Obviously, it is meaningless to live in the past. Nevertheless, revelling in the past once in a while is surely acceptable and that’s what I am now going to indulge in…
Many a summer ago … lying on the cot, I was staring at the starlit sky … after all, what else one could do when the sleep was so elusive?
Suddenly a fine breeze blowing from south made the leaves of the neighbouring tall Palmyra trees standing before a half moon … … sway at once making an interesting—gala gala — sound, of course, … there is a certain beauty in that fine rhythm of theirs, particularly in that silence of the night.
And along with the breeze, there came the deep notes of a piano melody … the waltz beats accompanied by violin phrases from a faraway marriage-pandal (temporarily erected structure for celebrating marriage), perhaps. Listening to the prelude I could instantaneously realize … I am going to listen to one of my favourite melodies …
(Beauty is joy)
Aanandame jeevita makarandam
(Joy is the nectar of life)
The interlude of sweet violin phrases followed by flute bit flew like a fine breeze … just swaying the listener in the very aanandam of the lyrics …
Padamata sandhya raagam
(the tune of the twilight from the west)
Kudi yedamala kusuma paraagam
(The mating of left carpel’s pollen with the right stamen)
Odiloo cheli mohana raagam
(the sweet cooing of love in the lap)
The beauty of orchestration reflects right here: as the enunciation of the words: “odiloo cheli mohana raagam…ends, flute, making its entry … coos so melodiously as though odiloo cheli is cooing mohana raag … and obviously, in that bliss, life, as the next line reveals, can’t but become an abode of affection …jeevitame madhuraanuraagam (Life itself is an abode of affection).
The interlude of piano clinks and violin phrases is in sync with the beauty of lyrics … indeed elevated the meaning of the lyrics to further heights…More than the fine blend of orchestration with the lyrics, it is Ghantasala’s understanding and appreciation of the finer nuances of language—note every line in this charanam ends with the word raagam:sandhyaraagam, kusumaparaagam, mohanaraagam and madhuraanuraagam—that came through in his singing making it so melodious …. So melodious that it simply strikes a chord with every listener of every age.
The next charanam is still more poetic, for it brings out so beautifully the other shade of the life…
Padilechee kadali tarangam o o o
(the crest and fall of the waves in the shore)
padilechee kadali tarangam II
vadiloo jadisina saarangam II
(the fear-struck deer in the net)
sudigaalilo … oo oo o o
(in the whirl-wind… oo oo o o)
Singing sudigaaliloo … Ghantasala reaches to the higher octave with an enviable ease … which perhaps he could only do it … and interestingly, as the singer’s humming …OOO OOO OOO O O O … fades out slowly, piano fades in with its sweet clinks producing a warmer but much quicker and softer sound, which appears to be a fine finish to the heights that the voice of Ghantasala reached — that too, as eloquently and swiftly as a whirlwind rises up — while phonating the words … sudigaaliloo … followed by the humming that climbs down so sweetly…. Perhaps, one feels that there is no better ending to that humming than those beautiful clinks of the piano … making the transition so beautiful.
Equally soothing and amazing is to listen to the next line that Ghantasala sings so haigaacoolly — sudigaalilo egire patamgam (The kite flying in the whirl-wind)…and finally wraps up the song with an apt line… jeevitame oka naataka rangam (All the life’s a stage). So beautifully serene, right? And the piano clinks and violin phrases that make a subtle appearance from behind simply elevate the melody of the song.
Every line in this last charanam ends with a similar sounding word: rangam — tarangam, saarangam, patamgam and naatakarangam. The lyrics with such simple words devoid of any ostentation and tricker strikes a chord with listeners. They, as a ribbon of words weaving through the breeze with their lilting rhythm … all wrapped in beauty … looping and pirouetting in the rendition of Ghantasala accompanied by the sonorous notes of flute and the sweet melody of the violin that are catchy and enjoyable for the whole duration of the song as a whole, the song that was composed based on that ati-madhur (too sweet) and ati-priya (too lovely) raag, Bhimpalasi which has the penetrating power to infect the human mind and sway it in its beauty for days on … simply transports the listener into distant lands of joy.
But once out from that trance, and as the conscious mind reflected on the meaning of lyrics, that too, in that stillness of the summer night under the soft moonlight made my heart leap out of my chest. For, in that budding young age it did stir up confusing thoughts: there in it is pure romance: Andame aanandam / aanandame jeevita makarandam /… odiloo cheli mohana raagam… jeevitame madhuraanuraagam — and also melancholy all wrapped in subtle threats: Padilechee kadali tarangam … sudigaalilo egire patamgam … jeevitame oka naataka rangam—life is a kind of waves tossed against the shore perhaps, whispering the hopelessness of life …; a kind of a kite flying in whirlwind, and to put it simply all life’s a mere stage. On one hand it has this mortal world signifying pain and on the other hand there is also the other world that is romantic signifying joy.
Oh my god! There is this and that world in the song — the very binaries of human love and the conflict between them did drag me down … for the rest of the night. The romance that was wrapped in melancholy—in the strut of that beaming moon—landed me in a feeling of disquiet haunted by a kind of searching, and longing questions … That sweetness and poise of the song with its subtle challenges—all that was so weird but still beautiful—particularly, those lines—sudigaalilo egire patamgam (The kite flying in the whirlwind) /jeevitame oka naataka rangam (All the life’s a stage), made fear clutch at my heart … For what, I don’t know!
While I was swarmed by such sombre though. ts, the marriage band in the pandal had suddenly raised its pitch: blown the Shehnais, trumpets, clarinets to reach the highest pitch and drummed the percussion instruments to produce maximum sound perhaps, in sync with the act of bridegroom tying the knot…and luckily for me, it gave a pause to the stream of thoughts.
Intriguingly, the cacophony of the band accompanying the act of the bridegroom tying the knot appeared to have decocted my hitherto engulfing fear into tangible questions: Does this groom know that he is taking up a new responsibility? How prepared he is to discharge it? How sure he is to navigate his new life through the ebb and flow of time, through the whirlwind of life unknown? What if the groom, like the hero of the movie, Bratukuteruvu (Livelihood) from which this song* is, has to give a go by to his values and even lie to secure a livelihood?
The more I think of it, the more I get rocked. For, I felt we are permanently unprepared by experience — as for example, our experience of youth has little or no relevance to adulthood — to navigate through the future … But then the fact that we have no choice but to go on until the end … whatever the end might be … all that one might have to do is: not to get bogged down by the paralyzing fear of making a wrong move … instead learn to take these images … thoughts with a pinch of salt and jump into action — of course, a balanced action—to face the crashing waves on the shore of the life. For, after all life, as an author once said, “is to live…. one cannot always be making preparations for living” ….
Dammit! Shuddering to think any longer, closed my eyes tightly to catch up with that elusive sleep….
(* Film: Bratukuteruvu (1953), Lyrics: Samudrala Jr., Music Ghantasala)