There must be something in the waters of Bharathapuzha. How else do you explain all that cultural, literary, spiritual and artistic magnificence that sprouted and thrived along its banks?
Unfortunately all that magnificence seems to have given way for maleficence these days from what I hear. The general malaise of corruption that seems to be killing life as it should be lived everywhere, is slowly choking the life out of Bharathapuzha too. But we are not here to discuss that. It’s Bharathapuzha as Nila that I come to talk about and as Nila, she continues to flow unabated, because she flows where no corruption can breach an entry – in the psyche of every Malayali who cherishes his art, his music and his poetry. And there, she is no mere river; she is a manifestation, of a whole ethos.
Me? I have never seen the river, but she flows forever in my mind – serene, graceful, gentle and lyrically soothing.
Nila has held sway over the Malayali psyche ever since he put pen to paper and word to music. She has been a recurring presence in every art form – popular or otherwise – songs, poetry, movies, either as the focus of attention or gently meandering along as a quiet background, an omnipresent witness to the unfolding events.
And among all references to Nila, the closest to my heart is this:
The song’s composer Bombay Ravi, who was so finely attuned to the music in the Malayali’s heart, heard the notes of the Nila, and poured it all into a crucible, to melt, shape and chisel into a brilliant masterpiece.
Neeraduvan is one of his best and easily one of the permanent fixtures in my list. It’s a song that has always been a fail proof measure of my moods and thus a barometer of my mind. If I was happy, it sent waves of joy crashing along the shores of my soul and if I was feeling low, it could reduce me to tears. Not that it is a particularly sad song, but there is an underlying, almost imperceptible undertone of melancholy running through it, that you recognize only when your heart is vibrating at the same frequency. It rouses a feeling of loss, of something you cannot quite wrap your mind around; just an irreplaceable sense of loss of something you knew you never had.
From the initial aalap to the soothing conclusion, the song is sheer magic. The pleasantly long aalaap, that this Voice and only this Voice could have carried off, rises like a miracle from the heart of the river and the poet lyricist’s mind and soars away, carrying you along with promises of enchantment that lie ahead. Then it slowly proceeds to the ebbs and the swells, and the occasional moonlit sandbank midstream.
The simple narration of the sensuous disrobing of the voluptuously wet moon that sends a delightful sandal chill spreading along the river banks, the fragrant blooms along the waters, the wood nymphs gilding their hair, the lovelorn gandharvan and his enchanted music, everything together conspire to carry you away into a land of music and magic; of gandharvas and nymphs and a love that although never mentioned, always exists.
And naturally, for a song that enchants and mesmerizes to this extent, the composer could have chosen none other than what is probably his favorite raga. He loved this raga so much that he repeated it for two more songs in the same movie. The lilting Manjal Prasadavum, which won KS Chithra her second National Award and the ethereally beautiful Aareyum Bhavagayakanaakkum.
Neeraduvan Nilayil Neeraduvan is BEAUTIFUL, and not just in the name of its Raga – Mohanam. And despite the mention of sandal in the lyrics, this song reminds me of Ramacham or Vettiver – cooling, soothing and essentially purifying.