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One of S. P. Balasubramaniam’s most famous hits is ‘Thakida Thadhimi’ from the 1983 movie ‘Salangai Oli’, which was dubbed from the original Telugu ‘Saagara Sangamam’.

Kamal Hassan's acting and dancing complemented the maestro's music, setting a fast song in a sad raga

Known as a cult classic due to Ilaiyaraaja’s music, Kamal Hassan’s high level classical dance (and of course acting) performance , it received many national awards. Ilaiyaraja received the National Film Award for Best Music Director and S. P. Balasubramaniam received the National Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song ‘Thakida Thathimi’.

The song is based on the raga Shanmughapriya, one that Ilaiyaraja has used many times in his career (‘Thamthanam’ from the movie ‘Pudhiya Vaarpugal’, ‘Kaathal Kasakkuthayya’ from the film ‘Aan Paavam’ and ‘Sollayya Vaai Thiranthu’ from ‘Mogamull’ are some examples that come immediately to mind).

 Shanmughapriya consists of seven notes and is therefore called a Sampoorna raga in carnatic music. Ragas like Abhogi for example (‘Indreikki En Intha Ananthame’ from the film ‘Vaithekie Kaathirunthal’ is tuned to this raga), which only have five notes, are called Audava Raagas, and ragas such as Malahari have five notes in ascending order (Audava) and six notes in descending order, which are then called audava-shadava ragas.

Ilaiyaraja has solely used the notes from Shanmughapriya for this particular song – no foreign notes from another raga are used, which make this tune a pure Shanmughapriya delight.

The lyrics are intertwined with classical music and dance images:

“Pazhaiya ragam maranthu, nee paranthathenna pirinthu?
Iravum thorum azhuthu, en irandu kannum pazhuthu.
Idhu oru ragasiya nadaghame, aleigalil kulingidum odam naane”

(“You took off and left me, forgetting our past, my eyes are tired from crying all night. A drama is unfolding and I am a canoe drifting on the waves).  

Kamal Hassan’s dramatic drunken dance performance on the edge of a well has the audience on the edge of their seats until the woman he desires (played by Jaypriya) manages to catch him before he topples over and falls.

Ilaiyaraja used many instruments which are used in classical Indian dance (bharathanatyam) such as mridangam, flute and veena, keeping the song consistent with the entire theme of the film.

‘Thakida Thathimi’ has so many musical layers to it that it is almost hard to comprehend how such a complex composition came about.

Having used a raga which is said to be sad, Ilaiyaraja has yet again achieved what he became so famous for: letting the audience feel the song to the point that every time you hear it, you pick up another musical geniality which he has woven in.