(A post by Krtgrphr)
Aaromale – I didn’t even know what this word meant at the turn of the year. Indeed, my first memory of it is quizzing a friend about the meaning and then proceeding into peals of laughter as I imagined some singer intoning “O beloved” repeatedly while the protagonists pranced around a bunch of trees. Oh boy. You know that thing they say about hindsight – it makes fools out of the best of us.
And how! I first heard the music of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya just before the movie came out, and even that was initially restricted to the few seconds of each song that flashed through the trailers. By the time I went in to see the movie on the big screen, there was enough buzz around it to elicit sellout crowds and rows upon rows of “reserved” seats. I fell in love with the promotional campaign around the movie; the posters themed like movies from the past, the outtakes from the various songs, the lines from the script – but mostly, Aaromale.
Much has been made of the beauty of Kaithapram’s lyrics, and translations have found their way to the internet by the dozens – I won’t even attempt to dissect the wonderful poetry that is Aaromale. As for the music itself, what else can be said but that the genius of Rahman manifested itself in so many glorious ways in this one song. Right from the opening notes on the guitar, through the melodious violin interlude, down to the last strains of the singer’s voice …
Alphons Joseph. The Malayalam music director was picked by Rahman to sing Aaromale, and what an inspired choice that turned out to be. In the video below, Alphons describes Rahman’s approach to him before belting out a passion-filled live version of the song, replete with wonderful instrumentation that is quite apart from the original.
The movie audience’s first full introduction to the song, though, comes right after the intermission. The stillness of the night, the gurgle of the backwaters, and two lovers reunited – these form the perfect backdrop for Shreya Ghoshal’s mesmerizing rendition of Aaromale as a background score. Much hype has centered around this one track, and to me this was just one more in a series of “special tracks” that Rahman somehow manages to leave out of the first editions of audio CDs. Ghoshal manages to pick out the best places to interrupt the symphony that keeps on in the background, and delivers something that can rival the original song for beauty and grace anyday.
If you thought that was the extent to which Rahmaniacs would go when they scent an unreleased track, you might be forgiven, but you’d be wrong. Soon people wised up to the existence of a more Carnatic version of the female Aaromale, and the ensuing discussion came to a head with the release of the Vinnathaandi Varuvaaya special edition CD set, which included this beautiful Carnatic-sounding avatar of Aaromale:
Truth be told, there’s so much more than can be written about the phenomenon that is Aaromale. The lyrics – the beauty of the written word seldom expressed itself as poignantly as with lines like “kadaline karayodiniyum paadan snehamundo” (does the sea serenade the shore with its love). The locales – whether they be the journey from Chennai into the heart of Kerala, the flat and arid land giving way to the lush mountain passes and the enchanting greenery laced with water; or the Brooklyn Bridge, reflecting its centuries against the East River. And really, just the passion that envelopes the entire song and threatens to engulf the listener in a loop that goes lifelong …
Rarely does a song of Aaromale’s class come along. Rarer still is the combination of factors that make the song the phenomenon that it is. For all these reasons and more, listen to the call of Aaromale across the skies, and go forth as if it were to one long-lost yet most beloved. Aaromale.