Is illusion good or bad?
Spiritualists and Philosophers generally consider anything which is deceptive as not good not trustworthy. Of course, it doesn’t need a philosopher to tell us this as we as human beings have an innate wisdom that makes us not to fall into the trap of falsities.
But aren’t illusions enjoyable too?
See this poem:
தேனுகர் வண்டு மதுதனை உண்டு தியங்கியே கிடந்ததைக் கண்டு
தானதைச் சம்புவின் கனியென்று தடங்கையிலெடுத்து முன் பார்த்தாள்
வானுறு மதியம் வந்ததென்றெண்ணி மலர்க்கரங்குவியம் என்றஞ்சிப்
போனது வண்டோ பறந்ததோ பழந்தான் புதுமையோ விதுமெனப் புகன்றாள்.
Drunk with the taste of honey, the bee lies on the ground. An young girl mistakes it to be the ‘Naval’ fruit(a native fruit, an equivalent of the English fruit Blue berry) and takes it in her hands. The bee wakes up. Her face looks like the moon and her palm looks like the lotus flower. Fearing that the ‘lotus’ would close its ‘petals’ in the night-when the moon raises in the sky- the bee flies away.. ‘Can a fruit fly?’ asks the girl in bewilderment!
That poem is part of ‘Viveka ChintamaNi’, a collection of poems composed by various poets in that beautiful language called Tamizh.
We see two different illusions in the poem-bee’s and the girl’s. And how poetic these illusions turn out to be! In a matter of four lines, the poet describes the beauty of the girl, the beauty of the bee and the law of nature.
Aren’t illusions beautiful and enjoyable too?
In the poem, the bee was in an inebriated state. Or should I say, ‘a kind of inebriated state?’
Nearly 3 decades ago, a classical musician was in that state. And he goes to the concert in that state-not to listen but to perform. How would he sing? Or rather what would he sing?
ILaiyaraaja was given this situation by the director. And thus was born the song, ‘Poomaalai Vaangi Vandhaan’(Sindhu Bhairavi/ 1985).
But what I find amazing in this song is not just the choice of the raga Kaanada and its beautiful usage but also the fact that delusion and illusion run as undercurrents in the composition.
Let us start with the choice of the raga. ‘Kaanada’ is a vakra raga which surely has the capacity to take a listener to a different level and state. So, it is not without any reason that the composer chose this raga(though if asked about this, he would say, ‘it just happened!’ with a broad smile).
Secondly, such kind of ragas which go more by the ‘pidis’(signature phrases) and less by the aroh/avaroh structure are relatively easier to handle in an elaborate carnatic concert than in a film composition. To bring out the essence of such ragas calls for a profound understanding of theory and practicals.. Needless to say Raaja sir came up trumps in this aspect.
Let us now see the composition from the beginning to appreciate it better.
Clothed in musical sensitivity and sounding eloquent and gentle, the composition starts with the aalaap in the mesmerising voice of Yesudass and I must say that there are touches of Darbari in this. Probably, this too was intentionally done keeping ‘illusion’ in mind!
The Pallavi starts after a very brief sally in mridangam which plays the tisram beats, ta ri ki ta thom/ ta- tom . Interestingly enough, the very first two phrases- niSa nipapa ma gama- give the outline of the Kaanada in a trice. The brilliant composer that he is, he goes to the mandra staayi ni(lower octave ni) in the last phrase and then climbs up-ni.saripa maga ma ri -yet again using the prayogas of the raga. Isn’t it a complete Kaanada now?
Yes, here there is no illusion!
What matter in a composition are not just the swaras and the raga but the way these are used. Note how the lines sound with a twinge of pathos. Goes to show that music is beyond swaras and ragas..
After a delicate and a light stroke of melody on the keys lasting 4 tisrams, the violin dazzles in the first interlude. Illusion yet again! This dazzling violin plays Kaanada in pure Carnatic style even as the subtle violins back it in western style. The group of violins follow with aesthetic grace and elegance. The veeNa and the veNu repeat this melody with verve while the guitar gives a diffused glow of light.
Composed with fecund imagination, the lines in the CharaNam elucidate the raga. If the repetitive ‘dhanidhanidha’ phrase in the beginning is enticing, the repetition of ‘pa’ is inebriating. Of course, upper madhyama(Ma) in the penultimate line and in the last line takes us to empyrean heights. We are grounded again towards the end when it glides to the mid octave ‘ma’. Instance of illusion yet again!
The second interlude sees an uninterrupted flow of mellifluence. First, the flute sparkles with a blend of charm and poignancy. Couched in winsome melodic language, it produces sheaves of melody with only one-string backing it. The veeNa replies with its unique tenderness. It seems as if the veNu and the veeNa are involved in an exercise of gradually discovering the hidden aura. The keys seem to make some tender overtures to the violins which play subtly first and then vividly, sketching the raga beautifully in the process.
Splendour of expressiveness!
Aren’t illusions poetic and musical?