The classic quartet

c v vasudevan recalls four Tamil films that stood out for their use of Carnatic music

The Tamil film milieu has seen innumerable musicals of varying genres over the last several decades. We have several classics that largely focussed on Carnatic music that went down well with the audience. There are many such films, but lets look at four films that have stood the test of time, purely for the sheer quality of its music, lyrics, rendition and picturisation. Here they are in chronological order.

Ambigapathy (1957)

Ambigapathy revealed the wealth of the Tamil language through its rich lyrics, the beauty of classical music through the mesmerising tunes of G. Ramanathan and the efficacy of soulful singing through T. M. Soundararajan’s voice. If ‘Sindhanai Sei Maname’ brought out the quintessence of Kalyani, ‘Vadivaelum Mayilum Thunai’ projected the repertoire of TMS, whose exemplary diction and breathless rendition of the concluding charanam in ‘Thamizh Maalai Thanai Chooduvaar’ in Kaambodhi was phenomenal. While Ramanathan’s composing brilliance came to the fore quite strikingly in ‘Vaada Malare Thamizh Thaene’ set in Muhaari raagam, Ku. Ma. Balasubramaniam’s ‘Maasila Nilave Nam Kaadhalai Magizhvodu’ showed us glimpses of chaste Tamil.

Kappalottiya Thamizhan (1961)

The classic quartet

Kappalottiya Thamizhan explored the powerful lyrics of Mahakavi Bharathi being matched perfectly by G. Ramanathan musical score. Each song is a gem – both for its lyrical value as well as musical excellence. ‘Odi Vilaiyaadu Paappa’, ‘Vandhe Maatharam Enbom’, ‘Velli Panimalaiyin Meethulavuvom’, ‘Nenjil Uramum Indri’, ‘Thanneer Vittom Valarthom’ and ‘Endru Thaniyum Indha Sudhandhira Dhaagam?’ stunned listeners, as stalwarts Seerkazhi Govindarajan and Tiruchi Loganathan poured out feelings of patriotism in full measure. ‘Kaatru Veliyidai Kannamma’ gave fresh meaning to romantic melodies with the mellifluous voices of P.B. Sreenivas and Susheela. It should have been an unenviable task for Ramanathan to set such beautiful tunes for all those pre-written lyrics.

Karnan (1964)

Karnan is an album that stood out for its brilliant orchestration by Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy and Kannadasan’s lyrical beauty. It’s each piece is a symphony. The composing exercise seems to have been done with clinical precision and the musical score is at its best, with excellent adaptation of Hindustani as well as Carnatic music.

The classic quartet

The way ‘Aayiram Karangal Neetti’ and ‘Maranathai Enni Kalangidum Vijaya’ have been made, without any background score, is exceptional. While the former seems to be in raagam Ahir Bhairav, the latter one serves as a prelude to the phenomenal ‘Ullathil Nalla Ullam’ to follow in a haunting Chakravaaham – echoing the emotional tone of Seerkazhi Govindarajan. Another striking feature is the rendition of ‘Mazhai Kodukkum Kodaiyum Oru Irandu Maadham’ by Seerkazhi in Hindolam, besides ‘Naani Chivandhana Maadharaar Kanngal’ by Tiruchi Loganathan in Kanada, ‘Mannavar Porulgalai Kai Kondu Neettuvaar’ by TMS in Mohanam and ‘Enna Koduppan? Evai Koduppan’ by PBS in Hamsaanandhi – all in viruththam mode – without any percussion support.

Duo Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy showed us their prowess in ‘Iravum Nilavum Valarattumae’ (based on Shuddha Sarang) engaging double shehnai beautifully and ‘Maharajan Ulagai Aalalaam’ through a lighter version of an effervescent Karaharapriya, giving us a fresh experience.

The stream of songs that came through Susheela’s mesmerising voice – ‘Kangal Engae’ in Bheemplas, ‘En Uyir Thozhi’ in Hamir Kalyani and ‘Kannukku Kulam Aedhu’ in Pahadi – continues to captivate listeners.

Thiruvilaiyadal (1965)

The classic quartet

Thiruvilaiyadal clearly showcased the talents of yesteryear stalwarts K B Sundarambal, T R Mahalingam, Dr Balamuralikrishna and TMS, and of course, the composing forte of legend K V Mahadevan.

If ‘Pazham Nee Appa’ stands as a benchmark for Shanmugapriya, ‘Isai Thamizh Nee Seidha Arum Saadhanai’ stands for Bheemplas. Usage of the nadhaswaram in a unique way in the background score for the piece ‘Podhigai Malai Uchiyilae Purappadum Thendral’ (tuned in Sindhu Bhairavi) is a rare novelty, and the choice of Gowri Manohari for ‘Paattum Naanae Bhavamum Naanae’ was quite fabulous.

Kannadasan’s repertoire attained new dimensions in ‘Oru Naal Podhuma’. His coining of words for the charanams in Thodi, Darbar, Mohanam and Kanada, in perfect sync with the on-screen character’s trait of arrogance, was brilliant, and in ‘Paattum Naanae’, his projection of the concept that the entire universe and arts are, after all, “His”, is truly brilliant.

As these epics remain etched in our minds, music enthusiasts yearn for the return of another golden era of Tamil film music.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 10:26:57 PM |

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