Tuesday 26 November 2013

[Translation] Bharathiyaar's Maayayai Pazhithal

Maayayai Pazhithal, is a less known philosophical poem by the Mahakavi. We see the poet in conversation with the concept of Maya and while recognizing it's power is confident of defeating it. Though Maya is broadly translated as illusion, it is in fact a rather complex concept which in the Vedas denotes knowledge, might and power. In Vedanta it refers to the cognition of reality, and Maya is a veil that the seeker must see through in order to experience the epiphany and set out on the path of liberation. Maya makes one view the world as duality - superimposing a perceived reality over Brahman consciousness. 

The English translation was done in collaboration with Shekar Raghavan.


Unmai arindhavar unnai kanipaaro Maayaiye --
Mana thinmai ullaarai nee  seivadhum ondrundo Maayaiye.

Ethanai kodi padai kondu vanthaalum Maayaiye
Nee sitha thelivenum theeyin mun nirpaayo Maayaiye.

Ennai kedupathark kennamutrai ketta Maayaiye 
Naan unnai kedupathuruthi yendreyunar Maayaiye

Saaga thuniyir samuthiram emmattu Maayaiye
Indha degham poi yendrunar dheerarai yenseivaai Mayaiye

Irumai yizhandhapin engirupaai arpa Maayaiye
thelindorumai kandaar munnam odaathu nirpaayo Maayaiye

Neetharum inbathai nerendru kolvano Maayaiye
Singam naaithara  kollumo nallara saatchiyai Maayaiye
Yennichai kondunai yettrivida vallen Maayaiye
Ini unnichai kondena kondrum varathu kaan Maayaiye

Yaarkum adiyallen yaanena therthanan Maayaiye
Undran porkanjuveno podiyakkuven unnai Maayaiye 


Those who know the truth, do they ever judge you O Maya
Do you ever harm those of determined hearts, O Maya

Come armed, you might, with raging armies O Maya
But can you endure the fire of clear thought O Maya

You seem most determined to destroy me O evil Maya
But know this, that I shall certainly crush you O Maya

Braced for death, of what consequence is the ocean O Maya
 Can you harm the fearless who have realized this body as false O Maya

With loss of all duality where will you be O petty Maya
In the presence of those enlightened with Oneness will you not flee O Maya

The pleasures you yield, would I hold them as true O Maya
Will a lion accept sovereign counsel from a mongrel O Maya

I have the power to cast you whenever I wish O Maya
Know that nothing shall befall me of your volition O Maya

I have realized I am captive to none, O Maya
I fear not your strike, but shall annihilate your might O Maya.

Here is a rendition of this song by Shri S.Kalyanaraman:

Sunday 17 November 2013

[Blog] Popular Culture : The proliferation of item numbers

The item song is a phenomenon that now dominates the Indian film industry. We seem to have them in all languages. It has replaced the bar song that was quite popular a while back, which has now returned after a hiatus in the form of the item number.

Typically an item song has a set of very predicable characteristics: it usually features a very popular, highly paid, good looking actress (and actor) or the occasional 'Western' model. The marvelously beautiful woman occupies centre screen and is usually surrounded by a host of men who appear, poor, uneducated, ill dressed and drunken. What makes the item song so remote from reality is the fact that the actress seems to be at ease dancing in their company in her skimpy costume while appealing all the time for them to love her. The song has a catchy tune and ingrains itself in the audience's imagination through its choice of words, facial expressions, dance moves, music and style of singing. Paradoxically, the song manages to attract all sections of society- prodding one to want to see and hear it innumerable times. The tune generates an upbeat mood which encourages one to see and hear it often.

 The very presence of a respected, sophisticated, popular, good looking and highly paid actor 'sanitizes' the song and its lewd picturization and surprisingly lends it an undeserved credence and credibility. This directly contributes to it a garb of 'decency.'  I never cease to marvel at the way the actors cleverly manage to portray facial expression and gestures that exude an air of 'innocence' and 'sweetness' in these songs -- be it  Katrina Kaif in Sheila ki Jawani or Kareena Kapoor in the recent Fevicol song.

 The life cycle of an item number: The song is released after much fanfare and publicity and is played over and over in the media, at every wedding, every party, every festival and every school annual event and if that isn't enough, some local groups even manage to make parodies replacing the theme with a religious one and playing it over loudspeakers at all festivals. This constant bombardment of the psyche with the tune feeds on itself and makes one want to hear it more often until saturation kicks in at which point the scales tip - paving the way for a new item number.

Now, unlike the bar song that used to have overweight 'vamps' ( at least in Tamizh) which only entertained a section of the male audience, these songs now feature fashionable, main stream actresses thereby attracting all sections of people including women. Interestingly, it is women who play these songs at home and dance to them at private parties and social gatherings.  Another surprising trend is that the presence of a lesser known (albeit more talented) woman in a song doesn't attract the same degree of popularity and public endorsement. An example I can think of is : En peru Meenakumari from the film Kandasami which might not be allowed into 'respectable middle class homes but  a song like Pottu thakku that features Ramya Krishnan may find better acceptance.

Sadly, the item song has a direct impact on the safety of women on the streets of India. I feel that they fuel the fallacy that urban, educated, fashionable women and western women are promiscuous and decadent and these songs might be the single unwitting cause for an incidence in rape.
All I can wish for is an increase in the maturity of the audiences to view them as mere entertainment which might take a while. A more realistic wish would be the 'death' of the item number and its replacement with a more sensible form of entertainment.

[Translation] ஆண்டாளின் நாச்சியார் திருமொழி - கற்பூரம் நாறுமோ

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