Music

Rewind to a versatile music maker

Alleppey Ranganath. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Alleppey Ranganath. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Another Onam! This is the season when Kerala’s green and blue turns into myriad colours. It’s celebration everywhere. That is when a song in Yesudas’ voice wafts in: ‘Nirayo nira nirayo….’, Nalumani poove…,’ and suddenly you are transported in time.

The man who composed these and many similar memorable songs, Alleppey Ranganath, is almost forgotten today. A much underrated composer, Ranganath, in the 1980s, created some of the best songs in the language. For this Onam too Ranganath has composed his songs. This time it will be for Akashavani and he is ready for more. Except that few understand the worth of this musician.

“I’m still alive, still have a lot of music in me. But no one wants people like me anymore. That will not put me down. I’ll keep writing and composing songs for this is not a job but my life itself,” says Ranganath, who has now settled down in Kottayam.

Though Ranganath’s name may now be associated with the unforgettable light songs that he composed, majority of them for Tharangini and Akashavani, he also created some inspirational film songs in a brief, interrupted career.

Ranganath made his debut as music director in the film Jesus (1973). And he credits this break to his mentor Joseph Krishna, who had composed two songs in this film. “I took a train to Madras [Chennai] full of dreams and was fortunate to find a guru like Joseph Krishna, who was M.S. Viswanathan’s trusted assistant and a brilliant musician. For nearly six years I studied the basics of Western music, the art of re-recording, and what composing was all about,” he remembers.

Joseph Krishna’s method of teaching was simple. “He knew that I had some knowledge of Carnatic music. So, he explained Western music by relating it to the music I knew. The first film in which I assisted in the re-recording was Hello Partner , which had Nagesh in the lead.”

Born into a family of musicians at Mulakkal, Alappuzha, Ranganath was trained in music, dance and mridangam right from his childhood. “My father was my first teacher and he was a tough task master. I used to curse his music classes but today I realise its worth. He believed that a true artiste had to master geetham, vadyam and nritham.I had my arangetam in classical music, Bharatanatyam and mridangam.”

Before his stint in Chennai, Ranganath associated himself with various ballets, drama troupes, writing and composing songs for them. “I must have written more than 25 stories for the late Aravindaksha Menon’s ballet group. I also acted in a few of them. I have written around 40 plays that have been staged by almost all the important theatre groups. In between all this I got married, at a very young age, and soon had a family to support. Life was not as harmonious as some of my tunes.”

‘Hosana…’, a song in his debut film Jesus, was rendered by P. Leela, P. Jayachandran, K.P. Brahmanandan and chorus. “Raveendran, that brilliant music director, also sang as part of the chorus,” adds Ranganath. In 1979, Raveendran got his first film Choola and did not look back after that, while Ranganath had to wait for nearly 11 years for his next film.

“In 1981 I joined Tharangini as staff music director. Looking back, perhaps this association did a lot of harm to my film career. But I have no regrets as the 80s was the most productive phase of my career. The light songs that I composed and were sung by Das ettan (Yesudas) were, sometimes, more popular than the film songs of the time.”

In fact, it was one of those albums, Children’s Songs (Volume 1), that gave Ranganath his next film. “The children’s songs written by me were based on Aesop’s Fables. The 12 songs were sung by Das ettan , Chitra, Geethu (Yesudas’s niece) and Vijay. I think the credit of recording Vijay’s voice for the first time should go to me. The songs became a huge hit. Balachandra Menon, who was impressed with these songs, sent word asking me to meet him. That’s how I got to compose for his Aarante Mulla Kochu Mulla .” Two of the three songs ‘Shalina soundarayme…’ and ‘Kaattil kodum kaattil,’ in this film, turned super hits. “These songs were penned by a talented lyricist, Madhu Alappuzha. Sadly, he never got a chance to prove his talent and the last I knew about him was that he had turned a recluse, totally disillusioned. Encourage new talents but please do not ignore and forget the others.”

Ranganath has composed music for 36 songs in around 13 films. He even directed two films Ambadi Thannil Oru Unni and Dhanur Vedam . But he will be best remembered for his numerous light songs. “I have the unique record of having 252 songs sung by Das ettan . I have been fortunate to have set to music lyrics penned by the great poets such as P. Bhaskaran, ONV Kurup, Vayalar Rama Varma, Sreekumaran Thampi, Bichu Tirumala, R.K. Damodaran and others. And I also have the distinction and fortune to be the only music director to have both the legends, M.S. Viswanathan and Ilayaraja, sing in one album.”

Alleppey Ranganath may not be a household name but his music is far from forgotten. It is only that the listeners have not realised that many of the songs they hum, many of those they hear every now and then, were created by him.

Ranganath’s Best

‘Shaline soundarayme…’

‘Swami sangeetham aalapikkum…’

‘Naalumani poove …’

‘Pachappanangili thathe …’

‘Sabari girinadha …’

‘Hey Rama Raghurama…’

‘Nirayo nira nirayo…’

‘Vrischika poompulari…’

‘Pramadha vrindavanam…’

‘Padhe padhe sreepadmadalangal…’


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Printable version | May 13, 2022 6:47:51 am | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/rewind-to-a-versatile-music-maker/article6379956.ece