Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Three Songs, Reprise I

Song 1: Ariyathe ariyathe
Raavanaprabhu, 2001
Suresh Peters/Girish Puthencheri/P Jayachandran/KS Chithra

The song is the saving grace of an inane movie featuring a tubby, middle-aged superstar reprising his role in a series which started off admirably with Devaasuram. His love interest is the supergrown, supertubby singer-turned actor Vasundhara Das (heave!). Both are thoroughly unsuitable for the roles, but we leave it at that, we know how 'politically charged' these selections are. The song is a rare gem in an otherwise foundering genre (Malayalam OST, which now requires a polyglot to really tell which language is being used). It is a meticulously crafted song, and easily the best from Suresh Peters. No amount of analysis will give you an idea of utter conformance it demands from the audience which it keeps captive throughout. (While, filling the screen, we have nauseaous machinations and gesticulations from the two ponderous protagonists. We don't notice them, unless 'we' happen to be excessively sick. Or fond of getting sick.)

I should forewarn those who know the language that the lyric (typical Puthencheri) is crap. These are just words which Jayachandran renders a bit acceptable. Chithra only amplifies the comic effect.

Intro features a phenomenal flute ouverture with two performers: one is leading while the other, recurring throughout, is the beautiful 'rhythm' flute. This is stellar in its own right, and sets the tune for the rest of the fare.

Around the half-minute mark,the song is hijacked, as it were, by the excellent muted lead-guitar note, which is the main rhythm track of the song. This is nicely "filled up" by the rich, deep tone of a very well-executed bass line, which remains punchy right through. This complex note serves as its own counterpoint, which suddenly elevates it to another plane. This 'note' sets a strict tempo, and the ambience is rather taut, and the lead vocalist is also similarly tight-lipped. The song unravels with the falling cadence of the mridangam, which simulatenously unwinds the lyrics, spilling over to bawdy, with an open invitation to a public display of affection.

It should also be noted here that Chithra ruins the opening by "hurriyathe" the song, which she corrects in the iteration. The gaping quality of diction of the individual vocalists is a big disappointment of the song. It is the only flaw of a perfect song which no music composer/arranger could ever guard against (bad raw material).

The intro is followed by a relaxing veena-flute passage, and followed up by a hectic exchange of impassioned words between the proagonists.

The interlude ends with a notable grace (a simple triple note) performed with the mridangam. (In a typical performance this is a "hooray" after a long passage, but used here out-of-the-context to good effect, affording considerable musical compression.)

The final section reiterates the first lines, which Chithra's flawed diction and overindulgent rendition make revolting, even as one catches a glimpse of two stuffed, gluttonous fugures lazily reclining on a lavishly appointed velvet bed (memory fails me). The hero tumbles into bed with the quiescent female. Dunlop(s) on Dunlop(?)

The highlights of the song are the excellent solo performances on the flute, the incredible contrapuntal guitar rhythm track, and the perfect musical arrangement. Jayachandran supplements with his perfect diction and nuanced delivery, while Chithra detracts and disappoints.

Instruments: ~
  • Flute (x2, one lead and another rhythm—a very curious and novel arrangement, one of the highlights of the song)
  • Lead guitar and Bass guitar. The bass is where a lot of the action takes place, and is kept alive throughout using the most ingenious of melodies. I have seldom listened to a better bass-line track in Malayalam
  • Mridangam (x2, yes there are two), giving rise to split-beat-notes where accent is needed
  • Veena, which supports, and later takes up, the theme from the flute
  • Muted contrapuntal notes on the lead guitar providing the main beat, which is the highlight of the song, and a stylistic 'first'

Other notables: ~
Jayachandran's immaculate diction, and KS Chitra's second-rate intonation of "vaartthinkal", "kas'thoori", and the initial "harriyathe" disfigure the perfect Malayalam song. Even Jayachandran seems to get tired of Chitra's diction which strays way off the mark, and he finally admonishes: "nee vanavalaakayay padunnu." (Note the finality of his ending. It's almost a chiding. He sounds ironical. He's known to chide co-singers in this fashion while singing; he's a most stoic and professional singer but sometimes even he cannot help noticing what a hash the co-singer is making of the song.) Apart from that, the lyrics itself is particularly cruel on the female: a vana valaaka is probably a wild crane (forgive my scanty knowledge of Kalidasa), a bird whose cry is not sweet by any reckoning. Puthencheri nets an own goal here, as he has done on so many occasions elsewhere.


To Sajit: I'll add the lyrics and the rest of the article and clean this up a bit, just posted this as an 'Interim.'

Since you already made sense, I don't think I have to strain myself with the lyrics.

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