The world danced to his music

There was a time when music in Tamil films was a perfect fit for the lyric, which was a perfect fit for the situation in the film. The films captured ordinary lives and human emotions, and were mostly believable, except for a few exaggerations. And so it was that film songs became part of one’s life, and were in tune with one’s own joys and sorrows.

Growing up with a sibling who needed special attention, fear was my constant companion, once the carefree days of childhood began to draw to a close. Every grey hair on my father’s head would send a shiver through me. Every time I felt a stab of fear, I would recite every sloka I knew, and then I would, for good measure, hum M.S. Viswanathan’s ‘ Kaettadhum Koduppavanae Krishna’ from ‘Deiva Magan,’ repeating the line ‘ Ulagathil vaazha vidu.’ In ‘Deiva Magan,’ Sivaji is rejected by his father, because of his unprepossessing appearance, and is brought up by Nagaiah. Nagaiah’s life is ebbing away, when Sivaji sends up a desperate prayer to spare the life of the only man who ever loved him.

When a dear one in my family, who had been generous to a fault, died, the hypocrisy of those he had trusted became patently obvious. Brief letters came from those who had leaned heavily on him, the most empty letters one could think of. And when I saw the sombre look that some relatives had to sport with a lot of effort, I smiled through my tears. And the grief turned to contemplation. Was anyone worthy of trust in life? One would think not, if one thought of yet another MSV song, ‘Aattuvithal yaar oruvar,’ from the Sivaji film ‘Avanthan Manidhan.’ Myriad expressions fleet across Sivaji’s face, as he admits that he has been defeated because of the affection he bore for one he trusted. As one watches the scene and hears T.M. Soundararajan’s soul searing singing, one begins to wonder if even goodness can be pathological, for after all it is goodness that has felled our hero.

Death is never easy to come to terms with, especially if one is catapulted into a position of responsibility. And when one is young, one rebels against everything, even Fate. Yes, I had read Seneca: ‘Fate leads the willing and drags the unwilling.’ Yes, my elders had told me about the inexorability of karma. But none of it helped when my father died suddenly. What I needed was a balm that would act instantly, and it was the MSV song, ‘Sollade Yaarum Kettaal’, from ‘Sorgam’ that proved to be that balm. “Udal undu, ullam undu, munneru mele, mele’ (You have a healthy body and a strong mind. Forge ahead!) goes a line in the song. And as TMS sings, ‘ Mele’ his voice rises, as if he is extending a hand to help one climb the ladder of success.

In happier times, I remember smiling at ‘ Naan Paarthadile Un Oruthiyaithaan Nalla Azhagiyenbaen,’ the usual lie peddled by all men in love. In ‘Mouname Paarvaiyaal,’ PBS’s gentle singing gives voice to the hero’s hope that the coy glances of his mute wife will speak to him, and one can’t help marvelling at the perfect blend of lyric and tune.

While MSV and Ramamurthy gave Sirkazhi a haunting Ahir Bhairavi in Karnan -- ‘Ullathil Nalla Ullam,’ later MSV gave an equally haunting Ahir Bhairavi to TMS in ‘Deivathin ther edethu’ for the film ‘Paattum Bharatamum’ (released in 1975). Ahir Bhairavi is used brilliantly here, bringing out the anguish of a man who has lost his love and, worse, has lost hope of ever meeting her again.The ‘Madhavi Ponmayilal’ song is held out as an example of the deft handling of Kharaharapriya in films. But MSV gave yet another Kharaharapriya to TMS, in the rather unusual song, ‘I will sing for you’ (‘Manidaril Manickam’). The song has Sivaji capering around like a mad man, with Manorama humouring him. One notices that some Kharaharapriya phrases in this funny song are exact replicas of phrases from ‘ Madhavi Ponmayilal.’ One can’t imagine anyone but MSV using Kharaharapriya in such a breezy tune.

Nor can we imagine anyone but TMS singing it with such gusto.

Isai Kettaal Puvi Asaindaadum’ goes a song in the film ‘Thavapudhalvan’ (music MSV). The lyricist, perhaps, was thinking of MSV’s music, when he wrote that song.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 12:02:22 AM |

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