He ruled with his music wand

Ramesh with MSV.  

When the mind stills and becomes the music that it hears, when the heart recognises that it has heard its soul mate, then you know it is MSV. Can there be any one else like him?

M.S. Viswanathan, nay, Viswa Nadam.

He was the greatest of them all. Original, versatile, innovative and prolific… my god.

MSV, the composer, is a mystery. A phenomenon no one will ever fathom. How could he invent those exquisite melodies, , those thousands of songs? How could he get into the minds of all the characters and sing like they would? How could he make all those who heard his songs feel as if it were their own?

MSV came into the field at a time when film music, till then steeped in the classical idiom, was beginning to shrug it off in search of a new, modern sound. He broke film music almost completely from the grip of the classical genre to introduce newer forms of melodic contours not necessarily based on ragas. That was a huge shift and an incredible feat, indeed. He also effortlessly brushed aside for good the trend of re-tuning Hindi songs into Tamil.

MSV was a boon to the directors, a challenge to the singers, a friend to the lyricists, a revelation to the orchestra, and above all else, a king to the people. Yes, he ruled them with his music wand. He mesmerised them, he owned them so much that even Sivaji Ganesan and MGR were dependent on him to bolster their image. In fact, his music, along with Vaalee’s lyrics, became the music of the Tamil People and played a clinching role in MGR’s ascension as Chief Minister.

MSV was the real master of composition. One would never know which came first - the lyric or the music - in any of the thousands of songs, unless some one shed light on it. He was brilliant in setting words to tune or setting tunes for words. His greatness lay in the fact that his scores was exclusive to a film, and you could never ever mix them with any other.

A plethora of musical styles and genres was at his beck and call. How he chose the ones he chose for a situation will remain a mystery for ever. I know for a fact that he was utterly spontaneous and reacted intuitively to a situation and that tunes came to him in a jiffy. So innovative was he that he would just start with a raga and then change its course at will only to make it sweeter! For example, ‘Muthukkalo Kangal’ begins like Madhyamavati and somewhere along the way, sounds like Kanada.

Classical music it was in ‘Madhavi Ponmayilal’ or ‘Yezhu Swaranangalukkul.’ For the super-hit, ‘Adhisaya Ragam,’ he used a rare raga, Mahathi.He was also expert at creating tunes devoid of a classical slant such as Yengirintho Aasaigal or rock and roll for ‘Viswanathan velai vaenum.’

Setting prose and poetry to tune in ‘Andha Naal Gnyyabagam,’ ‘musicalising’ laughter (Sirrippil Undaagum), and ‘painting’ the sky and the earth along with falling rain in ‘Pudhiya Vaanam’ are true works of a genius.

To me, he was a great psychologist -- who knew his characters upside down and inside out. His real genius lay in the fact that he never composed anything which his characters would not sing. He never showed off his musicianship, an extraordinary trait that misses many a great composer. The audience saw and heard only the brother, the sister, the lover, the sweet heart or the father sing, but never MSV, the composer.

Can there ever be a more poignant song than ‘Kalamidhu kalamidhu’ ? Or ‘Malai pozhudhin’? Can devastation be expressed more poignantly than in ‘Enge nimmadhi’? What about ‘Ilaakanam marudho’ or ‘Nalaam nalaam’? Or the songs of the epic ‘Karnan’? Even today, these melodies stir emotions deep within us. You realise that he has created beautiful music that expresses every human emotion.

An icon has passed on. But his music will remain in the minds of all those who were touched by the magic of M.S. Viswanathan’s music.

(The writer, an expert in Western and Indian music, is a composer)

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 6:57:48 AM |

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