The lyricist-poet is putting his life together again. Cerebral haemorrhage confined him to a hospital in Vellore for three months. But even when a part of him lay limp, Kaithapram kept his pen steady. The haemorrhage spared his right hand, his mind and creativity, he says gratefully.
An artiste for whom music and therapy were always close, Kaithapram knew intimately the healing touch of music when haemorrhage struck. “In the hospital I kept singing and writing,” says Kaithapram. “I would keep the sruthi and hum. Music would bring back memories of geetam, varnam and keertanam. It helped keep my mind vibrant,” he says.
Music was not just a balm. He spiritedly wrote lyrics. “From the hospital bed I wrote six songs for upcoming film Samaganam, which has music composed by Dakshinamurthy Swami. Das ettan (K.J.Yesudas) sang the songs and sent me the track,” says Kaithapram. Ever since, he has also written the songs for Jayaraj’s latest film.
Music and writing kept me positive, says Kaithapram. But he is keenly aware of the graces, beginning with timely medical care. “After the scan, the doctors told me that if things had happened with the difference of a hairline, it would have been a different story.”
At Vellore, Kaithapram had for company a kindred artistic spirit — actor Jagathy Sreekumar, recuperating from a debilitating road accident. “He was next door and we met everyday. We went for exercises together. Whenever he came into my room, I would ask him for tea. He would nod, take the cup of tea and drink. That means he understood,” says Kaithapram about the actor whose language and memory are an accident casualty.
As Kaithapram slowly strides toward normal life, music is his wayfarer. “I keep singing during my Ayurveda massage in the mornings.” With music constantly in the background, new melodies are born. “A time comes when the sruthi of the tanpura connects with the sruthi of your soul,” says Kaithapuram.
About eight years ago, he started an experiment with the students of his Swathi Thirunal Kala Kendram singing to the mentally ill at the mental hospital in Kozhikode. After his personal experiences, the lyricist is keen to begin that exercise again.
“There is only a threadbare difference between the mentally ill and the “normal” person. The moment we know the tune of their hearts, we understand them perfectly,” he says. His team has not only soothed the mentally ill, but also the terminally ill with their music.
For close to three decades now, Kaithapram has been tuning his lyrics to the likes of the changing Malayali too. He keeps it simple. “Film music should go with the times. Now I get the composed tune on my phone and I write the lyrics,” he says. In his repertoire of over 1,000 movie songs is the heartfelt “Kanneerpoovinte” (Kireedam), the soothing “Aattu nottu undaayoru unni” (Santham), the boisterous “Lajjavathiye” (4 the People) and the hummable “Chimmi chimmi” (Urumi). From giving lyrics to Johnson’s, Jerry Amaldev’s and M.G. Radhakrishnan’s music, Kaithapram has now tuned words to his son Dipankuran’s music.
Along the way, working with mighty ones like Padmarajan and Lohitadas, the lessons have been many. A lesson learnt well is the virtue of simplicity. “Imagine, I journeyed from the complexity of “Devadundubhi sandralayam” (Ennennum Kannetante) to the simplicity of “Kaliveedu urangiyallo” (Deshadanam),” he says. For an artiste who had no links with the film world, learning was on the job. He imbibed from directors who willingly showed the way. “Those like Jayaraj, Kamal and Lohi (Lohitadas) taught me economy — what to say and what not to say in a song. Directors like Lohitadas kept telling me the story to help me get into the skin of the character.”
Every mood is short-lived for a lyricist, says Kaithapram, moving as he does through numerous songs in a matter of days. “I remember a long while back, we were working on Innale. It was December 31 and there were a lot of celebrations. Director Padmarajan cajoled me to have a drink. I refused and said I don’t need it. The songs to be written had tough tunes. One was “Nee vin poo pol” and soon after I wrote “kannil nin meyyil”, both diverse in mood. Once Padmarajan heard it he said, “You don’t ever have to drink. Artistes often drink to get into the mood of transition. You can do it without alcohol’”, says Kaithapram.
A new partnership
At the first floor studio at Kaithapram’s home, son Dipankuran is busy making music. The father-son duo has come together for two movies. In Kaithapram’s directorial debut Mazhavillinattam Vare which the veteran hopes will be released around Vishu, Dipankuran has scored the music. “We were through with the film work and that’s when I fell ill,” says Kaithapram. Kaithapram and Dipankuran get together again for Jayaraj’s latest venture, the work of which is in progress. Dipankuran, meanwhile, is taking sure steps into the film world. After scoring the background score for Shalabham, he also did the music for the signature film at International Film Festival of India, Goa.
Imagine, I journeyed from the complexity of “Devadundubhi sandralayam” (Ennennum Kannetante) to the simplicity of “Kaliveedu urangiyallo” (Deshadanam)