Composition Extraordinaire & Voice Immortal Series (9)
“Devi Vijaya Bhavani” (Chithoor Rani Padmini – 1963), Voice: P Susheela & Composed by Gopalsamy Ramanatha Iyer (G Ramanathan)
“A Unknown Masterpiece & Breathtaking Rendition – The Legends Collaborate”
Chithoor Rani Padmini is a 1963 Tamil historical fiction written by C. V. Sridhar & Elangovan (Kannagi, Sivakavi) and directed by Chitrapu Narayana Murthy (Ethirparadhadu, Annayin Aaanai, Bhaktha Prahalada). The film starred Sivaji Ganesan and Vyjayanthimala in the lead roles with K. A. Thangavelu, M. N. Nambiar, T. S. Balaiah, T. P. Muthulakshmi and Kumari Kamala in supporting cast. It was produced by R. M. Ramanathan of Uma Pictures. The film’s soundtrack was composed by the late Isai Medhai G. Ramanathan.
While cinematography was handled by R Sampath, the dance sequences were choreographed by the famous Nattuvanar V. Muthuswami Pillai (Choreographer). Some of his filmography includes Devadasi (1948), Vethala Ulagam (1948), Inbavalli (1949), Rattakkanner (1954), Malaikkallan (1954), Akki Ramudu (Telugu, 1954), Koondukkili (1954), Doctor Savitri (1954-55), Marma Veeran (1956), New Delhi (Hindi, 1956), President Panchaksharam (1959), Kann Thirandadu (1958), Parthiban Kanavu (1960), Irumbuthirai (1960), Baghdad Thirudan (1960).
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.
Drawn from personal memory, a few compositions I could remember from this movie are “Parthukondirunthale Pothum” & “Oho Nila Rani” (Seergazhi Govindarajan), “Chittu Sirathathu Pole (Seerkazhi Govindarajan & P Susheela), “Devi Vijaya Bhavani” (P Susheela). Please refer to the film’s title cards for information about other additional singers, if one happens to get hold of the movie.
In this flick, Ma had the opportunity to contribute 2-3 songs (my assumption) “Chittu Sirithadhu Pole” and the mentioned song which is a rare masterpiece and was not quite popular. “Devi Vijaya Bhavani”, brought back many memories of discovery, visual aspects (choreography) of performance by Vyjayanthimala (Navarasa Bhavam) astonishment and divinely pleasure. Two genius(s)collaborated in this masterpiece. The uncanny brilliant orchestration that circumbulates Ma ‘s vocals, especially the percussion portions in prelude and interludes makes you awestruck. An extraordinary continuum of musical pattern emerges as it nicely intertwines with Ma’s heavenly bhrigas. Another gem by G Ramanatha Iyer that Ma Saraswathi Susheelamma only could sing. Enough said.
Now let us begin to enjoy the song and its nuances. When Ma starts the pallavi “Devi Vijaya Bhavani……Characharam Thozhum Thaye Kalyani”, you know that she becomes the sole saviour of this song and does the heavy-lifting for G Ramanatha Iyer’s soulful tune. That is what a singer is supposed to do and not otherwise (vocal casualty). See how dutifully she executes that line as taught by the one and only Isai Medhai (a great rapport between the teacher and the taught).
Then comes the first Charanam with extended bhrigas and perfect landings. “Nenjil Kovil Kondai..Unayae Naan Thanjamaagha Adainthen.” Listen to her God-blessed voice; just how she is able to achieve those vocal lines that are nearly impossible with ease is perhaps god’s gift to her. Again Ma’s beautiful and distinctive tone, flawless vocal dynamics in this Bhakthi laden song is at full phenomenal display. “Malargindra Vaazhvile Nilayana Sowbaghyam….Pongave Kulam Vilangave..” Her voice soars, floats, paces and radiates divine brilliance. Sometimes, Ma reminds me of the Norwegian Kirsten Flagstad (a great Wagnarian Soprano).
The second Charnam establishes her superiority over her contemporaries, with her diction intact-simply superb. “Bhuvanam yaavum Bhoga Vaazhvu Perave…Himaya Raajan Madi Meethilethavaznthu Paramporuludan Inainthhu Leelai Purindhe”. It demands every combination of vocal skills. Besides having a voice that is supreme in beauty and clarity second to none, she has such mastery over the Carnatic Raga “Subhapantuvarali”. There is no better display of ravishing tone, lightening fast bhrigas, and a magnificent rendition than this line.
“Kaliyaagi Mahishanin Udal Pilandhu Vijaya Narthanam Aadiye..Uyirgelellam panindhu Thudhi paadave….Aadai Thangiye Karu Valarthidum Amara Mangala Nayagi.” The technique to jump two octaves like that and she doesn’t even have to slide.
“Un Thiruvadi Ninaindhorku Kurai Yedhamma”(bhriga extension),… my eyes became moist especially with the ending “Sakala Sidhiyum Manam Kanindhu Arul Uma Maheswarai” (bhakthi).
I call this voice “highest magnitude of transcendental beauty”. I don’t think in our lifetime, we will ever hear a perfect voice like this.