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Mahatma Gandhi Album
A Collection of the views, ideals, life and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi in multiple media

Biography Gandhi (1869-1948), also known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born in Porbandar in the present state of Gujarat on October 2, 1869, and educated in law at University College, London. In 1891, after having been admitted to the British bar, Gandhi returned to India and attempted to establish a law practice in Bombay, with little success. Two years later an Indian firm with interests in South Africa retained him as legal adviser in its office in Durban. Arriving in Durban, Gandhi found himself treated as a member of an inferior race. He was appalled at the widespread denial of civil liberties and political rights to Indian immigrants to South Africa. He threw himself into the struggle for elementary rights for Indians.

Passive Resistance
Gandhi remained in South Africa for 20 years, suffering imprisonment many times. In 1896, after being attacked and beaten by white South Africans, Gandhi began to teach a policy of passive resistance to, and non-cooperation with, the South African authorities. Part of the inspiration for this policy came from the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, whose influence on Gandhi was profound. Gandhi also acknowledged his debt to the teachings of Christ and to the 19th-century American writer Henry David Thoreau, especially to Thoreau's famous essay “Civil Disobedience.” Gandhi considered the terms passive resistance and civil disobedience inadequate for his purposes, however, and coined another term, Satyagraha (Sanskrit, “truth and firmness”). During the Boer War, Gandhi organized an ambulance corps for the British army and commanded a Red Cross unit. After the war he returned to his campaign for Indian rights. In 1910, he founded Tolstoy Farm, near Durban, a cooperative colony for Indians. In 1914 the government of the Union of South Africa made important concessions to Gandhi's demands, including recognition of Indian marriages and abolition of the poll tax for them. His work in South Africa complete, he returned to India.  
Campaign for Home Rule Gandhi became a leader in a complex struggle, the Indian campaign for home rule. Following World War I, in which he played an active part in recruiting campaigns, Gandhi, again advocating Satyagraha, launched his movement of passive resistance to Great Britain. When, in 1919, Parliament passed the Rowlatt Acts, giving the Indian colonial authorities emergency powers to deal with so-called revolutionary activities, Satyagraha spread through India, gaining millions of followers. A demonstration against the Rowlatt Acts resulted in a massacre of Indians at Amritsar by British soldiers; in 1920, when the British government failed to make amends, Gandhi proclaimed an organized campaign of non-cooperation. Indians in public office resigned, government agencies such as courts of law were boycotted, and Indian children were withdrawn from government schools. Through India, streets were blocked by squatting Indians who refused to rise even when beaten by police. Gandhi was arrested, but the British were soon forced to release him.

Economic independence for India, involving the complete boycott of British goods, was made a corollary of Gandhi's Swaraj (Sanskrit, “self-ruling”) movement. The economic aspects of the movement were significant, for the exploitation of Indian villagers by British industrialists had resulted in extreme poverty in the country and the virtual destruction of Indian home industries. As a remedy for such poverty, Gandhi advocated revival of cottage industries; he began to use a spinning wheel as a token of the return to the simple village life he preached, and of the renewal of native Indian industries.

Gandhi became the international symbol of a free India. He lived a spiritual and ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and meditation. His union with his wife became, as he himself stated, that of brother and sister. Refusing earthly possessions, he wore the loincloth and shawl of the lowliest Indian and subsisted on vegetables, fruit juices, and goat's milk. Indians revered him as a saint and began to call him Mahatma (great-souled), a title reserved for the greatest sages. Gandhi's advocacy of nonviolence, known as ahimsa (non-violence), was the expression of a way of life implicit in the Hindu religion. By the Indian practice of nonviolence, Gandhi held, Great Britain too would eventually consider violence useless and would leave India.

The Mahatma's political and spiritual hold on India was so great that the British authorities dared not interfere with him. In 1921 the Indian National Congress, the group that spearheaded the movement for nationhood, gave Gandhi complete executive authority, with the right of naming his own successor. The Indian population, however, could not fully comprehend the unworldly ahimsa. A series of armed revolts against Great Britain broke out, culminating in such violence that Gandhi confessed the failure of the civil-disobedience campaign he had called, and ended it. The British government again seized and imprisoned him in 1922.

After his release from prison in 1924, Gandhi withdrew from active politics and devoted himself to propagating communal unity. Unavoidably, however, he was again drawn into the vortex of the struggle for independence. In 1930 the Mahatma proclaimed a new campaign of civil disobedience, calling upon the Indian population to refuse to pay taxes, particularly the tax on salt. The campaign was a march to the sea, in which thousands of Indians followed Gandhi from Ahmedabad to the Arabian Sea, where they made salt by evaporating sea water. Once more the Indian leader was arrested, but he was released in 1931, halting the campaign after the British made concessions to his demands. In the same year Gandhi represented the Indian National Congress at a conference in London.

Gandhi with Followers
Gandhi with Followers


Attack upon the Caste System

In 1932, Gandhi began new civil-disobedience campaigns against the British. Arrested twice, the Mahatma fasted for long periods several times; these fasts were effective measures against the British, because revolution might well have broken out in India if he had died. In September 1932, while in jail, Gandhi undertook a “fast unto death” to improve the status of the Hindu Untouchables. The British, by permitting the Untouchables to be considered as a separate part of the Indian electorate, were, according to Gandhi, countenancing an injustice. Although he was himself a member of the Vaisya (merchant) caste, Gandhi was the great leader of the movement in India dedicated to eradicating the unjust social and economic aspects of the caste system.

In 1934 Gandhi formally resigned from politics, being replaced as leader of the Congress party by Jawaharlal Nehru. Gandhi traveled through India, teaching ahimsa and demanding eradication of “untouchability.” The esteem in which he was held was the measure of his political power. So great was this power that the limited home rule granted by the British in 1935 could not be implemented until Gandhi approved it. A few years later, in 1939, he again returned to active political life because of the pending federation of Indian principalities with the rest of India. His first act was a fast, designed to force the ruler of the state of Rajkot to modify his autocratic rule. Public unrest caused by the fast was so great that the colonial government intervened; the demands were granted. The Mahatma again became the most important political figure in India.

The Salt March
Man of Firm Step

Independence When World War II broke out, the Congress party and Gandhi demanded a declaration of war aims and their application to India. As a reaction to the unsatisfactory response from the British, the party decided not to support Britain in the war unless the country were granted complete and immediate independence. The British refused, offering compromises that were rejected. When Japan entered the war, Gandhi still refused to agree to Indian participation. He was interned in 1942 but was released two years later because of failing health.

By 1944 the Indian struggle for independence was in its final stages, the British government having agreed to independence on condition that the two contending nationalist groups, the Muslim League and the Congress party, should resolve their differences. Gandhi stood steadfastly against the partition of India but ultimately had to agree, in the hope that internal peace would be achieved after the Muslim demand for separation had been satisfied. India and Pakistan became separate states when the British granted India its independence in 1947. During the riots that followed the partition of India, Gandhi pleaded with Hindus and Muslims to live together peacefully. Riots engulfed Calcutta, one of the largest cities in India, and the Mahatma fasted until disturbances ceased. On January 13, 1948, he undertook another successful fast in New Delhi to bring about peace, but on January 30, 12 days after the termination of that fast, as he was on his way to his evening prayer meeting, he was assassinated by a fanatic Hindu.

Gandhi's death was regarded as an international catastrophe. His place in humanity was measured not in terms of the 20th century, but in terms of history. A period of mourning was set aside in the United Nations General Assembly, and condolences to India were expressed by all countries. Religious violence soon waned in India and Pakistan, and the teachings of Gandhi came to inspire nonviolent movements elsewhere, notably in the U.S. under the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and in South Africa under Nelson Mandela.


Timeline of Gandhi's Life

1869 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi born in Porbandar in Gujarat.


Gandhi leaves for Johannesburg for practicing law and is thrown out of a first class bogie because he is colored.


Mohandas K. Gandhi, 37, speaks at a mass meeting in the Empire Theater, Johannesburg  on September 11 and launches a campaign of nonviolent resistance (satyagraha) to protest discrimination against Indians. The British Government had just invalidated the Indian Marriage.


Mohandas Gandhi in Transval, South Africa leads 2,500 Indians into the in defiance of a law, they are violently arrested, Gandhi refuses to pay a fine, he is jailed, his supporters demonstrate November 25, and Natal police fire into the crowd, killing two, injuring 20.


Mohandas Gandhi returns to India at age 45 after 21 years of practicing law in South Africa where he organized a campaign of “passive resistance” to protest his mistreatment by whites for his defense of Asian immigrants. He attracts wide attention in India by conducting a fast—the first of 14 that he will stage as political demonstrations and that will inaugurate the idea of the political fast


A civil disobedience campaign against the British in India begins March 12. The All-India Trade Congress has empowered Gandhi to begin the demonstrations (see 1914). Called Mahatma for the past decade, Gandhi leads a 165-mile march to the Gujarat Coast of the Arabian Sea and produces salt by evaporation of sea water in violation of the law as a gesture of defiance against the British monopoly in salt production


Gandhi begins a “fast unto death” to protest the British government's treatment of India's lowest caste “untouchables” whom Gandhi calls Harijans—”God's children.” Gandhi's campaign of civil disobedience has brought rioting and has landed him in prison, but he persists in his demands for social reform, he urges a new boycott of British goods, and after 6 days of fasting obtains a pact that improves the status of the “untouchables”


India becomes free from 200 years of British Rule. A major victory for Gandhian principles and non-violence in general.


Gandhi is assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic at a prayer meeting



Boy Leads Gandhiji on Beach









To study the origin of the Vedanta movement in America is to study Swami Vivekananda and his travels across the US. We like to put the spotlight on him since his message about self-effort, strength, and freedom of the soul is especially favored by the Western mind. But who was he? What was the magic in his message that made him so popular in America and his homeland of India? We shall only attempt a brief sketch here.

or Narendra as he was called then, was born on January 12, 1863. Bright and full of energy, his mother found him extremely restless and hard to control. "I prayed to God for a son, but he sent me one of his demons," she would sometimes say in frustration. But he was not a bad boy. He had an early fascination for the wandering monks that are so common in India and would practice meditation for fun.

As he grew older, Narendra excelled at his studies and amazed his teachers. At college he mastered Western philosophy and logic and seriously questioned the orthodox beliefs of Hinduism. Reason, he felt, was the surest guide in life. Yet reason didn't satisfy the yearnings of his soul. About this time, he met a holy man by the name of Sri Ramakrishna. The holy man was in many ways from quite a different background than Narendra, yet Narendra was drawn to him. On the one hand, Ramakrishna seemed to be a madman and a monomaniac, yet, the holy man radiated a holy atmosphere unlike anything he had experienced elsewhere. The more Narendra saw him, the more he saw an extraordinary holiness and a most uncommon sanity.

As their relationship grew, Narendra was fired by the ideals of renunciation, the concept that the only important thing in life was to realize God. After Ramakrishna died, Narendra took the vows of a monk and became Swami Vivekananda. For two years he wandered throughout India growing spiritually and experiencing many hardships. He saw the great poverty of India and pondered deeply the role of religion and the suffering of the masses. He impressed great kings with his wisdom, yet learned wisdom during his moments of pride from the lowly of society.

His wanderings helped to develop an understanding of the real meaning of religion. As he said to two of his brother disciples that he happened to see at a train station,

I have traveled all over India. But alas, it was agony to me, my brothers, to see with my own eyes the terrible poverty and misery of the masses, and I could not restrain my tears. It is now my firm conviction that it is futile to preach religion amongst them without first trying to remove their poverty and their suffering. It is for this reason - to find more means for the salvation of the poor in India - that I am now going to America.

We should understand that at this time in India, such talk was almost heresy. Society said a monk should busy himself with meditation and other spiritual practices, not doing social service.

True to his word, Vivekananda traveled to America to speak at a conference in Chicago that he had heard about called The World's Parliament of Religions. When he arrived, he discovered that not only had he come too early, but that he lacked proper papers to be a delegate. The authorities wouldn't recognize him.                                                                

But Providence has its ways. He came to meet a Professor J.H. Wright, of the Greek Department at Harvard University. They talked for hours. The professor was so impressed that he insisted that his new friend should be the representative of Hinduism at the Parliament. On hearing that the Swami lacked proper credentials, he replied, "To ask you, Swami, for your credentials, is like asking the sun to state its right to shine." The professor wrote a letter to a friend in charge of selecting the delegates saying, "Here is a man who is more learned than all our learned professors put together."

On September 11, 1893, Swami Vivekananda attended the Parliament as a delegate to speak. Nervous at first, he passed on his chance to speak. Finally, he spoke, in words that became famous throughout the world:

Sisters and brothers of America.
It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world. I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of the millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance I am proud to belong to a religion which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations on earth.

Swami Vivekananda was thus introduced to the world at the Parliament. People flocked to hear him, although certain Christian missionaries were furious. How could they collect money for converting the heathens in India when such a dynamic speaker existed? The New York Herald called him "Undoubtedly the greatest figure in the Parliament of Religions. After hearing him, we feel foolish to send missionaries to this learned nation."

After the Parliament, the Swami traveled throughout the United States and England lecturing and giving the Western world his best teachings on Vedanta, teachings that seemed customized for the particular needs of the western mind.
His first book on the yoga of meditation was assembled and published as Raja Yoga. Later came out a collection of his talks on the intellectually demanding approach Jnana Yoga, and finally, talks on the yoga approaches that suit most people Karma and Bhakti Yoga. A series of private talks to his most serious students at Thousand Islands Park in New York was later published as Inspired Talks.

After four years, Vivekananda finally returned to India for a hero's welcome. Here he was able to put many of his ideas in practice such as service to the poor, education, hospitals, and relief in times of natural disaster. A major day came in 1899 when the permanent headquarters of his brother monks, called the Ramakrishna Order of India, was consecrated. He said to his disciples,

The history of the world is the history of a few men who had faith in themselves. That faith calls out the divinity within. You fail only when you do not strive sufficiently to manifest infinite power. As soon as a man loses faith in himself, death comes. Believe first in yourselves, and then in God. A handful of strong men will move the world. It is the salvation of others that you must seek; and even if you have to go to hell in working for others, that is worth more than to gain heaven by seeking your own salvation.

Later in 1899, the swami returned to America. Although his body was weak from so much lecturing and traveling, he continued to talk and give classes. In one instance, as described by a student,

An old church lady asked him why he never spoke of sin. There came a look of surprise on the Swami's face. "But madam," he said, "blessed are my sins. Through sin I have learned virtue. It is my sins as much as my virtues , that have made me what I am today. And now I am the preacher of virtue. Why do you dwell on the weak side of man's nature? Don't you know that the greatest blackguard often has some virtue that is wanting in the saint? There is only one power, and that power manifests itself both as good and as evil. God and the devil are the same river with the water flowing in opposite directions."

The lady was horrified, but others understood. And then the Swami began to speak of the divinity that resides in everyone; how the soul is perfect, eternal, and immortal; the Atman , the indwelling God, resides in every being.                                

In December, Vivekananda journeyed to Los Angeles, California where he continued speaking, often to large audiences. The Swami, as always, gave his message straight and without compromise. In a lecture called "Hints on Practical Spirituality," he said,

"We should look upon each other in the most charitable light. It is not so easy to be good. You are good because you cannot help it. Another is bad because he cannot help it. If you were in his position, who knows what you would have been? The woman in the street or the thief in the jail is the Christ that is being sacrificed that you may be a good person. Such is the law of balance. All the thieves and the murderers, all the unjust, the weakest, the wickedest, the devils, they are all my Christ. That is my doctrine. I cannot help it. My salutation goes to the feet of the good , the saintly, and to the feet of the wicked and the devilish. They are all my teachers . As I see more of the world, see more of men and women, this conviction grows stronger. Whom shall I blame? Whom shall I praise? Both sides of the shield must be seen."

On Christmas day, the Swami lectured on "Christ's Message to the World." As Josephine MacLeod would later recount,

Perhaps the most outstanding lecture I heard was his talk on "Jesus of Nazareth," when he seemed to radiate a white light from head to foot, so lost was he in the wonder and power of Christ. I was so impressed with his obvious halo that I did not speak to him on the way back for fear of interrupting, as I thought, the great thoughts that were still in his mind. Suddenly he said to me, "I know how it is done." I said, "How what is done?" "How they make Mulligatawny soup! They put a bay leaf in it."

In San Francisco, Swami Vivekananda was again busy as a public speaker, again speaking to large crowds while holding smaller classes for the more interested. It was a whirlwind schedule that tired him greatly but helped establish a solid foundation for Vedanta in America. Some of the lectures survive today in printed form. We have included here several of his talks, including Christ the Messenger, and Is Vedanta the Future Religion? (a talk on the future of Vedanta Philosophy in America).

Of special importance to the West was his stress on what we call self-esteem. It is an important need in our daily lives, and in spiritual life. He said in his lecture Practical Vedanta,

"The ideal of faith in ourselves is of the greatest help to us. If faith in ourselves had been more extensively taught and practised, I am sure a very large portion of the evils and miseries that we have would have vanished.

Throughout the history of mankind, if any motive power has been more potent than another in the lives of all great men and women, it is that of faith in themselves. Born with the consciousness that they were to be great, they became great.
Let a man go down as low as possible; there must come a time when out of sheer desperation he will take an upward curve and will learn to have faith in himself. But it is better for us that we should know it from the very first.

Why should we have all these bitter experiences in order to gain faith in ourselves? We can see that all the difference between man and man is owing to the existence of non-existence of faith in himself. Faith in ourselves will do everything. I have experienced it in my own life, and am still doing so; and as I grow older that faith is becoming stronger and stronger.

He is an atheist who does not believe in himself. The old religion said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself. But it is not selfish faith, because the Vedanta, again, is the doctrine of oneness. It means faith in all, because you are all.

Love for yourselves means love for all, love for animals, love for everything, for you are all one. It is the great faith which will make the world better."


Swami Vivekananda was to live for two more years, tirelessly championing the cause of a philosophy that saw God whose cathedral was the human body. He died at the age of 39. Words that he uttered an another time come to mind to explain death at such an early age,

It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body -- to cast it off like a well-worn garment. But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere, until the world shall come to know that it is one with God.


BharathiyaarBarathiyar Kavithai


About Bharatiyar

Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiyaar was born in the year 1882.  He was
lovingly called Subbiah during his younger days.  At age 11, in the
court of the King of Ettayapuram, he was given the title "Bharathi."
The King and the poets in the court were astonished by Bharathi's
prodigious poetic talents.  Later (1902-1904), Bharathi lived in
Ettayapuram and was the King's close friend.  Bharathi was passionately
involved in the freedom movement.  He worked as a school teacher and as
a journal editor at various times in his life. Bharathi died at a young
age of 39 (in 1921).  But he left a legacy that is truly invaluable.

Bharathiyaar, as the Mahakavi is known in Tamizh, lived in an era when
India was still under British occupation.  His devotion to Tamizh led
him to say:
   yaamarintha mozhikazhi-le tamizhmozhi-pole
   E-nithavathu engum kaaNOm

   (Among all the languages I know, there is
    none sweeter than Tamizh)

But at the same time, Bharathiyaar was fluent in many languages (incl.
Hindi, Sanskrit, Kuuch, English etc.) and frequently translated works
from other languages (Bengali, English) into Tamizh, thus showing that
one can love one's language/culture and yet be appreciative of other

During Bharathiyaar's era patriotism and a thirst for freedom inspired
many a poet.  While Bharathiyaar was not ashamed of proclaiming the
richness of his language (He frequently referred to Tamizh as his
"mother"), he was always an Indian first.  He championed national
integration, when India had not yet achieved nationhood.  He was
staunchly opposed to casteism.  In a song entitled "VaanDhe maatharam"
he wrote:

  jaathi madhangkazh paarome - oo-yar
  janmam-ith thes-athiL A-E-thina raayin  (A is pronounced as A in ABC..Z)
  vethiya raayinum O-inre - un-ri
  Veru kulathina raayinum O-inre

 (We shall not discriminate based on caste or religion, 
  All human beings in this country - whether preaching 
  the vedas or involved in other professions - are equal)
[this is a very rough translation.  I assure you that  
subsequent postings will
 have better quality translation].

Just as he did not discriminate based on caste, he did not discriminate
between religions as well.  He sung the praise of many a Hindu
god/godess, and at the same time he wrote devotional songs on Jesus
Christ and Allah.  Bharathiyaar was pained by the status of Indian
women during his time.  He wrote:

   Arivu koNda manitha oo-yirkazhai
   Adimai yaaka mooyalpavar pitharaam

   (Those who wish to imprison the human lives that 
    possess intelligence are insane).

He challenged and motivated women to fight for their rights.  It is sad
to note that the women of India are still struggling for many of these
rights, more than seven decades after Bharathiyaar's time. Mahakavi
Bharathiyaar was a visionary who thought India should be a modern
industrial nation, where all citizens (irrespective of gender, religion
or caste) would be equal.  He envisioned a great India:

   Paaru-ku-izhe nalla nadu - A-ingazh  (pronounce A as in ABC..Z)
   Bharatha nadu

   (A great nation in this world - our India).

I think Bharathiyaar's contribution to Tamizh and Indian literature is
second to none.  He showed that you can be a devouted Hindu and still
sing the praise of Jesus or Allah.  He showed that the love for your
language and heritage need not come in the way of your patriotism.  I
think every Indian should be aware of this great Indian, and draw
inspiration from his words.

Ramesh Venkat
e-mail: venkat@unixg.ubc.ca
[Source: SCT]



Classical Ilaiyaraaja - 1

Recently, I watched the movie 'Chembaruthi' on video. One of those unethical, "kuppai" screen printed video cassette, you know, that gives you a vision like that of a "soda-butti" watching TV without his spectacles! Ilaiyaraaja has done a fantastic job in that movie. Though I had heared all those songs many times while I was in India, watching that movie created a reminiscent train of thoughts in my mind, about Ilaiyaraaja, his music, the dramatic change he brought about in Thamizh cinema. I thought that it would be worthwhile to discuss his music, particularly the CLASSICAL aspect! I am aware that it is not possible to write about all his carnatic oriented songs, about how he has handled those ragas, how he has deviated from the classical style etc. But it would definitely be interesting to pour out our ideas once in a while in a random order of the ragas covered by him.

In "Chembaruthi" there are six songs, out of which 4 are carnatic based. All the songs were "sooper hits". To a guy who knows carnatic music, the ragas are explicit, and to a non-classical rasika, they are just great tunes! This was one of his specialities, to give the raga in almost good shape and also make a good cinema tune out of it. And ofcourse, the rhythm should give scope for good dance movements so that the hero and heroine could share their love by dancing! Maybe, many of his tunes have to be branded as semi-classical or light music (even though the raga form might be pure) only because of this rhythm factor.

"Chalakku Chalakku Selai" is one good number in chakravaagam. There is no impurity in the tune (like any anniya swaram). He has confined to classical 16th, Sa Ri1 Ga3 Ma1 Pa Da2 Ni2 Sa. Ofcourse, not to mention, that the lyrics is very bad, fighting to degrade the song from semi-classical to light music. In the charanam the heroine says "kalyaanam aagama paay poda venam, ennala aagaathu aamaam". You know, some good heroines with morality do say such deterrant, anti pre-marital sex things to the always advancing heroes!

Ilaiyaraaja has only few chakravaagams in his account. In the janya raagas of chakravaagam, he has excellent numbers. Like, Malayamaarutham.... Sa Ri1 Ga3 Pa Da2 Ni2 Sa, Sa Ni2 Da2 Pa Ga3 Ri1 Sa. His first malayamarutham came as a pleasant surprise in Sridhar's movie (for whom he always had a soft corner) "Thenralae ennai thodu". I distinctly remember how the 'Ananda Vikatan' magazine wrote in glowing terms about "kannmani nee vara kathirunthen" song in malayamaarutham. Yesudoss and Uma Ramanan had done a wonderful job in that song. Ga Pa Da Sa Ni Da Pa Da Pa Ga, Ga Pa Ga Sa Sa Ri. What a wonderful start! The sharp rishabam gave a beautiful colour to this song. Maybe Ilaiyaraaja's first malayamaarutham was "poojakaana neram" in "kaadal ovium. That was a good song too. Dheepan chakravarthi had struggled to keep in pace with that tune (like some violinists get into trouble with Seshagopalan's pace!). Then came "Thendral vanthu muthamittathu" in malayamaarutham in "Oru odai nadiyagirathu"(another sridhar's movie). Gosh! That was a fast song too. Krishnachandar and S.P.Shailaja tried their best, but probably spoiled it. Particularly, S.P.Shailaja has sung like the shrill sound you hear when you apply the breaks on a car that you bought for 500 $! There are two other songs in which he has deleted both Ni and Ma in chakravaagam. I don't think that such a raga exists in carnatic music with any known name. Those two songs are "amudhae thamizhae" (kovil pura), and "nila kuyilae" (magudi). They are simply excellent. One should be an artist and play those songs to know their quality. Amudhae thamizhae starts like Sa Ri Ga, Sa Ri Ga, Sa Ri Ga Pa Ga Ri Sa, Sa Ri Sa Da Sa...Pulamai Pithan's lyrics glorified that song. In the charanam he says, if you listen to and speak Thamizh, " Oon mezhugai urugum, athil ulagam karainthu pogum", such is the beauty of this language! One cannot write any better,about the greatness of Thamizh language. (Those people like Thamizh vendan & co, who have no other job other than inundating the S.C.T with meaningless news about Thamizh Ezham, now, have a point!).

I vaguely remember a song "naan irrukka bayam etharku" (kuva kuva vathukkal?) At that time, when I had primitive carnatic music knowledge, I had diagnosed that song as "Valaji" (Rishabam deleted in Malayamarutham, Sa Ga Pa Da Ni Sa, Sa Ni Da Pa Ga Sa, you can say that it is a janyam of chakravaagam too, eventhough theorists might say 'janyam of Harikambodi'). Maybe, that song is indeed Valaji. Ilaiyaraaja has few songs in Revathi, another 16 janyam. Perhaps the best onces are "sangitha jaathi mullai" (kaadal ovium) and "kanavu onru thonruthe" (oru odai nadiyaagirathu). But I personally feel that MSV's melodious use of Revathi is unparalleled in the song "manthira punnagai" (Manal kayiru).

So much about chakravaagam and its janyams and Ilaiyaraaja. In chembaruthi, two of the 4 carnatic songs, are in Sindu Bhairavi raagam. They are "kadalile ezhumbura alaikalai" and "kaadhalile tholvi". Ilaiyaraaja himself has sung the former ( thso, thso rendition ) and Nagoor Hanifa the latter. Both these songs are excellent Sindu Bhairavi's. One in three of all cinema songs are in Sindu Bhairavi scale (one of the commonest cinema melodies, like the 20th mela Natabhairavi). Ilaiyaraaja has innumerable songs in Sindhu Bhairavi, a variegated population from valai osai kalakala ena to shenbagame, shenbagame etc. One cannot list all of them. But, probably MSV's Unnakenna Mele Ninrai (Simla Special) is the best of Sindhu Bhairavi. In "kadalile ezhumbura" the lyrics is unusually good. Probably, muthulingam or whoever was the lyrisict, had a strong tea before writing that song! That song goes to tell the pathetic life of fishermen. The lyrisict says in pallavi "kadal thaneer karikudu kaaranam irukkudu, meenavar vidugira viyarvaikal kadalile kalakudu..." (Sea water is saline because of 's fishermen's sweat). Good idea, ain't it?

Lastly,there is one song in Kaapi raaam in Chembaruthi: chembaruthi poalae (after decades, Banumathi Ramakrishna sang a tail piece of this song). His other Kaapi are ada maapila (maapilai), hei paadal onru (priya). As far as I know Ilaiyaraaja is the only one who used kaapi in cinema. All of them are good. He starts 'ada maapila' like, Ma Ga3 Ga3 Ma Pa, Pa Ma Ga3 Ma Ni2 Pa Ga2 Ri Sa Ni3 Sa Sa. Wonderful start! To start kaapi in madhyamam and use its key phrase 'Ga3 Ma Ni2 Pa Ga2 Ri Sa Ni3' at the very beginning is an excellent approach to the tune. This is one of the instance in which his classical 'vidwat' was manifest. Even 'chembaruthi poale' he uses the bashangam of kaapi, in the very beginning, like, 'Pa NI2 Ma Pa Ni3 Sa'. Why did he choose to score tune in kaapi for both these above situations in which the bride and the groom are humoured by the 'thozhan' and 'thozhiyar' on the occasion of their betrothal. Is their any definite pattern that he follows in scoring tunes for situation? Maybe.












Great Actor in India

Different Strokes
Kamal Hassan


In an industry dominated by stereotypes, he is an exception. Kamal Hassan has refused to be typecast and revels in the unusual. With every new film he has tried to do something different. Donning the role of a middle aged woman in his latest film Avvai Shanmukhi - adaptation of the Hollywood comedy `Mrs Doubtfire' - is yet another example of his versatility and the penchant for being different. In this informal chat, Kamal Hassan talks about the film; his inner urge to do something different, and about the major influence in his corner.

On the making of Avvai Shanmukhi.......6a.jpg (71292 bytes)

"Avvai Shanmukhi was something that me andcrazy Mohan (who has written the dialogue for the film) were discussing for a couple of years. No, there was no plan to do a film, then we were just talking about an idea and were so enthused that we even made up the story. This, I think, was before Mrs Doubtfire. But, we dropped the idea because male actors performing in drag was becoming a cliche. And I was not too keen to do make up all over again after `Indian'."


                                                                          Kamalhassan In His Historical Movie Maruthanayagam

* "It so happened that there was a time when Ravikumar (who directed Indian & Avvai) couldn't find a subject for his next film. I suggested `Shanmukhi'. He liked it so much that he decided to go ahead. I had to warn him that it could be expensive and working hours could be limited because of the special make-up. He never seemed to mind it."

"Initially, I was bit worried about how people might react. But, then emotionwise, its very different from Indian. Avvai... is an unpretentious comedy with unexpected twists and turns. So, I thought there is no harm in making people laught a bit."

What was it like donning the female role, What about the make-up?

"The first test with the make up failed. I went to U.S to get it corrected and recrafted. It's been expensive, but worth the trouble."

"With make-up on, we could work only for six hours. Sometimes we could stretch it to seven. I had to get up at 3.30 a.m. and be on the sets by 4.30 a.m. There would be a four hour make-over job. They would start doing th basic work and leave only my mouth open. I was given only half an hour to feed myself. After that I could sip anything with a straw only. So, often I had to skip lunch. In fact, the entire unit skipped lunch".

Then it must have been really hard ........9a.jpg (70871 bytes)

"Oh yes. I have been through all this before, so this time I was prepared for it. Acting with rubber on your face is quite different. You are not in control and often behave like a man with facial paralysis. It's actually like driving a motorbike with a side car. You know, it has a funny drag to one side. And then, there also this danger to your skin. We had to cancel shooting several times because my face swollen. But then it was good fun."

What drives him to try different things?

"Well, an honest audience will not accept the same story over and over again. Now a days, people change their soaps & toothpastes just for the heck of it and films are no exception."

On major influences in his career

"As a boy, I was greatly inspired by T K Shanmugam, the veteran stage actor. It was great training under him. He would bend over backwords about the make up. I was astounded by the change of personahe could effect, the way he spoke and the way he mimed the toothless Avvaiyar eating gooseberries given by the king, you could almost feel how sour the fruit was. Avvai Shunmukhi, is in a way, my own humble tribute to this great man.

...... Shivaji Ganeshan has been another great influence and so is Marlon Brando, K Balachandar has been of much help throughout my career."

And what about the future?                          2a.jpg (37196 bytes)

"One of my great ambitions is to direct a film. And I would like to do a disc with Ilaya Raja. I wish Rajkamal films could produce at least a hundred good films before I am too old."