View Full Version : The Screen-Turners: Yaaro Ezhuthiya Kavithai - Part 1

31st December 2005, 12:40 PM
The Screen-Turners - Chapter Two

Ananda Shankar and The Anonymous Poem

By Naaz

On a late December afternoon in 2000, three friends and I were driving down a California highway, headed to Palo Alto for an "early" New Year's party. It was a picture postcard afternoon, and as I remember it, surprisingly mild for what was winter even for San Francisco. Sade had just finished pouring her heart out to Jezebel on the car stereo, and the Bare Naked Ladies had taken her place. Car journeys, those in which I am not the driver, make me want to sleep within the first half hour on the road. Add a good mid-day meal before the trip and I can make friends with slumber in fifteen. The window to my side was partially open, and gazing at the rolling hills dappled in the afternoon rays, my eyes glazed. I don't know when I was off.

I woke to the kinetic strum of the sitar. There was no chatter in the car, and the sitar filled the space.

"Who's that? Ananda Shankar?" I asked, looking into the rearview mirror at my friend the driver-cum-car deejay. He looked up and caught my eye in the back seat. He smiled as he nodded. "Cool or What?" he replied, his blue eyes back on the road and his senses still caught up in the strum.

Ananda Shankar was "Cool" way before Cool was "Cool." But that is the lot of pioneers, of those artists who chart their creative journeys down the less trodden or not-trodden-at-all paths. They are above and beyond labels, and one does have to resort to all-encompassing nonsequitors such as "cool" to describe, to grasp and arrest their genius. A meaningful, groundbreaking career of artistry summed up in a meaningless, un-warm word. But that too is fitting, for Ananda Shankar defied essences and music tenets. Meaning, within his music, was all interpretation, and that he left to the listener. He played with traditions to make them anew; he mixed genres and forms (and cohesively) for the pure non-discriminate joy of seeing - of hearing - what might emerge. Anyone who has heard Ananada Shankar released in the 70s (a self titled album long before self-titled albums became all the rage) would know that it was the beginning of what is today referred to generically as "fusion music.” Newness doesn't allow Description; hence, it is just "newness" lost in approximations of "cool" and "fusion." Words are convention for the practitioner of abstractions. In Ananda Shankar's world: Meaninglessness that leads to a new Meaning was good. This is not to suggest that Ananda Shankar was disrespectful or cavalier toward formal traditions in his cross-genre, cross-cultural experiments. In fact, Ananda Shankar was playing, always played to a different urge. He was driven in his vision, his conviction that Indian and Western music traditions could coexist, contrast, and celebrate unique aural marriages, unheard of in the mainstream. Metamorphosis, a vibrant, sitar based track on the album, is molten. It is made of light.

Was it a form of rebellion? Ananda Shankar had a stellar pedigree. He was the son of the renowned dancers, Uday and Amala Shankar, and the nephew of the iconic Pt. Ravi Shankar. Phew, indeed. He studied the sitar under the tutelage of Dr. Lalmani Mishra (synonymous with Benares University and resurgence of the Vichitra Veena) before deciding to breakaway from India - with his sitar in tow. I remember seeing posters plastered all over Chennai, from Mount Road to Medical College, announcing The Ananda Shankar Experience, and wondering to myself what it might be like to attend a "fusion" music and dance show (the dance part choreographed by Ananda Shankar's wife, Tanusree) at venues like Abbotsbury and Music Academy. The word “psychedelic” was so prominent in the poster I had to look it up! And there were Apsara-ish attired dancers beckoning all along the borders of the announcement. What would the show be like?

It was a schoolboy dream that never came true. I did catch a few clips of the show on television during some "cultural roundup" programme, but the real Ananda Shankar Experience was not to be mine.

By the time I discovered Ananda Shankar, the album, it was already 1980.

Ananda Shankar's score for CV Sridhar's Yaaro Ezhuthiya Kavithai (1986), based upon the novel Jananam, by Vaasanthi, was somewhere between middling and mediocre. I don't believe this was the fault of the musician or the film's director; it was just that the crossover was a bit constrained, and the tunes turned out to be neither mainstream schlock, nor indie nirvana. In an out and out commercial and genre driven market (other films from the same year/period include Mouna Raagam, Sindhu Bhairavi, Vedham Pudhithu, Poo Vizhi Vaasalilae, Mella Thirandhathu Kathavu, Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram) experimentation has no place. It didn't in the eighties, for sure. Trust me, Lagaan would have gone nowhere in 1986

For a musician accustomed to an experimental time-less-ness (in that the scope of the exploration determined the time it needed) to adapt to five minute situations and the “One Pallavi Two Charanams” format proved to be stiflingly conventional. Within these songs from the YEK there are fleeting moments of brilliance, and, occasionally, the arrangement does hold a few inspired turns and surprises. But, overall, the feeling is that of something unfinished, a hole somewhere between poetry and music, filled up with an eye on the clock.

Listen to:

Paruvam (http://raretfm.mayyam.com/mag/paruvam_kaninthu.mp3)
Aha Aayiram Sugam (http://raretfm.mayyam.com/mag/AhA_Ayiram_sugam.mp3)
Naan Paadum (http://raretfm.mayyam.com/mag/nAn_pAdum_rAgam.mp3)

It was not until the posthumous release of Walking On (2000), Ananda Shankar's most visible breakthrough on the British music scene along with the group State of Bengal, that the "cool-hunters" finally caught on. But by then it was all over. Ananda Shankar died of cardiac arrest in Kolkata on March 26, 1999.

While the "Cool or What?" West was finally grooving to the unique blend of Walking On during drives on American freeways, Ananda Shankar had moved on.

And the Experience lives on.

(To be continued)

(c) Author 2006

18th January 2006, 12:33 PM
You exasperate me! Are you going to throw some light about Jananam and " YEK" someday. or is the screen turner here Anand Shankar.
While I was slogging in Bihar this movie seems to have cropped up. Right now this movie rings no bell whatsoever.
CV Sridhar's dfilimography post Ilamai Unjaladigirathu is all very confusing. There was this block buster " Thendralle ennai thodu". There was a whodunnit crap which starred Sadhana ,- not the Hindi frilly heroine but a desi version which followed TET.And this Raghuvaran-sumalatha flick with greta score by IR -the one which had thalayai kuniyum thaamaraye. I got the name Oru Odai Nathiyaagirathu. CV Sridhar also made a KSGish Alaya Deepam with MSV holding the baton. Quite sometime after we had " Thanduvitten ennai" Vikram- Rohini movie which was Ok but somehow lacked the fuzz.. And yeah there was also one horrible
Nadia- Suresh starrer which had "chikkenra aadayil" Tamil's first aerobic number.
Where did this film fit in? How come I don't remember. I don't hink I can wait till March bhayya so out with it.
Re Vaasanti if she was not yapping about Nepal where she presumably spent some time she was forever harping about " Enne intha manithargal, ivargal en saapiduvathilum thunguvathilum ivallavu neram selavidugirargal sort of lectures from the podium.... Naa not my cup of kaapi!

18th January 2006, 08:20 PM
Vengayam -

Scroll right up to the top of the article and you will see this displayed with some prominence: Yaaro Ezuthiya Kavithai - Part 1
And if you missed that....There's a "To Be Continued" right at the bottom. All clues to...more on the way!
Jananam / YEK is part of a larger exploration in March. Your "forgetting" fits snugly into this thematic. Wait up, will ya?

There were some phrases in your post that had me giggling for a bit: "not the hindi frilly heroine" (btw, the "whodunnit" crap was titled "Unai Thedi Varuvaen" Sadhana and Suresh, I believe.)
"(Vaasanthi) yapping about Nepal..." or was it Sikkim? :lol:
If Vaasanthi is not your cup of "kaapi", oh boy, you'd better stop by for the analyses!! :P