Pulavar Pulamaipithan on penning lyrics by the beach, recording them in various studios, and inexpensive taxi rides

The Madras I remember was like a hamlet. Mylapore sported a rural ambience and George Town was the area beyond the High Court. There was no Indira Nagar, Kasturba Nagar or Anna Nagar.

I am from Coimbatore and came here in 1964 to write songs for films. To begin with, I taught Tamil at Santhome High School.

I rented a house on Muthukaramani Street for Rs. 25. My salary was only Rs. 125 and, sometimes, I found it hard to make ends meet.

Back then, the most popular mode of travel was walking. I used to take tuitions, and one of my students lived near Ajantha Hotel. I would walk from Santhome to Royapettah and back. In 1977, I bought the house I'm staying in now, on Appu Street for Rs. 85,000. By 7 p.m., the street would be dark and deserted.

If we had to go out, it would be to the lawn at Luz Round Tana. Nageswara Rao Park was another favourite destination. Entertainment was about attending plays or concerts in R R Sabha or the Mylapore Fine Arts Club. Sometimes, we would watch a movie at Kapali or Kamadhenu theatre.

Most of the houses in Mylapore were long and big, and had thatched roofs. The roads were clean. Marina beach was also clean and the sand was clear and soft. There used to be a small single-room tenement behind the Santhome church. I would go there as early as 5 a.m. and write songs.

In 1966, I got a break as a lyricist in the MGR movie ‘Kudi Irundha Koil', with ‘Naan Yaar Nee Yaar'. After this, I got more offers.

Mylapore was a musicians' haven. Most of the artistes, such as M.S. Viswanathan and Sirkazhi Govindarajan, lived there.

I used to go to Saradha Studio in Virugambakkam, Banumathi Studio, Prasad Studio, AVM Studio and ‘A' Theatre in Vauhini for song recordings. There was a Vijaya Garden theatre , where Vijaya Health Centre stands today. In AVM studio, R.R Theatre and Sea Theatre were popular. MSV was a regular there. K.V Mahadevan was a regular at Vijaya Garden theatre. Lyricists would be given cars and also petrol and driver allowances. Every studio had about four to five cars for the director, actors and others. If there was no car, we would hire a taxi for a minimum fare of 60 paise. Now with the skyrocketing prices, the past comes alive more often.

I REMEMBER Soon after joining the film industry, I quit my teacher's job. I faced financial problems, and, for sometime, did not have a roof over my head. I sent my family back to my hometown. I would head to the beach in the evenings. The sand would be so pure and soft that I would make a pillow out of it and rest there for the night.

BIO Pulavar Pulamaipithan: Born in 1935 in Coimbatore, he came to Madras in 1964 after completing his Pulavar degree. He wrote the lyrics for hit songs such as ‘Aayiram nilave va', ‘Sirithu vazha vendum', ‘Punjai undu nanjai undu' and ‘Thenpandi Seemailae'.

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