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!