Melody is his middle name


SONGS EVERGREEN: T.K. Ramamurthi.   | Photo Credit: Photo: R. Ravindran


Alone and with MSV, T.K. Ramamurthi has composed hundreds of songs that are immortal.

It was in 1950, while working for ‘Velaikkari’ under C.R. Subbaraman for Jupiter Pictures, that Ramamurthy first met M.S. Viswanathan.

A legend of the film industry, this man is 87 years young. To our suggestion that we could finish the photo session first so that he would remain fresh for the interview, pat comes the reply, “I am always fresh and still raring to go.” Strains of Madhukauns pour out as he plays the violin enabling the photographer to complete his task. His control over the instrument even at this age is amazing.

Tiruchirapalli Krishnaswamy Ramamurthy has scored music for over 700 films with M.S. Viswanathan and for 30-odd films after parting ways with MSV. Way back in 1963, The Triplicane Cultural Academy — Kasturi Srinivasan Nool Nilayam — had conferred the title ‘Mellisai Mannargal’ on the duo and to date, the mention evokes nostalgic memories.

Born in North Rock Fort Street of Tiruchi Town, this grandson of violin maestro Malaikottai Govindasamy Pillai, never showed any inclination to play classical music on the violin. Instead he preferred film songs. His father taught him the rudiments of Carnatic music. As a student of E.R. High School then located near the Teppakulam, Ramamurthy was known for his pranks. Unable to bear his mischief, his uncle Manickam Pillai sent him to recordings alongside his father, thus sowing the seeds for a music director in the making.

“My father played the violin for the film ‘Kanda Leela’ at Premier Cinetone Studio, Coimbatore. I accompanied him and was fascinated by the recording process. I became a regular at his recordings. Musicians would go out for a walk after a day-long recording. On one such evening, I started playing the song ‘Divya Darisanam Tharalagadha’ sung by Bangalore Aswathama and a few ragas on my father’s violin in the studio room. Music directors C.R. Subbaraman and Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sarma who were in the adjacent room were so impressed that they urged my father to let me join their orchestra in HMV.” Ramamurthy has great admiration for C.R. Subbaraman’s talent as a composer.

Vigorous practice

Rajagopala Sharma was a task master and it was his chiding, during the recording of a song for the film ‘Sakunthalai,’ that made TKR redouble his efforts in mastering the instrument. “The vigorous practice during those years is standing me in good stead even now,” he says. TKR worked for Saraswathi Stores for a brief period before returning to HMV. By then, he had started earning enough to keep himself going.

When the HMV troupe was disbanded all the musicians were left high and dry. Staying in pianist Diwakar’s house, TKR scouted for opportunities and succeeded in playing for music directors Rajeswar Rao, Ghanatasala, Master Venu and Pinchalaiah.

It was in 1950, while working for the film ‘Velaikkari,’ under C.R. Subbaraman for Jupiter Pictures, that Ramamurthy first met M.S. Viswanathan, who was then working for his first film, ‘Jenovah.’ The premature death of Subbaraman with many films left incomplete saw the two join together to finish the assignments. Thus was born the Ramamurthy-Viswanathan duo. “That was how we were called initially. It was Kalaivanar’s suggestion that it should be Viswanathan-Ramamurthy. And how our luck turned! We went on to compose music for about 700 films and created many immortal songs. It was a privilege to be associated with talented people such as Kaviarasu (Kannadasan), Pattukottaiyar,Vali and directors such as Bhimsingh,Tirumalai Mahalingam, Ramanna and Muktha Srinivasan to name a few.”

TKR feels that each of the singers — TMS, PBS, P. Suseela, S. Janaki and L.R. Easwari — with whom he had worked, was unique. He considers it a great honour for having worked for films featuring MGR and Sivaji Ganesan and adds that it was a great challenge too. He mentions recording for the song ‘Engae Nimmadhi’ for Dadha Mirasi’s ‘Pudiya Paravai’ with about 120 musicians as something special.

“It was director Bhimsingh who gave me the task of scoring music for his film ‘Sadhu Mirandal’ after my relationship with MSV got strained during the making of ‘Aayirathil Oruvan.’ Vidwan M. Balamuralikrishna’s song ‘Arulvaye’ which I had composed in Sindubhairavi and ‘A for apple’ sung by A.L. Raghavan, S.C. Krishnan, M.S. Rajeswari, S.N. Sundar and S.N. Surendar were instant hits. Composing music for Kalaignar’s song ‘Kaagidha Odam’ for Murasoli Maran’s film ‘Marakka Mudiyuma’ was an unforgettable experience” reminisces TKR.

“Sivaji’s ‘Thangachurangam,’ ‘Madras to Pondicherry’ and ‘Sangamam’ had some mellifluous melodies. . ‘Naan’ was a silver jubilee hit and the song ‘Ammano Saamiyo’ was a chartbuster. Jayalalithaa, who was the heroine of the film, started calling me ‘Ammano Saamiyo’ thereafter. She conferred the title ‘Kalai Vithagar’ on me,” recalls TKR.

An honorary doctorate from Sathyabhama Institute of Science and Technology, Kalaimamani and an award from Kalaignar’s Muthamizh Peravai are the other accolades he won.

The patch up with MSV? “It was MSV who broke the ice during the early Nineties by sending his son Gopi as emissary and then I went to his house. It was an emotional reunion, with MSV, his wife and myself in tears.” (He hums ‘Pirindavar Meendum Serum Pozhudhu Azhudhal Konjam Nimmadhi,’ the immortal song from ‘Paalum Pazhamum’).

A composer TKR reveres is Naushad Ali, whose songs were a great inspiration to the duo. “Ilaiyaraaja is another composer who has mastered western, folk and classical music, fusing them intelligently. His background score for ‘Johnny’ impressed me a lot.” Generous words from a master.

TKR firmly asserts that self-confidence, self-esteem and will-power are the qualities that will pave the way for success.

Any desire? “I am waiting for the Divine call but before that I would like to do a magnum opus with MSV, the music of which should be talked about for years to come.”

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Jayadhaarini Trust, Velachery, (45525274) is presenting the Jayarathna award to T.K. Ramamurthi at a function tomorrow. P.B. Sreenivos, chief guest, will present the award to TKR at a function, 6 p.m., at R.K. Swamy Auditorium, Mylapore. This will be preceded by an audio presentation of TKR’s film songs by composer Ramesh Vinayagam.

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