A musical sojourn with raga-based film melodies at INTACH’s Raga Varnajalam
Can film music composed in different times in different situations by different composers sound similar? Just pin back your ears to ‘Kannale Pesi Pesi Kolladhe…’ from Adutha Veetu Pen (1960) composed by Adhi Narayana Rao, ‘Pukarta Chala Hoon Mein…’ from Mere Sanam (1965) composed by O.P. Nayyar and ‘Raja Raja Cholan Naan…’ from Rettai Vaal Kuruvi (1987) composed by Ilayaraja. And you will know the answer.
The musical evening organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Madurai Chapter, provided the rare opportunity, for those present, to listen to R.Gomathi Nayagam from Chennai who rendered several lilting songs of Ilayaraja.
The songs above are based on Keeravani raga, which is the 21st of the 72 Melakartha ragas in the Carnatic music system with all the seven notes in ascending and descending scale.
“Film songs can never be taken lightly. Given their reach they play a huge role in spreading the essence of Carnatic music among masses. In fact, M.S. Subbulakshmi was first a film actor and then became a full fledged Carnatic singer,” said Arvind Kumar Sankar, INTACH convenor.
The event marked the annual Madhura Geetham commemorating the birth anniversary of the legendary M.S.Subbulakshmi. As the singer rolled out the raga-based film tunes, Arvind explained the raga and how the prolific trinity of Carnatic music -- Tyagarajar, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri – handled the raga in an inimitable style.
Terming Mohanam as the sentimental raga, Arvind said that the 28th Melakartha Raga is known as ‘Bhoopala’ in Hindustani. “N.C. Vasanthakokilam, who was known for her clear renditions, had sung several songs,” he said.
Gomathi Nayagam sang few more of Ilayaraja classics. ‘Nilavu Thoongum Neram…’ from the movie Kunguma Chimizh (1985), and ‘Nilavum Malarum Paaduthu…’ from the Tamil romantic comedy Thaen Nilavu (1961), both derived from Mohanam. Hailing legend Purandaradasa, who standardised Carnatic music lessons, Arvind said “Maya Malava Gowla, the 15th Melakartha raga, is termed as the morning raga and any Carnatic music class begins with a song based on this raga.” ‘Poongathave Thaal Thiravaai…’ from Nizhalgal (1980) is a tribute to this raga.
No Carnatic concert is complete without the popular ‘Maha Ganapthim…’ an invocation to the Elephant God. This song is based on Nattai raga. ‘Pani Vizhum Malar Vanam…’ from Ninaivellam Nithya (1982) is also based on this raga, he said.
The event remembered the legendary M.S. Subbulakshmi, who had immortalised the Sivaranjani raga, through the ‘Kurai Ondrum Illai’ song.
Madhura Geetham, celebrated in every September, exposes the new generation to Indian classical music. It is modern yet conventional, entertaining yet classy. “This year, we thought of a different kind of music festival without diluting the classical spirit. Unlike the usual kutcheri type, we tried out this thematic approach,” said Aravind.
As part of the festival the organisers conducted other events like quiz programmes, lecture demonstrations and workshops. Eminent artists Anil Srinivasan,T.M. Krishna, Sangitha Sivakumar, Aruna Sairam, Anita Ratnam, Meena Chitaranjan, Vijay Siva, Mala Chandrasekhar and Shri Balamuralikrishna were among those who performed at this annual event.
The concluding performances will be from Anuradha Krishnamoorthy, a direct disciple of M.S.Subbulakshmi under the ‘Eppadi Paadinaro’ series. At Hotel Fortune Pandiyan on Sunday, she will give a vocal concert interspersing it with interesting anecdotes about her association with MS. Time is 6 p.m.
The festival will conclude with Lakshmi Rangarajan singing the songs immortalised by MS at the Lakshmi Sundaram Hall on September 23.
Kalyani: Also known as Meecha kalyani. Kalaivaniye… Sindhu Bhairavi (1985), Janani, Janani…Thaai Mookambigai (1982), Amma Endralaikaathu… Mannan (1992).
Sindhu Bhairavi: Derived from Natakapriya raga. Katrinile Varum Geetham… Meera (1945), Unakenna Mele Nindrai…Shimla Special (1982), Poongatru…Moondram Pirai (1982), Snehidhane…Alaipayudhe (2000).
Charukesi: It is believed to be a stress buster. Manmatha Leelaiyai…Haridas (1944), Vasantha Mullai…Sarangathara (1958), Kadhalin Dheepam Ondru…Thambikku Entha Ooru (1984).
Hindolam: Tricky raga. Derived from Nata Bhairavi raga. Maname Muruganin Mayilvaganam…Motor Sundaram Pillai (1966), Om Namasivayaa…Salangai Oli (1983), Naan Thedum Sevvanthipoovithu…Dharma Pathini (1988).
Shanmugapriya: Majestic raga. Sharpens the intellect of the singer and the listener. Kathal Kasakkuthaiya…Aan Paavam (1985), Kannukkul Nooru Nilava…Vedham Puthithu (1987), Sollayo Vaaithiranthu…Mogamul (1995).
Keywords: Raga-based film songs, Madurai musical evening, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, INTACH Madurai Chapter, Raga Varnajalam, R.Gomathi Nayagam, Arvind Kumar Sankar, Lakshmi Sundaram Hall