A Dream Come True

In the past 100 years of Hindi film music or other regional film music in India there have been very many gifted composers.

But not many of them have composed original Western Classical instrumental music adopting the rich principles such as counterpoints, be it in film music or in any other sphere of music.

Maestro Ilaiyaraaja is a true exception and the only composer as far as I know who broke this barrier. Through the instrumental sections in the film songs, he applied original western classical techniques and yet gave it in a presentable form appreciable by the common man.

Yes, it is an audacious statement I am making. But you listen to this piece once and you will understand what I mean. The contrapuntal structure of this piece is really something special..

Its is all about the Western classical concept of Resolving..
Each bar finishes with such an anticipation and incompleteness that its almost like they are waiting to get their salvation through the resolution of next bar. The quality and depth of this 8 bars of music is unparalleled in Indian Film Music history.

There have been often misinterpreted and inaccurate illustrations of Maestro Ilaiyaraaja's counterpoint applications. Every Maestro fan who knows this term seem to use it freely and tag songs under this category.
Counterpoint is a technique where by there are two or more independent melodies that are played in parallel. Each melody should be complete on its own right and yet when played together it should still sound seamless.

The sheet music is available here.

As per my limited understanding, the first 8 bars of second interlude of Poonthalir Aada from the movie Paneer Pushpangal is an example of Counterpoint.

From the structure of those 2 lines, the way it looks so melodious, you can call them an invertible counterpoint.. If you further look closely, it starts around song's key signature of E minor. From here Raaja's ultimate goal is to arrive at E Major for the chorus section. The progression is: First it traverses on the Em/B domain.. (Suddenly there is an augmented fourth by way of Gm, but thats just his genius). From here the next 4 bars flies over to Am/ E territory.. These two sets are of same pattern (i.e., same pattern of root minor/ Dominant fifth combination) but in that later Am/E combination, he picks that E Major and lands there rather strongly.. i.e., not anymore as a sub-chord of Am but elevating it to the next root .. It is not easy to effortlessly switch emphasize like this at all in each bar.. Not easy at all !!

However, It is made possible because of the chord resolutions.. The entire melody line is constructed to merely accommodate these chord resolutions.. This is what I mean by the concept of resolution.

And thats not all. When the Chorus starts at E Major, everyone feels happy and elated purely because Raaja takes his feet of the minor dominion gas pedal. In other words, This chorus section completely owes its existence to those 8 bars preceding it. You simply cannot imagine that chorus starting on its own without such a pre-cursor. Try to sing it, you will feel it immediately.

And wait, there is still one more problem.. Now I am in E Major where as the Stanza starts in G.. How do I go from E to G is a million dollar question. But Maestro Ilaiyaraaja is musically a very rich man. A million dollars is small change..!

On the 5/ 6th bar of the chorus (i.e., 13/14th bar of the interlude) the arpeggios still hang on to that E Major..
On the last bar (i.e., 8th bar of that chorus or the 16th bar of the interlude), The arpeggios simply take a minor return to a melody (that almost gives a Gowri Manohari-ish feel, if you see) Pal of gloom suddenly descends announcing the arrival of Em. The anticipation of that gloom is so palpable in the 15th bar itself that every time I listen to it, it just kills me.. Chord resolutions all over again..

So with this simple stroke of genius, He steers the ship from E Major back to its home of Em..

On that Em, the strings take over the same theme of the interlude's beginning for 2 more bars.. And on the next 2 bars, he effortlessly switches from Em to G which he is so good at doing all the time in all the other songs.. i.e., its just the relative major of Em.. and from there he launches the stanza..

To summarize, the resolution is: Em/B (With a tinge of augmented 4th by way of Gmin perhaps) --> Am/ E --> E as a fresh start at chorus --> E minor (This is where the puzzle ends)--> G (Em to G is just a relative shift)

This round trip of 20 bars from Em to G must be the most scenic route ever taken in the history of Indian film music.. For a very long time I wanted to play this instrumental bit and with finally I managed, just about..

With Love