Monday, May 29, 2006

First Re-recording Witnessed - Part-1

In fact, when I was witnessing the re-recording, I didn’t know about the name of the film. It was only in the late evening, as a last piece of recording, the title music was getting recorded; and at that time, I came to know the film name as "Soorakkottai Singakutty"

Many of you might have seen the films Raaja Paarvai, Nizhalgal etc in which the typical recording hall and other arrangements were shown.

Let me recall the one I witnessed on that day.

It’s a rectangular type of small hall, on one side the projecting room and console room is situated and opposite to that is the medium size screen.

Rectangular glasses are seen on the sides of the side-walls, which show us there are small rooms behind that hall, from where the people can “see” what is happening in the hall and vice versa! These rooms are mainly meant for the singers and the chorus team and some time certain groups of instruments are played from there also!

In the hall other than centre portion, some isolated groups of instruments are housed with the chairs and instrument/note stands arranged for the specific instrumentalists!

Generally what I remember to have seen are the sections of Keyboards, Lead and Rhythm guitars, Percussion instruments, Violin (Strings) groups, Flutes (Woodwind) groups etc are accommodated in the hall, all of them generally can easily face the screen as well as the central area.

As I could guess from my logical sense, most of these instruments in that hall are either directly connected through cable to the console or instruments that will make gentle or mild sound and can co-exist without disturbing the other. Main singing voices and choral voices are accommodated in the individual glass rooms for more clarity.

Some of you might have guessed now and felt the shortcomings of being in the main recording hall. i.e.

You Can Only Hear Some Partial Music that are going on from that hall!

It’s so because, keyboard, Guitar type of instruments when the cable is connected in them, immediately they are muted and the sound can be heard only in the console room.

Similarly, voices behind the glass room also directly goes to the console and again you can’t hear them if you are in the hall!

So, it’s the violins, flutes and the rhythms that are what reaching you directly, whose sounds are picked up by powerful microphones fitted near them.

But don’t worry; at the time of rehearsal all the instruments are available for you to hear!

Now the central portion is obviously meant for IR with his Harmonium and the chair for him.

When I entered the hall, most of the arrangements were ready, but the people were not there except the boys who arrange them and connecting and checking the cable, the crew which was checking the film clips to be screened etc. I had taken refugee near the area where the Keyboards and guitars were kept.

Slowly people started entering the room and took their positions. They are the people of so jovial and blast and enjoy nature and all the things that go with them cannot be explained! You may feel as if you are in a College class room, before the period starts!

But suddenly everything went off and a forced silence crept in, which I could not believe or understand why, what happened to them!

Then I realized that IR has just entered! The discipline you witness there is unprecedented!

He took his seat and immediately the hall lights were dimmed and the screening started!

Firstly, the selected film clipping started rolling without any kind of sound! It was a totally new experience, as if you are viewing a movie in a TV after pressing the mute button!

If you have VCD/DVD player try that! See a particular significant portion of the movie without the sound and then again with sound! You will realize what the sound and music means to a film!

As I could guess, the portion is that from the Climax. A few emotional scenes between Vijayakumari (VK) and Prabhu both tied to pillars and villain and gang laughing and witnessing the drama. After full throated emotional outburst of VK, Prabhu break open the shackles with the whole pillar coming down and there starts the fighting for about 10 minutes with police & others finally arriving and the film to end!

So many time such scenes are scene in films, but this time I was seeing them without any sort of sound in a mini-screen and of us witnessing them in utter silence except a few comic scenes in fighting (including VK’s emotional outburst moment) when some smiles and gentle laugh came from some of the people !

I also saw a lot of markings of circles and cross marks in the corner of the film appearing and dis-appearing ! After this climax scene, a few more clippings from the same film was also screened ! With all bits and pieces, you cannot make it out what the film is or what its actual story!

Once this cycle is over, once the again screening process started after re-rolling the films in the projector!

This time I could hear all the dialogues at the appropriate place. Now it made a little more sense to me! But again there were no other music or any kind of sounds like fighting sounds, dashing etc! Again you feel very awkward to see a whole lot of fighting scene in such a silence atmosphere! You will simply loose interest to watch any film in such conditions!

Once the complete screening is over, the light went on full, and feeble whispering noises of small conversations started in the hall, with people getting up and many moving out of the hall !

I was totally puzzled, what is happening there!

We start with a climax, and also without any sound and after that all people getting up and go out and the hall returned to utter silence!

But to my surprise, IR didn’t go out, rather now he took some notebook kept on his harmonium and took his pencil and started writing something making the harmonium as his desk!

He was in such a deep thinking and went on writing as if he was possessed by something!

A few handful of artists, went near him with their notepad pencil etc and some took the chairs and sat near him and others stood surrounding him, as if a steno is standing and ready to take dictation!

I was not having the guts to go near and see what he is writing but just keep on watching the process of his writing and others standing over and looking over his neck and copying what he is writing.

This process went on for some 15 to 20 minutes! He finished his writing and the others were still continuing copying!

A few doubts among others and some exchanges of words and the process are over!

And now, even IR and his remaining gang got up and went out of the hall!

What is happening and where is the music and where is the recording?

Shall I also go out and see? But I didn’t do that as I believed that if I leave the hall, I may not get back into the hall once again!

So what? I instructed to myself “Stick to your place and just wait for the things to happen!”

And when people re-assembled after this break, every one of them had their portion of sheets ready in front of them and few tried them and that’s the fist time I heard some musical sound on that day! Again it didn’t make any sense to me!

But after a few minutes, again the silence gripped the hall.

Then IR entered and went to the centre of the hall and put his headphone on his head. After a few tense moments among the players in that hall, he turned towards the violin group and started waving his hands and thus came the Magic!

Magic of music! Created by God of Music!

What to say, one can die at that instant moment!

My purpose of Birth was already over on that day!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Visits of 1983-84 - Part-2

The car vanished away !

His assistants were waiting for me to leave so that they can close the door.

A shattered body, with all its soul and brain refusing to function further, was standing still there. By nature, and as per my normal way of thinking, I should have told myself to catch the next bus and return.

But not so, in the case of IR related matters! Any difficulties, any humiliations not to matter much, because its worth to attempt all possibilities before accepting the failure !

I must be a different man now, think something and act somehow, come what may be, I shall attempt! I became a different man then suddenly.

I just asked for the details with the people there, what is meant by “Studio” as IR told, and where it is situated and how to go.

Fortunately, they were very helpful and I could realize that I must go to Vada Palani area and make further attempts there!

Where there is a will, there is a way!

I just got out of the house, and though I was hungry, now the time is only to do something else!

So just walked to the nearest bus stand, and after enquiring got into the town bus for Vada Palani.

While traveling, I saw the huge hoardings of cine posters containing IR’s face etc. on both sides of the road, and got into the deep thinking “Can I make it today?”

Very soon, I was shaken up by the conductor asking me get down and then I realized that this place is so near to T-Nagar.

Again after enquiries with the passerby, I walked towards the studio.

That was AVM’s studio, which was quite some distance from the bus stand, where I got down wrongly!

It was around 7-15 or so, when I was near the main gate of the studio, again there were certain worries and hesitations within me cropped up, whether I will be thrown out ! (as usually shown in films etc.).

But, with some courage and determination, I just walked inside, without bothering for those gatekeepers etc. To my surprise nobody asked anything.

I felt, unlike main film personalities, like hero and heroines, during that early hours of a day, security people were not much worried for other techincal people's entry and exit! Later I realized, at that early hours, all these things may be some routine for them.

After walking a quite long road within that area (which many of you might have seen in films), I reached near the actual building where the recording theatre was situated.

Here also, with the same blind gate-crashing I got inside the buildings. It was a lounge kind of thing, from where doors to various rooms and recording hall etc were situated.

I waited a few moments there, thinking that IR will arrive there after some time. But I saw people were getting in and out often in a particular room. Whose doors were remain closed.

With some courage, when I peeped through the small glass panel located in the door, I was astonished to see IR and his few selected crew members who were already on some kind of composing job, though I could not hear what is going on inside that closed room !

Slowly, the realization dawn on me that IR was rushing in the morning for his composing job only!

I started feeling highly guilty, that I had interrupted him while he was getting into the car in that morning! How much concentration and mood control etc are required for a composer and creator, and such interventions would certainly be hampering anybody!

Like any ordinary person would have imagined about a music director (as per the hearsay and usual articles of magazines etc), I also thought in that way, and got into deep thoughts of how to minimize my intervention and at the same time shall see those recordings etc.

Remember, still I was on the lounge area only and it was around 7-45. I also saw some people were coming and going through other door also. After few moments, I gate crashed, one last time, into other double door system, alongwith somebody who was just entering that.

I realized that I have landed in the re-recording hall and what was awaiting me there was the re-recording of some film!

The air-conditioned environment, the silence, and other set-up there sent a chill in me!

First and foremost thing for me to do was to quickly settle in some corner safely, without attracting other’s attention, and I exactly did that!

And got myself stuck in that hall throughout that day ! No food, No water ! Till Night !

But remained there ! As I was amply rewarded otherwise of my efforts!

My first lesson of re-recording fundas, I got on that day !

That of SoorakkOttai Singakutty !”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Second Series of Visits of 1983-84 - Part-1

While settling at PWD, Palacode, I could realize that I can not settle there for a long time!

The discomforts of a government job, particularly like PWD, are obvious, and thus my struggle to shift from the job started in full swing.

This necessitated a lot of applications and writing exams of various companies, public sector and central government organization etc.

This made me a frequent visitor to Bangalore and of course to Chennai also as these were standard exam centres located South. In the last quarter of 1983 and the next year, this process continued

Chennai visits had in fact a hidden agenda, and no marks to guess that !

Yes, Chennai visit means darshan of IR, and all exams, interviews are secondary. (Now, you can conclude, why I was going on writing exams without success for more than 2 years ! I had to !)

This second series of visits during 1983 & 84 were characteristically, totally different from my first visit of 1978 ! For obvious reasons, of course !

While my memory fails to recollect exact sequence of happenings, date and time etc. I am having a collage of colorful memories overlapping with each other.

But certain things were common in all these visits!

First and foremost thing is, I could never had a free one-to-one discussion at all with him, even though I might have spent hours in the recording hall and in the console room!

It’s totally a divine experience, which makes you dumb! May be like Kamal in film Guna ?!

Its usually the night bus to Chennai from Dharmapuri. With a lot of expectations of next day which may be in store for you, and the usual discomforts of night bus journey, you can't have the sleep!

By morning 4-30, with sleepy, burning eyes, you are in Broadway, Ratan Bazar bus stop. You wait for nearly one hour for the first town bus and reach T-Nagar by 5-45 or so.

Get freshen up and have coffee (breakfast will not be ready by that time !) in the hotel near that Nalli shop (old one).

Walk with bag and tension, reach the address 157- North Usman Road by 6 to 6-15 AM. (Later this address was changed 152-North Usman Road and then subsequently shifted to 38-Murugesa Mudali street, if I remember correct).

By that time, your heart beat would have reached the highest peak, with the doubt whether you will be allowed to enter or not!

With derived courage, you force into the gate, and reach the corridor of the bungalow where the car gets parked and getting ready. You explain to those assistants etc, if encountered, who look you with all sort of question marks and verify your purpose of visit etc, tell them that you have come to see him from such and such place etc. Sometimes you have to convince them that you had earlier appointments fixed etc.

You are allowed to sit in some chairs provided in the front hall, where similar other guests, some aspirant singers, instrumentalists also wait!

It’s totally like a pooja room, with utmost silence and the smell of flowers and Agarbathis giving you a different feeling! Not less than a early morning temple atmosphere !

Before 6-30 or so, all of a flash, IR just walks out with a smile, in his white kurtha-dhothi, and if known persons are there, a customary smile and a few sentences exchanged, and straight away he gets into his car and vanishes!

This was a routine. But at the first time visit, I didn't know this, rather never imagined such vigorous system will be there!

After so many years of gap, when I first met him, I had a lot of expectations to introduce myself reminding the old connections etc and wish to talk to him, this and that etc!

Because, I still used to live with my old memories of IR of 1978 period, who took us in his car, had hours of time together etc.

Moreover, in the absence of any such knowledge on daily routines etc I could not have imagined a new and trasnformed IR, till such time I myself experienced that !

So, first time, even before I could properly introduce myself to him, he was just moving away.

With sense of fear of losing him, I just again running towards him and told that I want to see his recordings.

He just told that I can come to the studio and just got into the car and left the scene!

I was totally upset and whole world seemed crashing before me! Whole dreams shattered and vanished in moments!

So what next ?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Cassetted IR moments !

It was October 1983 !

While, over the years, my passion to acquire some music system and recording IR’s songs in cassettes was growing in me like anything, but I controlled myself and going on postponing such ambitions due to various other commitments which I had to fulfill on priority basis.

At Palacode also, there were numerous such recording shops. While going back and forth in the streets to hotels etc, daily I had to invariably passing across these shops, I was lured like anything by the songs of IR they were broadcasting.

The fading away of such songs while you had to keep on walking towards office etc. was really painful. Anyway, things continued like this only for months.

But, by the end of October that year, the national tragic event of assassination of Indira Gandhi took place and that was followed by the national level violence.

There were forced holidays on us. First time I faced the problems of bachelor life. Neither you could get any food nor you can move to your native.

It was on such “stand-still” moment, just to spend time, I got into one of the music recording shop, which was fascinating me for a long time with the unique old time Hindi film songs (of Naushad, Ravi, Madan, Nayyar period).

The owner was one muslim guy, and with my query on old Hindi songs he was stunned and jumping with joy to find a comrade in me!

He happily exhibited all the LPs he was having and very patiently one by one he played the songs as sample! I was shocked to hear the scratched and poor quality of many of those songs !

It just splashed to me that “Am I going to hear the IR songs like this from 30 years from now ?

Believe me, really really I was shivering with those kind of thoughts !

While the discussions and search for IR songs that went on with the various local shop fellows after that, the dilemma I faced whether to spend money or not etc. may be out of the scope of our current discussion, two important things happened to me.

Firstly, I made that impulsive decision to buy and record the Hindi songs and thus my first cassette was born.

Secondly, A realization dawn on me, that time never waits for anyone and the available technology is also not going to help in restoring and giving the music of today!

Whatever, you get tomorrow is certainly going to be inferior than yesterday as far as the quality of a recorded music is concerned !

That way, I had already lost so many IR songs in the nearly last seven years, and also in future also, on daily basis I am going to loose steadily, if I don’t act !

So something must be done!

Whether I can invest on music system to hear them or not, I must have the songs with me!

Better now than never !

Then onwards, a sizable portion of my earning, regularly and dedicatedly spent in capturing IR songs.

With first priority accorded to get the current songs of IR that were getting released then and there, that itself was the huge task, because IR was on full steam with atleast 40 films per year!

As a second priority, I continued the search for the old gems wherever and whenever possible and in whatever quality it was available I tried to get that! But there, I could not succeed much!

I was crazy enough to just like a child , happily and proudly looking the cassettes I had recorded and owned, and just recollecting the songs and music by seeing the list!

Later on, occasionally, I could hear those songs on tape record players of others, and one small hand-held mono system of mine (which I purchased later for bgm recording purposes) etc.

Looking back now, though I could smile on myself, I am not ashamed of that!

I was, what I was ! I remain that way !

That IR fanaticism has not reduced even now! Only that, I am now expressing that in slightly polished way ! That's All!

Believe me, it took another 13 years (by that time, my collections have grown into hundreds of cassettes) to have my own reasonable music system in my house and that also was one very ordinary one!

You may wonder why I never acquired any music system !

Because I could see, hear and feel the pleasure of the ultimate when I had the opportunity to hear the birth of a song in the recording theater itself !

That’s the other side of story, to be discussed later !

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

1983-84 : Start of My Career Life - The IR Moments: Part-1

It was May-1983 !

A different life started for me ! My Career life!

My college studies came to an end, and even before the final semester exams, appointment letter from Tamilnadu PWD, was in my hand (as Asst Engineer, at Palacode, a remote “town” of remote district Dharmapuri).

When I joined PWD after completing my exams, seeing my academic brilliance (w.r.t. PWD standard!!), my Executive Engineer (who was, literally, designation wise, two posts above me, but had joined the TN govt service before my birth!) might have sensed that this fellow would be unfit for “sensitive & money flowing” site work, and put me in the office job as Design Engineer.

In a way I escaped from the site posting (at “Kesarigulihalla”), which otherwise was located another 16 km away from Palacode. Had I been posted there, my life could have gone in a different direction!

Though I was not fully comfortable with the job, it was a blessing in disguise for me in many sense!

A lot of good things w.r.t. my IR understanding & appreciation and even the second series of visits to meet IR, all happened during this period and certain foundation to my WCM studies was also laid during this period!

In the beginning of my career at Palacode, I wrote a “haiku-kavidhai” like this, which summarised my position at that time !

VElai irundhum
VElai illAdha
NAn Oru A.E
(read ‘E’ as Tamil Letter and with Tamil meaning!)

In the office, I got myself engaged with a lot of new things which I had to pick-up as a new entrant.

However, after the stressful routine life of college days with assignments, tests, semester exam fever etc., the sudden ‘blank & vacuum ’ evenings and nights, that also in a remote place away from my family was quite unbearable!

Particularly, I didn’t have any music system with me to get myself updated with IR songs, which I never thought of earlier!

So I deviced my own way of using these time productively !

My room was just in the terrace floor of the building where my office was also situated!

The open area in front of my room in that terrace, became my walking ground for the evening. In the absence of tape ecorders, I used to sing to myself all the IR songs, till I become tired!

(Later, when some neighbours joined my adjacent rooms, that practice also had to be stopped, for the fear of them spotting a "insane" guy !)

Soon, I could survey that small town, and I was happy to find three “theatres” were available for the “entertainment”.

Atleast two to three films in a week got screened in those theatres on a rotational basis and that was more than a boon to me!

I could easily afford to see many of those films with my available time and salary!

Now with college days over, I need not worry to choose which film I shall see or leave it!

Every IR film (and many other films too) screened in those theatres, I saw them (anybody remember one Paandian film, in which a buffalo sings and music was by IR? I saw that film also!)

And I used to recall those re-recordings of films and BGMs of those songs alongwith my terrace walking !

During the holidays and week end, I will just slip away to my native village and my own radio and local theatre will welcome me in continuing my IR association!

Also I could consolidate my thoughts and wrote some articles on what could have been IR’s composing techniques to compose a song, given the situation etc!

Some database kind of thing w.r.t. IR films and songs so far composed by him, raagams etc also was compiled by me at that time. (All these were lost when I left Tamil Nadu later!)

With money in my hand and I being the proud owner of my own salary, I could decide on certain other things also!

One such thing was, ordering certain music books to learn about the Western Classical Music etc!

After some frantic searching, I got some catalogue of a book company (publishing Carnatic musical books), and ordered two such books on WCM related titles from them.

I indeed got the books by post! The book was authored by some South Indian musicologist with lot of Carnatic things covered in that rather than WCM.

Anyway some start was made!

That book indeed shook me in and out, and made me realize one thing! This WCM stuff is something bigger than my BE course! I could sense that!

Another fortunate thing I could start in that period was the collections of IR songs, recorded in the cassettes!

Looking back now, I feel I have done a right thing!

I will tell you how and why that started !

Monday, May 08, 2006

Announcement !

Hi All,

Please await for the next posting for a few more days !

Delay due to the personal reason is sincerely regretted.

In the meanwhile, hope you are already following my other blog on WCM-Lessons (Click here)



Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My College Days : Part-4

The experience of participating in the College Orchestra was something different which I never had earlier in my life !

Nothing to claim big about the orchestra as it was a group of few individuals and with barely any worthy instruments to play, but the basic minimum was there (just to play as a "Chamber" music) !

But what can be worth mentioning was the experience of efforts of dissecting the IR songs and trying to assemble and reproducing them to create "something like IR song"!

The songs selected to be played for the Annual day functions were the raging hits of that year like "Pani vizhum malar vanam, Ilaiya Nila, Kanne Kalaimane, Kodai Kala Kaatre, Alli thandha boomi, etc."

While I was a half-baked as far as Carnatic music and swarams etc are concerned, w.r.t WCM I was total zero!

It was really humiliating that you don 't know what are these chords, Majors and minors meant and what are the significance, etc.

Though, you play the song, you don't know how to reproduce the notes and communicate to others.

The way the fellow orchestra members looked, smiled and chuckled, it virtually meant "bloody , from where you have come! " (even though they never told that openly).

Thus, in spite of my belief & attitude that "I know so many things of IR and his songs" I got exposed to my "ignorance" of technical marvelous of IR !

I was literally shattered ! All my egos were just vanishing like thin air !

I cannot even understand IR songs, forget about understanding IR !

How much of my life was already got wasted and practically no chance of even making an attempt in future !

All such thoughts were rambling in my mind !

To many of you, it may appear funny, that the person who discuss and talk so many things about IR and still feel "empty" on technical side ?

Yes Sir ! One must atleast witness (if not able to participate), the "Efforts" that are put in any orchestra where IR songs are "tried" to be played!

I deliberately use the word "try", because, people can only "try" but never succeed cent per cent !

At later in my life, through my association with IR yahoo club etc, I am vindicated of my feelings ! Many of those technical experts in the club members are the outcome of such college orchestra experience ! Believe me, itÂ’s a fact !

In spite of all these, the joy of even reproducing those songs with the minimum accuracy as possible, can't be measured!

Invariably, every member of the orchestra was virtually in ecstasy and tears when some difficult & wonderful phrases were attempted and the sound emanated as in the song !

Also, on the day of actual performance, the practicality of how a song can go wrong in a hall due to other facts like sound system etc., in spite of your best of efforts, that also I experienced!

The same people who appreciated and applauded ealrier on one moment, booed and yelled when things went haywire!

Thus the bubble of "musician" inside me, which took shape quickly earlier, "died" instantly in the same year !

Though I didn't know what to do at that moment, but I promised to myself, that,

"Someday I will certainly educate myself on music in general and WCM in particular and find out what these musical terms etc are meant ! "

My College Days : Part-3

Small digression; and advance apologies for the small "suya-puranam" below; I am doing it consciously for the sake of continuity of memories, since these events led to the understanding of IR's real dimensions:

During 1979 to 82, Sankar used to send letters occasionally and explaining the films he saw, comments on songs and BGMs, etc etc. When he finished his studies, he got appointment at TVS, Hosur and he became awfully busy with his new job, new life etc.

Wheras I was continuing my studies at GCE, Salem.

In spite of the stress on studies, at personal level, my association with IR songs, films, etc continued to grow as usual.

It was the year 1982 !

Nearly, in the first three year of my engg college, I never participated in any cultural programmes, nor in any competitions etc, but enjoyed as a spectator only.

But in that 4th year, I dont know why, but I indeed decided that if at all I want to do something, I shall do now, next year being fifth and final year, I can’t afford ! (You see, I was a sincere engineering student with Honours degree at stake ! ).

Somehow, after much dilemma, in the last moment, I got my name enrolled for the musical instrument solo category, through my friend (who was the secretary of orchestra and himself the darling singer of the college).

Since, I know, how much the hostellers were got swayed by “Alaigal Oivadhillai” songs in the previous year, I selected “Putham Pudhu Kaalai” as my choice.

Thus, with a borrowed harmonium from one of the friend in the hostel, I did practice the song “Putham Pudhu Kalai” a few times.

On the competition day, though internally shaky, I derived some courage, and started playing !

The moment I played perfectly the first prelude of flute bit in harmonium, there was a roaring applause started from the students !

The main reason as I beleive, is the popularity of that song and the strong fan following IR had in that young generation!

One another reason may be that, nobody expected that this fellow can be of such stuff ! (Honestly I never open my mouth other than studies, always remain quiet, and as such playing cine song from such a fellow and also to such perfection, was beyond their imagination !)

I don’t remember what happened after that first prelude. I closed my eyes and ears, just IR filled my mind, and the song was flowing like anything, para by para with all those famous interludes !

I still remember the appreciation of the students and some of my lectures after the show ! I was virtually floating in the cloud !

Predictably, I got only second prize, (the sacredness of carnatic stuff, you can’t change and the fellow student who played a typical carnatic song took away the honour!).

And thus I became the natural choice of the College Orchestra of that year !

That experience taught me the lessons of my life!