Friends and relatives have been foxed by my passion for films. ‘‘He is a man who quotes the Upanishads and the great Tamil classics on devotion at every turn…We are not able to fathom his obsession for cinema’’…is their usual reaction.
If I had felt so about someone else, I would stopped in an effort to bring about some change…but of course others are wiser and go their way after making their comment.
Film is fantasy…and I like it…and as for my writings on films, I always try to point to greater things beyond films. I have never been able to be part of the film world though….When I could have made a decision, I did not want to be a gypsy living half my life away from my family at shooting spots…and kept away. Another thing that bugged me was the uncertainty that pervaded much of the film activity that I came across.
I could have been a lyricist, because that does not involve leaving the city. It would have been child’s play for me…but that was never to be…and I do not regret it. I however got to write for some albums for the great M. S. Viswanathan, and MSV was not sparing in praise and called me a great poet though it did not seem to be in his power to give me opportunities. I remember the day when he had another classical song written by me and tuned it and sang it for me. It appeared in an album that was meant to launch a young singer, but the chap’s family never marketed it properly. That’s another story.
I may not like what I see in hundreds of Tamil films…but Thangavelu, Baliah, Sivaji, Savitri, Kannadasan, K. V. Mahadevan, and M.S.Viswanathan are brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts about whom I happen to be proud. I may be a journalist turned film researcher, but I am a man of the imagination and an artiste at heart and know my brethren when I see them.
Let me not beat about the bush any more. 100/100 Thiraikkavignargal is a book about Tamil film lyricists from 1931 up to 2000. This book is the new avatar of ‘Tiravikkavignar 2000 Varai that I wrote ten years back . The earlier title was released by Kalaignan Pathippagam while the present one has been released by Manivachagar Pathippagam (phone 2536 1039).
The book is a chronological travel through Tamil cinema with the lyricists. Some lyricists have a single entry…the first film lyricist Madhura Bhaskara Das for example in the year 1931, ‘Kalaignar’ Karunanidhi’ in the year 1950 and Kaviyogi Shuddhananda Bharati in the year 1954. Others have two entries…T. K. Sundara Vadhiyar in the years 1948 and 1954. The maximum entries are for Kannadasan (7) trailed by Vali (6) and Vairamuthu (5). Of course there is quite a degree of subjectivity in the selections.
The book, apart from its time travel format, follows another method. The biographical and other connected details of the lyricists are given on the left side pages of the book while one or two selected lyrics with details of the name of the film, year of release, singer and music director are given on the right side pages of the book.
Generally the photographs of lyricists also find a place on the right side. Rare photographs are those of A. Rathanasabhapathy ( a thirties lyricist and actor), Mariappa Swamigal ( a stage actor and singer, he was the lyricist of the 1939 film Jothi or Ramalinga Swamigal), Velsami Kavi (film director and lyricist attached to Salem Modern Theatres), poet S. D. Sundaram ( a nationalistic writer known best for his dialogues for Kappalottiya Thamizhan), Kovai Ayyamuthu (a fervent and fiery nationalist, lyricist for the 1947 film Kanjan), Sangu Subramaniam (journalist and editor, lyricist of the famous Malligai Jaathi Roja) and ‘Gemini’ Kannaadi Sitharaman (the famous song by JPC, Kalyanan in Penn is his).
Apart from the main players (who are of course a handful…Sivan in the forties, Marudakasi in the fifties, Kannadasan in the sixties, Vali from then one, Vairamuthu in the eighties and thereon…there are litterateurs and writers who play a guest role as lyricists and a few trespassers if you will. The also rans were perhaps contestants who were disqualified by ill-disposed referees or were simply not qualified for the game…
I have rounded off a few angularities that had crept into the first edition..but the book more or less remains as it is. I had an idea of updating the till 2000 aspect of the book to till 2010…but I was not up to the task of giving year to much of present day film music and trying to make sense of it. Not that people do not write sensible or imaginative lines these days…My concept of a film song as a genre in which words, tune, voice and interludes mesh together in a meaningful manner seems to have been given the go by these days…Think of it in this way…The family is still there…the husband…wife and the kids…but they are going their separate ways and don’t mingle despite ‘living in the same house’ (read ‘being in the song’..). That’s my view.
If I got a chance to write lyrics and set music (I think I can do both), I would do things my way…and as I am a true poet at heart and know the best of Tamil film music through the decades, I feel I know what I am saying.
(100/100 Tiraigkavignargal – Yezhupadhu Varuda Thiraippaadal Payanam – 70 year journey through Tamil film songs – Vamanan – Published by Manivachagar Pathippagam, 31, Stringer Street, Parrys Corner, Chennai 600 108 – phone – 044 – 2536 1039)