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Classical liaiyaraaja - 1

 Recently, I watched the movie 'Chembaruthi' on video. One of those unethical, "kuppai" screen printed  video cassette, you know, that gives you a vision like that of a "soda-butti" watching TV without his  spectacles! Ilaiyaraaja has done a fantastic job in that movie. Though I had heared all those songs many times while I was in India, watching that movie created a reminiscent train of thoughts in my mind, about Ilaiyaraaja, his music, the dramatic change he brought about in Thamizh cinema. I thought that it would be worthwhile to discuss his music, particularly the CLASSICAL aspect! I am aware that it is not possible to  write about all his carnatic oriented songs, about how he has handled those ragas, how he has deviated from the classical style etc. But it would definitely be interesting to pour out our ideas once in a while in a random order of the ragas covered by him.  

In "Chembaruthi" there are six songs, out of which 4 are carnatic based. All the songs were "sooper hits".  To a guy who knows carnatic music, the ragas are explicit, and to a non-classical rasika, they are just great tunes! This was one of his specialities, to give the raga in almost good shape and also make a good  cinema tune out of it. And ofcourse, the rhythm should give scope for good dance movements so that the   hero and heroine could share their love by dancing! Maybe, many of his tunes have to be branded as semi-classical or light music (even though the raga form might be pure) only because of this rhythm factor.

    "Chalakku Chalakku Selai" is one good number in chakravaagam. There is no impurity in the tune (like any anniya swaram). He has confined to classical 16th, Sa Ri1 Ga3 Ma1 Pa Da2 Ni2 Sa. Ofcourse, not to  mention, that the lyrics is very bad, fighting to degrade the song from semi-classical to light music. In the  charanam the heroine says "kalyaanam aagama paay poda venam, ennala aagaathu aamaam". You             know, some good heroines with morality do say such deterrant, anti pre-marital sex things to the always  advancing heroes!  

 Ilaiyaraaja has only few chakravaagams in his account. In the janya raagas of chakravaagam, he has excellent numbers. Like, Malayamaarutham.... Sa Ri1 Ga3 Pa Da2 Ni2 Sa, Sa Ni2 Da2 Pa Ga3 Ri1 Sa. His first malayamarutham came as a pleasant surprise in Sridhar's movie (for whom he always had a soft corner) "Thenralae ennai thodu". I distinctly remember how the 'Ananda Vikatan' magazine wrote in glowing terms about "kannmani nee vara kathirunthen" song in malayamaarutham. Yesudoss and Uma Ramanan had done a wonderful job in that song. Ga Pa Da Sa Ni Da Pa Da Pa Ga, Ga Pa Ga Sa Sa Ri. What a wonderful start! The sharp rishabam gave a beautiful colour to this song. Maybe Ilaiyaraaja's first malayamaarutham was "poojakaana neram" in "kaadal ovium. That was a good song too. Dheepan chakravarthi had struggled to keep in pace with that tune (like some violinists get into trouble with Seshagopalan's pace!). Then came "Thendral vanthu muthamittathu" in malayamaarutham in "Oru odai nadiyagirathu"(another sridhar's movie). Gosh! That was a fast song too. Krishnachandar and S.P.Shailaja tried their best, but probably spoiled it. Particularly, S.P.Shailaja has sung like the shrill sound you hear when you apply the breaks on a car that you bought for 500 $! There are two other songs in which he has deleted both Ni and Ma in chakravaagam. I don't think that such a raga exists in carnatic music with any known name. Those two songs are "amudhae thamizhae" (kovil pura), and "nila kuyilae" (magudi). They are simply excellent. One should be an artist and play those songs to know their quality. Amudhae  thamizhae starts like Sa Ri Ga, Sa Ri Ga, Sa Ri Ga Pa Ga Ri Sa, Sa Ri Sa Da Sa...Pulamai Pithan's  lyrics glorified that song. In the charanam he says, if you listen to and speak Thamizh, " Oon mezhugai  urugum, athil ulagam karainthu pogum", such is the beauty of this language! One cannot write any  better,about the greatness of Thamizh language. (Those people like Thamizh vendan & co, who have no other job other than inundating the S.C.T with meaningless news about Thamizh Ezham, now, have a  point!).

 I vaguely remember a song "naan irrukka bayam etharku" (kuva kuva vathukkal?) At that time, when I had

primitive carnatic music knowledge, I had diagnosed that song as "Valaji" (Rishabam deleted in Malayamarutham, Sa Ga Pa Da Ni Sa, Sa Ni Da Pa Ga Sa, you can say that it is a janyam of chakravaagam too, eventhough theorists might say 'janyam of Harikambodi'). Maybe, that song is indeed Valaji. Ilaiyaraaja has few songs in Revathi, another 16 janyam. Perhaps the best onces are "sangitha jaathi mullai" (kaadal ovium) and "kanavu onru thonruthe" (oru odai nadiyaagirathu). But I personally feel that MSV's melodious use of Revathi is unparalleled in the song "manthira punnagai" (Manal kayiru).

So much about chakravaagam and its janyams and Ilaiyaraaja. In chembaruthi, two of the 4 carnatic

songs, are in Sindu Bhairavi raagam. They are "kadalile ezhumbura alaikalai" and "kaadhalile tholvi". Ilaiyaraaja himself has sung the former ( thso, thso rendition ) and Nagoor Hanifa the latter. Both these songs are excellent Sindu Bhairavi's. One in three of all cinema songs are in Sindu Bhairavi scale (one of the commonest cinema melodies, like the 20th mela Natabhairavi). Ilaiyaraaja has innumerable songs in Sindhu Bhairavi, a variegated population from valai osai kalakala ena to shenbagame, shenbagame etc. One cannot list all of them. But, probably MSV's Unnakenna Mele Ninrai (Simla Special) is the best of         Sindhu Bhairavi. In "kadalile ezhumbura" the lyrics is unusually good. Probably, muthulingam or whoever

was the lyrisict, had a strong tea before writing that song! That song goes to tell the pathetic life of fishermen. The lyrisict says in pallavi "kadal thaneer karikudu kaaranam irukkudu, meenavar vidugira viyarvaikal kadalile kalakudu..." (Sea water is saline because of 's fishermen's sweat). Good idea, ain't it?

 Lastly,there is one song in Kaapi raaam in Chembaruthi: chembaruthi poalae (after decades, Banumathi

Ramakrishna sang a tail piece of this song). His other Kaapi are ada maapila (maapilai), hei paadal onru

 (priya). As far as I know Ilaiyaraaja is the only one who used kaapi in cinema. All of them are good. He starts 'ada maapila' like, Ma Ga3 Ga3 Ma Pa, Pa Ma Ga3 Ma Ni2 Pa Ga2 Ri Sa Ni3 Sa Sa. Wonderful start! To start kaapi in madhyamam and use its key phrase 'Ga3 Ma Ni2 Pa Ga2 Ri Sa Ni3' at the very beginning is an excellent approach to the tune. This is one of the instance in which his classical 'vidwat' was manifest. Even 'chembaruthi poale' he uses the bashangam of kaapi, in the very beginning, like, 'Pa NI2 Ma Pa Ni3 Sa'. Why did he choose to score tune in kaapi for both these above situations in which the bride and the groom are humoured by the 'thozhan' and 'thozhiyar' on the occasion of their betrothal. Is their any definite pattern that he follows in scoring tunes for situation? Maybe.


 There are very few instances in which the identity of a rare raga in a cinema song is so well handled and shown (to the extent that) we could even use these songs as good a reference as keerthanas for those respective ragas. To quote a few, K.V.Mahadevan's 'paatum naanae' (Thiruvilayaadal) in the ragam Gowrimanohari, M.K.Thiagaraja Bhagavathar's'soppana vazhvil magizhndu' in the ragam Vijayanaagari. These are uncommonly sung ragas. It is true that there are excellant keerthanais like 'gurulekha' (Gowrimanohari) in these ragas. But to a common rasika, it could be gone ahead and suggested 'paatum naanae' to understand Gowrimanohari, because KVM has handled it in splendid form. The way T.M.S starts the song in thara sthayi rishabham with his perfect voice and renders it, it is like eating a 'nila pournami' feast in the banks of kaveri. That song has become an absolute reference for Gowrimanohari. The question is: Has Ilaiyaraaja any such 'reference' songs to his credit? Yes. Many!  Bhaavani is the 41st melakartha raaga. It is the 2nd raga to the right from Jalavarali! It has the following arohanam and avarohanam: Sa Ri1 Ga1 Ma2 Pa Da2 Ni3 Sa, and Sa Ni3 Da2 Pa Ma2 Ga1 Ri Sa. I have never heard any keerthanai in this raga. How did Ilaiyaraaja get the sudden idea of scoring a tune in this complex vivaadi raga? Would it be a hit with all its vivaadi swaras? Did he or Kamalhaasan have any apprehension? If they had had, maybe we would't have got this wonderful song 'paartha vizhi poothiruka' in Guna. It is a perfect song suiting the situation in which Kamal (a nut case) sees the heroine in a temple and falls in instant love with her. That heroine, Roshni (or something) was a delight to see in that movie.  The song starts like this Sa Pa Pa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Da Sa Ri GA...Before the song there is a virutham like piece sung by the chorus. He has handled the beauty of the vivaadhi swaras in that raga very very nicely.  When you hear the words 'charanam charanam' set in the swaras, Sa Sa Ga Ri Sa it sends a thrill in your perceptual apparatus. Since the uttaranga swaras of this raga consist of chatusruthi daivatham and kaakali nishadam, it has a quality like that of kalyani (with a pradhi madhyamam). In the interlude of this song the chorus traverse in the melodious regions of the raga (Pa Da Ni Sa). Unfortunately I don't remember the words. Maybe the lyrics is good too. Jesudoss has done a fantastic job. Even though the recording scale of this song is only around 'oru kattai', how is that it sounds as though he is reaching big heights when he sings the same pallavi in the thara sthayi? It sounds so pleasant to hear! This song is a very good good referance for Bhaavani ragam. Guna has another fantastic 'light' song 'kanmani anbodu'. Maybe, neo-rasikas will go ahead and call this song as Sankarabaranam!  Are there any cinema songs in ragam Hemavathi? It was a good surprise recently when I came to know  that llaiyaraaja has ventured into this ragam also for first time (maybe, in thamizh film song history). That  song is in the movie 'pudhupatti ponnuthayee' starring radhika. 'manam poala maangalyam' is a good  example of Hemavathi. S.Janaki (the best vocal support he ever got) has sung this song. This movie is like   some modern thillanam hanaambaal. Some big shot has given accompaniment in nadhaswaram in this  song. He has started the pallavi in thara sthayi gandaaram. Ga Ri Sa Sa Ni Sa NI Sa Ni Da... That is how  the song goes. It is really good and pure!

 Considering the sudha madhyamam of Hemavathi, the raga giant 'Karaharapriya', Ilaiyaraaja has few pure

numbers in it. Ofcourse nothing can beat M.S.Viswanathan's 'madhavi pon mayilaal'. Probably Ilaiyaraaja

first tried Karaharapriya in pure form in 'poo nadam idum mayilae..' in the movie tick tick tick. The interlude violin pieces and K.J.Yesudoss's swara alapana in that song are fantastic. For such a good tune, the lyrics was very bad. I distinctly remember how the triple x filled words in the charanam like 'padukayil...'  got more famous than the tune in our school! Ilaiyaraaja should have paid more attention to the lyrics   atleast when his tunes were purely carnatic. Mmmmm.... Who cared? It was all money for him! His other  pure karnatic Karaharapriya are 'anandam pongida pongida', 'thana vanda sandanamae' (ooru vittu ooru vandhu). In anandam pongida pongida, the upper sancharas are excellant, like Ga Ga Ri Sa Ri Ga Ma Ga... Again,the song has been sung by Yesudoss. His voice is superb for this kind of songs. 'Thana vanda  sandanamae' came as a pleasant surprise in his brother Gangei Amaran directed movie. This song was not a big hit. Probably all the attention went to 'sorgamae enrallum' in the same movie in ragam hamsanadam (but for few slips). In 'thana' (SPB), he has handled some wonderful nuances of Karaharapriya, like Ga Ri Ni Da Ni... There are few more of his semi-classical tries in Karaharapriya, like

'maamanukku' (netrikann) etc. Even his first song, 'machchana parthingala' is in the Karaharapriya scale.

He liked this scale a lot. Maybe, neo-rasikas would call all of them as pure Karaharapriya.

 Probably the purest of his Karaharapriya came in 'unnaal mudiyum thambi'. The situation is Kamal and Gemini fight over something. The quarrel gets very intense. At this point Gemini's dumb son (Kamal's brother), takes his nadhaswaram and starts playing loudly, to stop his kin from quarreling further. You know what raga Ilaiyaraaja selected for this situation? Karaharapriya! That scene was a musical feast in that movie. The raga was appropriately used. K.J.Yesudoss gave a charming vocal support to IIlaiyaraaja  (singing for both Kamal and Gemini). It was like a duet between Yesudoss and the nadhaswaram!  K.Balachander used this situation to show how music was a common enjoyment in Gemini's house and  how it could abate the heat of the quarell between the son and the father. 

  Talking about the panchama varjaya ragam of Karahapriya, that is , Sriranjani, probably Ilaiyaraaja was the best music director to use this wonderful raga. His first Sriranjani came as a tail bit in velli chalangaigal

(kaadal ovium). It was a very fast bit sang by the chorus 'thannanthanimayil iru vizhi'. Even though 'velli chalangaigal' was tuned in Chandrakounse ragam, I don't know what made him give the tail bit to Sriranjani

(a very strange guy, you know!) The second Sriranjani attempt came in naadavinodhangal in salangai oli.  Even in this song he tuned the pallavi alone in Sriranjani, with charanam in Hamsaanandi. This is what I dislike in cinema music directors. Why can't they adhere to a single raga? Why do they have to change from pallavi to charanam? Ilaiyaraaja was the one who did best justice to carnatic music among modern music directors. But even he fell a prey to such deviations (from purist point of view) like changing the raga for each line in few songs. His best Sriranjani came in 'nadam ezhundadadi' in Gopura vaasalilae. Again, Yesudoss! It was really fantastic. Karthik had given a comic act in that song. Probably that song toppled M.S.V's best Sriranjani 'nadam enum kovililae..' Dit it? I would say yes.

Subhapanthuvarali is a 'bayangara soga' ragam. If you hear it you will cry; I will cry; 'saraa loag' will cry. Given the conditional event of Rajiv Gandhi or Indira Gandhi's death occuring, Subhapanthuvarali played on  the radio or TV by some 'thenga moodi' bhagavathar during the days of mourning will make even those music insensitive Indira congress leaders shed atleast 'crocodile tears'! Can you imagine this ragam being used in the cinema for a sexy scene like that in 'Hot Shots' in which the hero Charlie Sheen fries eggs on the heroine's umbilicus as though it was a bunzen burner?! Yes, there is a song in Subhapanthuvarali for a  situation like the above said, in the movie 'Getti melam'. That was the first movie in which director Visu  joined Ilaiyaraaja, starring Karthik and Sasikala. Visu had tried some sexploitation in that song sequence    by bringing Sasikala in swimsuit for few minutes, Karthik grazing over her all the time! The song is  'dhagamae undanathe, thindaaduthe manamae..' That was pure subhapanthuvarali. Maybe it evoked sexy mood. Maybe not! Neither the movie nor the song was a big hit. Perhaps the failure was only due to the ineptitude of the raga selection. Visu never joined with Ilaiyaraaja after that!  Ilaiyaraaja has used Subhapanthuvarali umpteen number of times for sad situations. His first Subhapanthuvarali came in 'vaigarayil vagai karayil' in Payanangal modivathilai. S.P.B had done a wonderful job in that. The song was a big hit as were the other numbers in that movie. Ilaiyaraaja and director R.Sundarajan reportedly had a physical fight about who was the main reason for the movie's hit! Childish fellows! After sometime, R.Sundarajan became a pal with Ilaiyaraaja once again, reconciling to the fact that Ilaiyaraaja was indispensable at that period of time when he was at his peak. Some of his other Subhapanthuvarali are 'madhavan azhakiraan' in Rajni's Ragavendra, one song in valli (enna enna kanavu kandayo). In paadu nilaavae he used subapanthuvarali for one situation in which the hero and heroine enter into some sort of music competetion. That song is 'vaa veliyae intha kootai vittu'. Mano and Chitra. Mano had shown his vocal gimnastic skills in the thara sthayi sancharas in that song. 

Subhapanthuvarali is the 45th melagartha ragam. One raga before that,(ie 44th) we have Bavapriya ragam.

Ilaiyaraaja has composed one song in this scale. That is 'kandupudichen kandupudichen' in Gurusishyan. One of my friend said that some carnatic big shot (Sudha Raghunathan or someone) told in an interview in

MTV that it was a good Bavapriya and that Ilaiyaraaja had used this 'soga ragam' in that funny situation in

which Prabhu humours Rajini about his new love affair with Gowthami. I would simply say that it was a

good song in Bavapriya scale. Thats all! Similarly there is a good song in the suddha madhyama raga  scale of Subhapanthuvarali, that is , Dhenuka. It is the song in 'thooral ninnu poachu': en soga kathaya  kaellu... Let us simply call this as set in Dhenuka scale (with few slips) and not as Dhenuka ragam.

 The sixth raga from Subhapanthuvarali, ie, 51st mela ragam is Panthuvarali. Ilaiyaraaja has conspicuously

 not produced any good number in Panthuvarali.The only one that I know is the re-recording in 'Raja paarvai' in which blind Kamal plays violin with the troup. I forgot the situation for that in the movie. Sa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Sa Ri Ni Sa....That is how the recording goes. Though it is usually quoted as good Panthuvarali, I did not like it very much. He had tried some fusion in that. Nothing can beat MSV's aezhu swarangalukul in Panthuvarali. It is like listening to a katcheri. Vani Jayaram's performance was terrific. Did she get national award for that song? Perhaps, it is because of this song that she always says that MSV is the best music director who gave carnatic music in pure form, forgetting about Ilaiyaraaja's 'indraiku en intha' (vaidhegi kathirunthal) and other innumerable etcetras. Maybe, Ilaiyaraaja stopped giving her chance to sing in his movies only because she praised MSV all the time!


Ilaiyaraaja was very prolific in the sudha madhyama counterpart of panthuvarli, that is mayamalavagowlai.

Since mayamalavagowlai is relatively very flexible, you can distinctly show the colour of the raga just by

traversing its notes alone. Not much of gamakam is needed. You can use this for all kinds of situation like

sadness, happiness etc. Ilaiyaraaja has completely exploited this ragam to the point of its fullest use, so that no other music director can bring out any better than him from this raga. His first song in this scale probably came in ponnu ooruku pudhusu (enna paatu paada enna thalam poada!). His other mayamalavagowlai are manjal nilavuku inru (pagalil oru nilavu), anthi varum neram (munthanai mudichu),

madhurai mari kozhundu (enga oru paatukaaran), uyirae uyirae urugadhae (oruvar vaazhum aalayam), illam kaadal veenai (vellai pura onru), rama naamam oru vedamae (ragavendrar), maasaru ponnae varuga (thevarmagan), en thayaenum koyilai (aranmanai killi), kottu kali kottu (chinnavar), poova eduthu vachu (amman koil kizhakaalae) There are so many songs, that quoting all would be cumbersome. Some of them have actually been tuned in tappanguthu situations. In Bharathiraja's ennuyir thozhan, there is a song 'machchi en mannaru'. It is a pukka Mayamalavagowlai (even though it is tappanguthu). That song has the following


           Machchi en mannaru mansukkula bejaru,

           Touch pannaru, takkara poanaru,

           Daavu oru daavu naan kaatum naerum...

           Sammunu sammunu vaasam sallunu sallunu veesum...

 Though I've not seen this movie, from the lyrics I guess that the song situation should be like this: The poor pettai rowdy hero buys a new autorickshaw and shows it to his lady love and sings a song! In the charanam of that song look what the heroine asks the hero to buy for her! Not jewelry! Not house or 'bahuth keemthi property'! Not new silk dresses! Just two tickets for matnee show to a rajini's movie so that they both can go! Thats all! Also, in the charanam the hero says to the heroine 'kaaveri aaratam odathae nee mae..koovam than naamae..' Funny! Isn't it? It is as though these people are just talking in madras language in that song. Good depiction of poor class life. Even though the thamizh kaavalargal purists might say that this song is a kuppai, I liked the lyrics very much. How else can you write for a situation in which 'pettai rowdi' sings a song? In kottu kali kottu (chinnavar), he has extracted heavy vocal support from SPB and Chitra, making them go up and down the scale in beautiful array of swaras. You should have listened to it to appreciate it. One of his Mayamalavagowlai closely resembles one of MSV's song. It is 'enge naan kanbaen' in A.S.Prakasam's Sadhanai. It is just like 'kallellam maanika kallaguma' (alayamani). He should have definitely got the idea for that song from MSV's above said song. Some MSV fans might call this as blatant plagiarism! Is it? I don't know.

 Considering the panchama varjaya ragam of Mayamalavagowlai, he was the only one who ever used it so far! That is the Lalitha ragam. It seems to be a recent attraction to him. The first Lalitha came in unnal mudiyum thambi,when Kamal sings a duet with L.A.K.Malam, as the heroine Seetha calls herself (as shit!) derogatively in that movie! 'Idhazhil kadhai ezhudhum' is a great Lalitha. Ilaiyaraaja should have definitely got the idea for this tune from Muthuswamy Dikshitar's heranmayim lakshmim. To me, the movements of both the song and keerthanai seem similar. But Dikshitar ingeniously starts the keerthanai in suddha daivatam. The continuity of the tune that Ilaiyaraaja has aintained in 'idhazhil kadhai ezhudhu', the step by step progression from one swara to another, the development of superb sangathis, each and every bit in that tune is simply excellant. This song is like a milestone in Thamizh cine-music. Gangei Amaran's lyrics is unusually wonderful, matching his another brother paavalar Varadharajan's 'mannil intha kadal' (keladi kanmani). He proved himself a poet in this song! Subsequently, following the hit of his first Lalitha, Ilaiyaraaja tried another shot of 'half-boiled Lalitha' in illam kuyilae, kuyil tharum isayae (priyanka).

 The start of this song is like Ma Ma Ma Da Sa Ni Da Ma Ma Da Ma Da Sa Ni Ma Da Ga Ma Ri Ga Sa. A beautiful start indeed! But the tune gets spoiled in the charanam. Iam told that there is another of his Lalitha trials in 'veera' too. I understand that it is like a small virutham (thirumagal un) sung by Arun ozhi.

 I have not heard it so far.

 Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan is a very popular carnatic violinist. He is one of the successful rebels in the field.

 His katcheris are a mixture of classical and commercial blend. In his classical concert he will play 'kallum

 mullum kaaluku methai' (Iyyappa song) and in the end say 'samiyae saranam Iyyappa' in his violin. If you  go to his house he will say 'vaanga saar vaanga, enna sappidaringa? Kaapiya, teaya?' in madhyama sthayi  in his violin. If you say tea then he will turn inside and signal his wife in the kitchen 'adiyae... saarukku oru  cup tea konda' in thara sthayi, ofcourse, in his violin! He doesn't talk much, you know.... Only his violin....! 

Kunnakudi produced one family movie. It was a true family movie in the sense that he produced that  movie, his son-in-law Mr. Ramakrishnan directed that movie (hope it is correct), and maybe, a couple of  his other relatives were employed as the light-boys in the production of that movie. Unfortunately,the movie became an example of a perfect family movie in another sense too, that is, only Kunnakudi's family saw that movie! I was one poor soul who got to see that movie 'thodi ragam' by the quirk of wicked fate! The hero was T.N.Seshagopalan. His lovely heroine was Nalini! Kunnakudi had tried to make some typical  cinema story like, Seshagopalan, a famed musician pledging thodi ragam to the villain, and finally  redeeming it in the last scene. I forgot if there was any heroic stunt sequences in the last scene, when   Seshagopalan redeems his thodi back by befelling a dozen villains in a single punch with his fist! In this  materialistic world who can escape 'sabalam'? Seshagopalan probably thought that the movie would be a  big hit like 'shakunthala' starring G.N.Balasubramaniam and M.Subulakshmi, and that he could become  super hero like Rajini and make lot of money!

 Anyway, coming to the point, there was a good song in that movie in the ragam kalyani. It was 'vaa vaa  thalaiva vaa'. As I vaguely remember, it was a good kalyani. But, because of the dismal fate of that movie, that song did not become a hit. Even if the film had been a success, I doubt whether the song would have  been received favourably by the common rasika. Because, the song is like a mini-katcheri! It is unlikely  that a duet in which the hero and heroine exchange their love in a katcheri format will be liked by the   common audience of the present day cinema world. So, you have no other go other than cinematizing a  raga so that it is appealing. You may have to compromise in loosing some purity of the ragam.  Considering this tight situation that music directors face in handling a ragam in cinema, I really wonder  how Ilaiyaraaja could give the same kalyani as in Kunnakudi's 'vaa vaa thalaiva' without even an iota of   compromise in the purity, and yet be very appealing to the common rasika. Oh God! How many kalyanis  he has to his credit! The single most common melakartha ragam that he used was kalyani. He should  have scored atleast 25 songs in kalyani. This 65th melakartha ragam, is neither too much gamaka  oriented nor very light. It is this quality of kalyani that made him use it left and right! You don't have to  employ violent shakes of the swaras to show the colour of kalyani! Simple swara phrases would suffice, to  establish the raga identity. Since not much of gamaka is needed, you wouldn't be violating the so called   cinema melody.

Probably his first kalyani came in 'uthiri pookal'. It was a fantastic movie, directed by the avant garde  director Mahendran. Aswini and Vijayan are husband and wife. Vijayan is hero cum villain. Aswini's  younger sister (I forgot who it was) is a jolly type teen female. She is the one who sings that kalyani song  'naan paada varuvaayo'in that movie. She sits in a small sand crest in the middle of a river and sings that   song. S.Janaki had done a real good job making all sorts of 'konashtai' in that song! This female is later  raped by Vijayan, and that becomes the key knot in that movie. Uthiri pookal was a much talked about  movie. After that, how many kalyanis followed like train of programmed events from the recording theatre of Ilaiyaraaja!  

Janani Janani in the movie 'thai mookaambigai' was a terrific hit song. It was an excellant classical piece  sung by Ilaiyaraaja, Deepan Chakravarthy & Co. (He had the arrogance to push better singers to the back  row, you know!). That song was rich in lyrics too. He has taken extra care to pronounce sanskrit words in  that song like 'shakthi peetamum nee, sarva mokshamum nee' as sanskrit sounding. Good job! Look at   the 'dhamathoondu' version of Adi sankarachariyar's advaitha philosophy in that song. 'Janani janani,  Jagam nee agam nee'. He said the same thing, right?

Then came his superb kalyani in director Maniratnam's first movie 'pagal nilavu'. That is 'vaidegi raman kai serum neram'. S.Janaki again. Radhika dances for this song. The rhythm in this song is wonderful. A blend of guitar and mridangam. He gave some of his kalyanis in lighter form like those in the songs 'thevan thandha veenai' (unnai naan sandhithen) and 'vellai pura onru aengudhu' (some Rajni movie) etc. 'Thevan thandha veenai' has one speciality to it. It was a song written by kaviarasu Kannadasan and it was posthumously used in the cinema. Look at Kannadasan's opening lines in that song: thevan thandha veenai, adhil devi seidha ganam, thedum kaigal thedinal adhil ragam inri pogumo? Yes, anybody could have a veenai, but to get a ragam out of it only some fingers can do it!

 In the movie 'sindubhairavi' he tried to do some technical innovation in kalyani ragam. That is, in the song 'kalaivaaniyae', it was widely publicised by K.Balachandar & Co, (who were literally at the mercy of Ilaiyaraaja for the success of the movie), that that song was composed in aarohanam alone. Okay, what if a song is set in aarohanam alone, does the rasika get a special kind of melody? It was just an ordinary song. But a good piece of kalyani. The song in 'uyarnda ullam', vandaal mahalakshmiyae was a fantastic kalyani. The situation for that song was funny. Kamalhasan, a derilict, who looses all his money sings that song in praise of Ambika's entry into his house (ofcourse, she sets him right and stands a great support to him). S.P.Balu had made all sorts of 'konashtai' in that song. This is one good example for how to popularize classical music. It is pure 24 carat kalyani. In 'soorasamharam' he has given another form of 24 carat kalyani (naan enbadhu nee allavo). He introduced his troup's flautist Arunmozhi as singer in that ong. In the charanam, when they sing 'paadinaen pann padinaen', it is beatiful combination of swaras Ni  Ri Ga Ma Pa. It is simply superb. A similar song is 'malayoram mayilae' in the movie oruvar vazhum   aalayam. Almost each of the lines in this song, he renders in two sangathis, like for example 'vilayatai solli thandhadharu' first in Pa Pa Pa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Sa Ga Ri GA Sa. Then later, the same line is given in Pa Pa Pa Pa Ma Ga Ri Sa Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Ma Ga Ri SA. Great kalyani! I think his latest kalyani is 'ammaven- drazhaikkatha uyirilayae' (Rajni's mannan). In 'thalapadhi' also there is one good kalyani: yamunai aatrilae...Some north indian singer (Mithali) sang that song.

 Aamir kalyani is a janyam of kalyani. Though it is amir kalyani, it is 'garib' in its scope. Not much, you see...! The key phrase in it is Ma2 Pa Da Ma1 using both the madhyamams. Viswanathan/Ramamurthy made an indelible mark in this in their 'ennuyir thozhi' in karnan. Then, V.S.Narasimhan established his classical heritage (I heard his father is some carnatic big shot) in the song manasukkul ukkaandhu maniyadithai in kalyana agadhigal. Atlast came Ilaiyaraaja's amir kalyani, in 'veenai aendhum vaaniyae'  (vietnam colony). I heard that Bombay Jayashree has sung this song. It is a good amir kalyani. Let us see if Bombay Jayashree attains eminance like Unnikrishnan in cinema music. More 'dabbu' in cinema, man!   

Saranga is another kalyani janyam. A beautiful, vakra ragam, again with double madhyamam. (Why kalyani has many double madhyama janyams?) MSV has scored an excellant saranga in 'konjum neram ennai maranthen'. TMS voice is honey in this song. Ilaiyaraaja gave one pure saranga in 'kanniyar parvai thanai' in the movie 'parvathi ennai paradi'. It is the title song. When the title song was in such pure saranga, I was lead to beleive that the subsequent songs might be in classical ragas too. But, alas, a big disappointment! You can never try to speculate what you will get from Ilaiyaraaja at all. He has composed a fantastic song in one of Vijayakanth's latest movie with Kasthuri. That song is 'kukumamum manjalukku indru than nalla naal'. In that song he has used all the swaras in kalyani other than daivatam. I don't know whether any such ragam exists with Sa Ri2 Ga3 Ma2 Pa Ni3 Sa aarohanam and avarohanam. If so what is  its nomenclature?

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