The Finisher

Things that are obvious and yet most important are often promptly taken for granted..

Once I attended an introductory session of 'Art Of Living' course. The first question that the presenter asked was "have you ever paid attention to the fact that you are actually breathing all the time..?"; Such a simple question was provided with an embarrassing answer from all of us.. Then he asked "Can all of us close our your eyes and deliberately concentrate on our breathing for 5 minutes?". And when we did, it initially felt weird to focus on such an evident thing, then all sorts of other thoughts distracted the mind... Little later a complex feel engulfed the mind.. and finally it transformed to an uplifting experience that's hard to explain. (Its another matter that I never joined that course despite all this.. Because it was at morning 5:30; I have not seen that time of the day in my life even on a Deepavali day.. hee hee..!)

When it comes to Raaja's music, there are lots of such obvious factors that are just too important to ignore and yet remain so.. Peculiar indeed.. Or is it..! ?

Robin Singh, Lance Klusner and Michael Bevan are no Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara.. And yet these guys are considered modern day greats of Cricket. Why..? Just because of their ability to finish matches.. In the context of a given game, A match winning 20 is much more important than a classic century. And so is that last little portion in a Raaja song.. These parts usually lend an indispensable support to the script of the movie and often such songs culminate in to a finale.

In Musical terms the part that finishes the song is often described as a Coda, although Raaja's application of finishing cannot be always called as Coda as per the norms of western classical music. However Coda is not a term restricted to only western classical and often is loosely attached with other genres of music as well including the recent ones; Its simply a portion that signals the end of the song; It could be a improvised version of the previously used theme in such a way it emphasizes an impending finish or it could be a new unrelated portion that extends the main theme into the finish line. While we may loosely attempt to call the clips described further below in this post as Codas, more often than not they are just a repetition of the exposition (i.e, Pallavi) in a totally new dimension; The term for such phenomenon in a western classical sonata is 'Recapitulation'; A Common ground can be that these clips are applications of Musical Development. As far as my limited hearing of various other Indian and modern day western composers go, Raaja certainly belongs to the exclusive club when it comes to decorating the finishers.

Although I am tempted to call the below applications a 'Recapitulation' or a 'Coda' (as I don't see a good reason why this term be restricted to only Sonata forms), its best if we don't pay much attention to the terminology but simply marvel the often taken for granted realm of musical development around Raaja's finishers.

In these clips, I have taken those songs where there is an impending danger to either the hero or heroine towards the end of the song; The unique conundrum of situations which Tamil Cinema (alone!) brings are refreshingly challenging for Raaja; Where else do you get anti climax-ic situations conceived by a woeful Villain (or sometimes by fate playing dice !!) in which one protagonist's hour of glory/ happiness is their beloved's moment of life and death simultaneously.. (eg: Yaar Veetil Roja, Paadava un Paadalai, Mannava Mannava that are listed below); So you have to compose a "Happy song" and pack it with concealed tension; That "Element of Surprise" as defined is clearly conveyed through these Finishers; And often the modus-operndi of this transformation remains the same magic bullet.. (As also specified in one of my previous post).. The Strings Ensemble !

I have rather deliberately picked some hit numbers for this case-study.. So as to make you focus on the obvious and yet oblivion.. In all these clips you will hear the main theme (i.e., Pallavi) from the beginning passage in a song+ one second of gap followed by the same theme played from the last section of the song with the String Ensemble backings. I think this gives you the opportunity to spot the differences instantly. The strings that starts at the second time around is more like an relay, with the baton handed over from scintillating strings backing from the stanza, usually extending until the finish of the song.

Tip: These clips are better playable in IE (to avoid the plugin problems of other browsers such as Mozilla firefox); Also please use headphones if you can!.. And most importantly conjure up all the patience you can get.. This is by far one of the lengthy posts that I have written :-PP

After all those build-ups :-) Dear readers,
Herewith I am presenting you...

The Raaja's Finishers...

1.) I start with a heavy-weight: A crazy girl's sympathy for an yesteryear heartthrob's tragic suicide turns into love and she goes searching for him (as she believes in her love's ability to raise the dead !!); Did she meet the ghost ..?
(If you can, Watch out for a much more subtle finisher in Raaja's solo version of the same song.. Only one man can do such wonders)

2.) Hero singing in his career defining recording not knowing the least that he is loosing his lady love rather tragically..
Yaar Veettil

3.) Quite a mirroring situation but from the lady's point of view..

4.) A blind mom ignorantly feeding her baby with poisoned milk;

5.) A dancer pair proving their innocence at the seat of god while a conspiracy to kill the hero unfolds.. (You would agree with me that this is a rather an odd selection out here given its folkish rawness.. I specifically chose this because of some superb application of Cello towards the ending.. Cello.. !!?? Are you kidding me..? that giant of a Western Classical Instrument for a Tamil Folk dance.. !!! ??
Getting the desired results is more important.. not how you do it.. this speaks for Raaja's indigenous ideas and unorthodoxy.

6.) A demented innocent man with a child's heart sings the same song twice - first during his initial days and later to bring back his lady to life; The treatment to the same melody with strings is unimaginable (With strings at double the tempo of an already decent paced song); That flute bit in the end epitomizes the personalities of movie goers while leaving the theaters.. House wives weeping (Aanandha Kanneer), Husbands who were dragged along by those wives Yawning.. Their small kids feeling a sense of achievement having actually visited a theater and watched a movie on the big screen while the jobless youth (Vela vetti illadha pasanga) who came to wile away the time, reaching to their pockets searching for cigarettes ('Dhammu').. Gosh !! we lost those ages of watching movies in small time theaters to the Multiplexes, Malls and home theaters I guess..

7.) I save the best finisher where the recapitulation is presented for no apparent reason but simply to celebrate Music. With PC Sriram's wizardry on capturing butterflies, this has got to be one of the best audio visual experience.. Especially the beginning of the second interlude.. (If you can resort to the selective Amnesia of forgetting Aishwarya from the frame!).
Oh Butterfly

Now lets come out of this pattern and look at other ways of Raaja's finishers.
There seem to be a subversion of Coda known as Codetta where by the composition extends into a tail piece that is on its own and rather unrelated to the main theme, for a period longer than usual. The moment I read this, the finisher of "Inji Iduppazhagaa", the one where Revathi sings it for Gauthami came to my mind. Its an amazing tail piece. It starts with Revathi singing in front of Gauthami. As the song progresses it conveys Gauthami's farewell from rest of Kamal's Family memebers.. By the time the tail piece gathers pace she would be on the car on her way to the railway station. Then the String ensemble takes over briefly as Kamal and Gauthami bid goodbye to each other. The final bell of the song proceeds as if its hand-holding Gauthami all the way as she boards the train.. And it chugs away with a fade out, together with the train.. I have seen the movie only once and this sequence is somehow etched in my memory.. Art of composing again at work..
Inji iduppazhaga

Also such an extended un-related way of finishing seem to be the norm of Raaja when it came to a highly intense carnatic/ Bhardha-nattiya Numbers such as "Sangeetha Jaathi Mullai, Azhagu malar aada etc.,); Or for that matter dance numbers such as the Dandiya based "Dhillu Baru jaane" or Frolic "EnJodi Manjakuruvi"

Historically, in order to emphasize the finish (esp. in group songs) composers resort to just repeating the Chorus 'n' times together together with (or alternatively) an increase in the tempo of the song; Besides adopting the same technique in many songs to play by the books, Raaja also have mastered the art of subtlety by simply introducing claps that gets periodically doubled in tempo in songs like Aracha Santhanam, Priya Priyathama Raagalu, Paasamulla Paandiyaru etc., While the overall tempo is not increased, the effect of more people joining and the emphasize on the song's ending is conveyed ever more clearly through 1x, 2x and 4x of clapping .. Again Same results achieved as others for finishing but through his own unique ways..

I close with the following jewel on the crown. This clip is an stitched version of 3 passages from the "Composer's Breadth"; What an religious application of Exposition (1st bit), development (2nd bit) and Recapitulation (last bit);
Composer's Breadth
The Exposition is the lead Hindolam piece played softly, Followed by a superb development of the same with string ensemble and finally when it returns as such an arresting fortississimo, it moves you into another world that one of my roommates in college actually wept silently when he heard it for the first time (It was the first and only time where I have actually seen someone crying by hearing to a piece of music)

Thanks for traveling this far. The whole post may appear too obvious to one since you have heard these songs all along. But that's precisely the point. We don't normally look (again) at something we already know.. Its not exciting any more.. However its important to stop sometimes, take a step back and deliberately focus on such factors..

Again... and Again...

So that you are not unnecessarily denied of an uplifting experience that you deserve..

With Love

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