KERALA

Music director Johnson passes away

Malayalam music director Johnson, 58, died in Chennai on Thursday. Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre, Porur, received a call from Johnson's family requesting an ambulance after he reportedly suffered a fall in the bathroom. The ambulance was sent to pick him up, but he died on the way to the hospital, according to sources in Chennai.

Johnson enriched Malayalam cinema with brilliantly-orchestrated, soul-stirring songs. With his abilities as a self-taught instrumentalist who could play several instruments and his composing skills honed under the mentorship of veteran G. Devarajan, Johnson straddled the music scene from the late 1970s and established a style of his own. He knew Western music, its principles of harmony, chord progression, and orchestral arrangement techniques.

He blended the knowledge well with tunes invoked from the native Indian spirit. The outcome created magic in films such as Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal , Oru Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettam , Vadakkunokkiyantram , Perunthachan , Amaram , Manichitrathaazhu , Njan Gandharvan , Ponthan Mada, and Bhoothakannadi . He was a regular composer for the films of Padmarajan, Bharathan, Satyan Anthikkad, T.V. Chandran, Kamal, Lohithadas, and Balachandra Menon. The film world first noticed him through the scores for Aravam (1978), Thakara (1980), and Chamaram (1980). He composed his first soundtrack for Inaye Thedi, the debut film of Antony Eastman. Bharathan's Parvathi was among his early works. Balachandra Menon's Premageethangal was his first major success. Each song in the film was a hit — ‘Swapnam Verumoru Swapnam,' ‘Nee Nirayoo Jeevanil,' ‘Muthum Mudipponnum , ' and ‘Kalakalamozhi.' He followed it up with hugely successful songs in Padmarajan's Koodevide ' (‘Aadivaa Kaatte,' ‘Ponnurukum Pookkalam'). Johnson went on to work for 17 films of Padmarajan, including his last film Njan Gandharvan . His background score for the Padmarajan movies, Namukku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal and Thoovanathumbikal , is rated among the best in Malayalam cinema. Johnson composed for 25 films of Satyan Anthikkad in one of the longest collaborations in the industry. These films had songs with a rustic Kerala feel. Johnson was Bharathan's favourite composer. He composed for the director's Ormakkayi , Kattathe Kilikkoodu , Ente Upasana , Malootty , Chamayam, and Churam . His major other collaborations were with directors Mohan ( Oru Katha Oru Nunakkatha, Sakshyam, Pakshe , Angane Oru Avadhikkalath); Sibi Malayil ( Kireedam, Chenkol, Dasaratham and Nee Varuvolam ); Sreenivasan ( Vadakkunokkiyantram and Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala ); Lohithadas ( Bhoothakkannadi and Arayannangalude Veedu ); Kamal ( Peruvannapurathe Visheshangal , Shubhayathra , Ee Puzhayum Kadannu and Paavam Paavam Rajakumaran ); and Balachandra Menon ( Shesham Kazhchayil , Premageethangal, Kilukilukkam, and Kelkatha Shabdam ). A native of Nelikkunnu in Thrissur, Johnson was a singer in the choir of the Nellikunnu St. Sebastain's Church. He was a familiar figure on the city's music scene as instrumentalist and director of the band, ‘Voice of Trichur.' He continued with the band till playback singer Jayachandran introduced him to G. Devarajan. “The veteran composer called on my father and persuaded him to let me go to Chennai and pursue a full-time career in music. I owe all my success to Devarajan,” Johnson once said. He was a recipient of the National Film Awards twice and the Kerala State Film Awards five times.