Archive for the ‘MKT’ Category

Album Reminiscences – 8 – Sivakavi

I wrote this on Facebook a few months back. Posting it here today on the remembrance day of MKT.

I lost my paternal grandfather when I was ten. It wasn’t a long time but I guess I was the luckiest among my cousins as the ones younger to me did not even get a chance to see him. My elder cousin being my Aunt’s daughter, would only visit for holidays and special occasions. I was the who grew up with him.

When I look back, there are two things that spring back into my mind. One was the Ramayana stories he used to tell me while putting me to sleep the other was the songs he used to sing. When he was not doing his daily Pooja or working in the garden, he would be singing.

My first memories of songs such as ‘Krishna Mukunta”, “Gnana KaN”, “Pavala maal”, “Dhina Karunakane” were all through his singing. I had heard ‘Satva Guna Bhodhan’ and ‘manam kanindhe’ before I knew ‘Eppo Varuvaro’ and ‘Jaga Janani’ existed. I cannot remember if my grandfather’s rendition was able capture all the nuances and breathtaking flashes that MKT has rendered. But I can safely say they were good enough to make a deep impression for life!

I remember in Third standard, there were only a handful of students in class because of rains. Regular classes were off and children were engaged in activities such as singing. Everyone was singing film songs and when my turn came, I started singing “Sivaperuman Krupai vENdum” much to the amusement of the rest of the class. That was the first song that came to my mind. Ignorance is bliss isn’t it? Today, with whatever little knowledge I have, will I even dare to even hum those pristine contours of ‘Surutti’?

As I mentioned earlier in this series, my dad used to live in Salem while we were in Chennai. The cassette player was put to use only when he visited. He had recorded a couple of TDK 90 tapes with MKT songs. He probably liked MGR adn Sivaji songs more than MKT’s. But he made it a point to play those tapes. Probably that was his way of showing his affection to his father.My grandfather passed away in 1989.

I had drifted away from MKT’s music until I met Balaji in College. Balaji was a happy go lucky guy. He was famous for his leg breaks that turned a mile at great pace and infamous for not showing up for exams. I used to hang out at his place on the days we had a cricket game in the ITI grounds. One day he asked me, “Why is it that I’m not able to appreciate carnatic music?”. “May be because of lack of exposure”, I said. He was quick to retort, “But MKT is my favorite singer. I have all his songs”, and showed me his collection.

We didn’t bother about his appreciation of carnatic music and we started listening to his MKT collection regularly. He was particularly fond of the swara prastaras in Rajan Maharajan.

Balaji famously cleared over 21 arrears papers in the final semester and to everyone’s surprise took over his father’s diamond business. I had moved to the US for my higher studies and we lost touch. I came back in 2003 and found a job in Bangalore. Within a few months, I got a call from Balaji.

He said he was in Bangalore as well. He had a rift with his dad and quit the family business. He was staying with his friend and had enrolled into a course so that he could start career in IT. He managed to find a job quite soon and settled down in Bangalore.We would meet frequently and that was the time VCDs had started to fill the markets. We tried to buy as many MKT films as possible and we used to watch them whenever we met. It was then I discovered that there were so many beautiful renditions in the film that were never released in tapes.

Even now, I cannot claim to be an expert. My friend Vishnuramprasad Vasudevan keeps springing up a surprise rendition that I had missed in my earlier listening time and again. But I did realize that the full movie recordings had several gems that I hadn’t been exposed to.

Sometime in 2005, I was hanging out in Westside when I received a call from my college friend Mani. He was in panic. “Did you know Balaji passed away”I couldn’t believe my ears. I immediately called Balaji’s number. Someone did pick it up and confirm the bad news. He had choked on a chicken piece and before his roommates could react it was too late. We had watched ‘Sivakavi’ together just the previous week.

I’m choosing Sivakavi as the album for today to celebrate my grandfather’s memory and Balaji’s spirit.The immortal songs like ‘Vadhaname chandrabimbamo’ (Opening the floodgates of a genre called ‘Cinema Sindhu bairavi), ‘Amba Manam Kanindhu’ (Much later, S.Rajam would recall with awe on how MKT would repeatedly practise and would ask every possible member in the crew on what they thought of his rendition before the final take), ‘Appanai Paadum vaayaal’ (That slightly irritated mocking expression was the one best suited MKT as an actor), ‘Soppana vaazhvil’ (the only Vijayanagari in films that I know of), (Nattaikurunji fame) ‘Naattiya kalaiye’ are too well known for me to write about.

I’ll focus on the renditions that usually don’t make it to the audio track compilations.I hope to watch the movie some day while taking serious notes on the music. For now, let me list my thoughts while I refresh those renditions from my memory.

There is a scene where MKT sings just for himself, sitting on porch, a namavali on Shiva without any accompaniments. There is not even a tambura sruti to accompany. When he sings ‘Shambo Shankara Gowrisha’ the purity of his voice makes you wish that the rendition never ends. When he sings the ‘gowrisha’ it feels as if on a real hot day an unexpected spurt of cold water is sprinkled on you. The stream is just strong enough that you don’t get drenched but get freshened!

In that scene, Jayalakshmi who had acted as his wife reaches the porch before the last line is rendered but waits for him finish the last sangati before she starts her tirade on him. Avid film lovers may find this comical, I’m sure music fans will appreciate her for her patience.

There are many film songs based carnatic ragas. While many of them are for sure based on classical ragas, the song structure is such that it is more ‘filmy’ than ‘classical’. I say this without any disrespect to the composers or the songs. They are in a genre on their own. While one can enjoy it, it will be tough to classify them as classical music. The beauty of MKTs renditions, especially in viruttams, are that they presented in a way true to the classical idiom.

Let us take the couple of Viruttams that he renders when he kills Kalingarayan’s horse and later brings it back to life through the power of his poetry. Kedaragowlai and Gowlai are the ragas rendered for these viruttams respectively. Every bit of these viruttams is a immaculate representation of the raga.

A couple of years ago, a fanatic of Ilaiyaraja questioned, “until Ilaiyaraja came is there a film that used Gowlai in it”. I couldn’t help but point to him this viruttam. I’m sure he hadn’t heard it. Even if he did, he would dismiss it as just a viruttam and not a “film song”. Talking of firsts, my favorite raga used in films is Sarasangi. I believe there is none like Ilaiyaraja who had used this raga in such diverse yet beautiful connotations. I used to think he was the first one to use it in films until I heard the viruttam “Kooththaal than mooththaal” in Sivakavi.

Sarasangi strikes you in a fleeting moment (just like TNS’s sarsangi in the ragamalika song ‘Engal Kannamma nagai’) before MKT launches into a lovely Kanada. To mu knowledge, this is the first appearance of Sarasangi in Silver screen. There is a stunning ‘Ananda Bhairavi’ in the scene that follows.

There is a beautiful Sahana in ‘Dhamiyen painthamizh’. The problem in ragas like sahana is such that if you choose to sing them in a slightly sprighty kaalapramanam, you will not have the necessary space to embellish the swaras to bring out the raga beauty. It is like in cricket, unless you have the time and space you cannot execute the shot to your liking. But then there were batsmen like Brian Lara who always seem to have that extra split second to execute the shots which other mortal players would find it difficult. MKT manages to pack so much in so little time creating an impact of a chowka kala kriti rendition.

This is already reading out to be a long post – let me end by mentioning the fantabulous viruttam that leads to the end credits. Ragas Kalyani, Mohanam, Shri, Dhanyasi, Sama, Saranga, Saveri and Bhupalam.

Just like in the song ‘Vasantha ruthu’ in this film, the raga names are embedded in the lyrics.

S.Rajam would say, “You guys can never appreciate the film renditions of those days. We had to render the complex of the sangatis in fastest of kalapramanams. But we were supposed to do it without any exaggerated or unpleasant body movements. We had no luxury of recording in a studio and do a lip-sync during the shoot”. If you get a chance, listen to this viruttam with the point Rajam sir makes. I’m sure you will be incredibly astonished!

The film starts with a ragamalika song, ‘Pozhudhu Pulardhu’ in Bhupalam and the final ragamalika ends in the same raga creating a beautiful loop.

A loop that you could play over and over continuously!

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MKT 100

ஏழிசை மன்னர் எம்.கே.டி-யின் நூற்றாண்டு நேற்று தொடங்கியுள்ளது.

எம்.ஜி.ஆர், ரஜினி போன்ற மூன்றெழுத்து சூப்பர் ஹீரோக்களுக்கு எல்லாம் முன்னோடியாக விளங்கிய எம்.கே.டி-யின் நூற்றாண்டு இவ்வளவு அமைதியாகத் தொடங்கியிருப்பது நம்ப முடியாமல் இருக்கிறது!

பாகவதர் நூல் எழுதிய ஜெ.ராம்கியுடன் சில முறை எம்.கே.டி பற்றி சக விசிறியாய்ப் பேசியுள்ளேன். அவர்தான் மின்னஞ்சல் அனுப்பி நினைவுபடுத்தினார்.

பெற்றோர்கள் வேலைக்கு செல்பவர்கள் என்பதால், அதிகம் நான் தாத்தாவிடம்தான் வளர்ந்தேன். என் அப்பாவின் அப்பா பெரிய எம்.கே.டி ரசிகர். நன்றாகப் பாடக் கூடியவர். காலை எழுந்தது முதல் எம்.கே.டி பாடல்களாய் பாடிக் கொண்டே இருப்பார். சிறு வயதில் எனக்கு சிவகவி பாடல்கள் எல்லாம் அத்துப்படி. யாரேனும் பாடச் சொன்னால் “அம்பா மனம் கனிந்து” என்று ஆரம்பித்துவிடுவேனாம்.

எனக்குப் பத்து வயதாகும் போது தாத்தா மறைந்தார். அவர் மறைவுக்குப் 10 ஆண்டுகளுக்குப் பின் கர்நாடக இசையில் ஆர்வம் ஏற்பட்டது. அப்போதுதான் மீண்டும் எம்.கே.டி பாடல்கள் கேட்க ஆரம்பித்தேன்.

ஹரிதாஸ், சிந்தாமணி, சிவகவி பாடல்களை நூற்றுக் கணக்கான முறை கேட்டிருப்பேன். “கவலையைத் தீர்ப்பது நாட்டியக் கலையே” பாடலைல் சுழற்று சழற்றி சங்கதி அடிப்பார் பாருங்கள்! ஆஹா…எத்தனை முறை கேட்டாலும் அலுக்காது.

இந்த ஆண்டு முழுவதும் நூற்றாண்டுதானே! நிச்சயம் அவரைப் பற்றி உருப்படியாய் எதாவது எழுத வேண்டும்!

தமிழ்ப் பத்திரிக்கை உலகும் விரைவில் விழித்துக் கொண்டு, ஒரு மாபெரும் கலைஞரின் நூற்றாண்டை சிறப்பான முறையில் கொண்டாடும் என்று நம்புவோமாக!

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