07 January 2006

Akasavani, Visakhapatnam Kendram !

This is a loose translation to Sri Ramanadh Kandala's wonderful column 'nAri gADi sOdi' that ran for a year in SujanaRanjani monthly magazine. Thanks to siliconAndhra.org. For the original telugu version,



The other day, I was going to Anakapally from Vijayanagaram and this happened -

It was right after the bus moved... I heard "chaak chiklet chaak chiklet jaam jaam jackpot" blaring on the bus stereo. I looked questioningly at my next seat neighbor and he said, "Long journey, isn't it? So they are playing some songs to entertain." I couldn't figure out that it's a song till my kindly neighbor enlightened me. In my village, when our temple priest used to wear trousers and shirt instead of his regular dhoti to go to the neighboring town, I could never recognize him in the disguise. I felt exactly like that now. To me, songs are an entirely different experience. Long time back....

"Eti gaTTu kaaDa... rAvi cheTTu neeDa.... nalla kanula naaga swaramu oodEdi evarO..." (on the banks of the creek, under the shade of the tree, who is playing the flute?)

when that song used to play on radio, I used to rush to it from whereever I was in the house like a needle towards a magnet. My mother used to say, "are you going to get inside the radio?" and laugh at me. That song is like that!

Not just this one song ! Great number of songs... who wrote the song, who composed music to it, who sang it, who sang it on the screen.... I used to have all this information at my finger tips. My friend Satthi is a bigger fan than me. He used to wake up promptly when the radio lady used to announce - "AkASa vANi, viSAkhapaTnam kEndraM" and read out some frequency numbers of the transmission, and greet "Good Morning". He used to hit the sack only after the radio gentleman says "Our radio transmission will resume tomorrow morning. Good night". He used to enjoy the radio and I used to enjoy his craze for radio. Leaving that aside -

According to our Visakhapatnam radio guy, songs are two kinds: Great songs and not-so-great songs. NSG songs (not-so-great songs) can be heard anywhere and at any time... while cleaning your bicycle, or washing clothes, near the corner paan shop or at Krishna Vilas... anywhere. But great songs can not be enjoyed like that. There is a time, a mood and an ambience required to listen to these songs. In the sultry humid afternoons when you're sweating and irritable, you can listen to "kArmikula kAryakramam" (blue-collar workers program), but not the great songs. The mood won't be right until after nine in the night for great songs. Radio guy used to play all GhanTasAla songs then. If there is a SPB (SP Bala Subrahmanyam) song by mistake, my friend Satthi used to get irritated like Viswamitra whose meditation is disrupted by Menaka. He didn't like to hear SP's voice at night times. And this same Satthi used to go on and on singing SP's "veeNa vENuvaina sarigama vinnAvA" (Have you heard the tune where the Veena has become the flute?) the very next morning.

My day used to start with "puShpAnjali" at eight in the morning while his day used to start early with "bhakti ranjani" at six. If somebody is still not sure about what day-of-week it is after hearing bhakti ranjani, pushpanjali used to clear that doubt. If Bhanumati came and sang "SaraNam nee divya charaNam" (Your divine feet are my refuge) on puShpAnjali, nobody had guts to say it is not Saturday. In case the radio guy played this song on Thursday, somehow it used to feel like Saturday only. Sometimes, they used to play "neevunDEdA konDa pai" (You reside on that hill) on Saturday and Satthi used to take a nap listening to that song. He used to wake up after the song to say, "there is some drug in this song that puts me to sleep". If it is Tuesday, the song "SrI AnjanEyA prasannAnjanEyA" from the film Superman has to come on radio. I never knew before that the Superman film had devotional songs...

If it is Sunday, there is no doubt about it - they used to play "naDipinchu nA nAvA" (row my boat) at bhakti ranjani time. The days I woke up hearing that song, I used to feel all mushy with sentiment. In puShpAnjali, "daya chUDu yEsu prabhuvA" (show mercy o jesus) or "karuNinchu mEri mAtA" (show mercy oh mother mary) is guaranteed. Sometimes, they used to play some song that has lines like "muLLa kireeTam peTTAru, nA kOsam EDavakanDi" (they made me wear the crown of thorns, don't weep for me). If that song came, it ate up the whole fifteen minutes. There wasn't any space left for another song. My mom used to say, "Those are not our songs" but I never paid attention.. when it came to songs, I had no discremination.

So, like this, Visakhapatnam station guy used to distribute the whole week among different gods and religions. It was not easy - three crores gods, jesus, his mother, muslims' god, saints, godmen, lady saints - there are way too many of them and just seven days in a week! Poor guy! What can he do? Anyway...

I guess the spirituality and religious mood goes down as the sun goes up. In just an hour's time from puShpAnjali, the film songs used to come. People used to be busy packing lunches and getting to schools, colleges, and offices at that time.

There was a song once on radio - "veeNa nAdi, teega needi" (the instrument is mine, the strings are yours). Satthi joked, "What a distribution song ! Are they going to break that veeNa into two pieces and take a piece each?" And again he used to hum that same song the whole day. Apart from these 'Distribution Songs', there used to be 'Condition Songs' that specify some logic and condition like - if that happens like that, then this will happen like this. For example, there used to be a song where the hero sings "Alaya Sikharam nuvvaite, patram, pushpam, etc. anni neeke" (if you are the temple tower, then the leaves, flowers, so and so forth are all yours). Satthi used to comment on this song - "If his girlfriend is not a temple tower, why should he rush and give all those leaves, flowers and etcetera to her? Is he crazy or what? So, if she becomes that, only then he will give her this... this is what I call a conditional song!"

Now coming to 'Permission songs'. The songs that sound like, "nannu ilaa unDiponee, ilaa cheyyanee, ikkaDa paDukOnee" (Let me be like this, let me do this, let me sleep here)... they sound like applying for permission. Satthi used to joke, "What's all this begging?" And again, he used to beat rhythm on the table and sing the same permission song "nee naDumu meeda cheyyi vEsi naDavani, nannnu naDavani" (let me put my hand around your waist and walk with you).

There used to be 'Dialogue songs' with dialogues in between. Those were absolute favorites. In some movie, ANR interrupts the song to say, "aapEsEvEnTi SArada, Apeyyaku, naa paaTa, nee dance, ilaa chilakaa gorinkallaa unDaali"(Why did you stop dancing Sarada? Don't stop... your dance and my song... we should be together like this always..) and something else like that. We used to strain our ears to listen to that dialogue. There is another song, "vinara sooramma koothuri moguDA" (listen O sooramma's daughter's husband) we used to love that even more. We used to increase the volume and wait to hear Rajababu's boorish laughter in the song.

And then there were 'Laughter Songs'. There used to be laughter either in the beginning or at the end of the song. Sometimes, the laughter used to continue throughout the song. There was a song "sirimalle poovalle navvu"(laugh like a jasmine). It used to sound okay in the beginning but towards the end irritated the hell out of us. Satthi used to comment, "Is she out of her mind? Why is she laughing like that for no reason?" There was another song. SPB used to sing, "navvave naa cheli" (smile my dear) and his girl used to sing "navvanaa naa priya" (shall I smile, my dear?). Like this, the whole song is his asking her to smile and her asking him if she should smile. He never stopped asking her and she never smiled. And the song was over without a single smile.

'Sad or Weeping Songs' were really sad. If the song "ee veeNaku Sruti ledu" (this Veena has no tune) comes on radio, the day used to look cloudy and dull even if it's a bright, sunny and shining day outside. Since we never saw the movie, we used to imagine the song as sorrowful as possible. So, sometimes, the sadness used to be really overwhelming when we hear the song. If the GhanTasAla song from the movie Chiranjeevulu "kanupApa karavaina kanulenduko" (what's the use of eyes without sight) comes, my mother used to joke "don't forget to keep your hand kerchief, you'll need it after the song" Right after this overwhelmingly sad song, the radio guy used to play the cheerful song "navvutu batakaalira" (you should laugh and live your life) and play ping-pong with our emotions.

Now, if you have to talk about afternoon songs, you must talk about Ceylon station. I used to imagine Meenakshi Ponnudurai and get Sarojini Naidu's picture in my mind. Once I mentioned this to Satthi and he laughed saying, "What do you care how she looks? She is not the one who sings. she only plays those songs on radio." But how can you not imagine a person after hearing the voice? I could never do that. Ceylon guy used to play songs for fifteen minutes, then play the gospel, then agains songs for fifteen minutes, then bible reading... he used to alternate like this. May be he knows that nobody will listen to the program if he plays only the gospel or the bible all the time. To attract crowds he used to play songs... he knows the technique! Anyway, there used to be a lot of songs on Ceylon station, but never songs like "SaraNam nee divya charaNam" (your divine feet are my refuge). May be he doesn't enjoy devotional songs!

Apart from this, there used to be 'Question-Answer Songs', 'Brother-Sister Songs', 'Moral Songs', 'Vulgar songs', 'Hiccup Songs', 'Philosophical Songs', Songs that you can't understand unless you watch the movie... how many varieties! How to count?

Whatever the song was, we had never let it go... we used to listen to each and everyone of those. That's how it used to be. But now, TV has come and songs are 'viewed' now, not 'heard'. Those days, we used to listen to the song and imagine the scene in the movie. You can categorize the songs "challani vennelalo" (in the cool moon light) and "chali chaligaa undiraa" (o dear, it's chilly and cold) into one category or the other. But I didn't understand which category this "Chiklet" song belonged to. When I expressed this, Satthi said very lightly - "No big deal. These 'Chiklet' songs are always there. These are the songs that float in the air and go... not the kind of songs that you pay attention and listen to. That's the category for these songs."

That's about the songs for today! It's already dark. Let's go home!