Mangayarkarasi poster (courtesy Wikipedia)

Among the various raga-s that Tyagaraja is credited with being the first to compose in (see Tyagaraja and Rare Raga-s), Chittaranjani is one. It is a niShAdAntya raga in the sense it ends in ni and goes no further on the ascent. The composer perhaps decided to establish this caveat himself when he created his nAda tanum anisham in this raga. One of the lines has it that Shiva delights in the study of the seven notes -sa ri ga ma pa dha ni.

It is a lovely little song in a jewel of raga, which is basically kharaharapriya without reaching the top sa. I was taught this song by my guru V Subrahmaniam (don’t worry I am not planning to sing it and inflict it upon Tyagaraja and you). The meaning of the song is as follows –

I salute with my head and heart

Shankara who is primordial sound personified

That essence of Sama Veda which is the delight of the highest of the precepts, everyday (I salute)

He delights in the study of the great seven notes

Sa, Ri, Ga, Pa, Dha, Ni

That emerged from the five faces beginning with Sadyojata

He destroyed Yama

He protects the soft-hearted Tyagaraja

As you can see, a simple song. This is the prayer with which the Music Academy’s December Music Season begins. According to my guru, Semmangudi used to grit his teeth each time his students sang the opening line as Naada…tanuma…nisam. I don’t blame them mind you, for those are exactly the spots where you draw deep breaths.

Sometime ago, I was browsing YouTube for film songs based on Carnatic music and was quite stunned to see/hear Kaadal Kanirasame – from the film Mangayarkarasi (1949). Wikipedia has a very good entry on this film and at the end it also mentions that Kaadal Kanirasame was inspired by Nada Tanum. The storyline is quite ghastly but the cast is stellar – PU Chinnappa in three roles, NS Krishnan in two roles, P Kannamba, Anjali Devi, TA Madhuram and Lalitha and Padmini. You can listen to the song here

I somehow can imagine Tyagaraja gritting his teeth at his tune being used for words like

MohavasIkara mohana rAni

Engum kANA ezhil sEr vadani

Iha para sukham yavum nalgiDum vadani

There is nothing wrong with the lyrics as far as a love song goes but they sound dreadful against the tune, especially if you know the original lyrics and their import.

But Tyagaraja would have delighted in the lovely suite of Kalpana Svara-s unleashed by Chinnappa at the end. So much of variety in just one octave and with seven notes! I only wish they had had a better dancer – Anjali Devi is good but not superlative. You needed a Kamala or Vyjayanthi or Padmini to do justice to the piece.

The film credits list three music directors – G Ramanathan, Kunnakkudi Venkatarama Iyer and CR Subburaman. I normally question the accreditation of any music director when the song is a straight lift but in this case I must give full marks for the Kalpana Svara-s – not sure who composed them. This film evidently specialised in twos and threes for there were three lyricists – Ku Sa Krishnamurthi, Kambadasan (who also acted in the film) and Lakshmana Das (all this is from Wikipedia). I wonder on whose head the coals of Tyagaraja’s wrath descended for the words.

This article is part of a series I write on old Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali film songs. You can read the rest here