Illaiyaraaja meets Madan Mohan

Raaja is very particular about the difference between two words called Inspiration and Imitation. He says, "Vaa Venilla" is the imitation of the old MSV song "Vaan meedhile" (Original is Telugu song "Oh! Taraka") where as his own "Oh Nenjame" (Enakkaga Kaathiru)is an inspiration of the same song. You look at the rhythmic meters of the songs he mentions and you would immediately know what Raaja classifies as one and the other.

To go on the similar lines, On a fine day Raaja observed Kamal singing "one is the loneliest number". Next day during the composing song of his next movie, Raaja remarked "I never knew you could sing so well in such a pitch. Now listen to this, I have done something like that which you are singing as well". That happened to be the "Pa ppa paba pa pa paa" from "Ninaive oru paravai".

Likewise be it writing a counterpoint on top of Bach's Bouree or building on top of Schubert's unfinished symphony and travelling along as "Ithayam pogudhe" Ilaiyaraaja is one soul who whenever sees through a kaleidoscope, he gets his own vision super imposed simultaneously to what he sees.

Madan Mohan is Raaja's favorite too along with other stalwarts such as C.Ramachandra, Khemchand Prakash, Roshan, SD Burman and RD. And he has no problems in accepting giving these stalwarts their due credit.

MSV's "Malai poludhin mayakkathile" is perhaps Raaja's most favorite song as admitted by himself on many occasions. Sushela's rendition of "Nenjam marapadhillai" has melted him as he uses this song as an example of why music stands taller than the lyrics in conveying emotions.

Consequently, when you listen to some Raaja's songs it is easier to see where he drew inspiration from (Not Imitation!)
If you hear "Rasme Ulfat", you can feel "Ennulil Engo"
Lag ja gale is the source for "Ore naal unai naan".
Both Kamal and SPB can't have enough of the legend how Raaja landed up in "Inji Iduppazhaga" from "Yeh Dil Diwana hi".

Those who inspired Raaja in turn helped me expand the horizons of listening boundaries. And it is most fulfilling to borrow ideas from various genius and making an alchemy of sounds.

Today's blog post is one such attempt. (This is in fact my second such attempt. First one is a collage of Raaja and Shankar-Jaikishan.)
"Aap Ki Nazron" is the Mona Lisa of Music. Just like the painting, listening to this song make you realize its a master piece at plain sight. But if you look deeper, you keep seeing dimensions..

It is a streamlined melody under the influence of a diatonic minor that doesn't wander much outside of its boundaries. Yet, its not a run-of-the-mill minor. One step closer and you can feel Darbari Kanada of the Carnatic music world. Go one step deeper and you feel Arabic undercurrents, what with the choice of chosen stringed instruments (Mandolin/ Oud?). The finishing of first interlude, though on the parent scale has harmonies set in a Vakulabaramish influence which accentuates the Arabic feel further.

The rhythm looks a simple 7/8 and yet you sit down to decipher the first few bars and you get knocked down. The delayed starts peppered over prelude is not for the fainthearted.

Coming the singer, you can very clearly realize why Lataji is the soul of India. There are so many sangathis in each phrase thats executed in time units of sub seconds.. But it seems like time slows down in front of her.. What is a flash of a second seems to be an eternity when she is singing. Her emphasize is on the soul of the song and not on the technicalities of packing the right notes in the limited time. She keeps the beats at the back of her head and seems to extract that additional millisecond that you cannot find. The result is unbelievable and it feels as if she is sitting inside the time warp, traveling with it and looking at us from a different inertial frame of reference !!

With such inspirational baggage, I thought why not render the song with a touch of Ilaiyaraaja. I took the melody from Madan Mohan and arranged with Ilayaraaja's school of thoughts.

Couple of pointers on this:

Instead of giving a continuous rhythm 7/8, I deleted the 3rd beat in the accompaniment in pallavi..
Also Chucked the traditional Am-G descent and instead went for the Raaja's stamp of ascent to the relative major (i.e., Am - C). Look at the brightness this immediately brings at 'pyaar ke kaabil mujhe'.
Cut down on the F as much as I can (Going Am to F directly somehow brings an element of staleness for me which this song doesn't deserve). I choose either F via G or skipped it altogether and went the minor 5th (i.e., Em)
and so on ..

At the same time, in the name of experiment I didn't want to compromise on the structure of the song. I have kept the original prelude/ interlude and melody lines as much as I can. Didn't do the third stanza as its same as the first.
The challenge was to maintain the melodic integrity while doing all this which I have done to the best of my abilities.

Above all, when the melody "Aap Ki nazron" chimes with Am added 9th, When the chords and bass descend as the melody goes up isn't Ilaiyaraaja meeting Madan Mohan?

With Love