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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Listening Kaadhalukku Mariyaathai

My admiration for Ilaiyaraaja’s background score in Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai grew when I got a chance to watch the original Malayalam version of the film (“Aniyathi Pravu” Music Composer - Ouseppachan). We often talk about films getting elevated by Ilaiyaraaja’s background score. His score in Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai is one of the best proofs of that. It also reassures the fact that the directors do not have much of a say in the quality of background score that Ilaiyaraaja writes for the film. It is the quality of the content that dictates the quality of Ilaiyaraaja’s background score. This film is another example for how better Ilaiyaraaja understands the medium of cinema than anybody else, and sometimes his is better than even the director of the film.

Ilaiyaraaja has used almost all of the background music scoring techniques that we most admire of his, in this film. The melodies of the songs become motifs of the film's background score. A unique aural identity is given to the film, with the musical score having a coherent tonal pattern throughout the film. The omnipresent music precisely follows the shifts and cuts in the moods and actions on the visuals. The music is entwined with the film so much so that one can never say whether the background music or the film in itself have in it, all that it takes to move a viewer, as emotionally as it does.

Melody of Songs as Motif – Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai is one of those few films where the melody of a song has all that is necessary to be the main motif or love theme of the score of the film. It needs as much experience and expertise as Ilaiyaraaja to use these melodies, repeatedly, at the right moments in the film, but without any of it sounding monotonous. After having composed a beautiful melody like Ennai thalaatta Varuvaala, any composer would be tempted to use it to the maximum throughout the film. There is a difference, when Ilaiyaraaja does it. Ilaiyaraaja clearly knows that job of a score composer is not just playing lovely music in the background. Background music scoring is putting apt music. Ilaiyaraaja achieves aptness in score effortlessly with his orchestration skills. He orchestrates the same melody in varied ways to fit with the slightest of changes in the subject on which the main motif travels on throughout the film. The subject could be an emotion, a gesture, a character, a place or a recurring situation in the film. The variety in orchestration is one reason why we do not get bored of the recurring musical themes in Ilaiyaraaja’s films. Ilaiyaraaja’s romantic songs always have a melody, which could evoke both exhilaration of moments of hope and the doom of the moments of despair. One could use it for either mood, and it would aptly fit. The melody of the song Ennai Thalaatta Varuvaala is as romantic as it can get when used for romantic scenes, and is as painful as it can sound, when used to underscore the pain of separation.

Ilaiyaraaja always creates a unique pattern or palette of sound for the film with his background music. There are so many sounds that are unique in the background score of Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai. The most notable one being Ilaiyaraaja's prominent usage of synthesizers for the first time in his career. The mix of Ilaiyaraaja’s melody and Synth sounded so fresh and unique. In fact the main love theme of the film has a signature Synth layer on loop. Though Ilaiyaraaja has used a lot of Synth stuff for the first time in this film, he does not allow the vastness in the variety of sound that Synth provides, to overtake the soul of the melody. Ilaiyaraaja has tried to bring out emotions even in these Synth sounds. The sound of flute and violin used all through the film is not the typical ones that we hear in other films scored by Ilaiyaraaja. The use of Bhavatharini and Arun Mozhi’s vocals is also very different; they sound like echoes of emotions from the deep inside the mind and soul of the characters.

The most fascinating of all aspects of Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai background score is the precision with which Ilaiyaraaja punctuates the visuals with his music, and the mind-boggling details in each layer of the orchestration. With his precision and detailing, Ilaiyaraaja captures even the slightest of details in the visual narrative of the film. This precision is the biggest differentiating factor and the reason why Ilaiyaraaja’s Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai is more emotionally engaging than Ouseppachan’s Aniyathi Pravu.

To understand the monstrosity of Ilaiyaraaja’s score, one has to move beyond from the generic overall perceptions to the specifics of music and its meanings in each and every scene of the film.

The full version of this article can be read in the book "Moods of Ilaiyaraaja".

P.S:- I understand that this was quite tough. Anyway here is the answer


Anonymous said...

Fantastic Writeup Suresh Kumar, It was a different experience to read and listen to the background music at the same time - I can understand lot of hard work has gone into this collection and writeup - Hats Off!

- N. Chokkan,

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

N.Chokkan - Glad you liked it. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Excellent.. felt like watching the movie again..

babu.yaah@gmail.com said...

Hi Sureshkumar,

It was such a pleasure reading your comments and listening to music at the same time. Your comments were as good as IR's music itself. It was like a guided tour to see the moon from a beach on a full moon day, though, one doesn't need a guide for it, i enjoyed reading your comments for sure. I swear.
The music in the climax is just too much to handle with one single mind & heart and I almost reached a nirvana state towards the end and you are all right in your observation, expression and the choice of words. Honestly, i felt like i had a mini mental orgasm just before the climax music ended. ;-)

Thanks to you and please keep up the good work and please never stop writing such columns. It was a pleasure.


P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Babu - Thank you. True the climax music is one of the greatest of Raaja.

Glad that you enjoyed this article. and yes there is more to come.. keep watching this space..

Aakarsh said...

Brilliant Post.There is so much of science in Ilaiyaraaja's music. So much of logic and art that i really wonder if anyone can come anywhere close to him.I pity all those film-makers who have good film making skills and still dont go to the best man in this country for background score - Ilaiyaraaja.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Aakarsh - Thanks.

Such good film makers, want to have a full control over their craft, they think they know the background music they want for their film. So, they prefer to work with composers who are flexible, who would take the suggestions and work around them. With Ilaiyaraaja, one can never do that.

Unknown said...

Oh my Goodness, I am ashamed i dint realise the value of bgm this much deep. If to make music is by genius, to make others reflect and relish each bit by bit, you are genius too..
Really lot of work has gone into it and more than that, could feel how much pleasure you would be getting out of this..

Ganapathy Ram said...

//My admiration for Ilaiyaraaja’s background score in this movie got doubled when I got a chance to watch the original Malayalam version of the movie (“Aniyathi Pravu”. MD: Ouseppachan).///

yeah i had the same feeling after watching the climax of 'Anyathipravu'
and that made me realise how raaja brings a diffrence also hear the Hindi version if possible , though ARR had done it i felt tamil was more better , but my ignorance with Hindi language might be a reason , so i leave it to u to decide

Ganapathy Ram said...

hey forgot to introduce myself , i'm the one guy from trichy who mailed u days before

krishnakumar said...

excellent job....! I didn't see or hear this type of person like you loving cine music....especially BGM. keep posting...