One man, many dimensions – some vignettes.
The late V. Dakshinamurti shaped many careers, generously imparting his knowledge while guiding young stars. Some of the celebrities, who were closely associated with him recall:
P. Suseela: It was V. Dakshinamurti (VDS) who introduced me to the Malayalam film industry in 1960, the first song being ‘Paatu Paadi Urakkaam Gnyaan,’ for Udaya Studios’ film, ‘Seetha.’ Just four months ago, I had rung up VDS’sdaughter to find out whether he would be able to participate as chief guest at a P. Suseela Trust function, sponsored by Jaya TV. I had the opportunity of learning music from him, during my early days at Mylapore. I also attended his felicitation functions in Dubai and Thiruvananthapuram. I was lucky to be part of the Tyagaraja Akhandam that he organised at the Makailyee-Markatagiri Temple near Tellicherry. An embodiment of soulful music, he had enormous will power that made him push personal inconveniences to the background.
T.E. Vasudevan (film-maker) : One of the reasons for Jai Maruthi Productions becoming popular is thanks to the music composed by VDS in 33 films, produced under the banner, since 1961. On July 12, I received a call from VDS, who thanked me for having acknowledged his musical service in an article published on that day in The Hindu’s Friday Review (Chennai Edition). About three months ago, he came to my house in Kochi along with his wife. VDS was not only an extraordinarily talented music director but a close friend, who would be part of all discussions on films and stories and also help me in my endeavours.
K.S. Sethumadhavan : Meeting VDS during my first Malayalam film, ‘Gnyaana Sundari’ produced by T.E. Vasudevan, I was in for a surprise. The simple dhoti, rudraksha mala and vibhooti-smeared forehead were in sharp contrast to the music directors of Tamil and Hindi films that I, as an assistant director, had worked with. I thought VDS belonged to the old school but was surprised again with his knowledge of the latest music trends. The VDS stamp was obvious in his songs, which were a soothing blend of Carnatic and light music. Whatever the format of the lyric, even if it is interspersed with prose and dialogue, he would set them to tune. Never would he ask the lyricist to change the lines to suit him. Again, he would change the tune if asked to. Should he not be more assertive, given his stature? “Why, that is what I’m here for, to please my audience!” would be his response.
Guruvayur Dorai : VDS was a knowledgeable vidwan, who had taught my elder sister Carnatic music in Chennai from 1954 to 1961. I still remember him singing ‘Kaligiyunte’ in Keeravani. A specialist in laya presentation, VDS had remarkable ideas that he put into practice during his concerts. I was his accompanist for several concerts and had also played for many of his Malayalam films.
I recall an incident at the Vaikkom Siva temple. VDS had been singing ‘Kaana Kan Kodi Vendum,’ a famous Papanasam Sivan song in Khambodi. He had picked up ‘Manikkam Vairam…’ for niraval when his allotted concert time of three and a half hours was over. He had to stop singing for other events to follow. I accompanied him the next year at the same venue and was surprised when he picked up the song from where he left off!
S.P. Muthuraman : Even after Ilaiyaraja shot to fame, he regularly visited VDS to learn the nuances. Once I had gone to Ilaiyaraja’s private recording studio to meet him and was taken aback to see VDS handling the mixer, while Ilaiyaraja conducted the orchestra. VDS explained that Ilaiyaraja was conducting the orchestra for his (VDS) film. They had a perfect guru-sishya relationship. VDS had composed music for my ‘Oru Oodhapoo Kan Chimitugirathu’ starring Kamalhasan and Sujatha and for ‘Oru Kovil Iru Deepangal,’ which had fresh faces. He could extract the best from every musician during his recordings. His dedication and involvement were matchless.
Sreekumaran Thampi: VDS and I produced many songs together, which turned out to be huge hits. VDS used the harmonium rarely for sruti, as he often said, “I rely only on my vocal chords, the divine instrument gifted by God.” The tunes emerged from his soul. His philosophy was, “I find music that gets dissolved in the relevant lyrics and I extract music from every penned word.” That is why he always composed music only with the lyrics. I have written the maximum number of lyrics for VDS’s 50 Malayalam films. I owe my fame to him. When a TV anchor once asked VDS, “What is the secret behind your long time association with ST?,” he quipped, “It is Vaikathappan’s decision.”
The last time we met was in April. Devarajan Sakthi Gaadha wanted to honour VDS with an award, which CPM leader V.S. Achuthanandan was to give away at Thiruvananthapuram. But he had fever and the trip was cancelled. VD, however, told the disappointed organisers that he would send someone to collect the award. And he gave me that privilege. Taking it from me at his house, VDS had said, “I do not know how long I will live. Vaikathappan has decided that I should receive this trophy from you and I’m happy.”
My last telephonic conversation with him was two months ago, when I requested him to allow the Mathrubhoomi TV crew to interview him. He agreed. The entire unit travelled to Chennai from Thiruvananthapuram and recorded the interview at his residence. I won the Kerala State Award for a song I penned, that was tuned by VDS, ‘Suham Evidey Dhukkam Evidey.’ I sang this song to myself standing next to his mortal remains.
Incidentally, Vijay Yesudas’s daughter, Amaya, has sung under Dakshinamurthi Swamy’s baton for the film ‘Shyaama Raagam,’ thus making it an association touching four generations. Also, by composing music for a film at age 94, Dakshinamurti has set a record.