Poet-lyricist bringing out a compilation of 1,000 of his songs spanning nearly three decades

For many Tamil-speaking youngsters the experience of falling in and out of love is incomplete without his lyrics. While film songs penned by him appeal to them instantly, his poetry seeks to awaken the dormant romantic in the reader. His prose, in critically acclaimed creations such as ‘Kallikaattu Idigaasam,' brings out the stark realities of rural life in Tamil Nadu with elegance and authenticity. Poet-lyricist Vairamuthu, a five-time National Award winner and Sahitya Akademi Award recipient, is now bringing out a compilation of his work spanning nearly three decades.

“It has been a truly fascinating experience compiling 1,000 songs from over 7,000,” says the man who caught everyone's attention with his very first song ‘Idu oru pon maalai pozhudu,' that expresses a longing for social justice and the hope of revolutionary change. The compilation, to be released by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on January 2 begins with this song and ends with ‘Arima..arima,' a song he wrote for Rajinikanth-starrer ‘Enthiran' (Robot). The event will see some of the big names of the Indian film industry that the poet has collaborated with, including directors Mani Ratnam, Shankar and music composer A.R. Rahman.

There will be a note for each song, detailing the context it was written in. “Even those who have not seen the films or heard them in the form of songs, should be able to relate to them,” Mr. Vairamuthu says.

 As pointed out by the lyricist in the preface and by Mr. Karunanidhi in his foreword to the publication, the 1,000 songs, which cover several themes, including love, celebration, pain and turmoil, give a glimpse of how Tamil film lyrics have transitioned over the years. “Lyrics of film songs are a record of socio-cultural and political changes. When one engages with these songs, one gets to know what has changed in our society and what remains constant,” says Mr. Vairamuthu, who made waves in the eighties and nineties working with composers such as Ilaiyaraja and Mr. Rahman, enhancing the magic with their music.

 Attracted to socialist ideology in his student days, the poet believes Mann (soil/earth) and Makkal (people) have really been his sources of influence. “For every poet there is something that provides a clear context. For Bharathi, it was nationalism, for Pattukkottai Kalyanasundaram, it was socialism and for me, it is the earth and the people who inhabit it, their emotions and responses.”

 His staunch affiliation to such themes could be attributed to a childhood spent in his village and the experiences that came with his growing up there. Born into an agricultural family in Mettur village, Theni district, little Vairamuthu would run up to a hill top after school just to spend hours looking at the evening sky. “I did this everyday...it meant a great deal to me. Today's dusk sky would be different from yesterday's. That silence, those birds and the red sky were addictive!”

No wonder, he wrote ‘Vaanamagal naanugiraal' (As the lady sky blushes...) in the first song of his.

“As a youngster I had the time, inclination and leisure to indulge in nature. Even today, I prefer the open space, a park or the seaside if I need to write something.”

Interestingly, Mr. Vairamuthu is also a keen admirer of science. He is someone who can effortlessly bring in the Archimedes principle into a romantic song and ask the lover how many neutrons and electrons she holds in her blue eye. “I not only watch how the world changes and embraces modernity, but also try and locate erosion of social values and human emotions in these changing times.” Pointing to a virtual “drought of faith,” Mr. Vairamuthu says he consciously tries to restore faith and optimism in young minds.

 However, deadlines are not the best friends of a creative artist, he feels. “When writing lyrics ceases to be a pleasure and is subjected to the pressures that come with taking it up as a profession, one is confronted by a lot of internal conflict.” And that is when he unwinds through his poetic persona.

 The poet is currently working on bringing out about 100 songs from this compilation in a few Indian and foreign languages. Evidently excited, he says: “There is simply so much to write!”

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012