Composition Extraordinaire & Voice Immortal Series (7)
“Chollu Sakhi Chollu” (Sree Rama Pattabhishekam – 1962), Voice: P Susheela & Composed by Brother Lakshmanan
“Nayanar Kurichi’s Poetic Dialogue & Nightingale’s Stunning Vibrant Rendition (Admiration of Sri Rama – Voice of Sita)
Producer and Director P.Subramanyam was the owner of the second film studio of Kerala, namely ‘Merryland Studios’ in Thiruvananthapuram. Film productions were done under the banner ‘Neela Productions’. P.Subramanyam was a person who was loved and respected by all. He became the Mayor of Trivandrum Corporation during the period 1942-43. He produced 69 films and directed 59 of them. Most of them were successful box office hits. The films directed by P.Subramanyam were mostly social or mythological films including “Snapaka Yohanan, Manthravadi, Bhatha Kuchela, Kumarasambhavam, Kattu Mallika, Bhaktha Kuchela, Hotel High Range, Urangatha Sundari, Devi Kanya Kumari & Swami Ayyappan.
Two successful Malayalam films of the 1960’s were Kunchacko’s “Seetha” (1960) with Prem Nazir and Kusalakumari in the lead and P. Subramanyam’s “Sree Rama Pattabhishekam” (1962) with Prem Nazir and Vasantha (of Madapura fame)as Rama and Seetha. Both these films were dubbe from the originals Ram Rajya (1942)and Bharat Milap (1943) respectively. “Sreerama Pattabhishekam” was also Hindu mythological film based on the story of Sri Rama (Epic – Ramayana). P. Subramanyam’s narration of the Epic was quite effective and the film was a Box Office success.
There were 12 songs in the film penned by Thirunayanar Kurichi Madhavan Nair. The tunes were composed by Brother Lakshmanan and some of them became huge hits. The music composed by Brother Lakshmanan was based on Carnatic Classical Ragas to suit the theme of the movie. Singers S Janaki, Kamukara Purushothaman, P Leela, P B Srinivos, K J Yesudas and our own P. Susheelamma provided the playback. The hit songs were “Chollu Sakhi” (P Susheela), “Mohini Njaan” (S Janaki), “Pookatha Kaadugale” (K J Yesudas), “Parannu Parannu” (P Susheela & Kamukara). All of them were Brother Lakshmanan’s original compositions. One may recall that the Fifth Kamukara Award for “Lifetime Achievement” in Malayalam Cinema was presented to P Susheelamma in 2002 by the Kamukara Foundation.
Brother Lakshmanan composed music for 22 Malayalam Films (CID, Baalya Sakhi, Atom Bomb, Jail Puli, Poothali, Bhaktha Kuchela, Kattu Maina, Snapaka Yohanan, Harischandra to name a few) in his career spanning 14 years & collaborated with Director P. Subramanyam often in the 1950’s and early 60’s. His first movie was “Athma Sakhi (1952) and his last known film was “Priyathama” (1966). Amma had sung a handful of popular immortal masterpieces for Brother Lakshmanan and some rare unheard not so popular tunes too. Some of Susheelamma – Brother Lakshmanan repertoire includes – “Vaa Vaa Vanarajave”, “Kattu Kurinji”(Kattu Maina 1963), “Neeradam”, “Yoodaya Varu” (Snapaka Yohanan 1963), “Daivame” (Atom Bomb 1964), “Kanavil Vannen” (Priyathama 1966).
In this flick, Ma had the opportunity to sing 3 songs. They were “Chollu Sakhi”, “Ponnittu Porulittu” & “Parannu Parannu” (both with Kamukara Purushothaman). The mentioned piece (Chollu Sakhi) is a rare masterpiece and was quite popular. It had a Classical flavor to it and the rendition required her to capture all the bhavams and bhrigas per Carnatic tradition. Not an easy task I suppose, but , Susheelamma was way ahead in her brilliance, capturing the tough nuances, and at times surpassing many stalwarts such as M L Vasanthakumari, Radha Jayalakshmi, P Leela and so many others who were already belting out Carnatic film tunes. It seems that Late Actress Sri Vidhya (Daughter of the Legendary M L Vasantha Kumari) once mentioned that MLV’s favorite filmi number was “Thookanam Kuruvi Koodu” (from the movie “Vanambadi” crooned by our own Susheelamma). In fact Vocalist Nithashree mentioned that D K Pattammal would cry listening to Amma’s rendition of “Sonnadhu Needhana” (from the movie “Nenjil Or Aalayam”). Even Ma acknowledged that MS Amma requested her to collaborate in a Carnatic Kutcheri during the inauguration of “Kaatrin Kural” program on Television. Probably that was one of Ma’s regrets.
Note: Many are not aware that Ma gave a full-fledged Carnatic Recital at the age of 13 in the year 1948 at Chithoor, Andhra Pradesh. This was one of Ma’s many early accomplishments.
Again the song showcases all of Ma ‘s strengths – racy bhrigas, balance, spontaneity, expressive, intensity, deliverance, phrasing, timing colorful, dramatic, breath technique, range-depth, tonal texture, infallible sense of rhythm and above all the brilliant grasp of every single note that flows out of her vocal chords with such ease naturally. Now listen to the pallavi – “chollu sakhi chollusakhi..kaananam chollu sakhi….cholluvaanavaathor ullasamarnnullam thullikkalikkunnathenthe?…..chollusakhi…..Do I need to say anything more? The micro millionth pause between “Chollu Sakhi” & “Chollu Sakhi” adds sheer beauty to the song. I have no words to describe this perfectly charming buttery vocalise.
Then comes the first charanam – “sooryanudhikkumpol thamarppovu pol charumughil kanda maamayil pol …..chitham vidarunnu nritham thudarunnu chintha thudikkunnathenthe? ….chollusakhi….Wah..Wah..Wah…One Word – Heavenly. I am devoid of words to express my appreciation. I just stare at my screen, my soul (atma) immersed in her raw vocal magic listening…listening…and listening and still cannot get quite enough. But I am enlightened. It is the second charanam that establishes her classical brilliance and her mastery of the art of playback singing and how she refined it for successive generations (now you know why she was ahead in the rat race) – kanden kanden kaivalyaroopane kanden …tharilam thoomandahaasam neela…thamarappoovin vilaasam…athil ayiram….sooryaprakaasham…kanive vadivay kamaneeyanganen…kaivalyaroopane kanden….kanden….kanden….kaivalyaroopane kanden………Can any of her contemporaries come evn close to rendering “Kanden ..Kanden…” landing it again with a racy bhriga “Kanden”. Her art of phrasing expressive & dramatic – exhibited at full throttle – Pure Bliss!!!!!!
True connoisseurs’ of South Indian Film music know in their hearts – there never has been and never will be as great a singer as Susheelamma.