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23 February 2000

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Waves within the heart

Mani Ratnam's new film shows Rahman painting a slower soundscape

Rs 50

Like Bharatiyar, Oothukadu Subbu Iyer wrote songs in Tamil that became part of the classical musician’s repertoire. They were not like Thyagaraja’s kritis, where a spiritual, rather than physical, piety predominates. Alai payuthe, the Subbu Iyer song from which Mani Ratnam borrows the title of his latest film, is more like a padam, where god is addressed as a lover rather than a provider or protector.

A R Rahman does not alter the traditional tune of Alai payuthey. He posts a drum on it, and achieves a certain contemporary texture. Kalyani Menon, Harini and Neyveli Ramalakshmi sing in chorus this composition in raga Kanada.

Snehitane snehitane by Mumbai’s Sadhana Sargam is a song I fell for. Her lines have an old-worldly lilt, and blend warmly with the male voices. The song is repeated again on Side B. The inlay card credits the male voice in the first version to Sreenivas, and in the second to Ustad Sultan Khan, but I couldn’t discern the ustad’s distinctive voice anywhere, unless it is him doing the 'ahas' in the background.

Kadal sadugudu is a fast-paced tune sung by S P B Charan and Naveen. Good young voices and attractive bass.

In Evano oruvan, Swarnalatha’s voice -- a little shrill at times -- captures the plaintiveness of the cry for the lover’s attention. The Arabian style orchestra plays in slow tempo.

Pacchai niram is Vairamuthu's song. It plays with colour imagery and paints the girl with their attributes. The white found in raindrops, for instance, also becomes the white of her heart. The tune is somewhat repetitive, and the arrangement, when it uses the shakuhachi, sounds Japanese. Hariharan sings the Indian-style parts of the song while Clinton, another new name introduced by Rahman, does the stylised improvisation.

On the whole the album has an enjoyable feel, enhanced perhaps by Rahman's experiments in the slow tempo. The recording quality gets full marks.

The film -- its Telugu version is called Sakhi -- stars Madhavan, a Malayali familiar to Hindi television serial audiences. Shalini plays the female lead, and she happens to be the elder sister of Shamili who played Anjali in Mani Ratnam's film of the same name.

S Suchitra Lata

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