Uyirum Neeye - Rahman's Shot at Painting the Creation of Mother?
Album: Pavithra, Tamil, 1994

Earlier this year, one of our respected longstanding members, Ranojoy, pointed out the beauty of the song Azhagu Nilave from the 1994 Tamil movie Pavithra. Since I had not heard this song before, my instant reaction was to look up the song on the iTunes Music Store and purchase the album. Among the songs of Pavithra’s soundtrack, Azhagu Nilave instantly stood out with its peaceful nighttime lullaby-like melody underscoring what Ranojoy had pointed out in the forum. However, another song called Uyirum Neeye captivated my interest even more. To me, it was easily the best song of the album. I understood Tamil much less than I understood Hindi, therefore my initial assessment of the song was not at all based on its lyrical content; it was purely my instinctive attraction to the scintillatingly expressive music ornamented with Unnikrishnan's enviable voice. I later found out that Unnikrishnan had won the Indian National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer, for the year 1994, for his rendition of Uyirum Neeye along with Ennavale, another incredible A.R. Rahman composition for director Shankar's movie Kaadhalan. Ennavale, in fact, had been the first instance Unnikrishnan had lent his voice for a film song!

The music of Uyirum Neeye had something extraordinary that I was compelled to discover. By then, I was fully aware that there is something much deeper than those wonderful blends of notes and Raagas that Rahman tries to convey through his music; and if the intuitive discovery of that takes time, the intellectual discovery, for the crazy Rahmaniac who yearns to dive the depths of his imagination, takes even longer! The biggest challenge for me was that I could not find an English translation of the Tamil lyrics to get a couple of visual leads to feed my imagination. Despite having posted a number of requests on the fan group forum asking for a translation of the song, I had to endure an agonizingly long wait.

Finally, on June 3, 2006, one of our fan group members, Swapna, posted a translation of Uyirum Neeye. Reading the translation and grasping the marvelous concept and meaning of its lyrics, my wonderment of this song instantly reached new heights. It is evident that the poetry of lyricist Vairamuthu is in a class of it's own; in fact, Uyirum Neeye and another great song called Poralae Ponnuthayi from the movie Karuthamma (also with A.R. Rahman’s music) had fetched Vairamuthu the Indian National Film Award for Best Lyrics for the year 1994 as well (my respect for the National Film Awards is much greater than that for the Filmfare Awards); so without any doubt, not only was my instinctive recognition of Uyirum Neeye as the best song of Pavithra’s soundtrack proven right, but it had already been awarded the best song in all of India for the year 1994, in the categories of Best Lyrics and Best Male Playback Singer!

What the lyrics conveyed was obvious: it is a son’s grand tribute to his mother; but the music was not what you hear in a typical song sung by a son to his mother. Typically, most music directors will draw inspiration for the composition from the first verse of the lyrics; therefore, I focused on the first verse and how Rahman might have thought about capturing elements of it in his music.

Uyirum neeye, udalum neeye, uravum neeye...thaaye II
Thun udalil sumandhu, uyirai pagirndhu, uruvam tharuvaai neeye II
Un kaNNil vazhiyum oru thuLi podhum, Kadalum urugum thaaye II
Un kaaladi mattum tharuvai thaaye, Sorgam enbadhum poyye



My life, My body, My Mother II
Bearing me in yourself, bestowing your life to me, and embodying me II
A single tear drop from your eyes and oceans drown II
Gift me your feet and the heavens seem a lie



The song is based on Kamas Raagam, which is known to evoke Shringara Rasa or the taste of love and beauty; therefore, my instant attraction to the song may have had a large part to do with this natural tonal color that is characteristic of this raaga; but the greater conceptual beauty of the song is what finally elevated Uyirum Neeye to a song worthy of analysis.
Initially, I thought the lead guitar introduction was inspired by the phrase, 'a single tear drop from your eyes,' because the movement of the first two notes from the bended B to F# feels like a welled up teardrop escaping the corner of a mother's eye and falling to drown an ocean; and it was noticed that this same phrase did inspire Rahman to bring about a beautiful change in line three of the first verse as well. Following that lead, I continued to focus on the teardrop inspiration, but the flamenco-influenced, Carnatic-flavored guitar solos interspersed with the Saraswathi Veena, which are introduced after the introduction were too mesmerizing to be inspired merely by a teardrop.

I was yet to see Pavithra, so was unable to draw ideas from the song’s picturization in the movie; for sometimes the picturization can offer visual clues to how the music may have been inspired. Therefore, I remained wth the lyrics and moved on to the second verse.

PeNNai padaithaan, maNNai padaitthaan
Katrum, mazhaiyum, oliyum padaitthaan  II
Boomikku adhanaal nimmadhi illai  II
Sami thavitthan...
Sami thavitthan, thaayai padaitthan

He created the skies, He created the sands
The winds, the rains, the light, He created II
Yet, peace reigns not on Earth II         
He struggled in anguish...
He struggled in anguish and created Mother

This second verse is as lyrically powerful as the first. There is a magical touch following 'Saami thavitthan' when Rahman pauses the male vocals briefly and a repeating solitary F# note plays on the lead guitar to portray God, the Master Perfectionist, in anguish, sensing that something was missing in his creation...and then in an ‘aha!’ moment, creating mother, the source of creation itself, so that life on earth could go on! If the teardrop served as the catalyst within the first verse that inspired Rahman, the Creation of Mother was most certainly the catalyst within the second.

From this understanding, it did not take me long to visualize the song purely from its musical dimension. On one particular morning, I realized that it is Creation that Rahman is trying to capture in the background, possibly from the bended first note itself. If you were to close your eyes and imagine the hand of God painting heaven and earth on His canvas that is the universe, that is how the musical depiction of the song appears to me now. The concept of Creation may have also been inspired by the 16th century painter Michaelangelo Buonarrotti's masterpiece, The Creation of Adam, which is painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy.

The bended B that begins the song now feels like God sparing a brief moment of thought before he starts creating earth, slowly laying down its framework; and while He remains above and behind the scenes creating, a son pays tribute to his mother. In the background, the lead guitar randomly lays down dots from His paintbrush forming an unfathomably giant sketch and then slowly moves on to connect those dots in a wonderful display of a master painter at work. After the first verse, the second interlude on guitar and veena suggests that God is now heavily involved with his creation, with swift flamenco style guitar leads depicting His incredibly fast hands moving across the framework to paint various things of magnificent colors, filling the framework that he had just completed. Towards the end of this brisk movement, the Veena backed by the Mridangam strikes five mighty brush strokes anticipating the second verse’s first two lines... the creation of the skies, sands, wind, rain, and then light!

That is incredible imagination on Vairamuthu's part, and that in fact is really all he needed to give A.R. Rahman to come up with unbelievable music. Talk about integrity in music and lyrics! What magnificent creativity! Michaelangelo, what say you?