Saturday, 4 April 2015

ILaiyaraaja- The Savant

The very mention of the word Intellectual conjures up many images. We generally perceive an intellectual to be learned and at the same time in a totally different plane. We also call anything beyond our comprehension as something intellectual. Is it difficult to understand anything which is intellectual? If so, is there any purpose of that intellect at all?

In my previous post here on Devatai oru Devetai , I explained as to how important ‘expressing’ is for any creative person. All creative people in general are learned (some way or the other) but not all learned people are creative.

There is one more factor, the sense of aesthetics.

So, there are three aspects here. Expressive, Creative and Sense of Aesthetics..

In my opinion, a true learned person is one who has all these three apart from Knowledge. But being expressive does not necessarily mean that one will be able to comprehend whatever they say. For that to happen, one must spend time in thinking and interpreting their works. And there lies the beauty.

I have already spoken about Thirugnansambhandar in some of my previous posts. He was a child prodigy and a scholar . Though each of his verses in Tevaram is beautiful, one needs to read them again and again to understand the full import..Only then does one get to know more and more about the hidden beauties.

Look at this verse:

புற்றரவு பற்றிய கை நெற்றியது

            மற்றொருகண் ஒற்றை விடையன்

செற்றதெயில் உற்றதுமை அற்றவர்கள்

            நற்றுணைவன் உற்றநகர்தான்

சுற்றுமணி பெற்றதொளி செற்றமொடு

            குற்றமிலது எற்றென வினாய்க்

கற்றவர்கள் சொற்றொகையின் முற்றுமொளி

            பெற்ற கயிலாயமலையே.      

putRaravu patRiyakai netRiyathu

            matRorukaN otRai vidaiyan

setRatheyil utRathumai atRavarkaL

            natRuNaivan utRanagarthAn

sutRumaNi petRathoLi setRamoDu

            kutRamilathu etRena vinAyk

ktRavarkaL sotRokaiyin mutRumoLi

            petRa kayilAyamalaiye.

Sounds so lovely with the rhyming words! (I have given the transcript in English for people who cannot read Tamizh so that you all can appreciate the rhyme even if all words sound alien!)

But can we stop with that? Don’t we have to make an effort to understand what the poet has said?

So, as a first step let us split the words:

புற்று அரவு பற்றிய கை, நெற்றி அது

            மற்றொரு கண், ஒற்றை விடையன்,

செற்றது எயில், உற்றது உமை, அற்றவர்கள்

            நல் துணைவன், உற்றநகர்தான்

சுற்றும் அணி, பெற்றது ஒளி செற்றமொடு

            'குற்றம் இலது எற்று' எனவினாய்க்

கற்றவர்கள் சொல் தொகையின் முற்றும் ஒளி

            பெற்ற கயிலாயமலையே.

Sounds better now?

Second step is to understand the meanings of the words. To make it simpler, let me give the meaning of the entire verse:

One hand holds the snake, the other hand embraces Paarvati. The one-eye on the forehead burnt the three corners. He has one Nandi as his Vaahana. He is the Guide for people who have renounced the world. ‘How is that that His abode shimmers with the gems and is without any blemish’, ask the learned people about Mount Kailash’.

Is the mystery unraveled now? To a certain extent perhaps. I shall stop here and not go to the esoteric meanings.

Isn’t it a great scholarly work? If the rhyme words make us sit up and enjoy, the meanings make us appreciate it more and even make us think.

ILaiyaraaja’s works have this quality. Irrespective of whether one understands the intricacies or not, one is able to enjoy his songs. But once the hidden beauties are revealed, one is able to enjoy it more.

Let us take the songVandadhe Kungumum’ from ‘Kizhakku Vaasal’ (1990).

 Very pleasing to the ears’ – This is what we say when we listen to it. How would we react if we delve deep into the composition and have a closer look?

Shall we do that now?

It is based on Mohanam, a very classical and genuinely beautiful raga and is set in the Aadi TaaLam in Tisra gati- 8-beat cycle with 1 2 3 in each beat. What else does it have?

Let us start from the beginning.

The Bell sounds and the synchronized chorus sings the akaaram in pure Mohanam. There is a pattern here. The Bell sounds for every odd beat in the cycle. After the half-aavartana(4 beats), yet another bell sounds continuously. What a felicitous start!

The chorus gradually goes on the ascent in the next aavartana and just at the end of this aavratana-7th beat to be precise- the Strings take over. They break into enthusiastic bursts and play with sheen. The percussion joins now. There are three sets-two Mridangams and one very subtle percussion instrument. The first mridangam goes as ta ka dhi mi ta ka while the second one plays only the ‘dhi’ and ‘ta’ (3rd and 5th) for every alternate ta ka dhi mi ta ka making a heavy thundering sound!

The Strings move for one full aavartana drawing the beautiful sketch of Mohanam. They continue till the third beat of the next aavartana when the Flute appears and embroiders the sketch. The Bell completes the aavaratana.

The Pallavi which starts with the swara ‘ga’ is gamaka-laden and shows how the composer has handled the classical raga as a raga and not as a scale. The ‘Ri Sa’ phrase (O..O..) and the ‘dha Sa Ga Ri Ga Sa Ri’(Vaan megam)  and the chorus singing the akaaram in ‘Kungumum’ and ‘Sangamam’ are just samples to show how he gave vent to his propensities of giving a genuine classical piece.

A very spirited and flawless rendering by Chitra makes it even more beautiful.

The Laya Pattern is the same as the one in the second part of the prelude except that the mridangam plays three ‘ta ka dhi mi’ in mel kaalam  towards the end (nee paada) with the thunderous second mridangam sounding in the ‘ta’ and ‘dhi’ in the third ‘ta ka dhi mi’.

The Flute plays with a silken smoothness in the beginning of the second interlude with a second Flute replying with a flirtatious shyness. This engagement without percussion is on for a full aavartana after which the chorus appears backed by the racing Strings and the Mridangam(s). The Strings then move in higher octave giving exotic touches to the undiluted Mohanam intercepted melodically by the Bells.

The CharaNams are replete with enjoyable phrases and variegated patterns.

The Guitar sounds in the beginning of the first two lines after which it sounds before each phrase in the following two lines. The Tabla also plays playfully in the first two lines. The pause in the vocals for one beat makes us realise the value of silence.

There are tensile sangatis too after the two phrases in the first two lines- dha pa ga ri ga pa dha and pa dha pa dha pa dha ga. The last sangati is a marvel starting with the upper Sa, Ri and Ga and then giving the avarohaNam with just one more ‘ga’ appearing after ‘sadhapagari’ and before the ‘sa’ in the end. Uninhibited creativity!

The first segment of the second interlude sees the western classical shades of Mohanam with the Strings playing with a sedate dignity. The chorus sings the ‘mkaaram’ with the suave Flute repeating it. The musical dialogues sans percussion continue for some time before the Guitar goes on a melodic spree. The Strings follow suit with emotional richness. The bewitching Flute twists and turns and we sink gently into a plane of profundity.

Intellectually challenging or Emotionally appealing?

Aren’t these mutually inclusive?

Check this out on Chirbit

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