Tag Archives: ilayaraja

Remembering Malaysia Vasudevan

This fifteenth of June,we will be celebrating the 71st birthday of the late Malaysia Vasudevan. I had always wanted to do a post on him. I was just waiting for the right excuse. No better than his birthday. You can read all about him in this wikipedia entry but I am not hear to talk about his life. I am here to talk about his music. The special voice that formed the backbone of many a Tamil hit.

Remembering Malaysia Vasudevan

Malaysia Vasudevan started his career as a stage singer at the age of eight in Malaysia. Soon, he found himself in Chennai as an actor in a tamil play. Soon he joined the Pavalar Brothers troupe, run by Ilaiyaraaja and Gangai Amaran. Vasudevan’s first big movie appearance came in the debut film of his close friend, Ilaiyaraja’s “Annai Kili” but his first big hit came soon after when he sang the song “Aattu Kutti Muttai Ittu” for Kamal Hassan under the music direction of Ilaiyaraaja for “Padhinaru Vayadhinile” Over the next 34 years, until his untimely death, Malaysia Vasudevan sang over 8000 songs, many for Ilaiyaraaja and quite a few for other music directors.

malaysia
Image courtesy: www.arrahman.info

In this post, I will highlight some of my personal favorites of Vasudevan. As always, this list is incredibly subjective. Feel free to leave comments with your favorites that didn’t make this list. This list is in no particular order.

1. Pothuvaga en manasu from Murattu Kaalai

Every Malaysia Vasudevan playlist needs to start with this timeless classic from Murattu Kaalai. The first movie to portray the larger-than-life image of Rajinikanth, this song and everything about it is mounted large. The song is as rustic as it gets and much of the credit will go to the Ilaiyaraaja-Malaysia Vasudevan combo that totally rocks  this piece.

2. Poove Ilaya poove from Kozhi Koovudhu

This movie has some excellent music overall. Be it the sensual “Edho Moham” or the zany “Anne Anne”, Ilaiyaraaja has composed some interesting pieces for the movie. To me though, the standout is this Malaysia Vasudevan piece featuring Prabhu and a young Silk Smitha. Great, great song.

3. Aagaya Gangai from Dharmayudham

Another Ilaiyaraaja composition that showcases the best of Vasudevan. The instrumentation at the start of the piece and throughout the song offers the right foil for the singers, Malaysia Vasudevan and S.Janaki to let it go. Watch Vasudevan pick up with “Kadhal Nenjil…”It helps to have Rajini and a young Sridevi on screen too.

4. Mamavukku Kuduma from Punnagai Mannan

If you wanted a feel for the attitude Malaysia Vasudevan could bring to a song, look no further than this piece from “Punnagai Mannan.” Ilaiyaraaja concocts a whimsical composition that befits the Kamalhassan character on screen and Vasudevan completes the picture by delivering the song beautifully.

5. Poongatru Thirumbuma from Mudhal Mariyadhai

Possibly the one really slow song in this list, it had to be featured because of how big it was during its time. A movie that boasted a stellar everything, Ilaiyaraaja, Malaysia Vasudevan and S.Janaki weave magic set to the words of Vairamuthu. Spend some time listening to the words and you can feel the depth and much of the credit goes to the simple tune and the clean delivery of the singers.

The same movie features another classic Malaysia Vasudevan-Janaki piece in “Vetti veru vaasam

6. En Soga Kadhaya Kelu from Thooral Nindru Pochu

Another popular song from the 80s that got a lot of radio time was this gaana-precursor composed by Ilaiyaraaja and sung to perfection by Malaysia Vasudevan. The song starts off completely differently and I have set the link to play from where the “En soga kadhaya” portion starts.

7. Panju mittai from Ettupatti Rasa

A rare non-Raaja song in this list, but nevertheless a nice showcase for Malaysia Vasudevan’s grasp of the medium and how the song played out in the screen. A rustic tune from Deva and featuring a much-in-love Napolean and Khushboo, see how Vasudevan makes you feel what is happening on screen – the playful sensuality and romance.

8. Ramarajan hits

I wanted to bundle two Ramarajan songs in this list. They are not spectacular but still a good couple of songs to demonstrate Malaysia Vasudevan’s range. The first is “Ooru vittu ooru vandhu” from the massive hit “Karakattakaran.” The second song is a much more romantic number from Ramarajan-Revathi starrer, Gramathu Minnal- “Nee pogum padhayil

9. Oru thanga radhathil from Dharmayudham

Another Malaysia piece for Rajini (of which there are very many), this song is an evergreen classic for Malaysia’s rendition and Ilaiyaraaja’s instrumentation.

10. Kadhal Vandhiruchu from Kalyana Raman

Ilaiyaraja had immense faith in Malaysia Vasudevan to deliver complex songs with character. Look no further than this song for “Kalyana Raman” where simpleton Kamal Hassan is wooing Sridevi. In less than 5 minutes, Vasudevan and Ilaiyaraaja weave a complex tapestry that conveys a lot.

11. Mappilaikku Maaman manasu from NetriKann

A fantastic movie set in Coimbatore and shot on location, 100 feet from where I used to live, this song is really a solid P.Susheela song but the reason to include it here is to showcase Malaysia Vasudevan’s classical leanings. Look for him to chime in past the mid point of this song. If you have not yet seen this movie, check it out. Rajinikanth kills it.

12. Madana mohana roopa sundari from Indru Poi Naalai Vaa

Another fantastic comedy that features an utterly brilliant Bhagyaraj, this song demonstrates Malaysia Vasudevan’s comic timing when it came to song delivery. Another song that deserves to be seen and heard. And yes, see this movie if you have not. As the teacher says, “Ek gaon mein ek kisan raghuthatha”

13. Nila Kayudhu from Sagalakalavallavan

Malaysia Vasudevan had three key genres where he excelled- rustic, playful and sensual. This song showcases the sensual side of the singer. Composed by Ilaiyaraaja for the evergreen romantic in Kamalhassan, Malaysia Vasudevan and Janaki are key cogs in the wheel to make sure the experience is complete.

14. Ennama Kannu from Mr.Bharath

What a wonderful song that showcases the playful banter not just between the stars on screen, Rajini and Sathyaraj but also the singers behind the screen, SPB and Malaysia Vasudevan. In an interesting play, Ilaiyaraaja entrusts the job of doing vocals for Rajini to SPB instead of Malaysia Vasudevan and Sathyaraj gets to counter punch with the vocals of Malaysia Vasudevan. I could write a lot about how awesome this song is,. Instead, just check it out. One of those songs that feels complete with the visuals.


15. Aasai Nooru Vagai from Adutha Vaarisu

It can be argued that Malaysia Vasudevan was a bigger voice for Rajinikanth in his early years than SPB. One got to associate Rajini’s on screen songs with Vasudevan’s voice. And this Ilaiyaraaja composition is probably the best example.

I chose to end my list with this song because it represents exactly how I remember Malaysia Vasudevan. The tease, the flourish and the playful delivery- very much like Superstar made him a musical superstar. One whose songs, we continue to listen and cherish to this date.

Full Youtube playlist for the post can be found here or you can watch it below.

Andha Naal Gnyabagam – Music in my college days (Part 4)

With less than 24  hours to go for the largest alumni gathering of PSG Tech outside India, we are down to the final post in this series- the songs that made an impact during my final year in college. The PSG Tech alumni event, M4M is fully sold out and features the singing talents from over the years at Tech.  Without further ado, here are the songs that made it big in the 1999-2000 time frame.

 1999

After a Spring loaded with big hits, we entered our final year of college, hopeful of a job, an admit to a good university abroad and a ton of fun with friends- one last time.  A job was the first thing in mind from the first day of college. Campus interviews kicked in instantly and the focus was all on that. But there was always time for music – be it while celebrating someone getting a job or waiting hopefully for the interview call after the written test or getting over that day’s dejection and preparing for the next day’s written test in the morning.

June did not have very many releases – Vijay had a movie with Isha Koppikar called Nenjinile. While the movie went nowhere, there was one standout song that was very hummable – Manase Manase. The big release for July was ARR’s compositions for Kadhir’s Kadhalar Dhinam. The movie was pretty bad by any standard but a couple of songs stuck around in the cassette recorders in the hostel for a while. Oh Maria was a internet generation piece (pretty amusing to look back at it now). Enna Vilai Azhage was the best piece of the lot.

In what now seems like a very rare occurrence, ARR had two releases in the same month- Kadhalar Dhinam and Sangamam. The latter was a Suresh Krishna dance musical that ended up failing at the box office. ARR had some good classical and folk compositions that were quite popular- it wasn’t the college type songs but there were so many ARR fans then that it did not matter. Mazhai Thuli,  and Varaha Nadhi karai oram were two good songs from Sangamam.

August 15th brought Bharadwaj’s music for Saran’s Amarkalam. Two SPB songs made it very big – Megangal and Satham illadha. The gaanaish Mahaganapathi piece featuring dance master Lawrence was quite popular too. With final year love stories abound, Amarkalam songs were huge.

ARR reused some of his music from hindi for a tamil movie, Jodi and while the songs were not upto ARR’s high standards of the day, they were still pretty popular. Of note were Kai Thatti thatti and Velli Malare.  And then there was a lull of good music for a couple of months.

November again brought two ARR releases. Both of them were huge musically. The first was Shankar’s megahit Mudhalvan. This was a typical Shankar movie with a strong message packaged in an audience friendly masala manner and the songs were huge – be it the Sushmitha Sen dance piece Shakalaka Baby, or the romantic number Azhagana Rakshasiye, or the lavishly mounted title song.

The second November ARR release was the debut of Bharathiraaja’s son Manoj in Tajmahal. A horrific movie by every possible standard, it featured some hummable village tunes with a modern twist by ARR. Three songs stood out and made it big at Tech – Kulirudhu, Sotta Sotta and the addictive Thirupachi.


December brought with it a landmark Tamil movie from a debutant director and the relaunch of a big star, Vikram. Bala’s Sethu arrived in December and completely took over. Everyone was talking about the movie and its music by the Maestro. Illayaraja gave a huge soundtrack with songs that suited the overall feel of the movie. Some of the notable songs were Maalai Yen,   Sikkadha Sittondru and the hugely popular Kaana Karunguyile.


2000

Ilayaraaja continued his hit streak after Sethu with two musical hits in January 2000. The first was a movie called Kadhal Rojave. The movie was forgettable but for two hummable and popular tunes- Izhavenil Idhu and Ninaitha Varam Kettu.  Fazil tried to repeat his Kadhalukku Mariyadhai success story with Vijay and Shalini in Kannukul Nilavu. The movie didn’t live up to its expectations but had some relatively popular songs- Roja Poondhottam and Oru naal oru kanavu.

February saw Raaja’s big season continue with his brilliant score for Kamal Hassan’s magnum opus, Hey Ram. The movie bombed but the songs were just fantastic. The romantic piece Nee Partha Paarvaikku was awesome as was the period piece, Isayil Thodangudhamma and the controversial title piece. To me though, the one song that captured the entire gamut of musical composition and being the right fit for the scene is Vaishnava Janato. I wrote an entire post about this song and I cant recommend it enough.

February saw a big hit for Deva in the form of Mugavari. Some of the songs were lifted from other sources but the songs were very successful  and college audience friendly nevertheless.  Of note were Hey Keechu Kiliye, A Nilave, and Oh Nenje Nenje.

All of this was soon going to be engulfed in the monster hit that was to be Alaipayuthey. Manirathnam’s ode to love and the ups and downs of marriage was a huge success with the younger crowd. It was a rage in college and ARR’s music topped the charts in a big way. Every single song was a mega hit and it is almost impossible to pick one over the other. From the title piece Endrendrum Punnagai to Swarnalatha’s soulful rendition in Evano Oruvan to  the colorful Pachai Nirame and the utterly gorgeous Snehidane, everything was just fantastic. To me though, two songs standout even amidst these awesome pieces – the small but utterly divine Mangalyam Thanthunanena and the playfully sexy Kadhal Sadugudu.

Nothing that year was going to stand up to Alaipayuthey. That much was certain. In the waning days of my undergrad life and in the company of my future wife, this was all that I could have asked for. The only thing that came close before I left college was another ARR soundtrack- one that was steeped in melody and simplicity, Kandukondain Kandukondain. Rajeev Menon’s gorgeous take on Austen’s Sense and Sensibility was given the best support by ARR’s music. Be it the Shankar Mahadevan sung Enna Seyya Pogirai or the peppy Konjum Mainakkale or the retrospective Enge Yenadhu or the Hariharan title track Kandukondain Kandukondain, the songs were simple yet spectacular. My personal favorite was and continues to be the Chitra piece, Kannamoochi Yenada.  The Yesudas-Chitra duet version of the same song sounds even better.

With Alaipayuthey and Kandukondain, I left college. Four years of friendship and memories. Never before and never again would life be the same. I will sign off here. In less than 10 hours, the stage for the evening alumni event will start getting set. I will get to meet friends, old and new and hopefully relive some of these wonderful memories of my college life through the music.

Hope all of you enjoyed this walk down memory lane as much as I did, putting it together for you (and me). I thoroughly loved this project- so many memories came flooding back. The feeling was just awesome.

As always, the public Youtube playlist with all the songs featured in this series of posts can be found here. Enjoy.

Posts in this Series:

Andha Naal Gnyabagam-Music in my college days (Part 1)

Andha Naal Gnyabagam- Music in my college days (Part 2)

Andha Naal Gnyabagam- Music in my college days (Part 3)

Andha Naal Gnyabagam- Music in my college days (Part 1)

The North American chapter of my undergraduate alma mater, PSG Tech, is organizing a grand music show with singers from our college music club, TekMusic on the 8th of February. As the date approaches, I am looking forward to meeting friends, old and new. What I am also excited for is an evening of wonderful music. The anticipation got me reminiscing about those wonderful college years and the music that served as its backbone.

Back in the day, TekMusic was the team to beat in all inter-collegiate music events across the state of Tamil Nadu. This legacy of excellence by TekMusic has stretched across decades now. As I talk to fellow alumni from years past and present, I hear of how much TekMusic was a part of their college memories. I am no different. TekMusic captured the zeitgeist of what was popular then in tamil cinema but also songs that were timeless to the college going crowds.

Music by its very nature assumes a special spot in one’s college life. The gentle shift from a life devoid of responsibilities to one with a job or admission to a higher education is made all the more richer by the music of the times. As we make our way through the four or five years, mere adolescents, we build relationships that last a lifetime. Music is the one constant that captures that era in full glory. Some of the songs of the day may seem trivial or childish to the rest of the world. But for the group of friends who sat around a 8×10 hostel room talking through the night, it meant so much more. And then there are those songs that echoed through the hostel corridors for their anointed few weeks of popularity until they got replaced by the next big thing.  This 4 post series attempts to capture but a few of those songs, big and small, classic and trivial of those four years I spent in college. As a lead up to the event, I hope to take the reader on a journey down their own college days and the songs that blared from the old radios in the hostel.

PSG Tech hostel

1996-97

I joined PSG Tech as a fresh faced kid in the summer of 1996. The Maestro Illayaraja was starting to be eclipsed by the new Isaipuyal (musical storm) A.R.Rahman. Other music directors like Sirpi, S.A.Rajkumar, Deva, Yuvan Shankar Raja and Karthik Raja were jostling for a third spot in the popularity charts. There were one hit wonder pieces as there were huge hits that lasted a life time.

As I entered college, Kadhal Kottai was all the rage. The songs were everywhere. The soft at heart were into Kalamellam Kadhal Vazhga and Nalam Nalam Ariya. For me there was Vellarikka. For those who were trying to get through the first of many failed crushes, there was Deva belting Kavalaipadadhe. As the year progressed, Vidyasagar struck gold with Priyam and the one song, Dilruba was all the rage in college for all the right and wrong reasons.

The very first movie I saw with friends from college was Kadhal Desam. A comically bad movie, it featured chart busting tunes by ARR. One of the songs, Mustafa Mustafa went on to become the most popular song in my 4 years in college and also the song that every academic year ended with.  It would not be a stretch to call it the college anthem of my day.


The rest of 1996 had some hits from Mr.Romeo of which Thanneerai Kadhalikkum and Mellisaye had some legs. A surprise hit came in the form of Un Uthattoram from Panchalankurichi.

The dawn of 1997 brought with it a lot of good music. Iruvar kicked off the year with ARR showing some unique touches. For the college folks, this didn’t make a big impact because it just didn’t feel youthful enough. The first big college hit for the year was “Minsara Kanavu”. Vennilave was the anthem for a few months and the other songs got a lot of play time everywhere in the hostel.

Like with every Rajini movie, his 1997 biggie Arunachalam got a lot of play time. The movie didnt do as well as anticipated but for the Rajini starved masses, it was something to watch and listen to. Deva had some popular tunes like Athanda Idhanda and Singam Ondru.

Exam time was kicking in as was the time to say goodbye to the final year students. Mustafa made the rounds a lot but the new songs also got some playtime. Of note were the ones from Love Today, a college going crowd favorite and Ullasam with a young Ajith and some rocking tunes by Karthik Raja. Love Today boasted an awkward but popular Enna Azhagu while Ullasam had the Kamal sung Muthe Muthamma.

In the next post, I will spent time reminiscing on songs that made it big in my second year of college, 1997-98.

I am adding all the songs featured in these 4 posts and some more in a public Youtube playlist. You can find it here.

Posts in this series:

Andha Naal Gnyabagam- Music in my college days (Part 2)

Andha Naal Gnyabagam- Music in my college days (Part 3)

Andha Naal Gnyabagam- Music in my college days (Part 4)

Ilayaraja concert in Bay Area- A review

I wrote a 7 page (yep, no less and definitely longer than what got published here) review of the concert with the sequential listing of all 37 pieces featured. And then, as I was getting out of the place, I lost my notebook somewhere. The concert is still alive in my head. So at 1 in the night, I am typing away everything I remember. I am trying to crowdsource whatever song I dont remember to get a more complete listing for the reader. If you know of a song I missed in this review, please feel free to add it in the comments section. So onto the review.

My wonderfully understanding wife agreed to my D-day wish of going to the Raaja concert. I had decided not to go but I saw Facebook status updates of everyone who was going and was green with envy…So 6 hours before the show, I rushed to the box office to pick up tickets. I had heard stories of a really late start in Toronto and NJ and was expecting the worst. Thankfully, we got a 7:30 start as advertised. Due to my missing notes, the review is not going to be in order. Rather, it is my thoughts from hearing the various pieces in the show.

Raaja started the event with his wonderful hymn like song from “Thai Mookambikai”- the evergreen Janani Janani. I was surprised that the Maestro was able to hit all the right notes with the song without any pisiral. Commendable indeed. 

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Hariharan

Hariharan was very present during the first half of the show but pretty much completely out of the second half. Of the songs he sang, the Kadhalukku Mariyadhai piece, “Ennai thalatta varuvaalo” was a standout. The song has special significance to me as I had just met my now wife in college. So I was thrilled to hear it on stage by Hariharan. It was preceded by the Bavatharini version of the song -“Idhu Sangeetha thirunalo” which was OK. Bava does not have a strong voice to deliver on stage. Her voice with the right embellishments is OK for background vocals for specific actresses but on stage sounded weak. Hariharan also sang the Raaja composed Jayachandran sung classic “Maanjolai Kilidhano”. For such a complex piece, Hari did pretty decently. 

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Yuvan and Karthik

There were three Kamal Hassan pieces sung by Kamal in the movie but voiced by Yuvan Shankar Raja in the concert. Color me very disappointed. Yuvan as a music director has done some good work. I have all respect for him. But as a singer, he is suited for very niche songs and Kamal’s songs are not the right ones for him. In the great “Sigappu Rojakkal” song “Ninaivo oru paravai”, much of the words were not heard. Yuvan’s voice was definitely not doing the trick for me. He also sang “Raaja kaiya vecha” from “Apoorva Sagotharargal” that lacked the punch. Thankfully for the third Kamal piece, “Pottu vaitha kadhal thittam” from “Singaravelan”, he was awesomely supported by Karthik and some great accompanying percussion. It ended up being very popular with the audience. 

Speaking of Karthik, I have heard very little of his songs since I have tuned out tamil film music for the most part of the last decade. He sang about 4 songs today- the first was from Naan Kadavul, the “Om Shivoham” piece. The backing vocals and orchestra did a great job with this song. Karthik also did a wonderful job on the “Pottu Vaitha Kadhal thittam” piece. He also sang a more recent song with Bavadharini from Azhagi- “Oliyile Therivadhu”. They did a good job on that one.

Mano

I was expecting more pieces from Mano, specifically the brilliant “Nee oru kadhal sangeetham” from Nayakan. Instead we got a melange of songs- many of them telugu. The one standout tamil piece from Mano was the mega hit “Shenbagame” from Enga Ooru Pattukaran. 

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The Maestro’s voice

Raaja himself delivered a few pieces and I was extremely thrilled to see that the rawness of his voice had not lost its sheen. Age does things to great voices. Not this one. His much expected, “Sorgame Endralum” sung alongside the awesome Chitra was great. The two improvised on the lyrics to play to the audience but the gist of the song was all there. Probably the most popular tamil song amongst NRI audiences, it connected instantly. He also delivered in spades with “Naan thedum sevvanthi poo” from “Dharma Pathini”. Just two days ago, I had speculated and wished that this song would be featured and I was thrilled to say the least. 

The brilliant Chitra

I am officially out of praise words for the sheer joy and awesomeness that is Isaikuyil Chitra. The lady is sheer talent and a joy to watch performing her art to utter perfection. I had raved about her from her concert late last year with SPB and this time again, she was outstanding. Be it Ninnukori Varanam which I dedicated a post to sometime ago or “Thamthana thamthana” or working with Raaja on the perennial favorite “Sorgame Endralum” or subbing for S.Janaki in “Sundari Kannal” and the spectacular “Oh Priya Priya” with SPB, she was brilliant. 

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SPB, the genius

What can I say about SPB that hasn’t already been said. I was thrilled to meet him last fall during his concert with Chitra. He had enthralled the audience that evening.  The man can sing anything and everything and to perfection. In an era when singers are so restricted in terms of what they can do and how long they survive in the industry, SPB is a testament to longevity and sheer talent. He easily delivered the most songs of the evening and transported the audience to a different era. Be it the thrilling “Thakita Thathimi” or the gorgeous rendition of “Oh Priya Priya” he was just brilliant. 

SPB also made up much of the casual and the interesting banters of the evening with Ilayaraja. The two had nuggets of nostalgia to offer to the audience that was priceless. Their collaboration and working styles were very much to the fore and it was a joy to watch. Towards the end of the concert, the two worked on a couple of pieces from Nayakan that was just a sheer bliss to watch. SPB sang quite a few pieces like “Idhazhil Kadhai”, “Keeravani”, “Ilamayennum Poongatru” , “Maasi Masam”, “Naanaga naal illai”, “Mounamana neram” and of course, “Sundari Kannal”. More on the last one later. 

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The Orchestra and Backing vocals

For the first time in my life, I had the experience of seeing and hearing to such a large orchestra as the one that came for this concert. Ilayaraja is renowned for using large orchestras for his melodies and he brought a big one to this concert and what an effect they had. They were the life thread for the concert supporting the vocals extremely well and standing out when needed. The flute by renowned Raaja mainstay Arunmizhi was outstanding and the violin crew was spectacular.

The backing and occasionally supporting vocal team was also very good. Their attempt at doing an entire song- vocals and instrumental all with their voice was very nice. A great support team that went well above their roles and delivered a great performance. 

A responsive audience

Sometime during the concert, the audience started asking for their choice songs. This didnt go down very well with Ilayaraja who delivered a 5 minute long sermon on Indian culture and values and how that doesnt include shouting and whistling and the works. Here is my take on the whole deal. Some musicians dont take well to audience distractions but in the same token appreciate the audience lustily cheering their best pieces. You cant have it both ways. A good audience can and will get boisterous. I thought the audience was extremely polite, decent and engaged. So Ilayaraja definitely over reacted. In the same token, it takes a certain ego to power a genius. And the offset of such an ego is these sermons. I’d not make a big deal of it one way or the other.

Volume Issues

One gripe of mine which was very evident towards the early part of the concert but died down later was the relative volume between vocals and instruments. The first few songs were drowned by the orchestra volume. “Ninnukori” was a case to point. Thankfully the problem seemed to get resolved towards the latter part of the show. 

Bilingual audience was well addressed

So a lot was made of how the organizers and the artists would handle the demands of a bilingual audience. I thought they did a fantastic balancing act. Would I have preferred a 100% tamil concert- heck yeah. But so would a telugu listener have preferred a telugu concert. Given the sheer scale of the event, a bilingual audience was critical for its success. That meant a fine balancing act which was executed well. 

I would have liked to hear my personal favorites like “Ninnukori Varanam” and “Maasi Masam” in tamil instead of telugu. But that was a good thing since I was comfortable with everything about those pieces but for the actual lyrics. Not a bad situation at all. Better than a song I had never heard in my life. Given the above two songs and the songs from Botany class– Shiva/Udhayam, Mounamana Neram, Thakita Thathimi -Sagara Sangamam/Salangai Oli, Idhazhil Kadhai – Rudraveena/Unnal Mudiyum Thambi and Oh Priya Priya -Geethanjali/Idhayathai Thirudadhe I was pretty much listening to very familiar songs in Telugu. All in all, a very fairly balanced affair.

The best song of the show

Undoubtedly, the best song of the show was the epic “Sundari Kannal” by SPB and Chitra. The song, one of my favorites of all time was rendered to perfection. The multitude of violins, the flute and the other orchestra pieces set the stage for the grand song. And SPB and Chitra delivered by spades. Chitra filled the S.Janaki void more than admirably in this song but it was SPB who hit this one out of the part. I am still reveling in the joy that was this song. What a composition. What a performance. 

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An epic conclusion

The final piece of the concert was by the Maestro and SPB- Raaja first started off with the Nayakan classic, “Nila Adhu” but soon, SPB convinced him to render the same song as a lullaby. The casual improvisation and banter between the two masters was fantastic to watch. Soon they segued to an equally awesome piece from the same movie, “Thenpaandi seemayile” with SPB singing the song in parallel in Telugu. It was just sheer bliss- at 12 pm in the night. What a finish to a very good show. 

Final Word

For all the hype and mass booking rush the concert generated, it was well worth the price. Could it have been better- sure. Could it have had more hits we are so fond of – definitely. But given the framework and the composition of the audience, it was money very well spent. For someone who grew up listening to the wonderful compositions of Ilayaraja, this was a fantastic trip down memory lane. One that I would gladly take again, and again.

P.S: As always, the full Youtube playlist of all the songs from the concert is here. Enjoy. 

P.P.S: Full list of songs featured (courtesy a friend’s friend)

1) Janani Janani – IR
2) Om Sivoham – Karthik
3) Jagadananda Karaka – SPB (Telugu)

4) Isayil Thodangumamma – Hariharan
5) Idhu Sangeetha Thirunaalo – Bhavatharini
6) Ennai Thaalaatu Varuvaala – Hariharan & Priya Himesh
7) Ninukori Varnam – Chitra 
8 ) Shenbagame Shenbagame – Mano 
9) Mounamelanoyi – SPB & Chitra (Telugu)
10) Idhayam Oru Koil – IR
11) Enno Raatrulostayi – SPB & Priya Himesh (Telugu)
12) Ilamai Ennum Poongaatre – SPB
13) Maanjolai Kilithaano – Hariharan 
14) Nee Thoongum Nerathil – Hariharan 
15) Lalita Priya Kamalam – SPB & Chitra (Telugu)
16) Naan Thedum Sevvanthi Poo – IR & Chitra 
17) Azhagu Malar Aada – Hariharan & Priya Himesh 
18) Naanaga Naan Illai – SPB 
19) Ananda Then Kaatru – Sathyan 
20) Balapam Batti – SPB , Mano & Chitra (Telugu)
21) Raja Kaiya Vacha – Yuvan 
22) Naan Porandhu Vandhu – Priya , Anitha & Chorus 
23) Jagadi Jagadi Ja Botany – SPB , Mano & Geetha (Telugu)
24) Prati Dinam – Karthik (Telugu)
25) Adhe Neevu – SPB (Telugu) 
26) Chukkalu Temanna – Mano (Telugu)
27) Priya Priyathamaaa – Mano (Telugu)
28) Oliyilae therivathu – Karthik & Bhavatharini 
29) Priya Oh Priya – SPB & Chitra 
30) Sorgame Endralum – IR 
31) Ninaivo Oru Paravai – Yuvan & Ramya NSK 
32) Keeravani – SPB 
33) Katril Endhan Geetham – IR 
34) Thamthana Thamthana – Chitra & Anita 
35) Priya Priyathamma – SPB & Priya Himesh (Telugu)
36) Sundari Kannal – SPB & Chitra 
37) Pottu Vaitha Kadhal – Karthik , Yuvan & Sathyan 
38) Thakida Thadimi – SPB (Telugu) 
39) Oram Po – IR 
40) Nila Adhu Vanathu Mele – IR 
41) Thenpandi Seemaiyile – IR & SPB

Music in Manirathnam movies (Part 2- The Rahman years) – From Chinna Chinna Aasai to Dil Se Re…

Last week, in the first of now three posts on music in Manirathnam’s movies, I talked about the prolific and timeless collaboration that Mani and Isaignani Ilayaraja conjured up. Since then, Manirathnam’s latest movie, Kadal has released to average reviews. But we are not here in this blog to talk about the box office prospects of a movie. We are here purely for the music. In that vein, the show will go on. The second post on this topic features the first 10 years of the 20 year old partnership between Manirathnam and Isaipuyal A.R.Rahman

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The whizkid jingle composer meets the whizkid director

In the early nineties, as Manirathnam was looking for a new music director to replace his faithful Ilayaraja (for reasons we still dont know), he came across a whizkid ad music and jingle composer, Allarakha Rahman. And thus began one of the most celebrated relationships in film music history. The first movie to come out of this partnership was “Roja” in 1992. It took the entire country by storm. Here was a completely fresh take on music with fresh new voices. It felt totally new and unlike anything else we were used to at that time.

From the sweet innocence of “Chinna Chinna Aasai” to the rollicking “Rukkumani” (which explodes in bass in the theater) and the timeless SPB classic “Kadhal Rojave” to the wonderfully touching “Tamizha Tamizha”, it was brilliant. To me, the standout piece was the gorgeously shot and wonderfully sung romantic piece, “Pudhu Vellai Mazhai”. It was sheer magic. A.R.Rahman had arrived.

Cops and Robbers

The whole country waited with baited breath to see what would come next for the young genius. It was to be the cult classic “Thiruda Thiruda”. Critics may have panned the lighthearted caper movie. But to me, it was an excellent masala entertainer with gorgeous visuals and brilliant music. A.R.Rahman delivered a huge hit with “Thiruda Thiruda”- songs that ranged from the sexy to the bombastic. From romantic to sheer fun. A soundtrack for all tastes.

Some dug into the soaring vocals and visuals of “Veerapandi Kottayile”. Others were blown away by the powerful voice of Anupama and her rendition of “Konjam Nilavu” (and yes, the visuals). Some (myself included) connected with the sweet and operatic “Putham Pudhu Bhoomi Vendum” while others fell for the dramatic visuals and the earthy sexiness of “Thee Thee” or the boisterous “Kannum Kannum”. I fell for everything but more so for the raw vocals of late Shahul Hameed and the almost a capella style rendition of “Rasathi”. It felt real and Hameed made it hauntingly so.

Going national

While Roja was a big hit across the country in its dubbed form, Mani itched to make a truly national movie. The 1993 Bombay riots offered a backdrop for a truly patriotic and national unity driven script in the form of “Bombay”.  And A.R.Rahman delivered a soulful soundtrack for the sensitive movie. There were the light hearted and fun pieces like “Humma” and “Kuchi Kuchi Rakkamma”, the Hariharan breakout piece “Uyire”, the Chitra chartbuster “Kannalane”. I fell hook, line and sinker for “Poovukkenna Poottu” – a wonderful piece that represents the joy of impending parenthood in entirety. But the real star of the movie was its haunting bgm. Every scene needed its own voice to speak for the unspoken and forbidden love (the epic “pasanipa”), and later the sadness and horrors of the riots. And A.R.Rahman gave it the voice it deserved. He also gave the movie its own theme. One that resonated with everything Mani wanted to convey and more.  

 The politician and the star

Tamil cinema and politics have been inextricably intertwined since the nation’s independence. And the relationship that truly shaped the last 40 years of it was that of ex Chief Minister and writer M.Karunanidhi and late Chief Minister and superstar M.G.Ramachandran. Mani built his next movie around their relationship. Iruvar stands as one of tamil cinema and even India’s finest political movies and one that truly shines when the viewer understands the context and history. A.R.Rahman had to come up with something that went with the times and still appealing to the current generation. And he delivered. 

Iruvar is like your aged balsamic vinegar (what is the point of using the old wine metaphor when you don’t drink). The older it gets, the better it tastes. Iruvar offers the discerning viewer and listener one such experience. The music gets richer with age as does the movie. The choice of singers is also spot on- Asha Bhonsle delivers a sultry “Vennila Vennila” , Hariharan belts the uncannily MGR reminding “Kannai katti kolladhe”, Mano belts another MGResq “Aayirathil Naan oruvan” and new voice Sandhya rendering “Pookodiyin” that sounds so much like P.Susheela that you would think its Susheela otherwise. Speaking of Pookodiyin- if this doesnt remind you of the romantic set pieces of 1960, nothing else will. Harini offers a very jazzy “Hello Mister Edhirkatchi” which is splendidly picturised on the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai. To me, the standout piece is the lushly picturized and beautifully written “Narumugaye” sung by P.Unnikrishnan and Bombay Jayashri.

A side note for most of the songs in Iruvar- they are set within the context of the movie. There are frequent interruptions and retakes that make it an engaging and unique experience. And a last note on this movie- just watch this scene. There is some background music but its all about the words. 

 National Stage

By this point, the national stage beckoned Mani and he couldnt ignore it any longer. In 1998, Jhamu Sughandh and Bharat Shah launched what was to be Mani’s opus. It featured national stars in Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala with a debutante Priety Zinta. A.R.Rahman and Gulzar collaborated on the music and Mani made his first true Hindi movie in Dil Se and it was dubbed and released in tamil as Uyire. The movie bombed but the soundtrack went to become a classic for the ages. 

Dil Se’s soundtrack really starts with “Chaiyya Chaiyya”. I fondly refer to it as one of the rare perfect pieces in cinema. A song written, composed, sung and picturised to perfection. Nothing was wrong really and everything just is perfect. Gulzar(Vairamuthu’s lyrics) found their voice with Sukhwinder Singh and Swapna Awasti(Malgudi Shubha). SRK and Malaika Arora danced on top of a train and the world seemed to stop to watch it. 

 Sample this:

unnaal enmanam adaindhadhu paadhi

unnaal enmanam izhandhadhu paadhi

kaadhal joadhiyae vaazhvin meedhiyae

dhaevadhai nee meyyoa poyyoa

 

But here is the kicker. To many Chaiyya Chaiyya was not necessarily the best the film had to offer. The soundtrack and the picturisation was so good, it was hard to pick one definitive best. To some, the enigmatic “Satrangi Re” was the one. Who else could deliver a song that encompassed .To others, Rahman’s raw vocals in the title track “Dil Se Re” was the winner. And many a fan fell for the dimpled Zinta in the lush backwaters of Kerala in “Jiya Jale”. I love all the songs in the movie. A lot. But I would personally direct you to the rich vocals and the mesmerizing pull of “ Ai Ajnabi”. It just feels right.

What next?

When I started this series, I was hoping to do all of Mani-ARR stuff in one post. Turns out that would make this too long. So look for the concluding part of this trilogy in a week to ten days.

Until then, enjoy the early part of Manirathnam and A.R.Rahman’s collaboration. The public playlist for the songs featured in this post are here

Music in Manirathnam movies (Part 1 – The Raaja years)- A journey from Pallavi Anupallavi to Thalapathi

On February 1st, Mani rathnam’s latest movie “Kadal” will release all over the world. It features music by A.R.Rahman that has already topped the charts and captured the imagination of millions across the world. But all this is nothing new for Mani, arguably one of the best directors to emerge from Tamil Nadu ever.  Mani has a great ear for music as evidenced by the fact that two icons of tamil film music Ilayaraja and A.R.Rahman have produced some of their best work for his movies. In the first of two posts on the music in Manirathnam movies, I focus on his collaboration with Maestro Illayaraaja. The next post will feature his contemporary hits with A.R.Rahman.

The Beginning

It all started with Pallavi Anupallavi, a Kannada movie. Mani’s first movie features some remarkable talent- Balu Mahendra behind the lens, Anil Kapoor in front of and Ilayaraja delivering the music. To me, the standout piece in this movie is this piece of instrumental music with Raaja’s humming. Addictive does not even begin to cut it. The Maestro’s magic over the hum is all here. 

His next outing was the Malayalam trade union movie, “Unaru”. Featuring the veritable who’s who in Malayalam cinema then, it again featured music and some excellent BGM from Ilayaraja. The song I remember most is “Theeram Thedi” which went on to become “Roja Ondru” in Komberi Mookan (thanks MadAboutMoviez for the reference help)

His first tamil movie was “Pagal Nilavu” with Sathyaraj, Murali and Revathi. The movie is best remembered for Sathyaraj’s performance and Raaja’s music. The standout piece was “Poo Malaye” which features a great intro violin piece. Notice Raaja Sir delivering a completely contrasting voice to S.Janaki. Great song. If you are into Raaja’s BGM, here is a sampling from Pagal Nilavu. Violins again. 

 Later that year, Manirathnam delivered Idhaya Kovil with “Mike” Mohan, Radha and Ambika. Raaja delivered a huge hit as did Mani. Mike Mohan got SPB to make his vocals sound magical. “Idhayam Oru Kovil” got a big chunk of radio time for a long long time. “Naan padum mouna ragam” was the melancholic piece that made it big and my personal favorite in the Raaja having fun genre is “Oor Oramaa”. The “jum jumka jum” humming in “Oor Oramaa” is something alright. 

Mouna Ragam

Emboldened by the success of Idhaya Kovil, Mani and Raaja delivered what is considered by many as one of the best tamil movies of the era with “Mouna Ragam”. A well acted and brilliantly written movie featuring outstanding performances by Revathi, Mohan and Karthik, it was also a highmark for Raaja’s music. Every song is fantastic. The standout is the absolutely soulful “Mandram Vandha” by SPB.

From “Nilave Vaa” to “Oho Megam” each song was just fantastic. Even today the album is fondly remembered. While you are it, give the title BGM a hear. At once it is chirpy and introspective. Anyone who has seen the movie can immediately visualize Karthik and Mohan with Revathi caught in the middle. 

Of Kids and Gangsters

One could argue that after delivering Mouna Ragam, both Raaja and Mani were due for a clunker. Instead they gave the world, Nayagan. Arguably India’s best gangster movie, it was punctuated by an epic performance from Kamalhassan. Based loosely on the real life gangster Varadaraaja Mudaliar and inspired by Coppola’s Godfather, Nayagan was a tour de force. And then there was the music. Every inch of the movie’s bgm was painfully crafted by the Maestro and every song conveyed the depth of the moment. Be it the lonely warrior song, “Thenpaandi seemayile” sung soulfully by Kamal himself, or the gangster smuggling run piece “Nila Adhu” with Raaja’s rustic vocals, or the brothel piece “Naan sirithal” or the festival piece “Andhi Mazhai”, every song was incredibly in sync with the mood of the movie. To me though, the piece de resistance of the movie’s soundtrack was the Mano – Chitra duet, “Nee oru Kadhal Sangeetham”. I remember Mano in an interview complaining about how many people thought the song was sung by SPB and not him. And for a sampling of the lyrics, “Isai mazhai engum pozhigiradhu. Engalin jeevan nanaigiradhu”. Pure gold. 

So how do you top Nayagan. You dont. But you do delivered an action packed family saga that is hugely entertaining and riveting with “Agni Nakshatram”. Mani plots then superstars Karthik against Prabhu and asks Raaja to do the rest. Raaja obliges with a brilliant soundtrack. Every song again is a high point for tamil film music and is a complete bag of everything from trippy disco music to songs drenched in carnatic classical music. 

A few months ago in this blog, I had written an entire post about this movie’s soundtrack and specifically the outstanding “Ninnukori”. There was the signature megahit of the day, “Raaja Raajathi” featuring a nondescript Prabhu Deva. Mani introduced the sultry Nirosha in this movie and Raaja supported this debut with two sensual numbers in “Vaa Vaa anbe anbe” and “Oru poongavanam”. Those were some scorchers in those days, believe me. But to me, the best song in the movie is the gorgeous duet “Thoongatha Vizhigal” set to Ragam Amrithavarshini and sung by K.J.Yesudas and S.Janaki. Pure bliss. 

After a solid streak of tamil movies, Mani and Raaja shifted their eyes to Telugu cinema and made “Geethanjali” featuring a young Nagarjuna. The movie was dubbed and released in tamil as “Idhayathai Thirudathey”. The songs were blockbusters. Ranging from teenybopper hits like “Vidiya Vidiya” to the moody “Paapa Laali” to the girl power piece, “Athadi Ammadi” and the very popular Mano-Chitra piece “Oh Priya“(watch the pace pick up on this song), all the songs were pretty popular. The standout hit of this movie was the romantic and sensual “Om Namaha” which featured a then notorious smooch. 

In a completely 180 degree turn from all the gangster sagas and romantic dramas he had been delivering till date, Mani made “Anjali”- a kids movie with a lot of heart. The signature theme piece, “Anjali Anjali” achieved iconic status very soon. In Mani’s own style, the movie was a social commentary delivered with humor and heaps of love and emotion. “Motta madi motta madi” was a great love in the shadows piece while “Magic journey” was Mani’s ode to Star Wars. The real music piece worth mentioning in this movie is the stellar BGM that permeates the entire duration ranging from sheer joy to shock to absolute despair. Raaja’s wizardry at its best.

Superstars and the Mahabharata

As if they had one last movie to show the magic of their combination, Mani and Raaja delivered the Mahabharata inspired epic, “Thalapathi” with Rajini and Mamooty. A star studded mega movie that shattered box office records and delivered a musical bonanza for fans, every song of Thalapathi deserves special praise. 

So where do we start?. Do we start with the haunting “Chinna thayaval” or the mellifluous “Yamunai Aatrile”. Maybe the foot tapping and beautifully picturized “Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu” with all those synchronized violins or the SPB-Yesudas crowd-pleaser “Kattukuyile Manasukkule”. And there is the criminally underrated “Putham Pudhu” . To me, the standout piece in this musical epic is a personal favorite, “Sundari Kannal”. I had written an entire piece on this since it truly warrants it. A movie within a movie, hauntingly composed by the Maestro and beautifully sung by SPB and S.Janaki. 

Maestro to Prodigy

And all this was only one half of Mani’s output. In the next post, we will look at Mani’s prolific collaboration with A.R.Rahman. The public playlist for all the songs featured in this post and more Raaja- Mani masterpieces is here. For now, I will go back to listening to “Sundari Kannal”. 

A Pongal Playlist

Technically this post is a day late. By India standards, much of Pongal (Sankranti) is over by now. But there is no harm in wanting to stay in the mood of Pongal- a festival of good food, friends met and movies watched. 

Pongal is probably as big if not a bigger festival in the state of Tamil Nadu than Deepavali.  It offers people a chance to cast away the old and expect the new. It is the most important time of the year for the farmers who will start their harvest officially with the passing of the month of Margazhi and welcome the month of Thai. More on the festival and the significance of Pongal here.  

Given the significance of Pongal, it has prominently been featured in songs in Tamil cinema over the years. Some of them have withstood the test of time and here is a small compilation of some such. This is by no means comprehensive nor in any specific order.

1. Thai Pongalum Pongudhu – Mahanadhi

A festive start to what is an otherwise stark movie. Chitra belts this evergreen Pongal song. The lyrics are great and convey the spirit of the harvest season. 

2. Podhuvaga En Manasu – Murattu Kalai

This song is what started it all for Superstar Rajinikanth. The song happens soon after a Jallikattu, the traditional bull taming event that happens during Mattu Pongal. The song captures the mood on Mattu Pongal and the mood in the village.

3. Margazhi thaan odi pochu – Dalapathy

Pongal plays a critical element in the Manirathnam classic, Dalapathy. The festival plays backdrop to a major event in the movie and Raaja drives the event home with a small but memorable piece. 

4. Kattukuyile Manasukulle – Dalapathy

To go with 3, here is another song from the same Dalapathy. Brilliantly shot by Santosh Sivan and masterfully weaved by Manirathnam. Isaignani Ilayaraja creates a fabulous piece with two doyens SPB and Jesudas doing the honors. 

6. Vandhenda Paalkaran – Annamalai

Continuing with the Rajini line, here is another massive hit that celebrates Mattu Pongal. It is also the introduction song for the Superstar in the movie and if you are a fan, you know all about it. The Rajini introduction song is by far the most important piece in the movie and will be greeted by the fans in a way unlike any other. Music director Deva does the honors with the tune here but the piece is all Rajini and SPB.

5. Poo Pookum Maasam – Varusham 16

I remember this song vividly as I had a major crush on Kushboo who debuted in this film by Fazil. The Kushboo here is almost not recognizable but she made a splash alright. The movie was a big hit and this song was pretty big too. 

6. Enga Ooru Pongalukku – Chinna Thayi

A less heralded song in this list was nevertheless part of a a big musical hit of Isaignani Ilayaraja, Chinna Thayi. Footage includes actual Pongal celebrations from villages. 

7. Aadungada enna suthi – Pokkiri

And then there is this. A Vijay statement song that is all about him. Less said the better. The song did go on to become popular in a soundtrack that has much better songs IMHO.

All these songs are available as part of a public Youtube playlist I created for the purpose. 

Of interest is the fact that Isaignani Ilayaraaja dominates this list. There is one Deva piece and one Mani Sharma piece. I was unable to find an A.R.Rahman Pongal piece. Anyone knows of one?

To everyone reading this just before, during or right after Pongal, இனிய பொங்கல் நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்.