This raga is the signature of Oriental Music. It existed in ancient Tamil music as the Mullai pann, and much of Kung Fu Panda's re-recording is based on this all-attractive scale known to us South Indians as Mohanam. The Hindustani raga Bhup / Bhupali may be thought of as Mohanam's north-Indian counterpart.
The notes that feature in this raga are Shadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Antara Gandhara, Panchama, and Chatusruti Dhaivata. All of five notes, the harmonious notes being the Gandhara and the Dhaivata, this penatonic scale has the Panchama as it's significant anchoring note.
The Classical beauty of this scale as a raga in itself unfolds when the characteristic gamakas are incorporated. Saint Thyagaraja has revelled in this raga and created several masterpieces including “Nannu Palimpa”, “Mohanarama.” While in “Ra ra Rajeevalochana Rama” Mysore Vasudevachar beseeches Lord Rama to save him, a concerned Arunachala Kavi questions Sri Ranganatha as to why he has decided to lie down in Srirangam in “En Palli Kondeerayya,” a famous piece that begins in Mohanam. Papanasam Sivan composed “Kapali” on Lord Kapaleeswara and “Narayana Divya Namam” both in beautiful Thamizh.
One of the most famous Mohanam pieces in film musicis perhaps “Giridhara Gopala” from “Meera” in the soothing voice of M S Subbulakshmi. When she sings “nanda sukumara mana mohanaadhara” she lifts our soul along with the notes into an ethereal space. We can experience here the literal meaning of “Mohanam” - beauty.
“Vanda naal mudhal” from “Paavamannippu” is my personal favourite in this raga. In the lines “Manidan maarivittaan” the raga is gracefully navigated “s,dp/d,pg/pdsd,pgpd”. T M Soundararajan's voice expresses the gamakas with precision.
The greatest challenge in composing a piece in pure Mohanam is to avoid the use of the Madhyama and the Nishada. Very often these notes do creep in, and in most cases they only lend added grace and filmi appeal.
Ilayaraja has widely used this raga and pieces that merit mention are “Kanmaniye Kadhal Enbadhu”, “Vaan pole vannam”, “Poovil vandu” and “Oru thanga radathil.” In “Poovil Vandu” the catch phrase is a clever combination of the key notes.
Ilayaraja surpasses himself in his unforgettable Mohanam creation “Ninnukori varnam” from the film “Agni Natchatram.” The Mohana raga tana varnam indeed starts off as “Ninnu kori”and perhaps this is what inspired the maestro. In the lines “Un gnyabagam” an entire complex phrase in Mohanam is executed with utmost poise by Chitra. Another highlight is the use of heavy drums and the electric guitar.
Yet another complete and complex Mohanam treat from Ilayaraja is “Vandhadhey” from “Kizhakku Vasal.” The string section takes it all, and the lines “vaan megam... naalum nee paada” are particularly challenging for even seasoned artistes to decode and notate.
Singer Swarnalatha was honoured with the National Award for the song “Porale Ponnuthayi” (“Karuthamma”) , composed by A R Rahman. This melting melody is based largely in Mohanam with a few foriegn notes incorporated to bring in a hint of pathos. The playful “Paakkade paakkade” from “Gentleman” is also an example of A R Rahman's deft handling of this raga.
In Bollywood this raga has been used with great precision and we cannot forget Lata Mangeshkar's bubbly rendition of “Sayonara Sayonara” from “Love in Tokyo” (Shankar Jaikishan) in Bhoop and nor can we ignore the passionate pangs of love conveyed by “Dil Hoom Hoom Kare” a Bhupen Hazarika favourite from “Rudaali.” Bhajan enthusiasts shall fondly recall Jagjit Singh's “Hey Govind Hey Gopal” in this raga. A raga that is closely associated with Bhoop is Deshkar and in film songs we can see splashes of its myriad hues.