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Lyricist, author and actor Vaali is no more

B. Kolappan
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He had written over 15,000 songs, including 5,000 songs for music maestro Ilayaraja

Vaali, who secured a place on par with Kannadasan
Vaali, who secured a place on par with Kannadasan

Lyricist, actor and author Vaali, who secured a place on a par with Kannadasan at a time the latter strode like a colossus in the Tamil film music world, died here on Thursday evening.

He was 82 and is survived by his son.

He was not keeping well for quite some time and was in and out of hospital over the past one month. The end came as one of his friends recited a few pasuramsOndrum Marantharieyen and Oorilen Kaaniyillai and Kulam Tharum from the Nalayira Divyaprabandam, a set of hymns sung by Vaishnavite minstrels.

Vaali, who had a five-decade-long association with the Tamil film industry wrote over 15,000 songs, including 5,000 songs for music maestro Ilayaraja, for many a protagonist played by actors from M G Ramachandran to Dhanush.

On the one hand, he wrote songs like Madhavi Ponmayilal, Ammavendrazhaikatha uyirillaye, Naanaga naan illai and Janani janani that transported the listener to a different plane, and on the other, he entertained the masses with low-brow songs such as chikkupukku chikkupukku railay, mukkala muqabla and singari sarakku nalla sarakku .

Overwhelmed by his the brilliant imagery of the lines in the song Pakkathu Veetu Paruva Matchan in the film Karpagam , Kannadasan declared in a public meeting that Vaali would be his heir-apparent.

Though he had written songs for MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and many present day heroes, his association with MGR songs is famous. The political image that MGR built for himself through his film songs stood him in good stead later on when he embarked on a highly successful political career, with Vaali’s lines embodying his ideas.

Naan Aanai Ittal (‘ Enga veetu pillai ’), moondrezhuthil yen moochirukkum (Theiva Thai) , kan pona pokkiley kaal pogalama (Panam Padaithavan ), Puthiya vaanam, puthiya boomi ( Anbe Vaa ), Thambi Naan Padichen Kanchiyilay Netru ( Netru, Indru, Nalai) and tharaimel pirakka vaithan (Padakoti) galvanised the masses.

Born S. Rangarajan in Thiruparaithurai near Tiruchi in 1931, he assumed the pen name Vaali, as he was an ardent fan of famed artist Mali working with Ananda Vikatan, now a Tamil weekly. Vaali was also known as Vaaliba Kavignar (youthful lyricist).

A theatre enthusiast, he directed many plays in Tiruchi and Srirangam and worked for the All India Radio (AIR) as a part-time employee, before making a foray into the film world as lyricist.

He also acted in ‘Paarthal Paravasam’, ‘Poikkal Kuthirai’ and ‘Hey Ram.’ He had one directorial venture – ‘Vadaimaalai.’ He penned the dialogues for some films including ‘Kaliyuga Kannan.’

Vaali was also a dramatist and story writer. Ore Oru Gramathile, a film for which he wrote the story and dialogues, was sought to be banned, but the Supreme Court overturned it. The film produced by S. Rangarajan, late publisher of The Hindu , won a national award.

He landed in Chennai in search of opportunities in the film world and the break came in 1958. He wrote his first song for the film Azhagarmalai Kallan . The first film he wrote for MGR was Nallavan Vaazhvaan and the dialogues were penned by DMK founder C.N. Annadurai.

But Ithayathil Nee starring Gemini Ganesan gave him the much-needed popularity. MGR starrer Padakotti took him to new heights as a lyricist. Subsequently he wrote almost all films of MGR and shared a great relationship with M.S. Viswanathan.

“I was writing lines for my livelihood. I started paying tax only after joining hands with MSV,” he had said in his memoir.

His devotional song Karpanai entralum Karchilai entralum on Lord Muruga continues to move generations of devout listeners. “Koovi azhaithal kural koduppan,” set to the raaga valaji has become an immortal Tamil krithi rendered in classical music concerts.

While he was a believer, he benefited immensely from his association with the leaders of the Dravidian Movement including Anna, MGR and M. Karunanidhi.

A prolific writer, he had rendered in verse forms the tales of Rama (Avathara Purushan), Krishna (Krishna Vijayam) and Ramanuja (Ramanuja Kaviyam) . Pandavar Bhoomi was Mahabharatha in modern verse. His latest work was the biography of Srimad Azhagiyasingar , the 45th Jeer of the Ahobila Mutt.

A void in Tamil cinema

The death of Vaali has left a void in Tamil cinema, Governor K. Rosaiah said.

Expressing shock at the demise of Vaali, he said the great legend’s lyrics touched every one’s heart and conveyed a message. Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko said Vaali had penned more than 10,000 songs, including some popular ones in MGR films, and his death was a great loss.

Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan said Vaali’s songs were cherished by people from all walks of life. A recipient of various national and State honours, Vaali conveyed many social issues through his songs to the people.

He carved out a niche for himself in the industry.

Desiya Murpoku Dravida Kazhagam leader Vijaykant recalled Vaali’s contribution in some of his movies. He said the lyrist tried to bring about socio-economic changes in the society through his songs.

Madhan Karky, lyricist and son of veteran lyricist Vairamuthu said: “Vali had a keep sense of current scenarios and often his songs had a social narrative. Even in one of his last songs for ‘Ethirneechal’ he penned the lyrics ‘minvettu naalil ingu minsaaram pola vandhaaye’ (you came to me like power on a power cut day.) His sense of humour and simplicity was inspiration. He had been active and at the top of his game for more than four decades. He knew the knack of making film song reach even the lowest common denominator and did not treat them as some high form of poetry.”

Chitralaya Gopu, director-script writer, said: “He was a devout Vaishnavite, an aspect only those very close to him knew about, and was forever in love with his hometown Srirangam. A very active mind, he often reeled out entire songs after just listening to a minute or two of the scenario from the director and the music director. More than anything else, he was an incredible friend who always livened up conversations. As a humorist myself, I have enjoyed his stage plays. In ‘Kaliyuga Kannan,’ the protagonist is an atheist who has a conversation with Lord Krishna without realising that he is a god. And in the end, he laments that all the sins he committed eventually led him to consume medicines like Metacin, Erithromycin and a whole lot of other ‘sins’.”


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