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Maamannan jukebox has answered a major question regarding Mari Selvaraj.

For Maamannan, Mari Selvaraj teamed with Udayanidhi Stalin, Fahad Fazil, Keerthi Suresh, Vadivelu, A.R. Rahman and Yuga Bharati — an unlikely combination indeed. They are all from different backgrounds, reputed for different things.

Director Mari Selvaraj has brought the life and feelings of the most oppressed and marginalized on to the silver screen through his films Pariyerum Perumal and Karnan.  When he joined hands with Udhayanidhi Stalin, a film-producer and a politician at that, many wondered if the director would compromise on his artistic integrity. At that time, Udhayanidhi was yet to don the ministerial mantle.  A year ago, he made it clear that it would be Vadivelu who would be the ‘mamannan’ (emperor) in the film.

The talk was that caste politics of western Tamil Nadu would be the theme of Selvaraj’s latest film, and the experiences of former Assembly speaker Dhanapal, who hailed from a Dalit community, would form the basis. With Udayanidhi’s ministerial berth, it was feared the film wouldn’t really take on such a theme unabashedly. But the songs released now create an impression that the film will carry the signature of Mari Selvaraj. The lyrics and the music conjure up several hundred years of agony and anguish of the marginalized and the subalterns.

Seven hues
The song ‘Namma kodi parakkura kaalam vanthaachi; vettri vedi vedikkira neram vanthaachi’  evokes memories of the films of the 1950s which felt like stage plays. The subsequent lines capture a mother’s longing in all its emotional depth. As the woman’s voice trails off reflecting her sadness at being denied a graceful ‘ondiveeran’ (messianic warrior), the lines falling in succession glorify her life lived till now and to be lived further on, proclaiming that she herself is the ideal ‘ondiveeran’. The woman is an archetype of millions of women who have long resigned themselves to a miserably marginalized life.

The lyrics and the music conjure up several hundred years of agony and anguish of the marginalized and the subalterns

This song sung by four women singers including Kalpana Raghavendar makes the listeners visualize the scenes the director may have crafted in Mamannan. The song ‘Nenjame nenjame konjiyae solluthe’ sung by Vijay Jesudoss and Shakthisree Gopalan overwhelms the mind, steeped in romantic overtones. As one hears this song, he/she cannot help but recall the melodious memories of Thendral vanthu theendum pothu of the film Avadhaaram.

The song ‘Ae utchanthalai ottukkullae nacharavam poonthathenna….’ certainly gives a new experience. The lines such as ‘en poo vizhuntha kanniranta mannuruvi thinnathenna’, ‘en paakkuvetti pallukkulla kottatikkum chaththamenna’ stand apart with their strange rural poetic diction thanks to lyricist Yuga Bharathi. This song attempts to blend European opera with Tamil folklorist dirge. The voice begins in contralto amid subdued notes and slowly picks up accelerando, pouring forth emotions intensified by the lyrical lines. As the song ends, the emotional depth lingers on, stirring the heart like the gushing waters seeping into the soil. Even if the song is used as background running through montages, it will surely make an impact on the audience.

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Though the song ‘Ketkuthaa pudhu osai’ is made in familiar rap style, the lines such as ‘vaazhvin osai athu parai osai’ wow the listeners. The song ‘aei aei veeranae vettaiyaadu’ makes one guess that it will resonate with montages of heroism.  When A R Ameen sings the line ‘seyal seyididum kalam nammidam’  it feels like the voice of Rahman in the anthemic Vettrikodi Kattu (Padaiyappa).

The song ‘rasa kannu’ that begins with Vadivelu’s voice singing the notes ‘thanthaanathaanaa’  has something fresh about it.   As the song continues in the lines such as ‘malaiyilathaan thee pidikkuthu raaasa en manasukkul vedi vedikkuthu raasa’, the travails and tortured psyche of a particular community rub off on the listeners.  The lines ‘patta kaayam eththanayo rasa… athai sollipotta aaridumo rasa’ feel like bedtime stories told to kids.

Going by these songs, one can say Rahman has started travelling in yet another new direction

The above six songs seem to have been composed perhaps in sync with the sequences in the film Maamannan. Jigu jigu rail captures a fantasy world and is sung by Rahman. The line that occurs in the song ‘ellum nellum onnaa vaazhum ullam serntha ellaam maarum’  is a sort of soothing balm to the minds craving for a new light at the end of a tunnel of century-long oppressions.

All these seven songs of Maamannan make for out-of-the-box experiences, feeling far different from the hit albums of films such as Iravin Nizhal, Cobra, Venthu Thaninthathu Kaadu, Ponniyin Selvan 1 and 2, Pathu Thala and so on.

Also Read: Remade in Tamil, hit film Mufti turns cliché as Pathu Thala

Rahman is a film musician who adapts to new times, trends and tastes.  Aware of his preceding generation’s achievements, he has what it takes for a musician to create new paradigms.  A democratically spirited musician as he is, he is able to score music in films of various genres made by various directors. It is this eclectic spirit that has probably enabled him to empathize with the characters created by Mari Selvaraj and give them musical liveliness.

By and large, going by these songs, one can say Rahman has started travelling in yet another new direction. Let us hope that the sprightliness and spiritedness of the songs will be maintained in his background score as well in the film Maamannan.

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