02 December, 2014
Sastriyamum-Cinemavum, may have occupied the Sunday morning slot at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the accompanying, annoying, unwelcome drizzle was there too. Nevertheless it was a morning to remember. Children in groups were engaged in the pursuit of music in a healthy manner and were on stage as performers. The master-mind, Suswaram Ramji, (a better way of addressing him, I thought) kept parading the stage giving instructions now to the children, now to the organ-player and now to the laya set. But at no point did he “conduct” the music with a wand. It was all in the minds of the children. They carried the show. More than the music what kept the audience pinned to their seats were the interesting episodes Sri Ramjhi unleashed, in alternating sequence for each song without an exception. Thus, the songs got contextualized, got documented.
The invocation song where “all Gods were summoned” was followed by one from “Viswaroopam” - Unnai Kaanaadhu Naan - (rendered by Shanker Mahadevan and Kamal in the film.) Ramjhi by his own admission said this was a difficult song by any standards and the day’s singers tried truly to live up to the original. Then the rush and mirth in the classical number “Aadadha Manamum” (a TMS MLV combo, “Mannaadhi Mannan”) was brought live and on its heels came another from a recent super flop, “Kadal”. Isolating this song from the film gave one a pleasurable listening experience. The performers thereafter showed what range they possessed as they took on T R Mahalingam’s “Senthamizh Then Mozhiyal” (Maalayitta Mangai) where the singer had to muster all his courage to reach the top octaves. After the song, Ramjhi made a confession that the voice of this boy was at its “breaking” stage and explained how boys generally go through this phase when they attain the age of 12. He quickly added that girls escape this critical phase in their life.
The attention then shifted to maestro Ilayaraja and three songs that belong to a wide spectrum of his were handled. The rendering of the songs was preceded by Ramjhi wondering at the stunning originality and variety of Ilayaraja, as a composer. The first was from “Hey Ram!” and was followed by Sorgame Endralum (Ooru Vittu Ooru Vandhu) and Ramarajan, the hero of this film was an example of the truism - nothing succeeds like success. The third was from a landmark film of K Balachander (“Sindhu Bhairavi”) where the carnatic hues of Ilayaraja come into full play. The song obviously was Paadariyen and the young singer shifted gear and landed into Mari Mari Ninne as blissfully and as nonchalantly as Chitra had done in the film. If you wanted a “modern” song there was one from “Thalaiva” (music - G V Prakash), a Vijay film.
An old-timer that he was, Ramjhi in his characteristic manner also dotted this engaging session with some glimpses of Tamil cinema history that went well with the audience. He said that Pavalakodi was the first film made by his father K M Subramaniam and also added a piece of interesting information. Filming during those years was at the mercy of the Sun-God as there could be no other permanent and reliable lighting arrangement. Moreover singers had to render the songs live, while they did their acting and for this reason the whole orchestra had to be “rolled” along with the camera whenever songs had to be recorded. He also had to say this information about A R Rehman: He was the first music director to dispense with the usage of elders miming for children. Children lent their voices to child artistes in film songs.
Ramjhi humbly (or proudly) declared that the coming together of Isaimazhalai had happened more than a decade ago, in 2000, and all past-performers had today attained the status of high-ranking singers either in the carnatic or cine field. Those apart, erstwhile singers of Isaimazhalai have become parents by now and therefore have many other domestic and other chores to attend to than participating in the programmes that are happening. Isaimazhalai has therefore decided not to disturb those men and women and Ramjhi said that his experimenting is continuing by bringing in fresh youngsters into the fold of this troupe. That is a positive note!
Credits: Songs by Subrahmanyam, Rishi, Laxman Arvind, Haresh, Abhinav, Shruthi, Nikita, Asvitha, Aishwarya and Sailakshmi
The orchestra had Shankar on the Keyboard and Saravanan on the flute. The rhythms segment saw Sridhar on the Drums with Akkar Rao providing Tabla accompaniment.