Movies are not conceived in isolation. Every aspiring director in Tamil cinema today will harbour memories of watching a Nayagan or a 16 Vayadhiniley on screen; every young actor will speak of how Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan inspired them; and every aspiring music director will have a favourite Ilaiyaraaja song. Each week, Silverscreen talks to a different celebrity to find the sparks that triggered their creativity – the films, the music, the writing, the photographs and the locations.
Writer – director Viji has a fondness for the past. The songs made then, can never ever be replicated, he insists. The greats of that time – KV Mahadevan and MS Viswanathan, were people who lived a life rich with music, innovation and poetry. Every song of theirs was a mega hit, be it a devotional song or a thought-provoking one. “MSV once said, ‘naanga uzhaikka therinjavanga aana pozhaikka theriyala’. If they were present in this current time period, they’d have ruled the industry.”
An ardent fan and follower of poet Kannadasan, Viji has spent many a day pondering over the meanings in his songs. Some of his most cherished memories were of times spent like that. “I knew his words like the back of my hand. I used to explain it to people so much that they mistook me for an intellectual. That’s the power of a Kannadasan song. The meaning behind it, once you grasp it, your life is greatly enriched.”
KV Mahadevan, he says, is greatly ignored. As accomplished as MSV when it comes to his music, he must be given his due. But unfortunately these days, he gets to hear people laud MSV more than KV. That worries him tremendously. He comforts himself with the knowledge that in the annals of time, both of them would reign…’as long as Tamil Cinema is around’. Not all is lost though. As he observes: “In reality shows, kids that have no connection at all to the generation that KV and MSV were in, sing their songs. In fact, they wouldn’t even belong to their mother’s generation. Paatti kaalathu paatta pethi paadudhu. This is not possible now.”
When we ask him to list his favourite songs from the golden era, he is horrified. “How can I pick just 5? There are thousands of them and I love them all equally…!” he says. After some persistence on our part, and in honour of the greats who still fuel his creativity, he relents, on the condition that he’d list his friends’ favourites. He takes much pleasure in singing the songs himself for us.
And we realize, they are also his favourites.
1. Andru Oomai Pennallo from Paarthal Pasi Theerum
அன்று ஊமைப் பெண்ணல்லோ இன்று பேசும் பெண்ணல்லோ – ஐயா
உன்னைக் கண்டு தமிழ் பாடும் பெண்ணல்லோ
The song weaves a tale. Of a woman whose lasting memory of her estranged husband is the language that he taught her. To the son that he abandoned, she sings in the same language. This song is enough to gauge the entire plot of the film. Only a master can do this. Likewise, only Viswanathan – Ramamoorthy can bring a certain liveliness to the music without it being iraichal. Music must enthrall, not disturb.
2. Athaan Yennathaan from Paava Mannippu
Rajendran, another friend of Viji’s, is a huge fan of this song. There’s no disturbance in this track, says Viji. “There’s melody, the female voice and almost nothing else. When you close your eyes and listen to it at night, there’s no other feeling like it. Nothing ever comes close.”
3. Naan Pesa Ninaipadhellam from Palum Pazhamum
நான் பேச நினைப்பதெல்லாம்
நீ பேச வேண்டும்
This line is in the Kamba Ramayanam too. But the beauty of this verse here is its startling simplicity. Yet another Kannadhasan trademark. To express so great an expectation…an emotion, if you will…in such simple terms is magnificent indeed. It marks the true prowess of the poet. The music composer, to his credit, wove a melody out of this and such a beautiful one too.
4. Amaithiyana Nathiyinile Odam from Aandavan Kattalai
அமைதியான நதியினிலே ஓடும் ஓடம்
அளவில்லாத வெள்ளம் வந்தால் ஆடும்
This song reminds me of the time when I began to listen intently and wholeheartedly to music. Not just as a pastime, but as something more than that. If you listen closely, the melody is as peaceful as the river the song refers to. Very serene.
5. Athi Kaai Kaai Kaai from Bale Pandiya
உள்ளமெலாம் மிளகாயோ ஒவ்வொரு பேச்சுரைத்தாயோ
வெள்ளரிக்காய் பிளந்ததுபோல் வெண்ணிலவே நீ சிரித்தாயோ
If there’s something that Kannadasan does and does well, it’s sticking to the theme of things. There’s abundant creativity in this song. Also, innovation. Kannadasan, KV and MSV were people who lived ahead of their time. Their music might have ended with the seventies, but they will live on forever.