Many strings to his bow

Kalyanasundram, aka M. Kalyan, violinist  

Kalyanasundaram, more popularly known as Violin M. Kalyan in film and music circles, is one of the leading violinists, who plays both Western and Indian classical music with the same expertise. His tonal quality made him the first choice of many music directors in Tamil cinema.

Noticing his talent to replicate various songs on a coconut shell violin, his father M.A. Murugesan, a well-accomplished harmonium and percussion player in the K.V. Mahadevan orchestra, took him to the Hindustani violin artiste Pushparaj, which helped shape Kalyan’s career. He also underwent training at Music Gurukulam, Egmore.

The songs ‘Sendoora Poove’ (Ilaiyaraaja) and ‘Chinna Chinna Aasai’ (A.R. Rahman), in which he played solos, won the national award. Kalyan has been part of Rahman’s group right from his first film Roja.

“The western songs aired in ‘Listeners’ Choice’ on AIR, Madras, kindled my interest in this genre and that landed me under the guidance of my father’s friend Dhanraj master, the Western music teacher, who taught piano and was an expert in other instruments too,” says Kalyan, tracing his early days.

“He taught me the intricacies of playing the violin. Maestro Ilaiyaraaja, was my co-student, who was learning guitar then,” reminisces Kalyan, who finished his course at Trinity College with a distinction.

“Though my father insisted on my completing the degree before joining films, I started playing for stage shows conducted by Williams Master, Sarangapani, Kamesh Rajamani, A.V. Ramanan and Pavalar Brothers. Music director R. Parthasarathy (Echo Records) asked me to join him and play for films. Soon I graduated from playing in a group to solos.”

Kalyan had his own troupe with his sister on the vocals. As a member of Ilaiyaraaja’s Pavalar Brothers team he played the violin for several plays staged by Lalithanjali drama group, run by S.S. Nilakantan of Vauhini Studios (father of singer S.N. Surendar). Kalyan became nostalgic about his practice sessions for stage shows and plays and the days he used to practice at Ilaiyaraaja’s Teynampet residence.

“I was a regular in Raja’s troupe right from his first film, Annakkili. I still remember his praise for my solo in the ‘Manidha Manidha’ song (Kann Sivandaal Mann Sivakkum),” he recalled.

But Kalyan’s attempt to impress M.S. Viswanathan by playing ‘Chittu Kuruvi Mutham Koduththu’ was a failure. Although that motivated him to work hard to meet his expectations.

He did succeed, for MSV gave him the nod and Kalyan joined the troupe, which had such giant violinists as Fobes, Henry Daniel, Percy James, Joseph Krishna and T.N. Mani. “I consider myself fortunate to for have worked with such stalwarts, said Kalyan.

Kalyan considers his solo for ‘Megamae Megamae’ song (Palaivanacholai) as one of his best. He was all praise for the duo Shankar-Ganesh for encouraging many aspiring musicians to realise their dreams.Kalyanam played in Malayalam films too for directors such as Shyam, Devarajan Master, Arjun, Johnsons, Kannanore Rajan, Baburaj and Dakshinamurthy Master and for G.K. Venkatesh in his (Kannada) films. Kalyan’s tonal clarity made him a regular in most of the films by Keeravani.

Kalyan who had worked with A.R. Rahman’s father R.K. Sekar, was also part of ARR’s group right from his first film ‘Roja.’ “Rahman was a hard working boy. While working for other music directors, even during breaks, he would just stick to his keyboard and keep working on it. Highly matured even at that tender age, he was always a man of few words.” Kalyan has been part ARR’s world music tours. Kalyan, who is currently the Chairman of the Cine Musicians Union Trust, recalls the munificence of ARR in helping indigent musicians through the Trust.

Among Kalyan’sinstrumental albums replicating film songs in his violin with BGMs redone, MSV’s hits ‘Parakkum Pandhu Parakkum’ was a big hit “MSV always called me ‘Marriage’( literal translation of my name). Having listened to this album he called me over phone and praised me,” siad Kalyan. “During my U.S. tour, this album was played at a restaurant in California, where I was having food. At the cash counter, its owner, a Punjabi, raved about the violin solos not knowing that I was the player. When I revealed the truth, he refused to take money.”

Kalyan’s album ‘Rare Gems of Ilaiyaraaja’ received rave reviews and Raja himself was greatly impressed. He then cut an album of Hindi hits of the 1950s and 1960s, which was released by Saha of Inreco records, Kolkata. Songs from his Hindi album ‘Singing Violin’ has become a rage among whatsapp groups.

Kalyan has also worked with played for some of the Hindi music directors such as Naushad, Salil Chaudry, Bombay Ravi, Madan Mohan, Lakshmikanth-Pyarelal to name a few. He worked as an assistant to a few of them. Currently playing for music directors such as D. Imman, G.V. Prakash and Harris Jeyraj, Kalyan feels that the music canvass has undergone a radical change.

His son Madan (named after Hindi film music director Madan Mohan), who works in New Zealand as a physiotherapist, is also teaches into teaching music and his daughter is a medical practitioner in Chennai. He said that his wife’s support and patience have been one of the prime reasons for his achievements. coming up the ladder.

Kuchipudi exponent Vempatti [Chinna] Sathyam’s brother-in-law Vasudeva Sastry (an expert violin player and song follower in MSV’s party), who gave him advanced training in classical music gifted him his violin, a copy of Stardivari model. Kalyan still uses keeps playing it this violin in his concerts and recordings. which is close to his heart.

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The article has been edited post publication for factual error.

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Printable version | Oct 10, 2021 11:38:42 PM |

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