Meet Na. Muthukumar, much-sought-after lyricist, whose interests and talents go far beyond Tamil cinema.
Na. Muthukumar has worked in 34 Tamil films in the past year. "It's not a record," he says humbly. "Earlier when we had less number of songwriters and more number of productions, Kannadasan and Vaali wrote lyrics for films even thrice the number." Muthukumar makes the session memorable, as he quotes from his works and from others' with fluency and adeptness typical of a person steeped in the world of letters. And the best part is he makes writing poetry and prose sound so easy. "Gone are the days when I needed a silent ambience. Most of the time, I have to deliver the words in a matter of an hour. For example, Yuvan would call me up at say 4.30 p.m. to inform that the singers will arrive at 6 and the song has to be ready by then. For all of us it's a race against time," smiles the young man.
In awe of KannadasanWorking within a stipulated time frame could, on looking back, make him feel he could have come out with better output. "True. But I'm a last minute worker. Even if you give me 10 days, I'll begin writing only on the ninth," he laughs. "Most of us in the industry are in the same age group and so things are easy." But you have Muthukumar writing songs for makers Selvaraghavan, Balaji Saktivel and Vasanthabalan on the one hand and KB, P. Vasu and Suresh Krissna on the other. "The common factor is that we are all creators," he says. Muthukumar had been to Thailand with Selva and Yuvan for composing for `Pudhupettai.' "It was a nice experience. I wrote four songs in one night," he recalls.He began with Seeman's `Veera Nadai' in 2000 and has written songs for about 500 films till date, which roughly translates into 700 songs. "I've a long way to go. My father, a Tamil pundit himself, tells me, I should try and write like Kannadasan. I'm in awe of his emotions, romance, philosophy and technique of telling the story in just a couple of lines of a song. His metaphors fascinate me. I try to follow his style." Muthukumar's lyrics will form Rajini's intro scene in `Sivaji.' Earlier director Shankar had given him all the songs in `Veyyil' and `Kaadhal.' "And he was very happy with the `Sivaji' song. Rajinikanth also praised the lyric." A.R.Rahman always gives him full freedom. "`I've given you the tune. But don't restrict yourself. You write what you feel and we will work it out later,'" he says. Most of the time Vidyasagar asks me for the words of the pallavi and tunes them. It was the same for `Deepavali' with Yuvan. And be it Kartik Raja, Imman, Harris Jeyaraj, Vijay Antony or G.V.Prakash, we understand one another well." Diplomacy rules the exchanges throughout. On the redundancy of English words in lyrics till recently, his observation is: "Once such a song clicked, other makers wanted the same. But now they've been weaned away from it. The recent hits are proof enough." Ask him about obscenity in lyrics and the response is, "I've written very few such songs, and even there it was within limits. But now I firmly refuse to pen such lyrics." A doctorate holder, journalist, novelist, poet, lyricist, dialogue writer Muthukumar's dimensions are many. "I work around 20 hours a day," he says. And where does that leave time for the newly wedded wife? "That's her grouse. She insists I devote more time to her," he laughs self-consciously. Meanwhile, this young man from Kanchipuram is also writing `Silk City,' a novel in English, on four generations in Kanchi. "It involves a lot of research," he says. His time management skills leave you gaping!