Ponniyin Paadalgal

Ever since we saw Vandiyathevan meet Kundavai on that boat in Kudanthai , we have all been enchanted by Aga Naga , so much so that there have been multiple cover versions of the song and various mash ups put out by singers , amateur singers and others , perfectly capturing that minute when a Chola princess felt something akin to love for a wandering Bana prince. That feeling of love takes the forefront in the longer version on Aga Naga in the Ponniyin Selvan soundtrack .

In a song where the piano , strings and flute flow like a lush stream of fresh water in Spring , Sakthishree Gopalan’s singing elevates Ilango Krishnan’s terrific lyric about a Chola princess finding a love as strong as her love for her motherland and nature. AR Rahman uses flutes and keys and strings to embellish the nadai pazhagidum siru aruvi , mugil kudithidum malai mugadu , kudai pidithidum nedu mara cherivu and the pani udhirthidum siru malar thuli , which all embody the mun-pani kaalam that is conducive for the lovers to meet secretively , in anticipation and happiness of the long awaited union.

In Aga Naga , Ilango has paid a stunning tribute to the Kurunji Pann of Sangam Literature , managing to stay true to its grammars and at the same time convey the secretive but strong love Kundhavai feels for Vanthiyathevan.

At first glance Aazhi Mazhai Kanna , the paasuram , is Aandal entreating the rain god to rush to the ocean , gather water into dark colored rain clouds and rain them down like Rama’s arrows , to grace good and evil alike without hiding his benevolence. But look a little deeper and it’s a woman entreating her beloved for affection And Harini perfectly captures Vaanathi’s feelings for Arunmozhi in this rendition and as the song ends , one can’t help but feel it was longer.

Ilayor Soodar is another instance where AR sets Kudavaiyil theerathanar’s purananuru lament to tune . In mullaiyum poothiyo , theerathanar asks the jasmine bushes of the ollaiyoor country as to why they bloomed when there’s no one to wear them or enjoy them due to valve saathan’s death. It’s a short lament that captures the extent of a country’s grief due to the untimely death of its ruler. AR keeps the tune and orchestration austere and stark , in contrast to the other compositions in this soundtrack.

For Chinnan Chiru Nilave , Ilango takes inspiration from tamil poet Subramanya Bharati’s Kannamma poems , only that instead of love and happiness , Ilango speaks of separation , sorrow , angst and a sense of emptiness the protagonist feels after losing the love of his life. Those who have read the book like yours truly feel that Ilango has written this from Aditya Karikalan’s point of view , given how the loss of Nandini tortures him to no end until his life meets an untimely end during a clandestine meeting with Nandini at Kadambur. Haricharan aces the straighter version of this song , but its Khatija Rahman that wows us with her rendition in the alternate version of the song where the keys and violins add to the mood and ambience of that secretive meeting at Kadambur and the unhappy events that followed.

The fifth part of Ponniyin Selvan is called Pinnacle of Sacrifice not for nothing and Kalki writes a terrific climax for his Chola saga at a coronation event planned for Arunmozhi , where in a stunning turn of events , Arunmozhi ends up crowning his uncle Sendhan Amudhan as Utthama Chola. Ilango writes the terrific Veera Raja Veera for this occasion , where he sings praises of the Chola ancestors of the past, requesting Raja Raja to take his rightful place at the throne and follow in his ancestor’s footsteps . The wordplay Ilango exhibits here is very reminiscent of master poet Vaali and I am sure that somewhere up above in heaven , Vaali is looking down at Ilango with pride and happiness. Set in Darbari Kanada and taking off on the Dhrupad Shiva Shiva , Veera features Shankar M in all his majesty accompanied by Chitra and Harini as they sing the Chola dynasty’s praises. I have heard the song a couple of hundred times by now and yet , every time I hear ” en tamizh vaazhga vaazha , veera chozham vaazhga , nattramizh vaazhga vaazhga , nallor desam vaazhga” I break out in goosebumps.

In words , music and form , Ponniyin Selvan 2 is superior to Ponniyin Selvan 1 as a soundtrack and meets the expectations a lot of die hard fans of the original literary work like yours truly – and that’s saying something as the first part was a truly fantastic soundtrack on its own.

I haven’t had time to loop the other versions of this soundtrack as much as I’d have liked to , but when you do get a chance , listen to Vijay Yesudas’s version of Chinnan Chiru from the Malayalam soundtrack and Mukti do and the version of Aazhi Mazhai in the Hindi Soundtrack – they will make you really happy.

Varadan and Chitra

I was not going to publish this post for two reasons. For one , the spoilers would ruin the movie for a lot of people and I wanted to analyze this particular relationship with its nuances , angst , resentment and all related baggage for a longer time before sharing my thoughts for the world to see. But then I had this long DM with PV and I suddenly felt like writing and so here I am. I’d offer one warning though – stay away from my post until you have seen Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and have had the time and patience to let the movie sink in.

Varadan is a selfish man just like his brothers. But what sets him apart is this inherent inferiority complex and resentment against his father who may have married his mother in a Tudor like set up to consolidate power . <It is implied that Senapati murdered his wife’s father , was a serial philanderer and was an emotionally distant father and extremely controlling one when it came to Varadan> .  Varadan is married to his first cousin Chitra and it is implied that his father imposed the marriage and Chitra on him and Varadan resents the marriage and Chitra by extension .

There is this simmering resentment between the two but  there is also trust and he depends on her to hold things together at the home front. Chitra  knows the family and Varadan inside out warts and all.  She is blunt , calls a spade a spade and is his emotional crutch and de-facto second in command. She is his mirror and there is nothing that is hidden from her including the paramour . Chitra knows about Parvati and is probably more than a little hurt that her husband loves to wind down with the other woman and not with her. But you don’t see her cry about it. Parvati , to her , is one of the many paramours and she has probably seen men in her immediate family stray and cheat that she appears to take this in stride.

Her love and complete devotion to Varadan is not reciprocated in kind and one gets the feeling that Varadan probably sees her more as an ally than as a wife and that status quo continues until they have to run for their lives. Chitra refuses to abandon her man and matches him step by step as they seemingly outwit their foes and gain a safe abode. There’s a lull where they indulge in normalcy  : Varadan , Chitra and their henchmen and then she is caught in the cross fire and is fatally shot.

Varadan rushes to the hospital , never leaving her alone for the moment and you see this vulnerability in his eyes that makes you realize that he loves Chitra in his own way. On her death bed she asks him to abandon her and escape to ensure that their kids at least have one living parent and even then he doesn’t give in or give her the comfort/assurance she seeks . He refuses to abandon her and goes on to lament about his mistakes.  In a very vulnerable moment , she asks if he is alluding to their marriage when he is talking about his sins and mistakes . He is quick to say no , but in true selfish Varadan fashion goes on to make that Macbeth like confession and she passes away as he is ranting , denied of comfort ,  emotional assurance or even a few words of love that she very much deserves. Varadan , the selfish man that he is , knows only to take and even in her death , Chitra is deprived of the attention and affection she desperately craves from her man. But once she is gone , Varadan becomes unhinged and goes on that splendidly choreographed rampage and therefore Chitra’s death is in a way Varadan’s death too.

With Parvati , Varadan is dominant yet passive.  She feeds his ego and he feeds her back < literally > .You get the sense that with Parvati , he is probably playing at his version of happy families , where he is the caretaker , the care giver and the man who does not have flaws. One gets the feeling that Parvati is very important to Varadan. Heck even Parvati , Chitra and maybe even Varadan feel the same about it . But once Chitra is gone , taking away that blanket of emotional strength and support , you realize how important Chitra is to Varadan . May be Varadan also realizes the fact only when it’s too late and the situation is beyond salvation.

Varadan strays , not because he is seeking love , but because he is seeking control. Being with Parvati makes him feel in control whereas with Chitra it is probably the other way around. She knows too much about him for his comfort : his ambitions , inferiority ,  baser instincts , selfishness , self doubt , resentment , suffocation are all known to Chitra and even as he takes a lot of emotional support from her , he resents her because she sees too much and knows too much and Varadan simply cannot come to terms with it and by the time he attempts to man up , everything is done and dusted . There is love behind all these smokescreens but ultimately that love is toxic and is not of any help.

May be , there is redemption waiting for Varadan and Chitra in a different universe – one where he is a little selfless , tactful and sensible and one where he grows to love her. In that universe , maybe Chitra and Varadan would grow into Senapathi and Lakshmi . Maybe there is a better world where Chitra has had enough of this family , takes an out from it when offered and is happily settled in Coimbatore with her children away from all the toxicity , venom and violence. In yet another universe , Varadan and Chitra are running the syndicate together , him providing the strength and her providing the brains . May be in all these universes , Chitra is still unhappy as she only knows to give but not to take or may be she is happy , because she gets to be her man’s emotional anchor . One never knows , because alternate universes rarely exist and even if they do , one can never predict which way things are going to go .

Varadan and Chitra are not real but they felt like real people ( thanks to the brilliance of the actors who carried the part with elegance) with real issues and for a few hours after the movie , I brooded about why Chitra was dealt such a poor hand by the God above and why Varadan couldn’t be man enough to acknowledge all that Chitra has done for him and at least try and repay that in kind.

Thank you Mani Ratnam , for making me feel that .

Elay Keechan – A Harbinger of Joy

This past month had been part frustrating , part interesting thanks to the wait for some huge sound tracks to release – Viswaroopam , Matru and last but not the least ARR -Mani’s Magnum Opus : Kadal. Ever since Sakthisree sang her way into our hearts with Nenjukulle , people have been waiting for the OST to release and the official release of Elay Keechan makes the expectations increase a hundredfold. Here are my thoughts on what will be the song of the year unless another song from Kadal upstages it.

Whimsical Guitars with a Reggaish rhythm , ARR going hey and that hmm hmmm humming make you realize that there is nothing wrong with this song. ARR takes what could have been a simple fisherman’s song and adds layers of musical magic to make it memorable. The super choral work and that catchy percussion along with that slight Tirunelveli/Toothukudi slang , not to mention ARR’s voice create a heady mix making you hit the repeat button multiple times. You do take a break only to start humming the song and its back to the repeat button.

The song begins with

Elay Keechan Venthachu Namma Susa ponnu Vathachu , hey Eesaa varam pozhinchachu!
Vaa le Kondale , kattu Maram Konda le , Gundu Meena Alli Vara Konda le!
Ela – Pai Viricha , Ayyo Ava Ava vasam Thedi Thedi Varaan Keechan

and then delightfully takes a deviation and starts describing the title character ( I assume ) with the nickname Keechan. Come the interlude , the song starts talking about Keechan’s ( I assume) feelings for a lovely lass who I guess would be the soosai’s daughter .

Your efforts to decipher the song ends as that kick ass guitar interlude begins , and you simply close your eyes , tap your fingers and dance , not bothered about who is watching and who is not. Once the song ends you simply hit the repeat button and the process repeats itself again…

Nenjukulle – a translation

I’ve tethered you within my heart
I’ve tethered you within my heart
In which direction is my livelihood destined?
You gave me a sweet glance
And this heart of mine became a mirror glazed by water

A colorful pearl ornament , that watch in your right hand
That presence commanding enough to tame elephants and tigers
Your shadow has stayed back even after you’ve left and has imprinted itself in my heart
This lass who looked up then has not lowered her glances since , her mind erect like an umbrella’s stick.

I’ve tethered you within my heart
I’ve tethered you within my heart
In which direction is my livelihood destined ?

The birds have slept , the milk curdled
The leaves on the eechi tree have slept too
In an hour where even TB patients have slept
this lass afflicted by disease of desire has not slept a wink

I’ve tethered you within my heart
In which direction is my livelihood destined?

Not a bite has gone in ,
The throat has not been wet for ages ,
For the past week or so , even saliva has refused to be consumed
This poor young lass is not able to say anything
Rubber bangles do not have the capacity to make sound

I’ve tethered you within my heart (a repeat of stanzas 1 and 2)

Note : This is a very rough translation of the song done in a hurry for a friend. I will update this post as and when I get time