Monday, 25 March 2013

ILaiyaraaja-The Hypnotist!

Many times I have wondered about the science (or is it an art?) of hypnotism. My exposure to hypnotism is mainly confined to what one sees in Indian movies where the patient is made to lie down on a couch and the balding doctor asking him to go to a certain age in his childhood, prodding him with questions like ‘What do you see now’, ‘What do you experience now’ with the patient recounting an incident that unfolds before us in a much dramatized form. I would think, ‘Is this possible at all?’
Once, when I was about 12, I happened to watch a Magic show where the magician made a child ‘sleep’ in the space between the floor and the ceiling defying gravity. I did not understand how this was possible. After reading some books, I gauged that it is nothing but taking control over others’ minds and one acquires this skill with constant practice.
I am not qualified enough to go beyond this on this topic. However, I find hypnotism as a metaphor very interesting. In the following poem from the Tamizh sangam work ‘kuRunthogai’, the man  hypnotised by the looks of his beloved, says, ‘Her thorn like teeth that shine through the nectarine red lips, her silk- like hair with the fragrance of sandalwood, her huge liquid eyes, her mesmerising smile..oh how elegantly she looks!’.
உள்ளிக் காண்பென் போல்வன் முள்ளெயிற்
அமிழ்தம் ஊறும் அஞ் செவ்வாய்க் கமழ் அகில்
ஆர நாறும் அறல்போல் கூந்தல்
பேர் அமர் மழைக் கண் கொடிச்சி
மூரல் முறுவலொடு மதைஇய நோக்கே.
It is obvious from this poem written by ‘EyiRRiyanaar’(எயிற்றியனார்) that the man was hypnotised by the looks of his beloved and just thinking about her was enough for him to go into a trance.
We, the readers too get hypnotised while reading such poems or while listening to great music.
‘Kaadal Mayakkam’(Pudumai peN-1984) is one of the innumerable compositions of ILaiyaraaja which has always held me in a trance. Based on Suddha Saveri, a very classical raga which has five swaras- sa ri2 ma1 pa dha2 Sa- in the ascent and in the descent, the composition has a unique magnetic charm.
Before we get on with the composition, a word or two about the raga.Suddha Saveri is very close to other popular ragas like Mohanam and Madhyamavati in terms of the struture, but sounds very different. While the other two mentioned ragas can be made to sound light in film music, it is almost next to impossible to make Suddha Saveri sound light. Maybe, this is one of the reasons for composers’ reluctance to use this raga in film music. But as we all know, ILaiyaraaja is quite different and has used this raga in  folksy environment(‘Kovil maNi osai’-Kizhakke pogum rail, ‘Manjum kuLirum-Sandhyakku virinja poovu), in a masala duet(‘Sugam Sugame’), as the song of a young girl(MalargaLil aadum-KalyaNaraman) and in many other varied sequences.
‘Kaadal mayakkam’ starts with the short akaaram of the female voice(Sunanda). As this akaaram is on, the chorus starts reciting in harmony. This part alone is set to khandam beats(5 per cycle) in ‘mel kaalam’.  With fervour, the Bell tolls and the Veena starts playing in Chatushram ably supported by the mridangam.. We see the raga’s appeal and grace in this piece that almost reminds us of a ‘taanam’. The strings take melodious strides with the flute singing like a cuckoo.
Chiselled perfection!
The Pallavi rustles with a cherubic charm with the rollicking Mridangam and the subtle guitar throbbing with melody and love. The sangatis in ‘Degam’,’Megam’, the harmony with the chorus joining, the sudden jump to the upper ‘Ri’ from ‘dha’,the short sangati (RiSadhaSa) after ‘silirkinRathe’ and the shrill flute at the end of ‘kaadal’ and ‘kaNgal’, carry the stamp of the genius.
The first interlude starts with the mellifluous strings moving somewhat leisurely. Even as this is on, a new set of violins playing totally different sets of swaras join. The suave flute repeats this with a smile on its face. With palpable vigour, the violins play in higher octave. The chorus appear again singing ‘nom tom tanam ta’. It is then a riot of colours with the flute playing classical Suddha Saveri which is superimposed on the chorus which has the guitar backing. Towards the end, the guitar playfully plays an alien note or two and the awestruck flute sings like a cuckoo, all in a matter of seconds.
The CharNams have passionate passages.
We also see the brilliance of the composer in structure of the CharaNams:
1.The sangati after the first line has the avarohaNam followed by the arohaNam.
2.The fourth line goes upto the upper ‘Ma’.
3.The last line going in a group of 3 swaras, with the first 3 groups going in descent-Ri Sa pa, Sa dha ma, dha pa ma- and ending with ‘ri sa ri’.
Classically marvellous!
The second interlude shows yet another dimension and also takes a lesson or two on how to use guitar in carnatic ragas.The first guitar piece is soothing and almost sounds like a Veena. The percussion is minimum here with the drums appearing only now and then during the gaps. The following guitar piece moves with a sense of reverie ably supported by a sharp percussion that plays ‘ta ka dhi mi’’ta ka dhi mi’.. The male voice and the chorus repeat the guitar bit. The flute takes over and moves with energetic briskness. The Masterstroke appears in the end with the higher octave violins bringing in the alien vivadi note showing shades of Raag Jog!
இது ஒரு இசை மயக்கம்!