“Versatile unsung genius”, “Classical musician par excellence”… these were some of the ways singers and music composers remembered the late M.G. Radhakrishnan, whose death anniversary was on July 2. Although he worked for more than three decades in the music industry, his repertoire of films songs is not more than that. For him, quality mattered, not quantity. Each composition, whether it be films songs or ‘lalitha ganam’ (light songs) was a gem that continues to linger in the minds of music buffs. With great felicity he drew from the songs and verses of the soil to give a poignant touch to his compositions. But many fans of his feel that while Radhakrishnan’s heard melodies are sweet, those unheard might have been sweeter.
Some leading music directors and singers remember the musician…
(Music director and singer)
Minimalism and simplicity – those were the hall marks of his compositions that continue to tug at your heartstrings. He created sublime music that never relied on unnecessary frills and technicalities.
He was among the greats who left their footprints in our musical world. As someone who follows those greats, I must say how his songs have inspired me. Some of my favourites are ‘O Mridule…’, ‘Mouname…’ and ‘Pazhamthamizh Paatizhayam…’ Then there is his treasure trove of light songs such ‘Jayadevakaviyude…’, ‘Ghanashyma…’ and ‘Odakuzhal vili…’ that have stood the test of time. At every youth festival, even today, you can hear youngsters singing these songs. He looked towards our rhythms and music to give his music a distinctive flavour… ‘Kaanaka Pennu Chembarathi’, his composition for G. Aravind’s Thambu, stands out even today… Perhaps that is why his songs evoke nostalgia.
He was a musical genius who straddled the world of Carnatic music and popular music with ease. He would be giving classical concerts 30 days in a month and then score songs that so beautifully incorporated the soul of the raga. Yet, his light numbers remained light without being saddled with strings of swaras or confusing notes. That was his greatness. He knew exactly what note to place in which song. He belongs to that romantic era of Malayalam film music.
He was never the kind to promote himself or music. For him, it was quality that mattered and he was happy with what he got. I remember that during the work of Manichitrathazhu, he was going crazy as he felt he was not getting his notes right. So, he went on leave for 21 days and look what we got when we came back. He should be right up there with Devarjan, Baburaj, Dakshinamoorthy and K. Raghavan.
He was the person who put me in front of a microphone at All India Radio for my first recording. He was again the person who made me sing a few lines in Priyadarsan’s Odarathu Ammava. I had also rendered a song in his last film, Pakal.
He distilled the essence of ragas from Carnatic music and infused it in his compositions. That light touch in his songs helped his numbers soar high and find a place in our hearts. He chose me to sing his ‘Odakuzhal vili…’ before an invited audience for the first time. I have not sung his film numbers because I had taken a break then. But this number was enough for me. It won me accolades for so long.