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News :: Tryst with a music monarch - The Hindu

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 10:38 pm    Post subject: News :: Tryst with a music monarch - The Hindu Reply with quote

Tryst with a music monarch

Friday Review
The Hindu
Friday, May 11, 2007

Always ahead of his times, M.S.Viswanathan inspires and influences composers big and small.

Matter, meter, melody are all I know
Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

The music that wafts through the spacious third floor apartment at Valmiki Nagar, Chennai, indicates it’s composing time at the household. Even as your hands hesitatingly reach for the bell, the door opens and you are welcomed into a melodious milieu.

M.S.Viswanathan — the name that casts a spell on millions of music buffs worldwide, is back in action. “What do you mean? I’ve always been in action. If you are making a movie let me know, I’ll work for you,” he guffaws. The septuagenarian is now the composer of a film titled, ‘Vaaliban Sutrum Ulagam.’ (‘Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban’ was one of MGR’s mega hits). Smiles MSV: “The hero looks a lot like MGR. Vaali is the lyricist.”

Not hi-tech

Music gizmos are not for him. Even today it’s a live orchestra he’s comfortable with. “But handling hi-tech stuff also needs skill. Only that I believe in full-fledged rehearsals. Why, I can’t even operate that radish in your hand,” he cheekily points out to your mobile.

Infirmity can’t keep the veteran away from the magic of music — magic he has created over the years and which still breathes fresh. He refutes the argument about changing tastes of youngsters. “Recently there was this teenager at one of our shows at Puducherry. He sent up a note requesting us to sing ‘Ninaippadhellam …’ a song we composed 38 years ago for ‘Nenjil Or Alayam,’” he says.

Teaming up with T.K. Ramamurthy in the first few decades of his career, MSV continued to create mesmerising pieces after the two parted ways. He has tried innovations rarely attempted by film composers of his era. The strikingly different beats for the ‘Vellikinnam Dhaan’ song, use of traditional percussion for an item number, trying out the raga with just four notes (Mahati — the song, ‘Adhisaya Raagam …’), eloquently adopting merely five instruments for a song and a 100 for another — the feats have been incredible! “I like to experiment,” he smiles simply.

Every song in Sivaji Ganesan’s ‘Karnan’ is a scintillating exercise and stirs you to this day. “Producer-director Panthulu sent Kannadasan and me to Bangalore for composing. They were ready in just three days! Those were the times when we never went out of the recording studio to work. ‘If you have it in you, you can even compose on the beach. Only that people could drop a few coins if you had your towel lying there,’ Kannadasan would quip,” recalls MSV. The lyricist-composer duo has given many riveting songs to Tamil cinema. “Matter, meter, melody are all I know,” he says softly.

These days we have singers mushrooming with every film. But MSV didn’t use many fresh talents, though a few such as Yesudas made it. “It wasn’t in my hands. Producers have the last word and when they wanted established singers I had no choice. See Ananthu here. He’s a great talent and he’s been with me for a decade now, and I’m still trying to get him a break. Each one’s time has to come,” is his philosophical response.

Besides solos and humming in his own films Viswanathan has sung for many other composers too. The Rahman composition he sang was a major hit. “One morning Rahman called me up and requested I sing for ‘Sangamam.’ I was hesitant and thought I’d go in person and tell him so. But there was a festive air at his place and I got to know it was his birthday. I didn’t have the heart to say ‘no’ then. So I went ahead. Only my voice was recorded. And when I heard it with the BGM and Hariharan’s voice joining mine, I was floored.” MSV is always lavish in his praise when he notices potential.

Into acting

For a few years now he has been into acting too. “It happened by chance. Director Saran and actor Vivek were after me to do a role in ‘Kaadhal Mannan.’ The next thing I knew Kamal Haasan insisted I do a role.”

MSV recalls an incident when he met Sivaji Ganesan at a wedding. “ He looked at me seriously and said, ‘Viswanathan, I’m planning to make music for films. I saw your performance.’ I jokingly retorted, “It’s your fate that you had to see me act. And if you compose it will be my fate to have to listen to it.” He recalls the exchange with laughter.

There’s yet another facet of MSV — that of producer. “That was a blunder. AVM Chettiar used to tell me, ‘Goddess Saraswati has blessed you amply. Don’t try anything else…’” For a moment he is pensive.

No conversation with MSV is complete without his reference to Hindi film composer Naushad. “He’s like God to me. Imagine my joy when he came to my concert in Mumbai, sat through the entire show, and even sent a note asking for the song, ‘Odam Nadhiyinilae …’ [A memorable strain by Sirkazhi Govindarajan],” he says.

M.S.Viswanathan’s achievements are awesome (check out msvtimes.com), and his simplicity, stunning!


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