maestro's world

Maestro Ilaiyaraaja is the greatest composer and musical genius I have ever seen. He is the only gifted musician who breathes music as his life. He is one of the biggest influence in my life. This blog is to focus on my memories and experience with his timeless music.

Gali Ningi Neeru – A Tribute to Ghantasala February 11, 2014

Filed under: Sri Rama Rajyam — maestroworld @ 4:27 pm

Who can predict what will happen the next minute? Who can dare to extricate one from fate/destiny? Ghantasala gaaru starts E nimishaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru this way. This was written by Kosaraju Raghavaiah for Lava Kusa (1963). A classic film was directed by C. Pullaiah and C.S. Rao and music by Ghantasala himself. Whopping 37 songs including padyams & slokams. The film songs were anthem those days and it will be forever. When I sat down to put my thoughts about Gaali Ningi Neeru song, just one thing struck me. For the same situation I wanted to check how Ghantasala has composed the song in Lava Kusa (1963). The result is the exercise below. This song in particular carries lot of sorrow and pain. Pregnant Sita was abandoned to forest by Rama based on a rumor. This journey song plays when Lakshmana (who was appointed by Rama to leave Sita to the forest) rides the chariot with Sita behind. Sita does not know that she is going to be abandoned in the forest forever. The lyrics is so hard-hitting which conveys the true helplessness behind Rama’s decision and the destiny. The song was imagined to be sung by some divine spirit (we call asareeri in thamizh).

Let’s look at briefly what this song is all about? Many thanks to my friend Mr. Raghunath Sarvepalli for translating the telugu lyrics for me. Without him I would not be able to enjoy and appreciate the song to the fullest. No question about the language. It has its own beauty and the tightness with which it sits to any tune is not something we find in every language. I believe this song was tuned to lyrics.

E nimishaaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru (Who can predict what can happen any minute or How can anyone predict what can happen any minute/time)
vidhi vidhaanamunu tapimchutakai evaru saahasimchedaru (Who can dare to extricate one from destiny or who can dare to change the destiny)

E nimishaaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru

kamcheye nijamuga chEnu mEsina kaadanuvaarevaru (Who can say no if fence itself truly graze/eat the field?)
raajE idi SaaSanamani palkina pratiGhatimchuvaarevaru (Who can resist if King himself says this as injunction (Order)?)

E nimishaaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru

karunaamayulidi kaadana lEra kathina kaaryamanaboraa (Compassionate/sympathetic people can’t say No for severe punishment)
saadhvula kEpudu vetalEnaa teerani du:khapu kadhalEnaa (Women with ascetic character or self disciplined will always have sorrows?, Their stories are filled with never ending sorrows)

E nimishaaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru

inakulamuna janiyinchina nRpatulu ee daarunamu sahimchedaraa (How can Kings from Solar Dynasty can tolerate this harsh verdict/tragedy )
vinu veedhini SrEnulugaa nilachi viddooramugaa choochedaraa (Will the Kings from Solar Dynasty form groups/queues in sky and watch curiously?)

E nimishaaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru

Emda kannu erugani illaaliki enduko ee vana vaasaalu (Why this exile for a women/wife who never saw/felt sun-rays or never exposed to sun?)
tarachi choochinaa bodhapadavulE daiva chidvilaaSaalu (No body can understand God’s act even after serious/repeated observation)

E nimishaaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru

agnipareekshakE nilichina saadvini aanumaaninchuta nyayamaa (Is it fair to suspect the Women with ascetic character or self disciplined women who stood for agnipareeksha?)
alpuni maatayE jana vakyammani alpuni maatayE janavakyammani anusarinchutayE dharmamaa (Is it right/appropriate way to listen and follow the words of a person with low values/morals as a verdict from all people?)

E nimishaaniki Emi jaruguno evaruuhimchedaru

Lyrically it again boasts of those legends’ imaginative power and how depth are their thoughts in bringing out true emotions. I was truly mesmerized by the starting lines and how it summarizes the whole song in one line. The remaining lines are just an elaboration of what was said above. He again finishes brilliantly with tarachi choochinaa bodhapadavulE daiva chidvilaaSaalu. Very true. If at all there is something which I don’t like in the song are the two controversial lines, could have been worded differently. I will leave it to you figure out those lines. When it comes to singing these songs, Ghantasala is unparalleled. Hear him cry when he sings saadhvula kEpudu vetalEnaa teerani du:khapu kadhalEnaa. Crystal clear diction and hard voice with natural soul and sangathi in it. The song will remain incessant in every music listeners heart. If you have not yet listened to this song, please click the below link.

Fast forward to around 50 years to 2011. We have another film made with the same story and same situations, but the creators have changed. Times have changed. Audience has changed. Complete transformation, but I hate to call it metamorphosis, as I still have the question if we really matured as an audience. Let’s leave it aside for now. Still we need to see if this song lived through the toughest period of our times musically. Let’s step back a minute and recall that the above song is already a classic and remains evergreen. First of all, thinking another way of composing for the same situation without the above song and lyrics obstructing your way is itself a herculean task. On top of it, trying to win every one’s heart is not at all easy as they ought to compare this with Lava Kusa  every chance they get, especially the elders who were so obsessive about the above film songs. This is a mighty challenge we are talking about.

Gaali ningi neeru sung by S P Balasubramaniam. Let’s first attack the lyrics. Lyrics by Jonnavithula

Gali ningi neeru bhumi nippu meeru (Air, sky, water, earth, fire (pancha bhootham), yourself (Rama))
rama vaddanalera okaruuuuuu… (Lord Rama, Can any one of You say No (to sending Sita to forest)?)
neeram chesindevaru duram avthondevaruu… (Who did the crime and who is going to be away? – means: someone did the crime and some other is taking punishment by going away to a distance)
ghoram apedevaru evaruuu…uuu (Who can stop this harmful act? who can?)
rare munulu rushulu…evaiiri veedanthulu.. (Why sages and seers not coming forward (to stop this )? Where are the philosophers gone?)
sage e mounam sare naaaa…aaaa.. (Is this continuing silence fine?)
In a nutshell, the poet is asking all of the above (Sage, Seer, Gali, Ningi, Neeru Etc) if they are ok with this continuing silence

konda kona adavi selaeru sarayuu nadi adagandi nyayam edenaaa..aaaa.. (Mountains, valleys, forests, small rivers and sarayu river ask if this is the justice?)
(After reading this sentence, I had a question, whom to ask, may be poet’s intention is to ask the God or Rama)

Gali ningi neeru bhumi nippu meeru rama vaddanalera okaruuuuuu…

Mukkoti devathalantha deevinchinadi ee bandhamm (This relation (between Rama and Seetha) was blessed by 3 crores of Gods/Goddesses)
ekkada ipudu viduthunte A okkaru kuda digirara.. (This relation is breaking now and nobody is coming down together – none of the Gods (who blessed them before) are coming down to stop this relation which is breaking apart)
andhariki adarsham ani keerthinche e lokam ramuni koraga poleda e radhamuni aapaga ledaa… (Why not this world/society who praises Rama as a role model persuade him to stop the chariot?)
vidhinaina kaaanii edirinche vade vidhi leka medu vilapinchinade (The person who challenged the destiny (Lord Rama) cried today as there is no option (He could not challenge destiny today))
eededu lokalaki sokenu e shokammm.. (This sorrow will be felt by 14 worlds)

Gali ningi neeru bhumi nippu meeru ramaaa vaddanalera okaruuuuuu…

Akkaditho aipokunda ekada a ellale rakkasi vidhiki chikinda e lekkana daivammm..unda..(With not ending there itself, this wife (Sita) was caught by destiny demon this way? Does God exist since he allowed this?)
(implied meaning: The story has not ended when Sita did the Agni PravEsham. It continued and now Sita was caught by the Demon called Destiny. Since this happened to Sita, poet is questioning God’s existence since he allowed this way)
sugunam tho suryuni vamsham veliginche punasathini kulasati ni aa veluge velivesindaa.. (For the solar dynasty and its prosperity, Sita (wife of a king) lit the light to brighten the kingdom, but the solar dynasty has thrown her away or kept her away at a distance)
e jagame chiikati iyyinda.. ee tappu leni e muppu emi (Does this universe is filled with darkness?. Why is this suffering without any mistake? – Poet mean to say why Sita has to suffer for doing no mistake)
kapadaleda evarina kanii.. ee mate needa veredaree.. emi ledaa.. (No one is seen to save her. Is there any solution or no?)

Gali ningi neeru bhumi nippu meeru ramaaa vaddanalera okaruuuuuu…

Even though the concept is same, if you read both the lyrics, it is amazing how human brains think differently. As I mentioned before, it is so very difficult to write a totally different wordings and thoughts for the same situation, as his ears would be ringing only the Lava Kusa song. In that way after reading the lyrics again, I would say Jonnavithula has excelled far beyond any expectations, especially in not spoiling the mood and in keeping up with the traditional language even after 50 years. If you see gist of Lava Kusa lyrics, first line itself gives the whole summary of the song. So wonderfully crafted opening lines. Ragavaiah puts the blame on God and destiny and also expresses grief over Sita by defending on her purity. He also expresses the helplessness of sympathetic people which was very true. He also expresses regret on the silence of Solar dynasty who were seeing this tragedy happening. The best part of the lyrics is Emda kannu erugani illaaliki enduko ee vana vaasaalu. Unimaginable thought here. How could a lady who was not even exposed to sunlight could do any sin? Only thing I don’t like is the last line, may be that was in sync with those times (10000 years ago?). Also one would wonder how ‘kamcheye nijamuga chEnu mEsina kaadanuvaarevaru was understood ithose times? In thamizh we call, ‘vEliyE payirai mEinthathu (fence ate the field/land). Whom the poet was addressing here? If Rama, I could not agree as it was harsh to say that. If he meant people, then I can agree to some extent, but I don’t think fence can be people, it is the Kingdom. Even though the lyrics was so powerful, I felt it was straightforward with not much hidden meanings (please correct me here, if I am wrong) which used to be the case that time, but it has purer language.

On the other hand, Jonnavithula does not leave any one for his (character’s) rant/angst. He questions everyone right from pancha bhootham to mountains, valleys, forests, all sacred rivers to sage and seers on their silence. The best part of the lyrics comes in charanam where he beautifully expresses the relation between Rama and Sita and how they were blessed by all Gods, but now no one is turning up to stop this abandonment. He does not leave there. He also question why the world who considers Rama as role model did not persuade him to stop the chariot. Again the best part is when he writes even Rama cannot escape fate this time. Bang on target! Second charanam is again full of logical questions with deep meaning. This is where Raghavaiah and Jonnavithula’s ideas merge together when they express that Sita already proved her purity by doing Agni pravesh, still why should she suffer and why the tale is extending instead of ending there itself. Wise thoughts, but put in a different way by each. Jonnavithula finishes with a brilliant open question that if the universe is filled with darkness and is there any solution to his tragedy? where Raghavaiah finishes differently with a controversial question.

Also I felt Jonnavithula’s lyrics has some inner meanings which I tried to explain the best possible way above, as the lyrics was very tight and could not put everything inside it. So there is some homework for the listeners to do in terms of extracting the hidden meaning of the lyrics. In that way I felt his lyrics was challenging. It does not mean the straight-forward lyrics is inferior, it is straight from heart to heart again in sync with the tastes of the people that time and now too. One thing I felt both of them missed in describing another important aspect for the impact alone, that Sita being pregnant. Nevertheless it was worth exploring the lyrics to appreciate the song better and better. The reason why lyrics was given more importance here is because it was written first with no constraints like they have to write for the music. In one way it is easier too.

Coming to the musical aspects, as you might have observed, E nimishaniki structuring itself is very interesting. After the pallavi-anupallavi, the charanams are not the normal charanams which we used to hear. I would call it as short venpa (in thamizh) rather than a charanam. So thoughtfully constructed. Even the pallavi-anupallavi has the same two lines which continues in the charanam as well. You might also have noticed that each line is so lengthy unlike today’s songs where we hardly have lengthy lines of melody. Not every charanam line is same in melody which is one of the biggest highlight. Ghantasala gaaru has taken a raagam which is most apt and traditional for this situation; Sivaranjani to tune this supreme classic. Tune is the winner. Prelude itself gives the pathos feel with the choice of instrument. Since this is a song during travel, he cleverly chose horse galloping sound for the rhythm. Another biggest highlight is the tempo of the song. The song is so fast that it is very difficult to convey pathos in this tempo. Hear how Ghantasala does it beautifully. During the interludes he uses magudi and also a string like instrument which conveys the pathos efficiently. After he finishes singing, he increases tempo in the post-lude to indicate the horse is galloping fast to reach the unknown destination and away from us for the first time (please note the chariot was always moving towards us during the entire song, except for the last scene). Truly mesmerizing.

Gaali ningi neeru has a very simple and straightforward structure with one pallavi anu-pallavi and two charanams.  Nothing special there. Rhythm-wise Maestro uses a standard loop to indicate that the horse gallops at the same pace. Nothing interesting there too. Then what so special about this song? The song starts with thundering beats followed by the choir and violins and then the melancholy flute. Short prelude of 22 seconds. Maestro musically describes from this prelude that this is a doomsday. All is over. Recall how Raghavaiah expressed the whole summary in the first line itself (who can change the destiny?). Same way Maestro expresses through his music, all the prosperity of Ayodhya kingdom and the world is lost due to this decision. The melancholy flute is that of the cry of the world when it is dying. Bapu has aptly picturized it to be happening in the early morning to (indicate the darkness), vs this scene happened in the morning (not that early) in Lava Kusa. Another minor observation is Sita in Lava Kusa wore queen’s dress while visiting forest, but Bapu has intelligently changed it to hermit’s dress for Sita, wise decision. Another reason for Maestro to use such type of arrangements in the prelude is to convey the last line of the song; e jagame chiikati iyyinda (Does this universe is filled with darkness?). He actually conveys what the song is all about in the prelude itself.

Maestro picks his most favorite raagam; Keeravi to compose this song unlike his predecessor who opted for Sivaranjani. Even though Maestro has used this raagam for more than 70 songs, he still churns out the Keeravani ocean to get the amirtham out of it. This time we got it big. He has covered variety of emotions in this raagam. That’s his confidence. When Singing God SPB sings, we can never go wrong. Has the younger generation come anything close to his singing? Replacing Ghantasala is not an easy thing, especially his deep and hard voice which is an added advantage in bringing out the essence of the song. SPB’s voice is soft by nature, yet by sheer practice and dedication he has got this far which no one has achieved. Hear how he stresses every syllable to get the best out of him. Remember Ghantasala sang that song not at his later part of career, but SPB does so. During the whole song we can hear SPB crying when singing which is a rarity in playback singing today (as first of all they avoid such situations to not to expose the singers). When he cries ‘Rama’ with that devotion, Ghantasala should be smiling at him from heaven.

The violin played in staccato mode during the first half of pallavi tells the genius of Maestro. He did not start playing free-flowing violins right at the start. He brings those bright strokes of violin (staccato) in contrast when singer’s delivery adds to poignancy. Even though it is for ornamental reasons that the song itself is a pathos song, if everything follows the same path, the song might appear dull. To bring it back to some evenness, he might have opted for those strokes. Other reason might be to indicate the sound of birds/nature (crying) hearing the sad news of Sita being abandoned. In any case, it adds more color to the song which makes it more interesting. Only when SPB sings rare munulu rushulu…evaiiri veedanthulu,  full fledged violins and cello start to play. After this line, sage e mounam sare naaaa…aaaa, we hear the violins cry after hearing SPB cry. Maestro has planned everything perfectly where and how every musical piece has to be played. The anu-pallavi connects smoothly to pallavi. The best part in the repeat pallavi is the way he adds the flute. You have to hear that piece. It conveys million ideas. We can clearly imagine that it is played on top of the vocals and every instrument denoting it as coming from celestial embodiment. Maestro plays to convey even the 14 world Gods are helpless about this sorrow, which is part of the charanam lyrics.

First interlude is all western classical glory in the realms of Carnatic classical idiom. Maestro who was waiting till now to convey the million emotions of the people, worlds, Gods, heavens, nature grabs the opportunity and plays the full fledged orchestra. We can visualize how many group play these parts. The sarangi which plays along with violins delivers the extreme sorrow. The unique sound of strings (double bass?) which follows the violins convey a damp effect, denoting that people stumble over the tear drops which flow like a river. We can clearly sense that sound there.

Not to forget I got floored by the lyrics in charanam, every word of it. Unless he has imbibed those thoughts for long time, it is difficult to come with such moving lyrics. Hear how Maestro increases the pathos quotient by playing the violins along, during first two lines. It was played differently for second line compared to first line. Hear the tone of the violin during the first line. It cries like a human being, so realistic. When he sings ‘A okkaru kuda digirara’ hear how the cellos acknowledge. This man is beyond any imagination. First and last of our mankind. Maestro’s melody in the next line is beyond description. How did he even conceive such a melody? vidhinaina kaaanii edirinche vade vidhi leka medu vilapinchinade eededu lokalaki sokenu e shokammm.. If anyone could not shed a tear drop or two for this line, I accept my defeat. SPB rules forever. When 14 worlds will be felt by the sorrow, how it should be tuned and sung? This is it. The structuring is so unpredictable. After lengthy four lines hear how short the last line is. Down to the basics and roots. Does anyone hears this masterpiece before coming to any absurd conclusion on Maestro’s skills? I am lost on words already when I am only half way through the song.

As they say ‘Rama Naamam’ is most powerful than Rama himself. Hear how SPB cries that word during repeat pallavi. Devotion delivered at its best.

Second interlude as expected is the musical climax. Pristine interlude. Maestro’s penchant for grand display for string section is exhibited here. Should be one of the largest string ensemble as we hear so many layers of strings one over another. Please don’t miss the bass lines and the double bass. He plays a variation of pallavi here as he kind of narrates the whole lyrics through the music. Sometimes he goes with the flow of the melody/lyrics and sometimes displaying separately to stress those portions as we have seen already. The moist effect he gave at the end of first interlude, he repeats the same magic here. An important point to note here is two different violin melodies (in first and second interlude) converge to the same theme of string section (the damp effect) at the end in both the interludes. The meaning implied here is, the sorrow which spreads across every region, every world, in every God however they conceive it, there is only one way to express out, that is through tears. So is the apt interlude ending. Same emotions repeat musically in second charanam. kapadaleda evarina kanii.. ee mate needa veredaree.. emi ledaa. Can’t control my tears again. Compare how SPB started singing and once the song progresses how he is totally into it and when he sings the 2nd charanam and into the finishing pallavi he reaches crescendo in-terms of bringing emotions. Singing of highest quality.

Just when the song finishes, feel the echo and silence for a minute. Please don’t listen to any another song. The song calms us down exactly like the feel we get after we do meditation with no thoughts comes in front, everything black and blank. That’s the completeness the song achieves. Recall how E nimishaniki song (of Lava Kusa) ends with horse galloping away from us and fades into oblivion. That’s the connect between these two songs. One we saw visually fading away, another we imagine visually fading away through Maestro’s music and silence. The song acts as a grief aggravator and at the same time as a healing medicine at the end. What Ghantasala’s rustic voice and singing conveyed, SPB and the orchestra conveyed the same here, if not more. Lava Kusa’s song is a pathos song which revolves more around Sita and her pain and expressing regret over Rama/Kingdom’s decision. A well-disciplined and traditional melody, like a train running perfectly on rails with no deviation. Without listening to that song, Gali ningi neeru would not have been more appropriate. Gali Ningi Neeru even though it states the pain of Sita, it moves outwards and petitions Rama, pancha bhootham, sages, seers everything in the universe and beyond. It is stressing that it is just not sorrow for Sita and Rama, but it is the sorrow of the entire worlds and heavens.

Listening both the songs in tandem is a wonderful gift. That’s another main reason for Maestro’s grand orchestration. Orchestration and arrangements is the key difference between the two. Through orchestration Maestro conveys diversified layers of emotions which sometimes deviated from main theme, sometime followed the main theme, yet comes back to the root (tears) every time without fail. Maestro almost conveys musically what lyrics was trying to convey through his enormous appetite called orchestration.

Even after 50 years Maestro was still able to keep with our tradition and come up with a monstrous soundtrack and song like this with no compromises in this not so favoring music trend. The biggest difference in terms of acceptability of both the songs is where the real issue lies. I definitely feel Ghantasala if he was alive today would have hugged, kissed, appreciated and honored Maestro for coming up with a composition like this and for making him and India very proud. While the former (E niminshaniki) was accepted whole-heartedly by our fathers generation and forwarded without fail to us and from us to our future generation, Gaali Ningi Neeru and whole of Sri Rama Rajyam soundtrack while serves as the biggest tribute to Ghantasala from this era to the previous era, how well was it accepted whole-heartedly by this generation, music lovers, critics is the biggest question. As I have explained above, this kind of soul stirring melody compounded with breath-taking orchestration serving as another 100 melodies inside, not just for the sake of it, every sub-melody has a reason to it, conveying varied emotions, SPB’s top-class rendering, outstanding lyrics with lot of inner hidden meaning should be one of the biggest celebrated compositions of all times as these kind of melodies are very rare to come by in today’s music scenario. I don’t think anyone would have listened to a composition of this highest quality. When Maestro is pouring his heart out through these compositions, I still feel there is hesitation among today’s music lovers to accept something beyond their imagination and settle for something ordinary. I end with these lines, hoping for the best turnaround in music listening and appreciation!  e jagame chiikati iyyinda.. ee tappu leni e muppu emi.. eededu lokalaki sokenu e shokammm.


Sri Rama Rajyam – End Credits and Conclusion November 4, 2013

Filed under: Sri Rama Rajyam — maestroworld @ 5:23 am

What can be more apt than a Rama bhajan to end this film? Any form of music has its own merits that when it will be appropriate to play/listen. A Bhajan which is always in praise of the lord, has a speciality that it does not have any time frame to listen. Having said that, bhajan also calms down our soul and maintains a balance whenever we feel stressed or in grief. The situation in the film is Rama has left the bhoolOka for the heavenly abode of Vaikuntam, leaving the people of Ayodhya. The only way to console ourselves and also sing praises of his glory is to sing a bhajan, that’s what Maestro does that by starting the end credits with a bhajan. Normally, he could have started with some instrumental music for the end credits, but Maestro knows the impact the film created at the end and he ideally complements with a bhajan. A point to note here is this bhajan is not like a conventional bhajan which we sing/hear in temples, mutts or in our own homes. This has that film flavor which he adds to distinguish it better. It does not mean it is inferior when it comes to devotion, just that Maestro stays true to the film context. The melody holds supremacy here. That’s where he has that hold and control over the music and how it is to be composed.

From 1:10-1:49 he transforms the vocal bhajan to instrumental music as the credits flow on the screen. The melody is almost similar to the bhajan which we just listened. Maesto keeps the underlying rhythm arrangement (he did not use percussion here, some sort of unique sound from piano) same both during the vocal bhajan and during instrumental version. He adds  piano, violins and clarinet/oboe to the same base. The result is extra-ordinary. From 1:50-1:56 he just flattens (with sustains) to take the melody in a different direction.

He creates the base for another melody line during 1:57-2:03 by adding violins. Then he adds male choir, oboe, bassoon, flute, female choir one after another to produce the best of the harmonies we have ever listened. We can feel something transformation happening within us when we listen to this section. The male and female choir chant the ‘Omkaaram’ which is the mystical entity where Maestro is taking us on a journey from earth to a celestial abode. When they all sing together with every instrument playing on a high note to end the end credits, we are transported to a different horizon which is nothing but the same Vaikuntam to witness Lord Vishnu resting (anantha sayanam) on Adisesha (his brother Lakshmana as his bed, guarding him all the time) with Sangu and Chakra and his wife Goddess Mahalakshmi massaging his lotus feet.

The question one should ask here is what is so special about Maestro’s end credits? I ask this question every time I finish watching a film which consists of Maestro’s end credits. Just before the end credits start (please revisit the previous episode), we saw Rama merges with Lord Vishnu and gives a ‘half posture’ Divya dharisanam along with Mahalakshmi. Bapu gaaru freezes the shot, thereby denoting the end of the film. I felt incomplete when Lord Vishnu and Mahalakshmi give a standing posture, as this is not the posture which I always imagine about them. Almost like blocking us at the Vaikuntam door and asking us to go. I believe you too do not expect the film to end that way, but there is a reason to it. There comes the twist. That’s when people start walking out of the theatre without knowing what they are going to miss.

If the audience would have stayed further till the end of the end credits, Maestro was ready to take them further into the heart of Vaikuntam with his music to get the full glimpse of the God in ‘anantha sayanam’ with her beloved wife Goddess Mahalakshmi caressing his lotus feet. Did they not miss this rarest divine moment? This episode is mainly dedicated to those who missed the end credits and to those who wanted to witness the complete dharisam of the family through Maestro’s music. That’s why it is always very special about Maestro’s end credits. He is the only composer who knows the pulse of the film and who knows how to complete a film. There are no loose ends in the film with his music. If there are no end credits in a Maestro’s film, Maestro understands that the film does not need one, but when he scores, it is not just to recognize all the technicians involved in the film, it also tells more about the film itself which most of us tend to skip/ignore. Maestro never does music randomly which is what I would like to conclude with this end credits.

This has been a wonderful journey for me since last year to write about Sri Rama Rajyam and its music. I have never thought I could go on continuously for more than a year. Obviously there were some big gaps between my posts, but I feel very happy to have completed a marvelous musical journey with Maestro’s Sri Rama Rajyam. When I thought of starting a blog, the first thing which came to my mind is Sri Rama Rajyam. Such is the impact that film and the music had on me. I still remember the day (September 28th 2012) I wrote about the film’s title score and how Maestro squeezed the entire film and the story in a tiny capsule called title score. From then on, as the journey progressed, I discovered so many nuances in this film score which I would have conveniently skipped or ignored if I would not have written about this film score. One thing I understood in this entire journey is listening to a score is something different while writing about it is something very different. When you listen, you get an idea how Maestro would have composed/conceived this piece of music, but when you start putting those ideas in words, you would feel Maestro is writing for you as he extends the ideas and also corrects as you write. Once you read that, the initial idea which you got has been completely transformed into another beautiful one. You pinch yourself if this is true. The amount of satisfaction you get from these little moments are indescribable.

Twenty six musical cues which makes more than 100 minutes of musical score which is almost two-thirds of the film’s timing. Every episode is diverse in itself. Maestro played native instruments like veena, flute, sarangi, indian classical violins while also carefully utilizing european and middle eastern instruments like oboe, bassoon, trumpet, harps, piano, western classical violins, cellos, double-bass etc without compromising on the nativity of the film. As one of my friend observed, he did the score amidst his wife passing away. Such is the passion, dedication and a perfect example on how he surrenders to music more than his life. He did not outsource or involve in a discussion or gets inputs from fellow musicians when he wrote these scores. All by himself, just that he needed eminent musicians to play the technically challenging compositions. The score is intense on emotions, be it, Sita’s wish and the alarm or Badra reveals the gossip, Lakshmana revealing the reason, Rama shattered, People repents to Rama, Lava-Kusa’s disappointment, Sita’s anger, Valmiki clears Sita’s doubt, Sita hands over his sons or Bhoomadevi takes Sita, at the same time each emotion is different. Some musical phrases tells us the story which dialogues could not convey, while some phrases underlines the emotions for audience to grasp the visuals easily. When there is any situation where there is no music needed, he obviously did not force the scene with music. He also used some existing sound effects to his advantage and composed music based on that for some episodes which require that. All the above nuances we might know having watched Maestro’s films regularly, but what we might not know is how he keeps the precise timing in his scores. How does he know when to start the music and when to fade out? Each piece of music starts and ends with not a single note going out of harmony or hurriedly done to match up with the visuals. How is this even possible for Maestro with just one scan at the visuals when composers are watching again and again to synchronize the score with the visuals which takes months for them to complete? These unknown territories and best kept secrets have another name called ‘genius’ which hardly a few in the world have, Maestro is one among the very few. Sri Rama Rajyam goes to proves again this point, but firmly and in a completely different dimension.

I have not even talked about the songs in this movie. All sixteen songs are worth a rare treasure of a life time. Add another one hour of songs in addition to 100 minutes of the score, it is almost the movie. That’s the amount of work we are talking about, all done in less than two weeks. Another important aspect to note here is Maestro could have used variations from song sequences as leitmotifs for many scenes, that would have saved him time and effort, but he will never take things for granted and also he is so true to the art that he has composed so many new themes in the score in addition to using as very small part from his compositions. If I start talking about the songs, it will take another year, such heart-warming compositions, which is unimaginable by any composer of any era in any context. Sri Rama Rajyam is a Maestro masterpiece and stands tallest when it comes to celebration of art in purest form and at the same time with grandeur and not compromising on the soul. I am not saying it as Maestro’s best, as even that is not sufficient to acknowledge this phenomenal accomplishment, that is the reason I said it is the best when it comes to celebration of art. Maestro has proved yet again on how to honor our old and rich tradition and at the same time how to appeal to the new age. He is the only composer who can do justice to these kind of films. We would have definitely felt the vacuum without his music in this film. Thanks to Maestro, Bapu for making this film a memorable one. Thanks to Maestro and you all for making this journey a very special and memorable one. See you soon!


Sri Rama Rajyam – End of Rama’s Incarnation October 3, 2013

Filed under: Sri Rama Rajyam — maestroworld @ 2:49 am

The wise see the highest place of Vishnu called Paramapada – as it were an eye fixed in the heaven – Rig Veda

After the previous episode, the film immediately shows Lava-Kusa Pattaabishekam in Ayodhya, but as per the texts, Rama ruled Ayodhya for several years as a lonely king and austere. While the people enjoyed and rejoiced their lives, they least knew that it was due to the sacrifice of their queen Sita. While people spent every day happily with their beloved and family, Rama spent every day in loneliness and only in memory of Sita. While he smiled outside, he grieved inside. After several years of ruling Ayodhya, he and his brothers ended their incarnation through Jala Samadhi in Sarayu river and embraced their heavenly abode, Vaikuntam.

While many texts did not talk about Rama doing Lava-Kusa Pattaabishekam I think film expresses it for the sake of clarity and to mark a convincing end to the film. This is the last episode of Sri Rama Rajyam before we complete with end credits.The episode begins with Rama performing Lava-Kusa Pattaabhishekam and ends with Rama and his brothers completing their incarnation.

The scene starts in a grand fashion with hermits and sages chanting the ‘mantra pushpam’ (recited at the end of any holy hindu ritual) to conclude the pattaabishekam ceremony.

sAmrAjyam bhOjyam svArAjyam vairAjyam

paramEshthyam rAjyam mahArjyamAdhipatyamayam

Om rAjAdhi rAjAya prasahya sAhinE

namo vayam vaishravanAya kurmahE

samEkAmAn kAma kAmAya mahyam

kAmEshvarO vaishravanO dadhAtu

kubhErAya vaishravanAya

mahArAjAya namaha

(Wishing the kingdom of Ayodhya as the only kingdom on earth (sAmrAjyam) to be as beautiful as kingdom of Indra (svArAjyam), the pleasures be available as in these two kingdoms (bhOjyam) with mystical powers (vairAjyam) and a kingdom like the kingdom of Lord Brahmma (paramEsthyam). To the supreme ruler (rAjAdhi rAjAya prasahya sAhinE – Lava-Kusa), we (people) salute him who bestow us with wealth and happiness (namo vayam vaishravanAya kurmahE) and all desires (samEkAmAn kAma kAmAya mahyam kubhErAya vaishravanAya), we salute kubEra (kubhErAya vaishravanAya mahArAjAya namaha) for fulfilling all desires).

The verses switch from Mantra pushpam to Narayana Upanishad (as stated in Yajur veda) to mark the end of Rama incarnation.

Om ata nityO nArAyanaha

brahmma nArAyanaha

sivascha nArAyanaha

sakrascha nArAyanaha

dyavaprydhivyoucha nArAyanaha

kAlascha nArAyanaha

disascha nArAyanaha

urdhvancha nArAyanaha

adhascha nArAyanaha

antharbahischa nArAyanaha

(Narayana is everywhere, in every moment, in Brahma, in Shiva, in sangu-chakram, in every direction, most of all he is within us)

Back to Mantra pushpam

tad’vishnO paramam padam

sadA pashyanti soorayaH

diveeva chakshur Atatam

(The spiritually evolved behold, thee and thy supreme abode with immaculate comprehension and perfect insight)

tad’viprAsO vipanyavO jAgrivAmsaH samindhatE

vishnOryat’paramam padam

(The Supreme abode is attainable only by those who are virtuous unfettered and spiritually awake)

Narayana Gayatri Mantram

Om nArAyanAya vidmahE

vAsudEvAya dheemahi

tannO nArAyanah prachOdhayAt

Om namO nArAyanAya

Om namO bhagavatE vasudEvAyAya

Om shAnti shAnti shAntihi!

Bapu gaaru has chosen appropriate verses to mark the pattabhishEkam and to end a beautiful incarnation ever happened in human life. Maestro complements the sanskrit verses with underlying theme with strings, keyboards, wind instruments which rewinds almost the entire film in seconds. The way he bridges the first set of verses (during pattabishEkam – mantra pushpam) and second set of verses (to mark the end of a journey – narayana upanishad) is nothing but extra-ordinary. For that he starts playing the theme right from the first second of the clip and when we hear a pause of chants, we hear the music so well that it connects beautifully to the second set and lands beautifully. One might ask if the chants are almost masking the music (except during the transition phases), why is even Maestro playing? The thought which comes to my mind on that reasoning is, Rama even though he is performing this ritual (physically), at the back of his mind he is still not at peace until he joins Sita (Lakshmi) again. The underlying music is to rewind his memories back and also to imply the anxious moments to mark the end of an incarnation. These kind of metaphors are always endless in Maestro’s music.

As the upanishad is under-way Maestro adds auspicious temple bells and cymbal clashes as Rama walks towards his destiny; Vaikuntam. The tempo of the bells and clashes increases and attains crescendo when Rama finally reaches his abode and joins her beloved Lakshmi. What a moment that is! Just when Rama embraces Lord Vishnu we hear the last verses ‘Om namO nArAyanAya Om namO bhagavatE vasudEvAyAya Om shAnti shAnti shAntihi’. This piece of music and visuals has to be experienced more than putting down in words. This should be a throughly vibrant and emotional moment for anyone, not just the one who believes God. Just give a couple of minutes to this piece of chants and music and see how it captivates you. Divinity at its very best! We will meet very soon for the end credits and concluding remarks about this very special score and journey. Stay tuned!


Sri Rama Rajyam – Sita Returns to her Mother …Forever August 12, 2013

Filed under: Sri Rama Rajyam — maestroworld @ 4:28 am

We have come almost to the end of the film. This episode is one of the most important one in Uttara Kandam and the most heart wrenching of all episodes.

Rama fondly calls Sita, but she walks away having decided that she not going to reunite with Rama. Rama is saddened by her gesture. Meanwhile Lakshmana (regains consciousness with the help of Sage Vaalmiki), Vaalmiki and Hanuman approach Sita. Sita thanks Vaalmiki as having taken care her when she came to the Ashram in a sorrowful situation (by performing bangle ceremony, taking care of her delivery, did punyavachanam and looked after her kids) and calls him as her father. She further adds that, only because of him she was able to complete her duty on earth and mentions that she completed her mission on earth. Maestro who was rightly pausing the music till now as he rightly assumes that the emotions brought out by the dialogues are enough for the audience to be captivated and tied, but just when she bows after her tearful address to Valmiki, Maestro starts with a deeply haunting single clarinet (along with bass clarinet) to enhance the underlying pathos in the whole scene (@0:30). Normally a solo violin would be preferred to this kind of situation, but hear how clarinet does the job effectively, only because it is conceived by Maestro.

Lakshmana intervenes that her duty is not yet over. He requests her to adorn the Ayodhya kingdom as the Queen and also wishes to unite with Rama again. Sita refuses to accept Lakshmana’s wishes saying that the life she lived is enough for her. Being born to Goddess of Earth and entered Raghuvamsa dynasty, her life is completed without bringing any dishonesty to both her parents and in-laws, and her life is enriched after she handed over the scions. The following words would shock every one. Sita says, ‘I am taking leave now’. Vaalmiki, Rama, Lakshmana, kids are all in tears. Are we not? Meanwhile Maestro without disturbing us, slowly adds cellos and violins to the clarinet. Please hear the dialogues again by Sita along with the score (0:30-1:20), it would sound like a song, just because of the purity in the language, the short stop passages between the dialogues and the dynamics by which Sita expresses the dialogues. Maestro understanding this thoroughly composed a 1 minute song. This reminds me of the film Guna where Kamal expresses the line ‘kaNmani anbOdu’ colloquially but S Janaki sings the verses. Same way, could not believe what I am hearing!

As Sita walks away, Vaalmiki cries, a very rare moment for a Sage. Hanuman in the disguise of a young kid stops Sita, adoring the monkey face for her to recognize him and indirectly telling Sita that he was the one who was with Sita and her kids all the time at the Ashram. Sita surprised by his gesture wishes and blesses him; ‘Lava-kusaluku Rama Rajayam, Hanumaku Rama Bhakthi Saamrajyam’. As she takes a last glance at Lava-Kusa she utters ‘LOka samastha sukhinO bhavanthu’ (Let the world be happy). Maestro having taken a short pause (from 1:20-1:22) allowing for the time for Sita to walk away, he plays totally tangential chords for the mood to grip in immediately among the audience (1:23-2:15). Flute, oboe, bassoon with soaring violins creates a depressing atmosphere. As she caresses Hanuman’s face (@1:46), Maestro plays a melody in bassoon (I think) which is joined and repeated by other wind instruments finishing by a group of violins and dying flute (as she takes a last glance of her sons and wishes them). The way Maestro finishes the score with that flute is one of the most amazing thought ever. The dying flute is her soul which she transports to her sons before leaving. Maestro indirectly conveying that no one in the world ever wants to miss Sita who is the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the fortune God. Since she is about leave the world, a kind of sorcery spells around every one there. As I keeping hearing this piece again and again (1:23-2:15), it literally takes me to that period and atmosphere. Maestro, The greatest mood creator and a great music magician!

Now Sita calls her mother Bhooma Devi to accept her. There is another reason why Maestro finishes the last piece of music with flute. As the flute ends, we hear the sound of wind and storm. The flute acts as a lead to the wind sound (which is an extension to it). If he would have finished with other instrument, the continuity would have suffered. See how the flute dissolves into the sound of wind. See the brilliance of Maestro and how he thinks all this correlation in a fraction of a second. No music for next minute except for the sound effects of wind, storm and thunder (2:16-3:08). Sita fondly calls her mother saying that she was not ready to join her the last time when she angrily invited her, as she had pending duties to complete. This time, by her body, mind and heart she has completed all her duties and ready to join her happily. The next line is earth shattering. ‘If I am the innocent wife to my beloved husband Sri Rama, please take me to your lap’.

Next two minutes will be a pulsating experience (3:09-5:09). Please don’t miss the visual extravaganza, superbly done by director with the help of CGI. Just when the earth opens, Maestro starts his orchestra with grand violins/cellos with male choir (for the first time) followed by female choir providing a harmony like never before. Temple bell sounds ring to announce Gods that Sita is embracing her mother forever. Just when Rama’s face shows up on the screen, Maestro plays a solo violin (3:49-4:10), (denoting Rama will be alone without her) with cellos acting as a counterpoint (denoting Rama and Sita are separated), but the way they sound harmonious together only denotes that they separate temporarily only to reunite together in heaven (Vaikuntam). Sita bids good bye to Rama as she rests on her mother’s shoulders. One of the most painful moments in the film. Maestro’s motifs are just unimaginable. The way he narrates the story exclusively through music is par excellence. Severely a heart-wrenching piece of music.

It’s not over yet. Maestro takes a final plunge. See how the violins and cellos transforms themselves to play the next section (4:11-4:26). From the melody we can hear there is some physical movement (just like the waves coming one after one). The reason being Bhooma Devi takes Sita in her throne and the throne glides down smoothly. Violins and cellos reflecting that movement in a very special way. I don’t think any one else can bring that movement so effectively in music like the way Maestro does. The beauty here is the precision in which Maestro moves from one piece of music to another in accordance with the visuals. As the violins straighten up for a finish (4:27-4:34) and the earth starts closing up, Rama (who was observing all this) could not believe his eyes, moves towards Sita calling her to come back. Male choir comes in again (@4:35) with trumpets surging (@4:39 & 4:44) followed by followed by female choir (@4:46) with trumpets surging for the last time (@4:49), as Lava-Kusa also cries for their mother and Hanuman holding them back. The reason for bringing trumpet phrases is to show that the last glow of light before it dies will be so bright. Sita was shining so bright just before plunging into the earth. The reason for bringing choir is to denote that the angels witnessing the last moments wishing everything well. Hear how the music gradually stops in sync with the sound effects as the earth completely closes and folds itself. Rama could not control himself, but Valmiki consoles Rama that he should stay calm as he is the savior of the world.

It will take time for us to get over this episode as Sita joins her mother forever, thereby ending her reincarnation. As the visuals continue to haunt us, the music will haunt us forever. I am so puzzled by the amount of precision with which Maestro has scored for this episode. The transformation of music from one phase to another accurately synchronized with the visuals is no mean an ordinary achievement. On top of it sustaining the mood throughout which is the most difficult task made easy with Maestro. The way he incorporates so many technical details like counterpoint, harmony etc. blending with the story, visuals and the dialogues thereby presenting endless motifs for us to identify makes him the only composer mastering the art so well.


Sri Rama Rajyam – Sita handover Lava-Kusa to Rama July 28, 2013

Filed under: Sri Rama Rajyam — maestroworld @ 4:26 am

This episode is dedicated to #365RajaQuiz ( Please don’t miss to visit this site which serves as the biggest tribute to Maestro’s music. It has been running continuously for an year and marking its completion today. Hats off to Rex for his huge dedication, passion and perseverance and to all Maestro fans for making it a thundering success.

This episode is special not just because it is a climax, but this is the first time in years Sita and Rama meet each other. What a moment that would be! This is going to be one of the longest score of the film (after Sita’s statue theme). I thought of cutting the scene and score into half, but it will take away the essence of both, so left it to be long, so that it the flow is continuous. The score is not a continuous one (a speciality of Maestro), it will have its silence at appropriate places and an intense score at other places depending on the intensity of the scenes. It will be beautiful to hear the switch over and back. Unless the scene is narrated it is difficult to appreciate the score. I will try to narrate each section along with detailing the score side by side. This episode will be long, but the content is such. This is the last longest sequence in the film.

Before going there let us step back to remind ourselves that Lakshmana fainted at the war front against Lava-Kusa which now becomes Rama’s responsibility to seize the Aswa-Medha (horse) from Lava-Kusa and thereby liberate Lakshmana. The scene begins with Rama getting the news of Lakshmana and getting ready to go to the forest to capture the horse and the land. He prays (and stares) the Sun God and asks him indirectly why is this happening to him and his kingdom.

The beauty of this scene is two-fold. Bapu pans the camera from top angle as he moves and turns 180 degrees to focus Rama from behind to get the glimpse of Sun God. He moves the camera further away from Rama so that we see the fire at the front. What a shot that is! Hats off to the cinematographer. Bapu could have just focussed Rama and the Sun God, but he also brings fire to the foreground which says something. The fire is burning in Rama for years together to meet and join with Sita. He does not know that he is going to meet Sita. He does not know he is the father of two kids. He does not know the kids he is going to fight with are his own children (even though this is a skewed way of knowing his children, as I mentioned in the previous episode). He does not know who is the next heir of the Ayodhya kingdom. The fire at the foreground tells his burning desire to meet them, as he indirectly questions the God.

When Bapu is narrating the visuals brilliantly hear how Maestro complements the scene by narrating the scene further with his music. If Bapu has only given a hint of Rama’s desire and his questions through that fire, Maestro answers to the visuals by playing the second interlude of Sri Rama Lera song. Maestro gives a complete solution there. Sri Rama Lera song was played when they spent their happy time together the last time (before she was sent to forest). By playing it here he tells the audience/listeners that Rama is going to meet Sita again. Also by playing the second interlude he is again stressing that their meeting will be short-lived, like the song will end shortly after the second interlude. Maestro cleverly avoided playing prelude or first interlude of the song. This is another perfect example how he narrates the scene musically even when there are no dialogues. Please hear the score from 0:03 – 0:37 for the Sri Rama Lera theme. Also hear how Maestro gradually gets thumpura in-line and stops the music as Rama gets the blessings from his mother before leaving.

Maestro shifts gear from 0:45-1:40. Thundering drums, grand cellos, trumpets, double bass ornaments the scene as Rama leaves Ayodhya and approaches the forest. A grand piece of music. As he takes a glance of his fainted soldiers and Lakshmana, his heart cries and we can see it in his eyes.  The marching drums (from 1:36-1:41) is a stunning culmination of the score as Rama gets angry to see Lakshmana and his people getting defeated. See how the music suddenly transforms into a more pleasing one (from 1:42-2:15) as he steps down from his chariot and Lava-Kusa stunned to see his glittering face. Flute, violins, female choir, veena enhances the scene by enhancing Rama’s beauty, as Lava-Kusa describe him as Lord Vishnu. Another song in the making through this divine melody.

There is no music from 2:15-3:10. When Rama advances, Lava-Kusa shoots two arrows at Rama’s feet stating the first one is to welcome Rama to the Ashram and the second one is to show their denial for releasing the horse. Rama questions if they were the same kids who came to Ayodhya to spread Ramayana. He approaches them and showers love on them, but Lava-Kusa express their regret as he abandoned pregnant Sita to the forest. That’s where the Maestro’s stroke of genius comes in. He starts the score exactly when (3:11-3:52) they express their unhappiness over Rama abandoning Sita. He starts with wind instruments (mostly flute) playing in a sober mood. The cellos backing up with playing chords at regular intervals. The wind instruments reflect Lava-Kusa’s thoughts, while the cellos tear Rama’s heart. When Rama responds and accepts his mistake, the flute now acts in favor of Rama and cellos play for Lava-Kusa’s feeling. Wonderful ploy by Maestro using the same set of instruments for two different approaches as the emotions are the same for both of them. These are the areas where he applies his immortal brain and scores monstrously with just with one scanning of the scene, while it is too much for others.

The conversation gets intense and Maestro rightly stops the music (3:53-4:15) for the audience to get into the scene. Rama guesses that Lava-Kusa cannot be the sons of sage and questions who are they? They reciprocate that the history of a person is not required who is going to wage a war and asks Rama to stay away. When Rama calls them as their children frequently, they sarcastically asks him if he is their father. Rama tells for a king of Ayodhya everybody is his children. Lava-kusa gets angry on hearing this and says this place is not Ayodhya and they are not his sons. One should note here that Maestro does not score continuously as he has all the opportunity to score. He gives enough time for their conversation to get heated up and that’s when he starts scoring again.

Maestro plays melodic strains of violins (4:16-4:52) with cellos acting as staccato points to mark the aggression/ friction between Rama and Lava-Kusa. Rama again guesses that they must be someone sent by Lord Brahmma. They refute saying their are mere kids and that’s enough to fight with Rama. Rama orders them to release the horse, but they deny and asks Rama to fight and win them to claim the horse. Rama refuses to wage war against women and children, but Lava-Kusa reminds him of winning a demon women named ‘thaataki’.

Rama meditates to find out who these kids are and at that exact moment his devotee Lord Hanuman (fetching flowers for Sita’s Lalitha Sahasranamam) who was flying and listening to their conversation spills the flowers as he sees the danger of war happening between a father and sons. Maestro’s viswaroopam shows here as he swings violins, flute, oboe along with the sound of wind to denote the danger lurking in (5:05-5:23). Rama warns them to first learn the strength of their opponent before waging a war. He also warns that his weapon ‘Raama baanam’ is more powerful than any weapon in the world in an authoritative tone.

Hanuman could not bear this any more rushes (for the first time as real hanuman, remember he was adorning the ashram as a kid so far) to Sita to inform her about the danger of war between Rama and his sons. From 5:56-6:17 we can hear a superb tremolo on a unique instrument (surely it’s not violin, may be a keyboard sound) with violins backing that tremolo finishing on a high crescendo. So dreamy to hear this mini-symphony. A big thud @6:09 when Hanuman lands (shaking the whole land around him) adds to the beauty of the score.

Hanuman explains that there is a danger of war happening between Rama and Lava-Kusa and requests her to immediately accompany him to stop the war. The hermits’ wives stop her saying she cannot stop the pooja in between and leave as that will become a curse. Sita unable to decide falls to Goddess Lalitha to seek her guidance. Bapu switches the scene rapidly from war front to Sita’s Ashram. From 6:47-7:14, hear how Maestro switches the emotions through orchestration from Sita’s fear to intense war scenario to pathetic Sita praying in front of Rama’s arrow (at the Ashram). The switch from 7:02 (at ashram) to 7:03 (war front) to 7:08 (back at ashram) is so sudden that Maestro has to quickly adapt to the visuals. This is unbelievable stuff.

The solo violin (@6:43-6:52) when Sita was stopped by hermits’ wives and Sita explaining her circumstance, followed by harp (@6:53-6:59) when Sita prays to Goddess Lalitha, followed by thundering trumpets (@7:03) when Rama picks his first arrow, followed by melancholy veena (? that’s a very different sound, tearing our heart strings) (@7:08-7:37) when Sita surrenders to Rama’s arrow, followed by the violins take off (@7:38-7:48) when Sita ask Rama’s blessings to come out this danger. The melody from the solo violin and veena is something we don’t get to hear even in his songs. Please don’t miss this. The way Maestro picks up the instruments is so unique. Sita is lonely as she is caught between her sons and her husband which is clearly reflected in the melody of the solo violin. The harp which follows plays just two notes twice as now she has to make a decision out of two possibilities; one to finish the pooja or to stop the war. This is highly nuanced piece which hardly gets noticed. See the sweat from Maestro, despite no one caring to listen all these intricacies. The trumpets which lasts for again for 5 seconds indicating the starting of war.

The beauty is when Maestro switches to veena (as the visuals are back to ashram) from that mighty trumpets to heart tearing veena. See the elegance with this he does this switch over. If this piece of music (@7:08-7:37) does not shed you tears, nothing will. See how slowly the veena fades away from 7:36 and violins (which was playing at the background to the veena) comes to the foreground and plays the same tune of veena (@7:38-7:49). Seamless transition again!. Maestro tells us another story through this piece of music. Remember this in mind that just after this scene Bapu is showing the war front again. Maestro scans all this in a flash. The lonely melancholy veena conveys the feeling of Sita towards Rama (at the ashram). As the veena fades away, violins comes over to play the same melody. What is he trying to convey here?

For that we to understand the dialogues. When veena was playing Sita was praying Rama to give long life for their children (as she knows the value of Rama’s arrow, once it is out of the bow, it does not come back unless it hits the target) and also begging for her maangalyam (as the war might turn into anything). Till that time, she was only concerned about her, her children and Rama. So the veena effectively conveys her ‘singular’ emotions. We also hear the violins midly playing at the background, reminder her that is that her only wish? No, she knows that. When she prays Rama to save the world and bring peace, the mood is plural, the whole world, so Maestro brings the groups of violins/cellos to address this emotion. Another reason for bringing violins is as I said earlier for continuity for the upcoming scene. With just veena, switching to the war front is difficult, so enable seamless switch over, he opts for violins. So much nuances in picking up right instruments, in playing the melody, in switching back and forth. Can this be even dream-able by any composer other than Maestro? Please tell me honestly.

Now the transition happens from ashram from war-front (7:50-8:05) with the help of just sustained cymbal clashes (in addition to sound effects). Isn’t amazing? The last two minutes Maestro soars high and high with a moving score. Sita rushes to stop the war and throws away the bows from Lava-Kusa and scolds them that they are fighting with their father. Lava-Kusa asks Sita if Rama is their father. Rama was surprised to see Sita. Hear how Maestro gently sweeps the cellos (@8:23) which leads the way to violins (@8:27), as Rama’s face was shown in shock, disbelief and surprise. I am blown away by that glide of cellos. Piano plays subtly (@8:30) as Rama calls Sita fondly (after years). What other instrument will be so suitable when he utters that magic word of his beloved? Again this western instrument was never out of place here as the tone is such, it gels with other instruments. When Rama calls ‘PranEshwari’ (his love and soul), piano enters to chromatic mode (@8:37) indicating the colors of love from Rama. As Sita reciprocates with a ‘namaskaaram’ without even looking at him, violin gently sweeps and weeps like Sita, as Sita knows what is going to happen next. Sita nods to Lava-Kusa that he is their father. Look at the amount of integrity, precision, truthfulness Maestro exhibits in the score and how closely the music follows the visuals like upholding the visual aesthetics and value by his music.

The melody in the violins (8:40- is the variation/melancholy of ‘nee needaga saaguninka jaanaki yani..sreekaram manOharam id veedani priya bandhamani’. If you listen closely, you might find, otherwise it sounds like a totally new melody, just like another song in the same raagam. As Sita hugs her children, flute calms them down (9:03), as Lava-Kusa realizes for the first time that their mother is Sita (and Mahalakshmi). As Sita handovers Lava-Kusa to Rama, divine Veena plays (with violins at the background) (9:23-9:47) to indicate the auspicious moment of love, happiness and reunion. Lava-Kusa falls at Rama’s feet and apologized for their mistake. Rama hugs them and feels the fragrance of his sons for the first time. He then thanks Sita as Maestro gets ready to play the devuLLe mechchindi theme (nee needaga saaguninka jaanaki yani..sreekaram manOharam id veedani priya bandhamani’) starting from second interlude (@9:46). Veena plays that divine theme to perfection (@10:00-10:35), as Rama approaches Sita and Sita turns away.

Why Rama plays this theme again? Why not Sri Rama Lera theme or any other theme or even a new theme? As we know ‘nee needaga saaguninka jaanaki yani’ means ‘Janaki would move with Rama like a shadow’. What happened at the end of the scene?. Sita turns away from Rama as she decided to walk away from Rama and his shadow. Even though she lived away from Rama, her soul was always with Rama and Rama’s shadow was always with Sita and he blessed her all the time. Maestro by picking this theme gets into the soul of Rama and asks Sita, ‘You did say you will not leave me, but now you are turning away from me, is this fair?’. I am so moved by this theme, especially at this juncture. What else can be more appropriate. Maestro decides all these nuances way ahead when composing the song itself, so that when it comes to address those scenes, it is just a matter of where to place it by choosing appropriate instruments. Maestro was playing ‘tarot’ cards at his best.

Maestro ILaiyaraaja, a Nostradamus in music!


Sri Rama Rajyam – War with Lakshmana June 25, 2013

Filed under: Sri Rama Rajyam — maestroworld @ 4:51 am

This episode is more of music and sounds rather than dialogues. Lakshmana got the news that the Aswa-medha (horse) was tied by some kids. He got furious and sent two of his men to get it back. Alas! they only got back series of arrows from Lava-Kusa which forced them to run behind Lakshmana. Lakshmana was also welcomed by the shower of arrows. Lakshmana warned Lava-Kusa to handover the horse as it was Rama’s horse. Since Lava-Kusa had a bad experience in Ayodhya, they started making ridiculing Rama and Lakshmana. Since Lakshmana could not tolerate any further, he declares a war against Lava-Kusa and they in-turn retaliate. While the war gets intense Lava-Kusa decides to shoot an arrow which will make Lakshmana faint, so that Rama would follow Lakshmana to the Ashram.

Since this is war, normally the sound effects take front seat and the score takes a back seat. What we have to observe hear is how Maestro interlaces his music effectively amidst the sound effects so that it does not disappear or drown. Please hear the trumpets and sax (0:03-0:10). Maestro plays in a funny fashion as the arrows follow the soldiers. The trumpets change their color to serious mode when Lakshmana gets wild (0:17-0:21). As we hear the peculiar sound of arrows surrounding Lakshmana, the violins play a tremolo at the background (0:19-0:34) and gradually transforms to a crescendo. Maestro weaves the violin magic clearly despite the other sounds. When Lakshmana asks Lava-Kusa to appear in front, if they are brave enough Maestro punches in more trumpets (0:37-0:49) so that even the horse whinnying does not fade the music. The way trumpets fade away beautifully as Lakshmana witness Lava-Kusa for the first time. Unlike Lakshmana’s war, this is not a war between sound effects and Maestro’s background score, it is the amalgamation of the two which brings the tension in the scene effectively.

Lakshmana proudly claims that the horse is none other than the Great Rama. As he speaks we hear a grand thud, cymbal clash (1:00-1:05), that’s when Lakshmana destroys their arrows. There is no music from 1:06-1:27). Lakshmana’s pride was destroyed into pieces within seconds when Lava-Kusa blame and ridicule Rama and Lakshmana for abandoning pregnant Sita to forest. Maestro plays some sober violins (1:28-1:55) during the whole conversation. Divine piece of music! Lakshmana reverts back saying he can tolerate anything spoken about him but he cannot when anyone talks bad about Rama. Hearing this Lava-Kusa reverts back that they too cannot tolerate anyone who marries and abandon a woman like this.

That’s when the actual war starts (2:09). We hear a full-fledged symphony (2:17-5:09).  Double-bass, cellos, violins take center stage along with the mirage of sound effects. The war starts with Agneyastram (wind of fire), vaarunaastram (weapon of water/rain/storm), naagaastram (weapon of snake), Trishul, Chakra, Vaayavastram (weapon of wind) and finally ends with Lakshmana fainting to a smoke weapon. Violins start in a percussion mode (2:38-2:57) and the big thud of drums follows from 2:58-3:04 as Lakshmana gets more angry as water is all over on him. The biggest highlight of this score is when Lakshmana fires his snake weapon (3:36-3:53) and Lava-Kusa counter-attack with weapon of eagle. Maestro has created a breathtaking sound with cellos and violins. The way Maestro has created the effect of snake crawling through cellos/violins is mind-blowing to say the least. We can also hear the sounds of fire blowing (by the snake) and cry of eagle (created by the effects). Maestro changes the melody frequently, as the fight between snake and eagle is underway (3:54-4:11). @4:12 we hear a horse cry in fear as Lakshmana was attacked by the weapon of eagle. When there is music there is not much other effects, and when the actual fight between weapon happens there is no music. When the war between Trishul and Chakra takes place there is more of sound effects rather than music, except it starts with some grand cellos (4:13-4:22). The war culminates with Lava-Kusa firing the more powerful weapon to make Lakshmana and his warriors unconscious. Maestro uses the same theme he just used during snake-eagle war (4:53-5:09).

We are treated by a full-fledged symphony for the last three minutes by Maestro. Even though I have only observed a minuscule part of it, there are layers of violins, cellos talking to each other one giving hand to another, one melody leading to another, the percussion which comes and go to broadcast the fierceness in the battle, all take the crowning glory. With all this it is very difficult to abruptly stop and leave space for the actual sound and special effects to take effect and again start from scratch. I am blown to smithereens by this breath-taking symphony. The grandness and the fierceness Maestro brought to the table (especially at the lightning speed he scans the scene and writes the score) is extremely impossible to even imagine by others. That’s is our Maestro. John Williams, Ennio Morricone and other respected composers, Are you listening?


Sri Rama Rajyam – Aswa-medha Yaagam June 10, 2013

Filed under: Sri Rama Rajyam — maestroworld @ 1:56 am

Aswa-medha Yaagam starts in a grand fashion headed by Sage Vasishta and Risyasringa. This ritual performance is called horse sacrifice. This sacrifice was very significant in Hindu tradition that it produced immediate results. You might recall that king Dasaratha also performed this yaagam to obtain a child. Same way it also happened in Mahabaratha after the war to bring the prosperity to the kingdom, as the war created lot of blood-sheds and loss of property and prosperity. Through this sacrifice, a horse is allowed to roam freely (followed by Lakshmana and warriors) and the lands it roams automatically becomes a part of the kingdom, unless someone ties and stops the horse. In that case, they have to wage a war on the owners to capture the land. The gifted land’s protection and welfare becomes Ayodhya kingdom’s responsibility. Once the horse returns, they sacrifice it. As a part of the yaagam lot of scholars, poor, needy all were honored with food and gifts. As per some texts, this ritual is more poetic rather than an attempt at ritual accuracy.

Most other Uttara Ramayana text references says Sage Vaalmiki and Lava-Kusa were present for the yaagam and Lava-Kusa chanted portions of the Vaalmiki Ramayana daily for around twenty days and completed it. That’s when Rama came to know about his sons and invited Sita to get united, but Mother Earth embraced her. The film Sri Rama Rajyam takes a big diversion there that Vaalmiki goes in for a deep meditation during this time and Lava-Kusa helps their mother in performing Lalitha Sahasranaamam at the Ashram. The horse which was allowed to roam comes to Ashram and damages the fruit and flowers gathered by Lava-Kusa and his friends. Thereby they tie the roaming horse. Rama comes to know that his horse was captured and that’s when he comes to meet his sons. Many texts say the horse was black, but in the film we see a white horse. With this foreword, let us dive into today’s music clip.

As Sages and Rishis chant sanskrit verses for Aswa-medha yaagam, cymbal clashes, cellos, pianos bells sounds ornament the scene to indicate the grandeur. You might ask if music was required there as there was nothing to enhance, but you might also notice the scene starts with camera panning from up to down to give a big picture. To get a glimpse of that top view and the environment, music adds to the ambience and grandeur opening in front of us. Without music it will be a stale view. Just when the chant finishes, music also gradually fades away leaving thumpura to chant the shruti. Maestro adds some heart-warming piano and strings (0:33) to the thumpura as Vasishsta gets the horse tag to everyone to get their acknowledgement. When Lakshmana ties the tag on the horse, you can hear grand violins peeping out (0:45) with a big thud @0:50 when he actually ties it. You can also hear another unique sound immediately after that big thud (@0:51). It sounds like an echo and dies away. If you hear closely it is actually the whinny’ing sound of the steed itself. Maestro assures that even if you watch the visuals you are guaranteed with what is actually happening on the screen. There is a haunting flute passage after this with big thuds and horse whinny’ing sound repeating (0:53-1:11) as Rama and his brothers go around the steed. By that big thud and haunting flute passage Maestro ensures there is a danger lurking around very soon to see a sad end.

Vasishta addresses the public on the how this whole aswa-medham sacrifice works (as mentioned above in the first paragraph). Maestro plays some auspicious sounds with bells (1:12-1:40). We can also hear the sound of horse’s foot steps and its ornaments. This mild piece of music is just to indicate that the auspicious aswa-medha has started. Maestro stops the music there to give stress to the dialogues without intervening. Just when Vasishta finishes his address, crowds cheer ‘Sri Ramachandra prabuvuku Jai, Sita maathaaku Jai, Lakshmana swamikku Jai bhava, Vijay bhava’ as the horses marches on with Lakshmana and soldiers. Maestro’s orchestra comes full fledged again with strings, cymbal clashes, thundering drums (2:02-2:20).

While we are still witnessing the grand march of the horse, Bapu gaaru takes a 180 degree deviation to show the Ashram where Sita was performing Lalitha Sahasranaamam (to clear off her sin for doubting Rama’s purity). Exactly at 2:20 we can hear the drums fading away with an echo (from the previous aswa-medha scene) as Sita devotes herself to the sahasranaamam. It gets interesting as we are going to see a chain of events back and forth from Ayodhya to the Ashram. During this transition phase, we can hear the music and silence alternates between each other as per the visuals. It is a very difficult scene for Maestro to score, as the scene alternates very fast. He only has seconds to score, again few seconds to impart silence again to score. The timing is so important.

Let’s see how he does. From 2:20-2:53 there is no music as Lalitha sahasranaamam chant is on. From 2:54-3:11 we hear the heavy gush of wind (which is a symbol of Hanuman, as he is the son of wind God) followed by the bell sounds and strings. This is when Hauman brings flowers for the pooja. As he lands, Maestro gradually stops the music (3:12-3:31). Suddenly we hear a grand trumpets and horse galloping sound (3:33-3:37) as Lakshmana and soldiers follow the horse. Immediately in the next frame there is no music, except we hear the sounds of some birds chirping and horse whinnying. From 3:52-4:03 we again hear the trumpets and strings as Lava-Kusa and his friends takes a look at the horse and make fun of it. From 4:08-4:57 we get to hear the real music with no stoppage from the waiting hands of Maestro. As horse damages their fruits and flowers, Maestro builds up the tension with violin tremolos and then opens up with grand cellos and violins with thundering drums and cymbals to orchestrate to perfection. Lava-Kusa chases the running horse and bring it tied. We hear a grand symphony here and Maestro tearing everyone away with this piece of music. This is what he has been waiting for. Just imagine the difficulty from music perspective from 2:20-4:08. He has to start music and just when he started he has to stop. The frames are changing so rapidly that he cannot prolong. Same way each frame has different mood and he has to comply with the mood correctly, as well to start and stop it correctly without any lead or lag. Huge challenge for Maestro and hear how he triumps.

After they catch the horse and tie it, Maestro cools it off with mild flute, oboe. Serene melody (5:21-5:27). This is when they discover that the horse is from Ayodhya and makes a decision not to untie the horse until the warriors fight with them, as they already had a big disappointment from their visit to Ayodhya and they want to avenge their disappointment. Again this part might not be accurate as per various texts of Uttara Ramayana, but I think Bapu has altered the screenplay to make it more interesting and dramatic.

Maestro’s understanding of cinema is like no other. He has proved again here. Maestro has taken a huge challenge and delivered. There is a frequent shift of frames and moods and he has to cater to every frame with music and silence. He has taken the WCM route this time without disturbing the nativity of the scene. WCM is the perfect foil for bringing grandeur and also for chasing scenes, but the overall melody it brings is surely Indian. If you watch/hear the scene you can never say it is pure western classical as he has completely localized appropriate to the milieu and thereby owning the scene to himself. The way he sees our perspective in any music is just amazing. More than the music itself, the way he brings silence after every scene which has music is  much more than amazing. We don’t need visuals to even understand what he is trying to convey in music. It is that blind-proof. Only with Maestro we can be physically blind, as none other than him can open our hearts and minds so wide that we even live with our blindness. A powerful communicator!