Monday, 28 January 2008

ILaiyaraaja-The Emperor!

Cinema is one of the most exaggerated Art Forms.

My intention is not to open a Pandora’s Box by making a sweeping statement.All said and done, one has to accept the fact that the Dialogues , the Expressions, the Make-Up and most importantly the Contrived Situations cannot be classified as ‘Real’.Even the so called Realistic Films have an undertone of artificiality in them.

In fact, this is what makes Cinema the most popular and effective medium.

One of the most artificial yet wonderful aspect in Cinema is the Music.Though our Life itself is Musical, nobody plays Music when we go through happy or sad phases(of course we do face music but that is different!).

In Cinema, we see and hear Back Ground Music being played in accordance with the situation.

Just imagine Flute and Violins being played when we romance and Shehnai being played when the Boss in the office admonishes us!

I bow to the gentleman who invented this concept of background Music in Cinema. If not for this , we would not have had the opportunity to listen to some Masterpieces.

The BGM(re-recording) took a new shape after the entry of the gentleman from Pannaippuram.

In line with the theme of the movie he would play a Leit- Motif (a short piece of Music played again and again) .

In fact, at times there would be more than one tune depending on the number of major characters.I see this trend being adopted by the new crop of Music Directors too but the major difference between the Master and others is that in the case of the Master, the Theme Music would change colours-either in the tempo or in the use of instruments or both-while in others’ it would sound almost the same in a monotonous way.

One of his Masterpieces is the Music of Unnal Mudiyum Thambi(Rudra Veena –Telugu).

It is a story of a young man who is always at loggerheads with his conservative father-a very famous Musician.The son is also Musical but asked to choose between serving the Society and becoming a Musician , he chooses the former thus earning the wrath of his father.He has an elder brother who speaks only with his Nagaswaram.

The Leit-Motif is the Thyagaraja Kirthana Tulasithala in the Ragam Mayamalawagowla-in which Thyagaraja offers all kinds of Flowers to the Lord as Music.


i.The Musician Father-Bilahari Marthandam Pillai- is introduced with this Kiratanam being rendered by him and the influence he wields in the Society at large is shown in the sequence.

ii.Gemini-Kamal Theme-Father scolds his son.The same tune is played in strings.But we see the brilliance of the composer here.He just changes the swara 'Ga' to make it Raga Ganamurthi- a Vivadhi Raga.All Vivadhi Ragas produce a very strange sound giving an eerie feeling!

iii.Gemini Theme-The same tune in Violins but played in Western Style towards the end.

iv.Gemini Angry-Now we hear the counterpoints and the Violin in the Back Ground sounding off key.

We have seen anger;

We have experienced anger;

But here we hear Anger.

v.Gemini Deserted-His elder son leaves him.Though we hear the voice predominantly, the Back Ground sketches the situation for us.

2.Love Theme-

Not many Films can boast of a Heroine being named after a Raga.In this Film, the name of the Heroine is Lalita and this is enough for the Master to play around with this Raga.

i.Love-Raga Lalita in full flow in Guitar.Listen to the phrase just before the end where a single Note is played with a pause giving an echo effect.

ii.Romancing-Same Lalitha in Guitar but listen to the Bass and the beats..

iii.Lalitha Her Name-The Hero gets to know her real name.The same tune in fast tempo. Happiness, Surprise, Joy …

Same instrument , same notes but how different it sounds.

iv.Kissing Kamal-The Hero’s father abuses the Heroine mentioning her caste.Shock, bewilderment, anger of being told her ‘low-caste’ status-how are these depicted ?

Veena in the Mandara(low) Sthayi is played and once again the Genius does the incredible!He uses the Sitar to play Raga Lalith-a Hindustani raga...

v.Marriage Sacrificed-When the Marriage between Udayamoorthy(Kamal) and Lalita(Sita) is called off, the same Lalita is played in a slow tempo and when the Heroine accepts this in the larger interest of the Society , a short and sweet Mohanam is played.


i.Servant’s Influence-The Hero’s inspiration is a old man and Sudhha Dhanyasi Ragam is the theme for this.A wonderful Flute Piece when the old man talks about his passion (of planting trees).

ii.Enlightment-The same Sudhha Dhanysi in a higher Shruti when the Hero understands and appreciates the Noble Cause.

iii.Servant’s Memory-The same piece in a faster tempo.Sarangi is then played to depict the death of the Old Man.


Music can change anything and everything.

The son and the father have an argument(as usual) and when the situation gets out of control, the elder son takes his Nagaswaram and plays aalapanai in Karaharapriya.He is now joined by the Musician father...The Hero follows suit...

Credit to the great Yesudoss who sings as both Father and the Son modulating his voice.

Credit to the Director for the sequence.

Credit to the Emperor of Music for composing such a sweet Karaharapriya to calm things down.

Yes..Music is the Greatest Healer !

5.Kamal Leaves Home-When the Hero decides to leave the house, he requests his brother to play a piece for him.Sahana is a Raga that kindles our deepest emotions.It is a Rakthi Raga.

When this is played in the Nagaswaram, it is not just the Hero, his Sister-In –Law and the brother who are with moist eyes.

6.Fight Sequences- What we generally see and hear in a fight sequence is a group of Violins, Drums, Trumpets etc.,Here is the case of pure Carnatic Laya being used in Fights!

i.Nasser-Kamal Fight Sequence-The Konakkol-Rhythmic Patterns uttered orally- is heard with Jathis ‘Gum Gum Tha’ and the Mridangam joins.

ii.Climax Fight 1 and 2- Tani Avardhanam or the Ensemble of Percussion instruments is an important part of a Carnatic Concert.Here we hear the ensemble of Mridangam,Dolak with Nagaswaram in the back ground.

Innovation with Aesthetic sense!Well.. Don’t we know the other name of this is Illaiyaraaja?

7.Grand Reception- Hero is being honoured by none other than the Prime Minister.The Brother plays the Nagaswaram.Illayaraja-the great- sets this in Bilhari Ragam-a Ragam the Hero’s Father is supposedly an expert –to show that son has won the challenge.

Ungallal Thaan Mudiyum Anna!


CSR said...

Excellent Narration Raj.

As many know, Tamil film has been evolving over a period of time with parallel technological development in all fields.

While direction, cinematography, editing and even cine-songs etc had attained reasonable place, but BGMs made a significant start, leap and reached its Zenith only during IR's period.

Like film is divided into scenes and shots, IR brought both the direct and indirect, hidden emotional/sub-emotional contents of a film to the atomic level of accuracy.

From the overall theme to the scene to shots to further sub-level he carried over the stories and characters through his crisp and to-the-point narration in terms of BGM.

What the film Directors were carving out in months and years, he did in matter of hours; films after films; within the desired schedules as and when the producers and directors wanted..!

Many film Directors would have learnt a lot of lessons from him as how to approach a film!

In short, he is the Director of all Directors!

Keep-it up Raj!


Vaidy said...

wow, Raj , ur description of music background score in unnal mudiyum thambi was so wow.....
I have not been thru all the links , is there something similar for chalangai oli??