A group singing old Tamil songs celebrated its third anniversary in Yelagiri with, what else but, yesteryear ditties

Last weekend, the Yelagiri hills resonated with the tunes of timeless Tamil songs. Nostalgic Tamil Songs Singing Group (NTSSG), formed by diehard fans of Tamil film music from the 1940s to the 1980s, was at the hill station celebrating its third anniversary. Today, the croaky voices of its members bear witness to how the two days went at Yelegiri.

Singing spree

“We went on a singing spree. Our vocal cords are just beginning to recover!” says convenor C.N. Paramasivan. NTSSG meets once — sometimes, twice — in a month and every time, members leave thinking the session could have been longer. “Dispersing after five hours of marathon singing, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., we would continue to sing in our cars all the way back home.”

“All of us hoped to take off for an outstation get-together that would allow us sing longer, uninterrupted by the demands of home and office,” says co-convenor U. Balashanmugham. Completion of three years provided the right excuse, and the group boarded a chartered AC bus to Yelagiri.

“Anything that lasts three years has to be taken seriously. And we are focussed on keeping it going,” says Paramasivan. Despite meeting like clockwork over the last three years, the group remains small, with just 20-plus members. Balashanmugham explains that small membership was a conscious decision. “An unwieldy group is the last thing we wanted. We wanted a set of people who would be at the same wavelength. We are friends first and a singing group later,” he adds.

Before they founded NTSSG, Balashanmugham and Paramasivan were long-time friends. Both hail from families that boast a long engagement with the film industry. Paramasivan is the son of legendary filmmaker A.P. Nagarajan, who has given iconic films such as Thiruvilaiyaadal and Thillana Mohanambal. Balashanmugham is the son of Umapathy, who set up the Anand Theater.

“During a visit to our house, Balashanmugham broached the idea of an amateur singing group. Hardly trained singers ourselves, we rolled out the carpet to bathroom singers who shared our interest in Tamil film songs of the past. But, trained singers are also in our fold,” says Paramasivan. “Our members fit into the 40-to-60 age group. Among factors that bind them is a love for melodic songs that convey a philosophy of life or instils confidence and self-belief. Many a time, songs rendered at a meet-up address personal issues faced by our members. For example, when an individual, who is buffeted around by circumstance, listens to ‘Mayakama Kalakama’, he will find certain questions answered.”

Given this focus, the group does not look beyond basic percussion instruments. Sometimes, even these are absent. But the music goes on.

For details, mail ntssg.chennai@gmail.com. .