Friday, May 23, 2014

Ragamalikas in Film Music - Part 3

When I published the Part - 2 of this series, my friend and humorist K. Balakumar (@kbalakumar) asked me as to what happened to the ragamalika, 'Oru Naal Padhumaa'? I am sure many would ask that question as it is one of the very famous ragamalikas in Tamil Film Music history. The simple reason as to why that song didn't appear till now is because I have kept it for the third part of this series. In this I will deal with ragamalikas which are sung in some sort of competition and with ragamalikas used in dance sequences.

Not only is 'Oru Naal Podhuma?' famous as a song but that whole segment in the movie 'Tiruvilayadal' culminating in 'Paatum Naane' via 'Isai Thamizh Nee Seidha Arum Sadhanai' is cult and has many followers. There are multiple reasons why 'Oru Naal Podhuma?' is remembered to this day: Mahadevan's superb tuning, Kannadasan's clever lyrics, Balamurali's effortless singing and above all Balaiah's outstanding portrayal of the arrogant singer, 'Baan Bathirar'. All these ensured that this song remains a benchmark for all the subsequent 'competition' type of songs and this benchmark has not been equaled yet, let alone anyone going beyond it. Kannadasan's lyrics are perfect fit for the arrogance and Balamurali casually gets the arrogance of the singer, who has nothing but disdain for others.

In Malayalam if we have to choose an equivalent cult 'competition' song the choice is fairly obvious. That honor undoubtedly goes to 'Devasabhathalam' from 'His Highess Abudulla'. This song is a real 'competition' song with two singers facing off. It is structured as a duel between Carnatic music and Hindustani music. The excellent choice of ragas, singing. Mohanlal's charisma and the picturization have ensured that this entered the heart of all Malayalis (and others who saw / heard the song) and stayed anchored there. (That the charming Gauthami appears in the frame also helps.) One of Raveendran master's immortal tunes.

In Telugu, I give you a song which is definitely inspired by both HHAbudulla and Tiruvilayadal. Nagesh does the role of the arrogant singer, a la Balaiah, but his portrayal is very crude, which is natural when you keep in mind that this was a Raghavendra Rao movie. This is not the ragamalikas in the same sense as the other two songs. Here the shruthi bedham aspect is used by the music director. The five ragas - Hindolam, Mohanam, Madhyamavathi, Suddha Dhanyasi and Suddha Saveri - are derivable from one another through the concept of sruthi bedham. (It would take a complete post to explain this concept.) In this song, towards the end, the hero derives the other four ragas from Hindolam. The ragamalika part is very brief here.

As you can see, in such competitive atmosphere, ragamalikas provide the music director and the film directors with a good tool which enables them to both show the skill of the hero / heroine as well as keep the interest going with sudden changes in the ragas.

Keeping the interest going in classical dance scenes is not easy when they happen in films. If the dance sequence is fully classical there is a good chance that the audience would get tired of it soon. That's where ragamalikas come into play and they ensure that the director can 'cut' to different locations and change costumes as the raga changes !! There are quite a few songs in films in which ragamalikas are used in classical dance sequences. I will list a few

Only those who were in Hyderabad or Andhra (maybe even Chennai) during its release would understand what a mega hit the movie 'Sankarabaranam' was. The first week we went there was hardly any crowd, Afterall the movie had two unknown protagonists. We were so impressed with the film that we went again next week. This time the crowds started coming in and a week later it was impossible to get tickets. Even those who never saw a movie in their life stepped out to see this movie. It was equally a big hit in Chennai and I heard it did well in Maharastra as well !!

All the songs from 'Sankarabaranam' were massive hits, fetching national awards to KVM, SPB and Vanijayaram. The ragamalika song in this film was 'Ragam Thanam Pallavi'. You can see what I said about ragamalikas helping the film director is true here. Veturi Sundararamamoorthy cleverly weaves in the raga names into the K V Mahadevan's tune which is wonderfully rendered by SPB.

You can always depend on the mythologies to give you dance sequences. The virata parvatham of Mahabaratha which was the basis of 'Narthanasala'. Here we have NTR portraying Arjuna in 'angathavasam'. Gantasala sings it with the technical perfection that we always associate with him. S.Janaki matches him. A great combination of jathis and ragas make this Susarla Dakshinamoorthy song very interesting. (NTR's dance is unintended comedy and that adds to the interest.) I particular love the part where Punnagavarali appears.

It is very difficult to do a ragamalika post without involving a song of V.Dakshinamurthy Swami. He has done so many ragamalikas. I heard this song first on a singing show in Asianet channel. I could make out that this was a humorous ragamalikas by whatever I understood of the words. Looks like it indeed is a humorous ragamalika with dance as the added attraction. 'Kanaka simhasanaththil' from the movie 'Ara Kallan Muxhu Kallan'. The song has excellent start based on Kambhoji which draws you in immediately. Jesudas as usual in such circumstances is in full form. Very clever lyrics by P.Bhaskaran

BTW, this was the performance which sent me on the original hunt:

We were seeing females doing the dance in the previous videos. For a change here is a man (Mohanlal) who is doing the dancing. Raveendran Master's tune from the movie 'Kamaladalam'. (The song goes beyond traditional dance.)

Malayalam films seem to give better scope for ragamalikas while they were slowly disappearing from Tamil and Telugu films. Luckily a few years back we had the movie 'Uliyin Osai' which had lot of dance in it and gave scope to Illayaraja to try out ragamalikas. Raja being Raja doesn't go the standard way but in his own inimitable style glides from one raga to another. The dancer unfortunately is not too great but you must listen to this song for the intelligent way that Raja tunes it. His mind works in mysterious ways. (There is another nice ragamalika song, which is part of a dance competition, sung by Sudha Raghunathan and Bombay Jayasree, who video unfortunately I am unable to find on youtube)

Since I spoke about Illayaraja here, let me end with one more song of his. I personally wouldn't include it as a ragamalika since one two ragas are involved but I am sure no one will object we including this here for this is one of the best picturized songs in terms of aesthetics. The whole setup reeks of beauty, beauty and beauty. The location is beautiful, the dance choreography graceful, the cinematography perfect, Kamalahasan looks as if he is the reincarnation of Manmadha himself and no Aishwarya Rai or any Miss World can hold a candle to the beauty of Jayapradha in this film. A song which you would have watched a thousand times and still watch without batting your eyelid when it appears on screen now. There are few films which captured beauty as well we 'Sagarasangamam'. Along with everything I had mentioned earlier we have K.Vishwanath's impeccable taste and Veturi's glorious lyrics. And Raja magical tuning adds the final immortal touch. 'Nada Vinodhamu'. The perfect symbiosis of vak, artham, natyam and geyam.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ragamalikas in Film Music - Part 2

In my earlier post on this same subject, I had explored Ragamalikas in film songs mainly taken from the mythological category. (You can read that post here) In this post we will explore Ragamalikas that were used in a social setting.

Music directors have used ragamalikas in love songs. One way of going about is to equate the various ragas with the seasons. As the seasons change the ragas change. Also in the hands of an imaginative music director, changing ragas can also be used to depict various shades of love.

The first ragamalika which was a India wide hit was 'haayi haayiga' from Suvarna Sundari. This song, its Tamil counterpoint and the Hindi version 'kuhu kuhu bole koyaliya' were super hits in their respective languages. Even to this day they are famous and the overall difficulty of the song, its great melody and the multiple ragas make it a favorite in singing competition. If you can negotiate this song without difficulty you must be a great singer.

Tuned by Adinarayana Rao and sung wonderfully by Gantasala and Jikki, here is 'haayi haayiga'. As you can see the changing seasons are used here to change the ragas.

Here is the Hindi version sung by Lata and Rafi. I am so used to the Telugu version that I cannot relate to the Hindi version, especially Rafi's singing. I feel he shouts a bit too much in this song. Lata on the other hand is fine.

And for the youngsters, here is a very very young Shreya Ghoshal singing the same song:

The number of ragamalikas composed in Hindi film music are very less compared to what is done in South. It could be due to the fact that ragamalika is not used much in Hindustani music whereas almost all Carnatic concerts have a ragamalika in the later half of the concert: as kalpanaswarams in RTP, in slokam/viruththams and as ragamalika compositions. We will see one ragamalika from a Hindi movie here, tuned by Anil Biswas for the film 'Hamdard'

Anil Biswas uses the seasons as the backdrop as he changes the ragas. Anilda was at his peak during the early 50s and was a much sought after music director. Manna Dey is the male voice and he had the reputation of a being a good classical singer (which some people question). He is joined by Lata. It is a very young Lata but she is undaunted by either Anilda or by Manna Dey and hits each note with her customary precision.

From Lata, we will move to Susheela and two of her duets with SPB. In both we see the season and the weather being referenced. Both are excellent melodies and Susheela's voice is in top form. Both the songs convey the joy of love very effectively.

The first song we will listen to is from the movie 'Pantulamma'. Music is by Rajan Nagendra. SPB in one TV show told that certain portions of this song were so difficult that Susheela asked Nagendra, "How can we sing this?". Nagendra patiently taught her and Balu the song many times. The song hits a six right from the prelude humming. Susheela's voice, as usual, drips honey. The melody is outstanding, the orchestration fresh and the change in ragas very interesting. This song used to be played on regular on Vividh Bharati when the movie was released.

I may have stated this earlier: One of life's enduring mystery is how did Chakravarthy compose this song? I mean, if you have heard many of Chakravarthy's 'hits' you will also ask the same question and will not find the question unfair. 'Cheekati Velugula Kougitilo' from 'Cheekati Velugulu' is an outstanding ragamalika which can stand up to any other ragamalika in terms of its tune, orchestration and the raga choices. The way the tune keeps changing, the way the orchestration changes and especially the precision of the orchestration, all point to the hand of a master, which Chakravarthy was not. Hence the confusion. This is one of my personal favorites and you will not find ragamalikas of this quality when it concerns the love song. Susheela and SPB complement each other perfectly.

For the next song, there is no doubting the composer's abilities. Illayaraja has composed some nice ragamalikas but much less than what I would have loved. This is perhaps one of his best ragamalika for a love song. Starting with Abheri, it moves to Bageshree and in the second charanam moves to SumaneesaRanjani. The interludes are amazing with Raja ensuring the raga transition is tastefully done. K J Yesudas and Chitra are perfect.

The next two songs are technically ragamalikas but have just two ragas in it. The first one has music by MSV. He starts with a rare ragam, 'Mahathi', a discovery of Balamuralikrishna and ends with Bhairavi. The name of the raga Bhairavi is wonderfully woven into the narrative by Kannadasan. This was one of Yesudas's early hits on Tamil:

We have already heard the next song in my 'One Song at a time' series earlier but it is such a wonderful song that I am sure you will excuse me for including it again. V.Dakshinamurthy takes a tough carnatic raga, 'Begada' and turns it into a lovely film melody, He follows it with Kalyani. This song is a major is a major hit among Malayalis. Earlier I had shared the Janaki version of this song. Now we will listen to the KJY version:

Talking about V.Dakshinamurthy automatically should take you to this lovely ragamalika. Dakshinamurthy Swami was a master of ragamalikas. This song was featured in my tribute to him but since this article is about ragamalikas I cannot leave it out. Starting with a lovely Sahana, Swamy takes us into the territory of the charming Shanmukhapriya and from there on to the verdant Kalyani land before bringing us back safely to Sahana. KJY is in peak form and Leela's voice is a great contrast to his.

And before I wind up this edition, let me put up the ragamalika which has become the competition favorite. Along with 'Sringaravelane Deva', this song too appears in almost all singing competitions. A bewitching Srividya, Kannadasan's amazing lyrics, unforgettable tuning by MSV perfectly executed by Vani Jayaram: what is there not to like in this song?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pan Indian Appeal of Tragedy: Tribute to Akkineni Nageswar Rao

Akkineni Nageswar Rao passed away in the early hours of today succumbing to cancer. He is an actor whose memory will always be cherished by those who have watched his movies. ANR, as he was fondly called, along with N T Rama Rao was one of two super stars from 50 to the 70s. ANR was known for his sensitive portrayals and his tragic roles while N T R was known for his mythological roles in his initial days and for his loud roles in later days. The truth is both were equally at ease be it a comic role, mythological role, tragic role or a standard dancing hero role yet they got slotted into certain roles.

Many of the roles Nageswar Rao played had a pan Indian appeal. Ofcourse he acted mostly in Telugu films and venturing once in a while to Tamil. The image of him as a tragic hero was cemented early in his career when he did 'Devadas'. Many believe that it was the best Devadas they have seen on screen. Better than Saigal, Dilip Kumar or Krishna (who remade it again in Telugu) The music by Subbaraman was outstanding in that film. Though it was Saigal who played the first Devadas, my feeling is that Nageswar Rao gave Devdas the modern treatment and that portrayal became the archetype for such roles. 'jagame maaya' became the anthem of all disillusioned people and remains so to this day. Later S D Burman for Dilip Kumar, Ramesh Naidu for Krishna and Ismail Darbar for Shahrukh Khan gave good songs but none could reach the seminal levels of Subbaraman. Lyrics were by Samudrala.

While his portrayal of 'Devadas' was a major hit in Telugu and Tamil (he was the hero in the Tamil version as well) and was appreciated up North, 'Suvarna Sundari' took him to the Hindi audience. He was the hero in the Hindi version of this film as well. This film was an all India hit. Not sure why ANR didn't work more in Hindi movie. This song from the movie was an all India hit as well. I give the Hindi version here. Music by Adinarayana Rao and lyrics by Bharath Vyas. While ANR acted as a normal hero in this movies, it would be his tragedies which would appeal to the people across India.

One of the early movies I saw when Doordarshan started telecasting movies was 'Mooga Manasulu'. This was our first introduction to the 'tragedy king'. As kids we  did not appreciate such movies because you don't like 'weepy' movie. You would rather watch some 'action' movie. Yet the movie did make an impact both due to the acting of Nageswar Rao, Savithri and Jamuna and the music of K.V.Mahadevan. 'gowrammo nee mogudevadammo' was a major hit with the kids. The bigger hit from the movie was 'naa paata nee nota'. The concept of an illiterate person teaching an educated girl to sing found favor with everyone. This tragic movie got made in Tamil with Sivaji Ganesan and Savitri. (I have heard that Savitri produced it in Tamil. It was supposed to have been a major flop in Tamil.) The movie was made in Hindi as well as 'Milan'. Starring Sunil Dutt and Nutan it was a fairly successful film. Here is 'naa paata nee nota palaka silaka'. Lyrics by Acharya Athreya:

The Hindi equivalent song was 'sawan ka mahina pawan jare sor' bu Mukesh and Lata. Music of Lakshmikanth Pyarelal.

Another movie in which Nageswar Rao reprises the Devadas role, 'Prem Nagar', was again a bit hit in Telugu and was later copied to Tamil and Hindi. It was made as 'Vasantha Maligai' with Sivaji in the lead role in Tamil and as 'Prem Nagar' in Hindi with Rajesh Khanna playing the lead role. K V Mahadevan reused many of his Telugu tunes in Tamil while S D Burman was the music director for the Hindi film. This again proved that Nageswar Rao was very effective in portraying such 'love failure and hence I am drinking' roles. The movie has a mix of fun songs and sad songs and most of them very big hits in Telugu. The joyous 'kadaveththu kochchindhi kanne pilla', 'teta teta telugulaa' were big hits but the tragic 'manasu gati inthe' and 'evarikosam' were greater hits. The tragic songs more firmly anchoring Nageshwar Rao's image as a tragedy king. Here is 'evarikosam': 

The same tune was reused in Tamil by K.V.Mahadevan as 'yaarukkaaga' and it was a big hit in Tamil as well.

A decade after 'Prem Nagar' was made, Nageswar Rao's image as a tragic hero did not dim. 'Premabhisekam' which was released in 1981 proved that. The story was about the hero dying of cancer and trying to ensure that the heroine forgets him and leads a normal. Hence the standard 'I love another lady because you must hate me' happens. Producers once again gave a bottle in Nageswar Rao's hands and laughed their way to the bank. Starring Sridevi and Jeyasudha along with Nageswar Rao, the movie as well as the songs were huge hit during those time. The movie was later made into Tamil as 'Vaazhve Mayam' starring Kamala Hasan, Sreedevi and Sripriya. Dasari made the move again in Hindi, in which Jeetendra and Rekha starred. The movie was called 'Prem Tapasya'. The Tamil movie did well but I am not sure if the Hindi version did well. Here is a song from that movie. Since I don't want this to be a 'all sad songs' post, I am giving the more lively song here, but basically a tragic song, which was also the greater hit. Well it has Nageswar Rao singing with a glass in hand. (I personally don't like this song much though)

Dasari Narayan Rao, who made 'Premabhisekam' made another such movie, though not a tragedy. The movie was 'Meghasandesam'. The music of the movie and Nageswar Rao's portrayal of a poet in search of his muse were well appreciated and the movie bagged a handful of National Awards. The movie was not a great hit in the box office though. The movie won the 'Best Telugu Movie' National Award. Music director Ramesh Naidu, singer Yesudas and Susheela, all won National Awards. 

Here is Yesudas with the semi classical 'navarasa suma maalika'. Words by Veturi Sundararamamurthy

In later days Nageswar Rao started donning the role of family elder in Telugu movies. His 'Seetharamayya Gari Manavuralu' starring him and Meena, as his grand daughter was a major hit.

I have just looked at only handful of movies of Nageswar Rao here. These show how much he had understood the tragic hero archetype and had inspired multiple films based on that archetype and how these films went beyond the boundaries of Andhra Pradesh. Nageswar Rao has many more superb roles to his credit. Hope someone will talk about them soon.

Let this man, who gave us so many good movies and memories, rest in peace.

Friday, January 3, 2014

One Song at a time: 61. Kaise Katte Rajani - Dedicated to Dr.Venugopal Garu

Continuing from last post where we saw the Carnatic great M L Vasanthakumari sing a film song, this post will have us listening to the redoubtable Amir Khan singing a film song. I knew that Amir Khan had sung in Baiju Bawra and had written about it in a post long time back. I did not know he has sung in this film called 'Khudito Pashan'.  Wiki says that this is a 1960 movie directed by Tapan Sinha. The music is by the sarod maestro, Ali Akbar Khan. So you have Amir Khan singing for Ali Akbar Khan. A nice combination.

This song is based on the raga Bageshree. There is a commercially available recording of Amir Khan singing Bageshree, which is top class. Here, even though the song is only around 3 mins in duration, he paints a lovely picture of Bageshree. A nice tune by Ali Akbar Khan and sung wonderfully by Amir Khan. Pratima Bandopadyay joins for a couple of lines. Enjoy the song:

Staying on the same theme, I will put up one more song. This time it is a song of Kishori Amonkar for the film 'Drishti'. Not sure who the music director is, maybe Kishori herself. This song is based on raag Bhoop (Mohanam). Kishori is known for her outstanding rendition of Bhoop. The commercially recorded 'Sahelare' is class beyond compare. This song is also very charming. A very soothing melody.

I remember an interesting tidbit about the songs in this movie and Kishori's reaction. This was a Govind Nihlani film. In an interview Kishori said that one of the songs was used as a background for a love making scene!! Her mother, the great Mogubai, saw it and was furious with Kishori for having sung the song for this movie.

I dedicate this post to the memory of my friend, senior and a great music lover, Dr. Venugopal Garu. He was a senior of mine when I doing my post graduation. Those days we used to listen to music together in the institute's music room and Venugopal would give some tidbits about the songs. He was a very knowledgeable person when it came to music. Unfortunately we did not get the time to hear more from him.

When I started writing serious about music on my blog and in e-zines, I wanted someone knowledgeable from whom I can get some information and bounce some ideas. My former room mate Siva was still in touch with Dr.Venugopal and he gave me his mail id. Thus started our correspondence.

Dr.Venugopal was a generous person when it came to music. When I told him that I was searching for a particular music book, which was out of print, he immediately photocopied the whole book and sent it to me. He also sent me a compilation of music articles about musicians of the past, which was very informative. He used to comment regularly in this blog and they added a lot of value to the post and also made people aware of the depth of knowledge that he possessed about Indian film music. He commented on my last post on MLV and asked me if I had heard a few of her other songs. When I replied in negative he immediately sent me the song. That was the last correspondence we had.

On 28th Dec I got a shocking mail saying the Dr.Venugopal expired suddenly due to heart attack while he was on a vacation to Kathmandu with his family. It was most unexpected and extremely sudden. I cannot but think of the family who would be in severe shock due to this sudden loss. May God give them the strength to bear this tragedy.

Once again I want to say that this post is dedicated to the memory of Dr.Venugopal Garu. He loved such classical numbers. Were he alive he would have given us much more information about this subject. His passing away is the passing away of a great music lover and is a loss to all of us. May his soul rest in peace.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Two songs for the Music Season

It's December and Music Season time. Ofcourse anyone who knows a bit about Carnatic music knows that season refers to the unorganized music festival held all over Chennai during this month. Once Music Academy starts its programs around the 15th of Dec, the season will be in full swing. It is a different experience being in Chennai during this time but that is not going to be the purpose of this post.

I am going to give you a couple of delightful Telugu songs based on Carnatic ragas. While the last couple of posts extolled the virtues of Dakshnimaurthy Swami's tuning of carnatic based ragas, this post will showcase the brilliance of two Telugu composers. Composers those days had a good grounding in classical music and were able to come out with some nice songs which had the classical touch, strong enough for you to feel the raga and light enough for you to enjoy it as a film song.

This year the Music Academy gives its 'Sangeetha Kalanidhi' to Sudha Raghunathan. She is a disciple of the legendary M.L.Vasanthakumari. So let me start with a song sung for a Telugu film by MLV. I still remember a brief debate long back in RMIC where one person had commenting on a Hindustani singer singing in movies stated that classical musicians did not know how to lighten a tune and sing in films. Rajan Parikkar was quick on the draw. "What about MLV?" The reply was equally quick, "You have a point there. I concede" MLV knew how to sing in movies and her voice suited the movie songs very well. She has sung many song and the song 'Ellam Inbamayam' set to Simendramadhyamam was a very popular song and is still well known.

The song I have chosen is from the film, 'Bhookailas'. If someone says he has not heard of this movie or the songs from this movie, you can be sure he is not a Telugu. Such is the popularity of this film and the songs. The Ghantasala sung songs are the most famous and this song is not as famous as the other songs of the film.

R.Sudarsanam, who has given some great songs, tunes this in Sankarabaranam and lets MLV voice execute the magic. You can hear Sankarabaranam but at the same time it is not a kutcheri type Sankarabaranam. MLV gives it a breezy feel, a feather touch to enhance its appeal to all segments of the audience. The tune covers quite a lot of Sankarabaranam ground and as the charanam starts meandering into the upper reaches you realize why someone like MLV is needed to deliver it. In the film the song is addressed to Lord Siva and is sung by Ravana's mother. Enjoy the song.

The next song I want to take up is based on the raga Malayamarutham. While it is a fairly well known raga, its appearance on the concert platform is limited nowadays. Maybe because of lack of lot of krithis in the raga or maybe because it evokes the morning hour and singers want to sing it only in the morning !! In case you don't get to hear the song in the concerts hear this song and you will satisfied.

This Pendyala tuned Malayamarutham number is an extremely famous one from the film 'Uyyala Jampala'. Pendyala has given some very nice classical based tunes in many movies (I had spoken about his famous 'rasika raja' earlier in this series). The raga so casually evokes the early morning mood. Pendyala orchestrates the song to gives us the feeling being in a boat. Infact the tune too oscillates the same way as a boat would oscillate. As usual Gantasala invokes the raga with minimal fuss. There are very few who can get to the soul of a raga in cine music like Gantasala. This song is proof enough for that statement. Susheela's singing, especially the humming, adds so much more melody to this song. Lyrics by Arudra are superb as well.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dakshinamurthy Swami - Part 2

Many of my friends who read the tribute to Dakshinamurthy Swami wrote to saying either that the number of songs included were less or I had missed some important song or the other. It is impossible to list all the great songs that Swami had composed but bowing to my friends demands I am including a few more songs here.

My aim here is to highlight the way Swami used Carnatic ragas in his own unique way.

We start with a very Carnatic raga, Neelambari, which is generally used in 'laali' songs. It is the raga which is used to put the Lord to sleep and Tyagaraja has composed some lovely songs in this raga including 'lali' songs. That is a separate track. Let us look at how wonderfully Dakshinamurthy Swami construct a film song based on Nilambari ragam. Ofcourse, we cannot say that the song sticks to Neelambari all the time but that is OK as far as I am concerned, since the song is a lovely one. Swami uses the raga  to create a tender song. He avoids the standard approach to the raga adopted in Carnatic music.

Now let us take the raga Karaharapriya. Here too you will see that Dakshinamurthy Swami approach it very differently. A standard approach would be like that of 'madhavi ponmayilal' from 'Iru Malaragal'. In that song the approach to Karaharpriya follows the very traditional line. Here Swami takes it in a bit different route, giving us an excellent song.

Let us now see how Swami deals with the same raga in two different ways. 'Ananda Bhairavi' is a 'strong' Carnatic raga but Swami beautifully adapts it to the needs of film music. Here is a very pleasing and energetic Anandha Bhairavi. He sort of paved the way for others to use Ananda Bhairavi in this fashion

As a proof of his versatility, here is another 'Ananda Bhairavi' based song but which sounds so very different.

Here we have a lovely Charukesi based number:

Even the widely popular 'Chandrikaiyil Aliyunnu' is such a different take on Mohanam:

As I said there are many more such songs but time and space constraints force me to stop with this song, which I am posting as a request from many of my friends. 'nalla manam vaazhga'. Swami had the 'nalla manam' to give us lot of lovely songs. May his pugazh vaazgha for a long time.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dakshinamurthy Swami

"We called other music directors as Master but Dakshinamuthy was always a Swami for us. He knew what we all wanted and gave it us. He has given us so many boons in music. That is why it is apt to call him Swami" Thus spoke Gangai Amaran in a Malayalam singing competition program in which he was a chief guest. He continued,"Everyone in our family: my kids, Yuvan, Bhavadharini, everyone, were sent to him to learn music. Even if they didn't learn music well, we were happy if he tapped them a few times on their head."  When Illayaraja released his magnum opus, 'Tiruvasagam' he insisted that Dakshinamurthy be the chief guest. Illayaraja in his biography writes that even after he became a music director, he went and played guitar for Dakshinamurthy Swami's recording as a sessions musician, which surprised a lot of people. Such was the respect of Illayaraja's family for music director, V.Dakshinamurthy, known popularly in music circles as Dakshinamurthy Swami, who passed away recently.

I vaguely remember that the first time I heard about Dakshinamurthy Swami was as the music director of the movie, 'Oru Oodapu Kann Simittugiradhu'. The poetic title was what caught my eye and it has the famous 'nalla manam vaazhga', which I came to know was tuned by a music director called Dakshinamurthy. The name was new to me. I did not hear much about him till I heard the music of 'Ganam' in my post graduate days. That was the time when I realised that this was music director who knew the classical aspect of music very well.

My knowledge of Malayalam film music is very limited and I have never followed Dakshinamurthy Swami's discography closely to know how he changed with the times. So what I am going to write is based on very limited listening. Those who have heard his music more are requested to comment and provide their perspective about his music.

I have always felt that Dakshinamurthy Swami had a fascination for ragamalikas. I have already spoken about a couple of them in my earlier posts. Today I will write about another ragamalika which has fascinated me. Kiran TV used to telecast some old Malayalam songs around midnight time and this song was regularly telecast. I never got tired of watching this song. What a fantastic start the song has in Sahana, followed by an absolutely superb Shanmukhapriya and ending in an enticing Kalyani. Swami forms a superb garland with these ragams. Listen to this first and I will then give you an even interesting version.

Later I found an amazing version of this song. Personally this is one of the most interesting video I have seen of any Indian song. It has three singers and two music directors singing on stage. The ragas used here are different. A demure Leela opens the song. Then arrives a young P.B.Sreenivas, standing at ease and singing in a relaxed mood. He does a brief alapana before singing his lines. Following the younger P.B.Sreenivas is an even younger Jesudas, with that brilliant voice of his.Next in line is the music director M B Sreenivasan, whose voice provides a nice contrast to the silken smooth voice of Jesudas. Finally the master arrives. Striking a confident pose, he sings with the assurance of a person who knows his subject, he casually evokes the beauty of Sree Ragam

From an outsider perspective, Dakshinamurthy was the quintessential Malayalam film music director. He used the carnatic ragas very well and there was a touch of melancholy in his songs. Similar approach was followed by other music directors from Kerala like Radhakrishnan, Arjunan and others. Dakshinamurthy Swami dealt with some strong carnatic ragas like Begada in his own unique way, fitting them into the film song format very well. (I had written long back about the 'Innale' song which was tuned in Begada by Dakshinamurthy Swami.)

Here is a very famous Malayalam song based on Abheri. As you can see, Dakshinamurthy's approach to Abheri is quite different from the conventional ones we have heard, like 'sringara velane deva'.

Or check out this Chakravagam based number. Here too you can see his approach to the raga is quite different. There is a different color given to the raga and it makes for a lovely film song.

Let me close with that one song which has made him immortal in Tamil. S P B has sung lot of good songs before this song and lot more later. Yet, for many this song will always be present in their 'Best of SPB' list. Dakshinamurthy gives a Madhuvanti which has not been bettered till now. The outstanding 'nanda nee en nila':

May this great man's soul rest in peace.