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Velugu Needalu

Here is the the series that focuses on the many greats who lurk in the shadows behind the silver screen bringing out the best in them, to radiate and redirect their brilliance onto the silver medium. We hope that these articles would focus our attention and applause to these true "stars" to whom limelight and spot lights do not usually beckon upon.
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Continued from Part 2

Part - III

Illayaraja - In ways beyond ordinary imagination, every turn that Vamsi took while trying to find his style, his niche and his way of interpreting the words on paper to images on the screen, be it with finding unique angles to look at a frame, playing with the pacing of the scene either by speeding up the cutting beyond the conventional standards or slowing it down below the acceptable standards, here is this unassuming partner in crime, aiding and abetting Vamsi's whims and the fancies in regard to the distinct and a different vision, seeing Vamsi's challenge of the rough cut (of the movie) and then raising the stakes even further with his re-recording, trumping Vamsi's jumpy editing style with an equally (and sometimes more) quirky score, in the process, making Vamsi's movie as much as his movie.

After much vacillation and a final validation with his would-be, Rajendra Prasad decides to ask for a 2% fee for his services as Urvasi's lawyer in cheTTu kinda pleeDaru. The moment he quotes his price to the client sitting in front of him, his head falls on the desk with the hand making a V sign. The frame holds on for a second and the beat starts with the nodding of the Urvasi agreeing to his fee. The two note beat (twig on a tin roof) grows even further and stronger and slowly merges with a harp, a violin, the percussion and the rest of the accompaniments, when the shot cuts away to a weird dreamland, where the hero and the heroine wear huge spectacles with no glasses, ride on a bullock cart with no driver and move about in a house, with no walls. Yet another brutal battle of artistry at display between these two artisans who 'shamelessly' push the limits of their skills to unconventional corners and often derive pleasure subjecting the celluloid to never before seen imagery, never heard before melody.

It is not so much in the regular melody department, which is greatly mellifluous in itself, that Illayaraja announces his presence with his baton raised high when working with Vamsi. The mark that makes up the Vamsi-Illayaraja style (and it is not just Illayaraja style here) consists in the male voice constantly interrupting the female without letting her complete her sentence, or the female tone chipping in with her additional input to each paadam while the male voice carries along the tune in a careless, reckless spirit in case of a regular duet, or the hurried or haphazard directions that the tunes and the tones take in case of a solo, or the humdrum, confusion dangerously bordering on cacophony in case of a group effort.

sanni jaaji malli jaaji malli
ponna poola valli paala velli
kanne naaga malli naagamalli
anuraaga valli raaga valli

There lies a marked difference between Vamsi-Illayaraja's duets and Illayaraja's regular compositions with other film-makers, in that, most of the tunes with Vamsi reduce (splits) themselves to the point that they cannot bear the extra weight of orchetrations, nor any extra gloss (beats, rythms et al) that go hand in hand with the commercial format of the telugu movie song. Equally interesting is the fact, that the musician is completely attuned to the ways the director cuts his songs even before the camera rolls, and thus builds the requisite breaks, pauses, interruptions and overlaps already into his tunes, laying down the proper foundation that the director could build his vision upon. It can therefore be said without further consideration that if the picturization is built on a rythmic scale, the music supporting it assumes a lyrical nature.

Illayaraja's efforts in Vamsi's ventures are distinctly two phased - pre-picturization and post-picturization. After the principal photography is completed and the film is secured in the cans, the director collaborates with the editor in trimming down the picture to acceptable levels. At this point when the sound is still not mixed with the picture yet, and temporary tracks (song tracks and dialogue tracks) usually assist the director in deciding the tempo of the scene, Vamsi's skill in editing comes to fore. A good understanding and appreciation of his ability, to visualize the video and the audio components that go into the scene, could be had if the aural part of the movie is completely eliminated from the equation and the movie is watched just with the images, since that is exactly what Vamsi delivers to Illayaraja's table before the background score is mixed in. Consider a editing resource intensive song like "ekkaDa ekkaDa ekkaDa" (Ladies Tailor) which, as lore has it, was picturized without the song being recorded in the first place. And when the film is delivered to the recording theater with just a bunch of images cut in a seemingly chaotic form, the music director infuses life into the images by breathing in mood into them. Considering that each image does not last for more than a second, and each image is completely different in framing to the next and to the previous, and the perspectives that keep changing rapidly from one to the another, it takes a herculean effort on the part of the music director to compose a tune that is fast (for the pacing), dynamic (for the mood), catchy (for the content) and appealing (for the senses).

Sanskrit discos (Maharshi), recording dance tunes (Sri Kankamahalakshmi recording dance troup), peppy duets (Preminchu Pellaadu), baleful solos (Anweshana), classical treats (aalaapana) - Illayaraja matched Vamsi's thirst for difference and his quest for uniqueness at every step and marched along the creative roads of weird imagery and refreshing sounds, tagging his name permanently to Vamsi (ala, Bapu-Ramana) while making the team Vamsi-Illayaraja synonymous with innovative, creative and imaginative.

(Cont'd in Part 4)

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Also read Velugu Needalu of
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More series of articles by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
Some Ramblings on recently released films
Aani Muthyalu - Good films, but box office failures

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