The film ‘Meera' has attained an immortal status, for two reasons – the presence of MS and the songs she rendered. Music for the soul-stirring songs that have lived for decades was composed by S.V. Venkataraman, whose centenary falls on April 25. SVV scored music for over 200 films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi.
SVV's life was punctuated with quite a few turning points, even his birth happening in unusual circumstances. Lakshmi Ammal, returning from Gunaseelam, after visiting a relative there, went into labour near Aiyyampalayam and delivered a baby in front of the Sivan temple there. The mother considered the boy to be special.
Rare gnana in music
When the boy was just three, his father died and he came under the care of his Uncle at Manamadurai. He revealed a rare gnana in music and at five, could sing Tyagaraja's songs quite well. He studied up to the fourth standard and that was all the school education he had.
His passion for music grew and he felt Madras was the place to pursue the art. He started his journey with his mother's consent and landed at Chintadripet. Here he stayed at the house of a saloon owner. An ardent Krishna devotee, he routinely sang songs on the deity and the moved owner predicted a bright future for the lad.
The head of a drama troupe, who heard the boy, offered to rope him in. A new chapter had begun with Venkatraman beginning his career as a stage artist-singer-musician. He learnt to play the harmonium and that was the closest he came to having formal lessons in Carnatic music. In the play, ‘Ramayana,' he got the hero's role and became popular.
Silver screen was not far behind and Venkataraman acted in five films, donning different roles – as hero, villain and comedian too!
But, it was time for a change. During a fight scene shoot, his left hand was broken leaving Venkataraman contemplating his future. It was in this state that A.V. Meyyappa Chettiyar found him at the Cubbon Park, Bangalore. “Come to Madras. You are the music director of my next film, ‘Nanda Kumar,'” he invited. To use a cliché, SVV did not look back.
The films for which he composed music, apart from ‘Nanda Kumar' include ‘Tahsildar,' ‘Bookailash,' ‘Krishna Bhakti,' ‘Vaalmiki,' ‘Manonmani,' ‘Mahamaya,' ‘Kannagi,' ‘Idhaya Geetham,' ‘Gnana Soundari,' ‘Nandanar,' ‘Tirumazhisai Azhwar,' ‘Sakunthalai,' ‘Meera' (Tamil and Hindi in which M.S. had acted) ‘Kangal,' ‘Kannin Manigal,' ‘Maman Magal,' ‘Naga Panchami,' ‘Nannambikkai,' ‘Panakkari,' ‘Sri Murugan,' ‘Manohara' (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi ) ‘Irumbu Thirai,' ‘Arivali,' ‘Sri Krishna Vijayam,' ‘Maruda Naattu Veeran' and ‘Paanai Pidithaval Bagyasaali.'
He worked with veterans such as Annadurai, M.G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha and N.T. Rama Rao. Many popular composers including M.S. Viswanathan, T.K. Ramamurthy, and G.K. Venkatesh worked with him.
All leading playback singers of the time from P.U. Chinnappa and GNB to Dhandapani Desikar and TMS lent their voices to his tunes. Carnatic music legends D.K. Pattammal and MLV also came under his baton. His last assignment was ‘Sri Krishna Leela.' He also proved his prowess as a singer in a few films.
He scored the music for the famous Bhaja Govindham sung by M.S. and ‘Vadavaraiyai Mathakki,' ‘Mudiondrum Moolangalum' and a few Bharatiar songs that she made famous. He set to tune Narayaneeyam and Guruvayur Suprabhatam rendered by Trichur Ramachandran and Papanasam sivan's “Sree Rama Charitha Geetham” sung by Sirkazhi Govindarajan. He tuned Bharatiar songs and Karpagambal Andhadi for DD. He was composer for AIR's ‘Serndhisai' ‘Vadhya Vrindha' and many other music ventures.Music for “Voice of India” by Mahatma Gandhi's son had been scored by him.
SVV married Saraswathi at the age of 28. The couple had four sons and four daughters. He breathed his last on April 7, 1998.
Keywords: S.V. Venkataraman