Maestro Ilayaraaja's website Paradox
Few times in Cinema, a same song is painted with another emotion and picturized again. Typically this happens when the Heroines who are daughters of big shots or stinking rich men fall in love with good-hearted poor heroes who live in single rooms essentially located on the upstairs of a low class residential area. Initially they’ll dance and make merry. Then the ‘father of the bride’ comes into action. Soon the lovers are separated and made to compare themselves with ‘Romeo – Julliet’ or ‘Amaravathi-Ambikapathi’ or ‘Laila – Majnu’ or with all of them. The director of the movie now wants the same song another time, which was sung as duet in the first half. But this time it should ‘sound’ sad. It is relatively easy for him to explain to the Music director, what he wants. Just change a happy song to pathos. Unfortunately its not always as easy for the composer to produce this effect. In this column we’ll see the aspects adapted by Raaja to make this transition possible.

There are some aspects in Indian music that are typically associated with pathos. Like for example, slowing the tempo of the song or playing the melody in violin/shenoi etc. But Raaja has taken some different approach to achieve this. One has to take a closer look in the pathos versions (Like the ‘aaru vidhyasangal’ in Kumudam) to identify the things that Raaja introduces or removes or changes in an existing part.

First thing that amazes me are, how his flute connection pieces between the lines changes from the happy and the sad versions. The song ‘chinna kizhi’ from Chinna gounder is a good example. In the happy versin of the song after the line “Koondukkulla vechadharu sollu kizhiyae” a fresh happy flute bit comes (sa ga ri sa ni dha pa). The same flute bit in the Pathos version becomes sad and consoling after the line “Koondukkulla ponadhenna kola kizhiyae” (Ga ri ma ga ri sa). Second example is in the song ‘Naan erikarai’ from Chinna thayee. The flute piece after the lines “Mamanukku kaathirundhae kaanalae” and the same flute piece in the pathos version of the song… Third and the most beautiful example can be from the song “Oru Sandhana kaattu-kullae” from the movie ‘Ellamae en raasadhan’. One half of the song is sung in the past where Rajkiran & Family is happy. The second half of the song is sung in grief. But its one continuous song, therefore the tempo of the song should remain the same. That’s why it’s more challenging. Pre-dominantly this song sounds a Pathos song ( I mean even the happy version sounds sad). So Raaja banks here on some subtle emotions on Janaki’s voice for happiness and a rich orchestration. In the second half, he brings in heavy gloomy sad effect in his voice. Other than that, also some magical flute transformations exist. In the 1st stanza, after the lines “En polae yaarkum kanavan vaaikadhu” you can hear a brief bit of Oboe like instrument + Flute. It really rises and falls and sounds very good. But during the same phrase in the 2nd stanza, after the lines “Kayangal kalam mullukka Aaradho” by Raaja, a soothing flute piece replaces the previously joyful bit. This flute only piece (as opposed to Oboe + Flute combo in happiness) really sounds like healing Rajkiran’s wounded heart, as per the lyrics. I personally enjoyed this subtle change made by Raaja very much.

Second thing is, his timing removal of the rhythm rolls from the sad version of the songs. In the song ‘Va va anbae’ from eeramana rojavae, during the start of the song, the tabla starts with a roll during the words ‘Anbae’. But in the equal pathos version ‘Thendral kaatrae’, no such rolls can be heard during the words ‘kaatrae’. The tabla simply starts from the second line ‘Konjam nillu’. Also in the song ‘Adi aathadi’, during the word ‘athaadiiiiii’, a tom roll can be noticed. You will see that this is promptly removed in the pathos malaysia vasu version. Same thing can be noticed in ‘Povoma oorgolam’ & ‘Nee engae’ songs in Chinnathambi.

Next thing is his idea of using the same original melody during interludes but in different ways. If you listen to the 1st interlude of the ‘Oru Jeevan’ from Geethanjali, its quite fast and refreshing. The same interlude in the pathos version retains all the melodies but with a sober feel. For instance look at the ‘veena’ piece in both the version. Also the String piece that follows this in Happy version is played with Congo – symbol combination. In the sad one, instead of strings, the melody is played in a solo (violin like) instrument with no rhythm change. Also the prelude of the ‘Vellai pura onru’ song. In the happy version its Janaki who opens the song with running symbols and Piano. In the sad same melody is sung by KJ with no fanfare. The symbols are gone and the Piano which was played in double the speed is played in normal style. Another brilliant example is in the first interlude of the ‘Potthivecha malligai mottu’ song. A superb piece combination of Tavil-Nadhaswaram is played in the happy version. In the sad version, the same melody is played, but watch the difference in the rhythm pattern of Tavil and the usage of guitars. “Geetham sangeetham” from Kokkarakko is another example. Both the interludes in the pathos version are sad coated versions of the happy one. This retention of melody in interlude is not the focus here. But how they are transformed and given.

The way in which he sets the rhythm for the pathos version is an art. The tempo is not altered, but the rhythm is simplified and new sets of percussion instruments are chosen. Take ‘Vellai pura’ song for instance. The happy one is speeding with western type of Rhythm arrangement (Drum-congo). But the sad version of the song is set to a hindustani type of Tabla percussion. Mind you, the tempo remains the same. In lots of songs, he doesn’t even believe in slowing the tempo. Adi athadi, povoma, Va va anbae etc etc are some of the songs where the tempo of both the versions just remain the same.

All this aspects shows the maturity in Raaja as a composer. First of all he does lots of small embellishments in a song. Then to remember them later to go back to them and undo or modify, so that it has a new look, is purely magical. Its like how Jeffery archer wrote the sequel to Kane and Abel before he wrote the Part I. Only a ‘beautiful mind’ can do such things

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- Vicky                                                                                                                                                                                              
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