As a regular at the annual events of msvtimes.com, I’m quite used to the adulation the composer commands. Every year (this is the forum’s fifth) a member of MSV’s inimitable orchestra is honoured at the meet and MSV’s mesmerising impact on the musicians who worked for him is reiterated by the awardees. But the conviction with which this year’s recipient, Thomas Rozario, trombone player, said it, made more impact. “I’m nervous! I don’t know whether I can sit down beside him. I prefer standing,” Thomas kept saying, till MSV arrived.
The brass section in MSV’s orchestra was always known to be strong. Who can forget the use of the trombone in the ‘Paalooti Valartha Kili’ number and the amazing counterpoints in ‘Gauravam’s score?
“It was my father, Andrews Rozario, who played the trombone bits in all MSV’s songs,” Thomas’s voice swells with pride, when I talk to him later. Andrews’ repertoire included everlasting Sivaji Ganesan film strains such as ‘Adhisaya Ulagam’ (another ‘Gauravam’ song) ‘Manidhan Ninaippadhundu’ (‘Avan Dhaan Manidhan’), ‘Devaney…’ (‘Gnana Oli’) … “I don’t have the list of songs dad played for him. But it should be really long,” says Thomas.
Several musical hits of MGR – ‘Idhyakani’ and ‘Meenava Nanban’ to name a couple -- have Andrews’s trombone in full flow. “I still remember the days my father would return after a recording with MSV, his face glowing with joy. ‘He gave me solo bits to play. He knows how to use the instrument, Thomas. He’s a genius and his music will live forever. So in turn through the bits I play for him, I’ll live forever,’ he would laugh,” remembers Rozario Junior. The father-son duo has played together too for MSV!
Thomas learnt the art from his father. “You didn’t have teachers for the instrument in those days,” he says. Andrews trained his son to follow his footsteps. Slowly he made Thomas take up assignments that came to him and groomed him to perfection. The son has played for MSV’s ‘Manipayal,’ ‘Punnagai,’ ‘Gnana Paravai’ and more. His ‘Vaaliban Sutrum Ulagam’ is the most recent.
“I’ve not maintained a record of my work either,” Thomas laughs. He has played in K.V. Mahadevan’s orchestra, and is still active on the brass front with composers such as Mani Sharma, Harris Jeyaraj and Devi Sriprasad. “After the ubiquitous keyboard came into the picture, live brass sections have become redundant,” he observes. But Thomas is also busy as a composer of Christian devotionals, a singer and as a trombone teacher. I’ve imbibed singing and composing from my master MSV. He’s nonpareil.”
About working for MSV he says: “It was a golden period. He would work on the score of four films in a single day! Even as he entered the recording studio, he would look around at the musicians who had assembled and assess our potential in a jiffy. He would give us the notations and would know the musicians who could find the bits tough. At once he’d make them simpler. ‘Just four notes, but they should come out loud and clear,’ he would say. And if he composed 10 songs for a film, all the 10 were hits – ‘Padagotti,’ ‘Aayirathil Oruvan,’ ‘Karnan,’ ‘Kaaviya Thalaivi’ -- I can go on. I don’t think any other composer can boast of this kind of sustained record. And his RR sessions were unbelievable. He would watch a scene, stop it, call us inside and start giving us our pieces, all in one go. And when we eventually watched the scene, the last note would close exactly at the end of the scene. I still don’t know how he could do it every time,” Thomas’s admiration is almost palpable.
For me, it’s yet another example of the power of M.S.Viswanathan’s music that holds the knowledgeable, the musically inclined and the common admirer in thrall!