Music

Devoted to devotionals

Lyricist and poet Aravindan. Photo:K.K.Mustafah.   | Photo Credit: K.K.Mustafah

It may not be the most popular genre in light music but there is certainly a place for devotional songs. P.C. Aravindan is one of those much-sought-after writers in this genre. And this happened by stubborn choice. He has written the lyrics for just one film, ‘Aanachandam’, in his 26-year-old career. The songs were very well received; he got a few more offers. But he politely declined all of them to devote himself to devotionals. For this simple, God-fearing, polite man from Angadipuram (Malappuram), this, he believes, is his life’s mission. “The songs were always there around me, right from my childhood. All I needed to do, that’s what I do now too, is to follow the clues that keep springing up from nowhere every time I sit down to write,” says Aravindan.

Nephew of the eminent novelist and short story writer Nandanar (P.C. Gopalan), Aravindan turned to the world of words by writing short stories. “My uncle read some of my stories and told me that the few poems I had written were better and to stick to that.” This was when Aravindan was in school. For the young boy, writing was a means of escape from financial problems. “I always wanted to be a school teacher. But the conditions at home were such that I had to sacrifice that dream. Getting a job was of prime priority. I joined the polytechnic at Angadipuram. Before I completed my course I got a job with Avery India and was posted in Ernakulam.” This is a phase Aravindan tries hard to forget but memories of that homesick youngster still keep haunting him. Things changed a little when he was transferred to Kollam. Aravindan got in touch with some of the publications in Kollam and some of his early ‘light songs’ were published in print. “Those were days when the audio industry in Kerala was in its infancy. My songs remained in print.”

Turning point

Getting posted to Kozhikode, closer home, improved things. “We were a group of friends who used to get together every weekend and sing bhajans at the Thirumanthankunnu temple. We also sang a couple of songs I wrote. That was when we chanced upon the idea of bring out an album on the temple. We pooled in money, others contributed. I wrote 10 songs that were scored by Mankada Damodaran Master, a trained musician. We contacted Alpha Electronics, Thrissur, told them of our project, our limitations. They were kind enough to support us. The singers recorded and the album titled ‘Pranavam’ (1986) came out.”

That album had P. Leela, Mannur Rajakumaran Unni, Kalyani Menon and Krishnachandran among others singing for him. It did well. The debut album paved the way to his next and Aravindan was on his way. “Kalyani Menon asked me to meet her in Madras [Chennai]. I was pleasantly surprised when she told me to write songs for an album produced by Sangeetha, one of the major players in a flourishing audio industry those days.” That album, ‘Ponnonam,’ had music by B. Chidambaranath. The songs had refreshing images that Aravindan culled out from his village, the traditions he was so familiar with. “I got my first remuneration, Rs. 250, for this album. It was given to me by Kalyani Menon. She also introduced me to Das ettan (K. J. Yesudas).”

For the next couple of years Aravindan kept writing. His songs were broadcast by All India Radio, Kozhikode, in two of its segments, ‘Balalokam’ and Prabatha Geethangal.’

The turning point of Aravindan’s career was meeting composer T. S. Radhakrishnan during the Chembai music festival at Guruvayur. “He asked me to meet him when I had some songs ready. I had already written a few songs that I gave Radhakrishnan. He took a look at it and said he would call me when the songs were ready.”

Those songs comprised the album ‘Gangatheertham’ and it went on to become one of the biggest hits in devotionals. “That album changed my life. I remember going to Tharangini studio, Thiruvananthapuram, to listen to the track recording of my songs. Listening to my words set to rich orchestration was an unforgettable moment. Also memorable was going to Madras for the final mixing. Sitting next to Dasettan and explaining the lines was unbelievable. Was it really happening to me?”

There was no looking back for Aravindan after ‘Gangatheertham’. Aravindan went to work with some of the great names in Malayalam music such as V. Dakshinamoorthy, B. Chidambaranath, Raghavan Master, Kannur Rajan, Raveendran, Jaya-Vijaya, Vidyadharan, T.S.Radhakrishnan, S.P.Venkitesh, Gangai Amaran, Alleppey Ranganath, K. M. Udayan and so on.

“I think I have been fortunate to work with so many great composers and singers. Also I have had the rare honour of having my lines set to tune by Das ettan in the album ‘Kaniponnu’ in which he has also written a song.” Aravindan has composed music for 146 albums and a few are in the pipeline. He quit his job 15 years ago to concentrate on writing.

The world seemed a hostile place when he started off. But now Aravindan ceases to be surprised when he discovers how it has turned so compassionate, so spiritual.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 4:46:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/devoted-to-devotionals/article3811627.ece

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