One of the very few programmes, I watch on and off on Sun TV is the late night ‘Thenamudhu’ where they show some of the old film songs. I enjoy such moments and it delights me to watch them for their music and melody content. But, there is another part to it – how a famous actor like MGR always ensured that his film songs are musical hits – this I will come back later in another of my writing sojourn.
I will of course place special emphasis on the music tuned by the great M.S.Viswanathan and Ramamoorthy pair and later, when they parted with each other, by M.S.Viswananthan. They were my musical heroes in my younger days when I was in my teens.
I used to go crazy whenever I could listen to their early music. I could realise that I am very sensitive to music even from those young years. In my school days in late 1950s and early 1960s, when we were not having facility of recorded music players, Radio Ceylon used to be the only forum we could listen to good film music. (Our All India Radio always lived in the past and in a different world altogether those days totally oblivious of current films and their popular music. What a bright idea! I can write on this too in a separate column)(The more I sit down to write, the more topics I can think of to write on)
“Pava Mannippu” was a super hit Tamil Film by Sivaji and Gemini Ganesan and also a musical hit. “Kalangalil Aval Vasantham”, “Chilar Sirippar, Chilar Azhuvar”, “Vandha Naal Mudhal Indhia Naal Varai”, “Paalirukkum Pazhamirukkum” were all great hit songs. I used to closely follow the rating competitions for film songs from Radio Ceylon. There used to the most popular Mayilvahanan whose commentaries and introductions to songs were legendary. Week after week, at least one song from this film “Pava Mannippu”used to be declared winner and top rated. I used to run from anywhere, if I happen to hear the songs from this film. I vividly remember my throwing away the shuttle racket even while playing and running to the radio when this film song used to aired, while we used to enjoy our holidays in Trivandrum. The songs from this film always arouse my emotions and feelings even now.
Then came series of “Pa” movies by the successful film director Bhimsingh. He always relied on simple family stories involving love and affection, conflicts within the family and their resolution. I remember movies like “Paasa Malar”, “Paalum Pazhamum”, “Paarthal Pasi Theerum”, “Paar Magale Paar” “Padithal Mattum Pothuma”. All films were not only commercial successes, but great musical hits too.
All by M.S.Viswanathan and Ramamoorthy.
There was a great combination. Bhimsingh, film director, Kannadasan, the lyric writer and a great poet (and an unpopular politician), and Viswanathan and Ramamoorthy. Later in my age, I learnt that Viswanathan and Ramamoorthy will innovate a tune first (write the ‘santham’first) and Kannadasan used to give poetical lines on the spot to fit into the tune and the situation in the film. Unlike today, the songs carried deep meanings and unlike most film songs today - where all that one hears is the screeching noise from the female singer and the hollow or coarse sounds from the male singer. The amazing thing, I learnt, was that Kannadasan could give several alternate poetical lines for the tune instantly all conveying similar meanings. We used to debate among like-minded school going people – whether their music came first or the lyrics came first.
Then, probably, the great matinee idol MGR too discovered MSV and R. I am told that MGR used to insist that he must clear the songs before they are included in the film. He seemed to have had great tastes for music and rhythm. He never faltered in his selection. In most of his movies, the songs were great hits and jingling more cash for the music distributors as well.
Going back- at a time, when we did not have the facility of music recorders or players, one fine day, a distant relative of mine who was working for the Tamilnad Electricity Board, bought a gramophone and invited all known and close to his house to see its functioning. It was a great news in that ‘agraharam’ (the locality where Brahmins were predominantly staying). That place was almost 2 miles from where we stayed. Every now and then, I used to hire cycle and pedal down to his residence only to listen to “Ponal Pogattum Poda”and “Palum Pazhamum Kaigalil Yendhi” from, the film “Palum Pazhamum”- the only one gramophone record he could immediately afford to buy at that time. Initially the gramophone records could take only one song on each side and they were called LP records. They worked on keys and one has to wind the key every now and then to ensure that the play speed is maintained – lest you can hear all kinds of hollow and shrill sounds. We would happily wind it every now and then. At times, we would play that record repeatedly again and again much to the annoyance of the auntie in the relative’s house. The pain of cycling down in the hot sun was always forgotten in having listened to the songs. I think this happened in very early sixties or late fifties - I have now forgotten when was this.
My brother in Madras is crazier about MSV and R’s music than myself. During our very young days, we were considering ourselves as another musical duo in the making. (This gives me another topic to write on - I cannot but mention about SGS, our childhood friend in Tirunelveli , who was a part of our musical adventures) Whenever we visited our relative’s places, there were lots of fans for our singing and we happily sang songs (Listener’s choice).
I can write volumes on this topic. May be another time I can continue.
But before I conclude for the time being, I wish to mention about our surprise decision to visit M.S.V’s house in Madras on a New Year day. We were in Mylapore, Madras those days during 1980s, long time after M.S.V has virtually taken retirement from film music. He was doing films very rarely. On a New Year day, I suggested to my brother in Madras that we go to M.S.V’s house and greet him. He was too enthusiastic about the idea and more than him, was his daughter (my niece and greatly talented in music) who was only in her early teens. It was early night and we three went to M.S.V’s house and as I expected, there was no one to stop us at his gate. We went upstairs and rang the bell, though the front door itself was wide open. We told someone at his house that we are just fans of M.S.V and wanted to greet him on the New Year day. We were asked to be seated in the visitor’s room. In a short moment, the great M.S.V came in a simple white Dhoti and white shirt with all his ‘religious decorations on his forehead with chandan, vibhuthi, kumkum – his usual appearance. We introduced ourselves – those days I was working for a public sector bank and he mentioned that he was quite happy to be associated with that bank as a client – he was too happy to talk to us for almost half an hour. My niece was too quick to sing one of the songs from the forthcoming film where M.S.V has tuned the music after a long gap and he was greatly excited about the little girl singing his song. He even called his wife and introduced us, specially my niece and was very proud that the little girl could sing well a song from his forthcoming film that was not yet released in the theatres. We were served with hot milk and he carefully remembered to gift my niece with some nice fruits.
It was a great feeling to meet a very popular personality whom you revered and admired in your life and that too two decades after you have known him as a famous film music director. We returned with deep appreciation of his simplicity and his friendly approach to people. That must sure have made him very popular in the industry. It was again a very pleasant surprise, when he happened to be seated by my side in a small aircraft on our way from Madras to Salem sometime later during middle 1990s. We were recollecting briefly our personal visit to his place and about my niece who sang the song composed by him with enthusiasm. He was clearly remembering our visit – thanks to my little niece who’s singing were fresh in his memory. I could not spend the entire journey talking to M.S.V as the actor Prabhu and Koundamani too travelled by the same aircraft and they engaged in conversation with each other.
I envy the talents of M.S.V (and R too) and their simplicity in life. I could not even try to enter the field of film music in my lifetime though it used to be my childhood fancy. But our appreciation for M.S.Viswanathan and Ramamoorthy and for their work in Tamil film music field stays forever.
May God bless them and bless this earth with more such talented musicians.