“Valkalamooriya Vasandha Yamini” – Sheelavathi (1967) – Malayalam Feature Film

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Faded Into Oblivion Series by Vicky Iyengar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Fallen Into Oblivion Series (2)

Sheelavathi (1967) – “Valkalamooriya Vasandha Yamini” (Raga Suddha Dhanyasi), Composed by Paravoor Govindan Devarajan, Voice: P Susheela & K J Yesudas

A Combination of Rare Vocal Paramountcy

Chronicles of chaste women from the Vedas such as “Anusuya”, “Savithri”, “Ahalya”, “Sulochana” were treated as subject-matter for films during the early and later years of Indian cinema. Kunjan Nambiar’s poetic work “Sheelavathi Naalu Vritham” published in 1874 was probably the first Indian movie that narrated this story as “Sheelavathi” in celluloid. The story revolved around a chaste woman (K R Vijaya as Sheelavathi) and her husband (Sathyan as Ugrathapas) who contracts leprosy. While Sheelavathi nurses him, Ugrathapas was cursed by Sage Mandavya to death by sunrise while travelling to the palace of royal courtesan (Vijayalalitha). How Sheelavathi saves Ugrathapas and brings him back to life becomes the rest of the plot. Directed by P. B. Unni & with some great casting, the film tasted dust at the box-office for reasons unknown. Even the extraordinary musical score of Maestro G Devarajan with lyrical support from the renowned P Bhaskaran could not salvage the film.

Interestingly this film had few songs rendered by S Janaki (rare indeed!) under Maestro’s baton. Maestro Devarajan composed 9 songs – including this romantic duet ‘Valkalamooriya Vasantha Yamini” (K. J. Yesudas – P. Susheela), “Surabhi Maasam Vannallo”, “Uthareeyam”, “Muttathu Prathyusha Deepam” (all by S Janaki), “Om Saraswathim Namami” (Devarajan, P. B. Sreenivas, K J Yesudas), “Chirichu Kondodi Nadakkum” (K J Yesudas), “Karthika Manideepa’ (S Janaki, P Jayachandran), “Mathi Mathi Janani”, “Maheswari” (both by P Susheela).

Set in Raga “Shuddha Dhanyasi”, today’s pick was an instant hit and showcases the raga interpretation as adapted to light music & trance-like preludes and interludes of Maestro, the lyrical beauty of P Bhaskaran’s words, the transcendental voices of Ma Saraswathi Swaroop/Gana Saraswathi Susheelamma & Gana Gandharvan K J Yesudas.

വല്ക്കലമൂരിയ വസന്തയാമിനി
വാകമരച്ചോട്ടില് ഉറക്കമായി
വാകമരച്ചോട്ടില് ഉറക്കമായി…..
valkkalam ooriya vasantha yamini
vakamarachottil urakkamayi
vakamarachottil urakkamayi

With glorious “Domingo” (tenor) like voice, Yesudas begins the lyrical narrative within the melodic Carnatic formulae “Valkalamooriya Vasantha Yamini” in a great mood and sets the pace with an unearthly feeling ending in racy low bass bhrigas in ”urakkamaayi”. A vocalist needs a voice that can produce gamakas (Dikshitar compositions), modulation with bhrigas, which is amply evident here – it is a combination of gamakas, murchhana (Shyama Sastri compositions) and bhrigas. However, the bhrigas should not spoil the lyrics. Unwarranted bhrigas poisons the vocal dexterity. Yesudas’s voice has always struck me as being deeper and richer than most of his contemporaries. The power and passion in his performances will stir our memories and emotions, and the mind-blowing potential of the human voice is clear for experienced and amateur listeners alike.

പുഷ്പബാണന് ശരമുണ്ടാക്കാന്
പൂവുകള് നുള്ളും പുഴക്കരയില്
മരതകപ്പുല്ലില് നിന് മടിയില് തലചേര്ത്തു
മയങ്ങി മയങ്ങിയൊന്നു കിടന്നോട്ടേ?
ഞാന് മയങ്ങി മയങ്ങിയൊന്നു കിടന്നോട്ടേ
pushpabaanan sharamundakan
poovukal nullam puzhakarayil
marathaka pullil nin madiyil thala cherthu
mayangi mayangi onnukidannotte
njan mayangi mayangi onnu kidannotte(valkalam ooriya)

The second charanam or lyrical narrative begins with a therapeutic voice of Gana Saraswathi P Susheela engulfing “puspabhanan sharamundakan” and her enthusiasm is intense & compelling making Yesudas’s initial narrative (pallavi) under-par? He tackles “marakatha pullil nin madiyil” with such ease and mesmerizes you with “mayangi mayangi onnukidanotte”, a technically demanding line – singing it with such vigor and feeling – a finest performance by Dasettan. What can go wrong? Both Yesudas & Susheela’s voices blended magnificently, styles meshed equally well and they sang with finesse and great presence – a keen understanding & absorption of their lyrical material and indulging in the film sequence. A lyric and vocals should complement & contain aesthetics, rhythm, symmetry, harmony. In Maestro Devarajan’s school they are a must and always become integral part of the score – bright and new, without overdone orchestration leaving the scope of interpretation to the vocalists. You can usually sense Yesudas & T M Soundararajan holding back somewhat in their duets so as not to steamroll their singing partners. Now in his early seventies, he’s still got the strong, mellifluous voice; the impeccable inflections; the emotional range and power; and the pure communications skills of a great vocal artist.

നിദ്രചെയ്യും നിന്മിഴിയിതളില്
സ്വപ്നമായ് ഞാന് ഓടിവരും
കവിളില്നുള്ളിനുള്ളി കവിതകള് മൂളിമൂളി
കള്ളയുറക്കം ഞാന് ഉണര്ത്തും
കള്ളയുറക്കം ഞാന് ഉണര്ത്തും…
nidra cheyyum nin mizhiyithalil
swapnamayi njan odi varum
kavilil nulli nulli
kavithakal mooli mooli
kalla urakkam njan unarthum
kalla urakkam njan unarthum(valkalam ooriya)

The third lyrical narrative is fully owned by our own P Susheela “swapnamayi njan odi varum” – her usual voice packed with rich timbre and depth of tone. Always a pleasure to hear this great voice in melodious duets of a romantic nature – heart soaring. She tackles “kavilil nulli nulli kavithakal mooli mooli” with such ease making her the heartthrob of this composition. It’s hard to imagine a more gorgeous instrument than her voice when she croons “kalla urakkam njan unarthum” – makes an irresitable impulse to listen in repeat mode. Everything is revealed, laid bare. You hear everything, and the unprecedented depth, power and richness of her vocals. In this particular performance she has “vocally traversed into the score absorbing every miniscule expression nodes” – with the result that the wealth of detail, her voice unearths is simply breathtaking.

P Susheela simply refuses to be forgotten. And deservedly so. Her shadow hovers over South Indian Celluloid today as brightly as she herself reigned over it during her very long innings. She was a trail blazer, and continued to stand as the most awesome and electrifying playback diva in the South of the Vindhyas.

Hers was a voice that initially didn’t fall easily on many ears (accustomed listening to leelas, suryakumaris, rajararatnams, krishnavenis, jikkis, komalas, ranis, balasaraswathis), yet she was addictive because she was so artistically persuasive, musically intelligent, and so dramatically compelling. Hers was a voice that accomplished feats that no other artist could come within miles of.

Both Yesudas & P Susheela’s talent is timeless. Their contribution to the South Indian playback industry is unquestionably monumental. To Maestro Devarajan – excellent score by many standards with an excellent combination of voices. Well worth adding to your collection or listening.

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