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Today’s song is a rare masterpiece. In a time when IR was delivering, on an average, 100+ commercial hit songs per year for almost an entire decade (making for a staggeringly prolific 1,000 odd hit songs in about 10 years), it was natural that we might have missed a few outstanding songs. The passage of time has meant that my generation may not have come across a lot of hit songs too (I haven’t myself). Taken in that context, today’s song, based on the discussions I’ve had on it with folks, can be certified as an underrated and unheard song by today’s standards. It is Naan Oru Pon Oviyam KaNdEn edhirE from ‘Kannil Theriyum KadhaigaL’. It released in 1980, had Vadivukkarasi and Sarath Babu in the lead and this song stands rendered by SPB, P Susheela and S Janaki, 3 terrific singers at their very best.

The song is in the womb when Sarath Babu and Vadivukkarasi realize a possible love. By the looks, she seems to be a girl who is a poor villager while he seems to be rather posh. As she is speechless, we hear a veena strumming Mohanam. He’s used the raga before to express overflowing joy in a Pongi Porale/Engum NiraindhaDheem Tha Dheem Tha (‘Pagalil Oru Iravu’). It is a little different here in that while he had to compose for a couple and a woman excited by love respectively in the 2 mentioned songs, we have the hero and a girl in the throes of love and later in the song, the hero is joined by another woman who he might be in love with. An intriguing situation. Back to the start, the veena strums and leads the pair to a dream where the girl materializes out of a carved pillar from the backdrop of Gangaikonda Chozhapuram’s temple. Pianos materialize to underline this dream-birth and the start. Flute and violins come in with their staccato notes as she comes out of the pillar. Mridangam, with the salangai beating in, provides the rhythm as multiples of the woman arise from different pillars and dance. A violin rush capping that phrase leads to a venna leading the dream-girl out into reality and the song warms up too. Raaja gives what the narrative demands but there is so much of brilliance in what he gives. That his creativity overflows in a commercial medium like films makes him very special.

The Mridangam and salangai provide the beat for the violins and veena to add their melody leading to the pallavi and SPB begins. Prelude is often the foreplay with IR for he teases you and then lets it go. As the chorus sing Pulamaipithan’s lines at iLamai, iLamai, inimai idhu pudhumai, the same can be applied to the music too. The pallavi is uncoventional, out of the box and unlike any at that time, especially those passages at kavidhaigaL ezhudhidum abhinayam. The second time the chorus pitches in, IR decides it is time for the interlude. A veena and Mridangam take us till a jalatharangam (?), an instrument played by filling a bowl like container with varying levels of water (jalam) that decide the sound and playing beats on it with sticks, and a violin carry the melody forward with a Mridangam and a flute to lead to another quick violin rush on to the charanam. Amazing stuff.

The charanam is again very unpredictable with SPB and P Susheela first ascending the octaves and then indulging in a rapid fire round in a delightful siru oodal viLayaadal… pudhu vidha anubhavam and as we expect the pallavi, it unexpectedly moves on to P Susheela singing anubhavam repeatedly with the chorus coming in for a counterpoint and leaving her to finish the line in a superb detour. P Susheela does the honors of the pallavi and we have violins, salangai, Mridangam, chorus to glide through Mohanam with such harmony in மோகனம் that is out of the world.

The second charanam has S Janaki and SPB for Sripriya, the other woman, and Sarath Babu. As they follow the unpredictable path on to the pallavi where SPB softens at kaNdEn edhirE, bringing all his bhava before a dream girl he can’t see but the hero is supposed to, you melt. But wait, the song which has been playing with us thus far asking us to catch up hits mother load in the third interlude. We forget everything and as the raga seemingly moves to Kalyani (65th in the Melakarta and 29th in the Prati Madhyamam scale and Shankarabharanam, Mohanam’s parent, is 29th in the Shudha Madhyamam scale. Meaning, Kalyani and Shankarabharanam differ in only one note. Mohanam lacks that note that is the difference between its parent and Kalyani, which is the Madhyamam (Ma in Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni). Also, it lacks the Ni, which is there in Kalyani and by adding these two swaras, IR seamlessly glides into Kalyani for a stunning graha-bhedham (discussed graha-bhedham before in Kavidhai KELungal and Vaidehi Raman in this blog, songs 43 and 44)). Top notch and as the chorus bring in overflowing joy, there is a quick counterpoint with PS’s voice. There is a flute too that brings in Kalyani from the heavens and with a Mridangam leading the song back to Mohanam in the third charanam with the 3 characters and SPB, PS and SJ in tow for this to complete the song, I feel a பொறி தட்டல் inside my head as to how he conceived and more importantly, pulled the third interlude off.

Infinite Genius!

Audio Link: http://www.raaga.com/play/?id=154583