Part III - by Kitkat
For academic interests let it be known that after the SPB interview, Grace sang Sirichi Sirichi Vandhaa Sina Thana Doi.
Ramesh: From Sridevi to Sneha you have done duets with so many heroines. Off screen with whom did you start singing duets?
Kamal:Probably my Anni(brothers wife). At that time the song Bambarakannaalae (J.P.Chandrababu’s) was very popular. So I used to sing that song with her. Then I started singing with Amma, which is Janaki Amma. I have done a lot of duets with Janakiamma probably because she has a lot of patience for me or a wide heart.
Ramesh: Sir, let us welcome S.Janaki. (To SJ) Sir was praising you a lot. It seems you never show off and are very humble.
Kamal: Not just that. It would seem as though some body else is singing playback for her when she sings. She remains so still while singing unlike other singers who would almost roll all over the place.
Ramesh: Probably that is why she stands tall and unshaken. (Figuratively)
Kamal: Yes. She is unshaken.
Ramesh: You have done a lot of songs with Kamal Sir. Let us take Sundari Neeyum Sundaran Gnyanum. How did the whole song start?
Kamal: It all happened because of SJ’s patience and Raja’s courage, ‘cause I only used to do some small simple tracks.
Janaki:(intervenes) You have done very good numbers. Not just tracks. We even sang together. There was no track mixing.
Kamal: No, what I meant was, until you came I used to practice like kids who sit in their fathers chair and get up when the father is in sight. If SPB or SJ comes in I will just get up and go. Only if a singer is just not available will I get the song. That is the truth.
Ramesh: You did a good job in that song with a Malayalee accent, singing like Jesudass and the slow motion scenes. Which came first? The concept for picturisation or the song?
Kamal: No, No. We just wanted a song like Margazhi ThingaL. After the lyrics were written, Raja just changed one thing. We said that the tune existed for 1000 years. But he made a modern day hit out of it. He made me sing it in the last minute. I was hoping he would ask a good singer to sing it. After I sang the song and came out, he said to me that it is a hit. (Shakes his head and imitates Raja saying “Hit”) He said it as if somebody else scored the song. After that we had to start working hard to make a video out of it. So for the first time the complete song was lip-synced in slow motion.
Ramesh: Can you sing it for us?
Janaki: He has sung a lot of songs like in Sigappu Rojakkal.
Ramesh: Ninaivo Oru paravai. Was that your first one together?
Janaki: I don’t know the statistics. But we did a song En Jodi Manja Kuruvi in Vikram. I recorded my songs live onto my own cassette and I have it even now. I heard his lines were redone by SPB later. I did not know that then.
Ramesh: Another song is Inji Iduppazaga.
Janaki: Do you know what Kamal did after I sang the song? He asked me to do the acting part too. (Laughs shyly) I said tell me if you have an old lady’s role.
I will do it.
Ramesh: She did funny sounds in that song. Didn’t she?
Kamal: Yes. It is easy to recollect that song. But when you see her in person you will wonder whether she is the one singing it. You will wonder whether songs like Nilakayudhu Neram Nalla Neram comes from this humble looking person.
Ramesh: She has even sung in a kid’s voice.
Kamal: She is like the Old lady who does the karate kicks and back flips in Michael Madana Kama Rajan. No relation between her physique and her performance.
Janaki: When I see Kamal I see him as the kid who acted in Kalathoor Kannamma. I don’t see him as a grown up.
Kamal: It would be good if there were more people like her.
Ramesh: Rate him as a singer. How many marks out of a hundred will you give him.
Janaki: I will give him 100 out of 100. He sings very well.
(They sing Sundari Neeyum Sundaran Gnyanum together)
Ramesh: You both sang so well. (To Kamal) You had some memories about Ninaivo Oru Paravai.
Kamal: Yes. In a Cinema Express Award function, they wanted me to do something different and I sang this English song. The song was “One is the loneliest number”. (Ramesh says “Is it by “Hot chocolate””?) When I sang this song on stage I did not know Raja was right in front of me. The very next day he called me to the studio to do the song. I tried to say no but he said, “Come on, you can do it. I heard you sing yesterday. This song has been tuned very similar to that song”. So now you can hear SJ sing beautifully while I shout Pa pa ba pa pa pa in the background.
Ramesh asks SJ to sing Inji Iduppazaga.
Kamal: Watch carefully. It will be as though somebody else is doing playback for her. (They both sing the song.)
<Paadal Pirandha Kadhai>
Kamal: The words Inji Iduppazaga was not even conceived in the beginning. We wanted a song like Dil ye deeewana Hai, Deewana Hai Ye dil, Dil Deewaana.
You see, if you ask for a song “Like that” Raja never gives a song like that. He will give something similar but never “Like that”. I was closely observing the morphing that was taking place. He played the Hindi tune in his harmonium and added a single note at the end. He added a rhythm at the end of the line and repeated the line 3 times. We were watching how he is going to end the pallavi. After a pause he did the last line. I immediately said this song is mine. He said, “Of course it is yours but I haven’t tuned the full song”. I said, “ I know you will get the rest too”.
Ramesh Aravind, Kamal, K.S.Ravikumar, Baradhwaj (Music Director) and Prof. Gnanasmbandham (Film Critic and researcher)
Ramesh: We are here to discuss the need for songs in movies in the new age cinema. Are songs a speed breaker in movies?
Kamal: The word speed breaker reminds me of my guru. With Baradhwaj by my side let me clarify one thing. I want to become the Narakasura of this Deepavali.. What were 17 to 20 songs in MKT’s time are now 4 to 5 songs. People have taught us that they can’t sit in movie halls for 3 hours any more. I don’t do movies that long now. So, why should we still stick to the old pattern of 4 to 5 songs?
K.S.Ravikumar: We don’t get that much profit from audio rights as we used to before, because of piracy and FM stations. The number of listeners of our songs has increased but it is not reflected in profits.
Kamal: Why should we depend on just movies. We not only expect the audience to hear, we expect them to see the songs too.
Bharadhwaj: You want to encourage private albums?
Kamal: Yes, I am also ready to do albums. I can sing for some time to promote this and then let the genuine singers take over and prove their mettle.
Bharadhwaj: Songs are being used like montage to show the growth of the character etc. There were 30 songs before but it reduced to 4 and now is up to 5 or 6. But you did movies like Kadamai Kanniyam Kattupadu.
Kamal: Pushpak, Kurudhippunal also had no songs. I did Thevar Magan after Pushpak, and it had 9 songs if you realize it. Even in an English movie Top Gun, there are 9 songs. But the songs appear as a background, much like a transition song or calender shots in movies or even instead of background music score.
Bharadhwaj: So, songs have to be more relevant, meaningful and important part in a movie.
Kamal: He (Baradhwaj) hopes that the issue will miss his head. (Thalaikku vandhadhu thalappaagaiyoda poidumnu edhirpaakarar)
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: The maximum number of songs in a Tamil movie was in Indira Sabai. It had 60 songs. The characters will always be singing.
Kamal: English movies like My Fair Lady and recently Chicago also had songs to convey emotions like in our movies.
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: It all is an influence of stage plays. In the olden days stage plays had songs to say that one is going to shoot another and one more song to say that you shot me and I am going to die. Yet another song will say that he is now dead.
Kamal: People even feel songs are for taking a smoking break. To have a song worth a cigarette break is worse than smoking itself. Like Baradhwaj said, it is very important to think about the treatment and not to give songs for number sake.
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: People can even guess when a song is coming in a given movie.
Bharadhwaj: That is because of the stereotypes. If we make movies which avoid cliché audience will stay and watch.
Kamal: Even in some of my movies, if you remove the song, the movie will still make perfect sense. I have even made a parody of it in one movie. When the hero and heroine meet, the heroine will ask “what next”? And the hero will say “A Duet”.
K.S.Ravikumar: Even in Tenali you will say “Come, lets change our dress now” in a song.
Kamal: Even with 20 songs people can do movies. But as screen play writers KSR or me can fit 2 songs in to a story. But the 3rd song will not fit in. SO we have to dream up a dream sequence for the heroine. For the fourth song the hero has to start dreaming. Instead of all this if a story needs only one song we should be ready to go with it.
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: Do you decide on the need for a song before a movie is made or else?
Kamal: Most of us fit a story in between 6 songs. We can’t condemn this, but.
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: All that is fine, but I can’t understand the logic behind 30 people running behind the lead actors in a romantic duet. I appreciate the dancing talent of those people but shouldn’t romance be a private affair?
K.S.Ravikumar: Tell me who would even sing to their beloved?
Kamal: Hold it. I do that often. I sing songs to impress min lady. (Everybordy laughs) But 20 group dancers behind is something I wouldn’t have in real life.
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: There are movies in which the hero hardly moves. Like, Sivaji singing Yaar Andha Nilavu in Santhi with a Cigarette in his mouth.
Kamal: A of my songs like Kannae Kalaimaanae, Sippi Irukkudhu, Unnai Nenachen etc are like that.
K.S.Ravikumar: How many songs like that can you have in a movie?
Bharadhwaj: No. He says the content of the song has to be heavy. If you hear today’s songs, the deterioration starts with poor situations. If you can’t dream up good situations but want only beats, you can’t get good lyrics. To fill in fast beats you need fast lyrics. This brings in Hindi and English words, so that even north Indians can sing the song. This is how the whole thing deteriorates.
Kamal: In KSR’s movie (Avvai Shanmugi) the hero’s name Paandiyan is hinted in a song so well. (Sings “Thoonukkullum Irupaandi, Thurumbilum Irupaandi” )
Subtle meanings like this add value to the songs.
K.S.Ravikumar: The inspiration came from “Engo pirandhavaram Eppadiyo yen manadhai kavarndhavaram”
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: People really appreciate when they understand.
Kamal: But criticism starts at conception. Right ten they will say that nobody will get the meaning. Even before they break the coconut they will start to look for the rot.
Bharadhwaj: Music for a movie comes out a month before the movie does. It is more like a visiting card for the movie.
Kamal: Even English movies do that. Even Batman had an album. As we move towards international level of competence we have to get away from stereotypes and stop having things for the sake of having it.
K.S.Ravikumar: Ultimately it is all business.
Prof. Gnanasmbandham: When K.S. Gopalakrishnan made Aadhi Paraasakthi, he faced a lot of skepticism. But he was sure. The movie was half historical and half contemporary. The movie ran for more than 100 days in the then Asia’s biggest theater Madurai Thangam.
Ramesh: All of us agree that business is the driving force behind the music in movies. With the new cinema, we all hope that songs are more relevant to the theme and not made for the sake of it.
<End of discussion>.
<Jeyam Ravi dances for Raja Kaiya Vecha>
Ramesh: You speak many dialects in movies. But you excel in madras baashai. How do you do it?
Kamal: I am brought up here. Chandrababu was the pioneer in developing this dialect in movies. Sings China Bajaaru Naina Ushaar . He has a bakery in the movie. He sings “Un kannu sweet bun-nu, Un kaadhu Cake-kaadhu” I first spoke Madras baashai in Sattam En Kaiyil. I had engaged Loose Mohan to be with me all along. In between the shots I will just converse with him to get my dialect and mood right.
Ramesh: How come you sing in Madras Baashai?
(Kamal sings Kasumela Kaasu Vandhu, singers Karthick, Harish Ragavendra and one more guy sing some lines from Adhisaya raagam, Pachai Kiligal Tholodu, Manaivi Amaivadhellam etc.)
Another paadal pirandha kadhai.
Kamal: These young people sing so well. I will tell a situation we had in a movie and what happened afterwards. Guess the song I am talking about. We wanted a pulambal song for our movie and asked Raja sir to do something like Kaavaa vaa vaa, Kandhaa Vaa Vaa, and he gave this ultimate song. This is my personal favorite.
The third guy identifies the song and sings Paarthavizhi paarthapady poothu irukka.
Kamal: Jesudass sang this song so effortlessly but it was so amazing to watch the song being created.
(Nemo’s wish will be granted in the next and hopefully the last chapter. Chitra, Vidyasagar, Manorama etc are yet to come)