Which came first: lyric or music?

Bama Vijayam  

It is nearly 30 years since MSV receded to the background, from active composing, to be precise. But what an amazing outpouring of grief, admiration and nostalgia his demise has created! From composers to the common man, ‘his’ songs have taken over mind space in the past two days. The lyricist does not seem to matter here. After all, sans the mesmerising tunes in which he clothed them, the words might not have become immortal at all!

Can a body of work generate such collective sorrow and respect? Those who grew up with his music are blessed, not just lucky. The music simply drew the listener close to the genius of Kannadasan in whose company he wove magic. There were other lyricists but these two were twin souls. When Kannadasan passed away in the U.S., the then Chief Minister MGR informed MSV’s close aide and cautioned him to break the news gently and discreetly. “He has gone, of what use is my music?” MSV lamented, observed Gandhi Kannadasan in an interview.

“Thannilavu thaeniraikka, Thazhai maram neer thelikka kanni magal nadai payinru senral…” what vivid imagery of a shy maiden. Without the halting gait of the tune, the lyric, however, would fall flat. “Thannuyir pirivadai parthavarillai ennuyir pirivadai parthirundaen…” again the agony of separation would not be so haunting without that melancholic touch and of course the feel with which Suseela sings it. So also ‘Nenjam Marapadillaiiii...’

“Padaithanae…padaithanae” the helpless rant of this man would be a cry in the wilderness but for the pathos that tugs at the heart strings. Another example is ‘Yaaranda Nilavu?’ More sober, with Western and Indian strains merging to heighten the effect of TMS’s lament. MSV knew no boundaries indeed.

With Kannadasan penning the lyrics and MSV-TKR and later the former alone giving them life, Tamil was nectar. The poet went on to write literary works winning top awards but it was his songs for the silver screen, which not only gave him an identity but put him on a pedestal. There were songs that could be rendered at school get-togethers, on college dais and competitions. It was difficult to think of another tune for the majestic ‘Sange Muzhangu’ and the heart wrenching ‘Theerthakkaraiyinilae’ much later.

How could Kannadasan capture the situation or the entire storyline in one lyric, which when sung unfurls the screenplay? ‘Paramasivan Kazhuthilirindu Pambu kaettadu…’ The angst of a husband, jealous of his wife’s ascent in career and the family esteem, could not have been more explicit. For a long time, such an issue was referred to as ‘Suriyagandi,’ after the film in which husband Muthuraman continuously hurts wife Jayalalitha. ‘Nanenral adu avalum naanum,’ the lilting English-Tamil duet from the same film is an extension of this thought.

‘Ezhu Swarangalukkul’ won Vani Jayaram the national award but for sheer context value, it can’t beat ‘Kaelviyin Nayaganae…,’ the climax. The KB knot slowly unties itself as the lyric of Kannadasan unites the characters, the eloquent eyes of Srividya and Jayasudha perfect foil to a reformed Kamal and forgiving Major. Which came first, lyric or music?

Thankfully MSV’s fans have created a website and his songs are available. They have remained green for 50 years and will continue to do so for many more. Why then this lump in the throat, that choked feeling, which returns defying conscious effort? Because with him has gone yet another part of the life of a generation, which laughed with him and cried with him even as his baton tirelessly wove magic for all those matinee idols.

This writer’s favourite from MSV’s incredible range

For fun and riot

Varavu ettana selavu pathana

Engal kalyanam galatta kalyanam

Viswanathan velai vendum

Kadhalikka Naeramillai

Nadodi… poga vendum ododi

Kasikkupogum sanyasi

Anubavi Raja Anubavi


Tirumangalyam kollum

Sakkapodu podu raja

Anda naal gnyabagam

Devanae ennai paarungal

Enna porutham


Ennai yaarendru enni enni

Kaelviyin Nayaganae

Neeyum naanuma

Nalladoru Kudumbam

Valarnda Kalai Marandu Vittal


Manickathottil Ingirukka

Maalai Pozhudin Mayakkathilae

Aval Parandu Ponaalae

Naethu paricha roja

Ammamma kaeladi thozhi


Junior… Iru manam konda

Kadavul Amaithu vaitha media

Magaraja Oru Magarani

Anda Naal Gnabagam

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 8:54:11 AM |

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