Songs in the Mani Ratnam mode
Rahman gives Kannatil Muthamittal a score that carries forward Mani Ratnam's style of consciously juxtaposing traditional and modern musical genres
Mani Ratnam's latest film tells a story through the eyes of nine-year-old Amudha, played by Keerthana (daughter of the well-known actor couple Parthiban and Seetha). Look up its stylishly designed website and you will find her introducing her family: her father (Madhavan) is a writer with a fiery temper, and her mother (Simran) is a TV presenter who says 'vanakkam' to everyone early in the morning but treats her children only to scolds. Amudha also talks of her siblings, and her Tamil teacher (Nandita Das) who is a thorn in her side. The website hints that something goes wrong in a very big way in the child's life, but to find out what you'll have to wait for the movie's release.
Anjali, Mani Ratnam's earlier film with children playing central roles, had some fun music by Ilaiyaraja. After Roja, which shot Rahman to fame, the director has worked with no other composer, and their association continues in this film as well.
Signore signore gets into the Latino mode, which has caught on with Tamil music composers in a very big way, the most recent hit in this style being Kannale miya miya from Alli Thantha Vaanam. The tune strays quite a bit from conventional composing standards: it does not follow the regulation pallavi-charana-pallavi cycle. Muhammad Rafiq, Noel, Swarnalatha and Anupama sing. Good to hear Anupama again; where had she disappeared after her ravishingly energetic Chandralekha from Thiruda Thiruda?
Vellai pookal sung by Rahman is a pop ballad -- the guitar chords and riffs and the interludes generally keep to that structure. Only a single bansuri phrase lends some raga (Hamsadhwani?) inflection to it. Rahman tries to soften his voice and deliver emotion in a style unlike his more strident numbers of the Maa tujhe salaam and Chale chalo (Lagaan) variety.
The chirpy accordion and flute bits on Sundari, a number sung by Hariharan, Sujatha, Srinivasmurthy (string arrangement credit goes to him on this album), Tippu, Karthik and M Madhumita, announce a song similar to July maadham vandal from Pudiya Mugam. That was one of Rahman's early songs using the same kind of instrumentation. The warm acoustic guitars stand out against the silences the composer creates on parts of the song. The song has a rather natural impromptu effect. A refreshing change from orchestrated group songs in other films, especially in Hindi (as in Hum Saath Saath Hain), where everybody sings perfect parts even when they break out into song in the middle of doing something else!
M S Viswanathan, music composer with over 1,000 films to his credit, sings Vidai kodu, a song with independence and nationalism as its theme. He has sung earlier for Rahman in Sangamam. Viswanathan's raspy energy gets to you. Hats off to a senior who can sing a number for a much junior composer! Rahman has often spoken very highly of Viswanathan's tunes. P Balaram, Manikka Vinayakam, Febi and Rehana sing also sing on this track. There's a Sufi allusion in the chromatic progression of notes like ma pa da da ni.
The title track is sung by Jayachandran and Chinmayi (the same girl who sang Kannale miya miya). Another version has a group singing with Jayachandran; it has a violin ensemble surging in and out.
Vairamuthu and Rahman work again, back together after the frazzle raised by Vairamuthu's request to Rahman at the Kandukondein Kandukondein release last year not to "kill the literature in his lyrics by overdoing the instruments part."
Vairamuthu shows he hasn't lost his form, with lines like these, apparently sung by the parents to their little one:
Chella mazhayum nee, chinna idiyum nee
Piranda udalum nee, piriyum uyirum nee.
You're the darling rain, you're the little thunder
You're the body that gives life, you're the breath that parts
Leaving aside the overwhelming synthesizer sounds which you can't get away from, I like the raga Malhar overtones of the song. There doesn't seem to be any acoustic instrument on this number, except for some rare flute phrase. Which is a pity, this song deserved some. The mix of gentle classical shades and harsher electronic sounds (dance-techno-retro) creates a perplexing ambience that represents a traditional musical culture encountering genres that want to push it towards an urban sort of homogeneity. Mani Ratnam consistently uses contrasting musical textures to suggest the clash of the traditional and the modern (Nayakan had a folksy Nila adu vaanadu mele, a kotha-style '60s Hindi film music-influenced Naan sirittha deepavali, and then a title song that juxtaposed a symphonic violin ensemble with a rustic, simple tune in Tenpandi cheemayile; in Agni Nakshatram, he used the lyricism of a traditional Thyagaraja kriti against an avant garde orchestral setting in Ninnu kori varnam).
Rahman has had some of his biggest hits with Mani Ratnam. Little wonder that he puts in his all to come up with some interesting numbers in this album, after a disappointing Paarthale Paravasam for K Balachander.
S Suchitra Lata
Published on 4 February
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