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Poet with a lyrical sensibility

HE BEGAN his song-writing career in films with that melodious number from "Nizhalgal", "Idu Oru Ponmalai Pozhudu". He has four National Awards to his credit for his song-writing abilities. He has published his poems in Tamil. His poetry has been appreciated in different quarters. And some time back, he was honoured with a Padma Shri.

Lyricist Vairamuthu has fired the imagination of many a poetry lover with his lyrics that reflect reality and the beauty of Nature. In an interview, he takes a trip down memory lane, recalling his quiet school life in a village. He also talks about his love for literature while justifying the use of English words in his songs. Excerpts:

Your reactions on being honoured with the Padma Shri.

I am very happy to get this kind of recognition, especially since it is for my contribution to literature. There have been many talented Tamil poets and literary geniuses before me who have not got such recognition. I accept this award on behalf of all of them.

Tell us about your childhood.

I was born into an agricultural family. When I was three, we left the village and moved to Vadugapatti where I did my schooling. I used to participate in oratorical competitions and win all of them. Life was not very easy for me those days and I found solace in Nature and Tamil literature.

Do you still go back to your village?

Yes. Whenever I feel the need to re-energise myself, I return to my village. Also, my parents still live there. They refuse to come to the city. I may live in Chennai, but deep down I am still a boy from the village. Life there is blissful and one is always closer to Nature... singing with a bird, watching butterflies or just sitting by the riverside.

When and where did you write your first poem?

I began writing poetry at the age of 12. If I remember right, I wrote my first poem while walking through a paddy field. I do not remember the poem but I recall the place vividly.

Have your poems been translated into English?

Yes. A group of translators from Canada are in fact, translating some of my works.

What made you opt for a career in films?

Every artiste wants to be appreciated by as many people as possible. And that is possible only through films. It has a wider reach. And of course there is money too.

Can film songs be termed as literary?

Not necessarily. But a lyricist can come up with something literary. I try to make songs as poetic as possible.

How long does it take to pen a song?

Sometimes, when I hear a tune, I immediately come up with the words. "Vizhiyil Vizhunthu Idhayam" was written in just ten minutes while "Etta Etta Manusan Vazhva" picturised on Rajnikanth, took me eight minutes. Normally, I come up with ten different lyrics for a particular tune, and from that the best is chosen.

Your views on Kannadasan.

What Kannadasan did was phenomenal. Stories were written specially for him and his lyrics touched upon every human sentiment, be it filial love, patriotism, heroism or philosophy and spirituality. Kannadasan's songs often ensured that the films became huge hits. Also the story lines those days were much stronger. However, the same cannot be said of stories these days. Inspite of that, several songs have become popular.

Some Tamil songs use English words and others have meaningless lyrics. Why?

It is not a new phenomenon. Remember the MGR song "Kashmir beautiful Kashmir" or the Sivaji number "O little flower, See you lover" or "Rock Rock Rock, Rock and Roll" written by Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram? Well, these are not the voices of the lyricist or the poet but the character portrayed on screen. Today, English is widely spoken and it is natural that it is used in songs too.

Has your family has been supportive of your career?

Yes. My wife and two sons respect my need to be alone while I am at work. They are aware of the temperament of poets and writers, which is a great help indeed.

Today, there seem to be more lyricists than poets. Can one `become' a poet?

One is born with a certain talent. Nobody can become a poet with hard work. Poetry comes spontaneously. An English poet once remarked that a poem comes to a poet like a flower blossoms on a tree. Of course, one can improve a poem by working hard on it.


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