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A Charitra to rave about

M. S. Viswanathan's foray into film music was just an accident.  

In what was among his last major appearances in public spotlight, M.S. Viswanathan was at the P.B. Srinivas memorial awards event held in the city a year ago and continued to be a man of few words. He wasn’t in the pink of his health then, when he graced a packed Ravindra Bharati auditorium as the recipient of the lifetime achievement award instated in memory of the veteran singer. It was more than coincidence for him to have shared the stage with Vani Jayaram, a singer who featured prominently in his works, as she took the occasion to croon the number ‘Vidhi Cheyu Vintalanni’ from Maro Charitra.

Even as M.S. Viswanathan’s official debut in Telugu cinema materialised with NTR’s lesser known 1953 release Ammalakkalu, the share of limelight he earned accidentally from ANR’s classic Devadasu helped him more. He also made his presence felt as a violinist for the same album, post Subbaraman’s death midway through his compositions. He took charge of the track ‘Andam Chudavayya’ and the Samudrala lyric was quite a metaphoric beginning to showcase his ear-friendly aesthetics. It was followed by ‘Jagame Maya’, an unparalleled anthem for sadness, even as it turned six-decades old, a couple of years ago.

Then, as he grew busier with his mellifluous outpours in the Tamil film circuit, his sparing commitments in Telugu cinema with Santosham, Tenali Ramakrishna, Ramu, Manase Mandiram, Letha Manasulu and Premalu Pellillu kept his repertoire alive. With the arrival of K. Balachander, he had the right backing of the scale and content to go full steam in his experiments in Telugu. Anthuleni Katha as a re-welcome of sorts for the composer couldn’t have been a timelier one, given how he proved his versatility, staying attuned to changing music patterns.

The golden streak of balance he brought about in a rock number-like rebellion in ‘Yemiti Lokam’ was equally complemented by ‘Devude Icchadu’ and ‘Tali Kattu Subhavela’. The same rung true in examples like Idi Kadha Kadu, Maro Charitra, Akali Rajyam, from a ‘Bhale Bhale Magadivoy’ to a ‘Saapatu Yetuledu’ and something as instantaneously catchy like ‘Kanne Pillavani’.

All of this unfolded when Ilayaraja, K.V. Mahadevan and Chakravarthy seemed to be garnering all the accolades. It wasn’t as if he ran out of creative juices in the late 80s or 90s.

His exit from the music scene was as calm as one could imagine, gracefully making way for the young blood. The range of his scores in Telugu films is a statement of its own kind and a firm case of quality preceding quantity.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 7:06:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/ms-viswanathan-a-charitra-to-rave-about/article7421479.ece

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