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It is customary for a historical film to take the audience across the centuries back to the period concerned with the magnificence of its visuals and the background music appropriately capturing the spirit of the period. In that respect, Ponniyin Selvan-1 passed muster thanks to the crew’s hard work and dedication. Yet its songs, though celebrated much, were criticised for lacking the quality that harks back to antiquity.

Now the songs of Ponniyin Selvan-2 are out, garnering viewership for the videos running into lakhs.

Are the songs in tune with the Chola period’s musical tradition and trend? Will they strike a chord with the audience?

Six songs
As in PS-1, PS-2 too has six songs, one of them figuring twice.

Heard for the first time itself, the song Aganaga aganaga muganagaiyae written by Ilango Krishnan feels mellifluous though the lyric seems a little obscure.  A repeated listening makes the song all the more pleasing. The phrase ‘nadai pazhakidum tholai aruvigalae’ (the distant walking waterfalls) raises a doubt if it fits in with the overall rhythm and yet comes off as aesthetic though not new imaginatively. The lines such as ‘kudaipidithidum nedumara cherivae’ (the dense woods making up a canopy) are certainly new to the Tamil lyric tradition.

A R Rahman’s songs usually create magic, blending weird sounds into melodious music. Depending on the storylines of the films he works for, he goes for a variety of instruments. But both in PS-1 and PS-2 his signature is woefully missing

This song is obviously a duet between Kundavai and Vandhiya Thevan. The stanzas seem to have been written as if meant to be sung by the lovers alternately. The lines ‘azhagiya pulamae unathila magal naan…valavanin nilamae…enatharasiyum nee’ (Beautiful landscape! I am your young daughter…Chola’s land! you are my queen!) have a clear tone and tenor of the lead pair’s romantic lingo. But it remains a mystery why the whole song has been sung by Sakthisree Gopalan alone.

The female singer’s voice singing the line ‘un madi kidanthaal thavi thavikkirathae…ninaivazhinthiduthae’ (If I lie in your lap, mind keeps fumbling…and memory gets erased) has a magnetic feel powerful enough to tap into even the coldest mind’s dormant romantic feelings.

The song Kaaneero is a kind of ode to the valour of Arulmozhivarman who was later celebrated as Raja Raja Chola-I. Yet it does not feel catchy on the first listening. For the magnificence of the visual accompanying the song to sink into the minds of the audience, the song has to be heard several times. Each line in the lyric ends with a short vowel (‘kuril’ in Tamil), but for a song of such a valorous and majestic tone, the lines would sound better if each one of them ends with a long vowel (‘nedil’ in Tamil).

Also Read: Will PS-II name Adita Karikalan’s killer unlike the novel?

The montage style of making is the song’s uniqueness. If one hears the song, eyes closed as if in a meditation, various points of the story can be seen condensed into the lines. Harini sings the lines, joined by Chithra now and then. The two different voices represent an ordinary woman and the heroine respectively. The lyrics however sound off-beat for a film song.

The song Chinnanchiru nilavae begins like a lullaby, evoking memories of the song Indiraiyo ival sundariyo in the film Kaadhalan. Haricharan’s voice comes off like that of a love-struck soul. The intervening music in the song seems to capture the war scenes.

Another version of the song sung by Khatija Rahman conjures up the picture of a troubled woman singing with a note of sadness. Probably it is a musical train of thought running in the depths of Nandhini’s mind about Adita Karikalan or a sad song of a soul craving for deep love. After hearing the song, what remains is just a remix of Haricharan’s original song.

The short song ‘Aazhimazhai Kanna’ sung by Harini has the famous boatwoman Poonguzhali (Aishwarya Lekshmi) expressing her crush on Arulmozhivarman.

The four songs described so far have been composed by Ilango Krishnan, proving he is a dark horse in film lyric writing.

The short song Sivogam is based on Nirvana Shatkam, a text of six verses, composed by well-known Saivite sage Adi Shankara 

The song ‘Ilaiyor Soodaar Valaiyor Koyaar’ is a poem written by Sangam-era poet Kudavayil Keerthanar in the ancient Tamil poetry anthology Purananuru. This song sung by Keerthana Vaidyanathan lasts for less than two minutes. The tone of bereavement in the song will make those familiar with Kalki’s novel easily guess that the song would figure in the film after the death of Adita Karikalan.

The short song ‘Sivogam’ is based on Nirvana Shatkam, a text of six verses, composed by well-known Saivite sage Adi Shankara. The video featuring the song shows actor Rahman playing the character of Madhurantanka to whom Saivite poets and priests pay obeisance.   The song serves as a background to a vital scene in the film.

Also Read: The ordinary songs of PS-I: Did Rahman hold back deliberately?

These six songs may become hits, frequently heard on TV channels and streaming platforms after the release of PS-2.

A R Rahman’s songs usually create magic, blending weird sounds into melodious music.  Depending on the storylines of the films he works for, he goes for a variety of instruments.  But both in PS-1 and in PS-2 his signature is woefully missing.

Ears tuned in to old Tamil music may find PS-2 songs a letdown. Those who like commercial film music, though, may be entertained by the songs. In fact, the intricacies of old Tamil music and instruments are difficult to recreate and reconstruct. That was perhaps a great deterrent to the makers of PS-2.

Of course, in the weeks after the release of the film the songs may become popular. But the question is will the songs become classics?

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