Last week, one of the famous music directors, Ravi, passed away. He had two names, Ravi while in Bombay and Bombay Ravi, while in Kerala. I like Bombay Ravi more than the Ravi without the qualifier. Ravi composed many Hindi songs which are everlasting. Songs such as 'Chaudvin Ka Chand', 'O Meri Zohra Jabeen', 'Baar Baar Dekho', 'Dil Ke Armaan', 'Neele Gagan Pe Tale' : to give a few samples.
The saying is, "To the dead we owe only the truth." So let me confess that I have never been a great fan of Ravi's work in Hindi films. Yes, I like some of the songs listed above but overall I have never been too fascinated by the songs he composed in Hindi. Somehow I couldn't relate much to the big hits like 'Neele Gagan Pe' or 'Chalo Ik Baar'. The tunes did not hold much fascination for me and the fact that Mahendar Kapoor was involved made it even more difficult to appreciate the song. In essence, the percentage of his work in Hindi that I liked was not very high.
(Here is a small playist of some of Ravi's popular Hindi melodies. This list was made by my friend on twitter: @desikichidi : http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCAE67ED7ED1B7A98 )
Bombay Ravi on the other hand is someone I like. Ravi came down south and gave some songs which have become part of almost every Malayalee who was a teenager in the 80s. Bombay Ravi, as he was called in Kerala, had an excellent association with Hariharan / M T Vasudevan Nair combine and they produced some excellent movies and great melodies. Movies like 'Nakakshathangal', 'Panchagni', 'Vadakkan Veera Gatha', 'Sargam' are classics and the music in them has great enduring quality. As I said, Bombay Ravi's music during this phase is something which the Malayalees will not forget anytime soon.
I like a lot of songs Ravi gave for Malayalam films. Yes, we have to agree that he operated within a restricted range in Malayalam, a few songs sounding very similar to each other. (My twitter says that Ravi became template based.) He had a penchant for ragams like Mohanam and Pahadi and kept using them often. Inspite of that, the songs he gave in Malayalam tend to move you. Also this ensured his style was easily identifiable. I could discern a lot of North Indian touches in the main melody but overall he was able to hide the North Indian influence quite well. (For example, if you listen carefully you can see that 'neeraduvan' is like a reworking of 'chaudvin ka chaand'.)
I will now give a list of songs which will help you understand why Bombay Ravi is so famous in Malayalam. The songs you will hear are gentle melodies which you can easily associate with Malayalam films.
Let's start with this song which gave Chitra a National Award.From the movie, "Nakakshathangal", this a delicate melody.
This K J Jesudas song from 'Panchagni' was a major hit as well. I can discern the Northern influence in the way the tune moves and in the interludes but overall this melody is a big hit in Kerala:
While I like a lot of Bombay Ravi songs in Malaylam, this Hindolam based number sung by Jesudas is my personal favorite. From the movie, 'Mayookham'
A Darbari Kanada melody. Rendered superbly by Chitra, as usual. Words of ONV Kurup. 'indhu puspam' from 'Vaishali' :
This song is what I would call a typical Malayalam melody. A soothing melody. Jesudas, as usual sings it wonderfully. From the movie, 'Oru Vadakkan Veera Gatha', "chandanalepha sugandham': (This song reminds me of the earlier song he gave, 'aareyum bhava gayakan')
I will round it off with this song 'Pravahame Ganga Pravahame' from the movie "Sargam'. My friend Ramki wrote to me saying that you can't tell Bombay Ravi was not a Malayali if you heard the songs of this movie. They were so steeped in South Indian classicism.
Ravi's songs in Hindi will be around for a long time. His works in Malayalam will around longer.
One aspect which I heard many people say in his tribute is: "So many songs of Ravi people have enjoyed without knowing it is by Ravi." This is very true and brings us to the topic of style. I associated Ravi with songs like 'Neele Gagan', 'Kaun Aaya', 'Neele Gagan Pe' and as I said I was not too fascinated by this style. At the same time Ravi has done many songs which have no semblance of his style at all. To give you a couple of examples, 'Baar Baar Dekho' and 'Yeh Raatein Yeh Mausam' and even 'Chaudvin ka Chand'. You can tell somone that 'Baar Baar Dekho' is by some other MD, say O P Nayyar and 'Yeh Raatein' is by Burman Da and 'Chaudvin Ka Chaand' is by Naushad and people would believe you. Infact people may not believe you when you say these are by Ravi. This is the danger when morph too much and don't leave behind your signature. It may be so generic that you will not get credit for it.