Everyone likes a good rain song on days like these. And Tamil films have them in abundance.
For fans of film music of the seventies and eighties, innumerable IIaiyaraja hits such as ‘Megam Kottattum Aattam Undu…Minnal Vettattum Paattum Undu' are on the monsoon playlist. Several latest films also have songs with rain as the central idea.
Many find the elegance in the language used to describe rain and its traits, often with nice metaphors, very interesting. Poets and lyricists say it is to do with the special bond that human beings share with rain. It may not necessarily be a romantic idea all the time.
“For us in most parts of India, there is novelty in rain. We are a tropical country with long summers. We love the idea of rain itself,” says lyricist Na. Muthukumar, who has himself penned several hit numbers with lines centred on the beauty of rain.
Much of the love for rain is to do with the geography and the context. “While foreigners appreciate sunny days that offer relief from their usually dull, cold weather, we tend to yearn for rainy days,” says lyricist Thamarai, who has a collection of poems on the rain that she hopes to bring out as a collection sometime.
“The rain and the train journey are two subjects I have very strong feelings for. I associate the two with some difficult times I have had in the past. Personally, I am not really a fan of the rains because I don't like dampness. All the same, I love rain as a poetic idea,” she says.
Not just film songs, but works in classical Tamil literature, including the Silappadigaram, give special attention to the idea of rain. The rain lends itself to rich interpretation and lyrical beauty. Film songs have only followed that tradition. “I particularly like Vairamuthu's ‘Chinna china mazhai thuligal…' song. (En swasa katre). Every line is so beautiful,” Na. Muthukumar says.
For writer-director Suka, who prides himself in being an Ilaiyaraja fanatic, the lyrics are secondary.
His appreciation is more for how the rain is represented through music. “Raja sir's compositions bring the spirit of the rain alive. The songs ‘Pon vaanam panneer thoovuthu' (Indru Nee Naalai Naan) and ‘Aathadi ammadi' (Idayathai tirudadhae) come to my mind immediately. Both bring out the spirit of the rain to portray very different emotions – the first, evoking love and the second, reflecting the spirit of a very enthusiastic girl who lives in the present, clinging on to hope.
As a visual element
While the rain, the related chill weather, the greenery, the clouds and the sound of the rain evoke picturesque images through words, rain itself is often used as a visual element to add character to scenes. An action sequence in the climax of the film, an emotionally intense exchange or even songs have, over the years, been filmed while it rains.
Film makers such as Mani Ratnam have often used the rain in powerful sequences – Rajinikanth's fight sequence in ‘Thalapathi', the peppy ‘Oho megam vandado' from Moouna Ragam, the happy ‘Andi mazhai megam' song in Kamal Hassan's ‘Nayagan' or the fight sequence with Prabhu in ‘Anjali', for instance.
Using rain as a visual aid is an art in itself, say filmmakers. Suka says “Sometimes, the artificial rain is just imposed on the scene. It becomes a visual cliché. I can remember some scenes from my mentor Balu Mahendra's ‘Veedu' that were shot when it was actually raining. It was integral to the idea of construction work on a house proceeding despite the rain. There, the rain meant a lot.”