“Chinna Ponnu Singaari” – Paasavalai (1956) – Tamil Feature Film

Composition Extraordinaire & Voice Immortal Series (3)
“Chinna Ponnu Singaari” (Paasavalai – 1956), Voice: P Susheela & Composed by Viswanathan-Ramamurthy – A Racy Number by VR Duo Coupled with Susheelamma’s Incredible Vocals.

It was a Saturday night (One of those Harsh Canadian Winter) a few months ago and I decided to watch an old flick under the covers. The first flick that came to my mind was “Paasavalai”. I always heard good reviews about Modern Theatres “Paasavalai” (MK Radha, Gopalakrishnan, Rajamani, G Varalakshmi) including the musical score of Duo Viswanathan Ramamurthy. I was quite familiar with “Anbinale Undaagum” by the great poet Pattukottai and sung very graciously by C S Jayaraman from the same movie. Jikki had her chance too in the form of “Lol Lol Lol”.

Plot: A king (M K Radha) is accused by his people that he is shielding his younger brother (V Gopalakrishnan) who is after women. Touched to the quick, the king abandons his throne and walks out with his queen (G Varalakshmi) and children. He wanders in the woods, looking for peace. The family gets separated. The king becomes mentally deranged, while his wife loses the children and works as a maid in a house. The children are rescued by some people, including a leader of a gang of thieves.

The brother meets the king in the woods, apologizes for what had happened and promises to cure him of his mental illness. He meets a young woman (Rajamani) who has a magic cave with herbs that can cure his brother. He goes in search of it, but the woman, unable to seduce the repentant brother, converts him into a dog (Tiger). However, he succeeds in curing the king and dies in his arms. The blind king is saved by a princess (Rajam) who falls in love with him. She soon realizes that he is still thinking of his first queen. After interesting twists, the king and the queen are united with the children and the princess dies accidentally. This story was made into an engaging film by Nagarajan and produced by Sundaram with interesting photography by master lensman W. R. Subba Rao.

The music by Viswanathan-Ramamurthy was the major plus point of the film. The lyrics were by Marudhakasi and Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram. Many songs became popular, with ‘Anbinaal… Paasavalai’ rendered by C. S. Jayaraman becoming a major hit.

Since Susheelamma was given Title Credits, I swear I was not aware of her songs in “Paasavalai”. As Susheelamma’s devotee, how did I ever miss this masterpiece?. I should not be forgiven for this slack.Curiosity brimming and almost half way into the movie, a pretty woman (Rajamani) showed up on the screen lipping the mentioned song. The song lasted approximately 3+ minutes are so. I was glued the entire duration with amazement. The song was immortalized in my mind and heart.

It took me a few minutes to figure out this racy composition and VR’s genius, let alone Susheelamma’s incredible babyish vocals (reminds of early Lata’s renderings for Anil Biswas). She is in glorious voice with a golden throat and ease of vocalism – getting more refined to handle complex pieces later in her long musical innings. Foot Note: No one today can soar as confidently into high Cs with as much gorgeous tone as Ma Saraswathi Susheelamma. (“Paal Polave” – from the movie “Uyarndha Manidhan”).

This song is almost 60 years old now. Susheelamma was probably in her early tees (21 to be precise) when she rendered this particular piece. She also sang another one “Mathippu Ketta Mama” in this movie. The other songs were by Jikki, Jamunarani and probably A P Komala. No one knows why the Composer chose Susheelamma for this racy number. Usually Jikki sings racy and vampy numbers in those days and some good melodies were given to Vasanthakumari and Leela and we all know how it turned out. Listen to “Koovamal Koovum Kokilam” from Vairamalai – MLV/TLN/VR and draw your own conclusions. Would the song be any different had Amma collaborated? I bet it would be.

The initial Waltzy humming by Amma (Soprano) tells you that the Pallavi & Charanams are going to be impressive as well. Due credit is to be given to the orchestration here especially the woodwind & violin interludes (operatic) that bridges the Pallavi and first Charanam – are mind-blowing. I see the brilliant handprints of the great Violinist T K Ramamurthy here. Ma’s voice is pure, innocent, mischiefy, clear and light floating up in the higher notes.

You can almost visualize her as she places the notes in her throat and sets them out in the air to vibrate – “Anna Nadai Azhagodu Aadi Paadum Alangaari” “Ennai Nee Paarayo..Aruginil Vaarayo..Mannava Naam Magizhndhu Vaazhvom Idhayam Kalandhu” with her millionth of a second signature pause. That is the high point of the song, VR & Ma mesmerizes you. Believe it or not, I just froze and melted and replayed it god knows how many times – those lines alone. phrasing, color, dynamics, language – she did it with perfection. Kudos to Maruthakasi as well. Look at the rare speed (bhrigas) she gets into when she recites “Alangaari”. She alone and only she alone can get this job done.

Again the VR duo bridge the second charanam (slightly different meter) with Ma’s alaap and interludes only worthy of them. The orchestra plays magnificently, making you feel as if you are in attendance at your favorite Ma’s recording. “Minnidum Kangal Maththappu..Kannam Irandum Rojapoo…Ennum Pothe Inbamalikkum Kanni Endhan Santhippu”. Listen to how Ma lands the sound “ppu”. These Tamil words should be blessed to pass through Ma’s Vocal Chords. Diction & Clarity are the hallmarks of Ma’s repertoire. Who can compete with her?

In the second charanam Amma asks “Thanimayil Endrum Inimai Thaan Edhu – Samayam Un Vaazhvile Meendume Varaadhu.. But, listening to your masterpeices alone behind closed doors is a captured blissful experience in itself.

This composition is a classic, passionate and an addictive number. It would be almost a sin to allow this piece to become stale and tired. Finally, I loved every minute of it and saw the song sequence several times over and over.

If, like me, you have heard Ma’s several thousand stellar renderings/compositions, give this one a try. It may not turn this into one of your favorite songs, but it will change the way you think of Ma Saraswathi Susheelamma, the Legend.

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