Thursday, 2 June 2011

ILaiyaraaja-The Simple and Esoteric Musician..

‘Their Eyes full of tears, Mind Brimming with happiness, Body Ecstatic, Tongue searching for words, Brain numbed.. They look mad, mad.. For they are in love with you Goddess Abhirami, only Your path is good and blissful!’

‘virumbith thozhum adiyaar vizhinNeer malki, mei puLakam
arumbith thathumbiya aanantham aaki, aRivu izhanthu
karumbin kaLiththu, mozhi thadumaaRi, mun sonna ellaam
tharum piththar aavar enRaal abhiraami samayam nanRe.’

விரும்பித் தொழும் அடியார் விழி நீர் மல்கி மெய் புளகம்
அரும்பித் ததும்பிய ஆனந்தம் ஆகி அறிவு இழந்து
கரும்பின் களித்து மொழி தடுமாறி முன் சொன்ன எல்லாம்
தரும்பித்தர் ஆவர் என்றால் அபிராமி சமயம் நன்றே.

Thus sang Abhirami Bhattar, the 18th Century poet.

The story of Abhirami Bhattar is very interesting. It is said that he would be in a trance for hours and days together. One day, the King of Thanjavore, Saraboji Maharaja visited the Temple at Thirukkadavoor-where Bhattar was the priest- and annoyed that he did not bother to even acknowledge his presence, asked him what day it was-New Moon or Full Moon. Bhattar-who was in a state of trance- replied it was Full Moon (while it was New Moon).

The King ordered that Bhattar be burnt alive in case the Moon does not appear full that night. Tied to the rope on both the sides with fire rage below him, Bhattar composed 100 verses in simple but beautiful Tamizh extolling Abhirami. The verses full of esoteric meanings followed the ‘Anthadi format’-that is the last word of each verse became the first word of the following verse. It is said that the Goddess appeared at the end of the 79th verse and threw one of her ear rings to the sky and the ring appeared as the Moon on a New Moon night!

For some, this may sound irrational, unscientific and illogical. But even these rationalists can appreciate the beautiful verses in chaste tamizh.

I somehow find a lot of parallels between the story of Abhirami Bhattar and the music of ILaiyaraaja. While people who are initiated into music appreciate the nuances and techniques in his music, the common man just enjoys his music without any frills for its sheer beauty.

ILaiyaraaja is eccentric too in the sense that he is totally devoted to music just like how Abhirami Bhattar was immersed in Abhirami.

He has his own individuality and he is very firm in what he believes in.

Like Bhattar, he is capable of making Moon appear on a New Moon night-with music being the Moon and senseless movies being the dark New Moon night.

In short, he is simple as well as esoteric.

On this special day, it is my privilege to write on a composition which is very special.

‘Chinna ThaayavaL..’ from ThaLapathi(1991) is the composition of the day.
It is based on Charukesi, the 26th melakarta whose structure is sa ri2 ga3 ma1 pa dha1 ni2 Sa/Sa ni2 dha1 pa ma1 ga3 ri2 sa.

However, the usage of ‘ga2’ very close to ‘ga3’ in some phrases gives the feel of Ragavardhini, a vivadi mela (32nd ).Please refer my earlier post ‘ILaiyaraaja-The Sculptor-Part II’ in this Blog to understand the relationship between Charukesi and Ragavardhini.

In fact, one can even argue that the clear presence of ‘ri2’ rules out Ragavardhini and at the most one can say that it is a mix of Nata Bhairavi and Charukesi. However, a closer analysis suggests that the ‘ga3 ma1 ga2’ phrase in the Pallavi does give the feel of Vivadi raga and therefore the shades of Ragavardhini.

But one can either choose to use the intellect or simply enjoy shutting off the brain and let the heart feel the beauty.

Let us now look at the composition.

The opening flute piece itself speaks volumes about the greatness of the composition. Initially it gives an eerie feeling (because of the vivadi swaras). But as one listens more, it instills a sense of serenity. Emotions come out gleaming as the Saarangi sings with acute sensitivity. It is a spontaneous output of melody-perceptive and wholesome.

The Pallavi in the voice of Janaki moves with willowy grace. The first part-humming to the second line- is rendered with dignity and weight while the middle part moves with persuasive refinement. The last line that gives a caressing touch says it all.

The Tabla that plays the Tisram beats is meditative.

Imbued with lilting phrases, the violin makes stenciled movements. The folksy instrument juxtaposed with the violin heightens the emotions. We feel the ineffable splendour of music as the tonally rich Saarangi takes over. It is entrenched with crystal clear enunciation and is replete with classic phrases.

The CharaNam is an exquisite exposition.

The first two lines are punctuated with malleable phrases.

Coffers of melody overflow in the following lines.

The last line that sparkles with fervour, passion, affection and most importantly exudes and aromatic fragrance coveys a lot musically and emotionally.


Eyes full of tears, Mind Brimming with happiness, Body Ecstatic, Tongue searching for words, Brain numbed.. we look mad, mad.. For we are in love with you the Emperor of Music.. Your Music is great and blissful!

சின்னத்தாயவள் தந்த ராசாவே..நீவிர் வாழிய பல்லாண்டு!உமது இசை வாழிய ஆயிரமாண்டு!!

Hail thee- The one born to Chinnaththaayee!
Your music will live for thousand years!!


Aakarsh said...

Exquisite composition! Much has been talked and written about it and I dont have anything to add. The factors that make this song appeal to one and all are known to all. The emotional content in the tune, his orchestration etc. But yes, I would definitely like to add that it is in songs like these that I truly enjoy Janaki's rendition - when her voice is at base and toned down. Another song of similar mood(in rendition), where she excelled was "Unnai Naan" (Guna).

How would our world of music be without this genius composer? God bless him!

Raj said...

Thanks for your nice words Kamal!

Yes..It is one of my all time favourites-though I generally do not like pathos songs :).

கே.ரவிஷங்கர் said...


Raj said...

Thanks a lot Ravi sir!

Suresh S said...


As one presenter in a TV channel said, whenever this song is sung by a contestant the mood automatically changes and the heart feels heavy. Such is the power of this composition. 'Dhalapathi' does have some outstanding songs but someone I have a feeling this will outlast all other songs of that movie.

Raj said...

Yes Suresh..One of the greatest compositions ever!!