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My fave hot beach songs …

December 12, 2015

Having grown up a mere 2 km from beach, I am always fascinated by seaside. Lacking entertainment, beach became our daily refuge in school summer vacation times. Besides it came free, or cheap with humble little packets of Chennai beach food ‘sundal.’ Thenga Manga Pattani Sundal to be precise. It is our popular street food – no, just beach cuisine (!) made with soaked and boiled (dry) peas, seasoned with coconut and kacha mango scrapings and salted light. A twist of lime juice sprinkled on top makes it heavenly yummy. Sold by urchins carrying it in uniformly squared steel tins, handed to you in old newspaper cones for as less as 10 paise in those days (3-5 rupees presently), there is no delicacy on earth to beat our beach ‘sundal’ – just ask any Madarasi!

Lighthouse, beach, the adjoining walkways, the beach road – all used to be pretty deserted in our younger years. Now the crowds are a direct testimony to India’s population explosion. The seashore has become crowded and early morning jogs have to be with 1000 more men and women thronging the sands in the daybreaking hours, denying you breathing space and solitude you may generally seek from a spot as scenic and calming as at the edge of an ocean.

I grew up loving and lapping the sea as much as possible. Now living in central Madras, even those few kilometers of space between us and the sea makes it impossible for us to go and meet with the waters as often as we would like to.

I am listing here some romances filmed on our beaches & seaside, special to me always.

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From the film “Alaigal Oivadhillai’ (waves don’t rest) – a Bharathi Raja romance. The director is known for his rural touch although a couple of his plots revolved around beach scene in the ’80s.  When this picture was released in the year 1981, my mother was still around. My parents went to see it in cinemas but refused to take us kids along as it was certified ‘A.’ Later my mom was bitching how vulgar the movie was and kept cursing the director who she said had a perverse mind! She was grateful we girls did not get to see the picture. It was off-bounds by ‘Doordarshan’ standards in those days for graphic (i mean hot) scenes. Finally only by the turn of the century did our desi tv grow up, perhaps having had to compete with private tv channels. Or perhaps the film is still off limits for DD who knows?! I got to watch the picture in VCR in the ’90s and then ofcourse many, many times in tv.

Music is composed by Ilayaraja. Look at his ‘mridangam’ play. This was before computerized synchronization became fashion and then eventually routine and taken for granted like it is with today’s A R Rahman or anyone else. There is no other kind of music in the world in the present than mechanized noise and synthesized sounds  – you can work just with a keyboard the way some new composers are already doing in Tamil film industry (the classic case being Iman who scored music for the picture ‘Kumki’ – a superhit). Whereas in Raja’s ’80s masterpieces, you can pick out each and every single musical instrument with its delicate nuance individually – be it the veena or mridangam or violin or guitar or tabla or ‘morsing’ or ‘kanjira’ or whatever. And flute ofcourse.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6cPpgvFgew

‘Morsing’ & ‘Kanjira’ – do we get to identify them in today’s music scene (Tamil filmy gana)? Carnatic stage is their last bastion for survival:

After M S Viswanathan, Ilaya Raja gave a long lease of life to these native, traditional instruments whose earthy tones are already muffled in the heavy beats of western music – such a tragedy.

The second ‘saranam’ part of the song can be found here: I like it more for its sensitive and soul-searching verses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMKXwpgd6A0

Jency lent her voice for female and Ilayaraja sings the male part. The entire film was shot somewhere in southernmost Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu known for its pristine beaches and quaint fishing villages.

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Next is from my all time fave K Balachander’s film ‘Sindhu Bhairavi.’ This film was released in 1984-85 when I was in standard 11. Heavy theme. Both Sindhu and Bhairavi are 2 different ‘raags’ in Carnatic classical music form of south India (and also in Hindustani of north with slight variations) and they are also popular names given to girls. In the picture, the names are borne by 2 women typically. The story is of a hi-profile Carnatic vocalist who has already made a mark in the field of music. His extra-marital affair with a rebel threatens his marriage and therefore our censor board deemed it fit to award ‘A’ certificate to the film I guess!  How naive India was even in ’80s!!!

It was still before the advent of the cable tv era. No hope for us school girls to catch the picture in cinemas. My mom would have loved it. Its exactly her kind of film. Ofcourse, what is VCR for. We got to the see the picture within 2-3 years of release which was a record, thanks to video piracy peaking high in the late ’80s.

A melodramatic carnatic outburst which playback singer K J Yesudas has poured his heart into, the rendition touches raw nerve in listeners. Chanceless number. I love the ‘mridangam’ play in this one as well. Actor Sivakumar plays the vocalist to the hilt and does justice to the high-strung emotion brought out by Yesudas in the song. A beautiful combination of direction, acting, singing, camera …. and the surging waves seem to capture the boiling senses of the actor, as he tries to rein in his self-control.  Today we are seeing very many pictures on taboo subjects, but hardly get to see such a decent treatment to the script.

A special word: Hats off to mrindangist! Whether its violinist or guitarist or mrindangist in Raja’s troupe, they were all aces! Any and/or every one of them could have gone for easy ‘thani aavarthanams’ in my opinion. (In modern days we know similarly of ‘Drums’ Shiva who plays for A R Rahman, a celebrity and prodigy in his own right).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKxLoBcfcTs

I think the Tamil music directors that way did a tremendous job, infusing in us ’80s kids a vibrant interest in classical music. Classical was fused with romantic sentiments and the package was most alluring than plain, flat, over-sweet songs of those times. Even today they stop you in tracks because the carnatic connection gives the solos/duets an ethereal, eternal quality that tugs at your hearts strings and makes them timeless. This is why 20, 30, 40 years after the songs were first composed, we still are held spellbound by their innate magic.

(Although the following song is not pictured in seaside, as the plot is played out mostly in the shore along southern Tamil Nad, I include this one which is another fave of mine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYi9Tb_cGoE )

The heroine in this film is Suhasini Manirathnam who married the director a couple of years later. Cast is exceptional in the picture. An unbeatable combi of even the side-kicks (sorry supporting actors).

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Which brings us to Tamil film industry’s most celebrated director-screenplay writer Mani Ratnam who has some Bollywood films to his credit including Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, Guru and Ravan. My next song is from one of his films.

Music is again scored by Ilayaraja.

This film was released in my school days: ‘Agni Nakshatram’ meaning ‘star of fire.’ Yeah, very hot!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alZLEnqQlJE

How come K J Yesudas (who has also rendered many Bollywood/Hindi songs including for the film ‘Chitchor’ got to sing all the hot songs?!) He sings the number and may be around this time was also singing ‘Kahin door jab dil dal jaye’ I guess because listening to this haunting Hindi melody in the ’80s is also a vague memory. ‘Agni Nakshatram’ was a super-duper hit and Karthik became our heart throb for a while. Look how the same Karthik looks in his first picture ‘Alaigal Oivadhillai’ (the first song in this post). In ‘Agni’ made in late ’80s in my college days, he matures into most eligible bacherlor guy in Madras of those times!!! We college girls were swooning about him – and I think this was a little time before Arvind Swamy made his debut also under Mani Ratnam banner for the Tamil (dubbed into Hindi) film ‘Roja’ in the year 1992-93. Its funny when I think we Madrasi girls also at the same time were into Bollywood pictures: Aamir Khan, the babyfaced chocolate hero made his debut as well around the same time. Next followed Salman Khan but I think I had graduated by then.

I love the picturization of this particular beach song that I find extra-ordinarily sensual. Without bordering on vulgarity. Nirosha, the heroine is a dark damsel, yet she’s considered pretty hot in Tamil films.

If my mom thought Bharathi Raja was a bad influence on ’80s kids, she didn’t wait around to watch Mani Ratnam pictures that all projected women as bold, seeking creatures. Yes, in his films, it was mostly women who went after men, chased men. Hahaha. It felt good really though at times I have also felt like slapping Mani for the same. A revolutionary as viewed by some, the director seems to have evoked some dormant senses in us women that we felt embarrassed to admit to until then. With him we girls grew up to admit, we had every right to seek pleasure after all! Mani happened just before the computer era began in India. We were the last pre-computer generation but learning to get familiar with the machine. The younger gen after us already had computer labs in schools. My batch missed out by a whisker, that’s all. Soon things were set to change, and if any, Mani Ratnam films of those days (tamil) were a harbinger of things to come. Computerization followed shortly and software boom shook India and rest is history.

Soon Mani metamorphosed into rebel screenplay writer with films like Roja and Bombay, bilingual in Tamil & Hindi. Gone was his aggressive female stories where bold women were only in pursuit of men they wanted. The new Maniratnam woman as we saw in ‘Roja’ was finally the real heroine we wanted to see. I liked this representation of Indian Nari better really. The director came of age with ‘Roja’ – without offending any quarter, played to brilliance. Ofcourse Roja had a predecessor – ‘Nayagan’ starring Kamal Hassan remade into Hindi as ‘Nayak’ I guess with Vinod Khanna & Madhuri Dixit, spoiled in the experiment. Perhaps Nayagan marked Mani’s departure from hot romances to matters with substance.

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Now I want to revert back in time to add some beautiful melodies shot on beach sands of the city under different composers. The tunes are pleasing to our ocular sense and etched in memory forever.

The violin treat in ‘Pattina Pravesam’ (Entry to city/urban life), another K Balachander picture, is brilliant accompaniment to S P Balasubramaniam’s nector voice in this song composed by M S Viswanathan. Verses are by poet Kannadasan, one of the best philosophical thinkers Tamil literary world ever produced even though the lyricist mostly limited himself to film songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV8V2oowwwI

The film is about the trials and tribulations of a family that shift base from village to city in search of a better future. They are in for disappointments and betrayals which force them back into their rural retreat in the end. The romance is subtle in the picture as is reflected in the lingering melancholic rendering. SPB’s voice has since then undergone a sea change I guess – it was like this until he sang for ‘Ek duje ke liye’ and ‘Sadma.’ After this early ’80s phase, his voice rather got better-off, silky smooth and too perfect without any ‘pisuru’ (as you may call in tamil). But back then, a slight hesitation, a not-so-easily detectable huskiness was there in his voice. It is not huskiness, it is like, the voice of a man in his late ’20s (as probably SPB was then or perhaps in his early ’30s). As he aged, SPB matured like a fine wine 🙂 I like both of his voices. Both are pleasant and I have not found anyone matching him who can sing with such a ‘shudh’ shruthi like he does – so cut, clean & crisp and silky smooth given that his is male voice – including in Bollywood. I rate SPB over and above K J Yesudas that way. Having listened to also Kishore Kumar from the same time, after Rafi and a host of Bollywood playback singers, I am still of the opinion, SPB’s voice clarity is matchless in entire India. But his hindi voice is not good as I have noticed in ‘Hum aapke hein kaun’, ‘Saajan’ and a few more pictures. He overdoes, I don’t know why. SPB is one more artist who can get the deep emotion of the movie character into his singing. You can relate to the character through his voice. And thus he was a readily acceptable choice for playback singer for any hero in Tamil film industry of his generation: be it Kamal Hasan or Rajni Kanth or Karthik or Mohan.

In this song specifically that is shot in noon sun in Mahabalipuram beach, 40 km from city limits, 20 km from toll, I simply love the silver sands and the clear blue sky and sea. Chennai as I remember used to be this beautiful. No more, sad to say.

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Rounding off the post with the popular Surya, Jyothika film song from the cop story ‘Kakka, Kakka’ after which the two tied the knot and are today proud parents of 2 adorable kids. Tamil audience’s pet celebrity couple. Look at their chemistry! Wow! The picture was super duper hit even if we knew that director Gautam Menon was in habit of lifting ideas from Hollywood. Music: Harris Jayaraj another intelligent copycat (this time of music).

The drive through ECR and the dream beach house: Love Jo’s short kurthi & contrast pants even if I am the last person to comment on fashion sense!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPJVN_jvkrs

 

 

 

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