Jonpuri has its roots in Hindustani music and has spread its branches far and wide into Carnatic Music. This attractive raga is said to have been named after the sultan Sharqui of Jonpur. The emotions conveyed by this raga, brought forth beautifully in light classical pieces and folk tunes, are bhakthi, zesty appeal and stunning grandeur. Jonpuri features the notes Sadja, Chatusruti Rishaba, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Pancama, and Kaisiki Nishada in ascent and the Suddha Dhaivata in addition to these notes in the descent.
Jonpuri became popular with the song “Eppo varuvaro” composed by Gopalakrishna Bharati. The moving lyrics and dramatic tune are evergreen. Purandaradasa’s “Rama mantrava” is also well-known. “Sapasya Kousalya” has been popularised by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.
A raga with such dramatic contours ought to have been used extensively in film music and this has been achieved to a certain extent. One of the earliest appearances of this raga was in the film “Chintamani” in which MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar brilliantly sings “Ullamellam inba vellam” in this raga. This song was composed by Papanasam Sivan.
In “Ashok Kumar”, MKT sings “Gnanakann onru” and “Sathva guna bodhan” in this raga. Both these songs were super hits and took off at the upper octave, this being the beauty of Jonpuri. “Sathva guna bodhan” tune is the same as “Eppo varuvaro” tune and this further contributed to the successful reach of the song. The grand opening of the charanams in the higher octave Rishaba in “Sathva guna” still resounds in our ears.
“Innamum paramugam” and “Thaai irukka pillai” from “Velaikari” film (music S. M. Subbayya Naidu and C. R. Subbaraman) were also quite popular and rode the Jonpuri wave in the year 1949.
“Ninaithale inikkumadi manam” sung by the Radha-Jayalakshmi duo in the film Mullai Vanam was chronologically the next Jonpuri song to have appeared on silver screen. This number, with its frills and numerous embellishments, is a treat to listen to.
But the song that made a huge impression in the minds of music lovers was “Naan petra selvam” from the film of the same title. Sung by T. M. Soundararajan, this composition of G. Ramanathan is a fitting tribute to the raga. In the phrase “pesum singara selvam” the notes “M P S, D,,P” neatly adorn the framework of the song and proclaim the raga as Jonpuri beyond doubt.
My personal favourite in this raga would of course be “Kallile kalai vannam” from the film “Kumudam” set to music by K. V. Mahadevan and sung impeccably by Seerkazhi Govindarajan. The opening itself “P SS..RGR, N S,S,…” clearly establishes the raga. The phrase that truly set my heart on fire was “mangai pola anbe en idhayathil nee aduginraay” in the charanam. What a stunning landscape the music director has presented – the light oscillations starting from the top octave Rishaba, slowly trickling downwards like a rivulet and the suddenly taking off like a torrential current from the Pancama covering the entire scale.
In “Andavan darisaname” (Agasthiyar film, music Kunnakudi Vaidhyanathan) T. R. Mahalingam seamlessly scales the raga, adorning it with many a sangati. This song also begins in the upper Sadja, true to the character of Jonpuri.
“Sonnadhu neethana” from the film “Nenjil Or Aalayam” (music M. S. Viswanathan – Ramamurthy) is largely based in Jonpuri, a very different approach to the raga. The subtle pathos that P. Susheela imparts when she sings “sol sol..en uyire” is notable. In “Devar Magan” Ilayaraja presents a cheerful enjoyable Jonpuri-based melody in “Inji iduppazhaga” sung by Kamal Hassan and S. Janaki.
Jonpuri belongs to the Asavari Thaat in Hindustani music, one of the many notable film songs in it being “Pal pal hai bharee” (film Swades, music A. R. Rahman) sung by Alka Yagnik.