Composer Ramesh Vinayakam recalls the precious times he spent with the famed lyricist and his last work.
Oru Maan Mazhuvum Siru Koon Pirayum
Sadai Vaar Kuzhalum pidai Vaaganamum
Konda Nayaganin Kulir Degaththilay
Nindra Nayagiyey Ida Baagaththilay…
This is a description of Siva’s Ardhanariswara form, a part of the song ‘Janani Janani’ composed and sung by Ilaiyaraja for the film, ‘Thaai Mookambikai.’ The lyric that has been the favourite of singers, composers and directors, was penned by Vaalee.
A Vaishnavite (Rangarajan hailed from Tiruparaithurai, on the banks of the Cauvery in Tiruchi and spent his childhood in Srirangam), Vaalee had deep faith in Subramanya, to whom he dedicated several songs made immortal by TMS. He frequented Lord Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam and Sri Akilandeswari temple, Tiruvanaikoil.
A talk by Ayyamperumal Konar attracted him to Naalaayira Divya Prabandam and he learnt the verses. A prolific film lyricist, Vaalee found in the Tamil weeklies a channel for his devotional streak, with readers lapping up ‘Vaalee Ramayanam’ and ‘Paandavar Bhoomi.’
One of the significant works he was engaged in was a collection of 45 poems on Azhagiya Singar, the 45 head of Ahobila Math. He was relieved and happy when his three-year effort bore fruit and the volume was released at a function, the last occasion he appeared in public.
Appreciation from the poet
A highlight of the function that took place at the Music Academy, Chennai, was the rendition of the verses as songs by music composer Ramesh Vinayakam. “I had worked with Vaalee in my films, but this was something divine. I was free to choose the songs and had a week to set them to tune. When I sang them at his house he was thrilled at my musical treatment of his ‘Vennbaa’ and repeatedly blessed me from the bottom of his heart,” recalls Ramesh.
The composer has more to offer on the late poet. “I once asked him about the qualifications needed to become a lyricist in films. ‘A bit of knowledge in meter (sandam), music and the language you have chosen are important attributes,’ he paused and said, ‘You can still become famous without any of them too’.”
“Vaalee was always in tune with the times. A good psychologist, he knew what the director wanted and delivered songs that have stood the test of time.
“Dr. Gnana Rajashekar’s film on mathematician Ramanujan gave me ample opportunity to interact with Vaalee Sir. He had completed one song and it is very sad that other was on the pipeline before the inevitable happened. But that one song is going to underline the supreme place he occupied in the industry. He has used numbers throughout the lyric, touching upon some mathematical concepts and the nature of the hero’s character.
“He was in the ICU where none was allowed to meet him. Yet I managed to be with him for a couple of days spending quality time with him. He also presented me with the manuscript of ‘Azhaigya Singar’ which I consider a treasure and will cherish forever. He never begins without writing the Pillaiyaar Suzhi, Om Muruga and Sri Ramajayam on the top sheet.”
Ramesh confirms this Muruga bhakthi of Vaalee through another incident which Vaalee himself had narrated to him. His car got stuck at some obscure place and it was midnight. The eerie silence was blood chilling. Almost stranded for hours in the pitch dark road, there came a young boy from nowhere and repaired the car. Profusely thanking him for his timely help, Vaalee asked for his name for which he replied ‘Murugan’ and walked away swiftly without waiting for anything in return for his services.
Equal was his reverence for his Acharyan as is evident from this selection from his work, ‘Azhagiya Singar’
Koduppinai Vendum; Andha
Oru kadaksham vaaiththaal podum
Ozhugalaaru vasamaai pogum;
Peru kadaksham akdhay; Andha
Perumaalin kadaksham petruththarukadkasham akday; nenjay!
Thalaippadu adhu nee siddikka.