Thursday, June 23, 2011

Music therapy - Ragas and their healing effects

Ragas and their healing effects

Abheri - Mental illness / Disturbance (heals the disturbed mind)

Ahir Bhairav - Hypertension, Indigestion, Rheumatic Arthritis

Anandha Bhairavi - Hypertension

Bageshri - Insomnia

Basant Bahar - Gall Stones (Cholecystitis)

Bhairavi - Rheumatic Arthritis, Sinusitis, Memory, Power and Energy

Bilahari - Stomach illness

Chandrakauns - Anorexia

Deepak - Indigestion, Anorexia, Gall Stones(Cholecystitis), Hyperacidity

Desh - Gives serenity, peace, inner joy, and universal love

Dharbari - Insomnia

Dharbari Kaanada - Asthma, Headache, Hysteria

Gujari Todi - Cough

Gunakali - Constipation, Headache, Piles or Hemorrhoids, Rheumatic Arthritis

Hindol - Backache, Fever, Hypertension, Rheumatic Arthritis

Jaijawanti - Diarrhoea, Headache, Rheumatic Arthritis

Jonpuri - Constipation, Diarrhoea, Intestinal Gas

Kafi - Sleep disorders

Kalyani - Fear (overcoming fear)

Karaharapriya - Depression / Worry / Distress / Neurotic disorders

Kausi Kanada - Common Cold, Hypertension

Kedar - Asthma, Common cold, Cough, Headache

Khamaj - Hysteria, Sleep disorders

Madhuvanti - Piles or Hemorrhoids

Malkauns - Intestinal Gas, Low blood pressure

Marwa - Fever, Hyperacidity, Indigestion

Mayamalawagowlai - Neutralizes Toxins & counters Pollution !

Mian Ki Malhar - Asthma

Nat Bhairav - Colitis, Indigestion, Rheumatic Arthritis

Poorvi - Headache, Anxiety

Punnagavarali - Anger and inner violence

Puriya - Anaemia, Colitis, Hypertension, Hysteria

Puriya Dhanashri - Anaemia

Ramkali - Colitis, Piles or Hemorrhoids

Rathipathipriya - Bitterness / ill wills (especially from married life)

Sahana - Anger and inner violence

Shree - Anorexia, Asthma, Common Cold, Cough

Shankarabharanam - Mental illness, Poverty (showers wealth !)

Shanmugapriya - Tiredness (energizer)

Shudh Sarang - Anorexia, Gall Stones (Cholecystitis)

Shyam Kalyan - Asthma, Cough

Sohani - Headache

Thodi - Headache, Anxiety, Hypertension

Yaman - Rheumatic Arthritis

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

director MAHENDRAN on Raaja sir

MAHENDRAN (Eminent Film Director, India)

I always believed that songs are a major burden to my script. But Indian viewers need songs, and you need to play to their demands. But thank god, i had raja to fall back upon. Instead of obstructing the flow of the film, he ensured that his songs mesh synchronously with the script and in fact go on to add more power to overall punch that my script intended to deliver. Same case with BGMs. I dont believe in creating talkative characters. The characters in my film talk what one can expect a person of that stature to talk. Nothing more, nothing less. When i screened "Mullum Malarum" to my producers, they were shocked and said it was like a silent movie. But later, after raja added his BGMs to it, we were all satisfied and convinced

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


BALUMAHENDRA (Eminent Film Director, India)

When i was planning to use raja for my film, i told my decision to G.K.Venkatesh. He immediately replied,"Give him a chance, he will dissolve and digest the entire world with his music." From my first film with raja, till the latest - Adhu Oru Kana Kaalam, all my films have been crowned by his glorious music. We infact have a healthy competition between us. While he tries to overtake my visuals, i try to race ahead of his tunes with my picturisations.

His BGMs totally add a different dimension to my films. All my films have extraordinary background scores by raja. During one of those earlier years , i once asked raja,"what is background music?". Raja put back the question to me. I replied, " Take the rainwater - once it has reached the earth, it takes so many forms - small pools, streams, rivers, falls etc. However, it is not the water that takes the decision about its forms, but the surrounding geography that decides the various forms (like stream, river or falls). So is the case with background music. It should take the form as is natural to the specific mood/atmosphere of the moment at any stage of the film." Raja applauded with loud claps and said," Exactly! That is my perception too!". I immediately knew that we shared the same wavelength.

Only me and raja will be present during the tune creation process. Oh it would be so much fun. Both of us would sing some older songs created by Raja and chat a lot about films and music. After i had a stroke a few years back, i am now unable to sing at all. I feel so sad as any typical raja fan would be, because i am no longer able to sing his golden melodies that are close to my heart !

Some IR Tit-Bits to Munch !!!

Some IR Tit-Bits to Munch !!!

Alaipayudhe - Ethanai Konam Ethanai Parvai A paradox in itself…the first charanam sung by Janaki is perhaps the shortest of any raja song (lasts hardly 15 seconds) while the second charanam by K.J.Yesudoss is perhaps the longest charanam in any of IR's songs (spanning more than 100 seconds)..

Chinnathambi (film) It seems Raja scored the entire score (all songs) in a staggeringly short time of less than 25 minutes.

Hey Ram (BGM) The 90 odd members of the symphony artist group of Hungary that played the BGM score (running nearly 2 hours) were aghast with bewilderment when they were informed that the entire score was written by ilaiyaraja in mere two weeks time.

Hey Ram (Film Songs) The songs were all re-tuned by ilaiyaraja, based on picturizations already made based on previous existing tunes composed by another composer. So ilaiyaraja had to fit his tune to existing picturization/lip synchs and acting/dancing movements done for some other composer's tunes.

How to Name it (Non-film Album) Hold your breath…all the scores for this non-film album of ilaiyaraja was written in those small breaks/intervals he got amidst his film-music composing schedule.

Idhazhil Kadhai Ezhudhum - Unnal Mudiyum Thambi The song is set in raga Lalitha and in the preceding scene before the song, the hero learns the heroine's name, which is "Lalitha"..hence the choice of the raga for the song !!

Ilaiyanila Pozhigiradhe - Payanangal Mudivadhillai Did you know that Vairamuthu had initially written "Salavai Nila Pozhigiradhu"…it was changed to "ilaiyanila" by maestro ilaiyaraja..

Kadhalin Deepam - Thambikku Entha Ooru Maestro ilaiyaraja had undergone an operation in his tummy at that time. But producer Panchu Arunachalam was desperately in need of the songs to be composed. The bed-ridden maestro whistled the whole tune while Panchu Arunchalam recorded it. Later raja had written down the score for orchestration too. Later when SPB had come to sing the song, small suggestions and corrections were suggested by ilaiyaraja (by just whistling) over the phone. [In this bed-ridden condition only, he also completed the BGM work for film "nooraavadhu naal"]

Kalaivaaniye - Sindhubhairavi Features only arohanam and no avarohanam

Kaatu Vazhi Pora Pennay - Malaiyoor Mambuttiyaan During those times, the entire song has to be recorded in one shot (unlike the bits & pieces possibility of today's technology). Raja, who also sang this song, was under the most distressing stomach ache during the recording of this song. He asks in his book,"But you wont find that pain getting reflected in the personal pain & pleasures never intrude into my works.."

Konji Konji Alaigal Oda - Veera The harmonium bit in this song was played by raja himself

Malaiyoram Mayilae - Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam Ok the hero here is music illiterate while the female is carnatic scholar - the male voice in this song is malaysia vasudevan and female is chitra. Watch the flat way in which Malaysia vasu sings the word "mayilae" and when chitra repeats, note how she sings the same "mayilae" with extra gamakkams & carnatic touch.

Manasu Mayangum - Sippikkul Muthu It is the female who sings a line, and the male follows by repeating what the female sings....It has to be, as the hero is totally ignorant of the roles he has to assume, even after he tied the nupital knot. This "male voice following female voice" trend continues till second charanam. Then the pallavi is repeated for the last time, but now - see what has happened...the male takes full control. The roles are now reversed, and the female voice repeats what the male sings..Next time u watch the song, look out why ;-)

Meetadha Oru Veenai - Poonthottam It seems that it took several gruelling hours before the singers Hariharan and Mahalaxmi Iyer could sing the song to that level of perfection that ilaiyaraja was expecting !!!! That’s why they say…if you want ilaiyaraja to consider your voice as a singer, you better put some real hardwork & practise in classical music.

Megam Kottatum - Enakkul Oruvan According to Mr.Purushothaman, senior percussionist in IR's troupe, this was the most complicated and challenging work he has ever done. Towards the climax of the song, the mirudangam-drums jugalbundi has IR's contribution too - Yes, the mirudangam was played by raja himself.

Oh Vasantha Raja - Neengal Kettavai Completely contrasting styles of charanams (one charanam in clean carnatic rythm background, the other western popish rythm background).

Pazhamudhir Solai - Varusham 16 Western style interlude followed by Carnatic Charanam and carnatic flavoured interlude followed by a western style charanam.
Putham Pudhu Kaalai - Nenjathai Killaadhae The harmonium bit in this song was played by raja himself

Raja Rajathi Rajan indha Raja - Agni Nakshathiram The entire song just has percussions. No other instrument (wind/string), apart from a bass guitarist!! Totally only 3 musicians worked in this song.

Rakkamma Kaiyya Thattu - Thalabathy Ranked 4 in BBC's worldwide opinion poll. The entire song's orchestration and BGM works were completed in one single take.

Thol Mela Thole Mela - Poomani While ilaiyaraja was quite happy with the lyrics, Lyricist Pazhanibharathi especially got special from maestro for the lines," Veezhdhadhum Nalladhe, Dhaagamai Ulladhe"…

Saturday, June 18, 2011

RAAJAisms are in harmony with TAOisms!

According to me, ilaiyaraja the person, his life & his demeanor, his detached attitude towards his profession (music), all put together depict him as a man in harmony with the essence of TAOISM - His way of living is the TAO WAY OF LIFE. (Tao is traditional Chinese philosophy and religion)

Read through the Tao documentation (total of 81 verses) below & you would understand what i mean.

Even if you don't quite see the connection, this translation would definitely benefit you. Read on.

The Tao Te Ching - A Translation by Stan Rosenthal

Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself.
Even the finest name is insufficient to define it.
Without words, the Tao can be experienced,
and without a name, it can be known.

To conduct one's life according to the Tao,
is to conduct one's life without regrets;
to realize that potential within oneself
which is of benefit to all.

Though words or names are not required
to live one's life this way,
to describe it, words and names are used,
that we might better clarify
the way of which we speak,
without confusing it with other ways
in which an individual might choose to live.

Through knowledge, intellectual thought and words,
the manifestations of the Tao are known,
but without such intellectual intent
we might experience the Tao itself.

Both knowledge and experience are real,
but reality has many forms,
which seem to cause complexity.

By using the means appropriate,
we extend ourselves beyond
the barriers of such complexity,
and so experience the Tao.


We cannot know the Tao itself,
nor see its qualities direct,
but only see by differentiation,
that which it manifests.

Thus, that which is seen as beautiful
is beautiful compared with that
which is seen as lacking beauty;
an action considered skilled
is so considered in comparison
with another, which seems unskilled.

That which a person knows he has
is known to him by that which he does not have,
and that which he considers difficult
seems so because of that which he can do with ease.
One thing seems long by comparison with that
which is, comparatively, short.
One thing is high because another thing is low;
only when sound ceases is quietness known,
and that which leads
is seen to lead only by being followed.
In comparison, the sage,
in harmony with the Tao,
needs no comparisons,
and when he makes them, knows
that comparisons are judgements,
and just as relative to he who makes them,
and to the situation,
as they are to that on which
the judgement has been made.

Through his experience,
the sage becomes aware that all things change,
and that he who seems to lead,
might also, in another situation, follow.
So he does nothing; he neither leads nor follows.
That which he does is neither big nor small;
without intent, it is neither difficult,
nor done with ease.
His task completed, he then lets go of it;
seeking no credit, he cannot be discredited.
Thus, his teaching lasts for ever,
and he is held in high esteem.


By retaining his humility,
the talented person who is also wise,
reduces rivalry.

The person who possesses many things,
but does not boast of his possessions,
reduces temptation, and reduces stealing.

Those who are jealous of the skills or things
possessed by others,
most easily themselves become possessed by envy.

Satisfied with his possessions,
the sage eliminates the need to steal;
at one with the Tao,
he remains free of envy,
and has no need of titles.

By being supple, he retains his energy.
He minimizes his desires,
and does not train himself in guile,
nor subtle words of praise.
By not contriving, he retains
the harmony of his inner world,
and so remains at peace within himself.

It is for reasons such as these,
that an administration
which is concerned
with the welfare of those it serves,
does not encourage status
and titles to be sought,
nor encourage rivalry.

Ensuring a sufficiency for all,
helps in reducing discontent.

Administrators who are wise
do not seek honours for themselves,
nor act with guile
towards the ones they serve.


It is the nature of the Tao,
that even though used continuously,
it is replenished naturally,
never being emptied,
and never being over-filled,
as is a goblet
which spills its contents
upon the ground.

The Tao therefore cannot be said
to waste its charge,
but constantly remains
a source of nourishment
for those who are not so full of self
as to be unable to partake of it.
When tempered beyond its natural state,
the finest blade will lose its edge.
Even the hardest tempered sword,
against water, is of no avail,
and will shatter if struck against a rock.
When untangled by a cutting edge,
the cord in little pieces lies,
and is of little use.

Just as the finest swordsmith
tempers the finest blade
with his experience,
so the sage, with wisdom, tempers intellect.
With patience, tangled cord may be undone,
and problems which seem insoluble, resolved.

With wise administrators, all can exist in unity,
each with the other,
because no man need feel that he exists,
only as the shadow of his brilliant brother.

Through conduct not contrived for gain,
awareness of the Tao may be maintained.
This is how its mysteries may be found.


Nature acts without intent,
so cannot be described
as acting with benevolence,
nor malevolence to any thing.

In this respect, the Tao is just the same,
though in reality it should be said
that nature follows the rule of Tao.

Therefore, even when he seems to act
in manner kind or benevolent,
the sage is not acting with such intent,
for in conscious matters such as these,
he is amoral and indifferent.

The sage retains tranquility,
and is not by speech or thought disturbed,
and even less by action which is contrived.
His actions are spontaneous,
as are his deeds towards his fellow men.

By this means he is empty of desire,
and his energy is not drained from him.


Like the sheltered, fertile valley,
the meditative mind is still,
yet retains its energy.

Since both energy and stillness,
of themselves, do not have form,
it is not through the senses
that they may be found,
nor understood by intellect alone,
although, in nature, both abound.

In the meditative state,
the mind ceases to differentiate
between existences,
and that which may or may not be.
It leaves them well alone,
for they exist,
not differentiated, but as one,
within the meditative mind.


When living by the Tao,
awareness of self is not required,
for in this way of life, the self exists,
and is also non-existent,
being conceived of, not as an existentiality,
nor as non-existent.

The sage does not contrive to find his self,
for he knows that all which may be found of it,
is that which it manifests to sense and thought,
which side by side with self itself, is nought.

It is by sheathing intellect's bright light
that the sage remains at one with his own self,
ceasing to be aware of it, by placing it behind.

Detached, he is unified with his external world,
by being selfless he is fulfilled;
thus his selfhood is assured.


Great good is said to be like water,
sustaining life with no conscious striving,
flowing naturally, providing nourishment,
found even in places
which desiring man rejects.

In this way
it is like the Tao itself.

Like water, the sage abides in a humble place;
in meditation, without desire;
in thoughtfulness, he is profound,
and in his dealings, kind.
In speech, sincerity guides the man of Tao,
and as a leader, he is just.
In management, competence is his aim,
and he ensures the pacing is correct.

Because he does not act for his own ends,
nor cause unnecessary conflict,
he is held to be correct
in his actions towards his fellow man.


The cup is easier to hold
when not filled to overflowing.

The blade is more effective
if not tempered beyond its mettle.

Gold and jade are easier to protect
if possessed in moderation.

He who seeks titles,
invites his own downfall.

The sage works quietly,
seeking neither praise nor fame;
completing what he does with natural ease,
and then retiring.
This is the way and nature of Tao.


Maintaining unity is virtuous,
for the inner world of thought is one
with the external world
of action and of things.

The sage avoids their separation,
by breathing as the sleeping babe,
and thus maintaining harmony.

He cleans the dark mirror of his mind,
so that it reflects without intent.
He conducts himself without contriving,
loving the people, and not interfering.

He cultivates without possessing,
thus providing nourishment,
he remains receptive
to changing needs,
and creates without desire.

By leading from behind,
attending to that
which must be done,
he is said to have attained
the mystic state.


Though thirty spokes may form the wheel,
it is the hole within the hub
which gives the wheel utility.

It is not the clay the potter throws,
which gives the pot its usefulness,
but the space within the shape,
from which the pot is made.

Without a door, the room cannot be entered,
and without windows it is dark.

Such is the utility of non-existence.


Through sight, the colours may be seen,
but too much colour blinds us.
Apprehending the tones of sound,
too much sound might make us deaf,
and too much flavour deadens taste.
When hunting for sport, and chasing for pleasure,
the mind easily becomes perplexed.
He who collects treasures for himself
more easily becomes anxious.

The wise person fulfills his needs,
rather than sensory temptations.


The ordinary man seeks honour, not dishonour,
cherishing success and abominating failure,
loving life, whilst fearing death.
The sage does not recognise these things,
so lives his life quite simply.

The ordinary man seeks to make himself
the centre of his universe;
the universe of the sage is at his centre.
He loves the world, and thus remains unmoved
by things with which others are concerned.
He acts with humility, is neither moved nor moving,
and can therefore be trusted in caring for all things.


The Tao is abstract,
and therefore has no form,
it is neither bright in rising,
nor dark in sinking,
cannot be grasped, and makes no sound.

Without form or image, without existence,
the form of the formless, is beyond defining,
cannot be described,
and is beyond our understanding.
It cannot be called by any name.

Standing before it, it has no beginning;
even when followed, it has no end.
In the now, it exists; to the present apply it,
follow it well, and reach its beginning.


The sage of old was profound and wise;
like a man at a ford, he took great care,
alert, perceptive and aware.

Desiring nothing for himself,
and having no desire
for change for its own sake,
his actions were difficult to understand.

Being watchful, he had no fear of danger;
being responsive, he had no need of fear.

He was courteous like a visiting guest,
and as yielding as the springtime ice.
Having no desires, he was untouched by craving.

Receptive and mysterious,
his knowledge was unfathomable,
causing others to think him hesitant.

Pure in heart, like uncut jade,
he cleared the muddy water
by leaving it alone.

By remaining calm and active,
the need for renewing is reduced.


It is only by means of being
that non-being may be found.

When society changes
from its natural state of flux,
to that which seems like chaos,
the inner world of the superior man
remains uncluttered and at peace.
By remaining still, his self detatched,
he aids society in its return
to the way of nature and of peace.
The value of his insight may be clearly seen
when chaos ceases.

Being one with the Tao is to be at peace,
and to be in conflict with it,
leads to chaos and dysfunction.

When the consistency of the Tao is known,
the mind is receptive to its states of change.

It is by being at one with the Tao,
that the sage holds no prejudice
against his fellow man.
If accepted as a leader of men,
he is held in high esteem.

Throughout his life,
both being and non-being,
the Tao protects him.


Man cannot comprehend the infinite;
only knowing that the best exists,
the second best is seen and praised,
and the next, despised and feared.

The sage does not expect that others
use his criteria as their own.

The existence of the leader who is wise
is barely known to those he leads.
He acts without unnecessary speech,
so that the people say,
"It happened of its own accord".


When the way of the Tao is forgotten,
kindness and ethics need to be taught;
men learn to pretend to be wise and good.

All too often in the lives of men,
filial piety and devotion
arise only after conflict and strife,
just as loyal ministers all too often appear,
when the people are suppressed.


It is better merely to live one's life,
realizing one's potential,
rather than wishing
for sanctification.

He who lives in filial piety and love
has no need of ethical teaching.

When cunning and profit are renounced,
stealing and fraud will disappear.
But ethics and kindness, and even wisdom,
are insufficient in themselves.

Better by far to see the simplicity
of raw silk's beauty
and the uncarved block;
to be one with onself,
and with one's brother.
It is better by far
to be one with the Tao,
developing selflessness,
tempering desire,
removing the wish,
but being compassionate.


The sage is often envied
because others do not know
that although he is nourished by the Tao,
like them, he too is mortal.

He who seeks wisdom is well advised
to give up academic ways,
and put an end to striving.
Then he will learn that yes and no
are distinguished only by distinction.

It is to the advantage of the sage
that he does not fear what others fear,
but it is to the advantage of others
that they can enjoy the feast,
or go walking, free of hindrance,
through the terraced park in spring.

The sage drifts like a cloud,
having no specific place.
Like a newborn babe before it smiles,
he does not seek to communicate.
In the eyes of those
who have more than they need,
the sage has nothing, and is a fool,
prizing only that which of the Tao is born.

The sage may seem to be perplexed,
being neither bright nor clear,
and to himself, sometimes he seems
both dull and weak, confused and shy.
Like the ocean at night,
he is serene and quiet,
but as penetrating as the winter wind.


The greatest virtue is to follow the Tao;
how it achieves ! without contriving.

The essence of Tao is dark and mysterious,
having, itself, no image or form.
Yet through its non-being,
are found image and form.
The essence of Tao is deep and unfathomable,
yet it may be known by not trying to know.


Yield, and maintain integrity.
To bend is to be upright;
to be empty is to be full.

Those who have little have much to gain,
but those who have much
may be confused by possessions.

The wise man embraces the all encompassing;
he is unaware of himself, and so has brilliance;
not defending himself, he gains distinction;
not seeking fame, he receives recognition;
not making false claims, he does not falter;
and not being quarrelsome,
is in conflict with no one.

This is why it was said by the sages of old,

"Yield, and maintain integrity;
be whole, and all things come to you".


Nature's way is to say but little;
high winds are made still
with the turn of the tide,
and rarely last all morning,
nor heavy rain, all day.
Therefore, when talking,
remember also
to be silent and still.

He who follows the natural way
is always one with the Tao.
He who is virtuous may experience virtue,
whilst he who loses the natural way
is easily lost himself.

He who is at one with the Tao
is at one with nature,
and virtue always exists for he who has virtue.

To accept the irrevocable
is to let go of desire.

He who does not have trust in others
should not himself be trusted.


He who stretches
beyond his natural reach,
does not stand firmly
upon the ground;
just as he
who travels at a speed
beyond his means,
cannot maintain his pace.

He who boasts
is not enlightened,
and he who is self-righteous
does not gain respect
from those who are meritous;
thus, he gains nothing,
and will fall into disrepute.

Since striving,
boasting and self-righteousness,
are all unnecessary traits,
the sage considers them excesses,
and has no need of them.


The creative principle unifies
the inner and external worlds.
It does not depend on time or space,
is ever still and yet in motion;
thereby it creates all things,
and is therefore called
'the creative and the absolute';
its ebb and its flow extend to infinity.

We describe the Tao as being great;
we describe the universe as great;
nature too, we describe as great,
and man himself is great.

Man's laws should follow natural laws,
just as nature gives rise to physical laws,
whilst following from universal law,
which follows the Tao.


The natural way is the way of the sage,
serving as his dwelling,
providing his centre deep within,
whether in his home or journeying.

Even when he travels far,
he is not separate
from his own true nature.
Maintaining awareness of natural beauty,
he still does not forget his purpose.

Although he may dwell in a grand estate,
simplicity remains his guide,
for he is full aware, that losing it,
his roots as well would disappear.
So he is not restless,
lest he loses the natural way.

Similarly, the people's leader
is not flippant in his role, nor restless,
for these could cause the loss
of the roots of leadership.


The sage follows the natural way,
doing what is required of him.

Like an experienced tracker,
he leaves no tracks;
like a good speaker, his speech is fluent;
He makes no error, so needs no tally;
like a good door, which needs no lock,
he is open when it is required of him,
and closed at other times;
like a good binding, he is secure,
without the need of borders.

Knowing that virtue may grow from example,
this is the way in which the sage teaches,
abandoning no one who stops to listen.
Thus, from experience of the sage,
all might learn, and so might gain.

There is mutual respect twixt teacher and pupil,
for, without respect, there would be confusion.


Whilst developing creativity,
also cultivate receptivity.
Retain the mind like that of a child,
which flows like running water.

When considering any thing,
do not lose its opposite.
When thinking of the finite,
do not forget infinity;

Act with honour, but retain humility.
By acting according to the way of the Tao,
set others an example.

By retaining the integrity
of the inner and external worlds,
true selfhood is maintained,
and the inner world made fertile.


The external world is fragile,
and he who meddles with its natural way,
risks causing damage to himself.
He who tries to grasp it,
thereby loses it.

It is natural for things to change,
sometimes being ahead, sometimes behind.

There are times when even breathing
may be difficult,
whereas its natural state is easy.

Sometimes one is strong,
and sometimes weak,
sometimes healthy,
and sometimes sick,
sometimes is first,
and at other times behind.

The sage does not try
to change the world by force,
for he knows that force results in force.
He avoids extremes and excesses,
and does not become complacent.


When leading by the way of the Tao,
abominate the use of force,
for it causes resistance, and loss of strength,
showing the Tao has not been followed well.
Achieve results but not through violence,
for it is against the natural way,
and damages both others' and one's own true self.

The harvest is destroyed in the wake of a great war,
and weeds grow in the fields in the wake of the army.

The wise leader achieves results,
but does not glory in them;
is not proud of his victories,
and does not boast of them.
He knows that boasting is not the natural way,
and that he who goes against that way,
will fail in his endeavours.


Weapons of war are instruments of fear,
and are abhorred by those who follow the Tao.
The leader who follows the natural way
does not abide them.

The warrior king leans to his right,
from whence there comes his generals' advice,
but the peaceful king looks to his left,
where sits his counsellor of peace.
When he looks to his left, it is a time of peace,
and when to the right, a time for sorrow.

Weapons of war are instruments of fear,
and are not favoured by the wise,
who use them only when there is no choice,
for peace and stillness are dear to their hearts,
and victory causes them no rejoicing.

To rejoice in victory is to delight in killing;
to delight in killing is to have no self-being.

The conduct of war is that of a funeral;
when people are killed, it is a time of mourning.
This is why even victorious battle
should be observed without rejoicing.


The Tao is eternal, but does not have fame;
like the uncarved block, its worth seems small,
though its value to man is beyond all measure.
Were it definable, it could then be used
to obviate conflict, and the need
to teach the way of the Tao;
all men would abide in the peace of the Tao;
sweet dew would descend to nourish the earth.

When the Tao is divided,
there is a need for names,
for, like the block which is carved,
its parts then are seen.

By stopping in time
from torment and conflict,
strife is defeated, and danger averted.
The people then seek the wisdom of Tao,
just as all rivers flow to the great sea.


Knowledge frequently results
from knowing others,
but the man who is awakened,
has seen the uncarved block.

Others might be mastered by force,
but to master one's self
requires the Tao.

He who has many material things,
may be described as rich,
but he who knows he has enough,
and is at one with the Tao,
might have enough of material things,
and have self-being as well.

Will-power may bring perseverance;
but to have tranquility is to endure,
being protected for all his days.

He whose ideas remain in the world,
is present for all time.


All things may act, without exclusion,
according to the natural way,
which fulfills its purpose silently,
and with no claim.
Being an aspect of natural order,
it is not the ruler of any thing,
but remains the source of their nourishment.
It cannot be seen; it has no intention,
but all natural things rely on its presence.
When all things return to it,
it does not enslave them,
so unmanifested, its greatness prevails.

Modelling himself upon the Tao,
he who is wise, does not contrive,
but is content with what he achieves.


The wise man acts at one with the Tao,
for he knows it is here that peace is found.
It is for this reason that he is sought.

Whilst guests enjoy good music and food,
as these are supplied by a benevolent host,
a description of Tao seems without form,
for it cannot be heard and cannot be seen.
But when the music and food are all ended,
the taste of the Tao still remains.


It is the way of the Tao,
that things which expand might also shrink;
that he who is strong, will at some time be weak,
that he who is raised will then be cast down,
and that all men have a need to give,
and also have a need to receive.

The biggest fish stay deep in the pond,
and a country's best weapons
should be kept locked away.
That which is soft and supple,
may overcome the hard and strong.


The way of nature is not contrived,
yet nothing which is required
is left undone.

Observing nature, the wise leader knows this,
and replaces desire with dispassion,
thus saving that energy, otherwise spent,
which has not been wasted away.

The wise leader knows
his actions must be
without the use of forced energy.

He knows that more
is still required,
for he also knows
that he must act
without deliberate intent,
of having no intention.

To act without contrived intent
is to act without contriving,
and is the way of nature,
and so is the way of the Tao.


A truly good man is unaware
of the good deeds he performs.
Conversely, a foolish man must try
continuously to be good.

A good man seems to do little or nought,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man must always strive,
whilst leaving much undone.

The man who is truly wise and kind
leaves nothing to be done,
but he who only acts
according to his nation's law
leaves many things undone.

A disciplinarian wanting something done
rolls up his sleeves,
enforcing it with violence.

It may be that goodness still remains,
even when the natural way is lost,
and that kindness still exists
when goodness is forgotten.
It may be that justice still remains
when the people are no longer kind,
and when this is lost, that ritual still remains.
However, ritual may be performed
only as an act of faith,
and may be the beginning of confusion,
for even divination and the such
are but the flowery trappings of the Tao,
and are the beginning of great folly.

He who is truly great
does not upon the surface dwell,
but on what lies beneath.
It is said that the fruit is his concern,
rather than the flower.
Each must decide what it might be he seeks,
the flowery trapping,
which comes to summer fullness first,
or the fruit which is beneath.


From the principle which is called the Tao,
the sky, the earth, and creativity are one,
the sky is clear, the earth is firm,
and the spirit of the inner world is full.

When the ruler of the land is whole,
the nation too is strong, alive and well,
and the people have sufficient
to meet their earthly needs.

When the daytime sky is dark
and overcast like night,
the nation and its people
will surely suffer much.

The firmness of the dew filled earth
gives it its life;
the energy of the inner world
prevents its becoming drained of strength;
its fullness prevents it running dry.
The growth of all things
prevents their dying.

The work of the leader should ensure
the prosperity of the populace.
So it is said,

"humility is the root
of great nobility;
the low forms a foundation
for the great;
and princes consider themselves
to be of little worth".
Each depends on humility therefore;
it is of no advantage to have too much success,
so do not sound loudly like jade bells,
nor clatter like stone chimes.


The motion of nature
is cyclic and returning.
Its way is to yield,
for to yield is to become.
All things are born of being;
being is born of non-being.


On hearing of the Tao,
the wise student's practice is with diligence;
the average student attends to his practice
when his memory reminds him so to do;
and the foolish student laughs.
But we do well to remember
that with no sudden laughter,
there would be no natural way.

Thus it is said,

"There are times when even brightness seems dim;
when progress seems like regression;
when the easy seems most difficult,
and virtue seems empty, inadequate and frail;
times when purity seems sullied;
when even reality seems unreal,
and when a square seems to have corners;
when even great talent is of no avail,
and the highest note cannot be heard;
when the formed seems formless,
and when the way of nature is out of sight".
Even in such times as these,
the natural way still nourishes,
that all things may be fulfilled.


The Tao existed before its name,
and from its name, the opposites evolved,
giving rise to three divisions,
and then to names abundant.

These things embrace receptively,
achieving inner harmony,
and by their unity create
the inner world of man.

No man wishes to be seen
as worthless in another's eyes,
but the wise leader describes himself this way,
for he knows that one may gain by losing,
and lose by gaining,
and that a violent man
will not die a natural death.


Only the soft overcomes the hard,
by yielding, bringing it to peace.
Even where there is no space,
that which has no substance enters in.

Through these things is shown
the value of the natural way.
The wise man understands full well,
that wordless teaching can take place,
and that actions should occur
without the wish for self-advancement.


A contented man knows himself to be
more precious even than fame,
and so, obscure, remains.

He who is more attached to wealth
than to himself,
suffers more heavily from loss.

He who knows when to stop, might lose,
but in safety stays.


In retrospect, even those accomplishments
which seemed perfect when accomplished,
may seem imperfect and ill formed,
but this does not mean that such accomplishments
have outlived their usefulness.

That which once seemed full,
may later empty seem,
yet still be unexhausted.
That which once seemed straight
may seem twisted when seen once more;
intelligence can seem stupid,
and eloquence seem awkward;
movement may overcome the cold,
and stillness, heat,
but stillness in movement
is the way of the Tao.


When the way of nature is observed,
all things serve their function;
horses drawing carts, and pulling at the plough.
But when the natural way is not observed,
horses are bred for battle and for war.

Desire and wanting cause discontent,
whilst he who knows sufficiency
more easily has what he requires.


The Tao may be known and observed
without the need of travel;
the way of the heavens might be well seen
without looking through a window.

The further one travels,
the less one knows.
So, without looking, the sage sees all,
and by working without self-advancing thought,
he discovers the wholeness of the Tao.


When pursuing knowledge,
something new is acquired each day.
But when pursuing the way of the Tao,
something is subtracted;
less striving occurs,
until there is no striving.

When effort is uncontrived,
nothing is left undone;
the way of nature rules
by allowing things to take their course,
not by contriving to change.


The sage is not mindful for himself,
but is receptive to others' needs.
Knowing that virtue requires great faith,
he has that faith, and is good to all;
irrespective of others' deeds,
he treats them according to their needs.

He has humility and is shy,
thus confusing other men.
They see him as they might a child,
and sometimes listen to his words.


In looking at the people, we might see
that in the space twixt birth and death,
one third follow life, and one third death,
and those who merely pass from birth to death,
are also one third of those we see.

He who lives by the way of the Tao,
travels without fear of ferocious beasts,
and will not be pierced in an affray,
for he offers no resistance.
The universe is the centre of his world,
so in the inner world
of he who lives within the Tao,
there is no place
where death can enter in.


All physical things arise
from the principle which is absolute;
the principle which is the natural way.

All living things are formed by being,
and shaped by their environment,
growing if nourished well by virtue;
the being from non-being.

All natural things respect the Tao,
giving honour to its virtue,
although the Tao does not expect,
nor look for honour or respect.

The virtue of the natural way
is that all things are born of it;
it nourishes and comforts them;
develops, shelters and cares for them,
protecting them from harm.

The Tao creates, not claiming credit,
and guides without interfering.


The virtue of Tao governs its natural way.
Thus, he who is at one with it,
is one with everything which lives,
having freedom from the fear of death.

Boasting, and hurrying hither and thither,
destroy the enjoyment of a peace filled life.

Life is more fulfilled by far,
for he who does not have desire,
for he does not have desire,
has no need of boasting.

Learn to see the insignificant and small,
grow in wisdom and develop insight,
that which is irrevocable,
do not try to fight,
and so be saved from harm.


When temptation arises to leave the Tao,
banish temptation, stay with the Tao.

When the court has adornments in profusion,
the fields are full of weeds,
and the granaries are bare.
It is not the way of nature to carry a sword,
nor to over-adorn oneself,
nor to have more than a sufficiency
of fine food and drink.

He who has more possessions than he can use,
deprives someone who could use them well.


That which is firmly rooted,
is not easily torn from the ground;
just as that which is firmly grasped,
does not slip easily from the hand.

The virtue of the Tao is real,
if cultivated in oneself;
when loved in the family, it abounds;
when throughout the village, it will grow;
and in the nation, be abundant.
When it is real universally,
virtue is in all people.

All things are microcosms of the Tao;
the world a microcosmic universe,
the nation a microcosm of the world,
the village a microcosmic nation;
the family a village in microcosmic view,
and the body a microcosm of one's own family;
from single cell to galaxy.


He who has virtue is like a newborn child,
free from attack by those who dwell
in the way of nature, the way of the Tao.

The bones of the newborn child are soft,
his muscles supple, but his grip is firm;
he is whole, though not knowing he was born
of the creative and receptive way.
The way of nature is in the child,
so even when he shouts all day,
his throat does not grow hoarse or dry.

From constancy, there develops harmony,
and from harmony, enlightenment.

It is unwise to rush from here to there.
To hold one's breath causes the body strain;
exhaustion follows
when too much energy is used,
for this is not the natural way.

He who is in opposition to the Tao
does not live his natural years.


Those who know the natural way
have no need of boasting,
whilst those who know but little,
may be heard most frequently;
thus, the sage says little,
if anything at all.

Not demanding stimuli,
he tempers his sharpness well,
reduces the complex to simplicity,
hiding his brilliance, seemingly dull;
he settles the dust,
whilst in union with all natural things.

He who has attained enlightenment
(without contriving so to do)
is not concerned with making friends,
nor with making enemies;
with good or harm, with praise or blame.
Such detatchment is the highest state of man.


With natural justice, people must be ruled,
and if war be waged, strategy and tactics used.
To master one's self,
one must act without cunning.

The greater the number of laws and restrictions,
the poorer the people who inhabit the land.
The sharper the weapons of battle and war,
the greater the troubles besetting the land.
The greater the cunning with which people are ruled,
the stranger the things which occur in the land.
The harder the rules and regulations,
the greater the number of those who will steal.

The sage therefore does not contrive,
in order to bring about reform,
but teaches the people peace of mind,
in order that they might enjoy their lives.
Having no desires, all he does is natural.
Since he teaches self-sufficiency,
the people who follow him return
to a good, uncomplicated life.


When the hand of the ruler is light,
the people do not contrive,
but when the country is severely ruled,
the people grow in cunning.

The actions of the sage are sharp,
but they are never cutting,
they are pointed, though never piercing,
they are straightforward, not contrived,
and not without restraint,
brilliant but not blinding.
This is the action of the sage,
because he is aware
that where happiness exists,
there is also misery and strife;
that where honesty may be found,
there is occasion for dishonesty,
and that men may be beguiled.

The sage knows that no-one can foretell
just what the future holds.


By acting with no thought of self-advancement,
but with self-restraint,
it is possible to lead,
and genuinely care for others.
This happens by acting virtuously,
and leaving nothing to be done.

A foundation virtuous and firm,
rooted in receptivity,
is a prerequisite of good leadership,
and for a life both long and strong.
He whose virtue knows no limit,
is most fitting to lead.
His roots are deep,
and his life protected
by his meditative practice,
as the bark protects the tree.


To rule a country,
one must act with care,
as when frying the smallest fish.

If actions are approached,
and carried out in the natural way,
the power of evil is reduced,
and so the ruler and the ruled
are equally protected.
They will not contrive to harm each other,
for the virtue of one refreshes the other.


A great country remains receptive and still,
as does a rich and fertile land.
The gentle overcomes the strong
with stillness and receptivity.

By giving way to the other,
one country may conquer another;
a small country may submit to a large,
and conquer it, though having no arms.

Those who conquer must be willing to yield;
to yield may be to overcome.

A fertile nation may require a greater population,
to use its resources to the full,
whilst the country without such natural wealth
may require them to meet its people's needs.
By acting in unity, each may achieve
that which it requires.


The source of all things is in the Tao.
It is a treasure for the good,
and a refuge for all in need.

Whilst praise can buy titles,
good deeds gain respect.

No man should be abandoned
because he has not found the Tao.

On auspicious occasions, when gifts are sent,
rather than sending horses or jade,
send the teaching of Tao.

When we first discover the natural way,
we are happy to know that our misdeeds
are in the past, where they belong,
and so are happy to realize
that we have found a treasure.


Act without contriving;
work naturally, and taste the tasteless;
magnify the small; increase the few,
and reward bitterness with care.
Seek the simple in the complex,
and achieve greatness in small things.

It is the way of nature
that even difficult things are done with ease,
and great acts made up of smaller deeds.
The sage achieves greatness by small deeds multiplied.

Promises easily made are most easily broken,
and acting with insufficient care
causes subsequent trouble.
The sage confronts problems as they arise,
so that they do not trouble him.


If problems are accepted,
and dealt with before they arise,
they might even be prevented before confusion begins,
In this way peace may be maintained.

The brittle is easily shattered,
and the small is easily scattered.
Great trees grow from the smallest shoots;
a terraced garden, from a pile of earth,
and a journey of a thousand miles
begins by taking the initial step.

He who contrives, defeats his purpose;
and he who is grasping, loses.
The sage does not contrive to win,
and therefore is not defeated;
he is not grasping, so does not lose.

It is easy to fail when nearing completion,
therefore, take care right to the end,
not only in the beginning.

The sage seeks freedom from desire,
not grasping at ideas.
He brings men back when they are lost,
and helps them find the Tao.


Knowing it is against the Tao
to try to enforce learning,
the early sages did not contrive
to teach the way of the Tao.

There are two ways of government.
One is to be cunning, to act with guile,
and to contrive to cheat the people.
When this way is used to rule,
the people grow in cunning,
and contrive to cheat the ruler.

The second way to govern the land,
is to do so without contriving.
People so governed are truly blessed,
for they are governed with virtue,
and virtuous government is fair to all,
thus leading to unity.


The sea is the ruler of river and stream,
because it rules from well beneath.

The teacher guides his students best,
by allowing them to lead.

When the ruler is a sage,
the people do not feel oppressed;
they support the one who rules them well,
and never tire of him.

He who is non-competitive
invites no competition.


Those who follow the natural way
are different from others in three respects.
They have great mercy and economy,
and the courage not to compete.
From mercy there comes courage;
from economy, generosity;
and from humility, willingness to lead from behind.

It is the way of sickness to shun the merciful,
and to acclaim only heroic deeds,
to abandon economy, and to be selfish.

They are sick, who are not humble,
but try always to be first.

Only he who is compassionate
can show true bravery,
and in defending, show great strength.
Compassion is the means by which
mankind may be guarded and saved,
for heaven arms with compassion,
those whom it would not see destroyed.


An effective warrior acts
not from nihilistic anger,
nor from desire to kill.

He who wins should not be vengeful.
An employer should have humility.

If we wish for peace and unity,
our dealings with our fellow man
must be without desire for self-advantage,
and carried out without contention.


Arguments may be won by waiting,
rather than making an aggresive move;
by withdrawing rather than advancing.

By moving without appearing to move,
by not making a show of strength,
but by conserving it well;
by capturing without attacking,
by being armed, but with no weapons,
great battles may be won.
Do not underestimate
those you enjoin in battle,
for this can result in losing
what is of greatest value.
When a battle is enjoined,
by remembering this,
the weaker may still win.


Though the words of the sage are simple,
and his actions easily performed,
they are few among many,
who can speak or act as a sage.

For the ordinary man it is difficult
to know the way of a sage,
perhaps because his words
are from the distant past,
and his actions naturally disposed.

Those who know the way of the sage
are few and far between,
but those who treat him with honesty,
will be honoured by him and the Tao.

He knows he makes no fine display,
and wears rough clothes, not finery.
It is not in his expectancy of men
that they should understand his ways,
for he carries his jade within his heart.


To acknowledge one's ignorance
shows strength of personality,
but to ignore wisdom is a sign of weakness.

To be sick of sickness is a sign of good health,
therefore the wise man grows sick of sickness,
and sick of being sick of sickness,
'til he is sick no more.


The sage retains a sense of awe, and of propriety.
He does not intrude into others' homes;
does not harass them,
nor interfere without request,
unless they damage others.
So it is that they return to him.

'Though the sage knows himself
he makes no show of it;
he has self-respect, but is not arrogant,
for he develops the ability to let go of that
which he no longer needs.


A brave man who is passionate
will either kill or be killed,
but a man who is both brave and still
might preserve his own and others' lives.
No one can say with certainty,
why it is better to preserve a life.

The virtuous way is a way to act
without contriving effort,
yet, without contriving it overcomes.
It seldom speaks, and never asks,
but is answered without a question.
It is supplied with all its needs
and is constantly at ease
because it follows its own plan
which cannot be understood by man.
It casts its net both deep and wide,
and 'though coarse meshed, it misses nothing in the tide.


If the people are not afraid of death,
they have no fear of threats of death.

If early death is common in the land,
and if death is meted out as punishment,
the people do not fear to break the law.

To be the executioner in such a land as this,
is to be as an unskilled carpenter
who cuts his hand
when trying to cut wood.


When taxes are too heavy,
hunger lays the people low.
When those who govern interfere too much,
the people become rebellious.

When those who govern demand too much
of people's lives, death is taken lightly.
When the people are starving in the land,
life is of little value,
and so is more easily sacrificed by them
in overthrowing government.


Man is born gentle and supple.
At death, his body is brittle and hard.
Living plants are tender,
and filled with life-giving sap,
but at their death they are withered and dry.

The stiff, the hard, and brittle
are harbingers of death,
and gentleness and yielding
are the signs of that which lives.
The warrior who is inflexible
condemns himself to death,
and the tree is easily broken,
which ever refuses to yield.
Thus the hard and brittle will surely fall,
and the soft and supple will overcome.


The Tao is as supple as a bow;
the high made lower, and the lowly raised.
It shortens the string which has been stretched,
and lengthens that which has become too short.

It is the way of the Tao to take from those
who have a surplus to what they need,
providing for those without enough.
The way of the ordinary person,
is not the way of the Tao,
for such people take from those who are poor
and give to those who are rich.

The sage knows that his possessions are none,
therefore he gives to the world;
without recognition, doing his work.
In this way he accomplishes
that which is required of him;
without dwelling upon it in any way,
he gives of his wisdom without display.


There is nothing more yielding than water,
yet when acting on the solid and strong,
its gentleness and fluidity
have no equal in any thing.

The weak can overcome the strong,
and the supple overcome the hard.
Although this is known far and wide,
few put it into practice in their lives.

Although seemingly paradoxical,
the person who takes upon himself,
the people's humiliation,
is fit to rule;
and he is fit to lead,
who takes the country's disasters upon himself.


When covenants and bonds are drawn
between the people of the land,
that they might know their obligations,
it is commonplace for many
to fail to meet their dues.

The sage ensures his dues are met,
'though not expecting others to do the same;
in this way he is virtuous.

He is without virtue of his own,
who asks of others that they fulfil
his obligations on his behalf.

The way of nature does not impose
on matters such as these
but stays with the good for ever,
and acts as their reward.


A small country may have many machines,
but the people will have no use for them;
they will have boats and carriages
which they do not use;
their armour and weapons
are not displayed,
for they are serious when regarding death.
They do not travel far from home,
and make knots in ropes,
rather than do much writing.

The food they eat is plain and good,
and their clothes are simple;
their homes are secure,
without the need of bolts and bars,
and they are happy in their ways.

'Though the cockerels and dogs
of their neighbours
can be heard not far away,
the people of the villages
grow old and die in peace.


The truth is not always beautiful,
nor beautiful words the truth.

Those who have virtue,
have no need of argument for its own sake,
for they know that argument is of no avail.

Those who have knowledge of the natural way
do not train themselves in cunning,
whilst those who use cunning to rule their lives,
and the lives of others,
are not knowledgeable of the Tao,
nor of natural happiness.

The sage seeks not to have a store
of things or knowledge, for he knows,
the less of these he has, the more he has,
and that the more he gives,
the greater his abundance.

The way of the sage is pointed
but does not harm.

The way of the sage
is to work without cunning.

Singer Sujatha on Raaja sir

SUJATHA (leading singer, South India)

Some people ask me, if singers have any freedom to experiment or extrapolate to the tune that raja sir has composed. But i dont think there is any need to do. What is there that you can possibly do at all? Take the song "Meendum Meendum Vaa" from Vikram. You dont need to even look at the visuals. The eroticism just oozes out in the tune and orchestration. As a singer, all you have to do is follow what he has to say, just follow his instructions. For example, in 'konji pesu kobam enna' song from kaadhal kavidhai, he told me to sing as if i had just woken up in the morning, with a lazy tone.

Raja sir is very good at malayalam. Once a singer told me that he had sung something wrong, and raja sir immediately pointed to the lyrics and read it out aloud, pointing out that what the singer had sung was not what the lyricist had written - so not only can he speak malayalam, he can also read ! But he generally speakes in tamil to me, but at times, when he wants to pull my leg, he will use fluent malayalam !

There are an equal number of fans for ilaiyaraaja sir in kerala, when compared to tamilnadu. I have been gifted to sing some malayalam compositions by raja sir. Minnaram maanathu is a favourite composition, which was recorded at raja sir's residence and programmed by karthik raja. My all time favourite malayalam number is 'thumbi vaa' !

Friday, June 17, 2011

Puru on Raja sir

PURUSHOTHAMAN (Senior Percussionist in Raja's Musicians Troupe)

If i start talking about the umpteen innovations that raja has brought into film music, this show will not be enough. Several people ask senior members like me (in raja's troupe),"Why dont you go and become a music director on your own." Well, we do know that several music directors today have come to the field after working under other senior music directors for couple of years. May be those people thought that they can create better music than the person with whom they were working. But as far as we are concerned, we dont think we will ever be able to give music that is better than what raja can give. So we are content to work as a musician under him, we dont have any other great ambitions.

'En Uyir Nee Thaanae' in Priya was a challenging number for all of our musicians in raja's troupe. The reason was, the tune which raja had composed seemed to run in a different thalam/meter, while the supporting orchestra had to follow a different thalam/meter ! Everyone of us were skeptical about how the end product was going to look like ! Well, knowing raja very well, we musicians just quit worrying about everything else, and just played as per raja's notations, without thinking about the tune that singers were singing. But it all fell into place when we heard the completed product, and the song went on to become such a lovely hit.

As far as BGMs are concerned, 'sigappu rojakkal' was a landmark effort in Indian film music industry. Instead of instrumental BGMs, voice/chorus works were predominantly used to suit the mood of the thriller movie.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sadhanandham on Raaja sir

Sadhanamdham (Senior Guitarist in Raja's Musicians Troupe) talks about Raaja sir

I am glad that i have been working with raja for the past 30 years. With any other composer, i would have been playing the same style over and over again. Not the case with Raja. Each day is different for us musicians working under him. So many varieties, so many challenges. For example, 'aagaya vennilavae' sounds like it is set in one thaalam, while it is actually in an another thalam !

There are so many songs, where i have to move from one place to another place (within the studio), running around to play the various string instruments that raja would have included in just one song ! And he sometimes makes me play one instrument, while the effect he wants will be for another instrument ! The prelude in 'thendral vandhu ennai thodum' sounds like a veena, but is a guitar effect ! The percussion like BGM effect while karthik & prabhu bounce over each other was created using vibraphone. Once he asked me to play Xylaphone using my hands. Within minutes after the recording, both my hands/fingers were totally swollen. The first bit in the prelude that you hear in 'indha maan' from karagaatakaaran is a favourite bit i have played using a 12 strings guitar.

TVG on Raaja

T.V. Gopalakrishnan (Carnatic Musician and Raja's Carnatic guru, India)

He is one of my most hard working students ever. I still remember how he used to knock at my doors, as early as four o clock in the morning to learn (carnatic) music. He was very unique as a student. When you teach a particular phrase (in a raga), his mind would be busy anticipating/thinking about the next phrase. Sometimes it would make me wonder, if i am teaching music to someone who has already mastered it! And if he is not convinced by the way he has sung a particular line in a keerthanai, he would himself raise his hand and sing it again till he thinks it is perfect. I have seen him singing out tunes to playback singers and he would never be satisfied till they get it right. But when you listen to the finished song someday later, you feel that singers barely managed to get the effect that raja could conjure up through his voice.

He once called me in an an excited mood, and said,"I have composed one song in raga saramathi for a tamil film. And i find that the tune fits perfectly well with a krithi by Saint Thyagaraja (Mari Mari Ninnae). What do i do now?" The original krithi was composed in kambhodhi ragam. But I immediately replied "Please go ahead". When you sit in your house, and gaze through your windows, there is one type of view. Open the doors, there is another view and come outside, there is totally another view. Why get stuck with one view. Look at the possibilities of expansion. Raja is such a free spirit.

The way ilaiyaraja has handled carnatic music (in film songs) is very unique. If he has done 30 kalyani raga songs, each has its own character and styling. He would have expanded on the various characteristic raga phrases in each of those songs. There are even examples where you would never realise that the underlying melody is kalyani, unless you listen to the meticulous decorations that he has built-in into the tune. Even if it is not about carnatic music, or any other style of music, there would be something unique in each of his songs. The only song where i could never find anything unique was,"annae annae sippai annae". Just joking ! Well, even there, the song is sung in a coarse voice.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Comprehensive Write-Up by Ravi Ananthanarayan on Raaja's Composing Style!

Making music-The ilaiyaraja way!

In Western classical world there are two distinct classifications of music. One is ‘program music’ and the other is ‘absolute music’.

The first one is the idea that music should describe stories and concepts. The other one is making music as it comes to your mind without any preset ideas. That is the belief that music should exist solely to express musical thoughts.

What Ilaiyaraaja does in films is basically ‘program music’ as he does them for a given situation or scene or emotions.

In films there are two classifications. Creating song music and creating background score for the completed feature film. In the industry parlance scoring for the background music is also called as Re-Recording (RR).

Song music

Tune Composing
Ilaiyaraaja has a sitting with the Director/Producer when the entire script is narrated to him. Then they explain the significant cues in the story where a song may fit in. Some times when they are confused and cannot decide a cue for a song, Ilaiyaraaja with his experience suggests appropriate slots in the story where a song can be used. Some times they may have two sessions-one to narrate the story and another session to compose tunes for the songs.

Now assume that they have identified five song situations in this film. Now they start the process of finalising a tune for each song.

Ilaiyaraaja sings aloud with his Harmonium various tunes for a given situation. Every thing is recorded on tape. Some times this session will go on with endless tunes from Ilaiyaraaja and finally the director/producer deciding on one. Some times the session will be over in less than 45 minutes as happened with Director P Vasu for Chinnathambi. Vasu says, "One by one as we went through the situations, Ilaiyaraaja started churning out tunes and then and there we decided very fast and every thing was over so soon".

When they agree on a particular tune for that song then that tune is recorded in a separate tape. A copy of which will go to the lyric writer. During this session itself they will decide the lyric writer for this song. During this composing session, Ilaiyaraaja will have only his assistant in-charge of vocal section Mr. Sundararajan. This old man is in-charge of maintaining the tune tapes library.

Once the tune is finalised then Sundararajan will write down the tune in the swara notation form. This will come in handy to him when he sits with the singers during the voice recording and also during the song recording with the orchestra.

As I said, the day of actual recording of this tune may be on the same day or quite some time from the time they had the composing session.

Composing the full score
On the day of recording when Ilaiyaraaja arrives at the studio at 7 am, Sundararajan is ready with the particular tune tape in Ilaiyaraaja’s room. The director is on hand to give him a gist of the situation again and also his idea of the song and the way in which he plans to picturise it.

For example, if the director says that while the heroine sings this song he is going to intercut the scene and going to show some approaching tragedy, then Ilaiyaraaja has to take care of this fact in his interlude music in the song.

Example is Paadava Un Paadalai song in Naan Paadum Paadal. When Ambika sings this beautiful melodic song at the studio, the director intercuts and shows the scene where Mohan rushing in his car which would eventually get into an accident and kill him. The interlude music will be appropriate to the scene.

There is another similar song involving Mohan and Ambika; in the song Yaar Veettu Roja Poo Poothatho in the film Idhaya Koil where Mohan sings the song in the studio while Ambika is shown in trouble. Of course, this song also has some memorable string passages.

Similarly, another good example is the beautiful song Vaanil Vedivelli…sung by Janaki/Mano in Honest Raj. The wife is singing the song, in a flash back sequence, and when Vijayakanth sings in the present, after the death of his wife, the rhythm changes totally. The whole song scenes will go back and forth from the present to the past. In the same way if the director says that he plans to use a big group of dancers for this duet, then Ilaiyaraaja has to use chorus voices positively and then he has to structure his orchestration in such a way.

With all this inputs in mind he listens to the tune once again (he has to, as in between the time of composing this tune and the day of recording, he must have composed many any other tunes and also heard many other stories and seen many other films for re-recording).

Normally the string players- Violin, Viola, Cellos, Double Bass, Brass section, etc. are not part of the regular orchestra for songs. So if he is going to use strings and any other special instruments like Sitar, Veena, Sarangi, Shehnai, etc. then he informs his Programme assistants Kalyanam and Subbiah. It is their responsibility to get the players in time for the rehearsals and recording.

Now he starts writing the entire song with orchestration in his bound pad.

Ilaiyaraaja’s musicality is more than a talent. The ideas that come to him are, in reality, completed in his mind and only have to be written down on paper. This is composing at the highest possible level. This is the gift that has won him honours as he has time and again demonstrated that he could provide embellishments or variations for a piece without prior notice or preparation. This is always evident when he makes on the spot corrections or modifications to the score for a song or background music as he takes the orchestra through the score for the final take. Contrary to popular belief that because he writes music and hence he is too theoretical in his music making, he is capable of making and does make mind boggling changes to the score at the last minute with out it affecting the over all control of the composition.

He says that once he sits with all these inputs in mind, the entire song comes to him as a flash at three distinct levels.

On one level the complete rhythm pattern of the entire song. The second is the entire orchestration. And the third is the entire vocal patterns needed.

His problem is the usual one-the mind is faster than his hand. So he says, "As I start writing, the entire pattern keeps changing dynamically. So what is finally turned out is not the one I got at the first instance. I don’t know whether the final one is better or the first one would have been the best combination." He used to ask jokingly, "Is there any equipment available that would get the entire score from my mind at one go when it strikes my mind at the first instance?”

As is his practice, the score sheet will contain the session time on the top-right hand corner-whether it is a 7 AM session or an afternoon 2 PM session.

Till 1989 Ilaiyaraaja used to record two songs per day. One in the morning and another one in the afternoon. Some times, he has even recorded four songs a day with two orchestras in adjoining studios. The top left-hand corner will have the singer name for this song. He also writes the production company name and the song name if it has been finalised already with the lyric writer.

Now it is 7.45-8 AM. The score is ready.

What Ilaiyaraaja writes is called Short-Score format in music parlance. That means it is not a full score yet; still there are a few things that he takes care during the rehearsals/recording. More over, because most of the players have been with him for many years and the chemistry is very strong, he can take the liberty of leaving certain things unsaid on the score, which the orchestra players will make out on their own or Ilaiyaraaja can verbally fill those missing pieces during the rehearsals.

The score will contain every thing. Including the chorus portions, the words or phrases for the chorus parts, male/female, solo/group, and every thing will be there. If he wants a double or treble flute or some other things like mixing of a solo violin in multiple tracks, every thing will be clearly written there.

Though he writes in western staff notation format, he marks some of the parts in swara notation form also in Tamil for the benefit of the players; this is in addition to the western notation

On the other hand what he wrote for his work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) was in full-score format. It was concert hall music. Once the score is published then any orchestra in the world could play that music in their programmes. Hence that score would contain every thing. What the conductors normally change is the tempi and other minor things in the score.

In a studio recording short-score format, for example, if a flute joins the violins in the middle of a passage and goes out, Ilaiyaraaja need not bother about writing every thing there. If he has written the melody that the flute player has to play, then the tempo and scale and pitch etc. he can verbally instruct during the take. And from his mixing console he can adjust the flute channel volume with reference to the volume of the violins so that he can decide which should be in the foreground and which should be in the background.

But in concert music full-score format, this balancing of various instruments has to be on the score-on paper. Added to this, writing for live instruments is not an easy task, as it requires deep knowledge about the range of each and every instrument and also the capability of the players available with you. You cannot write some thing for the violin and ask the sax player to play it (there is no electronics in a classical Symphony Orchestra, you remember).

On top of this, writing for concert hall music requires a very strong imagination. What do I mean?

Imagine, when the full brass section is playing a passage along with the string section and if I want to write this flute melody interlude, I should know the level at which to write the flute portion so that the flute will be heard amongst other instruments in that particular passage.

Do you understand the complexity of writing concert music for a classical symphony orchestra?

Rehearsal and Recording
The orchestra players have started arriving at the studio. They all wait to see the score as students wait outside the examination hall. Now, senior violinist Judi goes inside Ilaiyaraaja‘s room and comes out with the score. Judi’s is in-charge of copying and distribution of score sheets to everybody. He is also responsible to follow the on-the-spot corrections and adjustments that Ilaiyaraaja may make during the course of the rehearsal and recording and make sure that these corrections are made on the individual copies of the players. He has a look at the score and other members of the orchestra cuddle around him. If the score is a simple one then the players heave a sigh of relief. If it is a tough one, then they straight away start their practice to be ready before Ilaiyaraaja arrives for rehearsals. Now the score goes for xeroxing. Some 20 to 30 copies are made depending upon the number of players.

Ilaiyaraaja has his breakfast in the mean while and by 9 am he comes out of his room and proceeds to the studio hall. The full orchestra has assembled there and every one is seriously practicing their portions.

His first stop is with Puru (R Purushothaman), the man in-charge of the complete rhythm section.

Ilaiyaraaja explains to him the general rhythm scale of the song with the clapping of his hands. He explains the rhythm changes during the course of the whole song and the multiple rhythm patterns that he wants for this song. He also explains to Puru the kind of sounds he wants for each and every rhythm patterns. Puru plays some sections on his Octopad and gets himself clarified. He also plays sample rhythm sounds from his Samplers for Ilaiyaraaja to select. Once Puru is clear as to what Ilaiyaraaja wants then Ilaiyaraaja moves to the Indian rhythm section players (comprising Tabala, Dolak, etc.) if they are available and goes through the motions for their portions in their language as Nadai, Thala kattai, etc. Apart from his Rhythm areas, Puru will make himself clear about the whole song in general including the portions of all other groups.

Then he stops with his keyboard and electric guitar group comprising Viji Manuel (son of legendary Handel Manuel) and Bharani on the keyboards, Guitarist Sada (son of late music director Sudarsanam) and others.

Of course, the score contains every thing including the chords they have to play. The Keyboard/Synthesizer players will have their portions marked on the score sheet as SS, SS1, SS2, QX Prog, and SSVoice or in the name of some unavailable instruments like BagPipe, Santoor, Oboe, etc.

In some of the string and flute portions the keyboards would join the live instruments. And also whenever brass section is playing then also Viji and other keyboard players will join the live brass players to give a much richer and bigger sound. This is more so due to the non-availability of that many brass players in the field. Many a time the keyboard gang will be required to join the live chorus group with their synthesizer voices.

You must have noticed that in many of his songs the string portion is almost a mix of live strings with keyboard strings. In the same way the flute passages are mostly double or treble flutes with Neapolean (Arunmozhi, the singer) playing the live flute and Viji providing the support with his keyboards. Some times Neapolean will play it twice in different tracks so that the final output will look like as if three flute players were there.

One good example is the song Kaadal ….. by SPB/Chitra from the film Gopura Vaasalile. Or even the Povoma Oorkolam song from Chinnathambi has a beautiful double flute passage in the second background. Of course, the Gopura Vaasalile song has a beautiful orchestration with subtle things like SPB will start the Pallavi and Chitra will repeat it; but when SPB completes the pallavi, Chitra will join him for the last sentence and from then on start the pallavi all over again while SPB will withdraw; that is, the last word alone they will sing together. It was a beautiful little touch. In the same way the song Poo Malaye from Pagal Nilavu sung by Ilaiyaraaja and Janaki. It is a research material. Both of them will be singing different saranams in different octaves simultaneously.

Now he goes to the centre of the hall where a score stand with his original score pad is ready for him.

He first goes through the portions of the string players.

He puts them through their portions one by one from the various passages he has written in this song (he refers them as Backgrounds-1st, 2nd, 3rd, like that; if the song opens with music then it is 1st BGM, the music that comes after the Pallavi is 2nd BGM, like that it is classified). Corrects them in their dialogue play as well as group play as First Violin group and Second Violin group and also with the Cello group. He also makes sure that they understand clearly, in particular, the rests and pauses in their parts. Of course, abrupt rests and pauses in his scores are his hallmarks. So are the little things like interludes between the lines in the pallavi or saranam or some times even in between words.

Once the section wise rehearsals are through, Ilaiyaraaja puts the orchestra through the full song.

Now Sundararajan hums the vocal part of the song with the orchestra playing the full song. During this full song rehearsal, which is a sketchy one, Puru’s drum machine will just give a measured beat to accompany the orchestra because he has not programmed his sections yet.

During this phase, Ilaiyaraaja corrects the orchestra if there is any problem in exactly understanding his phrasing demands and also the portions involved in song-follow; that is the players including the string section who will have portions to be played during the song also. In many of his songs you can find that the orchestra is having a continuous dialogue play with the singers. An excellent example that immediately comes to my mind is the song Adho Andha Nadhiyoram…from the film Ezhai Jaathi sung by Janaki, in this song you can find the strings in constant and vibrant dialogue with the singer in both the saranams.

Some times, if he finds that the orchestra finds it difficult to play a particular phrase or passage, then he will either ask them to practice again and again and be ready for the take. Of course, during the take if he still finds them struggling with it, then he would make amendments to the score. After all, work has to go on.

When I talk about Ilaiyaraaja giving instructions, it is all very precise and to the point. For an on-looker, it will all look meaningless. In mono syllables or just some gestures. But there is an invisible communication channel between Ilaiyaraaja and his players.

Once this rehearsal session is over, Ilaiyaraaja retires to his room.

During this period Puru will be busy programming his sequencers and Viji, Sada and other electronics people with their programming work. Rest of the orchestra will be busy practicing their portions. This will take quite an amount of time.

During this period the Lyric writer arrives with the song and Ilaiyaraaja goes through the written song and checks whether it goes with the tune with out any hitch. At the end of this session the final song copy okayed by Ilaiyaraaja is ready for voice mixing. This is also the break period for Ilaiyaraaja to spend some time meeting visitors, reading or writing. In fact most of the pieces in his two albums How To Name It? and Nothing But Wind was written casually during such breaks.

At around 12.30 when his Rhythm section programming is complete and all others are ready with their parts, Puru gets into the Mixer Console Room and takes on the role of a Music Producer. (In the music parlance the one who sits on the Mixer Console and listens to the various channels and balances them to produce the desired results is called the Music Producer).

Now Puru goes through each and every section (key-boards, guitars, rhythms, strings-violins, cellos, double-bass, flute….) asking them to play their parts and balances their volume levels on the mixer. This becomes more complex with the electronic instruments as they are directly connected to the mixer and getting the right volume at the console in relation to their own individual volume settings becomes a little bit complex.

Once done, Judi or another senior violinist Prabakar take on the role of a conductor and puts the orchestra through the full song. The individual groups like live rhythm players, brass section, flute and others will be in their respective booths. Only the string section and the electronic gang will be in the main hall. And Sundararajan will be in the voice booth to hum the song or some times instead of this a violinist will play the song along with the orchestra to keep the cue for them.

With the orchestra playing the full song and listening from the Console, Puru tries to adjust the levels of various tracks and channels and arrives at a level, which he knows Ilaiyaraaja would accept.

Having been with Ilaiyaraaja from his college days, for almost two decades now, Puru should know better. Once this done, word is sent to Ilaiyaraaja that every thing is ready for the final take (that means, for the actual recording!).

Ilaiyaraaja listens to the full song from the Mixer Console and gives some finer corrections and adjustments. Some times, this last minute embellishments would tax the orchestra so much that they may require a few more practice runs before the take. Once Ilaiyaraaja is satisfied, they start the "take" process. Again and again this process continues till finally Ilaiyaraaja says it is through.

Some times, he may listen to the full song play from the console and leave instructions for corrections and adjustments if any and then leave the rest of the work of actually completing the take to Puru and others and retire for lunch. He has to write the score for the afternoon song, you see!

If the song is a complex one then they record a basic track first with the rhythm section and the vocal cue. Later on they will mix the strings, flute and other portions one by one in separate sessions.

All these works including the voice mixing sessions with the singers, Ilaiyaraaja used to do earlier. His able assistants have taken over those run of the mill tasks from Ilaiyaraaja. The team works like a well-oiled machine leaving Ilaiyaraaja to concentrate on the creative side.

Occasionally Ilaiyaraaja himself will be singing the voice track for the song instead of Sundararajan humming it or some other violinist playing it along with the orchestra during the take. For example the famous song Vaa Vaa Anbe from Eeramana Rojave. This is a two-voice song sung by Yesudas and Janaki. During the take Ilaiyaraaja sang both the parts effortlessly. Later Yesudas and Janaki mixed their tracks listening to Ilaiyaraaja’s track.

Some times the track version he sings becomes so good that it is retained in the CDs/tapes while another version by a regular singer is recorded for use in the film.

For example the famous song Idhayam Oru Koil from IdhayaKoil. Ilaiyaraaja originally had a version by himself and Janaki sung during the take. Later he had another version mixed by Balu and that was the one used in the film. In the same way he sang the voice track for the song Ennai Thaalatta Varuvalo from Kadulukku Mariyadhai. Later Hariharan listened to Ilaiyaraaja’s track and sung his version, which was used in the film. Fortunately they retained Ilaiyaraaja’s track also without overwriting it.

Later, depending upon their availability the singers will come and mix their voices. At that time Sundarrajan will be in-charge of the sessions to train them with the help of the tune tape, the swara notations he has made of the tune and also with the help of the score sheet which precisely tells you the entry and exit points. If Ilaiyaraaja is available or if he feels the song is a difficult one, then he will be there to personally mix the voices. In the same way, the chorus voices are mixed later in separate sessions.

Background Music (Re-recording)

Once the edited rough-cut version of the film is ready after the dubbing, a screening is arranged for Ilaiyaraaja. This print is called "double-positive" film in industry parlance. Because there are two positive films that will be run simultaneously. One will contain the visuals and the other will contain the dialogues. And during the re-recording sessions, the music will be recorded on another positive sound film. Of course, now days, if it is done in DTS/Dolby formats, then it is recorded on tapes/CDs. This projection will not contain the special effects sounds like opening of door or moving of a car or train or even the dishum dishum sounds of the fight sequences. Just visuals with dialogue.

Composing the Score
Once this screening is over, Ilaiyaraaja will start his sessions immediately. If he sees the film in evening then his sessions will start from 7 AM the next day. And normally the re-recording sessions are called 7 to 9 sessions; that is from 7 AM to 9 PM sessions with breaks for break-fast at 9 AM, lunch at 1 PM and evening snacks at 6 PM.

For this re-recording session, unlike a song recording, all members of the orchestra will be present. Because in a song he knows exactly the kind of instruments that will be needed. But in a re-recording session, you don’t know when you will require which instrument. Hence every one will be there. That is, apart from the regulars like the electronics group comprising key-boards, guitars, the rhythm players, flute, all the others like the violins, cellos, double-basses, the brass section comprising sax, trumpets, trombones and sitar will also be present during this re-recording sessions. Some times, special players for Brass, Saarangi, etc. will be called for these sessions from Bombay to add strength to the regular local players.

These RR sessions may take anywhere from 2.5 days to 6 days depending upon the complexity and load. If the film has more number of songs then Ilaiyaraaja’s load comes down that much. Instead, if it has more visuals than dialogues like in a Mani Ratnam or Bharathi Raaja film then his load goes up.

If the first reel has the credits running and it requires music, then it is kept aside as the last work of the project after finishing all other reels. Some times if it has a song, then he need not bother about this.

Now the projections at the studio will be reel by reel, each reel running for approximately 10 minutes. In some reels, if there is a song, then the rest of the reel should be seen for potential music inclusion.

The reel is projected. The whole orchestra, some 70 players, and the director, and all others in studio watch the film in the hall with Ilaiyaraaja. Ilaiyaraaja sits in the centre of the hall with his harmonium in front of him and resting his score pad on that. He is a picture of sphinx like concentration watching the reel and the happenings there. As I said, this version of the film does not contain special effects sounds. So Ilaiyaraaja has to take that also into consideration and there may be some shots where he may leave them blank without music to be filled up later with special effect sounds.

During the screening one can see Ilaiyaraaja making some short notes on his pad. Once the reel is over, the lights come on. Ilaiyaraaja waits for a few seconds, I think more to adjust his eyes to the light, than for any thing else.

He starts writing on his score pad. He does not hum any phrase or use his harmonium. When you see this scene, you may think that this man has seen this film many times to decide the cues for music and the compositions needed. But he is seeing the film only for the second time.

The whole theatre goes into silence mode and what you can hear is only the rustle of the paper and the scratch of pen.

Judi and Sada pull up a chair and sit on either side of Ilaiyaraaja with their notepads ready. Behind Ilaiyaraaja, other players start assembling with their notepads in hand. Oblivious of all these hustle and bustle, Ilaiyaraaja is seriously writing the score. And the players from different groups start copying their individual parts then there, if there is any thing for them in that reel. You see, there is no time to waste; to wait for him to complete the full score and then take xerox copies for every one and all other luxuries that you enjoy in a song recording.

You can notice one group calling the others who are chatting outside with their tea and smoke, "Brass is there, go in". You can see the brass players rushing inside to copy their parts. The sitar player who is sparingly used normally, and usually spends most of his time in rest during the entire re-recording session will get a call when he least expects it. He would have seen the reel with Ilaiyaraaja like all others and might have thought that this reel contains nothing that may demand a sitar and might have gone out again to relax till the next reel is projected. But then, with Ilaiyaraaja, you can never predict what he will do next. Suddenly the sitar man gets a call to come in and take his score.

Now Ilaiyaraaja has finished his writing. Players are settling in their seats. And Judi gets his clarifications and makes sure that all those who have copied their parts have done it right by checking the score of each and every group. Every one is ready on their seats. (Now days, some times, Ilaiyaraaja uses a key-board and he directly feeds some of the portions into it from his mind and the rest he writes down as usual. For Hey Ram the re-recording for which he plans to record in India and also in the Europe with a classical orchestra, he directly composed on the key-board and the attached computer with the score management software printed out the entire score. Once you input the score to this software then it becomes easy to separate the parts of the score instrument wise and print them separately and also a combined score for the conductor.)

Now the orchestra knows that there are six musical pieces in this reel and the instruments involved in each of these pieces and the length of the pieces. But nobody knows where this music pieces are to be fit in. Where they are going to begin, where to end.

Of course, they are not bothered about the ending. Because Ilaiyaraaja writes exactly for the time required for the sequence. With out using a stop watch or music editor, he normally writes music that exactly fits the required timing. May be, he has a mental clock that while deciding the start cue and end cue for a music bit, is also capable of calculating the exact footage and the required timing for that footage!

For example, I am taking a reel from the Mani Ratnam film Mouna Raagam, which I consider one of the best study materials on background scoring in film music.

The reel starts mid-way after the song Oho, Megam Vanthatho.

Revathi comes home thinking the boy who was to come and see her for marriage would have gone back. No, he was still waiting to talk with her. Her mother and others scold and get her ready. She is pushed into the room where Mohan is waiting.
This meeting with the boy is some thing she wanted to avoid but couldn’t. Now she enters the room with a lot of reservations and confusions. She starts talking to him hesitatingly to begin with. First she says she won't say sorry for keeping him waiting. Then she talks about herself, her character, her concept of marriage, etc, and why she feels she could not be a good wife to him, etc.
Finally when she asks Mohan to talk some thing, he says "I like you very much" and pushes off.
Every one is happily talking that the boy has agreed for the marriage and about the preparations to be done.
Nobody asks Revathi her opinion. Her sister-in-law reminds every one about this. Her father asks her opinion. She says no. Every one was very unhappy and asks her to give reasons. She says no again and again.
Her father stands up and talks about his middle class background and his responsibility of getting her other sisters married, etc.
Now Revathi asks her father whether he wants to sell her to some one to clear his responsibility.
Her father slaps her.
She walks out of the house, goes and sits on a roadside stone talking to herself, it is a moon lit night.
When Ilaiyaraaja completes the score for this reel, the orchestra has the following:

A short piece with Guitar and Keyboard
A single stroke bang on the mridangam
A small piece by Keyboard, sitar and Guitar
Guitar, Keyboard and Strings.
A flute piece starting with Guitar and later keyboards join to repeat what they did in # 4.
A piece beginning with violins and answered by the cellos. At the end the key-boards join giving some kind of night effect.
Ilaiyaraaja gets up and without even looking around to see whether all of them are ready (they are), starts putting them through the score for a short rehearsal. Piece by piece. Once he has put them through all the pieces in this reel, he signals the operator to start the reel screening again.

The reel starts running again. Now Ilaiyaraaja watches the movie in silence. And the orchestra is in a constant alert waiting for his signal. He looks like a man possessed, with total concentration on the screen. His hands ever ready to conduct the score.

When Revathi enters the house asking her mother whether they have left any thing for her to eat, she stops dumbstruck seeing Mohan and all others. When Revathi sees them, Ilaiyaraaja's hand signals the Keyboard and Guitar.
While getting dressed, Revathi hears that the boy is still waiting because he wants to talk to her some thing; his hand signals the rhythm man-for the single stroke bang on the mridangam. This player was waiting for this because he knew that his piece was the next one in this reel.
Revathi enters the room and sees Mohan. Now his hand signals the sitar player (he is sitting behind him and Ilaiyaraaja does not bother to see any body, his concentration totally on the screen only. Any way, the sitar man knew that it was his turn next). This piece is some kind of a broken piece with silence or as he calls in music parlance, with rests in between. This is to go with the emotions of the character that enters the room with a lot of reluctance and reservations.
Just before Revathi completes her initial intro saying "I am not going to say sorry for keeping you all waiting" this piece ends giving a bit of silence.
When she completes this sentence, Ilaiyaraaja signals the next piece by Guitar, Keyboards and strings.
The music on its own ends just a few seconds before Revathi completes her monologue and tells Mohan that she won’t be a good wife and asks his opinion. What was written fits exactly only that much that Ilaiyaraaja has planned. More over, the silence created before Revathi completes her monologue and waits for Mohan’s answer is intentional in creating a tension.
When Mohan says that he likes her very much, Ilaiyaraaja signals the Rhythm man again and then the Sitar man. This is some kind of a short dialogue between Rhythm and Sitar
The next piece starts when Revathi’s father starts talking about his middle class state, etc. Ilaiyaraaja signals the Guitar, flute and Keyboard. After the initial flute bit, the Keyboards repeat what they played in the earlier piece, that is, when Revathi was talking with Mohan.
Revathi starts replying her father…
Now Ilaiyaraaja signals the string section to be ready; once her father slaps Revathi, his hand moves like a flash, the Keyboards withdraw and a new piece starts with violins and they are answered vigorously by the cellos. This dialogue continues till Revathi comes out of the house and sits on a road side stone, talking to herself; when the moon is shown, Ilaiyaraaja signals the night effect key-boards to join.
This process is called "Synchronizing the music with the visuals".

When Ilaiyaraaja does this process, that is conducting the score while seeing the movie, Puru is busy marking the beginning cues of each and every piece and also where exactly it ends. The starting cues he also marks in the form of the reel counter that is running above the screen. Of course, Ilaiyaraaja also in between, when he is waiting for the next cue, gives Puru and other members involved in this reel some finer instructions about the other aspects. And if there are any pieces for chorus voices they are also ready with the orchestra. Normally when he sees the full film, he gets an idea about the reels in which he would be needing chorus voices, and accordingly they will be called. They won’t be present all the time like other members of the orchestra.

Once the reel is over, Ilaiyaraaja gets into the Mixer Console room and Puru takes on the role of the Conductor for the session. The reel is screened again with the speakers in the hall switched off and Puru with his headphone listens to the dialogue and watches the screen and conducts the orchestra for the different cues. Again individual groups play from the different mikes and booths.

They play once when Ilaiyaraaja listens from the console and balances the tracks. And the next time it is take. They record the pieces one by one. The whole process normally takes anywhere between 1 hour to 6 hours, depending up on the complexity.

Ilaiyaraaja says that the most important instrument in his armory is ‘silence’. All other things are just instruments to create that ‘silence’. He just uses other instruments to leave at the ‘silence’ point to create tension, excitement or melancholy. If you have keenly watched his background scores, you can notice, just at that moment when you feel tension, then you can notice that he has stopped his music, which is why you are feeling the tension or concentration. This he uses effectively even in fight sequences, when suddenly he stops the music and leaves only the effects to go on and that makes you attentive suddenly without your realising it.

Some times, the director may not have finalised his version of some of the scenes. In such cases, Ilaiyaraaja would record two or three version of music for that reel, one for a version with the particular scene and one with out that scene. He is always particular that if the director removes that scene later then the music should not appear to be stopping abruptly. Hence in such cases Ilaiyaraaja will give two or three versions for the director to choose later.

While seeing the full film, he gets an idea whether he is going to compose new theme music for this story or going to use one of the song tunes as the theme. And many times he has many themes for many characters or situations that get repeated throughout the movie in different variations to create different moods. When he takes up the music writing for credits (first reel or some times partly first reel and partly last reel) he weaves these themes in to that or uses the song themes. It all depends on what mood he wants to create.

In Thalapathi when he found out that the final film had more on mother-son sentiment than friendship sentiment as originally narrated to him during the composing sessions, he decided to use the Chinnathai song as the theme. He used that in different variations to build the emotional colour of the story as a mother-son story.

In Idhayathai Thirudathe, the credits come on only after some time when Nagarjuna gets into an accident and rushed to the hospital. If you notice, the music is nothing but the theme music of the film, which you will hear later many times, in many variations, throughout the film but now here it is like a slow movement, depicting tragedy.

In Mouna Raagam he has theme music with two variations. A fast paced one is for Karthik and a gentle, slow paced one for Mohan. And the first reel when the credits are on, you can hear both in that. In the same film when Karthik leaves his house for marriage, the police take him away. When he is traveling in the jeep, mid way through, the music starts. First a gentle beginning with keyboards and when he jumps from the jeep, drum strokes come on. When he starts running, a solo violin starts a tremolo, which is answered by other violins and cellos. Now this dialogue reaches its crescendo and suddenly when Karthik sees Revathi who is sitting on top of the steps on the other side of the road, the first violins burst out the theme music and they are answered by the second violins and cellos; it continues through the process of Karthik getting shot at and ends with Revathi completing her flash back story.

In Gopura Vaasalile, the first reel when the credits come on after the initial scene when the friends board the train to go to Ooty, the entire sequence is the train and the scenic hill track to Ooty. The music is a beautiful Concerto for Flute and Orchestra. With the solo flute taking on the theme of the film and later joined by the strings and other players and later the flute taking on the song themes from the film.

To quote from Thalapathy again, it has many interesting examples to show how a correct musical score can add a lot of depth and colour to a scene.

The scene where Mammooty suddenly asks Rajani to marry Bhanupriya and both of them are shocked. Very effective use of Strings and keyboards add weight to this scene. And when they are shown entering the Colony, he uses the melody of the unused song Putham Puthu Poo Poothatho… first as a solo humming and then with Shehnai/Saarangi to portray the true feelings of the characters and situation.
The scene where Jaishankar tells Rajani that he has a mother and Rajani refusing to believe that at first and then requesting Jai not to tell her that he is alive as she should not come to know that her son is such a bad element. See how effectively he has used chorus voices with keyboards and strings.
Again the scene where Bhanupria and her kid come to the clinic and leave the shawl of Rajani in which Srividhya had thrown him away many years back. Srividhya calls out the girl and gives the shawl. The girl narrates the story of the shawl. While Srividhya realises the enormity of the statement, the kid takes the shawl away and Srividhya helplessly looks at the shawl slipping away from her hands, as if it is her kid that is slipping away from her hands. The music here is marvelous with santoor effects from the keyboards.
The scene where Srividhya visits Rajani. Chorus voices with keyboards effectively create the build-up for this reunion scene.
When Rajani comes to meet Aravindswamy to request him to go out of that town on transfer- Rajani sees Shobana on the top of the steps. The moment they see each other, a solo violin in slow tempo, takes on from the Sundari song pallavi "Naan Unai Theendamatten.." and other strings give minimal support. The music stops just giving a few seconds of silence before Rajani starts talking, asking Shobana "Nalla erukkia".
Some times he has to do the filling up before or after a song. For example, in Chinnathambi, when Prabu and Kushboo come out of the house the song Povoma Oorkolam does not start immediately. There is a length of shots when Kushboo is seen enjoying the beauty of the nature, the green fields, the birds, the wind, etc. Now Ilaiyaraaja has to fill up this portion with a music which should effortlessly continue with the song that is to follow. If you watch again, please notice, how beautifully the strings and flute are used to create that.

In the same way, the stick fight and the song Santhu Pottu that follows that in Thevar Magan. Ilaiyaraaja is aware that this is not a serious fight scene, just a play kind of thing. So he decides to treat this differently. At first when the fight starts, the rhythm bangs are used to create tension. And as the fight slowly progresses, the individual rhythm play has become a full-fledged song kind of thing, some kind of dance music. You may even wonder whether the fight was picturised for the music or the other way round. It is so perfect. But it is some thing done during the re-recording. Finally when the song begins, it looks like the extension of the stick fight dance music.

In Apoorva Sakotharargal, during the initial scenes when Nagesh and gang poison Srividhya the violent music with strings and brass begin. And it is followed by a varied rhythm play when they try to escape through the fields and the gang chasing them. And the credits start after the killing of Kamal and suddenly the music changes to an eerie, mystery kind of thing with flutes, brass and rhythms. And when the scene changes to the river with the boat in which Srividhya tries to escape, a solo flute takes over with the theme of the story and strings answer it. And this theme we will hear many times in the story to follow.

Some times during the re-recording sessions, he may decide to fill-up a scene with a bit song or even a full song. Bit songs have happened many a time. But the most notable and popular full song done during the re-recording sessions was the famous Das, Das,Chinnappa Das song in Kadalora Kavithaigal.

When Ilaiyaraaja saw that reel he did not write any thing and took the next reels after that. Every one including the director was wondering why. And in the afternoon after lunch, when Ilaiyaraaja came to the session he was ready for a song recording, with the full score written during the lunch break. In the film, it appears as if the picturisation was done for a song, but in fact it was the other way round. The song will start with a Veda like hymn rendition Oru Kaalai Thookki… from the scene Satyaraj standing on one leg and goes on from there.

In the same way there was an incident during the re-recording of the Rajni film Panakkaran.

There was a scene of Rajni and his sister. They have an argument about how long can Rajni go inside the swimming pool water. Rajni goes inside and his sister starts counting. During this period the villain Charanraj comes and forcibly takes her away to a jungle. There is a length of scene where she was chased by Charanraj. The score here is a melancholic flute trills accompanied by tabla. You know who was the flutist for this piece? None other than the great Hari Prasad Chaurasia.

When Raja was doing the music for this reel during the morning pre-lunch session he stopped the work midway and took the next reel. The players did not know why he took the next reel without completing the earlier reel.

During the post lunch session Hari Prasad Chaurasia came to see Raja. After spending some time talking to him while doing the take of other reels, Raja asked the earlier incomplete to be taken up. Then he asked Chaurasia whether he is ready to do a small piece. Chaurasia said “Oh, that was a pleasant surprise Raja, would love to play your music any time”. Then Raja said “I kept this piece aside when I heard you are in town and coming to see me in the afternoon”.

Most of the directors feel that after his re-recording the whole film looks so different from what they conceived or expected it to be. It is much more than their imagination. And Ilaiyaraaja's main trait is that he does not do any thing to force himself-either in songs or in background scoring. He does just what is required for the scene, how to add value to that or how to support that or how to cover some flaws that can not be corrected now. And his concentration and sincerity is the same for all whether it is a Ramarajan film or a MR or BR film. Even in a third rate film, if you notice, his work would be of the highest order. Of course, if the film is so bad then even his music can not do much to revive that. Some times, if the director is around during the sessions, Ilaiyaraaja checks with them whether what he has composed is fine. But he has established such a great reputation to correctly gauge the mood of a film and write the appropriate musical treatment required enhancing it, most of the directors just leave every thing to him; that is the complete editorial freedom to decide the cues, the type instruments and the score.

Some times the directors kill his songs with their own ideas. A good example is the famous Sundari song from Thalapathy. It is a song depicting war. It has a powerful orchestration with a lot of strings and brass and chorus voices. But in the film the director killed the song with excessive use of horse running effects, did you notice?

There are many a time when Ilaiyaraaja has done RR for two films simultaneously. Thevar Magan was one such film. It was a typical Diwali release and it was one of those times when Ilaiyaraaja used to have at least half a dozen movies for simultaneous release. And every director will be working on the final edit version till the last minute and every one will be forcing to complete the RR some how to give them time to do the balance work and release the picture for Diwali.

In such a situation, Ilaiyaraaja will have two orchestras. In studio-A he will see a reel, write the score, sync the score with the film and give instructions to one of his assistants like Puru or somebody and they will record the pieces one by one.

While they do this, he will go to Studio-B and see a reel from the second film and do the same thing there-see that reel from where he left in the last session in that film, write the score, sync it with the film and record the pieces himself or leave that to the boys to complete the take while he goes back to Studio-A, where by now the recording of earlier reel would have been completed and he takes up the next reel for scoring.

Imagine the magnitude of mental pressure. Different stories, different situations demanding different kind of score, different threads and themes to follow, and our man effortlessly shuttling between the studios.

And he changes the schedule (seeing the film reel by reel, writing the music, synchronizing it with the visuals and recording the pieces) when he does work for a film that is to be recorded in DTS or DOLBY.

In such cases what he does is this. Sees the full film once as usual in a preview theatre. And starts seeing the reels one by one in the preview theatre (instead of his recording theatre). Writes the score for each and every reel. During these sessions he has his main assistants like Puru, Viji, Judi and some more people. Then and there his score will be copied section wise and extra copies made for the orchestra.

And when this is over for all the reels, the scene shifts to the recording theatre. He starts seeing reel by reel. Conducts the score with the orchestra, syncs it with the visuals and goes for recording.

He does this because the recording in DTS or other modern formats are directly done in CD or tapes in multiple tracks. The balancing and mixing becomes complex like a multi-track song recording and takes a long time than his normal recording sessions when the recording is actually done in sound films. Also, these special sessions will have a lot of new musicians who are new to his style. Hence it would be better if the full score is ready on hand for the sessions. That would save a lot of time.

His BGM tracks done in such latest formats can be easily converted into individual albums-for example Mahanadhi, Kaalapani, MyDearKuttichathan, Kaadhal Kavithai, etc.

But his other BGM works can not be done that way. Because normally the re-recording music is recorded directly on sound films. Hence they may have to be re-recorded again from the old scores if you want to get them to album quality.

You would be able to appreciate the amount of work he does with just a single viewing of the rough cut film when he is able to give such a good quality musical support to them. Without the aid of lists of music cues, a music editor or even a stopwatch, Ilaiyaraaja is able to compose accurately a piece for a particular film cue which fits exactly not only the required timing but also the mood and pace of the action on the screen, heightening the tension if it was a fight scene, or enhancing with beautiful lyrical melodies the romantic mood of a love scene, or just adding spontaneously joyous excitement rhythmically to a dance scene.

John Williams is another composer whom I admire very much. Like Ilaiyaraaja, he also writes every thing himself, without depending on arrangers/orchestrators like most of the MDs in Hollywood. But do you know the time he took for writing the score for Phantom Menace-Episode I? The rough cut version was given to him some time in October 1998. And he was ready to record the score with the London Symphony Orchestra in February 1999. And he himself admits he would have seen the film at least 50 times in the course of composing the score.

What kind of output will Ilaiyaraaja produce, if he gets that kind of time and resources?

Article Courtesy - Ravi Ananthanarayan (