The magic in this year’s music
The author takes a look at how this year saw albums which, while great on their own, turned magical after the release of the films - 96, Seethakathi, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and Pariyerum Perumal
Change is inevitable, constant. This year, I think it is evident in one of our most beloved and integral aspects of cinema, its music. At a time when the emphasis seems to be on singles, because of the leverage it seems to provide as an easy promotional tool, there has been a bit of concern about being able to put an album together that gives equal weightage to all its songs. At the height of its popularity, The Beatles moved away from the Side A-Side B routine to albums that were more wholesome. This led to them releasing the album that would go on to change the musical landscape forever: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. While the Beatles may be a tall comparison, hear me out when I say that we saw something similar in 2018, which has seen some terrific albums, but more importantly, those that lent themselves beautifully to the narrative on-screen. Here’s tracking how the magic unfolded this year:
When the album of 96 released, I was hooked to the end of Kaathalae Kaathalae. I would — and I think many of us did — fast forward to that portion of the song. After a few listens, I began playing the song from start to finish. And then, like many others, I moved on to Andhaadhi. The song’s lines, “Kaadhal kanneeril silandhi, kaadhal vinmeenil mehendhi, kaadhal meyyana vadhandhi, kaalandhorum thodarum diary”, evoked some striking imagery. The other Govind Vasantha album, Seethakaathi, gives you a similar experience. “Neengaa kanavaai un kannil neezhukindraan, mudiyaa or isaiyaai un kaadhil vazhugindraan…” Lyricists Karthik Netha and Madhan Karky were united in how they used objects to convey the intangible.
This year, we also had songs like the charming — and disarming — Vaa Rayil Vida Polaama by Vivek for Pariyerum Perumal and Mazhai Kuruvi by Vairamuthu for Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. They had lyrics that put a smile on your face, but wait.
You realise there’s so much more than superficial enjoyment of these songs, their tunes. You see 96 and notice that it begins with the final words from Andhaadhi, ‘Maatrangale vinaa maatrangale vidai’. It’s a song that’s not even shot in the film, but it’s a song that you can’t remove from your head while the film plays. The web that Ram has spun for himself and the tears that ensue, the story of two star-crossed lovers occurring under the stars, a love is that as beautiful and complex like a… mehendhi... You realise that every bit of that song is a spoiler if only you understood. I was already dreading what the diary part would mean, and of course, it means something at the end. It’s not just a song; it’s a story.
And now, as the year ends, you realise that Govind Vasantha’s other album, Seethakathi, is as revealing with its lyrics. So was Mazhai Kuruvi, which while overtly celebrating the marriage of Ethi and Chaaya, is actually about the co-existence of happiness and sorrow. In the film, the second bit gets used in the funeral of Ethiraj’s (Simbu) wife. The lyrics go, “Azhagai asainthapadi paranthu aagaayam koththiyathe, ulagai utharivittu sattre uyare paranthathuve.” And suddenly, it makes sense. Similarly, “Vaa rayil vida polaama, kai pudichu povomaa athu pola polam vaa”, which saw the union of the male and female’s vocals attain deeper meaning. It’s equality of vocals, and in the film’s climax, equality of people. But wait…
Armed with all this understanding of these songs, many weeks after the release of these films, you now can’t stop playing Andhaadhi, Avan, Mazhai Kuruvi and Vaa Rayil Vida Polaama. It’s not just these songs, of course; you also can’t stop listening to The Life Of Ram, Kozhi Onnu, Bhoomi Bhoomi and Engum Pugazh Thuvanga. You slowly realise that in albums like 96, Seethakathi, Pariyerum Perumal, and CCV, each song seems to complement and complete the other. You begin paying attention to the lyrics of Vivek, Karthik Netha, Uma Devi, Madhan Karky, Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Vairamuthu, Mari Selvaraj, Chinnasamidaasan and Perumal Vaathiyar. These songs aren’t singles anymore. They are actually part of a whole. And that’s when you really realise you’re in the presence of magic.
With other promising albums like Petta, Sarvam Thaala Mayam and Peranbu having come out this year, all we can wonder is, will the films’ releases next year continue this good work? Or is there a new trick in the horizon?
After all, maatrangale vinaa, maatrangale vidai.