M.S.Viswanathan could rightly be called the icon of Tamil film music.Though there were others like G.Ramanathan,Vedha and K.V.Mahadevan,MSV's career was evenly and busily spread over a period of nearly four decades chiefly as a maker of great melodies.While G.Ramanathan and Vedha had a brief spell during the early decades of Tamil Cinema,the other legendary music composer K.V.Mahadevan was not ready to mix the native notes with the Western genre of music.Whereas, MSV was a singer with a high pitched voice,an actor with a spontaneous flair for humour and a commendable composer of a variety of fresh notes. Joining hands with T.K.Ramamurthy,MSV has created records of amazing musical stuff that would transcend local barriers and reach global human ears with a universal appeal. Lyricist Kannadasan the favoured child of the Muse, provided not only the creative base, but also the necessary impetus for the duo's splendid rhythms.
MSV and TKR were the double barrel water pistols shooting their awesome tunes for a soothing flow of fine melodies.It was like a pentagon show with the lyrics of Kannadasan wonderfully reinforced by the tunes of MSV and TKR and sung by T.M.Soundarajan and P.Suseela with clarity, sweetness and conviction.This show went on for years.Here and there, Vaali would have replaced Kannadasan and P.B.Srinivas and S.Janaki would have substituted TMS and P.Suseela. But the Pentagon remained strong because of the strong base.
M.S.V's[and T.K.R's] philosophical numbers,the fascinating duet songs and the solo songs of joy and sorrow were all received by a music hungry generation, as gifts coming straight from the kingdom of god.Songs like 'Ponal Pogattum Poda',[ Paalum Pazhamum] 'Satti Suttadhada' [Aaalayamani] 'Aaaru Maname Aaru' [Andavan Kattalai] 'Ullam Enbathu Aamai'[Paartaal Pasi Theerum] Annan ennada Thambi Ennadaa[Pazhani],Annan Kaattiya Vazhiyamma[Padithaal Mattum Podhuma]'Veeduvarai Uravu' [Paadha Kaanikkai] 'Sathiyam Idhu Sathiyam' [Idhu Sathiyam] 'Padaithaane' [Nichaya Thamboolam] 'Enge Nimmathi' [Pudhiya Paravai] all from the mighty voice of TMS were the immortal philosophical songs meant for the Sivaji Ganesan movies. The other immortal philosophical song is ''Ullathil Nalla Ullam''from the clarion voice of Sirkazhi Govindarajan for the blockbuster film Karnan.
For MGR films, the voice of TMS would imbibe the force of the revolutionary and reformer and the songs would have a different dynamics of music, perfectly envisaged by the highly imaginative duo.'Naan Anaiyittal' [Engaveetuppilaai] 'Ulagam pirandhadhu Enakkaga' [Paasam]' Ennathaan Nadakkum' [Panathottam] 'Koduthathellam Koduthan' [Padagotti] 'Buthan Esu Gandhi Pirandhadhu' [Chandrodhayam] 'Moonrezhuthil En Moochirukkum' [Deivathai] and many more, were tuned by MSV and TKR and sung by TMS to invigorate people towards right goals of life.
Fabulous male solo melodies like' Tharaimel Pirakkavittan' 'Naan Oru Kuzhandhai''[both from Padahotti] 'Vandha Naal mudhal '[Paava mannippu]'Ponnai Virumbum Boomiyile' [Alayamani] all from the titanic voice of TMS and 'Mayakkama Kalakkama' [Sumaithangi], 'Ninaipathelaam Nadandhuvittaal' [Nenjil Oer Aalayam] 'Ilamai koluvirukkum' [Halo Mr.Zameendhar] from the mellifluous tone of P.B.Srinivas, are a few samples of the vast world of music glory that solely belonged once, to the golden era of MSV and TKR. While the voice of TMS, and P.B.Srinivas contributed the male vocal grandeur, P.Suseela's honey- tongued voice gave us immortal songs like 'Kangal Irandum' [Mannathi Mannan] 'Kadhal Siragai' [Paalum Pazhamum] 'Ninaikka Therindha Maname' [Ananda Jothi] 'Neeyilladha Ulagathile' [Neengatha Ninaivu] 'Maalai Pozhudhin Mayakkathile' [Bagyalakshmi] 'Chithirai Maadham Pournami Neram'[Raman Ethanai Ramanadi] ,followed by S.Janaki's 'Thookamun Kangalai Thazhuvattume' and L.R.Eswari's ,'Palingnaloru Maaligai' [Vallavan Oruvan] and 'Pattathuraani' [Sivantha Man] ,to mention a few.
Among the duet songs composed by MSV/TKR and later by MSV himself, many have become eternal tunes.'Naan Pesa Ninaipathellaam' [Paalum Pazhamum]'Pesuvathu Kiliya' [Panathottam] 'Chinnavalai Mugam Sivandhvalai' [Pudhiya Bhoomi] 'Ponnezhil Poothadhu' [Kalangarai Vilakkam] 'Poomaalaiyil Oer Malligai'[Ootivarai Uravu] by TMS and P.Suseela, 'Kaadhalin Pon Veedhiyil' [Pookkaari] by TMS and S.Janaki,'Poojaikku Vandha Malare Vaa'[Paadha Kaanikkai] and 'Roja Malare Rajakumari' [Veerathithirumagan] both by P.B.Srinivas with S.Janaki and P.Suseela respectively, are some of the vast galaxy of unforgettable duet numbers, composed by MSV,either with or without TKR.
Some of the vibrant tunes in solo voice were 'Ponmagal Vandhal'[ Sorgam] by TMS, 'Kaalangalil Aval Vasantham [Paava Mannippu] 'Aval oru navarasa naadagam'[Neitru Inru Naalai] by SPB and 'Adhisaya Raagam' [Aboorva Raagangal] by K.J.Yesudoss that carried a similar element of lyrical thrust in praise of the charm of womanhood.One can keep on citing an endless list of songs composed by MSV and TKR that could connect human ears to a variety of emotions like joy,gusto,grief and exaltation. Songs in MSV's own voice like 'Sivasambo' in Ninaithaale Inikkum 'Etharkum Oru Kaalamundu' from Sivakaamiyin Selvan,Mazhaithuli Mazhaithuli, and Alaala Kanda,both songs sung along with Hariharan for the film 'Sangamam' [for which music was composed by A.R.Rehaman] were unique reflections of the gusto and grief that MSV's voice was able to deliver. Some of the movies that carried a complete album of hit songs composed either by MSV himself or in team with TKR, were,Paalum Pazhamum,Oottivarai Uravu,Pudhiya Paravai [all Sivaji Ganesan movies],Paasam, Padahotti, Panam Padaithavan, and Ayirathil Oruvan [MGR films] Most of these films were as mush known for all hit songs, as for including other vital aspects of high quality .
The music of M.S.Viswanathan ruled the Tamil film industry for a substantial period until Ilayaraja began to occupy the centre stage. His high pitched voice like that of his contemporary S.D.Burman of Hindi Cinema,his vitalizing power of music composition and his spontaneous display of acting abilities were his spectacular assets.No one can forget his strict ban on cigarettes for his mess members, but at the same time,himself secretly enjoying solo cigarette smoking sessions, in Saran's first film, Kadal Mannan. As mess Viswanathan, MSV played an endearing character in that movie. Besides, he was also shown by Saran as a devotee of Poet Kannadasan as it was in his real life, and he also sang a number in that film, in praise of that first Tamil Poet Laureate.Again with Kamalahaasan, in Kaadhalaa Kaadhalaa, MSV took us to the height of hilarity calling every time the name of his pet deity. [Muruga !]
Every generation develops new likes and dislikes for patterns of art.When it comes to music,it is the enthusiastic reception of fresh lyrics and tunes that determine the success show.However, there are some, who make long standing appeal and keep their tunes ringing in the hearts of music lovers, crossing the barriers of generation concepts. MSV is an old guard, whose music can embrace old and new alike.Besides,he is three in one, as a composer,singer and actor.Today,this old guard is no more.But memories of his grand show, will continue to enrich our routine, through the mesmerizing, audiovisual wield, in global connectivity.