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Song of the Day # 901

From: bb on: Tue Oct 30, 2007 9:54 pm 

Song of the Day: aasai pOvathu vinnilE from naam piRandha maN.


- Saravanan writes:

A long pending request of Mythila, here is a forgotten number by MSV from the 70s….

‘aasai pOvathu vinnilE’ from naam piRandha maN

Sung by S. P. B.

Lyrics by Kannadasan

Music by M.S. Viswanathan

* * * *

‘Have you seen ‘naam piRandha maN?’ was Kamalhasan’s query to Shankar when the director first narrated the story of his ‘Indian’ to him. Hearing the gripping outline of an aged freedom-fighter who becomes the nemesis for his wayward son, Kamal must have been engulfed by a sense of déjà vu, for Shankar’s narrative bore startling similarities to ‘naam piRandha maN’. Kamal’s thoughts must have raced back to more than two decades when ‘vietnam veedu’ Sundaram met him with the script (inspired ever so slightly perhaps, by ‘Mother India’?) and offered the upcoming actor the role of the rebellious, well-meaning son.

naam piRandha maN (Vijaya Arts/ 7.10.1977) had Rajasekhar’s story being drafted into ‘vietnam veedu’ Sundaram’s riveting screenplay and dialogues. It was produced by ‘The Hindu’ S. Rangarajan. Rangarajan had earlier tasted success by producing ‘gowravam’ (under the banner ‘Vietnam Movies’) with Sivaji Ganesan in the lead and with ‘vietnam veedu’ Sundaram as the director. This time around too, Sundaram was initially appointed as director, but cameraman A. Vincent took over the direction later on. The titles credit the screenplay to both Sundaram and Vincent.

The movie recounted the life and times of a fictitious revolutionary freedom fighter called Sandhana Thevan. The first half of the movie is filled with his daring exploits, how even while leading the blameless life of a respected village-head during the day, Thevan heads a clandestine band of brave youngsters who strike terror at the British bases in the night. Not even his wife and sister are aware of his dual life. Thevan has to suffer untold miseries when his identity becomes known- his sister is molested and left to die, and he gives himself up to the British at the tearful entreaty of his wife. Thevan is released from prison when India attains independence. He has now lost all his ancestral wealth, and his son Ranjit grows up to a life of scarcity and poverty. Ranjit is disheartened by the depths to which the family fortunes have sunk, and he longs to restore to his proud father and long-suffering mother all that they have lost. All his attempts to secure employment are in vain, and he resorts to crime as an easier means to wealth. But he has not accounted for the anger of his principled father, and events then move to a tragic climax.

If Sivaji Ganesan’s performance as Thevan leading a dual life was marked by majestic histrionics, his restrained underplay as the father who refuses to sacrifice his lofty principles was heartwarming. Kamal as the frustrated son brimmed with righteous fury and anguish. K.R. Vijaya played Thevar’s wife Deivanayagi, and hers was a dignified portrayal as well. Gemini Ganesh as another revolutionary Joseph, Nagesh as the faithful family retainer Thavasu, ‘Fadafat’ Jayalakshmi as Thevan’s sister Papa and Reena as the British Sergeant’s wife were all well cast in their respective roles.

The proceedings were punctuated with several interesting twists and some emotional highpoints- the playful banter between Deivanayagi and Papa accentuating the deep affection they have for each other, the young revolutionary Viswanathan venturing out on a valiant mission on the night of his wedding and killing himself after shooting the British collector at Maniachi Junction, Deivanayagi nursing the British child who is down with chicken-pox and proclaiming the oneness of Mary and Maari, the amazement of Joseph when he discovers that Sandhana Thevan is none other than his employer ‘vEttaikkaara’ Thevan, the daring encounter that James and Thevan have with the British troops in the still of the night and their seeking sanctuary in a church, all the men in the village sporting bandages in their legs to foil the attempts of the British when they try to trace Sandhana Thevan through his wounded leg, the moving episode where Thevan escapes from police to attend the funeral of Joesph’s mother, Thevan rescuing the British commander from a pit into which they had fallen together, the unblemished loyalty of Thavasu even when Thevan has fallen upon bad times, the arresting arguments between the principled father and practical son with the anguished mother playing the eternal arbitrator, the moving scene where Thevan and Joesph meet after many years, the undisguised pride in Thevan’s eyes when Ranjit buys back their ancestral house and presents it to his parents, and how the same eyes fill with tears of shame and rage when he learns the secret of his son’s sudden affluence, the inexorable end…. The movie was also well made technically with Vincent’s cinematography and Mohana’s art direction presenting with pulsating life the ambiance of a feudal village down south in pre-independence India.

Despite everything going for it, naam piRandha maN was a commercial failure. Perhaps the public were tired of another Sivaji movie having a father-son tussle, or it could be that the image of Chappani (16 vayathinilE was released a few weeks earlier, on 15 September 1977) had the public in a trance which they were not willing to come out of yet.

* * * *

MSV and Kannadasan had come up with a winsome album as always. ‘annai bagavathikku thannai koduththu vittu’ by P. Suseela (Deivanayagi singing at the temple of the goddess as a thanksgiving for the British child’s recovery), ‘thaai paadum paattu thaanE thaalattu paattu’, by P. Suseela and Vani Jairam (an endearing bout between the sisters-in-law), ‘bhaarathathil Or pOr nadakkum, idhu sathiyam sathiyam’ by K. Veeramani ( an intelligent juxtaposition of a folk performance of the Mahabharatha war with Thevan galloping to avenge Papa’s gory end), and ‘idhaya thalaivaa nee sollu, irumbu manitha nee sollu- naan yaar, naan yaar’ by TMS (a ruminative number by Thevan when Ranjit informs him that a member of the assembly to whom he had gone for an attestation was wholly ignorant of Thevan and his part in the freedom struggle).

The fifth song is the SOTD.

* * * *

But knowledge to their eyes her ample page
rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
and froze the genial current of the soul…

- Thomas Gray (Elegy in a Country Churchyard)

The proud Thevar remains proud and principled, while the Thevar magan languishes in abject penury. He has grown up listening to tales of the fabulous wealth that was once theirs, the acres of land that yielded bountiful harvest year after year, the huge amounts that his father gave away in charity, the thousands of people who were fed by his family during temple festivities…. But all he has known first-hand is poverty and deprivation. He is not educated, not because he was a dunce, it was because his impoverished father could not afford to educate him. Much like the children of poor families whom Thomas Gray alludes to in the above verse, knowledge to our man’s eyes did never unroll. As a result, this illiterate youngster is unable to find a job. And when finally he gets a job in a wine shop, his enraged father comes to know and puts an end to that soon enough…. What does he do…he cannot bear to see his long-suffering mother scrimp and scrounge and starve herself even while trying to feed her husband and son… he cannot bear to see youngsters of his age enjoying life when he is stricken by perennial poverty… How true was the sagacious old woman when she observed ‘kodidhu kodidhu vaRumai kodidhu, adhaninum kodidhu iLamaiyil vaRumai!’

Frustrations galore… he lands a job as a crooner in a hotel… develops dubious contacts from there…. gets trapped in a vortex of crime that fetches him the riches that he has always longed for…He despises himself for what he has become, his inner conscience and his principled upbringing gnaw him to penitence, yet he stifles the alarm bells, justifying crime as a necessary evil… His is a brooding, introspective lot that evening… the usual revelers gather in the hotel, but he is lost in the labyrinth of his wretchedness…. And so he narrates his travails in a song that he croons…

aasai pOvathu vinnilE
kaalgaL pOvathu mannilE
paalam pOdungaL yaaravathu
paadi aadungaL indRaavathu….

In the prelude to the song, Vincent employs some imaginative touches that capture the above philosophical lines of the bard… the first shot shows Kamal walking on the road (kaalgaL pOvathu mannile), the next one shows an airplane in the sky (aasai pOvathu vinnilE), and then…there are montage shots showing him meeting shifty men, receiving mysterious consignments (paalam pOdungaL yaaravathu)…The scene then shifts to the interiors of the hotel where Kamal sings, a girl sways to his song, the bacchanalian audience intent on their own pleasures indifferent to the angst that peeps through his lines (paadi aadungaL indRaavathu )….

And as his wont, Kannadasan lets his lines reflect the inner turmoil of the character… And the thoughts of the great writers of the world creep unintentionally into his poetic lines… Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘The nakedness of the indigent world may be clothed from the trimmings of the vain’ finds new meaning in ‘kattidam jolikkiRathu, asthivaaram azhugiRathu.’ Ella Wheeler Wilcox would have discovered a kindred soul in Kannadasan had she happened to hear ‘yaarum sindhattum kaNNeerai, neengaL theLiyungaL paneerai’, for the line is a sardonic leaf out of her own ‘Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone…’ And had John Milton who wrote ‘These evils I deserve, and more…Justly, yet despair not of His final pardon, Whose ear is ever open, and His eye gracious to re-admit the suppliant’ and Alexander Pope who declared ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’ lived in the time of our bard, they would have doubtless saluted the heart and shook the hand that interpreted the same thoughts so eloquently in

deivam sila nEram sindhikkum
mannil pala pErai mannikkum
indha manRathil aadungaL..
andha mannippai kOrungaL
ennai maniththu vidu!

As for MSV, he must have been delighted to obtain this philosophical soliloquy from the bard, and he sets it to a simple tune that brings to the fore the somber undercurrent of the lines. It is a stylish composition of the master wherein the first four lines of the charaNam are but a variation of the pallavi’s tune. The first three charaNams close with didactic reflections, while the last charaNam ends with a desperate cry to the Lord for forgiveness. In perfect congruence with the plush interiors of the opulent hotel, MSV employs the guitar, drums and trumpets to tantalizing effect. There are four charaNams, and alternate interludes are similar. The second and fourth interlude open with the bells that jingle in the glittering sequins of the danseuse’s dress, and as the singer’s thoughts fly to his mother amidst her domestic drudgery, MSV’s violins wail in empathetic anguish...

The sharpest weapon in MSV’s arsenal though, is SPB. How fetchingly does he portray the misery of the on-screen singer… Listen to the cynical chortle in ‘inbangaL thoonguvathu illai…thunbangaLaum appadithaan’ and the hushed sob in the final plea, ‘iRaiva…..ennai maniththu vidu!’ Frustration, anger, guilt, rationalization, resignation, and prayer… all delivered with operatic flourish parade in mesmerizing succession in SPB’s song…

Tags: M.S.Viswanathan , S.P.B

Categories: MSV - SPB songs

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