With the music season going on in full swing, ragas are filling our systems with positivity and good vibes. A regal raga that one very often hears in kutcheris is Todi. Todi is the pride of our system of music, the imposing gamakas, stunning brighas all dazzle with all their glory in Thodi. When delivered well, a Thodi piece can lift any concert to sublime heights. The notes present in this raga are Sadja, Suddha Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Pancama, Suddha Dhaivata, and Kaisiki Nishada. Todi evokes karuna and bhakthi rasa-s. The melakarta name for this scale is Hanumathodi. Bhairavi Thaat in Hindustani is the Carnatic Thodi scale.
Carnatic compositions abound in this fertile raga and Thyagaraja’s contribution to this raga is invaluable. Thyagaraja’s ‘Kaddanuvariki’, ‘Koluvamaragadha’, ‘Raju Vedala’, and ‘Dasarathi’, among others are glorious compositions while Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Krishnam Bhaja’, ‘Dakshayani’ and ‘Kamalambike’ are pillars of strength. Shyama Sastri uses the pleading quality in this raga to his advantage in compositions like ‘Raave himagiri’ and ‘Ninne Nammi’. Tamil compositions in this raga include ‘Karthikeya’ and ‘Thamadam en swami’ of Papanasam Sivan, timeless in their passionate lyrical appeal. Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi can be sung in Thodi with great aplomb owing to the numerous possibilities its notes hold.
In film music, Thodi has been used sparingly. Its complexities have been handled only by the best musical minds and to keep the character of such a raga intact is indeed a daunting task. ‘Ellam Sivan Seyal Endre’ from the film ‘Sivakavi’ was one of the earliest appearances of this raga on the silver screen. The opening phrase ‘SRGM/D,,NS’ clearly establishes the raga and the gamaka in the MPD region is most typical. In the line ‘inbutriruppor periyor...’ the pancama and sadja are eschewed and the resultant varja phrase ‘GMDNRNDM’ is beautiful, yet again typical of Thodi. This composition holds semblance to a few Thyagaraja kritis here and there, and why not? After all, Thyagaraja paved the way for Thodi’s bright presence.
Thodi when sung full of plain notes, devoid of gamakas may not be sufficiently strong Thodi for a trained classical ear. The varnam ‘Eranapai’ is a delicate balance between gamaka laden phrases and plain notes in Thodi.
In Avvaiyar K. B. Sundarambal sings ‘Katradhu kai mann alavu’, Avvai’s teachings, in Thodi. This little song sequence is attractive in its phrases. The starting note pancama serves as an anchor in Thodi. In the phrase ‘...kalai marandhu odhuginraal’ the signature phrase of Thodi comes to the fore — ‘DNR,RSND’. The refreshing music for ‘Avvaiyar’ was by M. D. Parthasarathy.
A stunning piece in Thodi from the film Vanangamudi is ‘Ennai Pol Penn Allavo’. This song tuned by G. Ramanathan and sung by P. Susheela is exemplary in its classical fervour and raga bhava. This song begins at the pancama and the very first phrase ‘PDN,PDM P, GMD’, points indubitably at Thodi. There are several intricately woven sangatis in this song. The phrase ‘irul neekkum kann allavo’ the phrase ‘GM/MD, MD,NR, NRG’ sails in the varja pattern, very attractive and noteworthy.
In the ragamalika song, ‘Oru naal podhuma’ from the film Thiruvilaiyadal, raga Thodi is extolled in the phrase ‘isai ketka ezhunThodi varuvaar andro...’. What a complete infusion of energy M. Balamuralikrishna gives as he belts out breathtaking brigha passages in ‘Thodi...’! K.V. Mahadevan at his musical best.
Ilaiyaraaja in Varusham 16 sets the tone for Thodi in his inimitable style in the piece ‘Gangai karai mannanadi’ sung by Yesudas. This piece set in the 7/8 beat combination (what we in Classical music call as Misra Chapu taal) is a high octane number, full of energy. The song itself starts off with a viruttam, a fervent appeal of love. In the viruttam line ‘aadai kattum paynkiliye...’, the rishabha in the upper octave is highlighted and the phrase ‘NRGMGGRR’ shines brilliantly in Yesudas’s silken vocals.
The film Thodi Ragam starring T. N. Seshagopalan with music by Kunnakudi Vaidhyanathan has several instances featuring this raga. The song ‘Thodiyil Paada Vandhen’ merits mention and has numerous flowery sangatis and indulges the adventurous trait in the composer, singer, and listener.