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.


4 Responses to “Gali Ningi Neeru – A Tribute to Ghantasala”

  1. hari babu Says:

    I have heard Mastaru (Ghantasala) song, in lava kusa, E nimishaniki emi jaruguno’ several times. He is matchless. No words can describe sweetness in his voice.

    I have heard “gaali ningi neeru” just now, after reading above long narration, hoping something special. Without any doubt, with due respects to SPB and Ilayaraja, I can say, they cannot match Mastaru. SPB is no where near to Mastaru, at least in this type of songs. Music by Mastaru is far superior to that of Ilaya Raja, because we can see the dedication and ownership and mark of Mastaru.

    Comparisons can be between people whose capabilities are somewhere near to each other. But, nobody can even come near to Mastaru, because God has given him such a sweet voice.

    • maestroworld Says:

      Thanks for your comments. I agree Ghantasala gaaru has a magical voice with soulful rendering, combined with a beautiful melody, you cannot escape surrendering to it. But if you take the overall composition, the richness in its structure and how the orchestration seamlessly flows into the melody, and the way it has been woven into the film-making process, the endless musical ideas by Maestro ILaiyaraaja, Maestro is Maestro and no one can outdo him.

      • hari babu Says:

        The only criteria that makes a song popular is “whether we sing the song on our own several times”. This happens in the case of song by Ghantasala, but not in case of song by SPB. Only orchestration does not make song good, that too when are comparing the song sung by Ghantasala Mastaru, who is uncomparable.

  2. maestroworld Says:

    and I do sing gaali ningi neeru song several times, even more than the Ghantasala’s song. The first criteria to make this comparison is we have to enjoy both the songs equally and then make a comparison on which one is more interesting. From your posts, I don’t see you even made any sincere attempt to even listen to gaali ningi neeru, so your opinion seems heavily prejudiced. If you have your own opinion, I too have one. Ghatasala’s song is just a song, but gaali ningi neeru is a composition where several musical aspects come together seamlessly as I stated above. If you don’t agree, please refrain from posting. No worries.

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