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.

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!


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