‘I fear the use-and-throw culture will seep into romance’

Six-time National Award winning lyricist, Vairamuthu talks about working again with Mani Ratnam for 'O Kadhal Kanmani' and what spurs his poetry and prose

March 16, 2015 05:40 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 05:11 pm IST



The word ‘Tamizh’ greets you when you enter veteran lyricist Vairamuthu’s sprawling bungalow at Besant Nagar. It isn’t just the name of his house; it’s a passion that he’s grown up with.

Today, the five-time National Award winning lyricist is busy with a dozen Tamil films. Apart from that, he’s also mulling over topics for his next literary work. In an exclusive interview, the outspoken Vairamuthu talks about his upcoming big release O Kadhal Kanmani and his other projects.

O Kadhal Kanmani , sees you teaming up yet again with Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rahman. How has is this combination always managed to deliver?

I can proudly say that our songs have never failed. It’s because the three of us think alike. We have ‘friendly fights’ — a lot of our hit songs are the result of such arguments. We have an identity to live up to but ensure that, in a bid to do that, we don’t exceed the film’s content. Sometimes, we should not show our true expertise if the song does not demand that. We should feed a baby milk and not biryani, right?

Tell us a bit about this album…

The songs are all fresh. There’s ‘Paranthu Sellava’ that will be an anthem for lovers. ‘Naane Varuven’ is another number with the effervescence of youth. The highlight is a Tamil keerthanai, with just a tambura playing in the background — the lyric of this song goes ‘Malargal ketaen vaname thanthai, Thaneer ketaen, amritam kuduthai, Edhai na keta unaye taruvaay?’ We have ensured that what we cannot convey in 10 scenes, we can say it in a single song — the numbers take the story, which is a healthy debate on modern love, forward.

Kadal, the earlier film offering from the same combination, was a disappointment at the box office…

I feel that with Mani Ratnam, there are no hits or flops; only films that have been understood or not understood.

You’re known for writing songs with rich poetry. But there are a lot of fast-paced numbers in Tamil cinema these days. How do you react, as a lyricist, when you hear a song like, say ‘Dangamaari’ ( Anegan )…

It has a purpose in society because some sections of the audience do not just want to listen, they want to dance too. Their ears are entertained by melodies, their feet by kuthu songs.

So, you’re against kuthu songs?

Oh no, not at all. Haven’t I written songs like ‘O Podu’ ( Gemini ), ‘Cheena Thaana’ ( Vasoolraja MBBS ) and ‘Othakada Machan’ ( Pandiya Naadu )? All I’m saying is that Tamil films should not be dominated by such songs.

You chronicled love in the ‘80s in films, and continue to do so. Back then, you wrote about ‘divine love’ and now, you’re writing for a film that has the hero saying, ‘no marriage, just girlfriends’… how do you keep yourself updated with what’s happening in the outside world outside?

I read a lot and have a healthy interaction with youngsters. The body might age, but the mind never ages — I never let that happen to me. And, I always try to reinvent myself; I observe where the world is going, where romance is going. Earlier, there was a shade of deivigam in love; the present generation has taken it off and made it more practical. I’m apprehensive of the colours ‘love’ will take in the future; I fear that the ‘use and throw’ culture will seep into romance. In 2050-60, women might decide the nature of the relationship; there might be a time when men may need to pay dowry. That’s how it was in ancient Tamil Nadu… and that will make a comeback.

Apart from being a lyricist, you’re also into literature, having written 37 books on varied subjects. topics. What’s the inspiration behind these works?

I’m essentially a literary man. I started writing books even before cinema happened. I feel that films are not enough to satisfy my literary thirst. That space is in ilakiyam (literature). I wish that during my lifetime, at least one of my books finds a place in every Tamil household. I want them to read them not because they are my works; it’s because the language and values of our glorious tradition shouldn’t die. We need to understand how this classical language had adapted to contemporary sensibilities. Time has given me two varied experiences; I come from a farmer’s family and I’ve been to the tallest towers in the world. I don’t want these experiences to die with me. I want to put them down in my literary works.

A couple of years ago, you pennedMoondram Ulaga Poar(Third World War), about the ill-effects of global warming. Any other issues you wish to highlight in your forthcoming books?

I’m deeply disturbed by how alcoholism is ruining Tamil society. I often visit villages across the State and my heart weeps when I see how lives are affected due to liquor addiction. In these villages, it is only because of the women that families survive… If these working women too take to the habit, Tamil society is gone. Also, human resources are the biggest asset of this country. A majority of Indians are in the service sector; but where is the production sector? I’d like to vent this angst into my forthcoming literary works.

Coming back to lyrics, there’s a surge of young, new writers in Kollywood, some most of them with no literary background. Does this mean anybody can write?

No, you cannot. You need to know the language, the ability to write within the meter and have a love for music. If they do so, they’ll survive else like vannathupoochi (butterflies), they’ll come and go.

One of the most biggest upcoming promising lyricists today in Kollywood is from your my own family — your son Madhan Karky. Have you ever seen him as competition?

He’s doing well for himself and I’m happy watching his progress. However, I feel that he should study more of Tamil literature to improve. I’ve never seen him as competition; but if ever I do, there’s no bigger joy for a father, isn’t it?

Your differences of opinion with music composer Ilaiyaraaja are is well-known. But you’ve now recently teamed up with his son, Yuvan Shankar Raja, for the first time recently in Idam Porul Eval . How did that happen?

Lingusamy, the producer, is a good friend of Yuvan. And, director Seenuramasamy has worked with me in the past. It was these two who brought us together. In fact, Yuvan has asked me in the past to write for him but I always told him that it was too early. Now, I felt the environment was apt.

Does this mean we can see you combining with Ilaiyaraaja too?

Oh, please, let’s not go there…

Is that a no?

Well, I don’t know… let’s see.

What projects are you working on currently?

I’m doing Vijay’s Puli , Suriya’s 24 , Vishal’s Kaval Kottam and Vikram Prabhu’s Wagah . Apart from this, there are many other smaller films I’m writing for. I try to select scripts that offer scope for poetry.

Finally, how do you take criticism?

I used to be very angry at first. But of late, I try to work on myself if there’s truth in the criticism. If there’s no truth, I just laugh it off. After all, it takes some ageing to get this maturity, right?

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