The Pensieve

If you have something to say, I might be saying something as well


May 2013

On ‘trans’it…

Few days ago, I had the necessity to travel by the MRTS train. Boarded it at Thiruvanmyur station and inspite of a good frequency of trains at that time, the compartment was crowded. There was this empty space near the entrance opposite to the one where the platforms usually come. I was surprised why the place was not filled, when elsewhere was totally jam-packed.

I meandered throught he crowd and went and stood there. Only then did I know why it was spacious. Apparently two trans-genders were sitting on either side and hence nobody dared to go nearby. It pained to know that people are that narrow minded. When you do not treat a fellow human being like one, what is the point in talking about values and virtues?!

That momentary thought vanished as a sound distracted me. One of them started demanding me for money. I agree I’ll respect them, but whomsoever be it has no rights to demand… mind you, not request… demand you for money. Why would I give, just to avoid the ruckus they create is it? Nevermind. I just stood still without heeding to that cursing. Well, almost not heeding. What started as blessings for a good life, slowly and gradually turned out to be pure abuses and curses on the same life that few statements before should have been prosperous (provided, all blessings turn to reality, I mean).

Finally, mouth parched, they gave up begging and turned to each other to chat. Despite the physical difference, this particular person in discussion had made it a point to look presentable. Hair neatly trimmed into a boy cut; slim fit blouse; a matching black beaded-chain on the neck; design bindi and even a tinge of makeup was visible.

Reminded me of another train journey. Mid morning and not many in the ladies compartment; I took a window seat, stretched my legs to the opposite seat, while the entire line of 12 seats near me were empty. Then in the next station, someone boarded the train, directly sat down near the entrance, when the entire train was empty. I took my legs off the opposite seat and signalled that they can occupy any of those empty seats. That was a transgender again, and the person had a facial expression that said that they rarely recieved an act of compassion from us. And inspite of offering the seat, the person went and sat down near the entrance.


I do not know whether they fear humiliation, or accept it; or why is that we treat them like untouchables. Knowing all this, it is not really logical when you get to hear that these people are considered a blessing during weddings. Come on, is there no rationale?!

– Until next,

Vid 🙂


9. Hindolam

I used to hate this ragam one upon a time. Reason is I never get it right 😛 It is not that it is complex, but is tricky, being a Pa sans raga. It is Hindolam, a Natabhairavi janya, with the below scale…

Aarohanam: S G2 M1 D1 N2 S

Avarohanam: S N2 D1 M1 G2 S

Hindolam is an equivalent of Hindustani’s Malkauns. It has a characteristics of being a serene, gentle, soulful, meditative, enchanting and pleasing. A raga which has both the “viraga dhabamum charana gathi nenjum” (it is capable of invoking romantic feel at an instance, devotion to God in another!). The name Hindolam, it seems, means swing. No wonder, huh 😉

The below song is Nambikkettavar Everayya, a song on Sivan by (Papanasam) Sivan…

Songs in Hindolam include:

  • Samajavaragamana by Thyagaraja
  • Govardhana Gireesham by Muthuswamy Dikshitar
  • Maa Ramanan by Papanasam Sivan
  • Mamavathu Sri by Mysore Vasudevacharyar
  • Ramanukku Mannan Mudi by Arunachala Kavirayar
  • Karunanidhiye by Mayuram Vedanayagam Pillai (he was a Christian by birth, and the song is not on any specific God)
  • Naanilam Potrum Nagoora tuned by Nagoor Hanifa

Hindolam seems to have been music composers’ favourite. Melodies in movies are abound from then to now…

  • Maname Muruganin – Kuzhandayum Deivamum
  • Azhaikkadhe – Manalane Mangayin Bagyam
  • Rajasekara – Anarkali
  • Om Namashivaya – Salangai Oli
  • Darisanam Kidaikkadha – Alaigal Oivadhillai
  • Pothi Vecha – Manvasanai
  • Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile – Bhagyalakshmi
  • Mazhai Kodukkum (part of the song) – Karnan (the King Karnan’s intro till 1.25 min in the below video)

For the previous raga in the list – Gambira Nattai

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

8. Gambira Nattai

Did you know that Narumugaye from the movie Iruvar (A R Rahman) was on a raga that was as “gambeeram” as Gambhira Nattai? I think it is!

Yet another song from the movie Singaravelan, Innum Ennai Enna Seyya (Ilayaraja) should also be the same raga.

Gambira nattai is derived from Chala Nattai. It differs from the raga Nattai on a Ri. The scale is –

Aarohanam: S G3 M1 P N3 S

Avarohanam: S N3 P M1 G3 S

Listen to the classical rendition of Sri Vighna Rajam Bhaje is a Oothukkadu Venkata Subbayyar composition in Gambhira Nattai, fast-paced and set in Thisra nadai.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

7. Desh

After Sahana, we move from soothing and relaxing to a little more fun-loving, happy but melodious, Audava-Sampoorna raga – Desh. It is suitable to be sung in the first quarter of the night, it seems 😉 Also, this raga is associated with qualities such as Diplomacy, Collectivity, Respect for others.

Audava and Sampoorna as the name implies gives it a scale, S R2 M1 P N3 S / S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S and is derived from the parent Harikamboji.

This raga is essentially from the Hindustani genre and hence we did not have any of the Trinity composing in Desh. However, a striking song that comes to memory is Vande Mataram – what more fitting example than the National Song of India! The recording below is a medley of a few songs in Desh, all by post-Trinity composers:

Paayumoli Neeyenakku (Bharathiyar) –> Eliruva Thandhe (Purandara Dasar) –> Thum Hi Shankar (Mangalam Ganapathy) –> Maadu Meikkum (Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyar) –> Desh Thillana (Lalgudi Jayaraman)

Moving on to cinema, there are many songs inspired by Desh, not completely. But some stick on to the essence. Just like… Thunbam Nergayil from Oor Iravu, Androru Naal Idhe Nilavil from Nadodi, Kanave Kalaiyadhe from Kannedhire Thondrinaal.

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

6. Sahana

After Aarabhi, it is Sahana. After an energetic outburst, you need a soothing effect. That is Sahana to you – a breeze, a raga that you can enjoy with the effect of sitting on an easy-chair, one leg folded over another, hands folded over your head, eyes half closed and nodding… 😛

I don’t know if I can bring about all that effect here, but this is a try – Karunimpa Varnam in Sahana, below.

Sahana is a vakra (scale goes zig-zag) raga, though it contains all the 7 notes available, it cannot be declared a Parent raga for this reason. It is a child of the 28th melakartha, Harikamboji.

Aarohanam: S R2 G3 M1 P M1 D2 N2 S

Avarohanam: S N2 S D2 N2 D2 P M1 G3 M1 R2 G3 R2 S

Some popular kritis in Sahana, that makes me wonder, is this all of the same raga! –

  • Srirama Srirama, Vandanamu Raghunandana and Raghupathey by Thyagaraja
  • Sri Kamalambikayam, one of the Nava Varnam by Muthuswamy Dikshitar
  • Rama Ika Nannu by Patnam Subramaniya Iyer
  • Sri Vatapi Ganapathiye by Papanasam Sivan
  • Manamuka Valanu by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar

It is said that there are 9 ways of serving God, and in that Sahana denotes the Daasya bhakthi bhava. However, some movie songs prove otherwise. Parthen Sirithen from Veera Abhimanyu, Engo Pirandavaram from Bommai for starters. And also Rukku Rukku from Avvai Shanmugi 🙂

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

5. Aarabhi

The first thing that Aarabhi generally gets related to, is the Gana Raga Pancharathnam – Sadhinchane O Manasa by Saint Thyagaraja. This raga is in vogue for more than 700 years it seems. And it is mostly associated with religious beginnings and hence sung in house-warming / wedding functions adhering to traditions.

The link has a Thiruppavai, Oongi Ulagalandha, a song which is usually sung in Aarabhi.

More kritis include Sri Saraswathi by Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Maragatha Manimaya by Oothukkadu Venkatasubayyar and Velava Vaa Adiye by Koteeswara Iyer. The raga is also used in many ragamalikas.

Okay now to the technical details. Aarabhi is a child raga of Sankarabaranam, the 29th melakartha. The scale goes thus:

Aarohanam: S R2 M1 P D2 S

Avarohanam: S N3 D2 P M G3 R2 S

This classic pure Aarabhi song Aerikkarayin Mele from the movie Mudhalali is one of the forerunners. The irony is this song has colloquial tamizh lyrics and still there is a seamleass blend.

Other movie songs include

  • Aadiyile Perukkeduthu – Radha
  • Brindavanamum – Missiyamma
  • Mannavane Mannavane – Thandhuvitten Ennai
  • Oh Sukumari – Anniyan (its apparent that it follows Sadhinchane, the Pancharathnam mentioned above, in the movie sequence)

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

4. Purvi Kalyani

A ragam very close to my heart. A ragam that is bhava-rich and full of gamakas that it was called by Muthuswamy Dikshitar as “Dasa GamakaKriya” in his last composition Meenakshi Memudham Dehi. The ragam is Purvi Kalyani. More on the song and the way it was composed, here.

PurviKalyani is a descendant ragam of Gamanashrama. The scale goes – S R1 G3 M2 P D2 P S / S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R1 S, where the usage of phrases like PDPS or GMDS is the standard that marks the raga. Below is a song of Neelakanta Sivan, Aanandha Natamaaduvaar .

Few other kritis in this raga, viz., Gnana Mosaga Raadha and Paraloka Sadhaname by Thyagaraja; Marukkulaviya, a Thiruppugazh is widely sung in PurviKalyani.

Movie songs are not very frequent, the reason I guess might be because this raga is difficult to handle. But a couple of beautiful interpretations (both composed by Ilayaraja) are:

Amudhe Tamizhe – Kovil Pura

Ethilum Ingu – Bharathi

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

3. Yaman Kalyani

A raga that is always pleasant to the ears, always attractive when sung, fit for a fast-paced or a vilamba kala (slow-paced) song, then it can be only Yaman Kalyani. The hindustani equivalent of Yaman Kalyani is called Yaman.

It has the same swara scale as its heavier classical counterpart, Kalyani. Mostly this raga is sung in madhyama sruthi.

Eventhough we call term it light, it does have some classic compositions to its credit. The raga as such has come across such an evolution in course of time. One of the compositions of Dikshitar, Jamboothveebhe has such a different flavor of Yaman Kalyani than the version of Annamacharya’s Bhavayami Gopala Palam as being sung today. Other krithis include Krishna Nee Begane by Purandara Dasar, Haridasulu Vetale by Thyagaraja…

The song that is rendered in the recording is a bhajan on Lord Rama.

The raga’s appeal has everything to do with it featuring in a big chunk of movie songs in all ages.

Isai Kettal Puvi – Thavappudhalvan

Anbil Malarndha Nal Roja – Kanavane Kankanda Deivam (is a perfect lullaby)

Then Sindhudhe Vaanam – Ponnuku Thanga Manasu

Yamunai Aatrile – Thalapathy

Mudhal Mudhalil Paarthen – Aaha

Varaga Nadhikkara Ooram – Sangamam (atleast the Pallavi is definitely influenced)

Katrin Mozhi – Mozhi

This really beautiful song from the hindi movie Chit Chor, sung by K.J. Yesudas, is a mellifluous rendering of Yaman.

For those who are interested, a link that gives very detailed history of Yaman Kalyani as a raga.

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

A Listener’s Perspective

I have this bad habit – I can never enjoy listening to a song eyes closed and enjoy. These thoughts always cross – what-is-this-raga, will-I-be-ever-able-to-sing-like-this, how-are-they-able-to-produce-the-specific-thing, the technical aspects… blah blah… And thus it was fitting that Bragadeesh Prasanna aka Brags consented to write a guest post, and I was very glad he wrote about this.

Without further ado, read along…

Guest blogging is not my forte. I have never been comfortable doing that. But when a close friend asks you, you cannot deny. Can you? So I wanted to keep the theme of the blog going. It is about music and in particular Carnatic music. I wanted to write something in the line but at the same time, how can a musically illiterate person like me write something. I thought of taking one of my strengths. Movies.

In the starting period of motion pictures in India, music and songs were heavily based on Carnatic. Then after a long time the light music or crowd-pulling music came into picture. Since then the characters portrayed as Carnatic music singers are portrayed in Tamil and Indian Cinemas.

It all started with Tiruvilayadal movie, I presume. The bagavathar who come and perform in the palace demand half of the kingdom, in case nobody is able to beat him in music. The role was played to perfection by TS Balaiyaa that even when I was a kid, I thought all the carnatic singers would be like this only. It had a shade of extremism and then the role was made comic. Though the story demanded it, such was the performance of Balaiyaa that everyone started relating a Bhagavathar to him. Then there were a number of movies where the carnatic singers were made as comedy characters as though they know nothing about music.  There are lot of social and political reasons behind this but I don’t want to go into that.

The next person who made us believe that he was actually a carnatic singer was, Gemini Ganesan in the movie “Unnal Mudiyum Thambi”. Whenever, I hear the raga name Bilahari, Bilahari Marthandam Pillai comes to my mind. Again the musician though talented and celebrated is very narrow minded person. He is casteist, sexist and what not! Instead of propagating a nice art form through movie, such characters made people think the art form is itself not a good one. In this particular sequence, which KB wrote to praise Ilayaraja, talks about the crowd pulling music and the carnatic music. At the end of the scene there is a beautiful aalapana of karaharapriya, which brings tears to one’s eyes. How can one differentiate between two different art forms and say one is superior and other is not? We are ready to accept rap in Tamizh but not English in Thillana. Such is the status!

Then there was the legendary Sindhu Bairavi. GKB again, will not accept competition or people correcting his mistakes. Then he descends down to the alcoholic path and though it is love, involves in an illicit relationship. The whole story revolves around that and nobody can find fault with the story line. One good thing is nothing is out of the storyline in the movie. He also demeans his wife who is not well versed in the art form and falls for a girl who appreciates it. While its completely acceptable, the artist could have been a painter or a dancer or numerous other options.

Cinema is a powerful medium. People who handle it should think not only of the present audience and their money. Because a movie recorded lives on forever and then after twenty years a blogger like me can find such silly faults and come back to the director.

In Tamil cine industry, music is only of two forms. One is carnatic music and another one is light music. There are numerous films which showcase competitions between carnatic and light music and then the light music (usually the hero and gang) wins. What is the message that is passed on? I can only wonder.

Hindi films to an extent have experimented with different things. For example, I never thought I would like a rock song so much till I came across “Rock On”. The movie is about 4 friends and their band. The last song sequence is one of the most repeated songs in my mobile. The lead guitarist walks away from the concert because he wants to satisfy his family and then hears his band performing in radio. He comes back and joins them. If you can understand the lyrics, you will hear this song whenever you feel low and then get the effect of 10 Glucose bottles when the song is over. Farhan Akthar portrayed a rock singer’s role and he learnt the music and sang all his numbers. Hear the song here to know how well he learnt it.

Rock stars are another group which has been stereotyped. Have you ever seen a normal looking rock singer in a movie? I have not. My real life rock music friends are not like that. There will be no crazy tattoos, piercings or unwanted accented English. But the movies had always portrayed them like that and even though the hero portrayed in the same way in this movie, I love it. We all need our share of craziness, don’t we? Watch the King’s magic here.

I think people should come out of what is shown in the movie and heavily-influenced media to seek art form and know about it to enjoy it. Weed and grass are easy to find. If you want to taste elixir, you will have to seek it. It will elude you, but when you find it, you will get the high that you never ever experienced. Remember politics, books and visual medium failed. Only art can liberate the stressed souls.

Thanks again Vidhya for this opportunity.

Until next,

– Vid 🙂

2. Thilang

The first raga in the series was Reethigowla. In this post I will be talking about Thilang, yet another sweet ragam.

Thilang is a mild carnatic / hindustani ragam, is a derivative of Harikamboji (parent raga), and is effective when sung during the evenings.

Aarohanam: S G3 M1 P N3 S

Avarohanam: S N2 P M1 G3 S

Since there are 2 different N’s used, this raga is also said to be derived from Naganandhini, instead. There are not many heavy classical songs in this raga and it tends more towards the devotional side.

Classical songs in Thilang include:

  • Sree Ganesha Charanam – Papanasam Sivan
  • Shanthi Nilava Vendum – Suddhanandha Bharathi
  • Bhaja Bhaja Manasa – Haridas
  • Rama Rama Rama Sita – Purandara Dasar

Find below a recording of the song Shanthi Nilava Vendum along with a few phrases in the raga.

In the cine side, one of the recent movies Moondru Per Moondru Kadhal has a song that has touches of Thilang.

Other movie songs composed in this ragam are the Indru Poi Nalai Vaa from Sampoorna RamayanamTheertha Karainile from the movie Varumayin Niram SivappuInnum Ennai Enna Seyya from Singaravelan

Overall, a pleasing and calm ragam, Thilang may never be the popular one, but none who knows can hate it.

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

1. Reethigowla

Reethigowla is the name of a raga. Not just a raga, it is something like the chocolate of Carnatic music… an aphrodisiac, if I might go to the extent of describing!

The ragam is a derivative (child) of the parent raga Karaharapriya (some say Bhairavi). The scale as such is not direct (i.e.) vakra ragam. It goes thus:

Aarohanam: S G2 R2 G2 M1 N2 D2 M1 N2 N2 S

Avarohanam: S N2 D2 M1 G2 M1 P M1 G2 R2 S

Here is a little something we tried with Reethigowla. The scale, a few phrases and a tamizh classical song set in the ragam.

Some of the Kritis composed in Reethigowla are Janani Ninnu Vina by Subburaya Sastri, Paripalayamam by Maharaja Swati Tirunaal, Guruvayoorappane by Ambujam Krishna, et al.

Maybe the above said is one reason why cine music composers have used this raga extensively, and a big chunk of the romantic melodies I know with a classical touch, end up being set to tune in Reethigowla, or is inspired by this raga atleast in a part of the song.

The cine list includes,

  • Thalayai Kuniyum Thamaraye – Oru Odai Nadhiyagiradhu
  • Kangal Irandaal – Subramaniapuram
  • Sudum Nilavu – Thambi
  • Ramam Kadhai Kelungal – Sippikul Muthu
  • Azhagana Rakshasiye – Mudhalvan

Be back soon!

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

How would you react

I chanced upon this conversation between two friends:

“How would you react if I told you I was a lesbian. Of course it is hypothetical, but still wanted to know what people would say.”

“I would say – so what, you are still a human being…”

“Really? I liked the reply…”

“Oh, come on… its not like you asked me out or something… if so, I would have told you I am straight, sorry!”

“Haha!! Of course…”

“See, if a boy and a girl who are both straight can have a platonic relationship, then why not this… Simple logic… Its like wishing someone Happy Valentine’s day or asking them to be your Valentine. They are essentially not the same.”

“I love you!”

“I love you too!!”

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

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