Agal Vilakku is a 1979 Tamil movie starring Vijayakanth and Shobha and the music composed by the one and only Ilaiyaraaja. Image source: Youtube.
Maestro Ilaiyaraaja started his long music career in the 1970s with his very first movie, Annakili which was released in 1976. But it did not take long before Ilaiyaraaja started competing with the number one in the Tamil music movie industry, the great MSV. In fact, some of his greatest compositions came from his movies in the 1970s.
Let’s start with the original music video from the 1979 movie which incidentally is the first song in the movie titled “Edho Ninaivugal”. The movie itself is nothing fantastic but the starting of the song, visually (which shows the horizon and the clouds) and the rhythm is just amazing which K J Yesudas simply humming with almost no music.
Yes, the bell-bottom that Vijayakanth was wearing in this song scene is rather painful to see but remember, this is the 1970s when these were in the mainstream fashion. And the film director screws up royally with the song scene having the lead characters to dance out of sync with the actual song. I mean what is the funny dance just before the second chorus which seems to be done with the dance master running out of ideas.
So please forget the stupid picturization of the son but listen to this song itself especially the very amazing composition especially before the start of each chorus. The composition remains above the clouds (so to say) with violin and guitar dominating the background. The flute coming at the right place and both K J Yesudas and S P Sailaja’s voices hitting the notes.
Interestingly this song from the movie Agal Vilakku was not a new composition – maestro Ilaiyaraaja actually reused his composition titled “Bhanu Bhoomiya” for Kannada film Maathu Tappada Maga, a year earlier in 1978. For this song, it was a duet between S P Balasubramaniam and S Janaki.
The basic rhythm is the same except one key difference – the orchestration which is clear that Illayaraaja perfected it a year later in Agal Vilakku. It is a wonder how a simple change to the background music whilst keeping the same rhythm totally changes the tone of the song and makes it a totally different song. No one is really complaining when a music director like Ilaiyaraaja takes his own composition from another movie and raise it several notches higher. The lyrics written by Maestro’s brother, Gangai Amaran has a very deep meaning which matches the music.
However the problem with the 1970s compositions is the loss of clarity – you can get the general understanding of the song and the rhythm but that is all – the level of the sound fidelity simply sucks. There was no digitalisation of sound back then and if the recording studio has an inexperienced sound engineer, then all the effort and composition goes down the drain. Thankfully, the audio version of this song, however, has a better sound quality than the one on video. One just wonders how the song would really sound with proper sound recording and reproduction.
This is a music video of the same song sung at the Maestro Ilaiyaraaja’s concert in Singapore back in 2018 and now see how now the composition sounds in high fidelity. The string of the guitar, the keys of the piano and the fiddling of the violin simply becomes crystal clear and adds to what a great composition. That amazing compositions just before the chorus becomes even more heavenly.
Ilaiyaraaja should re-record all his 1970s compositions again and make his fans enjoy the songs on how it would have been heard at the recording studios 50 years ago.