In the ‘Neeya Naana’ programme of Vijay TV, the subject was that of film songs.
A cross-section of members of the audience shared their experiences pointing to particular film songs that were intimately connected with their lives.
North India, has, apart from its present-day loud film music, a variety of music genres which are alive and kicking — bhajans, ghazals, qawwalis, sufi music, thumris and dadras leading up to classical khyals and drupad music.
Bengal has its Rabindra Sangeet, Syama Geet, Nazrul Geet, Lok Sangeeth, Baul gaan and so forth.
But the Tamil scenario is stymied. Film songs rule the roost, while classical music is dismissed as a Brahminical domain despite the great contribution of the Nadaswaram players of the past (ironically, under the Kazhagam captain Karunanidhi the pipers suffered an eclipse of talent).
Tamils who look for meaningful film songs look to the film songs of the past. It has been my honour to recount the saga of film music in the five-part series, Thirai Isai Alaigal. I have written about 142 singers and music composers right from 1931 when the Tamil talkie made its advent. I have also written biographies of G. Ramanathan, the great music composer of the forties and fifties, and of T.M.Sounderarajan, the redoubtable singer who functioned as the playback of both Sivaji Ganesan and M.G.Ramachandran with resounding success. I have also produced the first ever discography, Mellisai Mannargal Paattu Payanam (songs of Viswanathan-Ramamurthy, both as a duo and as individual music directors).
With this background, I was a bit surprised that the anchor of Neeya Naana chose to ignore G.Ramanathan and K.V.Mahadevan in the line-up of great film music composers of the past. The chronological line-up he chose to give was S.M.Subbiah Naidu, M.S.Viswanathan, Ilayaraja and A.R.Rahman.
While one can have no quarrel with the last three names – whatever be one’s criticism of the oeuvre of the last three composers – with due respect to the lovable SMS, he was not the auteur music director of his time. G. Ramanathan strode like a colossus in his time, and it was he in fact who honed T.M.S., Tiruchi Loganathan and Seergazhi Govindarajan into great playback singers. GR was the music director of Kattabommon which has acquired a cult status. Kappaloattiya Thamizhan too is famous for the Bharati songs tuned to perfection by GR. Yet, he was not worthy of a mention. Is the anchor practicing some form of apartheid? Are extraneous factors involved in GR’s signal contribution being blacked out?
Despite ups and downs, K.V. Mahadevan had one of the longest innings as a film music director – right from the early forties to the early nineties. Both in taking classical music to the masses – Sampoorna Ramayanam and Thiruvilaiyadal – and in purveying ear–caressing tunes both in folk an light music he was incomparable (what a beautiful take of a therukoothu song we have in Navarathri, and what unparalleled melodies in Idhaya Kamalam). But perhaps he was in the wrong side of the social scale for the anchor to even mention him!
But thankfully, posterity knows what life and its values are all about. It will deal mercilessly with narrow-minded bigots. If it hadn’t, we would remember only the Rao Bahadurs and Diwan Bahadurs propped up by a British regime. Freedom fighters of the ilk of Tilak and V.O.Chidambaram would have been forgotten.