Friday, 7 February 2014

ILaiyaraaja's Music and Emotions- III-Anger

‘Anger-It is just one letter short of Danger’.

I remember reading this line about 20 years back. Anger numbs our system. The rush of blood during that time has been scientifically and medically proved to be detrimental to our health. Voice becomes shrill,  breath is heavier and body becomes tight. There is no control over what one speaks too.

But is it not natural for a human to get angry and in that case, is it wrong to express oneself? Was it not Mahakavi who said ‘Roudram pazhagu’(loosely translated as ‘Practise aggression’)? Anger is an emotion which when channelized well will lead to positive outcomes. How one uses this is what will distinguish men and the beasts.

History is replete with such instances. Instances where anger, a negative emotion was used as a vehicle to transform the world. If the young lawyer after being thrown out of the first class compartment at the Pietermaritzburg station had chosen to react by attacking, the world would have never seen a Mahatma. If the small boy hailing from Ambavade in Maharashtra had given into the chidings of his peers for being born as a ‘untouchable’ and had stopped going to school, India would have lost a strong leader to speak for the oppressed. If the gentleman born in Hooghly in Bengal had remained immune to the atrocities committed in the name of religion, Brahmo Samaj would not have been formed and that atrocious practice/ritual called Sati would not have been abolished.

These are just some of the happenings where anger was used to bring about positive changes. There have also been exceptions where anger was used as a destructive force but still is not considered negative. On the other hand, we cherish it.

Am I contradicting myself?

Look at this:

The lady throngs the King’s court and shouts with anger. She throws one of her anklets on the floor with venom to prove that her husband-who was hanged to death by the King- was innocent. Does her anger stop here? No. She wants the entire city to pay for it.

My beloved was killed by this city. So, my anger is not unjustified and I will not be a sinner’ saying this  she circumambulates  the city of Madurai thrice, prays and throws her left breast to burn the city’(there is also a version that she threw her left eye and not the breast).

யானமர் காதலன் தன்னைத் தவறிழைத்த
கோநகர் சீறினேன் குற்றமிலேன் யானென்று
இடமுலை கையால் திருகி மதுரை
வலமுறை மும்முறை வாரா அலமந்து
மட்டார் மறுகின் மணிமுலையை வட்டித்து
விட்டாள் எறிந்தாள் விளங்கு இழையாள்

Was this justified? Well, this is not a debating forum and what matters here is the literary value. If not for this incident, would we have got one of the greatest works in world literature ‘Silappadikaaram’?

Anger used destructively and yet earn appreciation and encomiums.

This has happened in music as well. Angered by not attaining salvation, Saint Tyagaraja composed many songs chiding and scolding Rama. He attained salvation and the music world became richer by some outstanding compositions in popular as well as rare ragas.

ILaiyaraaja was given a situation of a lover showing his anger on the Goddess for losing his beloved (who did not die but was taken away by her people). How did Raaja sir depict that anger? First, he chose a raga considered to be soft-in its name as well as in the sound! Next, he used some stupendous swara combinations. The character does not shout.But the swaras seethe with anger.

Poojaikkaaga vaazhum poovai from Kaadal Oviyam (1982) is based on Malayamaarutam(which literally means breeze from the mountain). We not only see the radical but also the musical genius. Let me explain. There are essentially three stayees(octaves) in music, mandra staayee(lower),madhyama staayee(middle) and taara staayee(upper). Generally, songs (classical and film) are composed in the  madhyama staayee and higher octave notes are used by the composer during the course of the composition. However, the mandra staayee is reached by some classical musicians during the ‘aalaap’ and this gives a special colour and flavour to the raga being rendered. It also needs a superb control over the voice, a firm grip on the raga and of course rigorous practice.

If not used wisely, there are chances of its sounding cacophonic. Precisely because of this reason, there are just handful compositions with mandra staayee swaras in film music. It also needs a highly talented singer .In Poojaikkaaga, the mandra staayee swaras are used wisely and also brilliantly made to combine with madhyama stayee and taara staayee swaras to show the anger of the character. Deepan Chakravarty, one of the dynamic and melodious voices in Tamizh Film Music does a fabulous job and renders it with consummate ease.

The speciality of the first line is that except for the starting notes-dha Sa- all other notes are descending(avarohaNam).  And what a beautiful descent it is! Saninidhadhapa twice followed by nidhadhapapaga twice and dhapapagagari once, brilliantly ending with ri sa sa.
The second line is a marvel too with the swara ‘ni’ is juxtaposed between the madhyama stayee sa and the mandra stayee sa. in the beginning after which it is the ascent(avarohaNam) with the swaras starting with the sa either following a beautiful pattern like sa ri ri ga/sa ri ga/ri ga pa/ga pa dha/pa dha dha ni.

The mridangam starting just towards the end of the first aavratanam and the subtle variations in the chatushram pattern in the two lines are hallmarks of the Laya genius. We shall of course see more about Laya Raaja in the interlude and the CharaNams.
Even the graceful Veena is ebullient while the vibrant strings are aggressive in the first interlude. The Flute dazzles and we see a very different Malayamarutam. The strings then move with verve and also mathematically play with the mridangam as
1 2 - -/1 2 - -/1 2 – 4  5  6 7 8.

The first two lines of the CharaNam are full of vim and vigour.The Strings and the Veena follow exuberantly for a full aavartanam.  The following two lines are virtuous with sangatis. The magic starts after this.

The second part of the next two lines-ragasiya raNam and unadarpanam - is in the lower octave with the swara dha. repeating itself 5 times after the ni. .
This is slightly modified in the following line with the lower octave adhu and iru alternating between the two mid octave phrases ponnezhil silai and en vasam ilai..

The toughest and yet most musical part is the next line where the lower octave notes in a group of four are followed by the same notes in mid octave yet again in a group of four –

dha.dha.dha.dha./dha dha dha dha/ ni ni ni

It takes an ascent as it is followed by the mid-octave sa(4 times) and the upper Sa(4 times).

We see a beautiful pattern in the last line too, but this time a laya pattern- ta kit a/ta ka dhi mi ta/ta ki ta/ta ka dhi mi ta/ta kit a/ta ka dhi mi ta/ta ka dhi mi/ta ka dhi mi.

Melodious and Rhythmic anger!

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