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Thimmakka of the Row Trees
Courtesy Outlook
Tribute to a green icon

Nakkira Joke!
Music: Pichalli Srinivas, Laxman Suvarna
Rs. 40

Nagathihalli Ramesh edits Spardha Prapancha, a Kannada magazine for career aspirants. His cousin, Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, shot into fame after he directed the successful America America. Ramesh is now making Nakkira Joke! (pronounced 'nakkeera jokay' and meaning 'Don't laugh, be warned!'), a film in which he also plays the hero. Its cassette, just released, features nine songs.

The first song is a ballad in praise of Thimmakka. Not many outside her village, 70 km from Bangalore, knew her till three years ago. Her story goes back some 50 years, when, disappointed that she couldn't have children, she decided to grow trees instead. With help from her husband Bikkalu Chikkaiah, she planted 400 banyan trees along a barren highway. She woke up at four each morning and walked miles to fetch water for her "children". She tended them lovingly through the years. Some perished, but a good 284 trees stand tall today, serving as an inspiration to every environmentalist. Green organisations are showering her with honours. The National Citizen's Award, presented by a panel headed by former chief justice P N Bhagwati, describes her as "a living monument of our times".

Coming back to the tape, it is heartening that Nagathihalli Ramesh has chosen to incorporate this great woman's story of grit into his narrative. Developmental jargon (like 'janasankhye' -- population) brings in a bit of awkwardness into an otherwise simple song, sung by C Ashwath.

Pichalli Srinivas sings Bhinna bedhava madabyadiri. Known for his Gaddar-style songs, his voice has great feeling and fluidity. Asha's voice in the seductive Baro maava bhalare maava sounds fresh. Nakkira Joke!, the title song, is sung by Janni, Vani, K Anand and Rajappa.

Side B opens with Naan kudidu beedili nadede andre, a drunkard song by Janni. The inevitable comparision is with G P Rajarathnam's Rathnana padagalu, but this song lacks the simple wit and charm that characterised the poet's legendary drunkard songs.

Naavu bandeva uses the tune of a gee gee pada made famous by a Kannada film of yesteryear. This time around, Ashwath and chorus sing it to words that talk of how multinationals are robbing the poor. Beli mele chitteyanthe (Ramesh Chandra) is a love song, the tune reminiscent of Vijayabhaskar. Chuvva chuvva is teasingly sung by Chandrika Gururaj.

Sristhi is a young team that has ventured into filmmaking, and so most of those featured on the tape are debutantes. The team is aware of the cultural issues that confront us today. The lyrics are by Hanumanthaiah Nagaraghatta, who has already brought out a poetry compilation. He works with simple, everyday images, but has yet to acquire the amazing musicality of Siddalingaiah, whose poetry moves firmly yet lightly on metre, and communicates with fluency.

The synthesizer spoils the appeal of some folk-style songs (like the one on Thimmakka). Perhaps Bhaskar Chandavarkar's music for the Punyakoti ballad (from the film Tabbaliyu Neenaade Magane), rather than Bangalore's commercial studio version of 'folk' music, could provide the model for songs of this genre. The album would have gained if it had used more of folk instruments and less of the drum kit and synthesizer, which turn out quite harsh and overbearing in songs like Julu julu julu neeranthe.

And, by the way, if you would like to contribute to Thimmakka's green cause, here's her address: Saalumarada Thimmakka, Hulikal 561 101, Kudur Hobli, Magadi Taluk, Bangalore Rural District.

S R Ramakrishna

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