Friday, May 14, 2010

Exclusive Interview with Vairamuthu: Part – I: About Raavanan Songs

Vanakkam, Songs of ‘Raavanan’ have been the hot topic of Tamil Nadu these days. So, Mani Ratnam, AR Rahman, and Vairamuthu – the three of the giant stalwarts of the film industry have teamed up together once again. So how do you feel about this constellation working miracles every time they team up?

Quite naturally, we have developed the tradition of respecting, understanding and loving each other. As Mani Ratnam is one of the most significant artists of the Indian film industry, AR Rahman has taken Tamil Music to the world and serves as the face of Tamil Music. We have not collaborated in expectation for the awards or fame, nor have we worked for the same. We consider the awards and appreciation as associated benefits for our collective effort.

The awards and the recognition have led us to shoulder increased responsibilities. What you are going to see in ‘Raavanan’ is the same kind of effort coupled with responsibility. We have utilized our abilities to the fullest and we are waiting for the verdict of the audience.

It is said you can give up even your life for things that you like most. The song ‘Usurae Poguthae’ is one such. With the combination of Karthik, AR Rahman and Vairamuthu’s lyrics, the song has become a heart melting number. Tell us about your experiences with that song.

There are two reasons that could be attributed to the success of the song. One is the setting (stage) in which the song appears in the film. That lends the emotion to the song. The other one is the tune of Rahman that brings the soul of the song to life. The setting customizes the song with the film and the tune lends emotions to the song.

When the emotions and the compatibility of the song go together, not only for myself but the opportunity to write good lyrics is much enhanced for all the lyric writers. Not all of the lyric writers get such opportunities but it has been happening (in this case). Always, straightforward personal emotions succeed.

Circumlocutory expressions of emotions and vain raves do not create any impact but straightforward emotions. Poking a syringe directly in the nerves carries the medicine swiftly to reach the blood. Similarly, when the music sets itself on the root of the emotions, the music does not let the emotions spill over and takes the emotions to the audience straight.

We already knew that the song would be loved by everyone during the recording itself. After recording, the song met what we considered as the likely impact of the song. So, we are not surprised by the result.

In an interview, you have mentioned ‘Raasaathi En Usuru Ennathilla’ as a ‘Kaaviyam’, can we call ‘Usurae Poguthae’ as an Ithigasam (epic)?

If you were saying that, I would not prevent you from it (beams).

Were songs of ‘Raavanan’ written first in Hindi and then written in ‘Tamil’ or was it written in both languages simultaneously?

None of the songs share any relationship with ‘Hindi’ and ‘Tamil’. It was only one story. Both ‘Gulzar’ and ‘Vairamuthu’ were told the same stories. It was the same tune and the same plot. He (Gulzar) has thought for the ethnical background of the Hindi audience and their cultural milieu and I have thought for the Tamil audience and our cultural milieu. The tune does not have any color. A tune is a tune. The language that fits the tune is the tune’s color. Water has no shape. Water’s shape is the shape of the vessel in which it is poured in.

The tune takes the shape of the language that is poured in. Hindi has a different ethnical backdrop and Tamil has a different ethnical backdrop. It is the style. Both the languages are at the same height in terms of their respective styles. So, instead of debating whether the Tamil song is the best or the Hindi song is the best, the songs should be understood in their respective languages, platform and ethnical background. This is the best way of understanding music I believe.

The main reason for putting forth this question is the ‘Kalvarae’ song. In this song, ‘Vali migum idangal vali miga idangal thamizhikku therigirathu, unakku therigiratha?’ is a fine line, but at other places Tamil words did not fit in or there seemed to be some difficulty for Tamil words to be accommodated in the tunes. What is your take on that? Or do you think that the songs could have turned better?

No, we have given what is required for the song. We should not think for certain songs at the heights of creativity nor should we think down at the bottom for certain songs. We have given what is required for this plot. I think whether the song will be digested or not will depend upon the audience’s organs. I do like the line ‘Vali Migum idangal vali miga idangal’. Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan have starred in the Hindi version.

The film should not give the impression to anyone that it is a dubbed film. So, I thought deeper Tamil origins would avert such a problem. ‘Vali Migum Idangal Vali Miga Idangal’ is part of the School Grammar. ‘Vallezhuthu Engae Migugirathu Engae Migathu’ is part of it too. I used this phrase as a ‘double entendre’. By utilizing it in such manner, I think the song gets a stronger Tamil identity. It is just a small effort that makes Aishwarya Rai a Tamilian as she must not be considered a North Indian.

What is ‘Chiyaan Kaattai Thoandi Paartha Chemman Oothu Rattham?’ (Kodu Poatta song) Is there anything called ‘Chiyaan Kaadu’?

In Tamil, we have been losing a lot of words that represent relationships. A lot of relationships have vanished. In China, a general notion exists that says blood ties will be lost by the next century. When parents decide one child is enough, if there is going to be only one son or daughter, if a generation passes by without fraternal relationships, a lot of relationships will die…. in China.

‘Chiyaan’ is one such relationship that was lost. Who is the father of your father? Grandfather! What do you call your Grandfather’s father? That is ‘Chiyaan!’ Grandfather’s father! The relationship called ‘Chiyaan’ existed in Tamil Nadu. You know why? When the grandson was born, the Tamil society had Grandfather’s fathers alive. They worked hard. Hence, there was a time when they lived up to 110 years. Another important thing is, if a man entered the wedlock at the age of 18, the age difference between a father and a son would only be 19 years.

The difference between his father (the grandfather) and the son would be 48 years. Even a 48 year old Grandson might get an opportunity to see his Chiyaan (Great Grandfather). Even a 10 year old boy might be able to see his Chiyaan. The Chiyaan is the father of the Grandfather. The term died out. I have seen my ‘Chiyaan’. We do not know how many of us got the opportunity to see our ‘Chiyaans’. Some of us may know only our fathers while we may not have seen even our Grandfathers.

The whole of this generation loses such an experience. The experience, the value of the relationships and the love in the relationships are lost. So, this song has brought the deceased relationship called ‘Chiyaan’ back to life. ‘Chiyaan Kaadu’ refers to the lineage. The Chiyaan Kaadu was ploughed by me, my father, my grandfather and my grandfather’s father.

He hadn’t gotten his land with ease. They had to shed their blood in order to retain their land. When foreign invasion and other external factors put them in a position to lose their lands, they saved their lands by shedding enormous blood. In the land or in the red sand, the remnants are not the quality of the soil but the quality of the blood. I felt a stir of blood when I wrote “Chiyaan Kaattai Thoandi Paarthaal Chemman Oothu Rattham Thaan.” Apart from that, when I wrote “Settha Kezhavi ezhuthi veittha Otha chotthum Veeramada,” my body took a shudder.

When writing carries one’s own experiences, the pride and courage of the soil, the song gets its soul and springs to life. That is in this song. The song was not written for the film, I have written the song for myself.

This is an entirely new dimension because the general opinion is that the term was used due to the presence of Vikram in the film. That was the public opinion?

I forgot Vikram was called ‘Chiyaan!’

(In the next part of the interview Vairamuthu shares interesting experiences about Endhiran songs, Superstar RajiniKanth, Working with Director Shankar, Possibility of working again with Illayaraja, Raavanan controversy about screening at IIFA , Colombo etc. Keep watching this space.)

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