Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oru Maalai

The title of this post in Tamil, translates to – “one evening”.
Oru maalai is a song from the Tamil movie Ghajini. It is sung by Karthik, composed by Harris Jeyaraj and features actors Surya and Asin.
The song is one of my all time favorites, I heard it everyday in the period spanning from Aug – Dec 2007. It serves as a standard for comparison, a metrics for evaluation of other Tamil film compositions.

Oru Maalai's strengths are simple and beautiful lyrics, highly refreshing music, the hearty whistle tune and flawless rendition by Karthik. The song would definitely not have topped the charts had somebody else lent their voice to it. I can vouch for that.

Commuting down Richmond Road one evening, the view of the glowing orange-red sun ahead of me, sinking down the azure sky, set me thinking about this song. It also paved way for some serious circumspection of tamil films that released post Ghajini (2007) , the multitude of songs in them, their failure to grab even a miniscule of my attention. Before Oru maalai, there were favorites at regular intervals, many compositions by Ilayaraja, AR Rahman and Vidyasagar. Despite careful efforts, I would miss listing down many significant songs in the pre Oru Maalai times. But now, I was squeezing my head inside out, striving hard to list down 5-6 of them post Oru Maalai.

Kangal Irandal

A song set in raagam Reethi Gowlai, from the movie Subramaniyapuram struck my head immediately. With interesting and funny visuals, excellent lyrics, great music and perfect playback, it is a simple, soulful number. Reethi Gowlai raagam has an innate potential to attract listeners, it provides a very soothing experience – not to forget – Azhagaana Rakshasiye from Mudhalvan for instance.

Kangal Irandal fares better than the Rahman composition primarily due to its lyrics, fresh voices – Belly Raj and Deepa Mariam, the constant, light hearted rhythm in tandem with video featuring Jai and Swathi. The video is a must watch, Swathi’s secret glances and innocent smiles with Jai’s funny antics to catch her attention - sheer delight to watch.

A little off the tangent, I must say I was taken aback by two things related to this song. As a school child, I was a big fan of James Vasanthan, the SUN TV anchor, his calm and decent demeanour while hosting shows. Though I knew he sang well and composed jingles then, I did not know he could churn out such a wonderful number. His name will be etched forever in Kollywood’s musical history. Hats off to James Vasanthan for such a masterpiece.

Jai, the hero of the movie, performed the role of Vijay’s brother in the movie Bhagavathy. Then, I had dismissed him as some look alike, possibly a relative of Vijay seeking a fervent entry into Kollywood. But Jai neither is a relative of Vijay nor is he insignificant. With some great performances in his kitty, he is not to be dismissed casually.

Munbe Vaa

She can make any song super sweet with her mellifluous voice, she faces no regional/linguistic barriers, she puts in dedicated efforts to pronounce words correctly, she is none other than Shreya Ghoshal. When she sings, my heart melts, particularly in this song, when she utters – “Naan saayum tholl mel veraarum saainthaale thagumaa” in the second paragraph.
A beautiful composition by AR Rahman, Bhoomika and Surya add natural elegance to the song from the movie Jillu nnu Oru Kaadhal. With a wonderful, opening piece, Shreya’s beautiful aalap towards the end and apt support by Naresh Iyer for the male playback, the song weaves an ethereal world, full of romance and poetic imagination.

Here’s something funny, listen to this song on the Real player with View -> Choose Visualization -> Annabelle the sheep. Watch the sheep jump, wink and nod its head to the tunes of the string instruments in the prelude to the song, you will love it.


Refreshing change, fresh in my memory as I write this post, from the recent most release – Vinnai Thandi Varuvayaa, AR Rahman's first creation post Oscar awards in Tamil, eagerly awaited by all and sundry, has not failed to captivate me. Rahman has performed various bold experiments, fusing different styles of music that will tick well with the college, more precisely, the urban youth.

When I heard Hosanna for the first time, a chart buster even before the movie’s release, I figured the movie had something to do with Christianity – Hosanna is a Hebrew term cried aloud in adoration of the almighty, Jesus. True, it turned out to be. The song features Simbu in a never seen before avatar and Trisha, the gorgeous lady clad in sarees, causing men to drool and women to secretly admire and emulate her.

May be it is the way Simbu dances or the way Trisha walks around poignantly with her innocent smile, the way the song is shot in Malta. For me, the song clicked for its opening music and the manner in which Vijay Prakash renders “Yen Idhayam Udaithaai Norungave”. Lyrics expressing pain and happiness, the western ballad, opera style music neatly mingling with techno stuff, a piece of rap by Blaaze, Hosanna rendition by Suzanne, the song is full of surprises and a mélange.

Vijay Prakash transforms seamlessly from the soulful prelude to hip hop part – “Antha neram anthi neram kann parthu kanthal aagi pona neram etho acchhe” and magically exits with a high pitch version of “Yen Idhayam”, we only yearn to hear more of his voice in future, wonder where he remained hidden for all these days.

The violins, string guitars perform a serenade in complete harmony and there are sudden packets of energy with techno variations and intermittent techno-ish “hello”, Rahman alone can handle such a mélange with such comfort.

Kaatrin Mozhi

After 2007, the number of Dappankoothu songs, proportion of trash, slang without reason, confusion in the name of English rap have risen exponentially. Tamil songs have lyrics devoid of meaning.
The much needed breather comes through this song from the movie Mozhi. The lyrical content has immense meaning and complete relevance, the movie is a very sensible subject and provides some brilliant performances by Jyothika, Prithiviraj and Prakash Raj.

Simple music in the song allows one to pay attention to the words that brim with meaning, tabla for percussion makes one tap their feet/nod their head. There are two versions – one sung by Balram and the other by Sujatha, I prefer listening to the former. Balram’s voice is crisp and continuous, expressive and blends with the lyrics better. This is an all time song for all moods, all days and people of all ages.

Kaathal Neruppin, Vizhi Moodi, Un Parvayil
The three songs - Kaathal nerupin from Veyil, Vizhi moodi from Ayan and Un paarvayil from Something Something Unakkum Enakkum have a big factor in common – all are sung by Karthik. If there is a parallel to Midas touch in music, it is Karthik’s voice for sure.

Kaadhal Neruppin has some powerful music by GV Prakash, an added advantage. Vizhi Moodi, is a soft, romantic ballad, apt for a hearty and casual whistle. Un paarvayil has a notably brilliant violin piece before the opening of the second paragraph.

Karthik is a gifted singer and I have a small prayer, may he sing more songs like Oru Maalai and provide me with more options for my play lists.

While making the above choices, I realised that three years is a long time and I had very few new additions in Tamil to my playlists. Songs sung Udit Narayan, songs that feature Dhanush and Simbu (VTV is an exception) with dappankoothu beats are conveniently chucked out. In fact, I hold the rising of Dhanush to stardom, a major reason for failure of Tamil Cinema. Movies overflow with violence, 10-12 songs, all with the crazy dappankoothu beats, more fight sequences and filthy, abusive language which even the most fiery Chennai auto rickshaw fellows will not use; decency quotients have plummeted to bare minimum. The worst team comprises of Dhanush (actor), Selva Raghavan (director) and Yuvan Shankar Raja (music director). For many, they have produced unprecedented box office hits and many would raise a brow in reading the above line. For me, the above is a plain fact. Even if Yuvan struck the right chords to produce an unimaginably massive hit like Thee Pidikka from Arinthum Ariyamalum, I would refrain from listening to it for the obscenity attached.

In conclusion, each song is a big package. Its lyrics, music and instruments used, the playback singers, their voice, expression, pronunciation and clarity; the way the song has been shot - all add to its success, each ingredient holds a substantial place in creating an impression in the listener’s mind. It is high time movie makers realised that viewers appreciate movies even without songs but trying to chip in 10-12 of them without reason makes it an insipid, in fact, repelling experience.

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