lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

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Location: Kolkata, India

Friday, July 13, 2007

When women make advances

"I invite and you act high and mighty?" I said. He spluttered in indignation. "That's unfair. I don't know what it is about, the meaning, the words…" "Honey, that is what the first line means." I explained patiently.

We were listening to pilachina biguvaTaraa from Malleeswari.

Released in 1951, Malleeswari is a masterpiece by BN Reddi, a lovely film, with great music by S Rajeswara Rao. The songs were written by Devulapalli Krishna Sastry, his first venture into film lyrics, and the combination of Rajeswara Rao and Krishna Sastry produced some gems of songs.

For sheer evocative poetry in film songs, there is no better example than manasuna mallela maalaloogenE. Based on Yaman-Kalyan, the tune is haunting, and the lyric poignant. The song starts with the anupallavi, sung once only, and meanders from image to image; joy of reunion, relived pangs of separation to joy of reunion again; it speaks of sad loneliness in waiting, ending with a fervent plea to be never separated again.

My favourite line in the song is

gaDiya yEni ika viDichi pOkumaa, egasina hRdayamu pagulaneekumaa.
Lest the heart that leapt (in joy) break, don't leave me now, not for a moment.

Though I admired her many-faceted talent, I am not a fan of P Bhanumathi's voice. But in manasuna mallela she achieved a dreamy perfection, and the song always makes me cry.

There are other lovely songs in Malleeswari, of course, but I rather like pilachina biguvaTaraa. It is a perfect javali and a lovely conventional composition. A javali is a lightweight composition, brisker in tempo than the slow paced padam. The theme is romance, ragas and talams chosen are uncomplicated, and the lyric is never high poetry or in classical language.

The reason I like the song is somewhat complicated, though. Javali entered South Indian music through the influence of the Bahmani Sultanate, opine some scholars. Its origins were in ghazals says Aripirala Satyanarayana Murthy, in his Sangita Sabdartha Chandrika.

Now Malleeswari is set in the early sixteenth century, in the Vijayanagar Empire, during Krishnadevaraya's reign. In the film, the king watches Malli dance while travelling incognito. It is delicious to think then, that this javali might well have been the first ever performed, even if it is just a story, not based on any historical fact.

More, Krishna Sastry uses cheluvalu taamE valachi vachchina with great aptness and sense of humour. It is doffing a hat at the father of Telugu poetry, Allasani Peddana, who first said it in his Manucharitram, where Varoodhini laments:

వనిత దనంత దా వలచి వచ్చిన జుల్కన కాదె యేరికిన్?
A woman making advances is held in disdain by everybody.

Peddana was one of the leading lights at Krishnadevaraya's court, one of the ashta diggajas, the eight court poets. If you imagine that the court poet travelling with the king is Peddana, you can also imagine that this javali was where he got the idea! Time travel and impossibilities all achieved, yeah. Krishna Sastry, Peddana, same difference.

If you watch the song, you can see that though the lyric maybe of a scorned woman's accusation, Malli sings it to her sweetheart, entertaining him as they wait out a thunderstorm in a cave. Bhanumathi as Malli dances in gay abandon, laughingly taunting Nagaraju, played by NT Rama Rao. The insouciance of her dance is a joy to watch.

Here is my rendition of the lyric for non-Telugu readers:

పిలచిన బిగువటరా? ఔరౌర!
చెలువలు తామే వలచి వచ్చిన
భళిరా రాజా
pilachina biguvaTaraa? Auraura!
cheluvalu taamE valachi vachchina
bhaLiraa raajaa


I invite you, and you act all haughty?
Oh, if women make advances.
Very good, my lord

ఈ నయగారము యీ వయ్యారము
ఈ నవయవ్వనమాన నిను నే
పిలచిన బిగువటరా?
ee nayagaaramu ee vayyaaramu
ee navayavvanamaana ninu nE
pilachina biguvaTaraa?

This soft beauty, this sweet grace
Of fresh youth to partake and savour
I invite you, and you profess disdain?

గాలుల తేలెను గాఢపు మమతలు
నీలపు మబ్బుల నీడలు కదిలెను
అందెల రవళుల సందడి మరిమరి
అందగాడ యిటు తొందరసేయగ
పిలచిన బిగువటరా? ఔరౌర!
gaalula tElenu gaaDhapu mamatalu
neelapu mabbula neeDalu kadilenu
andela ravaLula sandaDi marimari
andagaaDa yiTu tondara sEyaga
pilachina biguvaTaraa? auraura!

Intense affections float on breezes
Shadows of dark clouds do stir
Clamouring chimes of anklets urge haste,
Handsome one, but you scorn me?
Oh, if women make advances.

He didn't think much of the song. "Pilu," he said dismissively.
"Um, Karnataka Kapi, or variations on the theme of." I said.
"Same difference, a rose by any other name," he snorted.
"We call it Hindustani coffee, though." I giggled.

Cheers!

14 Comments:

Anonymous Ash said...

Malleeswari was a great picture. Please translate the rest of manasuna mallela maalaloogenE, Lali. I am curious to see how kannula vennela DOlaloogenE can be translated.

6:24 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

You edited it. I like the refining. Urge haste for tondara sEyaga is perfect.

9:09 pm  
Blogger Rimi said...

Lali, I'm forced to say it yet again. Your casual and affectionate erudition makes me feel utterly inadequate. I think I shall abandon this blog :-(

Vun question, however. 'Hindustani coffee'?

11:43 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Ash- You can remain curious. manasuna mallela can't be translated well. Some metaphors won't carry over and you will point that out if I attempt it.

Rimi- Though it is written Kapi, it is pronounced Kaafee. We Gults pronounce coffee as kaafee, heh.

1:57 pm  
Blogger త్రివిక్రమ్ Trivikram said...

A great post about a great song! The translation, particularly the line "Lest the heart that leapt (in joy) break, don't leave me now, not for a moment", is superb!

If not many non-Telugu people read this blog, I suggest you can link to articles from http://te.wikipedia.org too for names like ఎన్టీఆర్, భానుమతి, బి.ఎన్.రెడ్డి.

"But in manasuna mallela she achieved a dreamy perfection, " The credit goes to the director and the music director. Right?

Thank you for the information about Javali. It is amusing to know about the subtilities of 'చెలువలు తామే వలచి వచ్చిన...'

ఈ పాటలో "ఈ నయగారము యీ వయ్యారము," తర్వాతి లైను "ఈ నవయవ్వనమా" అనుకుంటానండీ. కనులార చూసినట్లు, చెవులార విన్నట్లు, నవయౌవనమార పిలవడమట! (అని నేనొక పుస్తకంలో చదివాను. ఆ పుస్తకం: తెలుగు సినిమా స్వర్ణయుగం. రచయిత: డా. ఎమ్.వి.రమణారెడ్డి.)

ఒక చిన్న అనుమానం: సూరన రాసిన కళాపూర్ణోదయం తెలుగులో మొట్టమొదటి స్వతంత్ర కావ్యమైనప్పుడు పెద్దననెందుకు ఆంధ్రకవితాపితామహ అంటారు?

5:52 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Trivikram- Thank you. manasuna mallela is a song where the lyric and musical score and voice meld into one rich experience. Bhanumathi's voice is best suited to this slow tempo and contemplative mood. The tenderness with which she sang gaDiya yEni tugs at heartstrings.

About yavvanamaana
నా బ్రౌణ్యంలో ఆనుట: v.a. To take, put, bear, drink, lean on, press on, recline on. To take liquid into mouth... To feel.
యవ్వనమాన పిలవడం కంటే యవ్వనమార సబబుగా తోచదు.

About Peddana, all I can say is that he was a poet who never used an extaneous word or description. Manucharitram is a brilliant work. To elaborate further requires a post in itself.

6:37 pm  
Blogger dipali said...

'Advancing' women had no advantage, poor things. I guess all the ancient and modern MCPs wished to be the wooers and pursuers .
Why does "Hindustani coffee" sound like an insult?
I am so with Rimi regarding your erudition and the complexes it generates.(But you are kind to friends, hence I will continue to let my poor mind remain boggled when it reads you!)

11:36 am  
Blogger Lalita said...

Dipali- I don't know why a woman making the first move is regarded as 'easy' or somehow less desirable than if she played hard to get. I'd have thought men would be glad to forgo the wooing part, myself.

The 'coffee' is just a joke among Telugu speaking music-minded people. Because we tend to pronounce the 'co' of coffee as 'kaa'. We also joke about 'chinnamma' and 'peddamma' for the two madhyamas of the scale. Just insider jokes. But north Indian coffee is not a patch on the south Indian version, no?

I am not so sure about my erudition, though. It is strictly limited, and very narrowly focussed, alas.

6:23 pm  
Blogger Sivaram said...

First move - is it because the chase is more enticing than the prize ?!
As for Peddana - Amavasinisi yanuchu Neevu Alasanipedana .....

But as for you madam,

While words of learned length and thund'ring sound
Amazed the gazing rustics rang'd around;
And still they gaz'd and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
Wow!!

1:56 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Sivaram- About Peddana, పూతమెరుంగులున్ బసరుపూపబెడంగులు జూపునట్టివా కైతలు?

How can you find such apt poems to quote each time? Wow!

7:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you have Sivaram quoting Goldsmith at you. You are indifferent. There's #2 and worse, you quoting Peddana back at Sivaram. You are indifferent. I take leave then. *sigh*

Sincerely,
Secret admirer
(No name rank serial number, Lali)

10:21 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

I actually address a remark to you, you choose to take leave. I am indifferent yeah. Sivaram quoting Goldsmith isn't the same as your quoting the bard at me, is it? And #2 is an inconstant moon; but if you are taking leave, well goodbye then.

12:31 am  
Blogger Sivaram said...

@Anon
Let me close with another quote :
"The universe is not hostile, nor yet is it friendly. It is simply indifferent."
J. H. Holmes

2:44 pm  
Blogger Sheik Nasar Vali said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:21 pm  

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