‘Na Cheli Rojave’ from Roja movie, composed by A.R.Rahman, written by Raja Shri, sung by S.P.Balasubrahmanyam and Sujatha Mohan. What can I say about this song? Where to start about this song? This is just one of those haunting melodies that should be on top of all-time favorite songs list of many music lovers around the world. I can probably listen to this one song for many hours in a loop. Not only 'Na Cheli Rojave', the entire album of ‘Roja’ is considered to be a milestone that changed the face of Indian film music. Rahman is said to be the first to introduce orchestral melodies in Indian film soundtracks, which until then was based on a few traditional Indian instruments. He has also created an unbeatable record of being the first person to win National award for his first movie as a music director.
This song starts off with a beautiful humming tuned in ‘Desh’ Raag which was wonderfully rendered by Sujatha Mohan. The complete song except the hummings is set in ‘Kaapi’ Raagam and this Raagam is well known for inducing moods of devotion, pathos and sadness as per the demands of the situation. Keeping in mind the situation and mood of this song, Rahman indeed picked ‘Kaapi’ Raagam and composed this classy song. Before coming into film industry, Rahman was a keyboard player and an arranger for bands. And in his early stages of compositions, he always preferred to use keyboard (piano), flute, synthesizer and pads. Similarly, he used the same instruments to compose this song.
From god of Indian music to the god of Indian singing, let’s talk about the legend, the man who has been the life and soul of over 40000 songs, S.P.Balu sir. The legend has sung this song in all three languages i.e. Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. Given the mood of the song in the movie, the feel and expression of this song should bring out the pain of missing someone, and this was perfectly executed by the legendary singer S.P.Balasubrahmanyam. If I re-call the back ground music (BGM) which comes immediately after the first section of the song, the flute bit followed by the female humming and then start of the first stanza sung by Balu sir gives me goosebumps every single time I listen. Roja music album is also considered as a good turning point to Balu garu’s female counterpart that is Sujatha Mohan. She was well recognized by this album and later she has recorded over 10,000 songs. I consider Sujatha garu as the unsung hero of South Indian female singers. She has sung many hit songs, but got overshadowed by other great singers.
The most challenging job is for a lyric writer to write lyrics for a dubbed song. In this case, Raja Shri who is also known as ‘Anuvaada Brahma’ has written the song lyrics for the full album of Roja. He also has a good relationship with Mani Ratnam and written the dialogues & song lyrics for many of his movies like Geetanjali, Mouna Raagam, Naayakudu, Anjali, Gharshana, Dalapathi, Roja and Donga Donga. Raja Shri has written this song in a different yet intriguing style. In the first stanza of the song, he touches Air (Gaali Nannu Taakina), Land (Gulaabeelu Poosina), Water (Alalu Pongi Parithe) and Sky (Megamaala Saagithe) which make up 4 of what we call 'Panchabhutalu'. On the flip side in the second stanza, he highlights how the heroine means more to him than any of these. In the example of Air, he uses the line ‘Cheliya Chenta Ledule Challa Gaali Aagipo’. I feel like this is really a good way of indulging in the song situation and putting his heart out on the paper.
Rahman may have won Oscar, SPB may have sung over 40000 songs but this one SPB-Rahman song will always be in the hearts and minds of all true lovers of Telugu music. This is just an evergreen song!