Ilayaraaja scored music for about 50 films on an average a year in 1992 and ’93. Of these, quite a few might have gone under the radar of the more popular ones he composed (Thevar Magan, Mannan and the likes), more likely put downable to the law of averages. However, some more films of his from that time did penetrate the smaller towns/villages with success and have since gained a cult in the online forums and media which champions Raaja’s works. Among such albums, I’d personally put ‘Chinna Thaayi’ as an important work. I am from Chennai and discovered this album about a year and a half back. But there is something rustic about this album that hits you between the eyes and musically, it is refined and is up there. It is very different from the music we hear today. I don’t mean that in a bad way but this is in no way inferior to the best we hear today and is worth digging into. Highly recommended from my end. Raaja again uses his expertise in Western Classical Music here to orchestrate folk melodies set to Carnatic ragas and the genres meet to have a talk with him. I shared Naan Eri Karai in the 17th post of the blog. There is one more massive number worth discussing from the film, KOttaya Vittu Vettaikki Pogum Sudala Maada Saami.
Sudalai Maadan is a deity of the villages and is often depicted with a sword soaked in blood in the icons (pardon this rather elementary depiction) and has quite a legend behind him. I’ll come to that later. So we have the heroine going back in her dreams to her adolescence where she, I’m guessing from a downtrodden family, wishes to play with the guys and they refuse to entertain her and break into a song invoking Sudalai Madan. A Nadhaswaram with the thavil almost sounds anthemic. So does the tune. It is slow in rhythm but eminently dance-able. Raaja uses Mayamalawagowlai here. He has used the raga before in Madura Mari Kozhundu Vaasam in ‘Enga Ooru Paattukaaran’ and Maariyamma in ‘Karagattakaran’ vis a vis folk songs. The latter song shares the feel with this song, in that it evokes a deity and runs high on passion. But we have kids here sharing their juvenile game in the temple and the by-lanes. But since we also have the deity, the song is in sync with the situation and evokes the spine tingling associated with such deities linked in their own fine way with village life aside from us ‘getting’ the fun here. The girl continues their song as they struggle and joins them in the fun. Uma Ramanan’s nasal voice goes well with rendering the kids’ version.
The interlude has the Nadhaswaram continuing the anthem. The charanam with the kids has them pleading their downtrodden situation with the girl being the ringleader and you get an idea of their left leaning scoff at the society but quite interestingly ending all that with a prayer to the God. Raaja’s tune goes well, especially at the rising veettukku veedu on to ellaarum vaazhvum seeraaga vENUm, the passion in the prayer with the folksy nature all coalescing in. I wonder how he managed that. The next interlude is again monophonic with the flute and piano on to the charanam. A hallmark of the music here is the uncomplicated arrangements touching a chord with the folk music. As the next charanam arrives, the rising pitch and the passion that gets translated with the tune there sits like a glove with the kid playing Sudalai Madan singing those lines and fits the deity up on a deserving pedestal from ennAttam saami. Lovely Raaja!
As the now-a-maiden girl’s mother breaks her dream and asks her to fetch water, we see her hanging over from the song of her childhood and drumming the rhythm on her kudam. Raaja aptly brings in the ghatam (rhythm instrument that is like a pot) to provide the beat. Goes beautifully with the moment. A word on the ghatam. It is an instrument interestingly made of the 5 elements. Earth, to make its structure, water to bind the earth as a pot, fire to make it hard, air which goes inside the pot and creates the music as one plays and space which fills the pot. Back to the song, SPB begins the adult version from the now male Sudalai Madan. It is short and serves well to kindle her nostalgia and provide a connect in them. QED.
Towards the end of the film, as the hero and heroine have a child before marriage and the society demands that he marry a girl of his status, the villagers prays before the very Sudalai Madan and has the hero dancing while the heroine sings a desperate version. S Janaki does the honors and the anthemic feel turns into a passionate plea, kind of bordering on the feel in the Maariyamma song from ‘Karagattakaaran’. The tune changes gloves and fits just as well with a more complex orchestration here with the violins screaming the girl’s plea and S Janaki is terrific. The interludes are well done with the Nadhaswaram in a high pitch going with the girl’s helpless state and the violins on top of the Nadhaswaram going to underline the seriousness and the fury associated with the deity as the hero dances in a counterpoint. Raaja makes use of his WCM understanding here to drive the nail to the head with ballast that screams Raaja all the way and finally as the hero gains his senses and unites with his girl, the Nadhaswaram which hung on desperately with the girl weeps in delight with the hero and it ends well.
My point on Sudalai Madan was that he is believed to be Parvati and Shiva’s son in some legends in interior TN wherein Shiva asked Parvati to pick a spark in the nether world and it was a lump of flesh when she went and that Shiva converted it to a baby. The situation of the heroine finally as she clings on to the baby does justice from the writer’s point of view to Sudalai Madan and Raaja breathes life into the climax with all his brilliance.
Audio Link: Since there are 3 versions, pick the songs from the album here. Give the other songs a listen too. Worth your time: http://www.raaga.com/channels/tamil/movie/T0001558.html