Bureaucrat-lyricist K. Jayakumar is looking forward to retirement from service to give full rein to his creative pursuits.

Any good song must be of greater magnitude than either the words or the music. This is what poet-bureaucrat K. Jayakumar firmly believes and that’s why his personal favourite from among the 100-odd films songs he has penned so far is the not-so-popular ‘Saayanthanam nizhal veesiyilla…’ (Ozhivukaalam).

For Jayakumar, though, the evening shadows have not lengthened, the fire has not dimmed. “At 60, due to retire from service soon, I reassure myself that the shadows have not really lengthened. That song becomes more relevant now,” says Jayakumar.

Jayakumar feels that he has so much more to offer and that his creativity has “not been fully tapped.” For more than three decades of service, he was struggling to balance his creative pursuits with his other commitments. “I’m there,” he says, “But not deep enough to bring the best in me. It’s not overconfidence. It’s only the confidence of a writer. I have so much to say.” Jayakumar was always an officer than a writer. This is what is going to change shortly. “I’ll be more of a writer than a retired officer.”

It is usual for any discussion on Jayakumar the songster to start with his memorable songs from films such as Neelakadambu, Kizhakkunarum Pakshi, Ente Kaanakuyil and Ozhivukaalam. But before all this, when Jayakumar was hardly 19, he wrote his first film song. The film Bhadradeepam (1973) had four songs by Vayalar Rama Varma and one by Jayakumar.

“It happened inadvertently. I asked my father, M. Krishnan Nair, who was directing the film, if I could write a song. He agreed but on condition that Vayalar endorses it. Looking back, it seems everything was well orchestrated. Like Paul Coelho said, it seemed that the entire universe conspired for me to get it. Vayalar agreed, M. S. Baburaj set my lyrics to music, K.J. Yesudas gave life to it, the song was pictured on Prem Nazir and the film was directed by my father. What more can a novice dream for?”

It took more than 20 years for Jayakumar to write his next song. That phase was after he graduated, did his post-graduation, studied journalism and cleared the Civil Services examinations. “The turning point in my life was switching from science to literature. I realised that my calling was literature. I experienced the expansion of the mind when I read Asan’s Nalini and other English poems. I believe that your soul tells you what and how your life should be. If I had studied science I would have probably become a doctor and would have lost my passion for literature.”

Knowing that Jayakumar is due to retire from service soon people have already approached him with requests to write songs. “Returning to writing songs for films, is not just a personal wish. It is the need of the times. I think Malayalis need songs to sing. Film songs these days have not been very good. We still depend heavily on the songs from 60s to the 90s. But 2000 onwards, the quality of the songs has been a let down. So what will this generation sing? My generation had the songs. Whatever people may say, film songs serve a function. They are your sole companion in loneliness, they explain your mood better than anything else, and they provide solace.”

Jayakumar is also set to resume work on a script on Marthanda Varma. “I have done some work on it. It is supposed to be a high value production. If everything is ready I’ll have to engage a couple of researchers and resume work.” This will be a different treatment on the character of Marthanda Varma, Jayakumar says. “It is an attempt to plumb the psychological turmoil of a lonely king. It won’t be just history. I’m trying to explore the inner trauma of the person. And even if the film does not happen, the subject is worth attempting even as a work of literature.”

The best thing about Jayakumar’s career is that he has not mixed his literary pursuits with his official work. “I have resisted the invasion of bureaucratic boredom in my life. I was able to take posts that were largely useful to people. The artiste in me has been the guide to take the correct positions. I cannot be anti-people and sit down and write about their sufferings and pains. It is about emotional integrity,” he says.

The Vayalar connection

Jayakumar idolises Vayalar Rama Varma. “He advised me that there should be an image, a picture when you write something. My father had agreed to my writing for Bhadradeepam with the caveat that Vayalar could chop or change my lines as he chose fit. But Vayalar did not change a word in the song, Mandara manamulla kaatte…. If he had done so it would have perhaps dampened my interest.” Knowing Vayalar was for Jayakumar an experience in itself. “I have driven him around in my old Fiat so many times. Once, after a hectic day’s drive, he had to attend the 100th day celebrations of the film Enipadikkal at Tagore Theatre, Thiruvananthapuram. He thought his dhothi was creased and wanted to change it. I remember telling him that Vayalar Rama Varma does not need an ironed dhothi. And he went for the function wearing that same one. That was just one of those rare moments that I cherish.”

Top of the charts

Mandaara manamulla kaatte… Bhadradeepam

Kudajadriyil… Neelakadambu

Souparnikamritha… Kizhakkunarum Pakshi

Ore swaram… Ente Kaanakuyil

Aakashaganga… Kunjaattakilikal

Saayanthanam nizhal… Ozhivukaalam

Sarangimaaril aniyum… Pavakoothu

Sooryamshuvoro vayalpoovilum… Pakshe

Chandanalepa sugandam… Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha

Dala marmaram… Varnam