“Moongil Ilai Mele” – Kattu Rani (1965) – Tamil 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.

“Moongil Ilai Mele” (மூங்கில் இலை மேலே) – Kattu Rani (1965) – காட்டு ராணி (lit.trans. “The Jungle Queen”) – Producer: M M A Chinnappa Devar (Dandayudhapani Films) – Starring: K R Vijaya, Asokan & R S Manohar – Direction: M A Thirumugam – Composer – P S Diwaker (பி ஸ் திவாகர் ) – Voice (குரல் ): P Susheela (பி சுஷீலா ) – Lyrics: Kannadasan (கண்ணதாசன்)
“The Poetry of Earth is Never Dead”
( John Keats, On the Grasshopper &  Cricket)

Morgenstemning!

This very peaceful & comforting song reminds of  Eduard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” – Morning Suite No.1, Op.46 (1880’s for the playwright Henrik Ibsen), capturing the beginning of the day in the glorious mountains and forests of Norway (birds sing, the sun rises, and the foamy waterfalls). The toe tappin’ beat and unique vocals by P Susheela make for a lovely little ditty.  An unnoticed talent, P S Diwaker scored music for a handful of Tamil films (“Kattu Rani”, “Dievachayal”, “Naer Vazhi”, “Vilaketriyaval”& “Puli Petra Pillai”). He was shunned by the mainstream southern production houses for reasons unbeknownst.

Legendary Producer Sandow M M A Chinappa Devar (Devar Films) summoned P S Diwaker to score music for his film “Kattu Rani”. It has been well chronicled that Mr. Devar had more successful collaboration with Composer K V Mahadevan (over 25 films) for over a decade before partings ways.  Mr. Devar always insisted an opening song sequence to be rendered by his favorite soprano Susheela (pictured on the heroine) that involves nature in all of his films. He had such apotheosis & veneration for Susheela’s vocals (5-6 songs in a movie), their association (lasted over two decades) and continued until he passed away in 1978.

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.”
( John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir)
மூங்கில் இலை மேலே தூங்கும் பனி நீரே
தூங்கும் பனி நீரை வாங்கும் கதிரோனே

தோளுடன் தோள் சேர்த்து
நிதமும் சுகம் பெரும் மரங்களிலே
வாயுடன் வாய் சேர்த்து
கொஞ்சி வாழ்ந்திடும் பறவைகளே

மூங்கில் இலை மேலே தூங்கும் பனி நீரே
தூங்கும் பனி நீரை வாங்கும் கதிரோனே
எனக்கொரு சிறகில்லையே
ஏங்கும் இளமைக்குத் துணையில்லையே
குளிருக்கு நெருப்பில்லையே
பெண்ணின் குணத்துக்கு மனம் இல்லையே
மூங்கில் இலை மேலே தூங்கும் பனி நீரே
தூங்கும் பனி நீரை வாங்கும் கதிரோனே
அன்றொரு நாள் வந்தான்
அவனை இன்று வரை காணேன்
பறவை எனும் தோழி
அவனைப் பார்த்தால் வரச்சொல்லடி
மூங்கில் இலை மேலே தூங்கும் பனி நீரே
தூங்கும் பனி நீரை வாங்கும் கதிரோனே
moongil ilai maelae
thoongum pani neerae
thoongum pani neerai
vaangum kadhironae
tholudan thol saerththu – nithamum
sugam perum marangalilae
vaayudan vaay saerththu – konji
vaazndhidum paravaigalae
moongil ilai maelae
thoongum pani neerae
thoongum pani neerai
vaangum kadhironae
enakkoru sirakillaiyae – aengum
ilamaikkuth thunaiyillaiyae
kulirukku neruppillaiyae – pennin
gunaththukku manam illaiyae
moongil ilai maelae
thoongum pani neerae
thoongum pani neerai
vaangum kadhironae
androru naal vandhaan
avanai indru varai kaaNaen
paravai enum thozhi –
avanaip paarththaal varassolladi
moongil ilai maelae
thoongum pani neerae
thoongum pani neerai
vaangum kadhironae

Feeling under pressure from Devar to come up with quick melodies (esp the song sequence involving nature), composer Diwaker responded by creating a tableaux of two separate suites, the stunning opening interlude (that incorporated the flute, piano, oboe, drums, violin, resonators) and rhythmic interludes (bongos,  horns).  Diwaker’s orchestration captures Susheela’s tonal shade perfectly against a static harmonic background that effectively emulates the stillness of the first moments of dawn. This lovely melody is taken through a sparkling palette of subtle harmonic inflections; bright flute trills join the musical mixture as “the dawn” comes to a gentle close. Listen to her prodigious tremelo in “moongil ilai mele & thoongum pani neerai”, simply breathtaking The composition was received with huge enthusiasm by the audiences of his day and still retain a great deal of its original vitality and freshness.

Although the song is only four minutes long (pictured on the vivacious K R Vijaya), Diwaker manages to capture in music something both timeless and universal. The first, second and third lyrical phrases – tholudan thol saerththu, enakkoru sirakillaiyae, androru naal vandhaan are set to an absolutely unchanging bongos rhythm (but the interludes are not) and yet the score never grows monotonous. Though the phrasal musical structures built on just one small, repetitive thematic fragment, Diwaker takes you through small harmonic interludal adventures (composer’s distillation).

The song’s best couplet (written by Poet Kannadasan) in the civilization-deprived jungle – sung with anguish & heartache by Susheela – is enakkoru sirakillaiyae – aengum ilamaikkuth thunaiyillaiyae kulirukku neruppillaiyae – pennin gunaththukku manam illaiyae.  Her rendition captures the mystical quality, the woods possess. Susheela’s voice lingers after each line and the gently strumming guitars create an intimate sound. Walk barefoot and feel the grass under your feet again as Susheela’s sententious expressions guides your nostalgic daydreaming (a mood lifter). An absolutely beautiful song, the phrase vaayudan vaay saerththu – konji vaazndhidum paravaigalae explains that feeling you get when you are in awe of nature.


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