Monday, June 10, 2013

Chithirayil Nila Choru

Chithirayil Nila Choru is a low-budget tamil film directed by a film-maker named R.Sundararajan, who collaborated with Ilaiyaraaja in the 80s. Now, they united again after a long gap. Like in most low-budget films scored by Ilaiyaraaja recently, the songs in this film too are largely on synth soundscape and less orchestral. I have come to believe off-late that budget largely dictates the instrumentation and sound canvas employed by Ilaiyaraaja. My take on the songs from this album:

1. Kallale Senju vacha: This song has two versions, one by Haricharan and one by Priyadarshini. This song begins on synth chord progressions which give away the Sindhu Bhairavi raagam. The synth percussions used are in poly-rhythms. The song has some of the usual Sindhu Bhairavi phrases, particularly in the charanams. While it is surprising that Raaja does not avoid the typical phrases, the melody quotient is strong enough in the song, particularly in the charanams. I felt Haricharan's rendition is a notch better than Priyadarshini's. 

2. Kaalyile Maalai vandhadhu: This composition is sung by a bengali singer named Saptaparna Chatterjee. The song begins with Veena playing the pallavi (again giving away the raaga - Abheri in this song) and the singer repeating it. The synth percussions (electronic drum kit) very closely resemble thavil while electronic drones sounds make the composition quite groovy on sound. The 1st interlude is quite a bit of fusion with Veena and electro-funk. Ilaiyaraaja's arrangements in this song are brilliant with Ghatam-like percussive elements setting the tone for charanam. After the 1st line of charanam, Raaja releases a riff of synth-chorus and guitars - which I felt was a brilliant idea. Its amazing to see Raaja adorn so much of contemporary-ness in this song. The 2nd interlude which starts with Nagaswaram moves to a superb guitar phrase that reflects the western sensibilities of Raaja. I felt the singer's rendition is good enough and this song is one of the best Abheris composed by Ilaiyaraaja.

3. Unga Appan peyar: Ilaiyaraaja himself croons this composition which sounds a bit anthemic and a bit folk. The opening of the song reminded me of the anthemic "Manidha Manidha" song by Raaja of 80s. The characteristic of this song is the peculiar rhythm employed. The percussions are almost like tapping a bench. And the way Raaja fits the melody of this song into this unusual rhythm is absolutely interesting. It is difficult to categorize the sound scape of this song under acoustic or synth because both exist hand in glove. The interludes are signature 80s Raaja while the charanams have slight change in percussions. The violins (synth or real) add the Raaja's touch to a great precision, particularly the 2nd charanam. Raaja's rendition is not without flaws, since the strain in his voice is discernible. Yet, he carries some lines pretty well. I felt this song is a long distant cousin of ilaiyaraaja's own blues flavoured "Vaangu Panathukkum" (Dhoni) - the similarity being not in tune or instrumentation but in the idea and execution.

4. Nandri Solla Venum: Ilaiyaraaja has composed many a hamsadhwanis and if I remember it right, not even one is a sub-par composition. This song, the best in this album, is perhaps one of the finest compositions by Ilaiyaraaja in his career. From dense layers of violins (both synth and acoustic), guitar, flute setting the stage for the celebration of this beautiful raaga to the unusual tala pattern on mridangam - the sound scape in this song is a perfect example of how Ilaiyaraaja can create effective arrangements from the confluence of acoustic and synth sounds. The melody is a time-less one. The 1st interlude, replete with violins, is a wonderful throwback at the era when music was all about melody. There is something eloquently beautiful in the way Raaja constructs the charanams. The opening lines of charanam are short but punctuated by flute flying out and then the next line by the singer is unexpectedly lengthy, traversing the whole of hamsadhwani scale, taking along with it the violins which gather up in the high note and flow separately again. beauty. Every line in the charanam seems to be carefully carved. The 2nd interlude has violins repeating a motif much like some interludes in few of Raaja's 80s songs and a cello emerging out into a new tune. This was the classic Raaja that we all enjoyed back in 80s and it is amazing to see the same school of thought, being used with synth and acoustic violins combination (i think). This is what I mean when I say that the DNA of Raaja's music has not changed and that's exactly why I continue to enjoy his music. Karthik and Priyadarshini have put up their sincere renditions in this gem of a composition. 

I rate Chithirayil Nila Choru among one of (Ilaiyaraaja's and even in general) best albums in recent times. All the songs are melodious, with gorgeous arrangements. Ilaiyaraaja touches that wonderful sweet spot between acoustic and synth arrangements in a way that not every Ilaiyaraaja album manages to. The songs have some modern arrangements, classy tunes and elaborate musical pieces - all of which reiterating that there is still so much of beautiful music that Ilaiyaraaja's ocean of talent is capable of. 

Bottomline: Ilaiyaraaja uses classical raagas to deliver strong melodies that are among his finest in long time. 

Not to miss: Nandri solla and Kaalayile Maalai 

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