This post shall list a few videos, my take on each one of them and a few objective observations on each. For those who have not seen these videos, it would be interesting. For those who have, you may enjoy connecting the dots. You will know why at the end. Read on.
First is a video from 1986; Singapore. Ilaiyaraaja is with Gangai Amaran in a concert. He speaks of his views on ragas, being a musician and how he approaches a song from a contrarian view which, inexplicably for us, churns out beautiful art. He does so with astounding irreverence which comes with nuance, making me find it enjoyable. Do watch it:
Now that you’ve watched it, you would’ve seen that the piece de resistance of that video, as its title suggests, is him speaking of his partnership with MSV in Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu. He connects Vaan Meedhile from Chandi Rani, 1953, with Vaa Vennila from MTK, saying how he wanted a song like Vaan Meedhile and MSV composed just that, a song like Vaan Meedhile, which Raaja orchestrated.
Digression. Raaja confusing Vaan Meedhile with CR Subburaman does make sense. CRS passed away in 1952, aged a mere 41. He was committed to a number of films, which his assistants MS Viswanathan and TK Ramamoorthy would finish for him, and as history would record, notch up a partnership soon which would alter the way cine music was being composed and appreciated in Tamil Nadu. So the seeds were sown by CRS and MSV-TKR’s first film together, incidentally Sivaji Ganesan’s second film, was Panam in 1952, where he was paired for the first time with Padmini (incidentally directed by NS Krishnan, the famous comedian (that’s what he is famous for. But as you see, he was multi-talented)). It was indeed the first of a couple of unforgettable partnerships which has produced some high art for Tamil fans. But importantly for this post, CRS is also credited as a composer for Chandi Rani along with MSV and TKR, meaning all 3 had composed songs for the film, MSV and TKR after CRS’s untimely death.
Digression to the above digression. CR Subburaman also happens to be among Ilaiyaraaja’s most favorite composers. He will be remembered for quite a long time in history as the artiste who composed Bharathiyar’s Chinnanchiru Kiliye Kannamma (rendered by ML Vasanthakumari), for the film Manamagal, in 1951. That is the version of Chinnanchiru Kiliye we hear sung in Carnatic concerts today. So we have a song which was exported from cinema to classical music. Quite a CV to show the purists there. I am linking Chinnachiru Kiliye below in this blog, though Raaja is not connected to it, because a) he’d be proud, b) he is connected.*
* He is connected because he used the tune in his private album on Ramana Maharishi, Ramana Aaram in 2013, as a tribute to CRS and wrote and rendered the song himself:
End digression to digression. End digression.
Back to our topic of Vaan Meedhile and Vaa Vennila. Listen to both the songs here:
Vaa Vennila (Male):
Vaa Vennila (Female):
I add the male and female versions to purely impress on the difference in orchestrations in both the songs 😉
As you would now notice from Raaja’s live demo in 1986 from Singapore and the versions themselves here, tune wise, Vaa Vennila is not earth flatteringly different from Vaan Meedhile. No, there is not so much of even a subtle difference. It’s very similar. It’s an imitation, like Raaja tells us in this video from 2014 during Ulavacharu Biryani’s audio launch in Hyderabad (in Telugu, 28 years apart, the details don’t quite change, except for an interesting catch). So they basically remade the song because Raaja wanted to and it’s MSV’s song and he can do whatever he wants to with it:
Now the catch is, he speaks of how one can get genuinely inspired from a song, in this case, the same song. Listen to Oh Nenjame Idhu Un Raagame, Enakkaaga Kaathiru:
You see the difference here. We can fit Vaan Meedhile and Vaa Vennila’s lyrics in each other’s tune structures and we won’t know the difference (imitation). But we cannot fit either of these songs’ lyrics in Oh Nenjame’s tune structure (inspiration) and Oh Nenjame carries the idea of Vaan Meedhile ahead and creates its own, so to say, path.
The real catch? Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu released in 1986. Enakkaga Kaathiru released in 1981! He composed a song inspired rather subtly (if he didn’t tell us, would we know? No) from Vaan Meedhile before requesting for a remake from the original master, who was only glad to oblige.
PS: The title is not a homage to the rhyme, but a homage to Thangapadhakkam’s climax, which was a homage to the rhyme.