Certain melodies inspire courage, valour and ‘veera’ rasa. A raga that most effectively does this is Atana. An ancient raga, Atana was very common in drama music, operatic presentations and harikathas back then. The notes in Atana are Sadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Suddha Madhyama, Pancama, Chatusruti Dhaivata, Kaisiki Nishada and as a rare feature, Kakali Nishada in descent.
The well-known Classical pieces in Atana are ‘Elani Dayaradu’ (often performed from the anupallavi ‘Balakanakamaya’), ‘Ilalo Pranatarthi’, ‘Anupama Gunambudhi’ and ‘Narada Ganalola’ of Thyagaraja, ‘Brihaspate’, a kriti on the planet Jupiter (Guru in astrology) by Dikshitar and ‘Amba Nee Iranga Enil’ of Papanasam Sivan. The popular devotional track ‘Oppilatha Peruman’ is set to Atana.
‘Ennudal Thannil’ from the film Haridas is a ragamalika of ragas Yadukulakambhoji and Atana, with the Atana portion sung by M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar very effectively.
‘Ellam Inbame’ from the film Amarakavi sung by M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar is a breezy Atana beginning rather unconventionally with the phrase ‘SRSR SND’. The anupallavi ‘Neela Vaanam Thanile’ is embellished with lively akaras and noteworthy is the Kakali Nishada touch in the phrase ‘SN,D’, a special prayoga that lends flavour and character to the raga.
‘Kadhavai Saathadi’ is a scintillating piece in Atana from the film Rattha Kanneer. Set to music by C.S. Jayaraman and sung by M.L. Vasantakumari, this song is set to Tisra Nadai. There is also a cleverly crafted kalpanaswara session at the end of the song to make it suited for the bharatanatyam sequence that illuminates the screen. The opening phrase is ‘MPSS, NRSD’, which is, in fact, a fixture for most pieces in Atana, be it Classical or film.
‘Yaar Tharuvaar Indha Ariyaasanam’ from Mahakavi Kalidas begins brightly with a viruttam ‘Manicka Veenaiye...’ and moves on majestically into the song with powerful vocals by T.M. Soundararajan. K.V. Mahadevan's handling of Atana is chaste and the opening phrase ‘PRSS’ clearly establishes the raga’s identity. This song towards the latter half moves to Kedaragowla raga. The most beautiful part in this song is the phrase ‘Puvi Arasodu Enakkum Oru...’. In this line, the Atana prayoga ‘PDN,S DNP’ is highlighted.
Yet another feather in the cap for M.L. Vasantakumari is the Atana piece ‘Varugiraal Unnai Thedi’ that she sings alongside Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi from the film Thanga Padhumai. In the music of M.S. Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy, this song is a fast-paced, typically Classical presentation. Once again, the opening phrase ‘MPRS SSNSD’ indubitably points towards Atana and the precious touch in ‘Manavaalan Neeye Endru...’ is worth listening to many a time.
The Thyagaraja kriti ‘Balakanakamaya’ is sung by S. Janaki in the film Salangai Oli and clever interludes using the veena and the mridanga, along with the cymbals, have been crafted by Ilaiyaraaja. The song is crowned by a swara and jathi segment at the end that makes interesting listening.
More recently ‘Yaaradhu Yaro Yaro’ from the film Yathumaagi in the music direction of James Vasanthan is a contemporary approach to the raga. To adapt such a Classically oriented raga to recent film music is laudable, and singers Srimathumitha and Belliraj render it soulfully.