Kadhal Oviyam | Alaigal Oivadhillai

The song in itself is kind of composed as a fusion. A fusion between carnatic and western depicting the situation – a couple from two different caste falling in love. The song starts off with a fusion between a vedic recital and a church coir. However, what was super interesting to me was the interlude 2 in the song.

A base Guitar is supported right from the beginning of the interlude till the end. The interlude starts off with a vocal (like sung in a coir). While the vocal is being sung, a bunch of Voilins start supporting them in the background. At around 0:16, a Veena starts playing and that’s when the fusion really starts to blend in. As the Veena continues to play, the support from the base Guitar continues bringing in the fusion. And then, two sets of Voilins take over. One in the foreground receiving ample support from a bunch of Voilins in the backround along with Cello/Double Base.

I have listened to the Veena/Guitar fusion portion and the Voilins that follow countless number of times. There is no complexity in the composition. Not like 8 layers of music that we are used to these days. A Veena and a Base Guitar. Every one of those countless times I have listened to this, it instantly a sense of aweness and some eternal connect. Something that you cannot describe. Something that I get only from Ilayaraja’s compositions.

I saw this movie may be 25 years ago and didn’t really appreciate it. Never bothered to see it again. But the movie in itself was one of the top rated Tamil movies bagging a lot of awards. And of course the album is still hugely popular. I guess “Aayiram Thamarai” and “Putham Pudhu Kalai” (which was recently reproduced digitally for “Megha”) are popular amongst fans. But “Kadhal Oviyam” still stands out to me for its beautiful composition, the fusion it brings and of course great singing by Ilayaraja and Jency.

Nalam Vaazha | Marupadiyum

For any Ilayaraja fan, this song definitely would be in the top list. The movie itself is a emotional one (one of my favorites of Balu Mahendra) and this song is pretty emotional too. During those tough moments in life, you can easily fall back to this song to get some emotional support. The song has some beautiful and very powerful lyrics. While the first stanza kinda focusses on how people could change over time and you should just move on, the second focusses more on how things can be better in future.

Viralgalai thaandi valarndhadhai kandu
Nagamgalai naamum narukkuvadhundu

Kadalgalil uruvagum alai aanadhu
Vizhuvadhum pinbu ezhuvadhum iyalbanadhu

It’s as if a friend is around you consoling that things would be better from now on (may be I get that feeling because of the long lasting impact of the picturization of this song)

Interlude 1

While the song in itself is so good, here’s the first interlude.

I am not going to go in to the details to describe this one. I think it’s kinda self explanatory. It’s a simple flute & voilin combo. The best part of this interlude is, it just doesn’t interfere or change the tone of the song very much. It just continues the soothing effect (the friend consoling you) which was the premise of the song in itself.

Interlude 2

This one is no different in terms of the simplicity – instead of a flute + voilin combo this one is a guitar + voilin combo. Starts out with a simple guitar composition but when the voilins start, you kinda get a chilling effect in your spine. And these are played as pretty long strokes – putting the intensity in you slowly so that it leaves a long lasting impact on you.

I am sure you have the entire song in your collection. Go ahead. Play the song in your headphones. Take that lonely walk. Lie flat and look up to the skies. You are bound to do some soul searching.

Engirundho | Brahma

Well the movie Brahma doesn’t need any introduction to tamil movie lovers. Specifically Goundamani fans. The movie is a riot with Goundamani as Valayapalayam Chinnasami creating rousu in almost every scene he is in. Who can forget the “Mother Superior…Suppariya paaku poduvangala..?” scene which ends with Sathyaraj unable to control laughter even in the final cut that got released in theatres. While that’s the first thing that everyone gets reminded about Brahma, the movie had one beautiful composition as well. The song “Engirundho Ilankuruvi…”. There are two versions of this song – a female version sung by Janaki and is the introductory song for Kushboo in the movie and a male version sung by S.P.B. This post is about the latter.

Prelude

This is one of the few songs of Ilayaraja which has a beautiful prelude.

The prelude is just a simple arrangement of a Piano at the foreground and bunch of violins in the background. The piano starts the prelude and quickly a bunch of violins follow around 6 seconds. Around 10 seconds, the Cello joins them and the emphasis starts on the Cello. If you relate this to the scene, the time when the Cello plays is when the heroine gets shocked on the tune that is being played and clearly the Cello is used to emphasize that. The prelude alternates between the Piano and the Violins to alternatively depict the tune played by the hero (and what Kushboo had heard when she was a child) and the shocking moment of recollection of her memories.

Interludes

Here are both the interludes:

 

Both the interludes use one of the highly underrated aspects of Ilayaraja’s music – chorus. He uses chorus in songs and also in BGMs (remember the scene in Nayagan when Kamal loses his wife from the balcony and the scene where he sees his son’s body from the same balcony?). These interludes also use chorus extensively to convey the intensity of the flashback scenes. The first interlude starts with the chorus playing a longish “Aaaaah…” with very simple use of trumpets. And it is this chorus which occupies most of the first interlude.

The first one to me is just another Ilayaraja affair. But it is the second one which I am big fan of. The first 10 seconds are just a standard guitar/drums/trumphet combinations that is widely used by many composers and isn’t such a big deal. But just give a close listen around 13 seconds when the trumphets finish off. You will hear a bunch of voilins at the background adding to the emphasis and around 19 seconds is when the magic starts unfolding. A chorus of “Ha ha haa haa ha ha…” sung at a base tone adequately supported by the Cellos starts. This is pure magic created by simple use of Chorus that creates a profounding impact on the listener. The chorus instantly communicates an intense situation in the song which is later shot as a scene where the child is in danger of getting killed by the villains.

Obviously, we may not appreciate this when we listen to this separately. The impact of the effect is realized when you see it along with the picturization. Most people appreciate Ilayaraja for BGMs. While composing BGMs the composer would have seen the footage, would have understood the entire scene and then composes the BGM (I am nowhere under estimating Ilayaraja here btw). Where it blows my mind is this: these are interludes, which are present in songs that are composed before the scenes are shot. The composer has the opportunity to listen to what the director describes as a scene and has to come up with something as powerful as these. I think this is where Ilayaraja the genius really shines – the ability to grasp what the director imagines as a scene and comes up with a song that becomes a classic of its own. And those times were his peak where he would have recorded an entire movie’s songs in couple of days.

Go ahead and see the song again in YouTube (linked below) to get the impact. Did search quite a bit for a good resolution video with a good audio but this is what I could manage to find:

Ennullae…Ennullae… | Valli

Well, I am not a fan of this particular movie even though it had Superstar in it (who wrote the script and screenplay). I remember the hype around the movie as it was written and produced by Superstar, Latha Rajinikanth had sung in the movie (and guess she composed a song as well). It bombed in the box office!! But it had one beautiful song composed by Ilayaraja. “Ennullae Ennullae” is such a beautiful song and an emotional one sung by Swarnalatha (How I wish she had sung more and lived longer!!). While the song captivated me the very first time I had listened to it back in the 90s, I got even more addicted to it very recently due to the composition of the interludes.

Interlude 1

As a bunch of violins start, there is a gentle play of either a Cello or a Double Bass in the background. And around 11 seconds when the violins in the foreground starts peaking, the background starts getting filled with those taps of Cello/Double Bass. The flute joins them. And around 28 seconds all of the come together. The Cello/Double Bass give a wonderful finish to the composition. Yet another brilliant composition. The best part is, these compositions were done in the the digital/stereo era and we are now able to hear the nuances of the composition very well (unlike the ones he composed in 70s and 80s which were recorded in mono)

Interlude 2

This one is as good as the first one. The pattern is just awesome – a few violins start and as they hit towards the end of their portion, the Cello/Double Bass further extends by playing like a quick “Sine Wave”. A long Sine Wave by the violins followed by a short Sine Wave by the Cello/Double Bass 🙂 This gets repeated twice. Around 12 seconds, as the violins hit the peak, the gentle taps on the Cello/Double Bass happen just like Interlude 1. A Trumpet/Shehnai type vocal instrument joins to give a perfect finish to the composition.

To me, both the above compositions are definitely in the levels of “Symphony Orchestra” that gets immensely appreciated. These feel divine when you listen and can be composed by someone who is completely at peace inside. These compositions had originated in his mind, he has translated them as notes and given to individuals who just played their part. And for him this song would have been “just another song composed on yet another day”

ps: There is actually a pretty lengthy prelude in the song itself which is mainly composed of the traditional Kerala “Chenda Melam”

pps: Both the interludes end with a female chorus. Despite multiple listens, I somehow didn’t like both the chorus. I feel it lowers the overall quality of the entire composition (like a Dhrishti). Of course, he is the master and the genius and he would have every reason to have that. Just that I didnt like it. I included in the first one above (so that you can listen and form your opinion :)) and deliberately removed in the second

Here’s the full song if you are interested in listening:

pps2: What a lame picturization for the song (try watching it in Youtube). And how such a genius composition gets lost in a crappy movie like Valli!!

 

En Vaanilae | Johny

I think Johny had one of the best sound tracks in those times. Every song in the album was a hit (and is still) including the famous “Aasaya Kaathula”. The song “Kaatril endhan geetham” was one of the best songs sung by Janaki. While the songs themselves were good, I am particularly intrigued by the interludes of the song “En Vaanilae…”

Interlude 1

Here’s the first one. Just give a full listen to this one. May be couple of times

This one starts with just few gentle piano strikes and the solo voilin takes over. And for the next few seconds there is a good healthy exchange of this voilin and flute. At around 14 seconds is when the magic in the composition starts to happen. The solo voilin plays for a good 5-6 seconds. If you listen around 20 seconds, the solo voilin plays a quite longish stride and as it does that, there 3 to 4 different sets of voilins in the background play alternatively. This form is repeated once more where the solo voilin completes it stride and then the background voilins finish too leading to a naugthy play between the piano and the voilins finally ending with the piano strikes. This is the kind of magical composition that Ilayaraja was doing back in those days. This, in my opinion is the type of orchestration that simply made him the genius he is. This kind of orchestration in songs doesn’t happen these days anymore. And in the western world, these type of orchestration happen for background scores primarily. Ilayaraja was doing these back in those days and people seldom outside the film fraternity (and that too who took very close of his music) appreciated these.

Interlude 2

This one is quite good too. Not as good as the first one for me. The initial flute portion is just awesome in this one. It’s one of his romantic high tune I would say. It’s just a tune that instantly conveys the feeling of either both or one of the lovers are feeling the ecstasy of being in love. That’s followed by a voilin orchestration that is so typical of Ilayaraja. Of course, that portion is awesome too. It’s just that he has set such a high bar for himself and the music that he creates that these type of composition just feels normal to the listener.

Both these interludes still remain one of my favorites. Imagine yourself witnessing these creations happening in his studio. Especially the interlude 1. Imagine you witnessing Ilayaraja providing notes to all his orchestra members. Each of the members practicing their part. Ilayaraja asking may be each one to play their part (I am assuming that’s how its done. I could be completely wrong). You are an observer just observin all of these and figuring out where all these individual pieces are going. And then the magical moment starts unfolding there – a take where everyone plays their part as they were instructed and you witness one of the magical creations. How I wish, I could go back in time and witness these in person. If I had a choice, I would just plead Ilayaraja to just let me be an observer in his recording studio every other day.

ps: While I loved these interludes and the song in itself, I felt the way the song was picturized didn’t do enough justice to this. Yes, the movie was directed by Mahendran but somehow felt that the picturization was just lame. Showing flowers, mountains and Rajni running in slow-mo? Here’s the video of the song in case you want to see how the interludes appeared in the movie. I am fairly confident nobody would have even given a damn to those magical pieces of music

 

Paruvamae | Nenjathai Killadhae

When it comes to interludes, the first thing that comes to my mind is the song Paruvamae from Nenjathai Killadhae movie. Of course, this song is one of the cherished songs by Ilayaraja fans. It just instantly refreshes you, especially if you hear it in the morning. You would just be taken off in to that morning “jog in the fog” moment. While the song in itself is awesome, both the interludes in this song is even more awesome.

Before you read further, a quick disclaimer. I do not know the specific terms used in music – like I haven’t learnt it professionally to write the description/analysis using specific terms. I would write them in plain English as if a layman would describe it in-person. I am fairly confident that I would probably be miserable in describing everything that happens in these interludes (there is always so much happening) in plain English. It’s pretty difficult to describe feelings in writing; for his music are more of feelings anyways.

Interlude 1

Here’s the first interlude:

It starts with a gentle guitar for few seconds and while the guitar is playing the foreground, the violins start in the background and then eventually the violins take over (as in most of his songs). When the violins take over, while you hear them, there are Cellos and Double Bass joining in the background. How I wish that Stereo, Digital Recording were present during Ilayaraja days. Most of the base sounds are completely lost in his recordings and its left to the careful listener’s imagination to absorb those. The theatres in those days were also not equipped with great sound systems and nobody would have had the pleasure of listening to these.

Interlude 2

Here’s the second interlude:

The second interlude is even more interesting. The violins start the interlude and starts fading out in about 10 seconds. The keyboard strokes continue for few more seconds and they fade away. The flute takes over and a Cello or Double Bass tapped through fingers join the background. While the flute continues to play in the foreground, the violins start in the background eventually leading up to an awesome mixing of two set of violins – one set starts and peaks, the other one start from the peak and reach the base.

I think these interludes independently are a great listen. You interject them into a romantic tune, the song becomes one the classic that would linger in the listener’s mind forever. And that’s probably what had happened to “Paruvamae…”.

I…Interludes…Ilayaraja

I have been long thinking about this. Blogs about Ilayaraja. I get immense pleasure in just listening to his songs – so would anyone who has grown up hearing his music. Even today, across generations, his songs are the ones that people jump on to when you are in love, when your love broke, a lullaby for your toddler, on that long drive, on that lonely night when your mind is on random thoughts. So much that his songs are an essential part of your life. And so much has been already written, discussed and debated about this genius. Beyond songs, one of the other important things that people relate to him is the background scores that he has composed for his films. I could be biased, but till date no one has come even close to Ilayaraja’s background scores. A very simple scene gets elevated to a powerful one because of his background scores and he is highly rated for these scores.

One of the lesser appreciated things about Ilayaraja is the interludes in his songs. While most people appreciate the songs for the overall composition (tune) and the background score in movies, not a lot of people appreciate these interludes – the music that’s between the stanza’s of a song – the ones that come between Pallavi and Charanam. And also the preludes – the music at the beginning of the song, before the Pallavi starts. Often I have found that these interludes and preludes are as awesome as the background scores that people appreciate Ilayaraja for. There is so depth in these interludes and preludes, so much orchestration (generally violins) that you can enjoy them independently of the song.

This blogpost series is going to be an attempt in collating all such magical interludes and preludes that he has created for all those 1000s of songs. Those interludes and preludes that elevate the songs to a different level. Sometimes, the song by itself may not have been a huge hit and would have gone unnoticed by many but the interludes of those lesser known songs would have been a masterpiece by itself. Couple of callouts though:

  • I have no vested interest in making money out of these blogposts. The reason why I am saying this is, the songs that I have collected (from which I would clip out specific preludes and interludes) are from internet sources. I definitely do not own the copyright for those and there is no intention to violate copyright here
  • I do have a vested interest. To centrally collate such interludes and preludes and tag them. So that, I can revisit them anytime and start listening to those magical creations. Because he has potentially created 1000’s of such interludes and preludes, it is hard for me to remember all of them in my memory (which is anyway starting to fade away with age). So, I wanted to have a digital memory which I can access anytime. Hence this attempt – one that has been long pending
  • Those who stumble upon these posts, I would encourage you to listen to these interludes and preludes through an earphone or a headphone. You would appreciate the sheer genius in these interludes only when you listen through an earphone or a headphone – a good one would be preferred. As such, most of his compositions are available in mono (not even stereo) that the depth is lost. You would definitely not appreciate these if you hear through a laptop speaker or a cheap earphone
With that, off I go. Let me start working on the first one and come back soon on the first post in this series. And hopefully, I am able to continue this series in a sustained manner to create that digital memory that I have been wanting to create for a while.

 

Mannipaya…

…from Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya. Another awesome melody from ARR. And probably the only song that I know till date which has piano running through the entire song. Guess its Stephen Devassy at work. The song starts with lots of piano and as Shreya Goshal picks up stunningly it would appear as if the piano stops. But if you happen to listen using headphones and give closer attention to center-right of your head, the piano portion stay almost for the entire length of the song.

And I don’t know how Shreya is able to render this song such flawlessly. I used to remember when she started singing in Tamil she used to miss a lot of “zha”. But that is probably because of Yuvan since he himself doesn’t pronounce “zha” properly. Since then, Shreya has improved a lot and I am really wondering how she is able to change her pitch / tone according to the lyrics and sing this one so beautifully. I am even more wondering how ARR would have explained all these to her and got the job done.

Needless to mention about ARR’s portion of the song. He almost picks up fast numbers or high pitched songs when it comes to singing by himself. When it comes to melody where most of the songs are sung at lower pitch, ARR does it at slightly elevated pitch – examples include Dil Se Re, New york Nagaram and this one. And when he gives a fresh tone for the “Anbirkum Undo” thirukkural, it creates such an impact on you. And guess that “Anbirkum Undo” and other thirukkural portions are probably samples of the “Thirukkural” album project that he and Blaaze are working on.