Monday, April 04, 2005

Sound of Music

Anticipation about upcoming soundtracks like Mumbai Express and Anniyan and the discussion on Chandramukhi songs led me to think about song sequences in Tamil cinema in general.

There are so many elements that go into making a single song sequence. The most important among these elements are ofcourse the song itself (i.e its tune), its lyrics, the singers, the way the song has been picturized(in other words, the combination of cinematography, art direction and set design), the choreography and the performance of the participants(which could be either dancing or just 'simple' acting). Ofcourse, some of these are more important than the others and excellence in some of the aspects can overcome deficiencies in others. There have probably been as many good songs let down by poor picturization(Senorita... from Poovellaam Kaettuppaar) as there have been average songs made better by good picturization(Annamalai Annamalai... from Annamalai). But IMO, only when all the elements come together does a song sequence become truly timeless and and a delight that can be seen and savored over and over again.

Selecting a single favorite from the 1000s of Tamil cinema song sequences over the years is definitely a daunting task. But keeping in mind the aforementioned components of a song sequence, I think I have my favorite. And the winner is... (drumroll please!)

Andhi Mazhai Pozhigiradhu... from Raajapaarvai

This one of those magical song sequences that has it all - a melodious and instantly hummable tune,wonderfully meaningful and clever lyrics(like the play on the word/phrase Ilamaiyile and Ila Mayile),involved singing by SPB, natural picturization with bright cinematography and interesting pieces(like the transparent umbrella) and great acting(just see the way Kamal looks for Madhavi when she plays behind him and his completely blank stare when he catches her). This is a song sequence that always mesmerizes me each time I see it.

But its never fun having just one favorite and Top 5 just sounds better than Top 1. So here are 4 other song sequences that have managed to bring together all the elements successfully. These are in no particular order and without thinking a lot more, I couldn't even claim that these are my top 4 favorites after Andhi Mazhai.... But if I ever burn a DVD of my favorite song sequences to watch over and over, these 4 would definitely find a place on it.

- Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil... (Mouna Raagam) - The immensely catchy tune here is supported by wonderful picturization. A very pretty Revathi gracefully makes the steps look easy and the group of women dancing the steps in unison is a delight to watch. The Rajasthani dresses have been selected with an eye on brigh colors and many of the shots(like shooting Revathi through a caravan moving sideways) are testimony to the cinematographer's innovative ideas. Even split-second shots(like Revathi letting go of her veil which she had caught in her mouth) are perfectly in sync with the tune.

- Pachai Nirame... (Alaipaayudhe) - Color has always been an important part of Manirathnam's films and this song is all about color. In both lyrics and on screen, one color is predominant during each segment of the song. What makes it great is that the color is not overdone as to be gaudy but simply stands out. The lyrics that find color in the not always obvious places(red of a child's hand, for instance) reveal Vairamuthu's wonderful imagination and the casual but uninhibited dancing and gorgeous cinematography are simply classy.

- Valaiyosai... (Satya) - Choreography is usually considered only for dancing but this song proves that it is just as important when there is absolutely no dancing too. Starting off rather passionately with Kamal's impulsive kiss on Amala's saree-covered lips, the song manages to be both fast and melodious with SPB and Lata Mangeshkar in their elements with their soothing voices. The entire song is picturized in a youthful and playful manner with Kamal and Amala perfectly playing two young people in love. The ends of both paragraphs(Amala's 'shaky' reaction to Kamal's tickling and their united swaying as their bus comes to a stop) are my favorite parts and are choreographed such that they match with the tune perfectly.

- Satham Illaadha... (Amarkkalam) - This is one of the few song sequences that blends seamlessly with the film. In fact, one could say the song is indispensable since Ajith's feelings could not have been expressed so passionately and clearly with any amount of dialog. The barren location fits the mood of the song very well and Vairamuthu's lyrics bring out Ajith's yearnings wonderfully through simple things that we've all yearned for at one time or the other. Ofcourse, SPB's breathless singing, ending in a very high pitch, always raises goosebumps even after knowing that its the result of some musical manipulation.


At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never got to see Raaja Paravai, but your other choices are solid stuff, especially Pachai Nirame, which was undone to me by that needless insert of Madhavan driving a bike on the beach exclaiming "She loves me!", which the director felt to out between the greenish shot of Madhavan talking to his love to the first greenish image of the song sequence.

More recently, I was thrilled by song sequences which enlivened otherwise weak films, like Simbu's village dance with himself midway through MANMANDHAN. I guess my most favourite song sequences along your standards could almost all be found in CHINNA THAMBI, MUTHU, ANNAMALI and some Manirathnam films.

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good choice on the Raja Paarvai song, Balaji! That song can get a little sultry with the wording :) What do you guys think of Kadhal Oviyam from Alaigal Oivathilai? I don't exactly remember the picturization of that song. Then there is that fine song (which always makes me yearn for a trip to India) from Mahanadhi sung by the little girl and SPB. My own all-time favorite is Yengae Yenathu Kavithai from Kandukonden Kandukonden. Anyone know what movie the song Mehame Mehame is from? It is from the 70s or 80s.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

being a Kamal fanatic, how can I not second your opinion of "Andhi Mazhai!"

here're a few of my favs:
"Thanga Thaamarai Magaley" from "Minsara Kanavu"; "Aayirathil Naan Oruvan" from "Iruvar"; "Poatri Paadadi" from "Devar Magan"; "Anjali Anjali" from "Anjali"; "Nee Paathi Naan Paathi" from "Keladi Kanmani"; "Nivedha" from "Nee Paathi Naan Paathi"; "Mustafa Mustafa" from "Kadhal Desam"; "Apdi Paakarathunaa Venaam" from "Ivan"

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

I knew this post would bring back memories on some classic song sequences!
'sri ranga' from mahanadhi
'potri paadadi' from devar magan
'anjali anjali' from anjali
these 3 would definitely find a spot on my DVD!

gopi, i think 'mehame mehame' is from 'paalaivana cholai' (Suhasini, Chandrasekhar)

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To flip the other side of the coin, Vasanth is hands down the master of bad song picturizations! many good songs in his films have been ruined by their unimaginative and clumsy choreography.

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to flip the coin yet another time, Vasanth is the same guy who gave us the astonishing visuals in the "Nivedha" (*ing Gowthami, Raghu) in "Nee Paathi Naan Paathi" and "Theem Thananaa" from "Rhythm"

At 5:07 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

I have to side with vijays on this one. Vasanth has a long history of bad song sequence picturizations, the last travesty being 'Yei Nee Romba Azhagaa Irukke'. I agree that 'Nivedha' was excellent but 'Theemthananaa' was all cinematography and location and does not fall under my list of 'well picturized' songs. No real choreography there...

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Theemthananaa' was all cinematography and location"...Hullo, that was quite a sophomoric comment...what about editing, mixing, conceptualization (forces of nature)?? Did the cinematographer do everything?!

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ok... i can give u the 'conceptualization' bit, especially when considering all the songs in the movie.

And btw, another Vasanth movie where I loved the songs before the movie released but hated their picturization... 'Poovellaam Kaettuppaar'

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i thot "Fanaa" from "Aayitha Ezhuthu" could've been picturized superbly, given the foot-tapping tune and Rehman's rendition...too bad, Mani Ratnam had too much to cram in 2.5 hrs that he chose to 'cut' this one...

At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tu hi Tu - Dilse. I haven't seen anyone showing mud houses and barren land so beautifully.

At 2:12 AM, Blogger NS said...

Hi, first time here:)
Couldn't agree more abt Rajapaarvai... Love the "wetness" in the song throughout... right from the lyrics to the rains to that transparent umbrella and swimming pool! The other song "azhage azhagu" is brilliant too, in all respects!

Vasanth was brilliant in Nee paathi naan paathi, Nivedha, and ofcourse in Theem thanana too... I am sure the cinematographer wudnt have conceived the idea! And if the cinematographer deserves credit for that song, then wouldnt 80% of credit for pachai nirame go to PC Sreeram!?

IMHO, the better picturised song in Alaipayuthey was Kadhal sadugudu... it was intimacy at its best without bordering vulgarity!

Valaiyosai was a class act... you can feel so much of rhythm all thru the song! breathtaking number!

One of my other fav picturizations is Nee oru kadhal sangeetham from Nayagan... those pigeons and those raindrops leaking thru the ceiling! That was poetry in motion!

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

nithya, thanx for visiting and hope u keep coming back.

"wetness" in songs reminds me of virumbugiren. though the picturizations didnt stand out on their own, the presence of water in all of them when the film revolved around fire was a cool idea.

Another vasanth and 'theemthanana' supporter i see :) my point was, once the location was got, most of the work was done. rest of it was arjun just walking around amidst the breathtaking waterfalls. 'pachai nirame' was completely different. the concept, the props(natural and otherwise), the subtle dominance of one color, the choreography, the lyrics - everyone did their job terrifically...

At 5:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey guys how abt chippi irukudhu mutthum irukudhu fm varmai niram sivappu...considering it was concieved 2 and a 1/2 decades ago!!!kamal and sridevi..ooh and kannadasan and spb and Kb!!!what more cld one ask for!:)


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