Voice that rendered countless numbers for yesteryear heroes Sivaji Ganesan and MGR lives on in public memory

The glorious career of T.M. Soundararajan might not have taken off had Sivaji Ganesan had his way.

When TMS was hired by Aruna Films as a playback singer for the Sivaji-starrer Thooku Thooki at a salary of Rs. 2,000, Sivaji objected to a new singer being introduced.

He wanted Chidambaram S. Jayaraman who had been his playback singer in Parasakathi, his first film, and could not imagine anyone else in his place. A crestfallen TMS said he would render the songs but if Sivaji did not like them, he would not press further. The songs were recorded and an immensely-pleased Sivaji gave TMS the go-ahead.

They proved a terrific combination. After listening to his songs, MGR too wanted TMS as a playback singer. Yet another super combination was born after Malaikkallan

While his high-pitch voice captured the majesty of Tamil, TMS also rendered thousands of duets for the great heroes of the Tamil world with feelings evoked beyond imagination. 

If ‘Ammadi ponnuku thangamanasu’, ‘Yerikaraiyin melay’ and ‘Thaazhaiyam poomudichu’ had fine elements of folk music, ‘Isai kettal puvi asainthadum’, ‘Paatum naane, bhavamum naane’, ‘Sinthanai seimanamey’ and ‘Vadivelu mayilum thunai’ were beautiful examples of Carnatic music in the film world.

His duets are too many to name just a few. In the old days, a haunting ‘Aahaya panthalilay ponnuunjal’, ‘Nee yenenna sonnalum’ (fine bhagesri raga song), ‘Oruvar meethu oruvar saainthu’ and all the songs in the films directed by Bhim Singh bore testimony to his calibre. In the modern times, Ilaiyaraja used him to render some fine melodies including ‘Anthapuraithil oru maharani’ (Deepam), ‘Sindunathikarai oram’ (Nallathoru Kudumbam), ‘Amma nee sumantha pillai’ (Annai Oru Aalayam). 

TMS also excelled in songs with a philosophical touch. When lyricist Kannadasan appeared on screen, he moved his lips for the TMS songs ‘Paramasivan kazhuthil irunthu’ and ‘Oru koppaiyile yen kudiyiruppu’.

‘Yaar antha nilavu’, ‘Yenkay nimmathi’, ‘Pallakku vaanka poneyen’, ‘Veeduvarai  uravu’, ‘Chatti Chuttathada’ bore testimony to his prowess as a singer conveying philosophical sentiments. He also sang for T. Rajendar in the songs ‘Noolum illai vaalum illai’ and ‘Yen kathai mudiyum neramidhu’. 

Though it was impossible to imagine a singer other than TMS for MGR, the former Chief Minister introduced S.P. Balasubrahmanyam in the film Adimaipen. The song was ‘Aayiram nilavey vaa’. 

“TMS would say that MGR must be thanked for introducing a fine singer to Tamil,” said Vamanan, his biographer. But in Ulagam Suttrum Vaaliban, he once again proved his was the perfect voice for MGR. 

Though he had sung for many music directors, he always spoke with gratitude about G. Ramanathan, who he said was instrumental in shaping his voice and bringing out minute nuances. 

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