FRIDAY REVIEW

Grand rendezvous

IN TUNE: M.S. Viswanathan.

IN TUNE: M.S. Viswanathan.   | Photo Credit: Photo: S. S. Kumar

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

IN CONVERSATION A not too well known facet of veteran composer M.S. Viswanathan will come to the fore this weekend.



The quiet Tuesday morning at Musee Musicals on Anna Salai turns vibrant as M.S. Viswanathan enters the premises. Seeing the maestro at the music showroom is a pleasant surprise for the aficionados present. As he is led to the piano on which he would play this Sunday, at the programme, ‘Vaarthaigal Sollum Vaadhiyangal’ (VSV), organised by www.msvtimes.com and presented by Aircel, his eyes reveal the joy of a toddler who is given a freehand with his favourite toy!

An impromptu treat comes your way as the musician’s fingers dance on the keys of the piano with gay abandon. He pauses for a moment to say: “Decades ago I would come to this shop to check out various instruments. The ambience is still the same. It makes me nostalgic.” Getting back to his keys he plays some of his evergreen hits, looks up after a while at the group gathered around him and with a smile asks, “Is it enough for now.”

Amidst posing for pictures and signing autographs, the chat begins. Composer, singer, harmonium player, MSV is all these and much more. He is a seasoned pianist too. “Please! I’ve not mastered it. You can’t accomplish it in one lifetime,” is his typical, modest refrain. But you know that he’s an ace on the instrument.

Why the sudden idea of showcasing his prowess on the piano? “I’ve always wanted to do such a show. So when my friends, Vaidy, Sabesan and Ramki suggested a programme on these lines, I grabbed it. They even have a website, some dom-com they call it, in my name,” he guffaws.

The piano has been an integral part of many an MSV hit, and most of the pieces — such as ‘Ellorum Nalam Vazha,’ ‘Paaduvor Paadinaal’ and ‘Andru Vandhadhum’ — each a fascinating bit, have been played by the composer himself.

“As a boy when I began playing the harmonium my master would give me a whack if the notes didn’t spell out the lyric used,” he recalls and gives a demo on the piano as an explanation. Words are vital. It is the composer’s job to cull out the music hidden within them is his contention. “Just watch this. If I play ‘Kaanilae Enna Undu’ instead of ‘Kannilae’ the word gets distorted and so does the tune. It’s ‘Tha na na’ not ‘Thaa na na.’ Do you follow me?”

So ‘Vaarthaigal Sollum Vaadhiyangal’ will have many instruments such as the flute, accordion, sax and guitar, each of which will be used instead of the voice, with the rest of the orchestra offering the score. What about the piano? “I’ll be there on it throughout. I prefer being in the background,” he laughs. The stage will have singers too, including MSV. But they will be part of the chorus.

Crowning glory

Of the 32 songs that have been selected for the evening, the troupe will have time to play about 25 pieces — the crowning glory will be a medley with the entire orchestra in action. “The crowd should pardon me if I take off on my own on the piano for a while,” he chuckles. Most of the numbers will be those in which piano is the mainstay. “We’ve also planned compositions where I’ve not used the piano. ‘Ullathil Nalla Ullam’ from ‘Karnan’ for example,” says MSV.

Is the programme a pioneering effort? “Way back in 1958 I recorded instrumental mood pieces for HMV. ‘Pongum Poompunal,’ as it was called, had Kannadasan giving his voice to explain the segments. For example the ‘East West Wedding’ piece in the collection had religious mantras chanted alongside a church choir, with a blend of nagaswaram and western instruments,” he remembers. But VSV will be the first entirely instrumental music show on stage by MSV.

Knowledge of Classical music is a prerequisite for any endeavour in the art, he feels. “I’ve composed a variety of numbers to convey various emotions. Proper use of the ragas, be it Hindustani or Carnatic can enhance their beauty. ‘Kannuku Kulamedhu’ (‘Karnan’) in Pahadi is the song that comes to my mind now,” he says.

MSV wishes to present off beat music-based programmes on television to highlight the beauty of classical music, ghazals in particular. The veteran is still smarting from the lukewarm response his album ‘Sangeetham Santhosham’ met with. “The tunes were melodious and Kamakotiyan’s lyrics were remarkable. Only the publicity wasn’t enough.”

For the first time in the interview he becomes wistful. But the next moment he is back to being his cheerful self. “I’m planning to work on another soon,” he says, and gets up to return to the rehearsals that are on in full swing for the show that’s round the corner.

“I’m thankful that I have the drive to keep trying out new things and the heart to appreciate good music wherever it comes from. Today’s youngsters are very talented,” he smiles. The zest is incredible. “You are as old as you think you are. I’m just 22,” he winks.

`The Creator Unplugged'

Venue: The Museum Theatre, Pantheon Road, Egmore.



Date and Time: September 28, (Sunday) 6.30–8.30 p.m.



A few passes will be given away at the premises on a first-come-first-served basis.

Invitees are requested to be in their seats at 5.45 p.m.



T.K. Ramamurthy will inaugurate the concert.



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