I attended Ilaiyaraaja’s tribute to MSV yesterday. I loved it. Yes, a few anecdotes were old ones (not for all though. A friend who attended told me he hasn’t heard any anecdote anywhere before. So, that way, I’d already say the anecdotes have already served their purpose; by reaching out to folks who haven’t known it). But there were a few songs, anecdotes and nuances that were new for me. And boy, did they blow me away. I can only speak for myself and as a fan, I came away wanting more. To quote இனிய நண்பர் @atlasdanced who accompanied me, ‘பிறவிப்பயனை அடைந்தோம்’. A few more pointers before I give the list of the songs and share Raaja’s views and my observations on those songs that impacted me yesterday. Some songs were unusual and rare. Some of them were from the early-mid 50s. And quite a lot of the songs weren’t the usual MSV/MSV-TKR platinum collection hits (though there were a few). But it is worth noting what Raaja said. To paraphrase, “We composers don’t hear music the way you hear. I may not like the music you like. Any music has to teach me something for me to like it.” The way I see it, these were songs that made his childhood memories with MSV and his musical sensibilities and not our necessarily our memories/sensibilities. Quite aptly, “Ennullil MSV” and it was deeply personal, with insights from Raaja’s own life and how MSV shaped it. And what greater pleasure for me to just watch Raaja and watch him talk to us live?!

The list of songs:

  1. Ulage Maayam, Devadas (1953)
  2. Kanavidhu Dhaan, Devadas (1953)
  3. Vaan Meedhile, Chandi Rani (1953)
  4. Mayakkum Maalai Pozhudhe Nee Po Po, Gulebakavali (1955)
  5. Naan Andri Yaar Varuvaar, Maalaiyitta Mangai (1958)
  6. Ooru Sanam Thoongiruchu, Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu (1986)
  7. Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile, Bhagyalakshmi (1961)
  8. Mayakkama Kalakkama, Sumaithangi (1962)
  9. Thanga Radham Vandhadhu Veedhiyile, Kalai Kovil (1964)
  10. Viswanathan Velai Vendum, Kadhalikka Neramillai (1964)
  11. Paalirukkum Pazhamirukkum, Paava Mannippu (1961)
  12. Nenjam Marappadhillai, Nenjam Marappadhillai (1963)
  13. Nilave Ennidam Nerungaadhe, Ramu (1966)
  14. Sentamizh Naattu Solaiyile, Sugam Enge (1954)
  15. Kannil Thondrum Kaatchiye, Sugam Enge (1954)
  16. Aadaadha Manamum Undo, Mannadhi Mannan (1960)
  17. Aadai Katti Vandha Nilavo, Amudhavalli (1959)
  18. Vaan Nila Nila Alla, Pattinapravesam (1977; Audience request)
  19. Paattukku Paatteduthu, Padagotti (1964)

I enjoyed the way he started it. Of course, he began by quite literally worshipping MSV (having the chorus sing Gurur Brahma and him proceeding to sing Maasatra Sodhi, quite metaphorically, it doesn’t get more personal than that!) and then proceeded to shed light on MSV’s early days and how Govardhanam (composer of Andha Sivagami Maganidam, ‘Pattinathil Boodham’) and TG Lingappa (composer of Chithiram Pesudhadi, ‘Sabash Meena’) took musical notes from CR Subburaman for the left side of the orchestra while MSV and TK Ramamoorthy took notes from the right side. It is in this context that CRS passes away while leaving a few films incomplete and MSV-TKR team up to finish them but the film releases in CRS’s name. So while their first release was ‘Panam’ in 1952 (Sivaji’s second film and his first with Padmini and directed by NS Krishnan), ‘Devadas’, that released in 1953 had the first song done by MSV, which is Ulage Maayam Vaazhve Maayam and that was performed first. As always, Raaja is a man of legacy and it couldn’t have started better.

Vaan Meedhile had the by now well-known anecdote (which yours lowly has also ranted on here). An interesting tidbit is Mayakkum Maalai Pozhudhe was a song composed by KV Mahadevan (vaguely remember reading this somewhere) for ‘Gulebakavali’ but the song was credited to MSV-TKR. The next song was a discovery for me. The song is a screamer and had shades of Indraikki Yen Indha Anandhame in its tune. I can sense why it would’ve impacted Raaja so much. The song is Naan Andri Yaar Varuvaar. The melody at least, to me, sounds modern in its structure, though firmly rooted in a classical framework, rendered in a concert hall in 2015. We the audience and music fans pin MSV-TKR modernizing Tamil film sound at 1961. Like always, it was sobering for me to imagine that for Raaja, it could well have been the early 50s when he sensed modernity (in hindsight of course as a composer, going back to “I hear music differently compared to you”) in MSV-TKR’s music. I sense the song has 2 different pitches (correct me if I’m wrong), one in the pallavi and the other in the charanam. Singing it, TR Mahalingam and AP Komala wow, is made effortless but we could see how the singers on stage had a tough time starting. But once in, Sriram Parthasarathy totally nailed it.

It was followed by Ooru Sanam, the pinnacle of the MSV-IR collaboration in my opinion, another song which to me (correct me if I’m wrong) has 2 pitches for the singer and one cannot not think of S Janaki while listening. In fact, Raaja had very high words for SJ towards the end while talking of MSV’s shehnai player Sathyam. He brought the 2 to mention what amazing breath control they have. Sathyam could play an entire stretch of music with 2 Avarthanams in one flow without pausing for breath and S Janaki in Dhoorathil Naan Kanda Un Mugam after 15-16 takes having to scale the swaras to Panchamam got it right in the 16-17th take. Raaja happy, said ok but SJ wanted to go for one more, making Raaja wonder if we’d see one more like her. “பாக்க முடியுமா? இவங்கள பாக்காம இருக்க முடியுமா?” were his words, consistent from his praise for her over the past several years. I don’t think Janaki needs a higher certificate.

The piece de resistance for me was Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile. He had his grandson Yatheeshwar play a Bach movement on the piano and went on mention the privilege he has at 14, adding in his teenage, he was exposed to this:

His insight was amazing. The song is written to a pattern of எழுசீர் விருத்தம் by Kannadasan, meaning each line has 7 words.

Maalai, Pozhudhin, Mayakkathile, Naan, Kanavu, Kanden, Thozhi.

Manadhil, Irundhum, Vaarthaigal, Illai, Kaaranam, Yen, Thozhi

This has its roots in hardcore தமிழ் இலக்கியம் but Raaja’s insight went home with me when he mentioned how the poet makes it accessible placing a message for the society through the film’s widow at “இளமையெல்லாம் வெறும் கனவு மயம் இதில் மறைந்தது சில காலம், தெளிவும் அறியாது முடிவும் புரியாது மயங்குது எதிர் காலம்”. He relates it to his life as a teenager, “ஆமா இளமையெல்லாம் சில காலம் போயிடுச்சு, எதிர்ல நிக்கற நிகழ்காலத்துல என்ன ஆக போகுது?” True for every generation of human species. Profound from Kavignar, yet told about just-like-that. இந்த பாட்டோட அர்த்தம் புருஞ்சாலும், அதுல இருக்கற இலக்கிய மரப சுட்டி காட்டி பாட்டுல இருக்கற காலத்த தாண்டி நிக்கற ஆழ்கருத்த கோடிட்டு காட்டற அந்த இது தான்… இதுக்கு தான் யா ராஜா தேவ. எனக்கு இங்கயே concert’s money was worth.

Having spoken about raising profound questions worth introspecting, he proceeded to sing a song that answers to questions himself, chiding himself for making mistakes and apologizing to MSV’s mural on stage as he sang, Mayakkama Kalakkama. He moved on to the next song saying this song inspired Kavignar Vaali and that he could speak on this song for hours. Allow me to indulge by paraphrasing from my memory of what Vaali spoke, from an interview to Podhigai in 2011.

The song ought to be understood by following the lyric’s logical growth. Each line answers the previous line. The pallavi Mayakkama? Kalakkama? Manadhile Kuzhappama? Vaazhkaiyil Nadukkama? is followed by the charanam Vaazhkaiyendraal Ayiram Irukkum, vaasal dhorum vedhanai irukkum. It answers to the soul who answers yes, vaazhkaiyil nadukkam dhaan to vaazhkaiyil nadukkamA? But how is it hard to not get depressed when a 1000 problems stare at you would be the next question. That is answered by vandha thunbam edhuvendrAlum vAdi ninRal Oduvadhillai. But how do you not be fazed? Edhaiyum thaangum idhayam irundhaal irudhi varaikkum amaidhi irukkum. So the poet ends this stanza by stating that troubles that plague you leading to a 1000 problems which lead to depression are best countered by having a heart that bears everything. But how does one have a heart that bears everything? Ezhai manadhai mALigai Akki iravum pagalum kAviyam pAdi. That’s how you get a heart that can bear anything. But how do I make my heart a palace if I’m not assured of the next meal? NaaLai pozhudhai iRaivanukkaLithu nadakkum vAzhvil amaidhaiyai thEdu. Ok… but… unakkum keezhe uLLavar kOdi ninaithu pArthu nimmadhi nAdu. Every previous line was a masterly buildup to this final denouement. And how much must Vaali have been impacted to understand it in all its entirety!

This song was followed by Thanga Radham Vandhadhu Veedhiyile, sung by Balamuralikrishna, which Raaja stated was a song praised by BMK as a song equivalent to any krithi. First time for me, a late 20s youth. தன்யன் ஆனேன். Also, this song evoked a Kaalai Nera Poonguyil in me. Not sure if this is an inspiration since Raaja did not specifically say so. But I can see how evidently it has influenced him.

Another anecdote/nuance that had me aahaaing (though I’ve heard it through hearsay long back but witnessing it live from the man himself was something else) was when he sung Salil da’s Aaja Re from ‘Madhumati’ (1958). Beautiful song.

This later inspired the great Madan Mohan to create his very own Maayi Re for ‘Dastak’, a score that would fetch him a National Award no less. Interestingly, both films had the same editor, popular filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

Raaja sings Aaja Re again and gives an example of how MSV was inspired from Aaja Re as…

இதுக்கு தான்யா எனக்கு ராஜா வேணும். What followed was even better, with him singing what his brother Pavalar Varadarajan sang using this song’s tune for Communist propaganda,

Er Pidikkum


Nilam IrukkAdhu… in the tune of Paalirukkum. Perfect stitch.

What’s even better is the tune is in ArOhaNam, i.e. ஏறுமுகம். And he begins the line with Er Pidikkum… Rapturous applause! What I found endearing was when Raaja mentioned him singing this to Kavignar who was wowed and Raaja was moved to tell us (not his exact words but close enough), “இதை எல்லாம் அவர்கள் இடத்தில் பாடி காட்டி ஆசீர்வாதம் வாங்கும் பாக்கியம் எனக்கு கிட்டியதை நான் பெரும் பேராக கருதுகிறேன்.” A similarly outstanding substitute lyrics for Viswanathan Velai Vendum had us in splits. The Osai nayam (words fitting in the tune) was quite outstanding from Pavalar there. Deserves to be seen on TV.

He moved on to the amazing Nenjam Marapadhillai, borrowing the exact same thoughts from here, with the addition on the lines that do not seemingly make sense (watch the video) having Kannadasan’s denouement of quoting Auvaiyaar saying “a wrongly written song can be set right with the right music.” Raaja would later quote MSV too saying “சங்கீதத்துக்கு நான் பொறுப்பு, சாகித்யத்துக்கு நீங்க பொறுப்பு (Kavignar).”

Sentamizh Naattu Solaiyile was another song that I was listening to first time. I would tell @atlasdanced again on how modern the melody sounded, rendered in 2015. Amazing discovery, I have Raaja to thank for. Yes, old school lilt but just think the whistles to start the song and the violin and flute harmonies briefly as Jikki and KR Ramachandran sing. And note the variations to the tune as the lines end from Jikki. Most lovely.

Someone can correct me if I’m wrong but I recall Raaja also linking this song stunningly to the format of a Mozart movement and stating both the music pieces’ sandham were the same! And it is unlikely MSV would have had access to Mozart back in those days to listen, process and imitate the sandham. Great minds do think alike, even 200+ years apart. Mind blown to be honest. Also, an expert can watch the concert on TV and decipher which Mozart movement Raaja played. புண்ணியமா போகும்.

Aadai Katti Vandha Nilavo was another discovery and mindblowing insights in my opinion. The song is written by Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram and Raaja mentions it to be kAvadichindu tuned in a modern format by MSV. Frankly, if Raaja hadn’t told us, I’d have no frikking clue this was a kAvadhichindu.

He ended MSV/MSV-TKR songs with Paatukku Paatteduthu. Amazingly, as average as the sound systems were in Kamarajar Arangam and the orchestration was minimal (keeping with the era), this song, as much as I have heard it before, appeared entirely in new light to me. Stripped off its orchestration, this song evokes Raaja’s melodies’ soul; 101. Raaja and his music I live with daily is in this song. I told so to @atlasdanced and he concurred. Do tell us if you concur too. I think I may have come slightly closer to feeling what Raaja might have felt about MSV right then. Mindblowing. Raaja mentioned this was the first instance Tamil music had a medley (musically speaking) in a single song.

The end with MSV’s family and Rajni is best experienced watching on screen. No amount of self-serving writing from yours douche would do any justice. He did end it with his own meta’est (for this stage) Sadha Sadha Unnai Ninaindhu Ninaindhu Unnil Kalandhidave Arulvaai. As a Raaja fan 101, too much. There were many more personal anecdotes and memories, quite a lot I’ve already heard and read and shared online before. எல்லாதையின் தான் டிவீல பாக்க போறீங்களே. இத ஏதோ எழுதலாம்னு தோனுச்சு. எழுதறேன். I think I have said all that I wanted to say. But none of this matters ultimately in front of the heartfelt tribute that translated to me and the musicality of a colossus revisited by another colossus. None of what I write or we say would stay. MSV’s music will. Raaja’s legacy will. I told @atlasdanced one last time; “எம்எஸ்வீ குடுத்து வெச்சவர். To have Raaja succeed him.” And he concurred.