I remember the first time I heard Suresh Peters’ voice – it was at a Stanley Medical College ‘culturals’ event. Chikku Bukku Rayile was being played loudly using 90s tech, and many paused to check with the student volunteers – “Boss, enna paatu idhu? (Boss, what song is this?)”
“Some new music director nenaikkren (I think) – some Rahman something”.
“Therle – aana super voice (Don’t know, but super voice)”
There was some impromptu dancing later in the day, inspired by the beer smuggled in Milton water bottles (there’s a 90s reference for you), and the catchy rhythm of Usilampatti penn kutti.
You don’t have to travel back to the 90s to imagine the kind of effect an album like Gentleman had on the college crowd for the first time. But this is not about Suresh Peters nor AR Rahman.
A few years later, Suresh Peters would have another superhit song called Bodhai Yeri Pochu from the movie Jai Hind picturised on choreographer Raju Sundaram making kissy faces at Ranjitha, while dancing in earnest for the villain and his crew.
The songs of Jai Hind were a monster hit. However, unless you cared about turning over a cassette cover, not many may have easily recalled the name Vidyasagar.
This somehow stuck. One would read the name of this music director on a cassette sleeve, but never followed it with the words “Underrated, no?”- a tag that other directors were quick to get. It took a while for this adjective to appearance in the same sentence as Vidyasagar.
Everyone that followed Tamil Film Music was busy fighting pointless internet battles on behalf of Ilaiyaraja or AR Rahman. While there was acknowledgment that Vidyasagar had talent, no one spent time in his camp. This went on. And on.
Unfortunately, by the early 2010s, he had almost stopped making music for Tamil Cinema. When he left to focus more on Malayalam cinema, no one even noticed. Luckily for him, this other community embraced him with much deserved warmth. It continues to rank Vidyasagar as one of its most highly regarded music makers.
This is not to say that fans of Tamil film music do not appreciate Vidyasagar. However, we never should have let him get to ‘underrated’.
Thankfully in 2022, we have YouTube and 28,000 other streaming services, so his best Tamil work is still a click away for rediscovery and consumption.
On his birthday (one short of 60), here’s a list of personal favorites, the B-sides if you will, that you should consider adding to your playlist.
1.Dheem Thakka Dheem (Puthayal)
2. Raapothu (Netaji)
3. Sottu Sottai (Varnajalam)
4. Kilu Kilupaana (Sullaan)
5. Thulli Varum (Priyam)
6. Poongaatru Veesum (Mr.Madras)
7. Kaalai Arumbi (Kana Kanden)
8. Summa Kidandha (Thambi)
9. Yahaan Ladki Hain (Thaayin Manikodi)
10. Adi Aathi (Pasumpon)