Philosophy is an interesting subject.
I know by making this statement I would earn the wrath and ire of a majority. Some would look at me with a sardonic smile. Some would even call me as a person out of his mind. And some would look at me as if they were looking at an alien.
But in spite of all these, I prefer to stick to my statement.
It is often said and believed that people take recourse to philosophy only when they are at their wits end and then people become philosophical when they have no other options left in life. That is, philosophy is considered to be an escapist route. People who take to philosophy are even branded as pessimists.
But unlike popular perception, it is philosophy which shows us a path and gives us a purpose for everything. A simple definition of Philosophy in a dictionary suggests that it is the study of fundamental knowledge, reality and existence and an attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour.
People who consider philosophy as being complex must listen to/read this line by KaNNadasan:
தத்துவத்தில் என்றும் இல்லை தகராறு- Philosophy is indisputable.
A poet known for his phenomenal work on philosophy in film songs and who wrote simple words like வாழ்க்கை என்பது வியாபாரம், வரும் ஜனனம் என்பது வரவாகும், அதில் மரணம் என்பது செலவாகும்- Life is just a business, with birth being the income and death being the expense- surely knows what philosophy means, better than most of us.
Now, sample this:
பிறந்தன இறக்கும், இறந்தன பிறக்கும்;
தோன்றின மறையும், மறைந்தன தோன்றும்;
பெருத்தன சிறுக்கும், சிறுத்தன பெருக்கும்;
உணர்ந்தன மறக்கும், மறந்தன உணரும்.
புணர்ந்தன பிரியும், பிரிந்தன புணரும்.
What is born, will die; what is dead will be born;
What is seen, will vanish; what vanishes will be seen again;
Big will become small; small will become big;
What is felt, will be forgotten; what is forgotten will be felt;
United will separate; separated will unite.
Well, this was not by KaNNadasan but by Pattinaththar, considered to be Siddhar in the Tamizh land.
The verse, though seeming to be simple, has layers and layers to it. It, in a way defines philosophy itself.
Stating the obvious and going beyond the obvious- Is this not philosophy all about?
If I say ILaiyaraaja is philosophical, I will be stating the obvious. Well, I mean not only him as a person but also him as a musician. And this surely gets reflected in his works. Who can compose Nila Kayudhu in the same breath as Janani Janani unless he has a philosophical outlook to everything including music?
The composition being taken up today is steeped in philosophy and this does not have to with the lyrics alone which of course are philosophical (penned by him).
Kaali Perungaaya Dabba from Mandira Punnagai(1986), rendered by the Master himself smiles at us with simplicity. However, what make it more philosophical is the raga and the way it has been used.
Rishabhapriya is a melakarta(62nd) and despite being the prati madhyama counterpart of a very popular ragam called Charukesi, it is not as popular as its counterpart. In Carnatic music, there are only a handful of kritis in this ragam and needless to say this ragam was never used in film music until the gentleman from an obscure village near Kambam in Tamizh Nadu decided to use it. In fact, even after this, there have been no compositions based on this ragam in film music.
The name of the ragam itself is unique. Rishabham means a Bull.. As per Hindu mythology, it is the Vaahana of Lord Shiva. So, it could mean that ‘the one liked by Shiva’. Rishabh also means one who has an aura like a sage. Moreover, Nandi, Shiva’s Vaahana is considered to be a person full of wisdom.
By saying all these, I am not trying say that ILaiyaraaja must have thought of all these before tuning the song in this ragam. At the same time, I am also not ruling the possibility of this happening. Does he not think at the speed of light?
The scale Rishabhapriya is unique for one more reason too. If one drops the swara pa from the scale, it becomes a raga called Gopriya( note that Go in Sanskrit means the cow, the feminine form of Rishabh) and the notes are equally separated in frequency, which in Western Classical parlance is called as a Whole Tone scale.
I do not want to go beyond this now and would rather prefer to focus on the composition for obvious reasons.
The composition starts without a prelude with the Master singing the first line sans percussion. The Pallavi is in fact crafted brilliantly with the first four lines totally avoiding the swara ma. As mentioned earlier, it is the variant of ma which distinguishes Rishabhapriya from Charukesi.The swara ma occurs in the last line whose construction is brilliant again with the grouping of similar swaras-papapapapa mamamamama gagagagaga.
The mandolin and the keys, which occur after the first line is rendered in the beginning, sound with a sense of purpose.
The mandolin and the saxophone have a friendly banter in the first interlude with the former dancing with joy in the beginning and the latter giving a heightened response. The mandolin then responds with sobriety as if to provide a contrast.
What is philosophy without contrasting elements?
The lines in the CharaNams follow a pattern. The first four lines start with pa dha while the last line starts with ga dha. At the same time, there are some random combinations as well.
Is there a pattern in our life or is there randomness or is it a combination of both?
The flute which is interposed between the lines evokes sensibility.
The keys in the beginning of the second interlude sound with a sense of poignancy which transmogrifies as a sense of happiness and then even humour as a funny sound is added. The saxophone takes some silky glides with the flute responding piquantly. The mandolin-guitar combination moves with unobtrusive energy. The bass strings of the guitar resonate in the end with the bells giving a divine spiritual shade.
Philosophy of Life!
The xylophone in the third interlude sounds with vigour and yet with an inherent calmness with the long flute replying briefly. The single violin then moves with finesse. Is it glum? Or is it calm? The xylophone enters again after the violin traverses a circle. The flute responds. Is it plaintive? Or is it meditative?
Is it simple or is it labyrinthine?
Or is it just stating the obvious?
Philosophy is a question as well as an answer!
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