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 🙂