The evening at Narada Gana Sabha included the inauguration of Vaalee Padhippagam, and much more.

Verve and Vaalee go hand in hand. In fact on the few occasions I’ve interacted with the legend I have felt that conversing with him in itself is a celebration – a celebration of life in general and Tamil poetry in particular. Poetry that encompasses everything from the sublime to the ridiculous! So when the notably reticent director Mani Ratnam extolled the litterateur’s lyric skills and added, “What fascinates me about Vaalee is the way he always makes work a happy occasion,” I could well understand the veracity of his statement.

The event, held recently at Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai, marked the inauguration of the publishing house, Vaalee Padhippagam. It was flagged off with the release of ‘Vaaliba Vaalee,’ a book comprising the 82-week telecast of Vaalee’s show on Podhigai,. ‘Vaalibha Vaalee’ has been compiled by Nellai Jayantha and receiving the first copy from Mani Ratnam was S. Meganathan, deputy director, Doordarshan Kendra, Madras. You couldn’t but put your hands together when the pallavi of that inimitable MSV song in Vaalee’s words and P. Suseela’s voice, ‘Kannan Pirandhaan …’ (from the MGR film, ‘Petraal Dhaan Pillaiya’) was played just as the book was released.

Several names associated with the Tamil publishing industry, and heirs of popular yesteryear lyricists, including Kannadasan’s son, Gandhi Kannadasan, were part of the proceedings on stage. The programme organised by Brahma Gana Sabha had Nalli Kuppuswamy as the chief guest.

A crisp video presentation, which highlighted the contribution of various verse writers in Tamil cinema down the years, from Papanasam Sivan to Vaalee, was a thoughtful addition to the event. The invitees on the dais and off it enjoyed every moment of the evening, and when Kannadasan’s visage and songs were beamed on the screen, they went into raptures. Charlie, an actor rarely seen at functions, Sivaji Ganesan’s son Ramkumar, the multi-faceted Gangai Amaran, Bhagyaraj and Pandiarajan, composer Deva, and hero Karthi, representing the youth brigade, stood testimony to the goodwill that Vaalee has earned in the film industry.

“He would give me ten pallavis at a stretch till I was satisfied, without an iota of reluctance or hesitation,” veteran director SP. Muthuraman, who was seated beside me, whispered softly, as Mani Ratnam described Valee as a genuine gentleman, who practises diplomacy and never compromises on his dignity.

“Only recently, while watching ‘Hey! Ram!’ I realised that he’s a great actor too. One of these days I’ll come to you asking for your dates, Sir,” Ratnam chuckled. “I’ll be honoured” smiled Vaalee.

More In: Books | Arts