in lighter vein Friday Review

Message in a song

N.S.Krishnan, MGR and T.A. Madhuram in 'Madurai Veeran'.

N.S.Krishnan, MGR and T.A. Madhuram in 'Madurai Veeran'.   | Photo Credit: handout

N.S. Krishnan made excellent use of the Tamil movie song to convey his message to the common man. Some of his songs convey a remarkable sense of visualising the future-something that no other comedian in Indian cinema has done until today. In fact, his speciality was his ability to convey the message in simple colloquial Tamil.

The lyrics of his comedy songs were written by Udumalpet Narayana Kavi who was a member of his team. Narayana Kavi would travel with him in his van, where most of the songs, especially the tune and content were decided. C. R. Subburaman, one of the fine music composers of the early decades, scored the music for all the Krishnan-T.A. Mathuram songs. NSK was such an all-round genius that he even suggested the basic tune, the theme and some of the lines.

Back then, women in films, were generally portrayed as the shadow (nizhal in Tamil) of their husbands. So, in his early films, NSK added songs in which he highlighted the importance of a woman vis-à-vis a man. For instance, in an early film, ‘Harishchandra (1944), there is a duet rendered by NSK and Mathuram, in which he claims that man is a superior human being! The song goes like this- ‘Aaambilaikeedo adi asadey sol, pudavai kattina pombaley…! (Is a sari wearing woman equal to a man!). In her reply, Mathuram sings various lines highlighting the importance of women and smashes his argument. In the end, Krishnan is forced to surrender and then he sings, ‘Aaanum pennumonnu… athai ariadhavan moolai athu kalimannu…' (Man and woman are equal and if one does not know this, his brains are made of mud!). This song became a hit and the gramophone record sold well. It was found in the collection of almost every other householder possessing a gramophone in those days.

In ‘Nallathambi’ (1949), there are songs in which he has predicted the future. In one song, he talks about destroying the gross ignorance of mankind and increasing lifespan using atomic energy- ‘Agnanathai azhika porendee…anu sakthiyaley ayul viruthi panna porendee…!’

In another song in the film Dr. Savithri (1955), he sings ‘Kasikkuponal karu undagum enbathu antha Kaalam…’ (people went to Kasi to pray for kids and today, the scientist does it with an injection.) That was not all. He also sings that they have found out ways to make use of solar energy to light up your oven!

Interestingly, some of the ideas he spoke of in his songs, more than half a century ago, have become true today. Such was the brilliance of this genius who hardly went to school.

He had hundreds of such songs and some contained his political credo, his involvement in the Dravidian Moment and the teachings of Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker.

In one film, 'Panam’ (1952), he bravely introduced ‘Theena munaa kaana ….’ (DMK in Tamil). He cleverly avoided any problem with the film censors by saying that it stands for 'Thirukural Munnani Kazhagam!’ The song, however, conveys messages of Periyar, the founder of the Dravidian Movement. He uses the word ‘Periyar’ and explains that he is Tiruvalluvar, the creator of Tirukural!

NSK also stressed the importance of Tamil as part of our culture and an early film, ‘Haridas’(1944) had a duet of the brilliant N.S.Krishnan-T.A. Mathuram about Bharatanatyam. In that song, Mathuram sings, 'Thamizh paada theriyavittaal ezhundhu odanum (if you cannot sing in Tamil, get lost).

Krishnan died in 1957 at the age of 49 and ever since, no comedian of such calibre, has emerged in cinema, be it in Tamil or elsewhere.

(This is the end of the series on NSK. Next will be a feature on the duo, Kali N. Rathnam and C.T.Rajakantham.)

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 4:06:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/message-in-a-song/article6682803.ece

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