Such a mind-boggling truth, isn't it? The colossal world of carnatic music has so much more to it than the December season, Silk sarees, Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Manasa Sancharare, Thiruvayaaru, and canteen food.
The beautiful patterns in which swaras are weaved in thousands of Ragas, the intricate calculations and combinations of Thaalam, the witty and challenging yet graceful sangathis, the lovely Bhaavam of each Raaga that makes us fall in love with music itself, the joy that comes from producing or even listening to a perfectly timed Kalpana Swaram including more than one Jaathi- these are feelings that words cannot completely express.
Tamil Cinema has undoubtedly played a vital role in making the wonderful world of Carnatic music reach the masses. It started with old black and white movies that featured legends such as Smt. ML Vasanthakumari and the wonder lady Smt. MS Subhalakshmi. On the other hand, Carnatic Music has enhanced the story telling of movies and helped show various colours of cinema. Each Raga represents a specific mood and Tamil Cinema has exploited this beautifully.
Let's look at the King of Directors, Mr. K. Balachandar. Apoorva Raagangal is a masterpiece, music set by none other than Mellisai Mannar MSV that so beautifully explains the so very complicated characters using music, be it Adhisaya Raagam where our young hero proposes to his love whom he sees as an "Adhisaya, Azhagiya and Apoorva Raagam" or Kelviyin Naayagane where Bhairavi (Srividhya) asks Prasanna (Kamal) about the huge confusion in their relationship as "Indha Kelvikku badhil yedhayya?" Both songs are set in Ragamalika because one Ragam is just not enough to convey the abundance of emotions in the film.
Two songs that show the brilliance and pride of the Lord Himself and a singer who thinks he's the best and loses his ego later occur in the movie Thiruvilaiyaadal composed by legend KV Mahadevan. A man (Balaiyya) shows his expertise in the field of music in the wonderful song "Oru Naal Podhuma?" set proudly in the Ragas Maand, Kalyani, Thodi, Darbar, Mohanam and Kaanada, all of which scream confidence. He is later humbled by yet another wonder, "Paatum Naane, Bhaavamum Naane" set in Godly Gowrimanohari where our Nadigar Thilagam shows off his wondrous acting as a one-man concert.
Thillana Mohanambal revolves around the art of Dance but I can confidently say that it is incomplete without the evergreen songs. Naatya Peroli Padmini as Mohana slyly asks her love Sikkal Shanmugasundaram, "Maraindhirundhu paarkum marumam enna?" in Shanmukhapriya and caringly asks him, "Nalam dhaana?" in an apt Nilamani as he recovers from a gunshot.
Let's see an example that shows that Carnatic Music can create beautiful love. Here's a story of a wife who doesn't know anything about Carnatic Music but desperately tries (and fails) to learn, her husband, a great Carnatic Vidwan who falls for another girl who publicly humiliates him on stage but later develops a bond with him based on (you guessed it right!) Carnatic Music. Sindhu Bhairavi is yet another gem that glorifies Carnatic Music in the best ways possible. Who other than Maestro Ilayaraja to produce undying pieces like Poomaalai Vaangi Vanthaan and Kalaivaaniye? Kalaivaaniye set in the magnificent Raagam Kalyani is made up of only phrases of Aarohanam to show the redemption, the upward direction in the character arc of JKB.
I cannot simply not talk about my Thalaivan AR Rahman when I'm talking about music. Though terribly underrated, Sarvam Thaala Mayam is one must-watch and must-hear album for all Carnatic Music and Rahman fans. In this movie, we can see how far the drive to learn Carnatic Music pushes the son of a poor Mridangam maker to travel the entire world, gain experiences and in the due course, learn the hidden nuances of playing the percussion. The music set by Rahman only increases the goosebumps that we already get from the wonderful shots of Rajiv Menon.
Kandukondain Kandukondain shows the beauty of the very base for Carnatic singing- the Tambura. The pure bliss on Meenu's face when Major Bala introduces her to music classes sums up and portrays the happiness of every singer when they listen to a concert or hear the pleasant sustenance of a Swara along with the Tambura.
How can we ever forget our loving Bhavani aunty shout "Nyaana soonyam" at Adhi who is oblivious to the art she loves. She is later convinced by Tara's "Malargal keten, vaname thandhanai" which acts as a piece of nostalgia for both her and her Tambura. I can keep quoting similar examples on and on. Carnatic music definitely has helped Tamil Cinema a lot in expressing a variety of emotions.
From Marudhamalai Maamaniye Murugaiyya, to Mannavan Vanthaanadi, Maargazhi Thingal Allava, Alaipayuthe Kanna, Kannaamoochi Yenada, Narumugaiye, the list of such timeless classics goes on and on.
I grew up learning Carnatic music alongside kids wearing pavadai chattais and valayal. Music classes were one of the best parts of my life. Till today, finding carnatic songs in films gives me joy from listening, analyzing the intricate details in them and getting awed by the usage of the various Swaras and Ragas. The beautiful art and the Ragamalika that is Tamil Cinema never fails to awe me and never will.
Yours Truly,- Anushrutha Ravikumar