uses Udukkai, Mridangam,Flute, Nagaswaram and Veena when these are mentioned as part of the verse!

The line ‘Eththanai Bhavam Undu Bharatathile’(how many expressions do we have in Bharatam..) is rendered with grace and grandeur, the final sangathi in the end in particular.

The effusive Chitra Veena shimmies as we see the different hues of Rasikapriya.

The crisp and succinct Charanam talks about ‘Silappadikaaram’ and the various dances. As we listen to it with rapt attention and revere, we are in for a very pleasant surprise.

There is a beautiful twist and turn.

The line ‘KaigaLil Oru Bhavam’ starts taking the ‘ni’ of Rasikapriya as ‘sa’ and it becomes Mayamalawagowla, the 15th Melakartha.

This technique called as Gruha Bedam or Shruti Bedam has been used time and again by Raaja sir and I have discussed this technique in detail in this thread in my earlier posts.

Engaged in a dialogue of intricate patterns, the song now goes on to discuss about the various expressions in dance.

Towards the end, it is Shruthi Bedam again as the song goes back to Rasikapriya.

The next Charanam is another beauty.Using the some of the swaras of Mayamalawagowla, it gives shades of Saveri and Lalitha(more of the latter).

It is so delicately crafted that we are engulfed and enveloped by the beauty of the Music.

The entire composition is replete with complexities.

It gives us the intuitively comprehensible image of the classical dance.


It has immeasurable power and weight.

It is composed with instinct and intensity.

Most importantly, it appeals to all of us..

How many expression exist in Music..
And is he not the one who gives all these expressions..

எத்தனை பாவம் உண்டு இசையினிலே
அது அத்தனையும் கொடுப்பவர் இவர்தானே..

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2 comments:

Paras said...

I should have come to your blog when I was looking for information on Ilaiyaraaja.

Raj said...

Thanks for your comment.

Are you looking for more information on Raaja sir?