Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Classical Trinity of Music, in Movie Mode.


     Tamil Cinema has not only travelled far ahead, on ever-changing highways and exits, but has also deviated to a considerable extent,from the cherished dimensions of themes,both in story line and music.Today,film music has become more unconventional than even themes of story lines and their narrative techniques. Everyone is quite sure that today's film music will hardly outlive its time, because of its ephemeral ingredients.But the epic grandeur of Tamil film music, still holds good on account of its classic foundation, firmly rooted to Carnatic music.In fact, the effervescence of music began to rule Tamil Cinema, from the pre-independent years, dating back to the early Nineteen Forties.There existed mighty voices of men and women making Tamil cinema relevant, more on account of vocal music than anything, including the script and its narration.
    Among women there were three monumental voices with a peerless wield of range and throw, immensely reverberating the essence and excellence of Carnatic music. Of the the three women,the first two were born during the same decade{1910 to 1920}and the third was born in the next decade{1928}.They were Madhurai Shanmugavadivu Subbulakshmi, Damal Krishnasamy Pattammaal and Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari, who were proudly called the Female Trinity of Carnatic Music.
     With no knowledge of Carnatic music,besides having been born much later, when compared to them, I really stand at a point of disadvantage to speak about their myriad musical  mastery. But actors like MGR and T.R.Mahalingam were also born during the two decades cited and this blog carries articles on them.So I decided to adorn my blog with a tribute to these three  women, with an exclusive reference to their contribution to Tamil Cinema, which was purely a sequel to their dedication to Carnatic music.I thought I could speak of them in my own way with my limited scope and knowledge of these early musical charmers of Tamil Cinema.
    The point of difference that keeps the first two singers on the one side and the third musical voice on the other, is not only a span of ten years, but also the fact that while the first two women chose to sing only for five and a dozen movies respectively, the third singer would have succeeded them as playback singer, for nearly one hundred films that include her Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada entries.The other notable fact is that of these three women, it was M.S.Subbulakshmi who acted as the heroine of five great films, Sevasadhanam, Savithri, Sakuntala,Meera and Meerabai {Hindi remake of Meera}of which the last three were directed by the eminent American director Ellis. R. Dungan. 
   M.S.S was called 'the queen of music' by Pandit Nehru,the first Prime Minister of India.She was an awardee of several titles including the most coveted Bharat Ratna that gloriously crowned her in 1998,six years before her demise.Her probing voice pattern,mastery over Carnatic music and her most enviable singing ability made her an outstanding performer of all times.God seemed to speak to the human soul through her divinely dignified voice, not only in her perfect delivery of Venkateswara Suprabhatam,Vishnu Sahasranaamam,Bhaja Govindam, and Kuraiyonrumillai Maraimurthy Kanna, but also through her felicitous singing of film songs like'Kaatrinile Varum Geetham''Brindhavanathil Kannan Valarndha''Giridhara Gopala'{all from Meera}and"Engum Nirainaadha Brammhame '{Shakuntala}.
     My most favoured songs of M.S.S are,'Kuraiyonrumillai Maraimurthy Kanna'and 'Kaatrinile Varum Geetham'.The latter, I believe, would neatly transport us into a world of absolute  ecstasy.There is a deep sense of longing reflected at the beginning of the song, with the nuances of the fabulous voice, travelling through multi layers of emotions and culminating with a state of union with Peace.It is a kind of song that pierces the soul and heals it with simultaneous hitting and soothing notes.What more can a God sent voice do, other than absolving one's mind of all its curse and offering it consummate joy, parallel to bliss?A voice becomes a legend with its inner rhythms, rightly laid by the breath of divinity.It is this spiritual intricacy that has made the voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi, the most desired of all voices and the one closer to the threshold of the Sanctum Sanctorum.
    The voice of D.K. Pattammaal is on the other hand bound to the soil, as one purifying the air we breathe in,the water we drink,the earth we are born on and the fire that passes through our emotions.Moreover,her perfect and exquisite rendition of Pallavis, rightly earned her the title Pallavi Pattammaal. If M.S.S could sing to the ears of God,D.K.P could lift her voice up to the skies and sing in praise of her country and the national flag.Hers was a bold patriotic voice and hence the songs of Maha Kavi Subramanya Bharathi, gained greater impetus and the power of patriotism,through her inspiring voice.
    Apart from her song 'Dhesa Sevai Seyya Vareer'{Thiyaaga Bhoomi},which was written by Kalki R.Krishnamurthy, the other patriotic songs like 'Vetri Ettu Thikkum''Aaduvome Pallu Paaduvome'{Naam Iruvar},'Thoondir Puzhuvinaipol'{Vedhala Ulakam} and 'Bharatha Samoodhaayam Vaazhgave'{Vaazhkai}were all from the mighty pen of poet Bharathi, whose poetic cry for freedom,feminism and patriotism would ever remain not only as the beautiful part of Tamil literature, but also as the documentary evidence of the poetic fervour of nationalism. The other immortal song of Bharathi that Pattammaal sang was,'Theeraadha Vilaiyaattu Pillai' {Vedhaala Ulagam}.It is a still mystery how all the songs dedicated to Kanna {Lord Krsina} are supremely pleasing to the ears.This one in particular from DKP's scintillating voice, would remain as the earliest and most delightful piece,sung in praise of Kanna.
   Interestingly Pattammaal has also sung the song 'Vaishnava Janato' for Kamalahasan's Hey Ram under the musical composition of the music prophet Ilayaraja and she subsequently made her artistic contribution to the 'Jana Gana Mana Video Album' composed by the A.R.Rehman, the Oscar winner.It was no wonder that DKP too was a recipient of the PadmaVibushan, Sangeedha Kalanidhi,Sangeedha Saraswathi and quiet a few other awards.
    M.L.Vasanthakumari,the junior most among the three, was a singer with a stentorian voice mould.She could vigorously sustain her position as an invincible play back singer, for nearly two decades.She had a governing voice among the three singers,with which she could effectively compete with male singers like C.S.Jeyaraman,{'Kaani Nilam Vendum Parasakthi Kaani Nilam Vendum'from Andaman Kaidhi and'Manjal Veyil Maalaiyile' from Kaveri},T.M.Soundarajan {'Aadaadha Manamum Undoe',from Mannaadhi Mannan} Sirkazhi S.Govidarajan{'Mohana Renga Ennai Paaradaa' from Maamiyaar Mechiya Marumagal,'Aadum Arul Jodhi', from Meenda Sorgam and the light minded song 'Manasukkulle Marachuvaikka Mudiyalle' from the film Thilakam} and with V.N.Sundaram {'Chinnanjiru Kiliye Kannammaa' from Manamagal}.In all these songs referred to, she would have proved to be a tough challenger for the male voices.Particularly the song 'Aadaatha Manamum Undoe' would show a marvellous merging of the male and female voices in seamless unison and would ever remain as an impeccable song.
     The most exciting solo songs of MLV are 'Ayya Saami Avoji Saamy'{Ezhai Padum Paadu} 'Kadhavai Saathadi' {Ratha Kanneer} 'Aadal Kaaneero','Senthamizhaa Ezhundhu Vaaraayo' {both from Madhurai Veeran},'Konjum Puraave' {Thaai Ullam},and 'Kalaiyodu Kalandhadhu Unmai'{Mannaadhi Mannan}.MLV's songs with other female singers were equally popular with the audience those days.With P.Leela MLV sang the immortal song Ellaam Inbamayam {Manamagal}.She joined Radha Jeyalakshmi for the soothing number Olipadaitha Kanninaai Va Va{President Panchacharam}and with Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi she rendered  the fabulous song 'Varukiraal Unaithedi' for the great Sivaji Ganesan film Thanga Padhumai. 
    MLV would have sung the maximum number of songs in films like Raja Mukthi,Manamagal, Raja Rani,MandhirikumariThai Ullam,Maamiyaar Mechiya Marumagal and a couple of more films. The ruling voice of MLV has fittingly conquered the musical kingdom of Tamil Cinema, by her forthright grasp of lyrics and dynamic rendition of the musical notes, to the extent of making her songs, eternally fascinating.Her consistent and remarkable career of  playback singing, certainly deserved more awards than a mere Padmabushan. But her voice will be heard enchanting the ears of music lovers, with robust vibration.
   What has been said here in this brief article, is not going to supplement in any way, the status of the classical trinity of music, which has solidly established its indisputable brilliance,through peaks of performance and perfection.But it is just a modest attempt or a spec of the vast sky of the grandeur of music, perceived, rejoiced and remembered through the decades and is going to last, as long as human ears are open to the musical notes of the exalting, angelic voices.Today, we have words without music, or music without words.There are creditable lyricists and commendable music makers.But somewhere something goes wrong, either depriving the lyrics of the merit they deserve, or distracting music from the precious goals it wants to reach.There is a huge galaxy of singers with enormous potential, to reach out to the audience.Unfortunately, the end result does not outlive the period of its delivery. Under these circumstances, this article has given me a chance for revisiting the awe inspiring and resplendent relics of our traditional portals, by recalling memories of the classical trinity of music.

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