Prasanna Ramaswamy’s “Arar Asaippadar“, a documentary on popular Carnatic singer Sri Sanjay Subramaniam, was screened at Sathyam Cinemas in Chennai today morning at 10.00AM. I walked into the hall at about 9:55AM and was greeted by an audio track of Sanjay’s rendition of Sri Subbaraya Sastri’s rItigOwLa composition “jananI ninnuvinA” being played before the film started. A nice idea I thought to build up the mood of the audience.
The documentary started with Sanjay’s rendition of Sri Muthu Tandavar’s nAdanAmakriyA composition “ArAr AsaippaDAr“. The initial part just dragged on and on and on, supported mainly by the audio track of Sanjay’s songs running in the background. I think the aim here was to show snippets from the daily life of Sri Sanjay but what resulted was a random collection of clippings depicting different things making it very unclear to judge what was being conveyed. The first words spoken by anyone came about 18-20 minutes into the movie.
Sri Sanjay was shown practising the kalyANi aTa tAla varnam “vanajAkshi” at his home with a tambura. He was shown drawing open the blinds at his house in the morning, taking a peep at the outside world from his balcony etc. Suddenly clippings from his performance at a venue came in. There were also clippings inbetween that showed temple architecture. He was also shown in the green room with Sri S. Varadarajan and Sri K. Arun Prakash explaining them the structure of the gambhIranATTai mallAri just before a concert.
There were glimpses of Sri Sanjay’s family life, Sanjay teaching his disciple Swarna Rethas, Sanjay’s wife preparing dosa(?) with copious amount of oil (like Jyothika in that idhayam nallennai ad), Sanjay reading out detective stories (Sambu stuff) to his children, Sanjay sharing memories of his grandmother telling him how to sing a verse in a song, Sanjay recollecting how Sri Calcutta K.S. Krishnamurthi taught him subtle differences in prayogas for different ragas etc. There was also a sequence where he was shown learning a few songs from nadaswaram vidwan Sri Vaidyanathan(?), primarily the Arunachala Kavi composition in suruTTi “kANa vEnDum laksham kaNgaL”. In another sequence Sri Neyveli Venkatesh, Sri Guruvayur Dorai and Sri Nagai Muralidharan were shown discussing and appreciating his music. There were also some good clippings of temple festivals with appropriate songs sung by Sri Sanjay played in the background.
I think overall the documentary is okay. What is however lacking is a theme and lack of clarity over what the maker of the documentary wanted to convey. Without Sri Sanjay’s songs playing in the background with some good accompaniment from Sri S. Varadarajan and Sri Arun Prakash, it became kind of difficult to sit through the dragging portions.
I think there need to be more such films documenting lives of musicians and carnatic music itself, at least for the benefit of future generations. I am sure people like Sri Rangaramanuja Iyengar, Smt Indira Menon etc would have faced a lot of hardships when they wrote their books without much of historical material available in codified form to readily support their works. Films like this can also help in spreading some knowledge of the art among the masses. That way I think this is a step in the right direction.
Some general information in case you are planning to watch the documentary: The duration of the film is supposed to be 85 minutes and there is an interval of about 10 minutes duration somewhere near the middle if you are watching the movie at Sathyam Cinemas. The next screening is at the same venue on 31st Dec 2006.