Maestro Ilayaraaja's website Adhi or Roopakam
Rhythm, as you all may know is the base for any song as is the skeleton for a body.. Traditionally, the 8 beat/bar or the Adhi Talam or whatever you call it is the most popularly used pattern across the world. Invariably ‘Adhi’ has monopolized the music arena like Microsoft. I would personally categorize, 70 % of all songs are composed in Adhi Talam. Some 20 % are set in the ‘Roopaka Talam’ or the 6/8 pattern.. And the remaining 10 % by all the complex patterns like Misra Chappu (7/8) or Kanda Chappu (5/8) or Sangeernam (9/8)… When you go back to your elementary school mathematics, you may remember the concepts of LCM & GCD… i.e., Least Common Multiple & Greatest Common Divisor.. If you compose a song that has 24 counts, you may treat it as a song in Adhi talam(8 count)  of 3 bars(3 x 8 = 24) or as a song in Roopaka Talam of 4 bars (4 x 6 = 24). It depends on the ‘nadai’ (Or the Rhythm pattern) of the song. In more carnatic classical terms, whenever a phrase ends in 1.5 talavottams of Adhi, it can correspond to 4 talavottams of Roopakam. This is a good old phenomenon in Music and many music directors have accomplished this trick.

Lets take an example.. The song, “En iniya Pon Nilavae”.. A beautiful song by Raaja composed for the movie ‘Moodu pani’ directed by one of the all time greatest Camera man of the Indian cinema, Balu Mahendra.. One of the very few songs where KJ sounds as romantic as Aamir khan in “Pehla Nasha” and I’m sure a captivating favorite number for many of us… (I’m told Raaja played the Guitar in this song himself..) You can say the song is set to  ‘Adhi’. But during the lines “Ninaivila oru sugam, dha dha … Thodarudhae Dinam dinam.. dha dha…”, the song suddenly changes to Roopakam.. When again “En iniya Pon nilavae” starts, the song is back to Adhi.. If you see what happened, the song never changed to a different Talam at all.. It was Adhi thro’out.. In those 4 lines, there was totally 24 counts which you can treat as 3 times Adhi  or 4 times Roopakam.. Raaja just changes the rhythm pattern to roopakam during those 4 lines.. that’s all….

Well in Mathematics, for every theorem there exists a converse… If he can make Adhi sound like Roopakam, he must be also capable of making Roopakam sound like Adhi.. This time the song is “Endrendum Aanandhamae..” from Kadal meengal.. A beautiful Song by Malaysia Vasudevan composed in Sarasangi Raagam… Unfortunately not a very popular one.. This song is set to Roopakam Talam.. Again, When the song starts the first two lines is in Roopakam.. Then comes the lines “Vaalibathin Azaghu Kannil thullavae vandha Azaghu” repeating itself twice…  This phase is perfectly Adhi!!!  When “Endrendum Anandhamae” strats its roopakam again!!!  The explanation is just the same, 24 is GCD here and 6 and 8 are the LCMs.(Or rather 3 and 4 )… During those 2 lines, there are 24 counts, and for a while he changes the pattern to 3 times Adhi instead of 4 times Roopakam…

Song "Vana kuyilae.kuyil tharaum isaiyae" from the movie 'Priyanga' is another example. Again a phenomenol number composed by Raaja during an era (Mid 90s) where people's taste for music started switching from Talent to Technology... A song composed in the Raaga: Lalitha... A very demanding raaga that challenges a light music composer to have an 'extra' nerve to try it.... its a janya raaga of the Mother of Carnatic Music, the 15th Mela Kartha: Maya malava Gowlai (I call it the mother because, all your lessons for classical carnatic music starts with it)..But thats not what makes it complex.. When you eliminate Panchamam (I mean the swara 'Pa' ) from Maya malava Gowlai, you get Lalitha.. In Light music, when you compose a song in a raaga which doesn't have Pa, you run into troubles because you can't compose it in either a Major or a Minor Chord, as 'Pa' is an integral part of the formula to derive those chords from the root note.. Yet to compose a full fledged songs, with proper chord sequences (in Rhythm guitar and Keyboard-DX backings etc.,), I bet you not every one can do that.. The problem In this case would be to identify the root chord of the song is... One can't say the song's scale is D sus 4th or A 9th.. So to compose in this raaga, you should have a good grip on the Raaga sanchara so that you can still imaginatively come up with proper chord progressions. If you make a mis-chord, then it really sounds Jarring..... There are whole lot of these raagas... (Abogi, Hindolam etc.. etc..)..  This is what makes 'lalitha' a complex one..  However Raaja's best lalitha is "Idhalil kadhai eludhum neramidhu"... We can take that song for discussion some other day...

Well, I seem to be deviating from my point of 'Tala Bedam', but I can't help it as when you talk about any Raaja song, there is so much to discuss that this is bound to happen!!! The song "vanakuyilae" is composed in perfect Adhi. When the stanza comes, Surprises come along too... The first 4 lines starts as "Un gnyapagam nenjai pandhadudhae..." you won't believe it..... This phase is perfect Roopakam...After these 4 lines, When "Padithal inithidum pudhinam" starts, the song is back to Adhi... Its very confusing.. But to make our life simpler, Raaja uses a 'metronome'  in this song(Metronome is something that makes a ticking sound for reference on every count of a bar)..A 'Tamarind'  gives a 'chil' sound on every count in this song.. If you just keep following that you'll come to know, how effortlessly the song switches back and forth between Adhi and Roopakam..

These are just a few samples of this phenomenon among the many songs composed by Raaja. I continue to talk about another song (aagaya vennilavae) where he completely transforms a song in Roopakam to look like its in Adhi. Its all about 'Perceptions' that a great mind can think of. Once Michelangelo, the greatest Sculptor, Showed a huge block of rock to one of his students and asked them “what do you see??”. They answered “nothing !!”. He said, “I want to make a sculpture and I see it in front of me in this rock. Its just a matter of secluding the unwanted pieces of rock from this frame, so that I get what I want.” Its the same thought that comes to any creator's mind when he gives ouput like these. Adhi or Roopakam... There is only one thing… Ultimately it all depends on how he looks at it.....!!!

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