A screengrab from the video for 'Thalli Pogathey'. Source: YouTube
A screengrab from the video for 'Thalli Pogathey'. Source: YouTube

I listen to a lot of music but can’t pretend to have a deeper appreciation beyond how each track makes me feel. A day that begins with Maharajapuram Santhanam’s rendition of Endaro Mahanubhavulu in the morning could transition to Machine Gun by Noisia by late afternoon and on to Een Geldersch Lied by Heidevolk after dinner. But for the last few days, this wayward procession has been hijacked by Thalli Pogathey (Don’t Move Away), a single released from the upcoming Tamil film Achcham Enbadhu Madamaiyada. It’s been composed by A.R. Rahman with lyrics by Thamarai, and I think they’ve both surpassed themselves. Here’s the track followed by some of my favourite lines from the lyrics (0:33-1:17):

Kannellaam neeye thaan nirkindrai / கண்ணெல்லாம் நீயே தான் நிற்கின்றாய்
Vizhiyin mael naan kobam kondaen / விழியன் மேல் நான் கோபம் கொன்டேன்
Imai moodidu endraen / இமை மூடிடு என்றேன்
Nagarum nodigal kasaiyadi pole / நகரும் நொடிகள் கசையடி போலே
Mudhugin mele vizhuvadhunaale / முதுகின் மேலே விழுவதுனாலே

Your image fills my eyes
I’m angered by my visions
I ask myself to close my eyes
Seconds pass, like a whiplash
They fall on my back

Vari vari kavidhai / வரி வரி கவிதை
Ezhudhum valigal, ezhudhaa mozhigal / எழுதும் வலிகள், எழுதா மொழிகள்
Enathu kadal pola peridhaaga / எனது கடல் போலே பெரிதாக
Nee nindraai, siruvan naan / நீ நின்றால் சிறுவன் நான்
Siru alai mattum dhaan / சிறு அலை மட்டும் தான்
Paarkiraen paarkiraen / பார்கிறேன் பார்கிறேன்

Like lines and lines of poetry
Painfully written, in unwritten languages
Vast like my ocean
You stood and me, a little boy,
Witnessed only the ripples

One thing I’ve noticed in the work of good writers and scientists (the people I often interact with) is that the littlest possible bits of information are often strung together to become a wellspring of ideas and perspectives. For all his musical genius, Rahman’s songs are a wellspring of emotions for me – sometimes they click, sometimes they don’t, but they’re all achieved with an economy of sounds. He seldom tries too hard (a surprising exception was Oru Koodai Sunlight from Shivaji), which I’ve come to believe is a desperation safer in the hands of those who have nothing to lose. In fact, Rahman is masterful at combining lyrical traditions with those forms of music in which they’ve seldom existed (as with Adiye from Kadal), and achieves that seamless weave with subtle, well-crafted interventions (best heard in Margazhi Poove from May Maadham) instead of just throwing them together (which may have succeeded with Melam Moge from Billa Ranga but didn’t with Yennai Arindhaal‘s title track).

And Thalli Pogathey is simply more of that mastery at work.

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