Wednesday, April 11, 2007

K V Mahadevan and Carnatic Music

As I was writing the article on Brinda and Mukta, I realized that once I had written a tribute to K V Mahadevan and his contribution to cine music in Unfortunately the site is down and I dont have a copy of what I posted. So I thought I will now write about K V Mahadevan's use of carnatic music in A P Nagarajan films.

What I write here would be only related to the use of carnatic music in film songs by K V Mahadevan. In case you want to know more about KVM's contribution to film music as such, you should check out sites like or There are some very nice articles about KVM in these sites.

KVM used lot of carnatic ragas in the films of A P Nagarajan. Let us first take the film 'Tiruvilayadal'. This is a film that not many tamil film buffs would forget. The best section, musically, is the last one involving the singer 'Bana Battar'. This segment involves four songs, of which we can safely discard the philosophical song that Sivaji sings in the movie and concentrate on the other three. Most of you would be aware of the story of the singer challenging the king to find a singer in his kingdom who can sing and win against him. His ego is busted by Lord Siva who comes down to earth to teach him a lesson.

To tune for this sequence is very tricky. In case the song that Shiva sings is not good, the effect is gone. In case the song that Bana Battar sings is not upto mark, you will have a feeling that you have been setup by the music director. KVM and Kannadasan together come up with two gems and that leaves you extremely satisfied. Bana Battar, in Balamurali's voice, starts his singing with Mand and does a ragamalika in Todi, Darbar, Mohan and Kanada. The lyrics of Kannadasan wonderfully portray the egotism of the singer and the tune is an all time favourite. The court singer is sure that he cannot take up Bana Battar's challenge, goes to seek refuge in Lord Shiva. He sings a song in Ragam Abheri. "Isai Tamizh Ni Seida Arum Sadhanai". Kannadasan, as his wont, effectively conveys the helplessness of the court singer. Shiva heeding the plea of his devotee comes down and about to sleep outside the house where Bana Battar is staying, starts singing one of the best and the definitive Gowri Manohari's ever heard in film music. Right from the brief alapanai that TMS does till the end the song has the majestic stamp of Gowri Manohari. The song is an excellent amalgamation of the lyrics of Kannadasan, the tune of KVM and the flawless execution of TMS. No wonder this too is an all time fav of tamil people. Other music directors have tried tuning in Gowri Manohari later but this song is hard to beat and leaves a lasting impact.

Similar to Gowri Manohari, KVM has left behind a couple of Shanmugapriya tunes that have again become the standards for the raga. The best Shanmugapriya, which everyone loves, is 'Maraidirundhe Parkum' from Tillana Mohanambal. Again the scene has burnt itself in our memory by the way the song was picturised, the acting of Sivaji and the beauty of Padmini. Added to this as usual are the lyrics of Kannadasan. The lyrics beautifully convey the situation in just a few words and the 'kindal' in the words puts a small smile on your lips. Susheela is without doubt one of the best female singers of South India and she delivers a superb melodic punch. (A similar scene was enacted in a fairly recent movie, 'Sangamam', with some two actors trying the same thing done by Sivaji andPadmini and A R Rahman coming up with 'Sowkiyama Kanne Sowkhiyama'. Neither the song, the picturisation, the lyrics or the acting come close to the Tillana Mohanambal song).The other Shanmugapriya that KVM comes up is for K B Sudarambal, "Pazam Ni Appa". Again a lovely Shanmugapriya.

( Digression: In later days Illayaraja came up with some good Shanmugapriyas. "Than Thananam" (Pudiya Varpugal), "Takida Thadimi" (Salangai Oli), "Kadal Kasakudaiya" (A Pandiyarajan film) But the Shanmugapriya of Illayaraja that I really like is from Moga Mull, "Sollayo Vai Tirandu". It takes a genius to use Shanmugapriya, which is always used in a robust manner, in a 'viraha' situation as in 'Moga Mull' and Illayaraja is a genius. While these are good Shanmugapriyas, it is still 'Maraindirude' which comes to your mind when someone mentions Shanmugapriya in films. That is the sort of effect KVM leaves behind)

K V Mahadevan came up with some memorable melodies for the movie 'Tiruvarutselvar'. The opening Kalyani song is the famous, 'Mannavan Vandhanadi Thozi'. Subbudu, the Carnatic Music critic, in one of his interviews had praised this song saying how beautifully Kalyani was used in this song. A nice Kalyani but the number of Kalyanis and their quality in film songs is such that we cannot afford to name any one of them as definitive or the 'best' !! Kalyani seems to inspire most of the music directors. The other song in this movie which is very nice is the Sindhubhairavi song, 'Siddamellam Enaku Sivamayame'. This is definitely one of the top class Sindhubhairavis that film music has thrown up. KVM had this great ability to retain the color of the raga at the same time giving it a 'lightness of touch' so that it reaches the masses easily. The other famous song in the movie is 'Nadarmudi Mel Irrukum Nalla Pambe'. This Punnagavarali based number is enhanced by the lyrics of Kannadasan. Cant help adding, 'as usual'.

KVM came up with a wonderful ragamaligai for the movie 'Kandan Karunai'. The song 'Aurpadai Veedu Konda' describes the aru padai veedu of Lord Muruga. The song starts off with Kambhoji and details of each 'padai veedu' are given in a different ragam. The ragams chosen other than Kambhoji are Hindolam, Charkravakam, Kanada, Hamsanandi, Natakurunji and Kapi. Kanadasan's lyrical skills come to the fore, with him having to tell the history of each location and describe the location with a minimum of words, which he does with his usual authority. Seerghazi, with his grand voice and with minimum fuss, conveys the rasa of each raga. Added to it is the clarity of his diction. All these combine together to make this an everlasting melody.

(A small digression: I have a feeling that K V Mahadevan was inspired in this song by a Telugu melody of Pendyala which goes as 'Mukkoti Devathalu'. I use inspiration as a good word here and not as used in the modern context as a synonym for copying !!!. The reason I say is that Pendyala's song is also a ragamalika and describes various kshetras with different ragas for each kshetra and it also starts in Kambhoji. The tunes are very different though. While Pendyala's tune is melancholic to suit the situation , Mahadevan's tune is a joyous celebration of Lord Muruga)

Mahadevan comes up with a full song in Kambhoji in 'Saraswati Sabadam'. 'Kalviya, Selvama, Veerama' is the song. While the Kambhoji is not very great, the song is a nice one. Another song in 'Kandan Karunai' is an all time favourite of mine 'Solla Solla Inikudada'. I wish I had not seen the picturization. It is not a great sight to see a bloated Savitri painted green !!!

I need to mention another song here, though it doesnt appear in an A P Nagarajan film. It is the song 'Parthen Sirithen' from Veera Abhimanyu. A mesmerizing Sahana. I have always felt that Sahana was too classical and wouldnt fit in easily into film music but KVM proves me wrong and I am happy that he does !!

(One more digression: I have felt some ragas like Ananda Bhairavi, Bhairavi, Sahana, Begada, Bilahari, Yadhukula Kambhoji and some more were not easily adaptable to film music. Music directors have got great tunes out of Ananda Bhairavi and Reethi Gowla. The 'Aval Oru Bhairavi' part in Apoorva Ragangal is a good Bhairavi. I have already mentioned Sahana. Illayaraja came up with a nice Bilahari in 'Koonadalile' and 'Nee onru dhana sangeetham' but both have the classical tinge. I was pleasantly surprised by a tune of S.Rajeshwar Rao in Telugu, 'Evaru Nerparamma E Kommaku' in which he gives a very 'light' and melodic Bilahari. Begada and Yadhukula Kambhoji remain unconquered)

Those were some songs which remain in memory. K V Mahadevan's carnatic music based tunes for Shankarabharam became popular nationally. While acknowledging the greatness of those tunes, I still feel the best carnatic based tunes that KVM gave were for the films of A P Nagarajan.


sree said...

Dear Suresh:
An amazing article on the use of Carnatic Ragas in Movies by K V Mahadevan. His body of work in Telugu films (I am Tamil who grew up with in Hyderabad) where he blended it with mellifluous lyrics is just as amazing. KVM ruled Telugu music in the 60s and 70s and his compositions for K Viswanath films were incomparable. Most Tamils know Sankarabharanam as the famous movie where KV and KVM worked together but right through K Viswanath's career, KVM added flair to his movies. BTW KV is IMHO one of the best directors ever as his movies had a story and a message.

dghnfgj said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Suresh nga!!
Was very happy to read this about KVM. I am one of his many fans that are around the world.
Thank you for explaining the ragas for the songs chosen. Enlightens me who has not much knowledge about the ragas. Amazing how one could compose tunes & I would certainly say its "Saraswathi Kadaksham" given to the individual.
Thank u for this lovely article nga.

rajagopalan said...

Mr. Suresh

I am brother of Mukund who had recently introuduced this blog with
"Kalangalil aval vasantham".

The song Parthen Sirithen is tuned by
Viswanathan and Ramamoorthy and not KMV for your info. If you really want a good film tamil song in the raga shanmukhapriya, pl listen to "kurangilirnthu piranthavan" from the film thooku thooki tuned by the great G Ramanathan.

With regards

R. Sridhar

Suresh S said...

Hi Sridhar,

Welcome to the blog and thanks for the comment. (BTW, met up with Mukund yesterday in Chennai.)

'parthen sirithen' from 'Veera Abhimany' is a K V Mahadevan composition. A couple of links to that effect:

The video with attribution to KVM.

Lyrics of the song:

Thanks for the Shanmukhapriya reco of 'thooku thooki'. Been ages since I heard that song. Will do so soon.

Please do keep visiting and posting your comments.

Sankarasubramanian said...

Dear Suresh,
I feel KVM is a genius music director. Somehow, in the din of Tamil filmdom's hero worship, KVM's contributions have not been properly highlighted.
By the way, "Parthein Sirithein" is undoubtedly a superb composition by KVM.

Suresh S said...

Dear Shankar,

Thanks for the comments. I fully agree with you that KVM's contribution to Tamil Film Music is underrated. I guess the MSV-TKR was impact was such that he had to move away to the Telugu film world. It was definitely a gain for Telugu film music as KVM tuned many immortal numbers in Telugu.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suresh,

A very fine appreciative piece of KVM one of the doyens of TFM as well as TelFM, no dobt. I read this article through a link from some other site and then went backwards to read your previous posts about carnatic music. I am not an expert but can appreciate classical music too.

You have mentioned sahana and paarthen sirithen (definitely tuned by KVM and not VR). But you have inadvertently missed out on another fine sahana no in TFM, "ennamellal ore idathaye naaduthe" by TMS in "Thirumanam", a very fine song set to music by MSV's guru SMS Naidu. There may be others too, but I don't recall.

Anyway thanks for your interesting blogs and keep it up! Would suggest adding G Ramanathan's contributions to TFM too.



Suresh S said...

Dear Ramaswamy,

Thanks for your excellent comment and your recommendation of the other Sahana piece. To be very honest, I haven't heard that piece. I will now search and hear that. My knowledge of Tamil film music before the MSV-TR and KVM era is limited and hence I have not put much of G Ramanathan's music here. Would definitely love to listen to his music and write about it.

Please do visit often. Comments from knowledgeable rasikas like you will educate all of us.


I would like to add two things to your wonderful analysis of KVM's carnatic voyage. The gowrimanohari song in Thiruvilayadal was lifted to sky heights by the performer on the screen, Sivaji. I just mention this as his contribution was also instrumental. Another lesser known fact perhaps is that K.V.Mahadevan sang a duet with P.Leela in an earlier movie 'Madanamohini'! The song 'Kannodu kannai rahasiam pesi' in shanmugapriya is another gem. You can listen to this song in the following link:

Suresh S said...

Krishnamurthy Sir,

Thanks for the comment. Ofcourse yes. 'Thiruvilayadal' had the stamp of Sivaji Ganesan throughout the movie. His acting in 'paaatum naane' as well as his Q&A session with Nagesh, which even today brings a smile on the lips of the viewers.

Very thankful to you for the link to KVM's song. I was not aware that KVM sang. I always thought he just composed music. The song is very nice and his voice is nice as well. Thanks once more for this wonderful gift.

KP's takes said...

Of course, we are at a loss of words to convey the exact feeling when we hear a KVM composition. In all his songs, apart from the carnatic basis he leaves the listener and connaisseur spellbound with his lightning lics. Only the other genius MSV comes near to KVM and no other. Especially Ragas like Kalyani, Anandabhairavi, Madhyamavati, Sahana, Mohanam are deftly handled by both the genius composers. MSV stands apart with his orchestration esply., in the chord work which no other Indian composer could dream about. No other than MSV has successfully handled Raga Kharaharapriya in cine-music till date.