Few days back, when I was listening to the Telugu version of this song, I made a post on Facebook stating that if I need to take one song with me to my grave (like the Egyptian kings), it would be this one. Why this song? It’s not only me but innumerous Ilaiyaraaja fans have this as their most favourite song created by the Maestro. I am sure that this will be in the top 10 list of every Ilaiyaraaja fan. 20 years back on this same day, Avatharam was released and this post celebrates the brilliance of Raaja the musician, Nasser the creator and Vaali, the poet.
What makes this song special?
Avatharam is the directorial debut of Nasser. The movie is about folk dance artists and their life. Kuppusamy is a talented folk artist who dreams to become an actor in his guru’s troupe. He has a soft side and infatuated dedication to his guru’s daughter Ponnamma. She is blind and one day Kuppusamy tries to do his daily work blindfold just to understand her plight. He fails miserably and explains this to her . Touched by his innocence, she asks him to be her eyes and experience the world for her. This is the moment in the movie when Ponnamma really falls in love with Kuppusamy and being that rustic conservative woman, she expresses her love through that statement. In fact, in the whole movie, you will not see Kuppusamy and Ponnamma openly expressing their love (verbal or physical).
Originally, Nasser didn’t have any song situations. He shot the movie, approached Ilaiyaraaja to compose the music and impressed by Naaser’s brilliance, Raaja scored music for the movie. Listen to Nasser explaining, how this song was composed – hilarious and there can’t be a better tribute to Ilaiyaraaja.
The girl is visually impaired from birth. She hasn’t seen colours. She hasn’t seen shapes. She hasn’t admired the birds, trees, people, rainbow or anything. But she can’t arrest her mind from imagining. How would she imagine things? Is it even possible/ Have you ever thought about visually impaired people? He wants to help her feel the colours. Feel the colours can be the tagline for this song. The song was written by Vaali and it goes like this. I have grabbed the translation from one of the blogs that was too perfect to be ignored – Thanks to ReNuka for the translation – it is available here
தென்றல் வந்து தீண்டும் போது என்ன வண்ணமோ மனசுலே
திங்கள் வந்து காயும் போது என்ன வண்ணமோ நெனப்புலே
வந்து வந்து போகுதம்மா எண்ணமெல்லாம் வண்ணமம்மா
என்னங்களுக்கேத்தபடி வண்ணமெல்லாம் மாறுமம்மா
உண்மையம்மா உள்ளதே நானும் சொன்னேன் பொன்னம்மா சின்ன கண்ணே
What’s the colour in your heart,
when the breeze brushes your skin?
What’s the colour in your thoughts,
when you feel the shine of sky’s akin?
As I see the resurgence of colours’ splendor
In my mind, it occurs…
Indeed each thought has a different color.
Isn’t it the truth, my sweet love?
(In truth, what is it that exists,
and what about its colour?)
Think about it, each of our thoughts indeed have individual colours and the colour of those thoughts change based on the impact it gives.
எவரும் சொல்லாமலே பூக்களும் வாசம் வீசுது
உறவும் இல்லாமலே இரு மனம் எதோ பேசுது
எவரும் சொல்லாமலே குயிலெல்லாம் தேனா பாடுது
எதுவும் இல்லாமலே மனசெல்லாம் இனிப்பா இனிக்குது
ஓடே நீர் ஓட இந்த உலகம் அது போல
ஓடம் அது ஓடும் இந்த காலம் அது போல
நிலைய இல்லாது நினைவில் வரும் நிறங்களே
Flowers spread fragrance, but without revelation.
Hearts speak consensus, devoid of a lawful union.
Cuckoos sing the melody, not for one man’s whimsy.
My heart feels a mystic bliss, but nothing do I fancy.This world is alike a stream
and time runs afloat
like the planks that afloat.
Inconstantly crosses my mind,
a thousand colours!
The song becomes a duet of both hearts that reflects the freedom that their hearts have found to pursue their love towards each other. And at the end, he completes the stanza to emphasise the bliss of unique beautiful colours that they feel inside their heart that stems out of love.
One of the beautiful things about this song is the beautiful interludes and the way Nasser picturised them. If you listen carefully, the lyrics and the situation are folk while the arrangements and the tune is western. It’s not western in the sense that makes you cringe with unwanted sounds but the way it was tuned. You can see counterpoints thrown inside this exquisite song.
Going back to the interludes, the first interlude is like an exploration of sorts. The whole song moves like a story and the first part we have children representing grey shades (all dressed up in white, grey and black). The girl doesn’t see any colour and she has been attempting to find what colour means to her.
The second interlude (of course Raaja proves why he is a genius here) is about exuberance of colours. It shows the beauty of colours and they paint each other with a multitude of colours. Probably, the director just wanted to show that love brings colour to life and you can feel the colours through love. And in the final pallavi, we see all the children in colours that opens up her mind and she can see all the colours through the euphoria of love she is experiencing. I also feel the child in colour manifests in to love and that brings colour to her feelings. And love slowly transforms everything colourful in her life.
ஈரம் விழுந்தாலே நிலத்துலே எல்லாம் துளிர்க்குது
நேசம் பிறந்தாலே உடம்பெல்லாம் ஏனோ சிலிர்க்குது
ஆலம் விழுதாக ஆசைகள் ஊஞ்சல் ஆடுது
அலையும் அலை போல அழகெல்லாம் கோலம் போடுது
குயிலே குயில் இனமே அதை இசையாய் கூவுதம்மா
கிளியே கிளி இனமே அதை கதையாய் பேசுதம்மா
கதையாய் விடுகதையாய் ஆவதில்லையே அன்பு தான்
A sprinkle sweeps the earth, and lives spring alive.
Love leaps in my mind, and skin’s million gets a high.
Wishes swing along, like the pendent banyan roots.
Beauty bestows magic, like the swaying tuft of waves.The cuckoo’s clan sings aloud
in music’s own voice,
and a flock of parrots recount this story.Neither does love fade like a forgotten story,
nor is it forgotten like an unworthy puzzle’s mystery.
The second stanza shows that their love has moved on to the next level as they it talks about touches, sensual feelings but moves on to say that in the world of uncertainty, love is the only thing that stays stable.
As far as I understand the song, Vaali has tried to bring in the subtext of uncertainty in the song. In each of the stanza’s, he touches upon the fact that nothing is stable in this world except for love. Even in the final stanza, she still questions the certainty of feelings and colours. She is feeling this due to her disability and we don’t how a visual impaired person can perceive colours. It’s a complex song to understand from the perspective of the poet ( I can’t dismiss this song as movie song lyrics) and I think there is much more deeper meaning to this song than what we see on the surface.
- The song was performed by Ilaiyaraaja and S. Janaki
- Revathi and Nasser were the lead actors in the movie.
- The music arrangement for the song was done by Karthik Raja
Over the years, this song has enthused the fans to create multiple versions. I am featuring some of the most interesting ones.
1. The Piano Version by Bharath
2. The Veena Version by Rajesh Vaidya
3. The Rock Version by D-Ran (Malaysia)
4. The Telugu version from Yevade Subramanyam