Saturday, September 21, 2013

Some Tamil Playback Singers of Unsung Merit.



Jikki.{Left }                              M.LVasanthakumari.{Right}



      Ever since the inception of Tamil Cinema, music formed the heart and soul of film makers. But the number of music composers or singers could hardly reach the double digit for quite long. The most prominent music directors in Tamil were G.Ramanathan, the duo Viswanathan and Ramamurthy, K.V.Mahadevan,T.R.Paappaa, T.G.Linappa  S.M.Subbaiah Naidu, Ghantasaalaa and Chalapathi Rao who enriched Tamil film music by their qualitative contribution of melodies and mesmerizing tunes.Other worthy names like Vedha, V.Kumar. Sankar Ganesh, and Chandrabose, joined the field a little later.All these music directors could establish a name for themselves only with the voice support of singers of high caliber and merit. As most of the actors themselves were  good singers during the early decades of Tamil Cinema, the arrival of playback singers took some time.Some of the great actor singers like P.U.Chinnappa, M.K.Thiagaraja Bagavathar, T.R.Mahalingam P.Banumathi S.Varalakshmi and a few among the great playback singers likeTMS,Sirkazhi Govindarajan, Tiruchi Loganathan, C.S.Jeyaraman, A.M.Raja, P.B.Srinivas,S.Janaki.L.R.Eswari and Jamuna Rani  have already found a place in this blog. Separate articles on other fascinating singers like P.Suseela,SPB, K.J.Yesudas and several others of the new generation would soon adorn the electronic pages of this blog.
     Meanwhile,I thought that there are a considerable number of singers of the Nineteen  fifties and sixties who still remain as singers of unsung merit because of the lapse of time and the changing trends in Tamil film music, that cater to the taste of new generation music lovers. The objective of this article is to throw more light on those singers who positively supported the growth of Tamil film music, during the formative period of Tamil Cinema.
   The list includes voluminous singers like Ghantasala, A.L. Raghavan,S.C.Krishnan,Jikki, the veteran voices of Carnatic mold belonging to M.L.Vasanthakumari  Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi{known as Soolamangalam sisters along with her sibling Jeyalakshmi} Radha Jeyalakshmi,the duo vocal cousins, of whom Jeyalakshmi sang more film songs as Radha Jeyalakshmi, and other powerful singers like P.Leela, A.P.Komala R.Balasaraswathi, M.S.Rajeswari,T.S.Bagavathi and T.VRathinam. 
     Of these singers S.C.Krishnan’s  was a leading voice of many chorus songs and funny duets meant for comedians.If A.L.Raghavan's voice perfectly suited the voice frame of Nagesh,the voice of S.C.Krishan found a great level of compatibility with that of K.A.Thangavelu and A.Karunanidhi, the two leading comedians of the last century.
     Ghanatasala whose sensitive and soothing voice charmed human ears with a vibrating throw, is known for leaving a rich legacy of music, with Telugu and Tamil cinema. That was a time when Telugu enriched Tamil Cinema, with an intimate sense of creativity at all levels and music being always outside the barriers of language, singers and music composers simultaneously took care of the interests of both the languages.With an enthralling impact, Ghantasala delivered songs, intensely filled with emotions of joy, exuberance and sorrow. There was always a penetrating element in his voice composition that could sharply and profoundly infuse grief and pathos more effectively than other emotions. Songs like 'Kanavidhthaan Nijamidhuthaan','Uravumillai  Pagaiyumillai'Ulage Maayam Vaazhve Maayam,{All, from Devadas},'Ullaasam Thedum' {Thenali Raman}'Amaidhiyilladhen Maname' {Paadhhala Bhairavi} and'Muthukku Muthaaga' {Anbu Sagodharargal}, seemed to carry a heart rending effect.But when it came to duets, he could reflect higher levels of ecstasy with a felicitous reach that could be noticed in songs like 'Aahaa Inba Nilaavinile' {Maayaa Bazaar} 'Thesulaavudhe Theinmalar mele' {Manaalane Mangaiyin Bagyam}, 'Rajasekara' {Anarkali} 'Aahaaya Veediyil'{Prema Paasam} 'Oho Vennilaave Vinnaalum Vennilaave'{Prema Paasam}. In a lighter vein Ghantasala could also sing endearing songs like 'Ullaasa Ulagam Unakke Sondham' {Alibabavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum}'Kaarile Savaari Seyyum Kannam Sivandha Ponnammaa'and 'Aadi Paadi Vela Senjaa Aluppirukkadhu' both from Enga Veettu Mahalakshmi.I have recorded only those songs that have stuck to my memory. It is a sad thing that a voice that made so many people happy,fell into the brutal hands of throat cancer. 
   A.L.Raghavan could be called one of the star singers among men of the last century.His voice was so malleable that it could easily shift from joy to sorrow and the mellifluous impact and amount of clarity and voice throw were amazing factors. In an exhaustively lighter mood, he could deliver songs like ‘A’ for apple {Saadhu Mirandaal} ‘April fool Enroru jaathi’{panithirai} ‘Kalloori Raanithaan’{Baagya Latchumi}’Adichirukku Nalladhoru Chansu’{Nallavan Vaazhvaan}’Jigu bugu Jigu bugu‘{Motor Sundarampillai} ‘Paappaa Paappaa Kadhaikelu’{Ammaa Enge}’Vaazhaithandu Pola Udambu’{ with L.R.Eswari in Panamaa Paasamaa}Pombala Oruthi Irundhaalaam’{with TMS in a group for Adhe Kangal} Enna Vegam Sollu Baamaa {also with TMS&group for Kuzhandhaiyum Dheivamum} and ‘Budhi Sigaamani Pethapulle’{Iruvar Ullam}.The list goes on.If he gave his voice to Nagesh it would appear as if Nagesh himself was singing the song. But the same Raghavan gave a heart moving number in Sridhar’s Nenjil Oer Aalayam. The song 'Engirundhaalum Vaazhga' got firmly fixed in each one’s memory. In an equally fascinating way, he sang in a mood of romantic ecstasy, songs like'Kaadhal Yaathiraikku’ and 'Inbamaana Iravidhuve’ in Manidhan Maaravillai and others like ‘Anru Oomai Pennalloe’ {Paarthaal Pasitheerum} ‘Mullai poo Manakkudhu’ {Naan Vanangum Dheivam } and Oeviam Sirikkudhu’{Malliam Mangalam}.The other murmured song of Raghavan was 'Kaalgal Ninradhu Ninradhuthaan' from Poojaikku Vandha Malar. It is a very modest voice with several inherent layers of musical might that Rghavan is blessed with and he has effectively transpired it to the listeners. 
   Though the single most energizing group song ‘Sithaada Kattigittu’{Vannakkili} will do, to speak of what a musical stuff that S.C Krishnan’s slightly nasal voice was made of, the all pervading sense of humour and tempo in his delivery of notes,needs a special mention. We do not know whether it was a coincidence or a deliberate attempt. Most of his songs contained lyrics with an alliteration effect that made his songs enjoyable and easy to remember.For instance,songs like 'Saathukkudi Saarudhaanaa Paathukkudi' {Vannakkili}' Athaanum Naanthaane, Satta Pothaanum Naanthaane',{Sakkaravarthi Thirumagal} Adi Thaaraaburam Thaambaram Un Thalaiyila Kanagambaram’{Makkalai Petra Magaraasi} 'Aanadhu Aachu Poenadhu Poechu','My Dear Meena Un Idea Ennaa"{Manjal Mahimai} 'Vethala Paakku Sunnaambu, Pathini Elakaraambu'{ Neelamalai Thirudan}’Chinnanjiru Chittei En Seena Karkandei' {Alibaabaavum Naarpadhu Thirudargalum}‘Mannai Nambi Maramirukku Kanne Sanjala Andha Marathai Nambi Naanirukken Joekka Konjalaam’ {Enga Veettu Mahalakshmi} and'Paandian Naanirukka Eindiunakku Vegam{Thillaanaa Mohanaambaal} are nothing but poetic shots of humour. His similarly humorous numbers are,' Paartheera Ayya Partheeraa',{Baagiya Latchumi'}'B O Y  boy, Boyinna Paiyan’ {Thilakam}’Sedhi Kettoe Sedhi Kettoe Chettan Pathiya Sedhi Kettoe’ {K.Balachander’s Edhir Neechal} ‘Kattadathukku Manapporutham Avasiam’ {Dheivappiravi}and'Thangame Unpoela Thangapdhumaiyai  Engengu thedinum Kaanavillai’ {Mayaa Bazaar}.Some of these songs have adorned the lip movements  of the most famous comedian, affectionately called Danaal Thangavelu. One could not but genuinely laugh at the voice mould and the musical composition of all the songs of S.C.Krishnan. Very often I used to imagine that if Surulirajan, the other noted comedian had the singing potential, he would have sung only like S.C.Krishnan.
   The other two singers of this period Kovai Soundarajan { known for the popular songs 'Jambulingame Jadaatharaa' from Kaasedhaan Kadavuladaa,'Soen papdi' from Enmagan 'Suppannaa Sonnaarayyaa'from Thee and 'Thaanaa Pazhutha Thakkaaliye' from Siraiyil Pootha Sinnamalar}and Thaarapuram Sundarajan who sang the most popular 'Enakkagava, Naan Unakkaagavaa,Ennai Kaanavaa Ennil Unnai Kaanava'for the Sivaji Ganesan film Selvam also stay remembered for their musical contribution to Tamil Cinema.
    Among the women singers, Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi‘s voice thrust on words with an emphatic stress on words put her on a distinct track of singing. Jikki had a very sharp and telling voice pattern similar to that of her next generation singer Vani Jeyaram. While P.Leela’s voice carried a lot of energy and throw there was  an extraordinary appeal of dignity and splendor in the voice of M.L.Vasantha Kumari. All these singers including A.P.Komala T.S.Bagavathi Balasaraswathi and T.V.Rathinam were known for their impeccable devotion to the lyrics in terms of pronunciation of Tamil words,accent and stress and none of their voices was lacking in clarity and force of delivery.
   Rajalakshmi's songs like ‘Kuyil Koovi Thuyil Ezhuppa’{ Naanal} and ‘Kungumam Mangala Mangaiyar Kungumam’{the title song of Sivaji Ganesan’s musically enchanting film Kungumam}and several other songs carried a marvelous level of clarity in  word accent as the special feature of her voice. She has sung  many songs for the films Madappura, {starring MGR and Saroja Devi}Nalla Idathu Sambatham and Neelavukku Neranja Manasu. Her popular songs were ‘Orumaiyudan Ninadhu’ {Konjum Salangai} 'Oorukkum Theriyaadhu','Manadhil Konda Aasaigalai Marandhu Poividu' {both from Madappuraa} 'Unakkum EnakkumVegu Dooramillai'{Edhaiyum Thaangum Idhayam}'Vellai Kamalathile' {Gowri Kalyanam}'Aarumugamaana porul' {Kandhan Karunai} and 'Kaakkai Siraginile Nandalaalaa' {Thirumal Perumai}.With P.Suseela she gave the immortal numbers ‘Thirupparankunrathil Nee Sirithaal”{Kandhan Karunai} 'Thiruppugazhai Paada Paada' {Gowri Kalyaanam}and ‘Thiruthani Muruga’ {Neelagiri Express}.Some of her famous  group songs are ‘Nooraandu Kaalam Vaazhga’ {Pesum Dheivam}’Aanimuthu Vangi Vandhein’{Baamaa Vijayam} and ‘Thulli Thulli Vilaiyaada Thudikkudhu Manasu’{Motor Sundaram Pillai}.Besides film songs,the Kandhasashti kavasam song sung by the Soolamangalam sisters, remains as a timeless fountain of spiritual energy.They have also composed music for more than half a dozen movies.
    Radha Jeyalakshmi like the other duo Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi were well versed in the nuances of Carnatic music and Jeyalakshmi's role in Tamil film music was noticeably vast and qualitative.Film watchers of the early decades of Tamil Cinema, would cherish in their memory her great songs like 'Kannukkulle Unnaipaaru'{with TMS}'Aadinaal Nadanam Aadinaal' both from the film 'Maragatham,'Enna Seidhaalum Endhan Thunai Neeye' from Irumbuthirai 'Kokku Parakkum' and 'Thandhaikku Mandhirathai'from Aadhi Paraasakthi and Naattukkoer Thandhaiyadi {sung with M.L.Vasanthakumari for Ponnithirunaal}were classic renderings from the well trained musical voice of Jeyalakshmi. She had been a playback singer for several films that include Town Bus, Thai Ullam, Mullaivanam, Saarangathaara, Booloka Rambai and Bagya Lakshmi.
    Jikki dominated Tamil Cinema as the most favourite Singer with her charming voice and graceful delivery of notes. Most of her solo hits were a lovely musical treat  and her voice sharpness was positively enchanting, be it a solo song or a duet one. From the  days of Aaravalli,  Mandirikumari and Gulebagavali it was an endless flow of sweetness.The grandest of her solo and duet songs are ‘Chinnappennaana poedhile’{Aaravalli} ‘Jeevithame Sabalamo’ ‘Raajasekaraa’{both from Anaarkali } ’Thullaadha Manamum Thullum’ {Kalyaana Parisu} ‘Oorengum Thedinein’{Thein Nilavu}’Mayakkum Maalai Pozhudhe’ 'Vaaraai Nee Vaaraai’ 'Ulavum Thenral Kaatrinile’{all from Gulebagavali}'Kannil Vandhu Minnal Poel' {Naadodi Mannan}’Thiraipoettu Naame’{Raajaa Raani} 'Minnuvadhellaam Ponnenru Enni” [Gomadhiyin Kaadhalan]’Poova Maramum Poothathe’ {Naan Petra Selvam}‘Gama Gamavena Narumalar Manam Veesudhe’{Samaya Sanjeevi} and ‘Kokkara Kokkarakko Sevale’{Padhi Bakthi}She has also joyously joined S.C.Krishnan for ‘Mannai Nambi Maramirukku’{Enga Veettu Mahalakshmi}as she has done other chorus numbers like 'Summa Irundhaa Soethukku Kashtam’and ‘Eichu Pizhaikkum Thozhile Saridhaanaa’ from Madhurai Veeran. All these songs would declare emphatically that it was an inspiring voice that Jikki had and with that voice she ruled the hearts of millions of music lovers. Her scintillating voice perfectly matched the male voices of TMS,Tiruchi Loganathan, A.M.Raja, Gantasaalaa,S.C.Krishnan and even that of the actor singer K.R.Ramasamy for the song ‘Kannil Thoenrum Kaatchiyaavum’ in Sugam Enge.
    P.Leela’s voice always reflected a controlling dimension  transmitting boundless energy, like power supplied through a high voltage Transformer. Word clarity was her added attraction. P.Leela and Jikki together, added a lot of  dynamism with pep and style, to that historic song 'Kannum Kannum Kalandhu' showing the fiery dance competition between Vaijayanthimala and Padmini in the epic level movie Vanjikkottai Vaaliban. Songs like 'Mugathil Mugam Paarkalaam' and 'Inru Namadhullame'{both from Thangapadhumai} would hit us with the right stress on words, meant for a stronger reach with the listeners. Teaming up with TMS she made these songs immortal. With Gantasaala, her ever sweetest  song was ‘Aahaa Inba Nilaavinile’ from Maayaa Bazaar and with T.R.Mahalingam it was ‘Kodi Kodi Inbam ‘ from Aadavandha Dheivam. Her other magic numbers were ‘Jagam Pugazhum Punya Kadhai’ sung with S.Janaki for Lava Kusa, the ever enchanting ‘Kaathiruppan Kamalakannan’ from  Sivaji Ganesan’s Uthamaputhiran and 'Konjum Salangai Oli’ from Konjum Salangai. More than the number of songs of this legendary singer, it is her piercing voice thrust that occupies my memory slots.
    M.L.Vasanthakumari’s traditionally profound Carnatic base rendered its invaluable service to Tamil Cinema to a brief but significant extent. Who can forget her fantastic high quality voice contribution for film songs like 'Aadal Kaaneeroe’{ Madurai Veeran} ‘Aadaatha Manamum Undoe’{Mannadhi Mannan}'Paadum Arul Jothi' {Meenda Sorgam} ‘Siramadhil ‘{Vanagamudi} ‘Varugiraal Unaitheidi’ {Thangapadhumai} and ‘Andhi Mayangudhadi’{Paarthiban Kanavu}. Her other most celebrated song is ‘Kadhavai Saathadi’ from M.R.Radha’s Rathakkanneer. The high pitch song from Mannaadhi Mannan mentioned second in the list was a meritorious voice competition  in tone and tenor between TMS and MLV. The Tamil film industry owes a lot to this traditional soul of music not only for her personal musical contribution but also for leaving her daughter Sri Vidya, as an invincible actress of subdued grace and  galvanizing performance.  
    A.P.Komala, who frequently gave her voice for chorus songs and duets without reluctance, has given well received melodious duets like 'Naananri Yaar Varuvaar’with T.R.Mahalingam {Maalaiyitta Mangai}’Oeviam Sirkkudhu Ullam Thannai Mayakkudhu’ with A.L.Raghavan {Malliyam Mangalam} and ‘Nilavoedu Vaanmugil Vilaiyadudhe’with Sirkazhi Kovindarajan {Raja Rajan}. Her contribution to Telugu films was more voluminous.
  R.Balasaraswadhi's legendary songs like 'Anbe Paavamaa'{Devadas},'Neela Vanna Kanna Vaadaa'{Mangaiyar Thilagam}'Malligai Poo Jaathi Raajaa,Mullaipoo Venumaa' {Raaji En Kanmani} and 'Singaara Punnagai Kannaale Kandaale' {Mahadevi } are an ecstatic treasure of music.She has also sung for films like Tenaly Raman,Raja Rajan,Bagyavadhi,Yaar Paiyan,Uthama Puthiran and Sahodhari. She had  enriched Telugu film music to an amazing extent.
   M.S.Rajeswari who was endowed with the captivating voice of a kid  sang quite a lot of heart warming songs that got deeply embedded in the memory track of many music lovers.It looked as though she was there to sing and entertain babies and older children because most of her songs were of the nursery rhymes pattern, forming an enchanting association with the beautiful world of birds and animals. Some such numbers are Sittukkuruvi Sittukkuruvi Seidhi Theriyuma?[Oh my sparrow, do you know the news?] from Town Bus, 'Miaw Miaw Poonakkutti ,Meesakkaara Poonakkutti'[Oh my mewing Cat, with a lovely moustache] from Kumutham,'Sundelikkum Sundelikkum Thirumanamaam'[A mouse is getting married to another mouse]from Kaidhi Kannaayiram,'Thaaraa Thaaraa Vandhaara?[Oh my duck,did my man come?] from Dheivappiravi and 'Koezhi oru Koottile, Seval oru Koottile' { the hen is in one nest and the cock is in another} from Kuzhandhaiyum Dheivamum and they are all the golden treasures of film music.Her other scintillating songs are Kuva Kuva Paappaa {Iru Vallavavargal} Thunbam Nergaiyil {Oer Iravu} Pudhu Pennin manadhai Thottu Poeravare {Parasakthi} 'Mappila Vandhaan Maapila Vandhaan Maattu Vandiyile'{Thai  Pirandhaal  Vazhi Pirakkum}Ammavum Neeye {Kalathur Kannammaa} 'Padithadhinaal Arivu Petroer Aayiramundu'{Padikkadha Medhai},the most popular lullaby 'Mannukku Maram Baaramaa' from Thai Pirandhaal Vazhi Pirakkum and the very recent Naan Sirithaal Deepavali sung with Jamuna Rani for the film Naayagan of Kamalahasan. Rajeswari  could trigger one's nostalgic nerves with musical might and she could be called one of the greatest vocal assets of Tamil Cinema. 
    T.S.Bagavathi could amazingly squeeze out the essence of sorrow by her voice control and tone delivery in some of her melting songs like 'Poomaalai Puzhudhi Manmeile' 'Porule Illaarku Thollaiyaa Pudhu Vazhvei Illaiyaa'{both from Parasakthi}' Maanam Onre Peridhena Enni'{Mahadevi},and'Thatti Parithaar Envaazhvai'{Rathakkanneer}.Her other two well known melodies are 'Ellorum Vaazha Vendum'{Parasakthi} and 'Kanavu Kandein Naan Kanavu Kandein'{Sivagangai Seemai}.
    T.V.Rathinam who began her career with films Miss Malini, Marmayogi, Manohara and so on, wielded a lot of power as a singer with a bold voice that facilitated an easy access to the ears of the listeners.Some of the songs that keep ringing in my memory are her beautiful melodies like 'Nilaavile Ullaasamaaga Paadalaam'{Manohara} and 'Aaalai Aalai Paarkiraai' {Rathakkanneer}.She gave her clear voice for solo songs, as well as duets and group songs and her career as play back singer, continued till the mid Seventies of the last century.She has even sung a song in Balachander's Arangetram {Yenadi Marumagale}.Some of her humorous numbers are 'Kattazhagu Maamaa' {Vanangamudi} 'Athaane Athaane, Aasai Athaane' {Sakravarthi Thirumagal},'Kaiyum Oedala Kaalum Oedala'{Adutha Veettuppen} and 'Maamiyarukku Oru Sedhi'{Panithirai}.   
   Tamil film Industry on the whole is indebted a lot, to all these singers mentioned in this article because it was their open,distinctly vibrant voice force and their independently talented and dedicated contribution to Tamil Film music, that have made it what it is today. In my opinion, these men and women deserve a distinct place in Tamil Film history, on account of their excellence and merit, that still remain unsung.

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