Raja the scriptwriter

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Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Raaga_Suresh on Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:12 am

This is a topic which many of us, especially Plum, Jai, V_S et al have been speaking for a long time. Thought this deserves a separate thread. Wrote this in my blog:  http://onlyraja.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/raja-the-scriptwriter/

The title is deliberately misleading so that I can lead more people here. I have no idea if Raja wrote any scripts or not and that doesn’t interest me either. What I will be trying to do here is to talk about how well Raja understands the script and helps the director realize one of the most important aspect of the movies, the tone of the movie. In this regard, you can say that Raja adds his own inputs to the script.


Let me also state here that I am not going to talk about the BGM that Raja does for a film. I am not a great movie watcher and am not in a position to write anything about the BGM of a movie. My intention is to tell how even before they start shooting for a movie Raja instantiates the vision of the director in aural terms using the songs of the movie.


The movie which I always take as an example of this when I speak with my friends is ‘Keladi Kanmani’.  I will skip the ‘enna paduvathu’ and ‘thanni’ song and concentrate on the others: ‘nee paadhi naan padhi’, ‘thenral dhaan’, ‘karpoora bommai onru’, ‘mannil indha kaadhal’. The first two songs are love duets, ‘mannil indha’ is supposed to be a ‘challenge’ song and ‘karpoora bommai’ is a lullaby. They serve their purpose very well in the movie and all these songs were major hits. If you observe carefully, there is a certain melancholy which is present throughout all these songs. None of them is very ‘bright’. In the sense like ‘kanmani nee vara kaathirundhen’ or ‘andhi mazhai pozhigiradhu’. He seems to have deliberately tuned ‘nee padhi naa padhi’ in Chakravagam since that ragam has pathos associated with it. If you have seen the movie you would know that the movie is about love and loss and it is a heart touching movie. Not a great tragedy but a melancholic tale which leaves an impact on you. It is this ‘tone’ that Raja captures through his songs. Just listen to all the songs at one go and you will be left with a feeling which is very close to what you will feel when you come out of the theater. 


You will understand what I am saying if you listen to the songs of another Vasanth film, ‘Rhythm’. The songs of this movie were great hits, with people loving it, the director expressing his happiness over the songs and I am sure the producer was happy as well since the music would have sold well. If you listen to all the songs you won’t get the ‘tone’ of the film. You will just hear some very nice songs. The songs would fit the situation they are designed for. Yet the macro level situation of the film wouldn’t have been captured. (This movie was also like ‘Keladi Kanmani’ in the sense it was also about love and loss. ) I am not saying that this is a drawback since the directors may not even insist on it (They would probably just want good songs). I am only trying to highlight how much more integrated into the movie Raja wants the songs to be and in a sense gives us a glimpse into the musical philosophy of Raja.


Such integration would happen only if the director’s vision is clear and he is able to articulate it well to Raja. Once the wavelength matches, Raja’s mind starts working on how he should convey the director’s vision of the whole movie through the songs. One person whose wavelength matched perfectly with Raja was Kamalahasan. While Raja-Maniratnam, Raja-Mahendran, Raja-Bharathiraja, Raja-BaluMahendra etc are spoken about often, the Raja – Kamal combination is not spoken of as often. Here I talking about Kamal the creator and not the actor. I will take two films, one which would have had lot of inputs from Kamal, ‘Guna’ and the other which Kamal directed, ‘Virumandi’ and check how Raja brings out Kamal’s vision through the songs.


‘Guna’ is a movie which had a tragic undertone. This is easily captured in ‘appan endrum’ and ‘unnai naan ariven’ since both these have the situation and lyric in their favor. The genius of Raja is in the other two songs, ‘kanmani anbodu’ and ‘paartha vizhi’. ‘kanmani’ is theoretically a love poem and Raja miraculously makes this song a combination of ecstasy and tragedy. The way the song moves is fairly ecstatic but there is throughout a tragic undertone to it. I have no idea how he achieves. He does something similar with ‘paatha vizhi’, where the joy of seeing ‘Abhirami’ is conveyed with a slight touch of sorrow. Somewhere inside he hides it. Similar to how he hides that sorrow in ‘Anjali Anjali’ song, nominally a fun song. When you hear all ‘Guna’ songs in one go, you almost get the complete ‘tone’ of the film.


If ‘Guna’ was all about tragedy, ‘Virumandi’ is about bravery, recklessness, anger and violence. Every song has vigor associated with it. The title song, ‘kombula poova suththi’, ‘nethiyila pottu vai’ and ‘karumathur kaattukulle’ would by themselves give you the tone of the film. Raja goes one step ahead and infuses this vigor into both the love duets and the tragic song. If you observe ‘unna vida’ while the melody is soft, the underlying rhythm is vigorous. This is not ‘kaalai nera ponkuyil’ or ‘malaiyil yaaro’. It is a folk song alright, it is a soft melody alright but it is a song of ‘Virumandi’ and hence the orchestration is done keeping this in mind. You can say the same about ‘sandiyare sandiyare’ another love song from this film. Raja goes deep into the heart of the character when he tunes ‘mada vilakke’. This is a song of loss by a person who is short tempered and who cannot hold his emotions back. So this dirge has an energetic backing conveying to us the complete character of the man in one song. As I said earlier, this is possible only because Kamal had a clear vision and communicated it effectively to Raja. Raja then ensured that even before they went for shooting they had a very clear idea of how the character would turn out to be. All they had to do was listen to ‘kombula poova suththi’ and ‘mada vilakke’.


When Gautam Menon came to Raja, he probably did not know what he was getting into. He had great respect for Raja and wanted Raja to score for his movie. He realized what a monster Raja is only when he heard ‘satru munbu’ song. He is on record saying that he had re-shoot his climax because what Raja had tuned was so good that he had to do justice to it. ‘Nee Dhaane En Ponvsantham’ is an outstanding example of how Raja’s songs get into the heart of the characters and set the ‘tone’ for the characters as well. I would assume that Gautham would have told Raja that the heroine was a sensitive and impulsive girl and she gets hurt easily. Raja then, through ‘mudhal murai’, tells Gautham how hurt she is !! The same way he tells Gautham how suffocated and helpless she is feeling through ‘satru munbu’. The degree of her suffering and her agony is instantiated by these songs. Similarly, ‘pengal endral’ through its structure tells us exactly what sort of a confused person the hero is. It is as if Raja is telling Gautham, “This is how I understood the characters are and am conveying them through my songs. Now that you have the tone of the characters, realize it visually’.  I will leave it as an exercise to the readers to check if songs from Gautham’s earlier movies had this aspect in them or not.


In olden days it was very easy to get the whole movie theme going just by the songs. This was because songs were placed at strategic points and they told a story. Even without bothering about the tunes, if you listen to the lyrics you will get the story. I am not talking about that here. There are many such films that Raja has done wherein the songs per se communicate to you the essence of the movie. Movies like ‘Sringara Velan’, ‘Karagatakkaran’ etc would fall in this category. I am not talking about these kind of songs and movies. I am talking about the way Raja takes even a ‘situation’ song and in that hides the core idea of the movie.


There are many more examples but the post would become very lengthy. I will leave you to look at other movies in this light.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  crimson king on Sun Sep 22, 2013 3:13 pm

Great article.   I have never thought about this aspect before, but now that you mention it, the full spectrum of emotions in the Revathi-Mohan relationship in Mouna Raagam is captured in the songs.   The tone of the songs is also very much in consonance with that of the film, understated but poignant.   Unfortunately, MR did not line up songs to bring out the Karthik angle so it's like reading half the script, or sort of.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  V_S on Sun Sep 22, 2013 6:59 pm

Wow! Suresh ji. applause Excellently written. Even though this unique aspect in Maestro's films  were touched here and there, this has to be in its own thread to get the whole details and essence of Maestro's music in FILMS and how he writes the script musically. Super thread and much needed thread. Thanks for lighting the torch with some amazing examples. This unique aspect also goes as one of the main feature in 'why IR is simply not someone between...' thread. Will try to get details of other films I know. Smile Should be a very interesting thread.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  fring151 on Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:42 pm

Fantastic writing Suresh ji the clap. I am not a big fan of Tamil movies at all, but having watched a good many Kamal movies over the years and being a sort of semi-visiri, I definitely think he often brings out the best in IR. That several incompetent bunglers also do so is something best explained away in IR's own words 'Adhuvaa varudhu...varaadhanu solla mudiyuma' (or something like that) as he said recently while jokingly narrating how BR would covet songs which he gave to other directors.

It often strikes me that he is able to set the tone for the movie with just the opening song or title BGM. Just listen to this opening BGM from sigappu rojakkal to see what I mean.



When I first watched the movie  4 or 5 years back, I had no clue what it was about. This whacky opening BGM was a dead give-away that it was going to be a suspense thriller. Similarly, in punnagai mannan, the opening song 'Edhedho ennam valarthen' is so poignant - it is incredible how much pathos he is able to convey with the guitar in the first interlude. 'Enna satham' is indescribably simultaneously erotic and desperate at the same time. There is a certain innocence and joy in the Revathi songs...of course Chitra and SPB are simply perfect in communicating the pain, sorrow and bliss in all these songs.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  V_S on Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:52 pm

One point which needs clarification especially for the detractors. Many times we would have mentioned that these songs/bgm cannot be taken out and fitted into another film as they run as roots for the film. On the other hand, we also hear from directors like Manivannan/Mano Bala that some of the tunes they got for their films were actually rejected by the directors who heard those tunes before them. We also hear that director Vamsi actually took cues from BGM from some other film and requested Maestro to used that melody for this film. Balki takes his popular melodies from Maestro's other films and fits into his films. Are we contradicting the first statement with the subsequent statements? Absolute No. If we take it literally we will be cheated.

We are only taking about the tune here so far not the song. Tune is not the Tone. To remind another recent episode, which we heard from Nasser when he and his asst. director team did not like the tune of thendral vanthu theendum pOthu, but Maestro was confident that this will work. We know the rest that how Nasser surrendered when he heard the whole composition. When he composes a tune, he already composes the orchestration behind it that even directors do not know. They just approve some tune vaguely which they like, but that does not give the whole picture of the film. So they do not know how the song is going to blossom fully. Only Maestro has the full vision of the whole film musically which even directors aren't aware when they tell the story and situations to Maestro.

So it's not about the tune, it about how he orchestrates differently to establish the tone of the film. We knew that Maestro took tunes from different films (Mouna Raagam, Geetha, Mella Thiranthathu Kadhavu) and fitted into Cheeni Kum and established a totally different tone and lifeline to that film. Otherwise we would not be hearing the sad overtone in mandram vantha thendralukku vs romantic overtone in cheeni kum hai. Same way a folkish search mode kuzhaloothum kaNNanukku gets a total western outfit blended with romantic comedy in Baatein Hawa. A complete make-over which again only possible from Maestro.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Drunkenmunk on Sun Sep 22, 2013 8:16 pm

Yet to read fully but got to agree with you V_S ji. I wrote on ILavattam Kai Thattum today and shared this solo finger style guitar cover with the post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KKSXyEeTZOk As I shared the post, one of my friends from twitter who is not a HCIRF was amazed that the cover is very melodious while the song is peppy. The cover lays bare the beauty in the melody of the composition. The bare skeleton is extremely melodious Kalyani while the orchestration makes it peppy. Another case in point: Nila adhu vaanathu mElE from a back up tune for Then Paandi CheemaiyilE. It is marvelous how the same tune which drives one emotion to tell a tale can be made to sound different and drive a contrasting emotion (lullaby to matter Shocked ) when orchestrated the way it was.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  fring151 on Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:05 am

Drunkenmunk wrote:Yet to read fully but got to agree with you V_S ji. I wrote on ILavattam Kai Thattum today and shared this solo finger style guitar cover with the post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KKSXyEeTZOk As I shared the post, one of my friends from twitter who is not a HCIRF was amazed that the cover is very melodious while the song is peppy. The cover lays bare the beauty in the melody of the composition. The bare skeleton is extremely melodious Kalyani while the orchestration makes it peppy. Another case in point: Nila adhu vaanathu mElE from a back up tune for Then Paandi CheemaiyilE. It is marvelous how the same tune which drives one emotion to tell a tale can be made to sound different and drive a contrasting emotion (lullaby to matter Shocked ) when orchestrated the way it was.
Wow! This song and particularly the guitar arrangement hardly struck me as Kalyani. I am a Carnatic noob, but songs like Amma endru, kaatril varum geethame, vellai pura etc have a distinct flavour which makes it easy for me to identify them as such. Is this song predominantly in Kalyani, because if it is, it completely shatters any acquired feel for the raagam I might have! The only parts which even sound remotely like it to me are the lines 'En pole pen thedi...'

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Drunkenmunk on Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:15 am

Fring,

This song is in Kalyani to the best of my knowledge Smile Not your fault. The genius gives it a new color each time he takes it. I think he is singularly responsible for me liking this raga more than any other one. Writer Sujatha had this to say on His Kalyani usages:

"There are over 50 Kalyani raga songs in Tamil film music. But still, when you hear ‘Nirpadhuve Nadapadhuve’ from Bharathi, you can’t help but feel that raga Kalyani has taken a new birth again. With the songs of Bharathi, he once again proves that a song can be tuned without electronic noise, kept very simple and still be a mesmerizing experience to the listener."


And SPB nails it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GK2ICw6L-UI#t=4m

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Drunkenmunk on Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:45 am

Read all posts. Well written Suresh saar. Another song that underlines the theme of the film and strikes now as a pristine example is Devanin Kovil Moodiya Neram. GA's lyrics, Raaja's tune (which is theme across platforms with a bunch of leitmotifs through the film) evokes a strange melancholy despite sounding happy and the rhythm set to the pace in which happy songs are. Yet, there is a deep sense of sorrow within the song and that eventually presents itself in the film. As the film ends, we make sense of the theme with the film and offers a new edge to the film itself through the song, its leitmotifs that narrate the film as it unfolds.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  fring151 on Mon Sep 23, 2013 1:23 am

"There are over 50 Kalyani raga songs in Tamil film music. But still, when you hear ‘Nirpadhuve Nadapadhuve’ from Bharathi, you can’t help but feel that raga Kalyani has taken a new birth again.

And SPB nails it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GK2ICw6L-UI#t=4m
How true! On the 'Vizhigal Meeno' from SS4, the orchestra in the show is really quite superb, particularly the flute player.

I think he is singularly responsible for me liking this raga more than any other one.
replace 'this raga' with 'Kalyani and Hamsanandi' and that's me.

Drunkenmunk wrote:Read all posts. Well written Suresh saar. Another song that underlines the theme of the film and strikes now as a pristine example is Devanin Kovil Moodiya Neram. GA's lyrics, Raaja's tune (which is theme across platforms with a bunch of leitmotifs through the film) evokes a strange melancholy despite sounding happy and the rhythm set to the pace in which happy songs are. Yet, there is a deep sense of sorrow within the song and that eventually presents itself in the film. As the film ends, we make sense of the theme with the film and offers a new edge to the film itself through the song, its leitmotifs that narrate the film as it unfolds.
Even though I haven't seen the movie, thumbsup for the melancholy of the song. Chitra's singing highlights this beautifully, similar to 'Edhedho Ennam valarthen'.

On another note, can Suresh saar or any of the other Carnatic pundits here consider posting elementary lessons on common raagams like Kalyani, mayamalawagowlai etc similar to Appji's Kural posts and Malayalam lessons? Smile

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Drunkenmunk on Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:24 am

fring151 wrote:On another note, can Suresh saar or any of the other Carnatic pundits here consider posting elementary lessons on common raagams like Kalyani, mayamalawagowlai etc similar to Appji's Kural posts and Malayalam lessons? Smile
Not an expert, that would be someone like Suresh ji like you say. However, I can start a thread outside the IR section in this forum to bring in examples from Carnatic, pre-IR and IR days and tell the little I know about each raga and the resident experts can correct/add their inputs.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  fring151 on Mon Sep 23, 2013 2:38 am

Yes. That would be great.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  app_engine on Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:27 am

WOW, excellent article Sureshji!

Totally agree!!

I'll probably will have some examples to share as well...in the coming days Smile

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  app_engine on Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:28 am

Drunkenmunk wrote:Fring,

This song is in Kalyani to the best of my knowledge Smile 
SJ sings : "kural vaNNam konjattum kalyANi" (which made me guess as kalyANi and Sureshji confirmed those days, in the SPB-IR thread)

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Drunkenmunk on Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:36 am

app_engine wrote:
Drunkenmunk wrote:Fring,

This song is in Kalyani to the best of my knowledge Smile 
SJ sings : "kural vaNNam konjattum kalyANi" (which made me guess as kalyANi and Sureshji confirmed those days, in the SPB-IR thread)
Yes ji. Vaali the man Smile

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  V_S on Mon Sep 23, 2013 3:40 am

Thanks a lot DM for the cover. Highlights the intricacies of the melody and raaga very well. So absorbing to listen.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Raaga_Suresh on Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:02 am

fring,

Couple of weekends back a friend was saying the same thing that you said, that directors insisted there be a title song or music which gave them an idea of what the movie was all about. Nowadays this is not required because in name of publicity they tell you the whole story !!! While this is another subject we can talk in detail, in this you have a clear definition that the MD must give the gist of movie. What fascinates me is that for other songs the directors will mostly insist on 'good' songs but Raja goes beyond that and gives them songs that are 'good' as well as songs that match the tone of the movie and in tune with the genre of the movie (urban, folk etc) . So they get almost three times the value for money from Raja Smile

DM,

'devanin kovil' is an outstanding example. Just the tune is enough to convey what the movie is all about. In fact just the phrase 'naan enna seiven deivame' is enough to communicate the essence of the whole movie.

V_S, app

Looking forward to more examples from you guys

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  app_engine on Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:03 pm

Let me pick a famous film where rAsA was not exactly in line with what Sureshji is analysing in this thread. However, he did collaborate with the scripter (should I say sculptor) in a unique way.

It was year 1978 & rAsA had already established himself in the field as the sensational song maker. Mahendran / Rajinikanth / Shobha / Fadafat / BM combo did a fresh 'pAsa malar' and it was kind of a special chapter in the rAsA chronicle. IMHO, it was beneficial to IR in his early years as a MD - to work with such a creative director as Mahendran who had taste+sensitivity and was sophisticated as well.

Though the topic often highlighted in the IR-Mahendran combo films is BGM, per Sureshji that is out-of-syllabus for this thread. So, though that was a major thing in MM, let's not get into it but focus purely on songs and how they relate to the script.

Wait a minute, did I say "fresh pAsa malar"? Well, many may think so today - aNNan thangai without parents / pAsam / more sophi man as thangai's sweetheart / ladAi between the men / somewhat oppukku-chappANi-mate / disaster-disability are all definite similarities. However, there ends the comparison, IMHO.

The movie came during my movie-watching-viradham period (7th-12th grade) and I wasn't familiar with the story. Only exposed to songs and I never ever had any idea it was a brother-sister tale Shocked

OTOH, someone who listens to pAsamalar disk will easliy say "aNNan-thangai-pAsam", even if he has kaLimaN in his head. (malargaLaippOl thangai, aththai makaLai maNam koNdu, mAman thangai magaLAna mangai unakkAga, AnandhA en kaNNaiyE unkitta oppadaikkiREn dialog in vArAy en thOzhi etc). 

So, what were Mahendran & rAsA thinking when they built the music album? (I'm deliberately leaving out the mAninamE song because that does not support my theory :oops:In any case, I've never heard it until I saw the movie a couple of years back on the net. Not many - other than those who saw the movie in theaters - were aware of the song for decades).

I don't think Mahendran wanted "song-dance-masAlA" in his first movie. Neither did he possibly plan to use them as "story-moving-tools" (like prior era). However, songs were marketing tools for TF and Mahendran's career would have been a non-starter if he insisted upon "no-songs" in his first film.

So, a beautiful compromise had seemingly been made...

senthAzham poovil vandhAdum thenRal - thangai's sophisticated engineer sweetheart singing

niththam niththam nelluchchORu - aNNan's sAppAttuppiriyai wife singing

adi peNNE ponnoonjal Adum iLamai - veguLi but strong-willed thangai singing

rAman ANdAlum rAvaNan AndAlum enakkoru kavalai illE - rustic aNNan who cared about nothing in the world but the well-being of thangai singing

That way, the strategy by the dir-MD combo was to have a "character-defining-song-for-each-main-char" Smile

Like I mentioned in the beginning, this is not exactly in line with Sureshji's line of "rAsA the script writer" but a major transitional album in his career - where songs weren't made anymore for "sichchuvEshans" but became tools in the hands of a sculptor in etching out his characters Smile

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Drunkenmunk on Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:01 am

Interesting post app ji. Scoring for the character sketches across the film didn't strike me w.r.t MM.

Also, wrote something on Thanga Changili today. idhula paarunga, just wanted to write on it. As I was listening and writing, this thread's purpose was seen in the song in some brilliance realized effortlessly by Raaja: http://raajasongadaykeepsboredomaway.wordpress.com/2013/09/24/124-metamorphosis/ Smile

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Raaga_Suresh on Tue Sep 24, 2013 1:21 pm

app,

Nice writeup. Yes, Raja does get you the character details in the song as well. Mostly when characters are clearly etched, Raja composes so that the song is in sync with the character. The past MDs used to do it but not to the level that Raja does.

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  Usha on Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:09 pm

Suresh,
      R V Udhayakumar and IR Combo...........  One more GEM............

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Re: Raja the scriptwriter

Post  app_engine on Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:21 pm

I want someone (plum preferred) to write about uthirippookkaL songs as served by rAsA in colloboration with Mahendran in "scripting" that epic. (Leaving out BGM could be a tough exercise; but the songs themselves can be discussed for pages)...

For now, let me post a link (actually a comment by Rex sir in the 365 II quiz page) as a precursor to such discussion :
Rex sir's post on 365 quiz 2nd ediition on 'kalyANam pAru'

One can be called "kal-nenjan" if the person's throat didn't choke or eyes didn't shed tears when reading this post Sad

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