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A man of all seasons - Veturi - 9
Srinivas Kanchibhotla

continued from part 8

The writing had been on the wall for quite some time, ever since the purpose of the songs has been downgraded to merely facilitating the lead pair cavort in colorful costumes against busy backgrounds. It was time that music took over the words to provide the constant variety and variation that makers looked for to draw attention to the songs, as noble lyrics no longer fit the bill. The period was late 70s. And up came a man from nowhere, who unseated lyrics from the high pedestal it was held on till that time, only to have it occupied with his catchy tunes and unique orchestration. Illayaraja's bursting on to the scene coincided with stagnant scenarios revolving around moribund themes that played against oft repeated tunes and orchestrations, hailing the same features and extolling the same virtues over and over again. And before long, his tunes set fire, his instrumentation shook up the ordinary, and his name took two industries by the storm, simultaneously. His emergence saw a clear shift in the focus and priorities in the songs, with words finally conceding their dominion to the notes. The interplay between the composer and the lyricist became really interesting, as it seemed as though Illayaraja threw down a gauntlet almost every time he finished composing a tune, for the lyricist to either accept the challenge and rise to the occasion or merely make way in deference to the tune completely and let it walk over the words. Either way, the song was serenaded with an exemplary tune, and if the words gave a fitting reply, the result was pure magic.


The tune breathes life in the veena, reaching its crescendo, the temple and the church bells tolling in unison, signifying the central theme of the movie and the chants of the vedic rituals wisely making way to the angelic voices of the choir. By which time, the deed of imparting a divinity to the moment of two people uniting in love and faith (not religion, but faith) is already done thanks to those instruments, all before even a single word hasn't been spoken yet. And Veturi doesn't let the soulful composition down, carefully dipping his words in piety and piousness. The words are welded to the tune with such a finesse that it becomes impossible figuring out which came first - the words or the notes

mATae mantramoo manasae bandhamoo
ee mamatae ee samatae mangaLa vaadyamoo
idi kaLyaaNam kamaneeyam jeevitam

The greatness of Illayaraja's prowess lies in his ethic of respecting the sanctity of the moment, more so when the context deals with the ethereal

kailaasaana kaarteekaana Sivaroopam
pramidhaelaeni pramadhaalOka himadeepam
navarasa naTanam jatiyuga gamanam
Sitagiri charanam suranari payanam

One has to bow his head to the mastery of the lyricist and the wizadry of the composer who matched one another into creating something that can only be described as heavenly, at best. Despite his prodigious talent in concocting intoxicating compositions with his clever picks of instruments, Illayaraja had the discretion of holding off on his exhibition, when all that the moment needed was simplicity. And so, it starts with a simple note, that seemed to have wafted down the time and generations straight from Lord Krishna's flute, as a clarion call to his maiden, before joining forces with a strings that seems to guide the call along the way. And Veturi takes over from there on

vaeavela gOpemma muvva gOpAluDae maa muddu gOvinduDae
aha annula minnala kannula vennela vaeNuvuloodaaDae
madi vennalu dOchaaDae

or even in this little ditty

taeTa taeTa neeru vOsi
taeTulalara poosi kOsi
chiguraakula nee vaeNulu
chidiminanta chiruvulaaye
O araaLa kuntala Sakuntala

None of these songs that held on to their sanctity, could have their words separated from the tunes or vice versa, and if they were to be recalled at a later date, the exercise starts not from the first word of the song, but right from its first note. At this level, there are no challenges/gauntlets/upmanships between the lyricist and the composer. It is a confluence, a harmony of the brightest minds with the greatest ideas.


Here, it wasn't so much as the nobility of the context, as much as the individual talents of the lyricist and the composer working together into rescuing the situation from slipping into the throes of oblivion and mediocrity. It is in this plane that they have operated the best in and in this area that they have shone the brightest. Consider the same cast of characters - Radha and Krishna - but this time, in an ultra commercial context. The words and the notes automatically adjust to this lowered pitch and out flows

madhura muraLi hRdya ravaLi
adhara sudhalu yamanu porali pongae yeda pongae
ee bRndaa vihaaraalalOnaa evarunnaaru raadhamma kanna

How about this staple situation in the commercial movies - hero and heroine missing each other - except the heroine has a respectable social stature and so the song has to carry it through, without being riff-raff. Not just respectable it becomes in

maLLee maLLee idi raani rOju
malli jaaji allu kunna rOju
jAbilanTi ee chinna dAnni
chooDakunTae naaku vennalaedi
aedO aDagAlni entO cheppAlni
aDigae aaraTamlO veLLalaenu unDalaenu aemi kAnu

but the song stands on its own independent of its ordinary context as one of most melodious duets of the modern times. In this zone, the words seek inspiration more from the tune than out of the context. The nicer the tune, the richer the words, and Illayaraja served up one after another, regardless of the quality of the movies and the makers. And on those rare occasions, when everything fell in place, the intentions, the motivations and the talents,

SukaalatO pikaalatO dhwaninchina madhoodayam
divee bhuvee kala nijam spRSinchina mahOdayam
marO prapanchamae marinta chaeruvai
ee vAdi pOyina ugaadi vaeLalO
gatinchipOni gAdha naenani || aamani paaDavae haayigaa ||

(how aptly the words describe the writer's and composer's working conditions caught up in the swirl of commerciality)


Sad, but true, as this is where most of the songs in their combination fell under. Not that the tunes were mediocre or the words forgettable, but the situations were too pedestrian to be tidied up. Nevertheless, the efforts persisted. Bring in a same flute and the guitar again, this time more for the rescue operations, and they try their best elevating not just the situation, but also the words

nee chaaTu sarasam choosi gubulu kaligae
nee naaTu varasae choosi valapae perigae
nee chaeti vaaTam choosi yedalae adirae
nee laeta meesam choosi vayasae valachae
nee mudda mandAralae muddaaDanaa
prati raeyi jata chaeri || nee meeda idayyO ||

And operating in this zone Veturi went on being funny, at best, and careless, at worst, ceding the bragging rights to Illayaraja, once and for all

rAma anTae nee praema bhAma anTae nAku praema
praema bhiksha naaku peTTarA
aaku pooja neeku nOmu sOku pooja nAku nOmu
janTa kinka ganTa koTTaraa || sree aanjanaeyam prasannaanjanaeyam||

pingu paangu baaDi
jingu shingu laeDi
taakitaenae piccha taakiDee
Tippu Taapu lukku
lippu meedu klippu
eppuDanTae appuDae reDee

limarikku lippu kappu sippu
appacheppu acchu tappu cheppu
lappa sOku appa jeppu lukku
chapparinta muddu peTTu chekku

gunTooru gOnguratO gummekae sOkandukO
nelloru varikooDutO nerajaaNa neyyaesukO
bandarlO laDDula tokkiLLatO
aha laaginchu lavleegA naa Dinnaru

The issue was as much the lack of imagination of the makers as it was Veturi's lackadaisical approach in dealing with such scenarios, but it was Illayaraja who waged his forces on every one of those situations, and eked out some token of respectability. The combination lasting for well over a decade brought the best out of Veturi, equally touching all the low points along the way.

koTTanDi tiTTanDi gillanDi gicchanDi
koyyanDi champanDi picchanDi nammanDi praemaa

Probably no other poet went to such an extent expressing what it felt to be in love, after all (for which the famous cartoonist, Mallik, rejoindered, 'replace the word 'praema' with 'dOma' (mosquito), and lyric would be apt for an advertisement for a mosquito repellant)

But when the tunes and the words (and the situations) fell in place, there was no other combination that worked as beautifully, spreading joy and bliss, to the singers and listeners alike

ennO raatrulostaayi gaani raadee vennelammaaa
ennO muddustaaru gaani laedee vaeDi chemmaa

ee tella cheeraku takadhimi tapanulu
raepaenamma sande poddullO

sande poddula kaaDa sampangi navvindi
anda gattenu chooDa jabilli vacchindi

nirantamoo vasantamulae
mandaramulaa marandamulae

Om namahaa adhara jatulaku
Om namahaa hRdya layakau Om

Subhalaeka raasukunna edalO epuDO
adi neeku pampukunna kalayO nijamO

....and many many more. And all this started with a gem of a compostion, in respect of both the notes and the words (swara koorpu - pada naerpu)

sundaramO sumadhuramO chanduDanTina chandana SeetalamO
malayaja maaruta SeekaramO manasija raaga vaSeekaramO

How self-describing!

Cont'd in the next part - the genesis - Veturi - K.V.Mahadevan.



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