Tuesday, 2 April 2013

ILaiyaraaja-The Divine Alchemist..

Enraptured by the beauty of Kaveri, the young poet sings, 

‘Adorned by the aromatic herbs, colourful shrubs, ivories and the pearls, Kaveri looks like a golden river. And on its northern bank resides the Lord of Manthurai. Let us pray at his feet’.

செம்பொன் ஆர்தரு வேங்கையும் ஞாழலுஞ் செருந்தி செண்பகம் ஆனைக்

கொம்பும் ஆரமும் மாதவி சுரபுன்னை குருந்தலர் பரந்துந்தி

அம்பொன் நேர் வரு காவிரி வடகரை மாந்துறை உறைகின்ற

எம்பிரான் இமையோர் தொழு பைங்கழல் ஏத்துதல் செய்வோமே.

That he was so attracted to the river is known by the fact that nearly 3/4th of the verse is dedicated to the description while only 1/4th is devoted to his favorite Lord.

Thirugnansambandar, the child prodigy is capable of converting a river with white foams to gold with his poetic description. We also see the hand of the divine here which chose to bestow this golden poetic power to a child-just around 3 years old- by giving white milk of knowledge.

It is a fact that some are chosen by the Divine with a reason. These chosen few utilise it fully and not content with what is already given to them, explore, discover and innovate. With their ‘Hand of Gold’, they turn even a small tiny thing to gold.

Who should we, the mortals thank- the Divine which gave them these powers or the chosen ones for delighting us with this power and acquired knowledge?

If Tamizh acquired new meanings in the words of Thirugnanasambandar, Film Music acquired a new dimension in the swaras of ILaiyaraaja.

We have been seeing his use of popular, familiar ragas and very rare ragas in film music.

The song of the day-‘Neelakkuyile’ (Magudi-1984), is based on a raga which falls under the latter category.

The ‘sa ri ga pa dha Sa’ scale is one of the most popular in Carnatic Music. The different combinations of the variants of these swaras give us ragas like Mohanam, Shivaranjani, BhoopaLam, Vaasanti and Revagupti.

In the year 1981, ILaiyaraaja came up with a composition that had the same combination but with a new permutation- sa ri1 ga3 pa dha2 Sa. Let me clarify that this was new only in the Carnatic System as the Hindustani System has a raag pertaining to this scale called Vibhas (which again has two versions).As far as Carnatic Music or Tamizh Film music is concerned, this raga was never used until then.

Some texts define the name of this raga as ‘VarNa RoopiNi’ while some others call it as Rasika Ranjani. But since the Maestro himself has very recently clarified that it is Rasika Ranjani, let us stick to this name. Thus ‘Amude Tamizhe’ from Kovil PuRa happens to be the first composition in Tamizh Film Music based on this ragam.

He again composed a song in the same raga three years later and this is the song I am taking up now. While ‘Amude Tamizhe’ more or less stuck to Rasika Ranjani (excepting for the use of ‘ni’ in a couple of lines in the charaNams), ‘Neelakuile..’ follows Rasika Ranjani scale completely.

Did I say completely? Yes, but there is a hidden magic in the second interlude and we shall see that soon.

The composition starts with a great delicacy of feeling as the swaras are rendered with mellow tonal depth by Janaki and SPB. With energetic briskness, the Violins enter the fray as the upper Sa is touched by the male voice. The Sitar soothes the heart while the radiant Veena highlights the beauty of the raga with finesse.

The composition is set in Chatushra ekam tisra gati(cycle of 4 with a speed of 3)taaLam and has the ‘anaagata eduppu’ with the Pallavi starting after 2 aksharaas.

The Pallavi is crisp and is dominated by the mid-octave notes (it starts with the ‘sa’ just like ‘Amude Tamizhe’).The last line is a beauty with the phrase ‘paamaalai’ consisting of the combination of swaras in the arohaNam( dhaSa padha gapa).Note that the first swara in the preceding group becomes the second in the one that follows.

The higher octave violins that back the lines rise like the huge waves with the sitar that says ‘dhapa dhapa dhapa dhapa dhapa dhapa’ moving like a small wave.

Swaras blossom again with a fragrance in the first interlude as the Sitar and the Violin smile at each other with ‘ga pa dha pa’. The lilting flute joins and pairs with Sitar. There is more to follow after the strings flow like a stream.

Basic and advanced lessons in Violin plucking, fingering and bowing are on display. Harmony at its best!

The CharaNams have succinct but powerful phrases. The first half is dominated by the higher octave swaras like the ‘Sa, Ri and Ga with the last line have all the ascending notes. It is rounded off with a short and sweet akaaram.

The second interlude (remember the hidden magic I mentioned in the beginning?) shines with manifold beauties.

First the ‘dha2’ is substituted by ‘dha1’ and the raga becomes Revagupti. The strings play this and during the course of the journey adds two more swaras- ma2 and ni3- making it Pantuvarali. The Master then drops the ‘ri’ and ‘pa’ and substitutes ‘dha1’ with ‘dha2’ making it Sunaadavinodini, a pentatonic raga called as Hindol in  the Hindustani system. The flute and the Veena have a rendevouz with ‘dha ma ni’ with the former fondling ‘dha ma dha ni Sa’ and the latter caressing ‘ma ga ma ga Sa’. The magic happens yet again in the second time the Veena plays. It plays chromatic notes-ma2 ma1 ma2 ma1 ga3. Though it has only 2 swaras, the chromaticism and the contours suggest Lalit, another Hindustani raga.

The strings then play Hamsanandi( Sunaadavinodhini plus ri1) with the Lalit pattern peeping in again at the end.

Illuminating spectacle!

நாதப்புனலில் என்றென்றும் நாம் நீராடுவோம்..

Makes us bathe in the fountain of Naada forever..


Petrichor Diaries Inc. said...


Love your blog. Just wondering if you have you paid close attention to Edhilum Ingu Iruppaan from the movie Bharathi ...

Raj said...


Yes, I have...Pl go through this link:


Petrichor Diaries Inc. said...

Good to know - I mentioned it because of Rasika Ranjani.

I am intrigued by your deep discussion on the laya aspects too, that too for cine music. Do you dig pure Carnatic too?

Raj said...

Music is my breath. Yes, I am deeply into carnatic/hindustani though I have not formally learnt music.

I saw your blog too just now.Shall read the posts about his concert soon..


jothimani ekambaram said...

Dear Raj, Your blog is mesmarising.


Raj said...

Thank you so much Jothimani!!

Vishnu M N said...

Good evening, Raj Sir. Please accept my humble appreciation about your interest and the elaborate study you shared with us in Sri Ilayaraja's contribution to Film industry. I do not find words in lexicon also to express my praise for you.
I too am a devotee of the Film-Music God Ilayaraja. If am not too impertinent I would like to share that the Art of Music in Goddess saraswati's hands took human form on earth in the shape of Ilayaraja.

Raj said...

Thanks so much Vishnu! I also run a Group on fb-ILaiyaraaja-The Master- where I write regularly on the various elements in his music. You may join the Group in case you are interested. I shall send you the link after getting your confirmation.

Vishnu M N said...

Good afternoon, Sir. By all means you may please share the link. I would rather consider it my good fortune to be a recipient of such invaluable information about our Icon Raja sir!

Raj said...

Here is the link :


It is not like many of the Groups one comes across on FB and you will know this once you join :).

Thank you!

Vishnu M N said...

Good morning & thank you, dear Raj Sir.

Raj said...

You are welcome. But I have not received your request to join the Group so far :)

Vishnu M N said...

Please include me in your group on Ilayaraja sir.

Raj said...

Done already :). Please go through the posts there whenever you have the time.