Sunday, April 29, 2012

Inspirations (7 of 25) - Kavignar Vaali

For me to write about Kavignar Vaali as an inspiration is akin to touching the tip of an iceberg and still be awestruck. I have neither read any of Vaali's literary works nor any of his poems outside of the movies. And, I may not have listened to many songs from his early years. But I have always had great respect and admiration for people who can express thoughts on relationships eloquently. Throw into the mix a person who can do so in beautiful Thamizh, I didn’t have to go beyond Mr. Rangarajan – more famously known as Vaali – for inspiration.
Ask anyone in Thamizh cinema their two favorite Thamizh lyricists in the past 30 years, you will get the answer, "Vairamuthu and Vaali." While I do like Vairamuthu's lyrics a lot, in my mind, there's one key difference that separates them – Vairamuthu is a master when it comes to describing nature ("Vaana MagaL NaanugiraaL Vaeru Udai PoonugiraaL") but it's Vaali that wins hands down when it comes to expressing through his lyrics the breadths and depths of relationships.


Please watch the video above before you read any further…

"Kanaa Kaanum" is one of the best examples of the sheer power and expressiveness of Vaali's pen. In just a few lines, he was able to convey the anguish and torment experienced by the heroine as well as the hope expressed by the hero. Four lines stand out for the beauty of the language:

Pudhiya Kavithai Punaiyum Kuyile Nenjil Undaana Kaayam Enna…
Ninaivu AlaigaL Nerupil Kulikum Paavam Enna…
Kizhaku Velukaamal Irukaadhu Vaanam…
Vidiyum NaaL Paarthu Iruppeney Naanum…

If you have seen "Agni Saatchi," you will agree that the first two lines perfectly describe the character of Saritha, a disturbed soul, haunted by horrible memories of her childhood, who pays the ultimate tribute to her idol Bharathiyar through creative poems. All of that captured in two lines! And, the next two lines point to the (sun) light that the protagonist sees at the end of the tunnel. Kudos to Vaali for those wonderful words and Thanks to K. Balachander for giving Vaali that "situation!" 

The other movie where I thought that he wrote the perfect lines for every situation given by the Director was "Mouna Raagam." "Nilaave Vaa," "Mandram Vandha Thendraluku" and "Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil" are all gems in their own right. One line from "Chinna Chinna…" is a favorite of mine for its brevity and deceptive simplicity– "Puriyaadha Anandham Pudhidhaaga Aarambam Poothaadum Thaen Mottu Naana Naana."

Director Myskhin once mentioned that good cinema has the ability to take control of and transport the viewer to the filmmaker's world. To Vaali's credit, he has been able to continually accomplish in five minutes the "transport" that Directors do in two plus hours. Through "Ellorum Sollum Paatu" and "Nalam Vaazha," Vaali showed how he could not only amaze people but also lift people through deeply profound lines about life and the different shades of relationships. A case in point is "Ellorum Sollum Paatu" from "Marupadiyum."

The first charanam of this song ("Naayagan Mel Irundhu Noolinai Aatuginraan Naam Ellaam Bommai Endru Naadagam Kaatuginraan…") is the stuff of legends. But there's a subtle nuance in the second paragraph that illustrates Vaali's genius. The moment Revathi's character decides to touch alcohol is accompanied by the line, "MayakkangaL Nervathillai Thelindhavar Nenjiley…" That is Vaali's genius for you.

One other thing about Vaali that I have always admired is his youthful spirit despite his advancing years (He's 80). The man who wrote, "Azhagu Oru Magic Touch, Aasai Oru Kadhal Switch" way back in 1964 has continued to stay in touch with times – "Musthafa Musthafa," "New York Nagaram" and "Thathai Thathai" are all testimonies to his ability to stay young. And, in spite of having written songs for 50 years and for similar situations in different movies, he has rarely been repetitive. Both "Amma Endrazhaikkatha" and "Kaalaiyil Thinamum" are two completely different yet equally lovely tributes to motherhood.

I realize that this write-up has conveyed more of my admiration and love for Vaali's lyrics more than how he has "inspired" me. But Merriam Webster defines "inspiring" as "having an animating or exalting effect." That is exactly what many of Vaali's lines do to me! Before I sign off, let me share with you a couple of lines from two of my favorite works of Vaali that always leave me animated and exalted:

Vaalibangall Odum Vayathaaga Koodum Aanalum Anbu Maarathathu…
Maalaiyidum Sondham Mudipoatta Bandham Pirivenum Sollaie Ariyaathathu…

En Usura Koodathaane En Nanban Kaetta Vaangikena Solluven…
En Nannban Poatta Soaru Dhinamum Thinnen Paaru... Natpai Kooda Karpai Poala Ennuven...

Thank you, Vaali, for serving as an inspiration in your own way.

5 comments:

Guruprasath V said...

nice compilation about the legend.
keep it up!! Do read his literary works avathara purushan, paandavar boomi..

He describes ravanan in just two lines.

avan than
aranmanayai vida
piran manayai athigam
nesithavan.

Ram Murali said...

Thank you, Guruprasath, for your comment. Will defn read Avathara Purushan.
That description of raavanan was awesome - pithy yet mean

Ram Murali said...

Just realized the typo in my comment. Meant to say, "...pithy yet meaningful."

ravishanker sunderam said...

Ram Murali : Just stumbled on this article by accident (Great !). I like the way you have delved into the Mouna Raagam lyrics. Takes me back 30 years (Oh My God !).

Dont recall his exact phraselogy but when he was hospitalized witha ventilator, he made a crack about how when he was born the mosque came to his assistance (his wet nurse was a Muslim) and when he was approaching the end also the mask came to his assistance (the ventilator).

Ram Murali said...

Ravishanker - thank you so much for reading. Yes, I am a huge admirer of Vaali. I thought that in songs like "Nalam Vaazha," he was so inspirational and taught me a thing or two about relationships.

The mosque/mask pun was so typical of him. I remember that when he had trouble breathing in his last days, he wrote on a piece of paper (to give to the Doc), "Naetru Iravu Swaasam Miga Moasam!"

I guess you could never take the lyricist out of him. Crazy Mohan also told me on multiple occasions that he was an extremely nice man...

I guess Vaali Sir can continue to rest in peace for his legacy is immortal...