Aren’t violins simply amazing? Their versatility, their ability to add emotions and a whole new colour to a song are unmatched, I think. Seriously, very few instruments can sit smugly in western music and Carnatic music! 

I’ve always been fascinated by violins and the entire strings family.  As I grew to understand and appreciate the nuances that instrumentation brings to a song, strings became my favourite. I quickly grew to like Lalgudi and Kanyakumari’s renditions and got annoyed with Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan’s weird antics with his violin. And Ilaiyaraja was a demigod, what with the liberal and unassuming ease with which he slipped the violin into his songs and background music – be it the unbeatable Mouna Ragam title tune (oh, I could sink to the floor in joy listening to the orchestration in the end) or the way it cruises throughout the song ‘Kadhalin Deepam Ondru’ (throughout the song, but especially the first interlude), or the loaded violin in ‘Poongatru Pudhinadhu’. And of course, ‘How to Name it’ and ‘And We had a Talk.’ Or the lovely interludes in ‘Valai Osai’ from Sathya. And sample the violins in MSV’s ‘Chittukuruvi’ in Pudhiya Paravai – brilliant! My memory fails me – but Ilaiyaraja really was the master when it comes to violins – I think he really made the most of them. 

And enter Rahman. He brought in a whole new dimension. Be it the rich orchestration in some songs (say, Pacchai Nirame, Oru Deivam Thandha Poove, or Veerapandi Kottaiyile), or the exuberance in Hosana (the last stanza – brilliant!), its utterly cute presence in Omana Penne, or the ridden-with-goodness-and-hope strings in Iruvar’s Aayirathil Naan Oruvan. I am especially a big fan of the way the violin teases the listener in ‘I’ll be Waiting’ from Jhootha Hi Sahi – check out the violin which creeps in the first time Vijay Yesudas sings ‘I’ll be Waiting…’ – it’s just the perfect complement to the mood of the song – enough to make me swoon to the beauty of it all. The beautiful Waltz for a Romance from Lagaan. The emotionally charged bits in Vennalavin Theril Yeri – giving the saxophone a breather in the movie (Duet is one of Rahman’s really, really exceptional albums – purely for the way instruments lead the way). The sheer joy of realization that the violin helps to achieve in Netru Illadha Matram, and conversely, the realization of what you’ve missed out that it brings about in ‘Azhage Sugama.’ The goosebump-raising bit in Pudhu Vellai Mazhai at the end of the second interlude.  And the big daddy of it all, the orchestration in the Bombay Theme. 

I have racked my brains for over an hour trying to think of the best ones from Ilaiyaraja and Rahman that the only non-Indian ones I can think of now would be the bit towards the end in Baba O’ Reilly, The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony, and I think it’s not really the violins – but Kashmir. The start to the Golden Eye theme song also has interesting strings – I love the rapid movement! The theme music in The Last of the Mohicans and Shawshank Redemption are totally amazing too!

Phew! I’ve been wanting to write this for ages, and I’m glad it’s out of the system. I’ve been going crazy trying to want to listen to every single song I’ve written about here. I read this now and it sounds absolutely disjointed and random, and I’m not going to attempt to bring any order into the chaotic thoughts.

P.S.: How on earth could I forget 'Kya Kare Kya Na Kare' - brilliance! 
The blog turns SIX.



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