Artiste Cheena Kutty no more

Mridangam artiste Madurai T. Srinivasan, popularly known as ‘Cheena Kutty’ in music circles, passed away here on Monday. He was 80.

He played for five generations of film music directors, working with composers G. Ramanathan, K.V. Mahadevan, M.S. Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraja and A.R. Rahman.

When you hear a mellifluous mridangam in a Tamil film song, it is most likely that Cheena Kutty is the artiste — whether it is old gems such as ‘Paatum Naane Bhavamum Naane’ ( Thiruvilaiyadal), ‘Marainthirunthu Parkum Marmam Yenna’ ( Thillana Mohanambal), or songs in Salangai Oli.

It was Ilayaraja who exploited the percussionist’s talent to the maximum. The addictive beats in the beginning of the song ‘Aayiram Thamarai Mottukalae’ ( Alaigal Oyvathillai) and his percussive support in Ilaiyaraja’s celebrated album ‘How To Name It are fine examples of his sensitive playing.

Son of Madurai-based astrologer Tirvenkadathu Iyengar, Cheena Kutty learnt both vocal music and mridangam from Chozhavandan Sesha Iyengar. Though he started his career in Chennai as a regular accompanying artiste, his foray into film music was unexpected.

“He played for T.V. Ratnam and P. Leela and got an opportunity to play for a film song, following a recommendation made by Leela’s father. ‘Yethirparathathu’, a Sivaji Ganesan-starrer was his first film,” said Lalitha Ram, biographer of mridangam maestro Pazhani Subramania Pillai.

Veteran mridangam vidwan Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, who played along with him in Sivaji’s ‘Mridanga Chakravarthy’, said Cheena Kutty had an extraordinary ability to instantly notate music as composers mulled over tunes. In that film, Mr. Sivaraman played for Sivaji, while Srinivasan played for Prabhu. “He always tried to analyse both melody and rhythm and was always unbiased in his appreciation of other musicians,” Mr. Sivaraman said.

Besides many keerthanais, Cheena Kutty composed thillanas and varnams as well. His popular composition, ‘Karunai Deivame’ in Sindhubhairavi, is considered his masterpiece.

“It was during his stint in AIR-Hyderabad that he wrote ‘Karunai Deivame’. He was homesick and penned the composition expressing his longing to get a darshan of Karpagambal of Mylapore,” said Mr. Lalitha Ram.

The artiste is survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 3:48:20 AM |

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