Long before the melodies of Lankadahanam and Chandrakantham made M.S. Viswanathan a popular tunesmith among Malayalis, he had achieved phenomenal success in Tamil, in the company of T.K. Ramamurthy. They were known as Viswanathan-Ramamurthy and revolutionised film music in Tamil, especially in orchestration.
They worked together in Malayalam for couple of films too, Jenova (1953) and Lily (1958), but the songs are hardly remembered today. But the songs Viswanathan, often referred to by his initials MSV, tuned in his second coming to his home State – this time he was alone – proved unforgettable.
Producer K.P. Kottarakkara made him team up with a young lyricist called Sreekumaran Thampi, and that partnership went on to produce several classic songs. Lankadahanam (1971) itself contained some timeless melodies, such as Nakshathra rajyathe…,Easwaranorikkal …, Thiruvabharanam … and Swarganandinee …
When Sreekumaran Thampi turned a producer and director with Chandrakantham (1974), his composer was MSV. The film contained two gems – Aa nimishathinte … (sung separately by S. Janaki and Yesudas) and Rajeeva nayane …, a sweet lullaby.
That song, in Raga Kapi , was rendered with incredible finesse by Jayachandran; it remains one of the very best of the singer. Though Yesudas has sung more songs composed by MSV, it is Jayachandran who has got more of the classics, such as Swarnagopura narthaki … and Karpoora deepathin … (both from the film Divyadarshanam ), Suprabhatham … ( Pani Theeratha Veedu ), Njayarum Thinkalum … ( Randu Penkuttikal ) and Ashtapadiyile… ( Jeevikkan Marannu Poya Sthree ). Yesudas too had his share of classics though, such as Nakshathra rajyathe …, Easwaranorikkal …, Veenapoove … ( Jeevikkan Marannu Poya Sthree ) and Nadan pattinte … ( Babumon ).
The Top Twenty list of MSV would alone give an indication that his contribution to Malayalam cinema was immense. He may have done in Malayalam only a faction of what he did in Tamil, but that was enough to insure his place as one of our greatest composers.
At a time when G. Devarajan, M.S. Baburaj, V. Dakshinamoorthy and K. Raghavan were the reigning kings of melody in Malayalam cinema, not to mention the likes of M.K. Arjunan and B.A. Chidambaranath, it would not have been easy for even a most talented composer to stand out. But, MSV did, because he was not just talented, he was a genius.