At first, Aghal Movies' Tamil film Margazhi Ragam may seem like a random collection of Carnatic concert compositions put together in a vaguely interesting fashion. The genius behind the feature is apparent to you only much later, as you truly get into the mood of the piece, along with the artistes.
This particular movie is one of the first of its kind and has been generating a lot of interest in both film and the musical worlds. The brainchild of director Jayendra, the movie is dedicated to sound engineer H Sridhar -- this was one of his last assignments. The movie itself is almost a straightforward concert piece, with its two principal artistes singing onstage.
As Bombay Jayashree begins the performance in company of her instrumentalists, her expression is serene as she sings Maya theertha swarupini in raga Mayamalavagowlai, and her swara sangathis take your breath away. Still, she is self-contained; her enjoyment of her music is intensely personal.
It is only when TM Krishna takes over from her, finishing one of her pieces in style, that you realise the true scale of the film. PC Sreeram's camera focuses on the singer and the 'dialogues' he carries on with his accompanying artists; every smile, shake of head and sigh is intricately recorded.
Just when you think that nothing can quite equal a live concert experience, you are treated to the intimate conversations that an accomplished singer has with himself. You can practically see the way music shapes within him, and his appreciation of the instrumentalists' performance has to be seen to be enjoyed. The last Vandhe Mataram, a joint presentation by Jayashree and Krishna, is perfect. The theatre rings with appreciative applause (in memory of a live concert, of course).
Rajeevan's aesthetically designed sets add greatly to the toned down elegance, while Sathish Kurosawa's editing is a marvelous piece of work -- here is someone who truly understood the technicalities and the artists themselves, and brought out the best of both.
On the face of it, this might seem a movie solely for Carnatic lovers. The random observer might find it difficult to lose themselves in it, for the first half an hour. But once you've moved past that, you're irrevocably lost in the purity of an artists' intimate musical journey. And every minute is certainly worth its while.
Music, after all, is the food of gods and the common man.