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Carnatic Music and South Indian Cinema

I am a music buff. Most of my friends know this, but I am always humming or whistling something. So much that I sometimes lose my own sleep at night because I am humming to myself. "Mental that one", as Ron Weasley would say! But I really am a music buff. But my knowledge of music is limited to movie soundtracks. Before one of you assaults me for carping about my knowledge of film music, I want to add that I usually do not know the lyrics for most of the songs I sing or hum. And also that I don't really sing for anyone else except me. Not that people are exactly behind me to sing for them. Actually it is quite the opposite. My music and whistling actually put people off. I know a bit (okay, a teeny weenie bit) of Carnatic music too, gleaned from the experience gained by playing the violin for a couple of years. Actually this "couple of years" is spread over almost half of my life so far, but that?s another story. However, I think I can still carry a tune. And I especially love those movie soundtracks that incorporate classical Carnatic music.

Music in south Indian cinema has evolved quite a bit from the days of MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and Papanasam Sivan. But the popularity of such songs (or should I say novelty) like 'Manmadha Leelaiyai vendrar undo ("Is there someone who has conquered Love", which I think is a passable translation) has not waned. Songs like these have I think been kept alive mostly by the college going crowd (Ok, I am one too). Then came the time of MSV and Co. If classical music was the backbone of the early Tamil hits, the likes of KVM and MSV certainly brought the nuances of popular western music of the time to Tamil cinema and what resulted were hits like "Vishwanathan Velai vendum" from "Kadhalikka Neram illai". But in the present times, I think Vidyasagar and to a certain extent ARR, have managed to get some of the old charm back. I know I am committing sacrilege by leaving out IR here, but I have not heard any serious classical raga based song from IR in the last couple of years. Would be grateful if someone tells me otherwise!

But, coming back to Vidyasagar, most of you would not have listened to Vidyasagar's brand of music, certainly not past the Tamil songs of his. But he has kind of brought about the fusion of Carnatic and the modern film music genres quite successfully. Panikaatre from Run (rather sadly, only parts of this song appear as background in the movie) notwithstanding, he has seemed to reserve his best for Malayalam.

Listen to this.Entharu Mahanu - Symphony. This is a "symphony" from Devadhoodhan, a Malayalam movie. Notice the way, he has blended the nuances of the Thyagaraja Keerthanai to the western classical symphony style!

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