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Saturday, August 13, 2005

[Song Watch] Agni Nakshathram

Happy Independence Day - Jai Hind

Agni Nakashathram by Mani Ratnam - starring Prabhu, Karthik, Amala, Nirosha had music by the one and only IR. The album was raging hit by any standards. It had nice mix of all genres producing a feel-good effect when you complete one-round of listening :-).

Per request by many, have tried to cut down on very detailed description of the songs, baby-step at a time. Tell me, if it has worked :P

Ninnukori Varnam - Chitra

Trademark IR violins open this classic fusion number Ninnukori. Acoustic Guitar /Slap bass can be heard being beautiful played. Even though am not an expert in chords, have heard/read from many who are, that IR matches the best of best when it comes to chords. It is proved amply in this song. Azhagiya Raghuvarane (0.58- 1.00) marks the beautiful climax of the pallavi.

Awesome work on the drums, which was one of the hallmarks of this album mark the interlude which has an interesting synth sounds backed by lovely bass riffs.

The stanza, has remarkably underplayed chords, continues with the excellent backing by the guitars and the flawless chitra singing away beautifully. If there is one line that sags in the entire song it is the poojai kaaga yengudhu (2.02-2.12) but that is more than compensated for in the line that follows immediately. Unnondu Naan is constructed amazingly - yet again the guitar doing its bit. Lovely! is the only word that comes to mind.

Second interlude, a very classic IR piece, with yet again, wonderful touches on violin, synth and drums. Second stanza follows the first to a 'T'. Interesting point to note the word of 'mohanam' which is the ragam of the song for those interested. It typically is a practise for all carnatic composers to include the reference to the ragam, in which the song is based on. Will we know whether it was intentional ?

Beautiful fusion number, amazing work on the bass & guitar and flawless rendition

Rating 4.6 out of 5

Oru Poongavanam - S. Janaki

Birds chirp away, flapping their wings setting the scene for the song. Janaki starts off the song with Oru Poongavam. There is the beautiful loop of piano with simple chords. Water splashing (signifying Nirosha swimming) and solo flute sets a melancholic mood to the song which is accentuated by the piano/violin combo with cute beats.

The rhythm pattern changes and sets the tone for the stanza which continues along the main theme of the song. The best part of the stanza is when Janaki hits ulaavarum (2.18-2.28). The violin backing up those lines are simply so cute !. Just a brief one-liner is all there is before you get into the second-interlude. IMHO, second interlude is *the* highlight of the song. synth pieces with amazing violing backing is simpy out of the world.

A simple song, with a touch of melancholy, nicely done.

Rating 4.2 out of 5

Roja Poo Aadi - S. Janaki & Chorus

Cool and hip rhythm piece welcomes you along with chorus harmony/voice chaas (instead of 'oohs') and awesome guitar/slap bass combo yet again. Roja Poo was so dance-inspiring when heard 17 years back. It still is such beautiful fast number. The chords in the pallavi are very nicely layered to bring awesome effect. Janaki emotes well, not ideal for the situation, but still executing the task of sounding youthful in masterly manner. By the time the pallavi is over, You will already be humming ta.taan.ta.taan after the line Roja Poo Aadi vandhadhu

Interlude, again, has violins, guitars and drums forging a superb alliance. Stanza adds to the foot-tapping effect by building on top of the theme. A wonderful twist awaits you at Thodu Thodu 2.15- 2.24.

Second interlude has beautiful piano roll and continues superb work on the violins from where it left off from the first interlude with 'voice chaas' . Stanza is same as the first, the twist, when it comes, is still superb at Idho Idho 3.28 - 3.37.

Bass is much more muted than other songs. IR unleashes some more power chords to top-off the song on a superb note.

Such a dance number, better than many numbers belted out today.

Rating 4.3 out of 5

Thoongatha Vizhigal - K.J. Yesudas & S. Janaki

Who would'nt fall in love with this wonderful number !. It had all the ingredients of a perfect melody - tune with carnatic base (ragam Amruthavarshini - more on that later in this blog), superb orchestration, flawless rendition and voila - a chartbuster !

The opening rhythm pattern is the typical 80'ish one. But that is the only thing that is predictable about the song. Chorus singing with techno sounds in the background and a brief flute cameo sets the tone for the pallavi - literally so. The pallavi is so lavishly composed in Amruthavarshini. It has some very interesting example of how to handle of meter-thaala kattu for the lyrics. In the fourth line, you have 'Anbe Nee illadhu' and the previous line that was similar was 'Paneerai theLithAlum'. You can never do the same meter for Anbe and Paneerai and thats where you can see how IR's genius comes out in 0.44 -0.47 - Wow !

Interlude is brief, simple and harps on the theme of the song. KJY starts the stanza with Mamara Ilai Mele . This alters the style of the song, bringing in some beautiful chord backing the voice of KJY. Some of the pieces are agmark Amruthavarshini - especially 2.07 through end of the stanza. Janaki handles those sections with marked ease. Amazingly well done stanza.

Second interlude is notably different from the main theme of the song, with yet again the stanza bringing in the dialog version of SJ & KJY singing. Second stanza is no different than the first.
Yet again bass riffs & chords have to be given their due credit ! - beautiful work.

Even though KJY handles the song comfortably, I felt Janaki came out on top in this song !.

Amruthavarshini ragam is made of S G3 M2 P N3 S. The ragam is supposed to bring 'rain' when sung. Whether or not that is true, our heart is moist with lovely melody when listening :-). My roomie pointed out another song by K.V. Mahadevan Anathineya Ra (Swathi Kiranam - courtesy Raaga.com)

Awesome song !

Rating 4.7 out of 5

Vaa Vaa Anbe - K.J. Yesudas, Chitra

This songs sounds evokes a pathos kinda mood even primarily because of the use of shades of Sivaranji ragam through the major portion of the song.

Violins, flute and piano join in to welcome us for the opening of the song, before KJY can start. The pallavi is simple with nice violin & guitar backup. Violin Chords are wonderful - you just have to wonder, how such chords have been plucked out of thin air for a ragam like Sivaranjani - only IR

Guitar cotinues to shoulder the bulk-load of the interlude, which is very IR'ish by all means :-) . The stanza is very simple and straight forward, Chitra gets to join-in with Kalai Malai. The chords deserve mention starting at 1.56 - 2.16. Awesome !!. Chitra also emotes to a sad-context. Was this song recorded for some other situation and MR used it out-of-context ? But lyrics all point to a love-duet !

Second interlude, is the best part of the song, wonderful orchestration (Violin & flute). Well, who better than IR to arrange something like that !. Second stanza follows the first in all aspects and brings the song to an end.

Notable piano rolls at the back-end. Quite passable a song. IMHO this song is the weakest link of an otherwise stellar album.

Rating 4.0 out of 5

Raja Rajathi - IR & Chorus

The opening line of this song had been on the lips of everyone during its release. It also had its due share of fun-pokers as to how 'recitative' the song was instead of being a 'song'.

IR showcases his skills as a vocalist & his mastery over rhythm/drums in this song. The drum piece in the first interlude is still famous, he has actually made a 'song' out of that piece !

Pallavi has some nice harmony backing up IR going Raja Rajathi and beautiful bass riffs. Interlude as mentioned above is out-of-the-world, you just listen to it with dropped jaws period. :-)

Stanza continues on the theme of recitative singing. People looking for typical IR 'tune' would not find it in this song. The second interlude is IR with experimentative hat on. The change in rhythm, did not augur well for the song, it kinda lost the tempo, which is odd for a song, that banks on the awesome rhythm. The second stanza is all the same but for the change in rhythm pattern. The song finishes off in the same fast tempo as it opens. It was/is still a dance number amongst most youngsters !. A very catchy, foot-tapping piece indeed

Rating 4.4 out of 5

The collection, has a perfect breath-taking mix of variety of songs, fusion, western, filmi etc. Very wonderfully done. Can't repeat it enough as to how the bass guitar/chord sections are so superb, that all aspiring musicians can ignore listening to such albums only at their own peril.

Some of the other observations include, the duration of the songs - most of them are under 4.30 minutes and also how the first stanza and the seldom differ in their arrangement :-)

This album, IMHO, is one of IR's bests albums.

Overall Rating 4.4 out of 5 - Must Have in any music lover's collection !

Enjoy more reviews from the archives

Disclaimer : Thanks Raaga.com - All copyrights & trademarks of Raaga.com is owned by the Raaga.com web-site


SamY said...

yoo dhadha!! ... yet another gud dissection (not being judgemental coz I can't) ... but luks like considering your previous reviews therz more musing over the bass / chords / guitar / violin ... ;)

cosmicblob said...

"Dissection" is the word. Looks like you have a lot of sangeeth gyan.

I like the "Thoongatha vizhigal" - especially when a friend of mine sings it - it sounds so much better without the music for some reason.

So..when's your exclusive Musical blog opening?!

Arvind said...

It is, but tough, to not comment on IR's command over bass/violin. As pointed out in the review, in many cases, you can turn the bass notes simply into a melody by itself !

Thoongatha Vizhigal - is an amazing song - I agree with your observation, the tune itself is the main driver in the song. But, why song appeals to me, is coz of light/film'ising the tune to match a fast-tempo :-)

re: Musical Blog - don't telepathize with my profile too much :P.

You can get my previous work on reviews by visiting the music review archives page by clicking here

Thanks :-)

orangepixel said...

Arvind, that’s amazing! You have so much of information about music! O my god! You are great! Long back when I read ur review on Zubeida , I was wondering, How can any one notice such neaty-gritty details of any song. Now ur here again with more perfect words to describe the songs!
What are you doing in IT industry? You should seriously consider carrier in music! You will be very successful

Arvind said...

Thanks OP for the glowing words of appreciation :-) - it is appreciated ;)

Anonymous said...

Nice review. Thoongatha vizhigal is one of my favourites, just like everyone else. :) I used to really like Ninnukori, but I grew out of it...

-- Shobha

Aishwarya said...

A very very well scrutinized review :)

Stellar amruthavarshini phrases - blended so well - how can one, but surpass, those! Fab!

Arvind said...

Ninnukori still has something to offer, everytime i listen...as explained in the review...Unnondu Naan, Oyamal is constructed amazingly :-)

Amruthavarshini it is :-)
Somehow, when Shobha and Aishwarya get on the comments page together, i feel like making statements like how Anandamrutha song is not as lovely as this filmi version ;), but i'd rather keep shut :P

Shobha, Aishwarya
Thanks :-)

kaleidoscope said...

Wow U have a great ear for details. Love how U can see each piece of sound in its own entity. I too love 'thingadha vizhigal' song esp the way it was picturised.

sen said...

After a long time....have to read so much.

Arvind said...

Thanks :-)

nalla paatukku konja neram spend panna thappa ? :P

Kaps said...

Hey Arvind,

my personal favourite is the BGM in Ninnukori varnam....looks more like one of the early songs using a synth. the birds chirping and the slap bass are truly amazing. do u play any instrument?

thks for the blogroll...hv reciprocated the same.

Arvind said...

Thanks :-)

Lotsa synth instruments can be heard in the album - IR was truly the
trendsetter for all the techn-gadgetry that are now being used

i dont play any instruments, rather play 'with' a keyboard :-D :-))

Zeppelin said...


stunning , concise, and very 'you'... good job bud !

my favs - ninnu kori, vaa vaa, roja poo, err..wait a minute, did i just mention everything.. :) actually started to put in some favs off the top of my head and then realized - all...

and ninnu kori - we played last weekend... sujan and me... man 'twas really cool.. :)

cool post dude !

Arvind said...

Thanx da :-) - Yes this one of the best wholesome IR's album

Leon said...

err.. I like Oru Poongavanam best.. though you rate it relatively low.. :p

Happy Independence Day.. :-)

Anand Ramamoorthy said...

when are going to do a music watch post on HEY RAM!
my all time favourite
a fundamental philosophical question of utmost importance to all life forms on mars:
what does IMHO mean dude?

Arvind said...


IMHO = In My Humble Opinion :-)

Ganesh said...


Great composers music outlast time
Ninnukori is one such classic example to this fact.
This song is so hip even today.

Illayaraja has introduced nice vocal harmony and counterpoint concepts to indian films best ones
are 1)Devanin Kovilil 2)Rajathi Raja
3)Vikram title song has 3 counter point harmony to the main vocals.

today we have only instant songs that we forget after the first listening.

Arvind said...

Good pointers :-) Thanks !

Wodehousian said...

Thanks for the IR music review :-)! I really like AN songs. I think I used to know most of the lyrics of the Rajathi Raja (which else!) song by memory when I was a kid!
I am far from a music exponent - yet, your reviews with descriptions of raagas, pallavis, interludes and what not make a very interesting read!

Arvind said...


Thanks :-)

Vettees said...

Hi Arvind
First time here.Read ur other reviews too.
Nice review,but a little bit disappointed seeing the overall rating for this clasic album is less than that of Sangamam(4.7).Ithu Nyayama???

Balaji said...

been a while since i heard these songs and ur writeup brought back some nice memories. got me to listen to them again even as i was reading about each song. great job :)

Arvind said...

Vettees, Balaji,

Thanks :-)

vijay said...

Arvind, just happened to stumble upon your blog. Do you visit tfmpage or dhool.com? Maybe you can post your reviews there from time to time.

I liked your Agni Natchathiram review. Had only a couple of points to add/differ.

Raaja rajadhi, if you noticed, has only percussions throughout the interludes. It isnt so obvious, so you might miss it.The instruments chosen are tuned to different pitche and almost make you forget about a string or another instrument being used there.

rhythm- Both thoongadha vizhigaL and va va anbe start off with the usual rhythm that IR used in hundreds of songs in the 80s. He could have avoided that.

"IR showcases his skills as a vocalist & his mastery over rhythm/drums in this song"

Sorry, there is nothing much here to showcase skills as a vocalist. IR actually stumbles with the tough "pa ba pa ba pa ba" humming in the secoind interlude where his lip speed doesnt quite match up to the speed required to render those words.He could have chosen some other syllables there.

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Arvind said...


Thanks for visiting :-)

1) Regarding rhythm section of Rajaathi song - it indeed is - only that some sections as in second stanza the drums is underplayed

2) repetitive rhythm - true, it has been noted in the review

3) 'pa ba pa' - excellent point about the syllables - may be thagathagathakka would have been easier ! - good catch

4) Re: tfmpage, i used to visit (silent visitor) but then beyond a point was driven to the point of furious frustration - by watching *every* topic turning into a IR vs ARR battlefield :-(

5) Thanks for the suggestion about hosting the reviews at Dhool - let me check out what it takes... :-)

Do enjoy more reviews via the archives !

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vijay said...

Arvind, also from the list of movie titles you have reviewed, I guess you are more of a recent TFM listener(like last 10-15 years) who grew up in the Rahman era? Because to pick some good IR albums to review apart from Agni Natchathiram, you have to go back to his first 6 years in te field. If you are used to Rahman's recording/sound quality, you might find the songs to have a slightly old feel and hissing noise and all that. But in terms of compositional quality, IR gave his best in his first 10 years. Johny or NizgalgaL for example can be a good choice. Or you can intentionally chose a good album that was not necessarily popular(both IR, ARR as well as other MDs) and try to review it. That would be a sort of tribute to those works. Consider older TFM as well(60s/70s etc.)once in a while.There have been some colossal soundtracks in that era.

Arvind said...


Good observation - am impressed.

Also excellent suggestion, to set the clock back occasionally :-)

Well, sometimes, i love songs more than albums - so i dissect them e.g. Innum Ennai - Singara Velan - i did not feel like writing about other songs in the album

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vijay said...

Hey Arvind, just noticed, that you had mentioned the Chennai senthamizh song by Srikanth Deva in your analysis of the singaaravelan song. I am not sure if you noticed this already or not, but its a direct lift of off the popular Naattai krithi "maha ganapathim manasa".

Arvind said...


Small correction - it was in Anniyan's review (w.r.to Iyengar Veetu Azhage)

I'd like to object to you potraying it as 'lift'. In De-waugh sirs' family, it is called 'composition' :P

Enna, ore naal'ulaye ella review'um padikardhunu resolution'aa :-D

Keep them coming :)

kumars knk said...

Thank you for sharing.
niveda thomas in ninnu kori