Mysskin coined the term “Munnani Isai” (foreground music) for Ilaiyaraaja’s score for Onayum Aatukuttiyum. Mysskin claims that Ilaiyaraaja’s music by itself can narrate the story, and there is no need for the visuals. I am not sure if I agree with that assessment. Ilaiyaraaja did demand us to make our own movie in our mind with his experimental instrumental album The Music Messiah, where you don’t have any visuals to help you decipher the narrative arc. You paint your own image in your mind from the music, deriving from your past experience of watching movies and listening — consciously or unconsciously — to a film score. The Music Messiah is the score of a film that never got made. I know that themes from the Malayalam film Guru has been used, but I haven’t seen Guru. And I could hear cues from Pithamagan too. However, I don’t think Ilaiyaraaja wants us to relive those movies while listening to this album. You could say that listening to Onayum Aatukuttiyum score or any score before watching the movie is like listening to The Music Messiah album.
I don’t think Ilaiyaraaja believes that his music is enough to experience a movie. If he does, why would he add all those sound effects — the first cry of a just-born baby, noise of people clamouring in a battle field, temple bells, birds’ tweet and chirp, etc., Ilaiyaraaja knows that the background score is applied music, it is applied on a narrative, on a set of images in motion, on the rhythm and emotions of the visuals. He knows that a stand-alone narrative music needs the sonic equivalent of a visual to help a listener understand the situation the music is set for, and only when all these elements come together in perfect synch and synergy the musical narration is complete.
If you listen to the Onayum Aatukuttiyum score without watching the film, I am not sure if you could experience that lump in your throat, when in the score, string section crawling on its knees to complete its thematic melody we have been familiarised throughout the film is chopped off abruptly as the character the theme represents falls to death in the climactic moment in the film. In this particular scene, the experience is complete only when you watch and hear everything that is happening in the moment. You have to be in the world the film maker has visually created for it to impact you in a way it intends to, and in this case when the music chokes to silence precisely when Mysskin drops himself on the floor breathing his last — you have to witness to appreciate the what is possible when there is a perfect marriage of the motion in the visual narration and the music.
Perhaps, Mysskin means to say that you have to watch the film with the music once and just once. The next time when you want to travel through the arc of emotions you went through on first viewing, it is enough if you listen to the cues from the score in the order in which it is played in the film, you can paint the visuals of the film in your mind. And that I agree with. I do that regularly with so many films scored by Ilaiyaraaja. The way the next piece was presented and performed in the concert vindicates my theory of the music with motion picture having a much greater impact than what the piece of music did on its own thus far.
Few months ago, when the concert was first announced, a short film contest was also announced, where budding filmmakers were asked to visualise a piece of music (Track 2 - Paradise) from Ilaiyaraaja’s instrumental album The Music Messiah. The best movie would be screened in the concert with the music performed live to the projection of the film. They chose a piece which is more abstract, which doesn’t have any sound effects to directly imply the mood or the situation the music is set for. I have never heard anything like this before. I have heard people editing scenes according to the music (John Williams’ Flying Theme in E.T), but making a whole movie for the music, and it is not a music video of a pop song, it is purely instrumental music.
A cute 2-D animation film on the world of ants was screened with the orchestra performing the piece live to the projection of the film. The movie is about how a group of ants carry a small piece of food, crosses various obstacles on its way and reaches home. There is dancing on the beat. There is comedy. There is lot of action with living and non-living things that stops the ants from reaching their destination and they are in sync with the percussions and brass parts of the piece. There is a lot of flying that goes with the whirring strings and flappy flute layers in the piece. There is a key layer in the piece that keeps a sense of motion intact throughout and that fits well with the walk of the ants that relentlessly walks on its path in sync with this layer to reach their destiny. The movie was colourful, entertaining and water-tight just like the music it was made for. The most musical of scores are now being written only for animation films. I am not surprised that they choose an animation movie, but surprised somebody thought of making an animation for the music instead of some abstract live action montage with footage of natural greeneries and I am sure there were many such submissions. Marriage of the visuals and score was perfect that it felt like Ilaiyaraaja wrote the piece Paradise for the movie that was screened in the concert.
To Be Continued...