Abhogi is a bright raga, listening to which people get a spring in their step and hope in their hearts. This raga’s vibrance and positivity are noteworthy. In classical kutcheris compositions in this raga are sung in the earlier part of the concert to capture the listeners’ fancy and give a flying start to the recital. This raga dispels dullness and its name literally means sumptuous and luxurious.
Abhogi is a symmetric raga and has five notes in its ascent and descent: Sadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama and Chatusruti Dhaivata. A striking feature is that the Pancama and Nishada are not seen. A very important point to note while handling Abhogi is that in the transition from Dhaivata to Sadja and vice-versa, the Nishada must be completely avoided and the glide must be carefully executed, failing which Abhogi’s allied raga Sriranjani will surface.
Classical pieces in Abhogi include the popular varnam “Evari Bodhana”, a favourite among students of music, “Manasu Nilpa” and “Nannu Brova” of Thyagaraja, and “Srilakshmi Varaham” of Dikshitar. Popular Tamil kritis in this raga are “Sabapathikku” of Gopalakrishna Bharati and “Nekkurugi” of Papanasam Sivan.
In Tamil film music this raga has been used selectively by composers. There are very few compositions that are strictly based in this raga. The biggest challenge that film composers face in handling Abhogi is that they have to be conscious not to allow the Pancama or Nishada to seep through at any point in the song. Of course, while composing for films the primary objective is to bring forth the emotions at that point in the script rather than think about the grammar of classical music. Very often film composers have expressed that a song ending up in a certain raga is unintentional or incidental.
One of the earliest and most successful appearances of Abhogi on the silver screen is “Naan Andri Yaar Arivaar” from the film “Malayitta Mangai” sung by T R Mahalingam and A P Komala, in the music of Viswanathan-Ramamurthy. The song begins in the lower Sadja with the opening phrase “S, R, G, M,, GR,”, a simple traditional approach to Abhogi. In the phrase “yaar thoduvaar”, the traversal from the upper Gandhara all the way down the scale to the Sadja is fascinating.
The veteran M. Balamuralikrishna, along with P Suseela, has sung the memorable “Thanga radham vandadhu” from “Kalai Kovil” in this raga. With Veena maestro Chittibabu’s electrifying playing, and Viswanathan-Ramamurthy’s ingenious composing, this song is cherished even today. In the lines “manikka malaigal kavipaada”, the intricate sangatis in the upper octave, swirling down to the lower Gandhara, are impeccably delivered. In the film “Avan Oru Sarithiram”, the song “Vanakkam pala murai” is a classic Abhogi sung by P Suseela and TM Soundararajan. In the lines “sabayinar munne tamizhmagal kanne” the phrase “MGRGMD” clearly establishes the raga.
In the film “Vaidehi Kathirunthal” the evergreen classic “Indraikku en indha anandame” is an example of how a classical raga may be adapted to silver screen seamlessly and uncompromisingly. This composition of Ilayaraja is set in tisra nadai, the beat progressing in threes, making for lively listening. The singers Vani Jayaram and Jayachandran, both classically adept, cleverly navigate through the sangatis in “kanavugalin suyamvaramo”, gently swaying the Gandhara towards Madhyama and back. Ilayaraja mesmerises once again with the song “Kalai nera poonguil” (Amman Koil Kizhakkale). This piece starts in the lower Dhaivata and slowly winds its way up the scale, an exploratory and interesting attempt.
The Hindustani raag Abhogi Kanada is similar to Abhogi. “Jiya Nahi Laage” from “Sau Saal Baad”, sung by Lata Mangeshkar in the music of Laxmikant-Pyarelal, is a good example of the usage of this raga in Hindi film music.