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Friday, June 29, 2001

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Simple, soul-stirring music

CONTRARY TO these days when film songs bank on computerised orchestration and richness of fare, the `Thirai isai thilagam' and `Swara Brahma' Krishnankoil Venkatachalam Mahadevan's (83) numbers were light classical in style, rooted as if in the nativity of Carnatic music.

He believed in the versatality of the nadaswaram and his father was the accredited vidwan of the Travancore Court.

He learnt the nuances of music from Poothapandi Arunachala Kavirayar.

Pugazhendhi, an associate of K. V. Mahadevan (KVM) for more than half a century, recalls the warmth with which KVM rendered his duty, be it on the personal or professional side. ``Directors and producers always looked forward to working with him. He scored the President's award winning numbers in `Kandan Karunai' (1967) and `Shankarabharanam' (a Telugu megahit in 1979).

Though he was not very comfortable learning Telugu, he managed the show very well with the bhava and Carnatic music knowledge background.

The result was a golden disc in sales. He invariably banked on the inner resource blended with the aesthetic appeal of the basics of Carnatic music and was always awarded for the texture of his compositions''.

``The bhava, not orchestra, was his forte. Even for MGR films, that relied mostly on the entertaining aspect of cinema, the orchestration was minimum. The title song in MGR's `Thozhilali' for example, had just three instruments.

His compositions carried these advantages in unison - richness of voice, purpose of situation, strength of lyrics and quality of rendition.

Sadly today's numbers seem to derive their strength mainly from orchestra, leaving other aspects in an unenviable spot.''

S. P. Balasubramaniam made his debut in the MGR starrer ``Adimai Penn'' that had music score by K. V. Mahadevan.

He went on to sing more than 35,000 songs in a span of 33 years. Even ``Mellisai Mannar'' M. S. Viswanathan started his career as a chorus singer in KVM's troupe.

KVM himself had a humble beginning. After a brief stint with stage plays and HMV gramaphone company, he joined the cine field as an assistant to T. A. Kalyanam and S. V. Venkataraman.

A career with Salem Modern Theatres provided him the encouragement he needed when he was just 20.

Soon he made his debut as a music director under the same banner for ``Manonmani'' (1942) and since then has done about 600 films mainly in Telugu and Tamil.

In 1963, 22 films were released under his direction, a record of sorts then.

Around the time he was composing for ``Swathi Kiranam'' (1992) directed by K. Vishwanath and featuring Mamooty and Radhika and ``Srinatha Kavi Sarvabhowma'' (1993), he was down with a stroke that left him speechless and he had to leave the cine field.

The end came after about nine years on June 21, 2001. He leaves behind his wife, two sons and three daughters.

Some of maama's (as he was fondly addressed by people in the Tamil cine field) all time hits were composed for ``Town Bus'', ``Thai Piranthal Vazhi Pirakkum'', ``Sampoorna Ramayanam'', ``Thiruvilaiyadal'', ``Mudalali'', ``Adimai Penn'', ``Vasantha Maligai'', ``Padikkatha Medhai'', ``Saraswathy Sabhatham'', and ``Kandan Karunai''.

The lyrics were first written and then tuned, not vice versa as is the fashion now.

Dr. P. Bhanumathi, leading actress of the bygone era, recalls his vidwatvam in Carnatic music, folklore and classical music.

``He ruled the cine world like a Bhishmacharya. The songs I sang for him were featured in ``Makkalai Petra Maharasi'', ``Thaikuppin Tharam'' and ``Kalaiarasi''.

``She makes special mention of the song `Mannavan Vandanadi' from ``Thiruvarutchelvar''.


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