Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Javali, Padam & Varnams

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vgovindan
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#1 Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Javali, Padam & Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

I once heard from a reputed Musicologist - no names - that Telugu is most suitable for CM. I have my own doubts about the veracity of this statement. When commenting, in this forum, on the statement, I cited MD Kritis as an example. But, there is one area - a grey area - where Telugu seems to rule - Varnams and jAvaLis. Take for example this line of a famous varNam -

magaDu UralEdu nA mAmAgAri jOli lEdani vagadega telisi.
This will be translated in Tamil as -
என் புருஷன் ஊரிலில்லை; மாமனாரின் தொல்லையில்லை; சமய சந்தர்ப்பம் பார்த்து வாடா
en purushan Urilillai; mAmanArin tollaiyillai; samaya sandarbham pArttu vADA.

Will this Tamil varnam be acceptable to kutcheri going populace? I may hazard to opine 'no'. Therefore, this needs to be camouflaged in Telugu so that people do not understand the meaning while it is being rendered.

srikant1987
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#2 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by srikant1987 »

It is fine for me. :D

The "explanation" offered by some such musicologists is that Telugu has vowel-ending words, and (as a result) a generally higher vowel content, and so we can stretch syllables and fit them in the music.

Btw WHICH varNam does this come from (I've come across this line, but don't remember)?

vgovindan
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#3 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

samayamidE (javaLi). rAgA: behAg. c/rUpaka tALA

P: samayamidE rArA nA sAmi tAmasicakura
A: kamala vairicanudencinA kAmkSaliDEradura
C1: magaDu yUralEdu nA mAmAgAri jOli lEdani vagadega selisinadigA vaTTi pantamElara
2: mannanacE nIvu vacci nannu gUDi yuNDinaTlu ninnarEyi kalakaNTini nIrajAkSa venkaTEsha

Posted by lakshmanji at http://www.mayyam.com/talk/showthread.p ... y-in-behag

sureshvv
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#4 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by sureshvv »

vgovindan wrote:I once heard from a reputed Musicologist - no names - that Telugu is most suitable for CM. I have my own doubts about the veracity of this statement.
Yes... That is a myth that has been propagated in the past but has failed the test of time.
Will this Tamil varnam be acceptable to kutcheri going populace? I may hazard to opine 'no'. Therefore, this needs to be camouflaged in Telugu so that people do not understand the meaning while it is being rendered.
Regretfully agree! Seems ignorance is bliss for the typical carnatic music fan :-(

anandmurty
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#5 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by anandmurty »

vgovindan, you seem to be referring to three themes in your post:

1. The alleged supremacy of Telugu when it comes to suitability for CM compositions...
I agree with sureshvv's view that this has failed the test of time. We also have varnams in Tamil (take the resplendent angAyarkannI in Behag or the Lalgudi gems as examples). In my opinion, this assumption of suitability is just that. An assumption. Nothing more needs to be made out of it.

2. The rendition of a Telugu line in Tamil or Translations and how they impact the listener...
This is an interesting area. I'm no expert in Tamil. In fact, Telugu is my mother tongue, but I have only rudimentary fluency. However, I have always felt that the approach to translating matters the most. Do you translate the words or do you translate the gist or crux of the line/composition?

For example, I think the "sound" and experience of a song originally composed in Tamil (take any Tamil film song) gets dramatically reduced when one hears it in Telugu. The tune is the same. The singers are mostly the same. The beats are the same. So what mars the experience here? I feel it's the former approach of translating the words and not the meaning.

Again, you have poetry - Take a Neruda poem with the original, Spanish verse on the left and the translated English verse on the right. The English version doesn't read half as good. More and more, one feels that in order to "translate" a poem/song/sentence, one needs to be a poet oneself! Fluency with the languages alone doesn't matter.

3. The "meaning of the padams/jAvalIs" or as I call it, "The queasiness with anything other than the Divine"...
Again, it's my opinion, but I feel a lot of us are too hung up and prudish about erotic content in music or literature. I don't agree that CM is only about bhakti and divinity. The sheer variety of themes that have been dealt with by composers over the centuries shows that CM is meant to be vital, throbbing and most importantly, real. The glazed eyed look while looking "beyond" seems to be a recent development when Bharatiya Sangeetam (as BMK calls it) began getting shades of the "Classical". That's when some forms became "heavy" and others "light".

I do believe that it's when we shed these notions of "purity" that we will truly appreciate CM in all its grandeur and variety.

Nick H
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#6 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Nick H »

I know I'm language-challenged, but I don't think that is what is causing me not to be able to see the point of this thread.

How can it be said that singing something in its original language is, in any way, camouflaging it?

Camouflage is dressing something up to look like something else (usually to make it hard to spot in the environment): presenting it as it is is not camouflage

:^)

sureshvv
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#7 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by sureshvv »

Nick H wrote: Camouflage is dressing something up to look like something else...
Not necessarily... The spotted deer and the striped zebra are examples of natural camouflage! Kind of like the telugu javali if you catch vgovindan's drift :-)

Nick H
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#8 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Nick H »

Same principle, though: they are trying to hide in the background. Even the markings of the household tabby cat are there for this reason --- so, in this instance, I'm not catching vgovindan's drift, as I don't see anything trying to hide!

<crossposted with...>
Last edited by Nick H on 05 Apr 2011, 17:11, edited 1 time in total.

vgovindan
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#9 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

nick,
I have often come across this 'language camouflage' in my Service. If someone wants to abuse you, but quite afraid of the consequence, what he would do? Abuse you in a language which you do not readily understand. You may, taking effort, find out the meaning later on. But the person has abused you. Similar is the situation here. Certain matters which are not acceptable to the society at large, could be easily camouflaged in another language and sung in front of naive public who do not bother to find out the meanings.

A person of Srikant's conviction may be able to boldly say, 'it is okey for me'. But how many music lovers who go to kutcheris with their children - who are learning music - would accept it?

I am not denigrating 'varnam' or 'jAvali' per se. From musical point of view these may be very important. But is it not possible to compose varnams and javalis in a language which are not worth 'A' certificate? This brings to my mind another example, is it permissible for a theatre to exhibit 'A' certified film for common public by removing the certificate? This is what exactly being done by the composers of adulterous language. SRngAra rasa need not be adulterous.

SuSrAva madhuram gItam tri-sthAna svara bhUshitam |
strINAm mada samRddhAnAm divi ca apsarasAm iva || Valmiki Ramayana - Sundara Kanda 5-4-10 ||

http://www.valmikiramayan.net/sundara/s ... _frame.htm

Nick H
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#10 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Nick H »

Thank you for taking the time to explain. I'm understanding your point of view better now

srikant1987
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#11 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by srikant1987 »

---
Last edited by srikant1987 on 05 Apr 2011, 18:56, edited 1 time in total.

vgovindan
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#12 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

and can involve "single" men and women instead.
Srikant,
I hope you are not 'podi vaccifying'.

ShrutiLaya
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#13 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by ShrutiLaya »

vgovindan wrote: Will this Tamil varnam be acceptable to kutcheri going populace? I may hazard to opine 'no'. Therefore, this needs to be camouflaged in Telugu so that people do not understand the meaning while it is being rendered.
With all due respect, you are looking at this from a very narrow point of view, by assuming all "kutcheri going populace" do not understand Telugu! Since there are significant numbers of Telugu concert goers, and they don't seem to mind the language in the varnams or javalis and indeed teach these to their minor children, I think this whole point is moot in this case at least ..

But I've often wondered the same thing about Sanskrit. Jayadev's ashtapathis, for instance, are quite explicit, but they are explained as being about the immortal love between God and Man. This is similar, I think, to how nudes could only be painted in western art at one time if they represented angels or gods .. Even several of our stotrams and prayers in sanskrit have explicit descriptions of bodies of the female dieties .. And since Sanskrit is not the mother tongue of anyone, and only a few actually understand the meaning of what they are reciting, these are considered suitable for young and old.

- Sreenadh

srikant1987
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#14 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by srikant1987 »

vgovindan sir,

I have withdrawn my post. This is not a musical matter, and I don't think I can talk of a gold standard for raising children. I doubt I will post any more on this thread.

Srikant

Ranganayaki
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#15 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

Govindan,
Shrutilaya's posting is sort of tending towards what I was saying in our little moment on the French song thread.. I'm sure I did not express myself clearly enough to make myself clearly understood. I added the point also of some of the respectability being derived from the seriousness of the subject, and from the seriousness of the singing - the contribution of the mind of the "artist" and the listener.

I think the phenomenon of using a foreign language to mystify the theme is common all over the world. The vernacular is perceived as not up to the standard in refinement, just because of its familiarity. There are a few Catholic churches in Europe who still hold their services in Latin and some old timers are happy to attend.

Even though Sanskrit is no longer a living, vibrating language, our rites and rituals are all still in Sanskrit and our perception has been that translating them would rob it of its seriousness. I think that perception may slowly be changing. Plus, Telugu being a living language, I think the veiling works only in areas where Telugu is not spoken. Of course, Sreenadh, there is significant veiling because Carnatic Music lives predominantly in Tamil Nadu (still).
Last edited by Ranganayaki on 05 Apr 2011, 22:09, edited 3 times in total.

cmlover
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#16 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by cmlover »

Subbarama Iyer's most erotic padams in chaste CM ragas were very popular in late ninties and early 20's. The prominant vidwans used to sing them with gusto outside of formal katcheri performances. Starting off katcheris with varnams were introduced and standardized by ARI who apparently chose Telugu ones (which were available in plenty) and there were no objections from the Rasika community at that tme, nor to the javalis sung as thukkadas with compromiising lyrics. There certainly would have been an uproar if similar Tamil lyrics ( eg., padams) were sung in katcheris in those days. Katcheris were considered sacrosanct with only the Trinity compositions (bhakti oriented) being sung and even Tamil songs (even bhakti oriented) were resented until the latter day performers GNB,MMI,DKP,MS started introducing them but particularly only those which were bhakti based. Hence there is validity to the claims of VGV that predominantly the conservative (Prudish) Tamil audience (predominantly brahmin) encouraged the 'camouflage' of varnams and got them fobbed off in CM concerts. On the other hand the padams and erotic tamil varnams were positively encouraged in bharathanatyams (which ere shunned by the brahmin women) until kalakshetra took the initiative in the mid 20th century to bowdlerize and liberate the dance format for one and all!

vgovindan
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#17 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

srikant,
I hope I have not offended you in any way. If I had done so, even unintentionally, I apologise.
I hope you have not taken my 'podi vaccifying' seriously. If You feel that it is offending, I will withdraw it.

sreenadh,
How narrow is 'narrow'? Is inviting a paramour to one's house when the husband is away, you call it broad-minded? Have we brought the 'oldest profession in this World' into our drawing room? It continues to remain where it belongs. Let us not go overboard with our 'liberalism' approach. It is plain that these composers were, no matter how musically competent - were lecherous - at least in writing. I feel ashamed of being a 'rasika' of that kind of CM.

The question raised by you has been raised by parIkshit himself with sage Suka in Srimad-bhAgavta and the sage has given answer. If you want, I can give the link about the story of 'Tulasi' - it also contains some such episodes. Read that in its totality and then judge.

Your comments about Ras Leela has been answered by none other than Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Sanskrit literature also has vAtsAyana. But has vAtsAyana come to our drawing room? He continues to be 'blue'. khajuraho is there in its place, but it has not become Hindu pilgrimage centre - it is a trourist spot along with voyueristic Goa beaches.

In another thread, we are talking of 'Vision and Mission' for CM - Is this the kind of vision that we have for future? History has its plusses and minuses. It need not be put in time capsule. We have the capacity to write history - not by re-writing - but by filling with such material which will overwhelm filth. It is a different matter that for those who live by fish-market, even flower smells bad.

ShrutiLaya
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#18 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by ShrutiLaya »

vgovindan wrote: sreenadh,
How narrow is 'narrow'? Is inviting a paramour to one's house when the husband is away, you call it broad-minded?
Looks like I have been misunderstood .. I did not say you were narrow minded, I said you're looking at this issue from the narrow perspective of someone who does not understand Telugu. My point is that enough people who DO understand Telugu also consider these varnams and padams acceptable ..

- Sreenadh

mahavishnu
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#19 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by mahavishnu »

CML, I think your analysis is spot on. There are deep sociological trends that have accompanied changes in the carnatic music mindset from the Victorian years to today. A good bit of the prudishness was a Victorian import and it suited the agenda of the conservative listener. The post Kalakshetra phase-transition in classical dance is another good example of this change, where eroticism gained acceptance in conservative circles although it was couched in love for the divine.

Going back to Sri Govindan's original point. Perhaps, the reason some wonderful javalis are palatable to the Mylapore crowd is because they don't understand telugu. However, there are tamil compositions like "thathai mozhiyAl oru peN" etc, that would give "saramaina" a good run for its money. Mainstream artistes like Sowmya sing this in Mylapore quite often; I have seen dancers like Sudharani Raghupathy even do abhinayam for this song to packed mylapore audiences. Perhaps we should give the conservative audiences more credit.

A third possibility is that audiences are completely indifferent to the lyrics and just focus on the music. I am reminded of an anecdote that was narrated by Sri TRS. After singing a Tyagaraja kriti for a long time somewhere in AP, a patient listener requested him to also sing a telugu song! :grin:

Pratyaksham Bala
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#20 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Pratyaksham Bala »

Javalis in Telugu might have been introduced to entertain soldiers and mercenaries maintained by Telugu rulers. Similarly the lavanis in Marathi, to entertain Marathi soldiers.

vgovindan
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#21 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

mahavishnu,
narrated by Sri TRS. After singing a Tyagaraja kriti for a long time somewhere in AP, a patient listener requested him to also sing a telugu song!
Now that you have brought it out, it was TRS about whom I was referring to in my initial post. Why I am mentioning is that, he, in the presence of children of impressionable age sitting right in front of him, cut some obscene jokes about his experiences in Delhi. Whether the children relished them or not, it made a deep impression on me about the quality of top order professionals of CM - may be I am paranoid.

srikant1987
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#22 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by srikant1987 »

vgovindan sir,

Happily or sadly I don't know what podi vaccifying means. I withdrew the post because I do not feel like sharing my views on such subjects here.

However, I remember a Sukki Sivam programme during a navarAtri where he spoke of Rama feeling guilty at having developed a passion for Sita without knowing her marital status, and yet that he had a conviction that he was of such high moral standard that he would not fall for a married woman. Something like that. So much for love between singles.

Also, there is a composition "kANa vENDum lakSha kaNgaL sItA dEviyai" attributed to Arunachala Kavi, sung by Soorpanaka to make Ravana interested in Sita, so that she could pursue her love for Rama.

vgovindan
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#23 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

srikant,
I understood why you felt bad. 'podi vaccifying' is half Tamil and half English usage. In those days we used such words often. In Tamil, 'podi vaittal' (poDi vaittal) refers to 'seemingly innocuous comment'. In all my sincerety, I was joking about your placing 'single' in quotes. I am sorry.

I think I am a little familiar with the Ramayana chapter - I had to refer while translating tyAgarAja kRtis. I think, what you have mentioned about 'sukhi sivam', is, to my knowledge, does not exist - at least it is not there in vAlmIki rAmAyaNa. But there are variations in other rAmAyaNas. But standard reference material still remains vAlmIki.

The statement of SUrpaNakha is true. But then, you have side-by-side advice of mArIca, vibhIshaNa and even father of rAvaNa. We see the overall picture about vice-versus-good. Here, it - the varnam referred - is not the case; it is a picture in totality. That is the difference. There has to be a context.

cmlover
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#24 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by cmlover »

VGV
Who says our old time performers were not obscene while in chats (i.e., not performing).
For that matter how much we know about the private life and lifestyles of Trinity themselves!
It was quite common in those days for 'brahmins' to visit Dasis and it was an acceptable social norm.
T himself as you know makes many references to such practices though we cannot conclude he was immune, judging from the well-known life stories of other bhaktas!

Now I know I am going to get it :D

Ranganayaki
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#25 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

Govindan,
I think that calling the composers of these verses lecherous is a rather cynical view. I can't imagine a composer thinking, here let me write this nasty thing, but let's just hoodwink the people by writing it in Telugu and they won't even know, haha. I think a poet would write a thought down because it pleased him in some way, or because it represented what was in his heart and he would choose the best medium he could find, and the best words that he has available to him in his vocabulary.

I want to take up Anand Murthy's point #2, about translations. Now I don't know Telugu, and I didn't understand a word of the line you quoted. Then came your translation. It sounds pretty crass, which is how you wanted it, because that is your point. You wanted to show us how crass the words are. Now my question would be: How good is Mr. Govindan's translation? It is a line of poetry, but you have given us a spoken-Tamil version, basically a prose version of the line. I try to find the words "va da" in the Telugu and I don't get the impression that they are there, but I am not sure. Next I go to the lines quoted by Lakshman and I find that there is more to that line. So it is possible that your translation removes a little of the original ideas (not that I ascribe any motive to you, I think you've tried to share with us the part that disgusts you the most, and that's fair).

However, I think that if a translator sets aside his judgement and his opinions, and tried to translate it using the best language and the best poetic expression that will keep him faithful to the original, then that would be a trustworthy translation. So I would wait for someone with a little less bias to give us the line in its best translated form before we can judge that the original was crass. Otherwise, we are all talking rather blindly, without really seeing. The lion trying to pounce on the camouflaged zebra is not going to be successful.
Last edited by Ranganayaki on 05 Apr 2011, 22:59, edited 2 times in total.

sureshvv
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#26 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by sureshvv »

srikant1987 wrote:
I have withdrawn my post.
No offense meant to srikant or anyone... But people, please think twice or thrice before you post and please DO NOT withdraw your post after someone replied to it... It is terribly disorienting... Since you had the motivation to post it the first time, just go with it!

Ranganayaki
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#27 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

CML, I don't think it is fair even to consider what they did in their private lives. If you were writing a biography, and these things came up, fair enough.. And especially if a specific relationship had a deep influence on the art, it is important to write and talk about it. Otherwise, I think all these individuals: composers, singers have their right to privacy - as long as they are not committing crimes. What they are offering us is their music, not their morals. If we are going to judge the beautiful music a great artist produces by the morals he exhibits in his private life, then we are the losers.

vgovindan
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#28 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

cml,
Even worst kind of politician, speaking in public would sound highly moral. It is not common practice to say wrong things in public - though it is totally different what they actually do. Therefore, I am not at all going to touch about personal lives of individuals. If you ask the same question to me - how ru? - I will hang my head in shame, because I have no moral right to say that I am upholder of morality. All the same, we are not dealing with private lives of individuals. We are dealing with public performances where even children are present. Kindly ponder for a moment why the three letter word is censored in this forum?

Ranganayaki,
By all means, I welcome a fresh translation of the varnam. If in any way I have exaggerated anything, kindly take me to task. That I am not poetical enough could not be a justification for trashing what I have translated. The telugu 'rArA' is just 'vAdA' in Tamil. In many of Tyagaraja kRtis, tyAgarAja uses the word 'rArA' or similar usages when communicating with his ishTa dEvata - rAma. But nowhere, I dared to translate it as 'vADA' etc., because I just do not have that kind of intimacy which tyAgarAja had. I cannot take upon myself that role. But, here, the story is totally different. I sincerely welcome a translation by keerthi or Ms Savithri. Through this post, I am requesting them to translate the varnam.

vasanthakokilam
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#29 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vasanthakokilam »

I think the last paragraph of VGV's post #23 captures the essence of the problem. Such topics are fully acceptable to the public if they come from the 'bad' characters in the story. If it comes from the 'good' characters then there is tremendous confusion over cultural values. The topic is adultery and it will be very transparent if someone tries to couch that in jeevathma-paramathma terms.

CML, Your speculations are more a flame-bait. Without even a prima-facie evidence, anyone can make such speculations about anyone.

Ranganayaki
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#30 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

Govindan (Mama), (I am assuming that you are a member who can be called Mama by me - I guess if you are even 10 years older than me, that would work).
There is no question of taking you to task, and I have not trashed your translation. I have spoken my mind freely, and kept it friendly. For me, it is extremely important to have a civil exchange of ideas, and I would never trash yours. Also, my own dignity is important to me, and I would hate to start an acrimonious exchange here. My principle and my determination is not to get personal with ANYONE.

All, I don't want to start all my responses with IMHO, and "with all due respect" and so on and so forth.. I feel doing that just sets things up for a bad change of mood. I say what I want to say and I would like to tell everyone that my intention is NEVER to confront. I always speak with all due respect and my opinions are always given humbly, and it would be redundant to bother to add those words.

Govindan Mama, I only want to point out the difference in style and substance between your tranlation and the original. And my view is that that particular difference is relevant to the quality of the discussion. My impression from the Kavithaigal thread is that you are very poetic, and I don't even have the capacity to appreciate it, because my Tamil is so elementary. But this specific line is not poetic, and that's how it is, and it is NOT your fault.

mahavishnu
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#31 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by mahavishnu »

CML, I have to agree with VK on this one. While there is some truth to what you said about extant social practices two centuries ago, without historical evidence I think we should stay away from making allegations about the private lives of specific individuals.

ShrutiLaya
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#32 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by ShrutiLaya »

vasanthakokilam wrote: Such topics are fully acceptable to the public if they come from the 'bad' characters in the story. If it comes from the 'good' characters then there is tremendous confusion over cultural values. The topic is adultery and it will be very transparent if someone tries to couch that in jeevathma-paramathma terms.
One way to sneak PG13 or X rated stuff through is, of course, to pretend it comes from the bad characters in the story. But the more subtle way is to pretend it is all about God!

Consider the concluding line of the varnam cited above:

2: mannanacE nIvu vacci nannu gUDi yuNDinaTlu ninnarEyi kalakaNTini nIrajAkSa venkaTEsha


The first part of this line is clearly off color. " I dreamt last night that, upon my request, you came and became one with me". Then the kicker in the last two words: "O Lotus Eyed Venkatesha". Now the whole line, and perhaps the whole varnam, can be considered to be Madhura Bhakti. The phrase "nannu gUDi yuNDinaTlu", now seems to mean something else, a mystical one-ness attained with the Lord.

Go figure!

Anyway, I'm not denying that the lyric is bawdy. I am pointing out that being in Telugu could not have been for camouflage, because plenty of people would understand it just fine.

- Sreenadh

rajeshnat
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#33 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by rajeshnat »

VGV
You bring in great points . Just curious, when you hear varnams in telugu does it sound so vulgar as and when you hear the music or you just had to take the time to understand the meaning of every phrase that you see that dose of vulgarity.

On a side note , just my own opinion . For may be 200 years in 17th and 18th century ,CM had different themes , may be the audiences for javalis /padams were very different with minimal overlap than the audience of bhakthi oriented compostions. Possibly from the beginning of 19th century , may be all the musicians just cared about internalizing more lakshyam , and in that process a whole 1 0r 2 generations did not even know the word to word meaning of the compositions as their priority was only rAga and tAla bhAvam.

Ranganayaki
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#34 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

I don't think that "I dreamt last night that, upon my request, you came and became one with me." is bawdy. It is not bawdy at all.. We had a lot of the use of the word "bawdy" in the thread about French songs. Now those lyrics are bawdy. This is very beautiful, Sri Venkatesha or not. I don't know if it is bawdy in the original Telugu, but as you have presented it, Sreenadh, it is not bawdy at all.

Ranganayaki
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#35 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

deleted content..

sorry, Suresh.. I can !! :)

Anyway, I haven't got any replies to this (or anything else I've posted here) :) and I could delete them all!
Last edited by Ranganayaki on 06 Apr 2011, 01:03, edited 2 times in total.

Ranganayaki
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#36 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

..
Last edited by Ranganayaki on 06 Apr 2011, 01:03, edited 1 time in total.

vgovindan
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#37 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vgovindan »

rajesh,
I would not know about others. For me, music is communication. As I had stated elsewhere, IMHO, what You cannot express in prose, you say in poetry; what you cannot say in poetry, you say in music; what you cannot say music, you say in dance. Each one, in that order, is a superset of the other as far communication is concerned. Therefore, there is no way I can isolate rAga from content. rAga AlApana and svara prasthAra gives me added dimension to the lyrical content, in that I can put my own words and enjoy it mentally, and travel along with the musician wherever he takes me. For me lakshya is more important than lakshana, because lakshana is subservient to lakshya. Unless one is able to achieve the lakshya, mere lakshana is a wasted effort.

As a corollary, a lyric which rather than transporting me to a higher plane, when it makes me sink into abyss (from where one would like to get out), I would surely deplore it.

As far tradition is concerned, I am of the opinion that history is history. The question is, are we masters of history or servants of history; do we go by history or we write history of our own times and our own experience. Weight of history is only for those who want to carry them without internalising.

cmlover
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#38 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by cmlover »

VK/Ramesh
Point noted. My point is that generally folks adhere to the norms of their society prevalent at those times and climes. T married twice and MD had two wives and even had dasi kamalam for a disciple. Whatever may have been their private lives there are no 'Freudian slips' in their compositions. For that matter even OVK has a clean slate though he had a questionable life style. Like the proverbial swan we should just take their music and not analyze their private lives as one of you suggested. Even Satan can quote the Bible and not be questioned.

My question then is if we only care for the music, why should we worry and argue about the lyrical content since we now live in an enliightened liberated time?

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#39 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by rajeshnat »

Ranganayaki wrote:This discussion has been occurring repeatedly in many threads recently, and I have been reminded of the time 20 years ago, when I attended a felicitation event for Lalgudi Jayaraman on the occasion of his 60th birthday (time flies!! :( ). They had a question answer session and my question was: one of his varnams would sound perfectly fine as a nayika addressing her regular mortal lover. Why did he decide to make it (using specific words at a couple of points in the varnam) a song about a nayika addressing the Lord? The answer was that a composer likes his songs to be accepted and a composition needs to be adapted to the times. Society is not at a position where this can be accepted. (There was no implication though either from me or from him that there was any cloaking and his answer is not to be construed to say that he did intend that).

I am still impressed by the answer.. where composers are or can be swayed by the tyranny of criticism.
Ranganayaki
Just re clarifying again what you stated as I am not too sure if I have understood what you wrote above. Did LGJ wanted the bhakthi element to take precedence then the (un?)necessary vulgar words and themes of few varnams that we are discussing . The way I understand shri LGJ took a moral stand so that compositions do not appear even a bit erotic.

Can you also squeeze your 20 year old memory to get the varnam. May be if you recollect the varnam, then LJi can post the lyrics of that varnam.

Suji Ram
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#40 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Suji Ram »

I wonder if we can actually make out the lyrics when varnams are rendered in a concert. With all the akarams and ekarams etc the words are often stretched beyond recognition. For eg, kO RI I I I I I I I I yU U U U U U U U NA A A A A A A A NI I I I I I I and so on. The words are completely lost.... Just enjoy the layam.

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#41 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vasanthakokilam »

Wow, this thread has seen the most number of deleted and withdrawn posts in the shortest time :)

CML, only point: The topic here is not about the composers' personal lives but just the appropriateness of the lyrical content. The more you go in to that strawman, more dust it kicks up, for no value.

>we now live in an enliightened liberated time?

Really not, when it comes to adultery of this kind. Speaking in pure non-moralistic terms, why would the married men support such a liberalism, it is against their self interest ;)

>if we only care for the music....

With that, I think you answered VGV's premise for this thread. Music so overwhelms the lyrics that in a typical concert people do not pay the closest attention to lyrics to the extent of this kind of analysis. But if someone sings it using the tamil translation of VGV as is, that would be quite jarring to a Tamil ear. So I am rally curious how a native telugu speaker feels about it. Do they actually get in sync with the lyrics and understand them or the music overwhelming the lyrics theory holds?

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#42 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

OOOOOOOps.. and a big apology to Suresh.. because the comment was getting a response even as I deleted it.

Anyway, you have included the entire comment, so there won't be any disorientation.

Rajeshnat:
1. I insist on being very clear here, that neither did I nor he say there was an intention to cloak anything in the varnam. My thoughts were not even that advanced, you know as a young girl.. I didn't think at all in the terms of this discussion, of content reaching the level of the eroticism supposedly present in javalies. My question was : why introduce the Lord when the varnam works perfectly well with just a lover?

2. There is not ONE word of vulgarity in the song. It is not at all like the javalies we are describing. Still there is a parallel in the ISSUE we are talking about

3. I remember the varnam's raga and lyrics very well. It was after all my own question and I know what prompted me to ask it. I will NOT mention it for fear of unnecessary misunderstanding. Already your question as it is framed is tending there. There was no question of precedence of one over the other. It was a simple quick exchange from the stage to the seats and it was a young, way more innocent girl asking the question. Neither did my thoughts nor his words refer to the slightest vulgarity, not to speak of the kind we are discussing here.

This is exactly why I deleted the posting. It would be awful if I started a discussion of eroticism in connection with varnams that have NONE in them. So if you refer to my posting, please keep this in mind and let's not make connections that aren't there. I'm sorry I brought this up here. I was meaning to talk about freedom in composing.

sruthi
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#43 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by sruthi »

The title of this thread mentions varnams, but the example provided in post #3 is a javali.

Mr Govindan, do you have varnam examples to cite?

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#44 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by rajeshnat »

Ranganayaki
We are writing in forums and we are all not speaking and clarifying as in a face to face conversation. Miscommunication can happen and my intent was only to clarify for which Your post of #42 is clear . When you made reference to LGJ's varnam , I was specifically thrilled with the answer of LGJ's answer and connected to the context in a different way. I am still not very clear as to why in post #42 , despite you knowing the varnam and lyrics , you are not stating the same , if it is ok just send a personal mail thru the forum. Else completely drop it no hard feelings.

You have so far not written any one phrase that is objectionable EVER, for heavens sake do not edit or delete the content , unless you wanted to clarify bit better . You seem to write wonderfully :clap: and please continue without an impulse to edit and also no more apologies :!: .

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#45 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

I did understand where you were coming from Rajesh, I am really, afraid however, because the written word makes misunderstanding, twisting, and getting offended so easy and when there is a huge group of excited individuals. No matter how clear your writing is in black and white, things happen to the ideas you convey and what you say becomes something quite different. I have managed reasonably well so far, but it really feels like walking a tight rope here. Frankly, it's scary and I am amazed at myself right now, for even talking so MUCH online. So if you don't mind, I will not write the varnam's name. I will eventually write to you through the forum, but right now, I don't dare yet. Thank you for the "no hard feelings".

Thanks also for the nice things you say.. It's not because I'm scared of offending that I try to delete. In the other post that I deleted above, I quoted from Tagore's Where The Mind Is Without Fear.. but going over it, it felt as though I was grandstanding.. and though that was not how I intended it, I decided to take it down. The replies were hapenning so fast!! So, Suresh will have to forgive that!!

Suresh, I was just teasing when I said,"I can!".. but you'll know that, I bet! :)

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#46 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by rshankar »

There are a couple of books that deal with a modern take on erotic devotional poetry (oxymoronish, I know, but that is how padams and jAvaLis are classified) clearly state that according to prevailing thoughts and beliefs when these were composed s-x and s-xual jealousy were considered part of the human, and hence, spiritual experience (which is why I wrote 'discerning divinity in such activties' in another thread). What Govindan posted is actually an example that does spare many a blush; there are others that are more explicit. I am uncomfortable with these compositions, but agree that many offer some of the best examples of the rAga svarUpa and grammar. What adds to my discomfiture is the fact that most (if not all) of these compositions with the woman at the center were authored by men. Another book is something titled 'When God is the customer'...

cmlover
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#47 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by cmlover »

VK
you appear to be under estimating the impact of Women's lib movement. If they have been tolerating the misdemeanors of men over the years now men should bear the brunt equally. The law is also in their favour. There is a tremendous increase in episodes of divorces and the divorced women are no longer shunned for remarriages.

Again what makes youthink Telugus will not be shocked vis-a-vis Tamils over such lyrics. Their attitudes and culture is no different from those of the Tambrams. In these 'enlightened' times if a varnam with exact tamil lyrics as VGV has proposed in a beautifully performed Begada varnam, I bet maybe some eyebrows will be raised but nobody will protest or walk out. Far worse explicit lyrics are passed on in the movies with nary a censure from the general population. Perhaps that is irrelevant here. If only the word "KaNNA" were to be tagged on to the lines then every thing will be Ok even with the conservatives.You understand there is a double entendre there :D

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#48 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by vasanthakokilam »

>You understand there is a double entendre there :D

:) Got it. Clever!

>what makes youthink Telugus will not be shocked
That was actually a question about how Telugu speaking person will react to that. There is some uncertainty there since I do not know Telugu.

CML, This topic has not much to do with women's lib or divorce or remarriage.. This is about plain adultery with no other context. It is rather pointless which is the turn off, with no grace or subtlety in the subject matter. We are not talking 'Bridges of Madison County' here. The only appropriate context I can imagine for this is some slapstick comedy as a side scene in a movie. As Rajesh speculates, may be this was composed for a different context and we have lost it.

This issue is quite an involved one. A year back, I took some time to dig up and research the cultural and social context of the previous 400 years.

One thing I learned is, the Andhra royal courts ( and to some extent the Tanjore courts ) of that time encouraged this kind of work. I got a better picture of what may have been going on there, how CM, poetry of various subject matters and dance all came together. It is a totally different scene from what we have now, but at least we can understand the context.

I read the book Ravi referred 'When God is the customer'. The stuff there is much more explicit but some of them had some poetical merit with interesting word plays but others were just quite unimaginative for this subject matter. It was more amusing to read than as any great work of literature.

( As a criticism of the authors of this book, one thing I did not quite appreciate in that book is linking of the Bhakthi movement of tamil nadu (with the theme of women in love with God) with the kind of stuff in the JAvaLi. That was just plain non-sense. Sometimes these authors get carried away in their zeal to put everything on a linear historical timeline to create a unified cultural model. They even hint at a possible comparison of Andal and Kshetragna on the subject matter. That is so intellectually offensive. But other than that, they cover the subject matter of the Kshetragna period pretty well. )

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#49 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by Ranganayaki »

Lakshman, Ravi.. and anyone else..
I think we are all beating about the bush here. Only a few of you are really in the know about what these lyrics are. I talk about poetry I don't even know. I think you should post some representative lyrics, and some word for word meaning (just like the paayum oli meanings, Ravi) and we, the rest of us, will read and try to interpret them as I have said, according to the bent of our minds, and let's see what we come up with. Otherwise this discussion is so "camouflaged" and I for one am on the point of just shrugging my shoulders and walking off. I don't even know what we are talking about at this point.

cmlover
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#50 Re: Is Telugu Language a Camouflage for Varnams

Post by cmlover »

Vk
I assume the topic of 'adultery' in CM is under discussion here. It is a perennial issue dealt differently in different cultures. I agree the tolerance levels vary among societies even today. The same verse in Malyalam :
"enDE bhartA sthalathillA, avanDE acchan bhAthikkillA
samayam nOkki vannEru"
will not be found offensive (even to swathi :D who has dabbled in shringaram..
It may even be more musical in Malayalam than in Tamil...
But I believe Telugus are even closer to Tamils in sentiments.
Let us get a few things straight. Perhaps VGV can help.
When and who has rendered this varnam in concerts (in TN as well as elsewhere)?
Do we know anything about the audience reactions?
Is an audio available in sangitapriya (where the lyrics are decipherable in regard to the comments by Suji !

Your enquiry into the CM evolution in the Tanjore courts is interesting worth being discussed in a separate thread...
PB has stated that Javalis evolved in the context of soldiers. Any historical references?

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