Music, movies and that one song which made a movie

Warning : Long post ahead

The role of songs in Indian movies is a fascinating but equally perplexing one. They can range from being “fillers” which allow you to take a bathroom break to being soulful introspective pieces which shade the characters with emotions. Words which don’t work when just voiced plainly suddenly make an impact when sung in a tune. The music makes them work.

But sometimes, there comes a song so artfully crafted that it becomes an integral part of the movie. And this is that song, where music moves the story forward and the words, come later, for mere emphasis.

The movie is Apoorva Ragangal (Rare Melodies) directed by K Balachander, a man who knew his songs, say what else you might about him. And the song is its title song, safe in the hands of MSV, Kannadasan and Yesudas, genius composer, poet and singer respectively. [The premise, for those who looked it up, might sound like borderline madness to put it kindly, but that is not the topic of discussion here thankfully.]

Bhairavi (played to perfection by Srividya) is an accomplished Carnatic singer and teacher. There’s music even in her name [Bhairavi is the name of a kingly raagam/melody]. She’s taken under her wing, Prasanna (a young Kamal Hassan) a rebellious younger lad who has left his home after a row with his father.

Bhairavi discovers a handkerchief left behind by one of her pupils.

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And decides to find out who the love lorn girl is. Turns out that they all are.


Prasanna, meanwhile has reserved the place of his beloved in his heart and by his side in the photograph. The classic KB touch ! [The text in the photo says “Reserved.  Her place”] Bhairavi is quite amused by the imagery and is trying to run through the list of her pupils to find out who the lucky girl is.

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Can she be Kamala (a word meaning flower) ? Or maybe it is Kalyani (a name of another beautiful raagam/melody in classical music). She decides to ask Prasanna to find out whether tis the flower that has won or the melody. Cut to our hero, who is sitting amidst flowers. And he smiles and sings “Adhisaya raagam’ (a wonderful melody), which by the way is set in the Raagam Mahati

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Bhairavi listens to the wonderful melody, marveling at his phrases and his music.

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The classic “Looking at you when you are not”

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You can see her becoming first more amused and then even more amazed by his fervour and devotion to his goddess.

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And then the music shifts. Prasanna starts singing, but now in Bhairavi raagam, comparing his love on the one hand to Sita, the epitome of piety and on the other hand to Madhavi, the enticing dancer who bewitched Kovalan.

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After a second’s silence, he laughs and asks “Innuma puriyale ?”  (“Do you still not understand ?”)


And that’s when Bhairavi realises what is happening.

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Prasanna continues singing, and you can see defiance, devotion, and fear in his eyes, while Bhairavi is still in shock.

“Mugam mattum paarthaal nilavin edhiroli”
(If you see only her face, she be the moon’s radiance)

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“Muzhuvadhum paarthal, aval oru Bhairavi.”
(If you see her in all, she is a Bhairavi)


“Aval oru Bhairavi”
(She is a Bhairavi)

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Tell me, if this isn’t a masterpiece, what is ?

Explore posts in the same categories: lyrics, poems and quotes, movies, music

2 Comments on “Music, movies and that one song which made a movie”

  1. I was first introduced to this song through radio and the song with no visuals gave me lot of scope for the story behind it and I realised that when I was finally shown the film it gave an entirely different and a wonderful story… Such is the power of the language, voice ,and may be music( I am not that good in this 😦 ) in this masterpiece…

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