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King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime

Posted on 07.05.2006 at 02:47
Current Location: Hyderabad
Current Mood: nostalgicnostalgic
Current Music: Kaadavul Paadhi from Aalavandhan

Sometime ago I had posted the lyrics of Har Saans.  Now, after a long wait, comes the translation of a song that has obscurely haunted me for many years. The song is from a movie, almost proverbial in its preposterousness, but again has enjoyed a peculiar hold over me.
Hyped as his 200th film, it is a forgettable outing for Kamal Hassan called "Aalavandhan" and is known as "Abhay" in its Hindi avatar. They tell me that 'Aalavandhan' can be roughly rendered as 'King for a Day'.

I recall seeing the poster for it in Devi theatre in Madras just after I had joined ACJ (Asian College of Journalism). It had Kamal 'hunting' a catsuit-clad Manisha Koirala. Interesting! 

In Madras I stayed for a while in a beautiful forgotten corner of Nandhanam called Lotus Colony. Every night, or usually in the early hours of morning, after a long slog at the college I would be returning down Mount Road - there as my scooter went over Gemini flyover there was this huge hoarding for the movie, quite possibly the most striking I've ever seen. It had a bare-chested Kamal, adorned with bizarre tattoos, face twisted in a savage grimace, leaping off a building, with one hand a tenuous hold over a bungee cord and the other hand holding some kind of Khukri.  All this bathed with white light, an island of light in a sea of pre-dawn darkness.

Taking advantage of the empty road I used to rev up the engine and 'take-off' as I went over the flyover ramp, with this incredible sight rushing up to meet me. One adrenalin inducing experience, I can tell you that much. Few feelings since then have equalled it. 

This was the last semester of college with impossible deadlines, a massive dissertation to complete and various assorted nonsense. So in some way, I guess I identified with the man leaping off into empty space...                 

I also knew that the movie featured Kamal in a double role as a evil twin and I'm a sucker for evil twins. What really got the hype going was the amount of physical work that Kamal had put in for his tanist brother - shaven head and brutally rippling muscles.

I eventually saw the dubbed Telugu version in Vizag just after I had graduated - so nearly a year had passed since first seeing the promos. 
To explain the movie's hold is more difficult but I'll try. In some ways - "Aalavandhan" - until it was released, one could imagine all kinds of cool things that it would be. Of course it ended up being quite terrible, but your imagination is so much stronger so you can enjoy the illusion of looking forward to a 'great' movie and imagining all the cool things it could have been. 

I had requested Nandhu to do the translation and he has done a great job. Thanks man! Its fitting as I had asked him to read the title for the poster way back when I first saw it in Devi - when we had gone to see "The Negotiator".

 

Kadavul Paadhi

Opening

Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,                         

Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.

Veliye mirugam, ulle kadavul

Vilanga mudiya kavithai naan.

Mirugam kontru, mirugam kontru

Kadavul valarka parkinten

Aanal, kadavul kondru, unavai thintu

mirguam mattum valarkirathe

 

Half-god, half-man,

A mixture of the two made me.

A beast outside, a God inside,

I am incomprehensible poetry.

Killing the beast, I try to raise god

But, killing and usurping god,

The animal alone grows in me.


 

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,

Naalai mirugam kolvaya,

Mirugam kondra echam kondu

Meendum kadavul seivaya

Kurangil iruthu manithan ental

Manithan niryai velvana

Miruga gyathiyil pirantha manitha

Deva jyothiyil kalappaya

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,

Will you kill the beast tomorrow?

Will you raise god from the beast's remains?

If man evolved from monkey,

Will he completely overcome it?

You who are born in the animal species,

Will you become one with the eternal flame? 

Repeating

 

Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,

Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.

Veliye mirugam, ulle kadavul

Vilanga mudiya kavithai naan.

Mirugam kontru, mirugam kontru

Kadavul valarka parkinten

Aanal, kadavul kondru, unavai thintu

mirguam mattum valakirathe.


Half-god, half-man,

A mixture of the two made me.

A beast outside, a God inside,

I am incomprehensible poetry.

Killing the beast, I try to raise god

But, killing and usurping god,

The animal alone grows in me.


Slurring

 

Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,

Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.

Kaatril eeri, mayayil aadi,

Kavithai padum paravai naan.

Half-god, half-man,

A mixture of the two made me.

Riding the wind, dancing in the rain

I am the bird that sings poems.

Faster

Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,

Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.

Kaatril eeri, mayayil aadi,

Kavithai padum paravai naan

Kaatril eeri, mayayil aadi,

Kavithai padum paravai naan

Ovvoru thuliyum, ovvoru thuliyum

Uyiril verkal kulirkirathe

Ella thuliyum kulirumpothu

Iruthuli mattum Sudukirathe.

Half-god, half-man,

A mixture of the two made me.

Riding the wind, dancing in the rain

I am the bird that sings poems.

In every drop of rain, my soul grows colder

Even when all drops are cold, only two remain hot. 

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,

Mayai neer sudathu theriyatha,

Kannam vayikire kanner thulithan 

Vennir thuli ena arivaya

Sutta mayayum, sudatha mayayum,

Ontai kandavan neethane

Kanner mayayil kanner mayayil

Kulikavaithavan neethane

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,

Don't you that rainwater is never hot?

Do you know that the tears that

flow down your cheek that are hot?

You are one who got wet in the hot and cold rain

You are one who got wet in tears.


The music for the film is composed by Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy and is one of their better efforts.  The evocative and punchy lyrics are by the veteran Vairamuthu.
Kamal Hassan himself sings "Kaadavul Paadhi", and only he could have done justice.  
The song rocks mainly for its brilliant pacing, now fast, now slow, now an inchoate roar. Kamal deliberately drops down the pace to a slurring growl then cranks it up to a frenetic snarl, perfectly capturing the feel of the song. In a way, the song is a microcosm of what the movie wanted to be but failed to achieve.

A kick-ass percussion and a well placed chorus round out things. Think I'm hyping it up? Listen for yourself. 
Incidentally, I happened to be near Kamal Hassan's production office - the office was near the girls hostel on TTK road and hence a legitimate place to loiter - on the day the audio released, August 18th, 2001 and I saw large crowds milling about  - learnt that it set the then record for most cassettes and CDs sold on the first day - 200,000 in 8 hours.

Anyway, perhaps I'm dissing the movie too much, it does have some psychedelic moments and its use of animation for some sequences does prefigure Tarantino's Kill Bill (the part where 'Battle without honor or humanity is playing and Lucy Liu's past is explained). For the record, Kamal now says that the movie was 'cliched and boring'.

Now, Nandhu, if you can also translate the title track, then my cup runneth over.

 Next up, another misguided Kamal venture, another great soundtrack, complete with Kamal featuring as lead vocalist. Yes, I'm talking about 'Anbe Sivam'.
Post Script: Browsing around for this post I read this claim that "Kaadavul Paadhi" is 'inspired' by the Jerry Goldsmith score for a 1980s film called 'Link'.  Further investigations are necessary.


Comments:


(Anonymous) at 2006-05-11 14:17 (UTC) (Link)

like it?

that was my first translation of poetry. how did u like it? i cant even ask u cause u dont know tamil. i am stealing it back for my site. i was supposed to post something here but forgot.
sarpvinash
sarpvinash at 2006-05-12 16:40 (UTC) (Link)

Re: like it?

Hey it is good, thanks for all the work. You can't take it back, it is an exclusive for this blog :-)
I think you were supposed to talk about the translating process etc
(Anonymous) at 2006-06-07 10:12 (UTC) (Link)

ARUNAN.KL

Its something Great, what u have done. After a long search and sort for Kamal Haasan's "Kadavul paathi" song, i took your work! Finally your work reached a cliff! -Arunan.KL
(Anonymous) at 2006-06-09 22:10 (UTC) (Link)

tough cookie

i dont know. i remember it was hard to do. it was vague. it was frustrating. it was liking being inside the mind of the poet and feeling i was in the wrong mind. or that i was a fake. anyways, some lines did have no meaning. who got wet in tears? who got whom wet in tears? if nandakumar got wet in tears, who is the other chap? anyways...
sarpvinash
sarpvinash at 2006-06-11 20:34 (UTC) (Link)

Re: tough cookie

As the man said, he is "incomprehensible poetry" :-)
I think the 'other chap' is also him, ie. his divided personality. It is like a conversation between his two selves. at least, that is the sense I got.
If you go in for this sort of a thing, read Stanislaw Lem's "Peace on Earth". the ultimate split-personality story!
(Anonymous) at 2007-06-06 13:57 (UTC) (Link)

alavandhan

hi sarp
pretty good breakdown of the song !!! we were happy with the music we composed for this film its a pity the film didnt do well . i guess we should be back in tamil cinema soon !!!
cheers
ehsaan
shankar,ehsaan,loy
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