The untiring efforts of thousands of party workers and artists become more visible during elections
They travel extensively, covering some of the most remote areas in the State. They perform at street corners, under trees and on temporary platforms erected by colleagues — the untiring efforts of thousands of party workers and artists become more visible during elections.
Coming up with catchy lyrics for a popular film song tune or scripting a street play that seeks to influence the voter's mind is no easy task. What is even more challenging is to perform at a street corner, with a basic microphone set on a hot summer afternoon with vehicles passing by.
S. Vasanthi, however, showed no sign of being distracted or fatigued. The singer from Mettur has been with the CPI(M) for nearly two decades. With an instantly appealing voice and clear diction, she sings: ‘Yerudu yerudu vila vaasi…' under the peepal tree in Ramapuram near Porur, with another performer supporting her with his loud and steady beats on the thavil.
The satirical lyrics highlighting the issue of price rise have the small audience gathered around smiling. “We have artists from different groups such as the Safdar Hashmi Kalai Kuzhu that have been associated with the party,” says Damu, a member of the goup.
Lyrics could either be sarcastic and funny or simply celebratory. There was a time when no DMK meeting was complete without a performance of Nagoor E.M.Haneefa. The party cadres would go euphoric when he began his full-throated rendition of “Odi varugiran udayasuriyan”. A number of singers try imitating him, but only a few could match his charisma and appeal. Now Iraianban Kuthoos is a familiar face on the DMK dais. Of late, the DMK is using tunes of popular songs in the ‘Kuthupattu' genre of Tamil film music to begin its meetings. Songs such as ‘Daddy mummy veetil illa' and ‘Thakita thakita thakita' have lent themselves to lyrics promoting the party.
Though MGR film songs are AIADMK's stock fodder, the party released special songs to attract voters even during his life time.
“Vaasal yengum rettai iIali kolamidungal Gandhi mannavanin kaaladiyil maalai idungal…” and “Puratchi thalaivarin vazhi nadappom puthiya samuthayam thaan amaippom…” are some of the old numbers In recent times, an album released by T.Nagar AIADMK candidate V.P.Kalairajan has become a hit among those in the party. “I wrote all the 10 songs and we are ready with another album,” Mr Kalairajan said.
“Bhoomi ullavarai engamma pugzhaly nirainthirukkum” sung by T.L. Maharajan is played at every occasion where AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa participates. There are also individuals like Navarasam Panneer, who run a troupe that travel across the state and campaigns for the AIADMK. “I will write the songs on topical issues. For this election I have penned songs on 2 G spectrum scam and hike in the price of essential commodities,” Mr. Panneer said and belched out, “Naadu kadanthu kekkuthamma oozhalu, Spectrum oozhalu.”
He has been running the troupe for three decades and is a sought after singer in the party.
“I will organise dance performances for MGR songs. I will appear on the dais on various get-ups and perform for numbers such as Koduthathellam koduthan, Thayillamal naanelliai and Naan aanai ittal,” he added. Whether it is about penning lyrics, recording music or performing the songs live, it is a lot of hard work for the artists.
Theatre artists are also actively involved in the case of Left parties. They do not expect any special remuneration or acknowledgement. It is all about political conviction, says Pralayan, founder-convenor of the Chennai Kalai Kuzhu, associated with the CPI(M). “They see it as an extension of their political activism.”
This election, the Election Commission has given theatre groups like his a “creative challenge”. Even symbolic representations of political rivals have been banned. Scripts are being subjected to scrutiny and playwrights are forced to be very subtle and yet powerful. “Despite the constraints, we have come up with two plays Kuppaigal and Attaigal with strong messages,” Mr. Pralayan adds.
S. Vasanthi, artist and CPI(M) member:
We sit together for a couple of days and decide on the tunes. We have very talented poets who can instantly pen lyrics that reflect our political ideology. We rehearse a few times before performing it. We choose popular tunes and peppy songs with beats that will instantly appeal to a crowd. We highlight contemporary issues so that people can relate to them. Our focus is on getting a message across and we are committed to that.