Long ago (Okay! A year ago), I asked two of the most enthusiastic Tamil music fans who I know of to write about Kaatru Veliyidai’s music for Rahmania. Those guys did their homework and gave me the doc on March 25 2017, but I missed posting it then. Then the movie came to the theater screen, the Amazon Prime Video screen, Aditi Rao Hydari went around singing Vaan Varuvaan on TV shows and then people forgot about the movie. And I still hadn’t put the post up! Here’s the conversation between Karaboondi (K) and SoundTrackIndia (N) on the music of Kaatru Veliyidai! Better late than never! –Viju
Karaboondi (K): The release of a Mani album is like a festival and what better way to celebrate than discussing the album with friends.
SoundtrackIndia (N): Indeed, sometimes you end up making friends because of the music. If I recall correctly, you became friends with V around the release of Kadal, and I around the release of OKK. And now, here we are discussing the latest release Kaatru Veliyidai for his blog.
K: Azhagiye, the meet cute song came out first. The Charanam is all sorts of brilliant , hitting the high with Marukaadhe Nee and then going on to tease you to break into Nivedha. I find a lot of things I love in the Charanam compared to the Pallavi: Sid and Jonita playing hide and seek with Charan, the carnatic music flavor – What’s not to like about this song?
N: Of course! Starting with some catchy a cappella ish harmonies, the song hides no surprises and is one groovy number with no lull moments. Throw in a bit of Punjabi shake-a-leg, and Jonita’s na na na the song is just so effervescent. Karky’s lucid lyrics hide no intentions either. You know what, I’d like to dub this song the third of the “heralding triplet”, following Adiye! and Aye! Sinamika.
N: Moving on to Vaan, a quintessential track of the Mani-ARR soundtrack. An instance of variety of complex emotions in a song — melancholy, love, jealousy, longing. And all these connect with me so plainly. Vairamuthu shines here with his inimitable command over the language. The tranquility about this song is ironically unsettling. Shashaa is sweetness personified here. How things confluence at the ”கர்வம் கொண்டால் கல்லாய் உறைவான்” phrase is an experience that is quite difficult to articulate — but go ahead and ask your headphones. As cliched as the ending fading refrain of காதல் வந்தால் கனியாய் நெகிழ்வான் is, it leaves me heavy-hearted.
K: Vaan is a modern Aandal Paasuram tinged with longing. Leela’s anticipation is represented by that melancholy flute cutting through the piano notes, especially between 2:23 – 2:45. They remind you of Porkkalam Ange, don’t they? That Ennodu Irundhaal Evalo Ninaivaan line is beautiful and functional characterizing the man’s profession as the other woman.
N: Aha! Gotcha.
K: Let’s take a small journey to some hill station where close friends have gathered to celebrate a wedding. The Sangeet is an intimate affair around a campfire on a cool September Evening. The best man is strumming the guitar and the groom’s brother who is also the flautist is making moon’s eyes at the bridesmaid. The bride and the groom are cuddled up under a blanket under the stars , and all of a sudden a groomsman starts drumming on the stool . Soon the others join in with their plates , glasses and spoons as the bride and groom start reminiscing about their story through song. They are so comfortable with the place they are in their life that they grin and nudge each other in a weird dance as the ribaldry continues. Somewhere down the line , the groom’s brother who is our flautist has fallen for the bridesmaid who is behind most of the jests and the culmination of a love saga sparks the beginning of another. N ! you know what I am talking about here .
N: Saarattu Vandiyila is good old Rahman, wielding an orchestra of gazillion instruments, both classical and otherwise, to a folksy tune sung by chorus, checking every item off a celebratory event list, in the process. Perhaps the first time Tipu gets a solo credit in an ARR album, he is effortlessly charming. Raihanah owns the song, and Nikita chips in with the best segment that goes Kathaazhang Kaattukkul just as the song crosses mid-point.
K: Aha! H. Sridhar moment!
N: There’s something about delayed gratification. Last time it was the Thalli Pogathey hook. And take a note of this song, Band–Baaja–Baaraat enterprises.
K: Saarattu was the third single that came out. It had a resemblance to Alangatti and Eechi, inspired by the Kummi format. There was that coincidental similarity to Dhavanipotta Deepavali in a line that created frenzy and drew battle lines across twitter. Despite all this, the song is addictive as hell, with instrumental filigrees that are super intricate decorating the intimate lyrics. You know, Rahman is also very naughty with this song. The soundtrack version of this song is slightly different than the single version with the production slightly tweaked to make the strings and flute sound crystal clear. The percussion is also less tinny, and the soundscape resembles an open revelry as opposed to an intimate celebration.
Now , lets come back from this imaginary wedding to the present. You are no longer in Coorg. You are at your desk. You miss the fun you had at the wedding. You miss Kamalakar’s flute , the singers. You want to go back to the poetic lyrics tinged with Eroticism and Ribaldry that entices without crossing its limits . You close your eyes and hit the repeat button , again and again and again . The Siren Sings “Katthazha Kattukkul Matthalam Kekkudhu Sitthanai Rendukkum Kondattam”. You grab some camping goods and walk behind the Siren into that enticing forest leaving the mundane behind you.
N: Sigh! But then all drama culminates in Tango Kelaayo. While the singers only sing Kelaayo, the title of the track is a tip-off to us, the listeners, to check out the Tango the song is set in. Another conflicting song of the album, that contrasts the dual personalities of the male protagonist, with respective vocals by Hariharan and by Diwakar. Nice touch comes in the form of a processed female voice. The song is embellished with all grand sounds that a Tango needs. Chuckle if you noticed a nod to Sundari..Siriya Rettai Vaal Sundari!
K: (Chuckles) The orchestral flourishes indeed remind you of Sundari and the grandeur is remnant from Arima Arima.
N: I’m curious to know what imagery you have in mind for the Tango song. Don’t disappoint me!
K: The warrior and lover are in love with the same woman and she is miffed. The warrior tries acting nonchalant, telling her she may come back if she needs to. She doesn’t give an inch and so the lover takes over and all this happens within the first two minutes of the song as Diwakar and Charan pass the baton between each other seamlessly. I had to listen to this song about 45-50 times to identify the two voices and I was so surprised by the Googly ARR bowled by having Charan sing the female voice – Sexy Indeed.
N: (Chuckles) Like the exotic Indai Haza! What do you think of the Tango template?
K: The tango rhythm is addictive and for the most part ARR has stuck to the instruments traditionally used in a tango. The flute which played a starring role in the other songs representing Leela, is missing though. The song paints the story for you keeping the mood light and playful.
K: Let’s talk about the rap fixture that is an ARR standard these days.
N: Following Magudi and Aattakkaara, we have Jugni, a Punjabi track, one that could find a place in an Imtiaz Ali’s album without any reservations. After Aaromale, we have a whole song set in a non-native language, dictated by the movie locales; and likely the sole montage song of the album. Sprinkled with Piano chords throughout, this song makes for a wonderful listen. The rap portion, which doesn’t seem to have had many takers, certainly brings in a new dimension to this song. I’ve got another song in my travel playlist. How about you?
K: Jugni is the Punjabi Thenmerku Paruvakatru revamped with trance and rap. Tejinder serenades the free spirited Heer who doesn’t want to be caught. She is on this never ending road trip — friends with you but not quite. A flute like instrument forms a repeating leitmotif along with the keys, tying this song thematically with Vaan and Saarattu. This is the perfect song for long summer road trips, where the days are filled with sunshine and the thought of doing something productive seems criminal.
K: You know N, I had very high expectations of Nallai Allai and therefore it disappointed me the most. This song has the best lyric Vairamuthu has written in ages. It has the perfect leading man voice behind the mic and Chinmayi is in scintillating form. It is simple, sweet and reminds you of Ek ladki ko dekha toh in places. But it doesn’t grow on me. I get the fact that the idea was to showcase the lyric but you need a stellar tune too. That said, I have started looping this song, because I cannot afford to stay mad at the singers.
N: Indeed, Sathya Prakash leads the vocals with grace and conviction, and it feels as if the composer made the song with the singer in mind. You’re right, it is very much a simple melody, one that took quite a while to grow on me, despite the ethereal cameo by Chinmayi in the interludes. But as you noted, the most striking quality about the song are the lyrics that singularly convey helplessness and conflict, which perhaps the hero is going through in his state of mind; it teeters on the edge of futility of his exercise vis-a-vis love. It is this nature of contrast that makes this song quite impossible to label as a breezy romantic number. Sample “Oligalin thedalgal …mounathil mudigindradhey” for how forlorn he is. While this all could be reading between lines, I’m looking forward to see how it is picturized.
N: So, what do you think of the album?
K: See, in Kadal and OKK, ARR had delivered enticing soundscapes that were new to Tamil Cinema. KV sticks to soundscapes we have heard previously. Here the songs have a strong frame of reference to other melodies and hence don’t meet the standards set by this combination. May be this was ARR’s brief . It is after all the 25th year of their association, making nostalgia inevitable. N , How do you like the album and what are your picks?
N: Hey, I’ll take nostalgia any day, and I’m almost entirely sold with this album. You know why I qualify it with ‘almost’, don’t you? Anyway, my picks are Vaan, Jugni, Kelaayo & Saarattu. In that order. Yours?
K: My preference is a little bit different: Saarattu , Kelayo , Jugni , Vaan and Azhagiye in that order. (Chuckles) But this can change in a week. What do you think about V’s picks?
N: You mean, what *will be* V’s picks? We’ll have to wait and see.
PS: After a year almost, K says ‘I fell in love with Nallai Allai later and cannot get enough of the song!‘ How music changes us!