Sandhu Pottu – When You Need Something to Lift Your Spirits

We all have our highs and lows in life. And we all have our own ways of celebrating the highs and recovering from the lows. Yes, it’s a given that time waits for no one and life drags you on even if you are stuck and want to sit still, but when you need something to lift your spirits, music fits the bill, even if it’s a momentary thing. At least for a while. At least for me. I either sing or listen to music. It is mostly for myself.

But in the process, I recently discovered that Sandhu Pottu has become one of my all-time favourites – thanks to the tabla portions. And I simply wanted to write about it. So here we go.

Song: Saandhu Pottu
Film: Thevar Magan
Composer: Ilayaraja
Singers: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. Kamal Haasan

I grew up watching my Dad play the tabla. A blind person could have seen how much he enjoyed playing the instrument. Judging from that experience, I bet that the tabla artist who played for Saandhu Pottu must have been on cloud nine while he was at it.

I am not equipped well enough in music to dissect the song and analyse technical intricacies. That’s for the more knowledgeable to do. So if you are looking for technical analysis, there’s none here. What I am trying to do here is highlight those portions of the song which make me want to listen to it over and over again.

Listen to the song here, if you haven’t already. And then read the rest of the post.

Kambuchandai, as you may know, is the theme of the song. The song opens with a few carefully composed “whooshes”. At the end of the whooshes, the first few beats of the tabla enter, with authority.

It quickly moves on to a fast paced Pallavi that is ruled by the tabla. The best thing about the song as you may have noticed is the alternating patterns of rhythm. It’s like Crazy Mohan’s dialogues – it’s in and out of the way before you know it. 😉

I have presented here the transition from the first pattern to the second– vocals removed for better clarity. It is this first changeover that steals the show, really. It’s like love at first sight. It lifts your spirits. Involuntary nodding of head is guaranteed.

Now we are into the second pattern. This is present throughout most of the song. It switches back to the first pattern towards the end of the song, thus closing the loop.

If you notice carefully, you will find that the second pattern in the Charanam is modified slightly to form a third pattern in the Chorus (Veeradhi Veeranum). Listen. Here is a mix-down where the second pattern is followed by the third pattern.

Apart from these transitions, there are a couple of portions in the song in which dialogues are backed by music. It is interesting to note that the instruments dominating this “folk” song are not the ones that are typically used in folk music. For one, you have the tabla, clearly the superstar of the song. Two, the dialogues that Kamal “sings” are backed by drums, which are obviously western. A folk song dominated by the tabla and drums? Interesting, indeed.
I have presented the “dialogues” portion backed by the drums here.

The “tabla rolls” in the song, as they are apparently called, ought to be loved. Here they are for you, chopped from the rest of the song.

I don’t know if it’s me, but there is one point in the song where it seems to me as though SPB screws up a little. When Kamal’s “Hahaha” ends and SPB has to start, it appears as though he got a little too enthusiastic to start on the right pitch but quickly covered it up ;). Listen to how he starts “Saandhu Pottu”. It’s a little out of place and I can’t put my finger on it. I may be wrong – it just sounds that way to me.

True that there are better compositions by Ilayaraja. Even greater ones by various other music directors. But I write about this because it connects with me. When I feel lost and alone, it lifts my spirits, though only for a few moments. I nod my head to the beats. I find myself singing along with Kamal when he says “Kambu saathiram theryeen adhilulla soochamantheriyin” in the same folk-ish language. It’s fun. I brace myself for SPB’s slightly screwed up “Sandhu Pottu”. I am amused by the changing patterns of rhythm every time I listen to it. At the end of the day, it’s an experience I welcome when I feel low.

And I know that when it ends, I need to go back to my life, but I also know that I have Sandhu Pottu to lift my spirits again, just in case.

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2 thoughts on “Sandhu Pottu – When You Need Something to Lift Your Spirits

  1. Karthik says:

    Superb analysis Vaag!! I too remember vividly Ravi chitappa playing the tabla for this song, and yes, he loved it!! Amazing tabla, singing and music, but your analysis beats them all. Down to the SPB slip, which you are correct about. 🙂 I guess he started it right on the note, but was caught unawares, and hence it sounds a bit off.

    Loved reading it, and listening to the little snips of the song.



    • Vaagdevi Ravishankar says:

      Thank you so much Karthik 🙂 I love the Tabla in it. It’s excellent. Yes I could only think of Appa when I listen to the song. 🙂


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