A tele-serial on TMS, in which the singer took active part, comes as a tribute from T. Vijayaraj and his team.
‘Imayaththudan,’ is a tribute to T.M. Soundararajan by a group of enthusiastic youth from the Adyar Film Institute. The tele-serial, based on TMS’s life and achievements, comprises 140 episodes. What was their inspiration? T. Vijayaraj, student turned director, explains, “One evening at the Nehru Stadium, as an employee of the Tamil Nadu Films division I was co-ordinating the filming of an event. The film songs of MGR-TMS combo were being played. Actor Nagesh and TMS, who were the guests at the event, were prevented from entering the arena by an ignorant policeman. TMS had to explain that he was the singer of the songs being played. Pained by the policeman’s ignorance, I decided to showcase this illustrious singer’s life and achievements as a tele serial. It is a pioneering attempt.”
CMs and film careers
The trailer of the serial arouses interest. The determination of Vijayaraj and his team enabled them to shoot at the Central Studios, Coimbatore, where five Chief Ministers, namely C.N. Annadurai, Kalaignar, MGR, NTR and V. N. Janaki, had started their film careers.
It took a year of persistent effort to obtain permission from the present owner, Shantharam Naidu, to shoot there. In 1946, TMS had sung for the first time for actor Narasimha Bharathi in ‘Krishna Vijayam,’ which was recorded at this studio. TMS and his family were amazed to see the clipping of the song. The studio has been demolished after shooting of this episode.
Anita Ratnam, who anchors this episode, is the daughter of T. V. S. Ratnam, the classmate of TMS’s from his school days. TMS becomes emotional as he steps into the hall where his voice was first recorded.
Visali Kannadasan anchors the episode shot at Pakshiraja Studios, Coimbatore. It was here that TMS sang his first song for MGR, ‘Innum Ethanai Kalamthan Yaymattruvar’ for Malaikallan in 1954. The famous eagle symbol of the studio was done at a huge cost for the shooting by the present owner, Tirugnanam, as a tribute to the versatile singer.
Salem Modern Theatres where TMS had recorded is also featured and shows Y.G. Mahendra in conversation with the singer. YGM says, “You have sung songs for every occasion in a person’s life, right from childhood to death”. And he sings the first line of every song in that sequence.
Vijayaraj says, “It was tough to locate Roshanara Begum, who had penned the only film song of her life, ‘Kunguma Pottin Managalam’ (‘Kudi Iruntha Koil’) in Coimbatore and it was even tougher to convince her to take part in an episode with TMS.”
Scenes from ‘Pattinathar,’ in which TMS played the lead, are interspersed with with the singer meeting the locals living near the temple at Tiruvotriyur. The directorial team’s painstaking effort, helped in getting the temple renovated with contribution from TMS and the locals.
One of the episodes reveals an interesting anecdote. It seems TMS learnt the song, ‘Ullam Urugudhaiya’ in praise of Lord Muruga, from a Muslim room boy of a hotel at Palani. TMS then set the song to tune, which proved to be evergreen.
The team spotted the lyric on a stone placed in the precincts of the Kalikambal temple, in Thambu Chetty Street ,George Town, Chennai, which it found out, was penned in 1952 by a lady called Anadavan Pitchai. Tracing her descendants, the team was able to get a photo of the lady which they have hung on the wall of the temple.
Sivakumar, Satyaraj, Vijayakanth, Vairamuthu, Vadivelu, Vivek and Vikraman have all paid their tributes too in the other episodes. Vadivelu even croons a sentimental song in TMS’s presence. S. N. Surendar hosts the episode in which TMS visits his school, St. Mary’s School in Madurai.
The other episodes include interviews with K.J. Yesudas, P. Suseela, L.R. Easwari, Lata Mangeshkar, T. Rajender and Gangai Amaran. The episodes involving MSV and Ilaiyaraaja are moving. The director’s perseverance had roped in Rajnikanth, Kamal Hassan and A.R. Rahman despite their busy schedules.
With awe, Vijayaraj describes TMS’s energy and enthusiasm during the shoot. “It was just incredible”. TMS was then 88 years old.
Vijayaraj thanks his team mates Selvarathinam, Suresh Kumar and Dhanabhagyam Sundaravadivelu, Niveditha (co-director), Raghunath (editing),K Saravanan (camera), D. N. Suresh (music director) and Nazar. He remembers gratefully Hariharan, Swaminathan, M. Swarnavel and Chandrika Ashokumar who helped him gather information, vital to the scripting of the serial and Christopher of Columbia Films, Malaysia, who lent him rare audio and video clippings of the legend.
Vijayaraj feels the absence of his mother K. Meenakshi and Aunt Sarada, who gave him strength during the 10 years it took to shoot the serial. He had been moving with TMS from dawn to dusk during the shoot and had become like his foster son.
“I wish he had lived to see his life being telecast in one of the popular channels, although he had seen it at the edit table. My only satisfaction is that I made this as a service to the legend whose voice made millions forget their worries,” concludes Vijayaraj.