Centenary Music

Mahadevan — classicist, who also rocked

L.R. Eswari, M.N. Rajam and A.L Raghvan (right) being honoured by Y.G. Mahendran (extreme left)

L.R. Eswari, M.N. Rajam and A.L Raghvan (right) being honoured by Y.G. Mahendran (extreme left)   | Photo Credit: K_Pichumani

Peppered with interesting anecdotes and timeless songs, ‘Oru Naal Poduma’ was a heartwarming tribute to genius-composer K.V. Mahadevan

Thirai Isai Thilakam K.V. Mahadevan’s 101st year was marked by a programme titled ‘Oru Naal Poduma,’ organised by Y.G. Mahendra at Vani Mahal. The huge turnout was testimony to the popularity of KVM’s songs, so many years after his death. But how did the title Thirai Isai Thilakam come about? “In 1963, Pugazhendi, Mahadevan’s assistant, asked my father YGP to confer a title on K.V. Mahadevan. At that time, my father ran an organisation called National Arts Combines, through which the title was conferred on Mahadevan. The programme was at Raja Annamalai Mandram. Sivaji ensured the participation of all the big names in the film industry. Mahadevan told my father, ‘This is the only title I will use always.’ And he was true to his word,” said YGM.

“Rhythm was a very strong element in KVM’s music,” said YGM. “He used to be called Udukkadi Mannan, because of his wide use of percussion instruments, which included ghata sanjari. He was as strong in folk music as he was in classical. He had a wonderful tabla player in Ramalingam, elder brother of Prasad, who played in MSV’s orchestra and later in Ilayaraja’s. My father had arranged a Mohammad Rafi programme in Madras, for which Ramalingam played the tabla. Rafi asked my father if he could take the outstanding tabla player with him! But Ramalingam said, ‘I want to be with Maama (KVM).’” YGM said that KVM came up with many beat songs, especially for Thevar films.

The hallmark of a great music composer is that he can write tunes for any lyric. “KVM never asked lyricists to rewrite their songs. He used to tell MSV that there was a tune hidden in every lyric, and it was up to the composer to discover it,” said YGM.

In a video clipping, A.L. Raghavan (ALR) talked of the affection KVM had for him. When ALR requested KVM to give him a song on the lines of the melodious PBS song ‘Yaen sirithai ennai paarthu,’ KVM came up with ‘Oru Murai Parthale podum,’ in the film Panchali. By the time KVM turned 80, he had lost both speech and memory. He could not recognise anyone, friends or family. ALR was present at KVM’s 80th birthday celebrations and when KVM saw ALR, he shouted, “Raghava,” and tears coursed down his cheeks. After a few seconds, he again lapsed into the state of not being aware of anything.

Memorable moments

ALR, his wife M.N. Rajam, L.R. Easwari and Gangai Amaran were among the celebrities, who attended YGM’s programme. Easwari said that it was KVM and A.P. Nagarajan who gave her the name L.R. Easwari. KVM used to call her ‘Raja,’ and he would often tell her that her ‘Vaarai yen thozhi,’ tuned by MSV would make her world famous. Kannadasan insisted that Easwari should sing ‘Yaradi vandar’ (tuned by KVM) in the film Vanambadi.

At a request from the audience, Easwari sang a few lines from the song, and said had the lyrics been available, she would have gladly sung the whole song. She recalled that at KVM’s 80th day celebrations, she was sure he must have recognised her, for he held on to her hand, and wouldn’t let go.

Pugazhendi was KVM’s right hand man, who put the orchestra through its paces and taught singers, and there was perfect understanding between KVM and Pugazhendi. YGM narrated an interesting incident MSV had told him about. A man came up to KVM and said, “I hear that you just come up with a tune, and Pugazhendi does the rest of the work.” KVM retorted, “You are wrong. Pugazhendi does everything, including the tunes!”

The audience was treated to a rare video clipping of KVM and Pugazhendi singing ‘Mannavan Vandanadi’ for MSV, where MSV says that this song will go down as an iconic one in the history of classical dance. YGM said, “There was a time when people were afraid that film music would totally displace classical music. But KVM, through the film Sankarabharanam, got many people interested in Carnatic music.”

In 1998, Bharat Kalachar and Temple of Fine Arts organised a function to honour KVM. “Although KVM could not speak, one could tell from his smile that he was enjoying the evening,” said YGM. “I remember what Gangai Amaran said at the function - ‘Stalwarts like G. Ramanathan, KVM and MSV have laid a concrete road. Music composers like us are drivers, who just drive different cars on this road.’”

Murali’s Mouna Ragam presented many of KVM’s memorable songs. The singers and the orchestra managed even difficult tunes without a slip.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 10:33:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/mahadevan-classicist-who-also-rocked/article26598397.ece

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