This is the fifth volume of the work ‘Thirai Isai Alaigal’. Like each of the volumes in this series, it is  structured as an array of lives of singers and music composers from the ‘hoary’ past to more contemporary times. The fifth volume has the sub-heading, ‘P.B.Rangachari Mudhal S.P.B. Varai’.


P. B. Rangachari was a great actor active in the first three decades of Tamil cinema. His Kulothunga Chola in Bhagavathar’s hit, ‘Ambikapathi’ (1937) is there for all to see as the video is commercially available. Really a stunning performance in the first decade of Tamil talkie. Rangachari was also a capable singer, having acted in stage plays of the dramatic impresario Cunniah Naidu with such musical worthies as the one-and-only S.G.Kittappa. (The great playback singer T.M. Sounderarajan sang in the chorus group behind Rangachari in the film ‘Sudarshan’ 1953).


SPB, of course, needs no introduction. He has been both a very prolific and influential singer in the last three decades of the 20th century. You can find a very interesting and lively narration studded with musical details of his oeuvre in this work. I have directly seen SPB at work, the singer having essayed my lyrics for private albums as well as for a film under M.S.Viswanathan’s baton. .


Thirai Isai Alaigal also has projects the lives and singing careers of singing stars of the forties like the stunning Vasundhara Devi (Vyjayanthimala’s mercurial mother), the talented M.S. Sarojini, whose work and singing in the highly successful Aryamala (1941) and Jagathalaprathapan (1944) are well known, K.L.V Vasantha, the darling of Modern Theatres Sundaram and the heroine of successful films like Rambaiyin Kaadhal and Madanakaamarajan (she lost the chance to act as Chandralekha in the film of the name, by a whisker).


As always, I have veered from the successful artistes to the less successful and kept company with such singers as K.V. Janaki (she sang Kannandasan’s first song, Kalangaathiru Maname in Kanniyin Kaadhali, 1949). Her stirring voice can be heard in such films as Marudha Naattu Ilavarasi (in which MGR was paired with his wife-to-be V. N. Janaki), Rajakumari and Mohini. This is the first ever article on the singer, and gives the full details of her life and career.


Also another first is the life, times and songs of A.G. Ratnamala, the dusky singer of ‘comedy’ songs. I have personally met this retiring singer many a time, and experienced her hospitality and amiability…qualities that made her well-beloved to Sivaji Ganesan whose lifelong companion she was. She had been a drama artiste – that was what brought her close to ‘Sivaji’ whose patron she became in his indigent times. Her stage background helped her put energy and joie de vivre into her songs. Here her sing with Chandrababu (‘Un Thirumugathai Orumugama Thiruppu’ and ‘Thanthana Paattu Paadanum’ – Mahadevi). Of course she sang dozens of songs with S.C. Krishnan who could bring the folk touch in a trice.


Other firsts are Rima, R. Vaidyanathan of Gemini Studios.  A nuclear physicist inLondonwho gave up a great scientific career for music. He was also a phenomenally knowledgeable musician, and  I have heard that talents like Rajeswara Rao and Emani Sankara Sastri treated him with fearful respect. Touch any key in a piano and he would give the note and octave, that was his instinct for the scales. He can be seen in the collective music titles of many a Gemini film (Chandralekha and Apoorva Sahodharargal, for example). Elder brother of the celluloid star Ranjan, Rima was a creative soul who cared little for appearances. A bachelor, he lived somewhat like a monk, and died at the age of 42. A rare account based on information shared by close relatives and friends.


Assistant music directors perform very important musical tasks but get poor recognition for their work. This volume gives the life, times and contribution of an extremely gifted musician M. Muthu, who aided many music directors. Having had the opportunity to know this man and his family – I have had the pleasure of recording Muthu’s son Ganesh in musical albums featuring his sitar artistry – I have given an elaborate account of Muthu’s contribution. Another special article is on ‘HMV’ Kamala, who sung a few solo songs but ended up as a chorus singer. That some of the chorus parts were even better than the main music is another matter.


No singer perhaps had a more fitting name than Vani (Jairam). A real Saraswathi of music. She can belt out 60 Pallavis of her film songs one after the other. The seventies are studded with her gems. Like the notes of the octave the various languages ofIndiatoo are at her beck and call. Even though she is not active in the film world today, she is busy as a bee performing all over the world. Alaigal five throws light on her musical genius. Another evergreen talent who blossomed in the seventies is P. Jayachandran, a moody if well meaning playback. He was not a poor man’s Yesudas…but brought along his own stamp of dignity and melody to Tamil song. I should say that he is a golden voice singer with a golden heart.


It has been my pleasure to know A.V. Ramanan and his wife Uma. This extremely talented couple who have regaled audiences with their excellent music for over four decades deserve a better deal. I consider it a public service to have written about them. Ramanan is a gentleman singer and a gifted musician. He has taken the role of his wife’s promoter with great grace. As for Uma, while saying that her voice and musical knowledge are her great assets one can aver that her husband Ramanan is the man behind the success of his wife.


Others who find a place in the book are M.R. Santhanalakshmi, P.G.Venkatesan, T.A. Moti, T.R. Gajalakshmi, V.T.Rajagopalan, Pendyala Nageswara Rao, M. K. Muthu, S.N.Surendar, Dheepan Chakravarathi, Manoj Gyan and Ramesh Vinayakam.


Brought out as part of a series of books marking the golden jubilee of Manivachagar Pathippagam, the book was released in a function at Chennai New Woodlands on December 25 in the presence of many film world worthies.







  1. Nava C.kumar says:

    Have you written about anything about A.M.Rajah – A singer who enthralled the South Indian film music fans and then disappeared abruptly , apparently owing to his attitude problems?

    • vamanan81 says:

      Indeed I have. It is in my first book on Tamil film music, Thirai Isai Alaigal. I had talked to A.M.Raja’s contemporaries, music composers, singers and film musicians and ‘discovered’ his attitude problem, so to say.

  2. Chris, New Zealand says:

    Not having any background in film music, I have often wondered of the role Assistants to Music Directors play. The likes of Henry Daniel (VR, MSV) Pugalenthi (KVM) I have seen a few interviews of MSV but he has never mentioned the role his assistants have played, but more than adequately acknowledged the contribution the instrument artists have played. He has said, without rancour, some of the tunes of CR Subbaraman and SM Subbiah Naidu are his or VRs. Could the reverse be true?

  3. Dear Vammanan sir..

    I am Covai RAveendran Mr.Akila Vijayakumar, Thiruppur Friend. How much this book cast kindly reply mail id

    yours, covai ravee

  4. I am sure the book will be a treat – looking forward to reading it soon.