Sunday, 15 April 2012

ILaiyaraaja- The Master Craftsman!

A very well known incident from one of the greatest epics.

The eyes of Rama meet the eyes of Sita..

What happens next?

Let us see how the great Kamban describes it:

பருகிய நோக்கெனும் பாசத்தால் பிணித்து
ஒருவரை ஒருவர் தம் உள்ளம் ஈர்த்தலால்
வரிசிலை அண்ணலும் வாட்கண் நங்கையும்
இருவரும் மாறிப் புக்கு இதயம் எய்தினர்

‘Their eyes drink each other, and they are attracted to each other- the ‘look’ being the thread that binds them together.’’

This is what he says in the first part.

Well and good! After all, isn’t it natural? So, what is so great about it except the ‘eyes drinking each other’ part which is of course poetically imaginative.

Now, look at the second part..

‘’The one with the bow and the other with the sword enter the other’s hearts.’’.

As we all know, Rama is known for his bow. In fact, the Bhratanatya mudra for Rama itself symbolizes the bow.

Therefore, there is no surprise in describing Rama as ‘varisilai annal’.

He could have then gone ahead and described Sita as ‘doe eyed’ or one whose eyes are like the fish and said ‘maan vizh nangai’ or ‘kayalvizh nangai’.

But ‘Kavi Chakravarti’ is different.

He thinks ‘how can I say that the bow of Rama defeated the eyes of Sita? By saying this, will I not be insulting Sita?’

Most importantly, can there be a victor( or vanquished) in the game of Love?

So, he decides to say ‘VaatkaN nangai’(the one with the eye which is like a sword!).

The Bow and the Sword meet, smile at each other with mutual respect and clear the way for Love.

This is what makes him a Master Craftsman.

ILaiyaraaja, who has been giving soulful music, is another Master Craftsman.

No doubt he has used innumerable number of classical ragas, but what distinguishes him from the rest is his brilliance, creativity, innovation and the sense of aesthetics.

The song of the day too has all these aspects ingrained in it.
It is ‘Jaaji Malli..’ from the Telugu film ‘Chinnabbayi’(1997).

The composition is based on Gowrimanohari ragam.

Gowrimanohari is the 23rd melakarta and invokes nostalgia in a very subtle manner.It is the Shuddha Madhyama counterpart of Dharmavati and is in the same grahabedam group as Vaachaspati, Charukesi and Natakapriya.

Its structure is sa ri2 ga2 ma1 pa dha2 ni3 Sa/Sa ni3 dha2 pa ma1 ga2 ri2 sa.

If the ‘ga’ variant is changed, it becomes ShankarabharaNam. This is a very interesting aspect since both these ragas are part of western scales-with the combination of notes of Gowrimanohari called as melodic minor and those of ShankarabharaNam called as Diatonic Major.

‘Jaaji Malli’ starts with rhythmic phrases in Chatushram(4-beat cycle) with first ‘ta ka dhi mi’ laying stress on the second syllable ‘ka’.

The stringed instruments and the ‘keys’ illuminate the TaLa and the Raga.

The TaLa starts after ‘Jaaji’ and as explained in the previous post, such a start is called as ‘ateeta eduppu’. The ‘samam’ (place where the TaLa starts) is in ‘mal’.

The Pallavi has clear enunciations rendered with aplomb by SPB and Chitra..

Not only is it emollient but it also structures the raga’s image with elegance.

The beginning of first interlude has the spunky percussion playing the ‘ta ka dhi mi’ four times. The mesmerising bass flute takes over soaking us in melody. The scintillating stringed instrument strikes us like an arrow and leads us to a musical swing where we swing along with the lustrous vocals. It is the resonance of the raga at the end of the interlude that makes us spell bound.

The CharaNams are melodically designed.

The first section has subtle romance with some special syllables ‘taga taga dam dam’ used.

The following section has immaculate leisurely phrases.

The last section with its inherent naughtiness is mellifluent.

The surfeit of sangatis as the Pallavi is rendered again at the end of the first CharaNam stands testimony to the crafting skills of the composer and the versatility of the singer.

The second interlude is a magic of sorts.

The guitar in the beginning of the second interlude glows with sheen.. The second guitar joins now and plays with élan showing the Arabian shades of the raga. The Brass flute gives the western classical contours.The Sax now takes over and eloquently shows the jazzy colours. It drips with honey.

The musically colourful combinations prove yet again that music after all is universal.

The ending of the song is another beauty with the absence of percussion as the Pallavi is rendered again with some new words added to it. It is sedate and tranquil.

The original Pallavi appears again this time in a slow tempo with the lilting flute sketching a beautiful silhouette of the raga.

‘Mee tho memu nadachi vastaamu yededu janmalaku..’

‘We shall follow you and your music forever..’


Aakarsh said...

amazing coincidence! I was humming this song for hours on saturday evening!

It has been a recent favourite of mine. Though I heard this song years ago, it is only recently that the song grew on me. The bass bounces and chords are cleverly designed. The 2nd interlude is a wonderfully crafted piece. and so is the tail-end of the song which is highlighted by the aalaap in the raaga on flute.
Ilaiyaraaja, in this song, showcased the classical raaga very effectively, by still keeping the song light/commercial-touch. That delicate balance he achieves is unparalleled.

Raj said...

Thanks Kamal!

It is an amazing composition indeed..

Suresh S said...

I still kick myself whenever I hear the songs from 'Chinnabbayi'. I was in Tirupati around the time the audio was released. I saw it in a shop and asked how the songs were. He replied saying that the songs were not great!!! So I ended up coming back empty handed. (Nowadays I don't ask. Any Raja release _will_ be bought.)

This is a lovely song and it vies with 'ninna choosina' for the best song of the album. That too is a lovely song. The lilt of this song is charming. What a beautiful flow he gives to the song. And I think it would have been Veturi or SitaramaSastry who wrote the lyrics. They fit in so well with the tune. Hats off to that man as well

Raj said...

As per the info I have, it was written by Sitarama Sastry garu.

Though comparions are odious, I would place this one step ahead of 'Ninnu choosina'.

Thanks for your comment Suresh!

Aakarsh said...

Hmm.. I also rate this song higher than Ninnu Choosina, although i do listen to that song also few times. Ninnu Choosina has beauty more in charanams than in pallavi (for me) and interludes are "ok" kind. But this song is superb all through!