Composition Extraordinaire & Voice Immortal Series (12)
“Aav En Aasai Purave” (Arasilangkumari – 1961), Voice: P Susheela & Composed by Gopalsamy Ramanatha Iyer (G Ramanathan)
Ramanatha Iyer’s Simple Brilliance & Nightingale Cajoles the Dove
Produced by the famous Jupiter Somasundarum (Velaikkari, Thanga Padhumai), “Arasilangkumari” was directed by the veteran A.S.A. Sami & A Kasilingam with dialogues written by M. Karunanidhi. The Film had MGR, Raja Sulochana & Padmini in the lead roles. The story was adapted by Sami from the very famous 1921 Rafael Sabtini’s novel “Scaramouche”. In Hollywood, Scaramouche was adapted into a play by Barbara Field and into feature films, first in 1923 starring Ramón Novarro, Scaramouch (1923), and a remake in 1952 with Stewart Granger. The film did not fare well at the box office. Remembered for the fencing scenes (sword fighting) and Pattukottai’s song “Chinna Payale”.
Considered the “The Founding Father of Tamil Film Melodies”, Gopalsamy Ramanatha Iyer needs no introduction. Film Historians and his Crew including his Playback Singers fondly remember him as “Isai Medhai”. Though he never had proper training in music except through “Kelvi Gnanam” (through listening), his passion for Carnatic music drove him to incorporate many classical ragas into his compositions. He gave shape to the celebrated early melodies in Tamil Cinema. Beginning his career in 1940 and until his untimely death in 1963 he composed musical score for almost 50+films over a span of 23 years . He was associated with Movie Production Houses such as “Moden Theatres “, “Krishna Pictures”, “Jupiter Pictures” and “Pakshiraja Studios” in Salem and Coimbatore. Together with his Some of his monumental compositions include the iconic, “Manmadha Leelayai”, “Krishna Mukunda Murare”, (Haridas 1944), “Soppana Vazhvil” (Sivakavi 1943), “Kaadhalaginen” (1000 Thalai Vangiya Aboorva Chinthamani 1947), “Neelavanum Nilavum Pole” (Ponmudi 1950), “Varai Nee Vaarai” (Manthiri Kumari 1950), “Kannaiyargal Vellai Manam’ (Thirumbi Paar 1953), “Sundari Soundari Nirandhariye” (Thooku Thooki 1954), “Ketpadhellam Kadhal Geethangalae” (Illarajothi 1954), “Thensuvai Mevum” (Dr. Savithri 1955), “Athirshtam Athirstam” (Kadhanayaki 1955), “En Sindhai Noyum Theeruma” (Kaveri 1955), “Vanga Machan Vaanga” (Madurai Veeramn 1956), “Naan Petra Sevam’ (Naan Petra Selvam 1956), “Masile Nilave Nam” (Ambikapathy 1957), “Pambara Kannale” (Manamagan Thevai 1957), “Aaada Vaanga Annathe” (Chakravarthi Thirumagal 1957), “Idhu Poruthaman Vayasu” (Rani Lalithangi 1957), “Thenmadhuvai Vandinam” (Pudhumaipithan 1957), “Vazhvinile Vazhvinile” (Vanangamudi 1957), “Vasantha Mullai” (Sarangadhara 1958), “Mullia Malar Mele” (Uthamaputhran 1958), “Inbam Pongum Vennila” (Veerapandiya Kattabomman 1959), “Vanamevum Rajakumara” (Raja Desingu 1960), “Kaatru Veliyidai” (Kappal Ottiya Thamizhan 1961), “Nee Illadha Ulagathile” (Deivathin Deivam 1962) to name a few. His favorite voices initially were M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, M L Vasanthakumari, T M Soundararajan, P. Leela, Jikki Krishnaveni & T V Ratnam. After arrival & dominance of the Southern Nightingale in the mid 50s, one could hear Susheela’s voice in almost all of his films until he passed away. It is widely believed (as narrated by her contemporaries) that he created some extraordinary compositions just for Susheela. His collaboration with lyricists such as Papanasam Sivan, Udumalai Narayana Kavi, K M Sheriff, K D Santhanam, Pattukottai, Kannadasan, and Marudhakasi provided him a platform to produce many immortal melodies.
The highlight of the movie was its music by G Ramanathan with lyrical support from Pattukkotai Kalyanasundaram, Kannadasan, K M Balasubramaniam, K S Gopalakrishnan and few others. The soundtrack consisted of 8+ songs and sung by P. Leela, S. Janaki, Seerkazhi Govindarajan, T M Soundararajan, S.C. Krishnan, Soolamangalam Jayalakshmi, K Jamuna Rani and our own P. Susheelaamma. The songs were “Chinnapayale” (T M Soundararajan), “Thara Avar” (S Janaki) , “ThillaIangadi” (P Susheela), “Etramuna Etram (T M Soundararajan & Seerkazhi Govindarajan), Athane En Asai Athane“ (P Leela), “Kazhugumalai Pazhanimalai” (Seerkazhi Govindarajan), “Oorvalamaga Mappilai Pennum” (P Susheela, Soolamangalam & T M Soundararajan), “Thundiyile Maatikittu” (K Jamunarani, Seerkazhi & S C Krishnan), “Nandhavanathil or Aandi (T M Soundararajan), & “Aaav Aav En Asai Purave” (P Susheela). All of them were Ramanatha Iyer’s original compositions.
P Susheela had sung most popular immortal masterpieces for G Ramanathan and some rare unheard not so popular tunes too. In this flick, Susheela had the opportunity to sing 3 songs. The mentioned piece (Aav Aav En Asai) is a rare unheard piece and was not part of the soundtrack for reasons unknown. I discovered the mentioned composition a few years back while flipping through Susheela’s voluminous body of work. I became even more interested and intrigued by the discovery, that it was “Isai Medhai” who belted the tune, as I was not aware that this song was part of the original soundtrack. I still have my doubts about the soundtrack until someone disputes it otherwise.
Together, Susheela & Ramanatha Iyer is an out of the box combination. There was something special about their association. Though Susheela’s repertoire under Ramanatha Iyer’s music direction is about less than 100 songs – the collaboration still lives in our memories. I call it “Songs of Yore’.
The song showcases all of Susheela’s strengths –Recorded at her Prime – Speedy Bhrigas, Balance, Range & Depth, Tonal Texture, Infallible sense of Rhythm and Tempo. The introductory racy Xylophone prelude is what caught my attention first and the lyrical word “Aav (heard like Hindi) in the Pallavi. There goes the signature rhythm pattern of G Ramanathan who started a composition like that or at least I am not aware of any composer who did during that period. The percussion included the piano, xylophone (predominantly) and other instruments in the orchestral makeup.
The pallavi begins with “Aav Aav…. AavAav….En Asai Purave Aav”. Look at the rare tonal speed she gets into while repeating the Pallavi “En Asai Purave Aav”. Listen carefully, the word “Aav” has a slight vibratory feel to it. In first charanam, the lengthy Alaap in between “Amudhe Urandai Aaanadu Pole” and the perfect landing in “Vilayadida En Aruginile” is heavenly.
In the second charanam “Pandhayam Vittal Andharathile Parandhu Chendre Jaikkanum” she issues a very subtle command and a determined heart in “Paangai Undhan Kaallukku Naanum Pasumpon Valayam Podanum”, if in fact the dove fulfills her wishes, communicated so passionately through unicity of her voice & honey soaked timbre.
It is the third charanam that cements Susheela’s and Ramanatha Iyer’s simple brilliance. “Konji Konji Pedayin Pinnale Gumu Gumu Gumu Vena”, again the racy Xylophone (repeats twice) accompanied by a Piano background that drove me crazy, listened to it, my god, I don’t know how many times. Astounding!!!!!. Again the lengthy Alaap and effortless navigation with such perfection after “Vanjagamilla Kadhalale” and the landing in “Malar Ezhile” (extensions) is mind blowing and beyond comprehension. It is better than beautiful, sublime and exquisite.
A beautiful tone, nobody will ever have this evergreen voice again.