A Raga's Journey — Poignant Pantuvarali

September 30, 2011 05:58 pm | Updated November 13, 2021 10:11 am IST - A Raga's journey

Like a river that flows through hills and valleys, cobbles and pebbles, the melody in every raga moulds itself into subtle gamakas and brighas giving rise to a musical landscape that is unique. Our Indian Classical music system is breathtakingly beautiful, and offers much variety in terms of musical scales and flavours. A meditative raga, Pantuvarali brings forth a wide gamut of emotions when elaborated, and is one of the favourite ragas of rasikas and performers alike. A hint of pathos, intense yearning, a pleading quality — these are the signature emotions that Pantuvarali would convey.

The notes assumed by this raga are Shadja, Suddha Rishaba, Anthara Gandhara, Prati Madhyama, Pancama, Suddha Dhaivata, and Kakali Nishada. Purya Dhanasri in Hindustani closely resembles Pantuvarali. Kamavardhini and Kashi Ramakriya are other names by which this scale is known. In ancient Tamil music, this scale is called Sadari Pann. While the Pancama serves as a focal point for beautifully-woven phrases to converge, the Gandhara and Nishada harmonise each other.

Saint Thyagaraja has composed several kritis in this raga. These are hugely popular in the concert platform, and can instantly enliven a kutcheri . Thyagaraja's ‘Raghuvara Naanu', ‘Ninne Nera', ‘Vadera', ‘Saramegani', ‘Shambho Mahadeva', ‘Siva Siva Sive Ena Radha', ‘Aparama', ‘Sundaratara Deham', ‘Naradamuni' and ‘Shobane' (Utsava Sampradaya) are all prominent. Almost all of them start in the upper Shadja — these never fail to attract even the most distracted / sleepy or hungry listener! Dikshitar's ‘Ramanatham Bhajeham' and ‘Visalakshi' merit mention and one cannot overlook Swati Tirunal's ‘Sarasaksha' immortalised by M.S. Subbulakshmi or Bhadrachala Ramdas' ‘Ennaganu Rama Bhajana'.

In film music too, Pantuvarali is close to the hearts of several composers. In the film “Savitri”, MS, dressed as Narada, sings ‘Deviyai Poojai Seivai', a composition of Papanasam Sivan. This song was one of the first ever pieces composed for films in this raga. ‘Amba Manam Kanindu' in MKT's crystalline voice, also a Papanasam Sivan creation followed suit in ‘Sivakavi'. In ‘...kadamba vana kuyile…', the raga's stamp is established.

The song that won Vani Jayaram several accolades was ‘Yezhu Swarangalukkul' from “Apoorva Ragangal” in the music of M.S. Viswanathan. This ragamalika piece begins majestically in Pantuvarali and the highlight of this song is the akara traversal from lower Gandhara to the upper octave Gandhara seamlessly. To add magic, this phrase is also decorated with frills laid out gracefully over the framework of the raga. A remarkable piece that fully satisfies the die-hard Classical music fan.

Ilaiyaraaja has used Pantuvarali very often in his works. I have always felt that his compositions in this raga are special and have a soul-stirring effect. ‘Rojavai Thalattum Thendral' from “Ninaivellam Nitya” sung by SPB and S. Janaki is an ideal example of how a sensuous appeal can be achieved using Pantuvarali. An intense piece, in ‘pon megam, nam kangal' the phrasing ‘snr,,ssg,,' imparts a catchy twist that is unique to Pantuvarali.

‘Ninnai Saranadainden', a Bharathiar creation reflecting total surrender to the divine mother has been aptly set to tune in Pantuvarali by Ilaiyaraaja (from the film “Bharati”). The usage of strings, the traditional udukkai , as well as Bombay Jayashri's voice make this song appealing. In the lines ‘thunbam ini illai...', the tempo change makes Pantuvarali's various unexplored facets come alive.

‘Piraye Piraye' from “Pithamagan” is once again a delightful Pantuvarali by the maestro. My pick in this raga would be ‘Om Sivoham' from “Naan Kadavul”. Starting in the upper Shadja, this song makes a thunderous impact. In the lines ‘soma surya agni lochana...', the landing in the upper octave Gandhara brings forth a poignant picture of the raga. Sung by Vijay Prakash, this song has heavy orchestration, truly a celebration in Pantuvarali.

Yuvan Shankar Raja in “Nandaa” has composed two pieces in Pantuvarali — ‘Amma Endrale' sung by the maestro, and ‘Orayiram' by Unnikrishnan. The waves of sorrow in the heart of the protagonist are conveyed by Pantuvarali's crests and troughs.

In Hindi, ‘Tori Jay Jay Karatara', a Naushad creation from “Baiju Bawra” maybe cited as a classic example of Purya Dhanasri.

A.R. Rahman's ‘Hai Rama' from “Rangeela” is an example of how such an ancient raga could be infused with contemporary flavours and presented to the youth. A sensual number, in the lines ‘...jaane do naa…', an exotic twist to the raga ‘s g, rgmg rsn, pm' makes hair stand on end, each time.

‘Rutu aa gaye re...' from “1947: Earth” is yet another composition of A.R. Rahman in Purya Dhanasri. A fast-paced one, this song reflects enthusiasm and happiness while flying a kite!

It amazes me to see that such a wide spectrum of emotions can be conveyed so effectively by Pantuvarali. For learners of music, it is quite convenient to learn and practise Pantuvarali since it is the Prati-Madhyama counterpart of Mayamalavagowla, the raga in which beginners' exercises in Classical Music are based on.

See you in a fortnight with yet another charming raga…

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