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A lyrical journey across four generations in cinema

S.R. Ashok Kumar

Inspired by the great artist Malee, my friends convinced me to take the pen name Vaalee.



`Kavingnar' Vaalee

Poet Vaalee is among the few doyens of the Tamil film industry to have seen four generations of filmmakers and actors. He completes 50 years in filmdom next year.

Recently, Vaalee was named for the Padma Shree award. Septugenarian `Kavingnar' Vaalee talks about his entry into films, his growth and about his writings.

I actually started off as a painter. Inspired by the great artist Malee, my friends convinced me to take the pen name Vaalee. That is how T.S. Rangarajan became Vaalee. The name stuck.

As a casual artist at the All India Radio, Tiruchi, I used to write plays. But before I entered the film industry, I wrote devotional songs, some of which were tuned and sung by T.M. Soundararajan. I wrote `Karpanai Endralum Karcheli Endralum', a songsung by many singers even now, before entering films. TMS asked me to come to Madras (now Chennai) and a similar invitation for writing dialogues came from producer Magnet Rajaram.

Once here, I was introduced to actor V. Gopalakrishanan, who was instrumental in getting me the chance to write a song in the film `Azagar Malai Kallan' (1958) directed by Kampraj Urs, brother of former Karnataka Chief Minister Devaraj Urs. B. Gopalan was the composer and P. Susheela sang the song. From then on I moved into writing lyrics. I owe what I am today to Mr. Gopalakrishnan.

My first song for MGR was for the film `Nallavan Vaazhvan'. T.R. Papa was the music director and P. Neelakantan the director. Former Chief Minister Annadurai wrote the dialogues. I was told that Annadurai had to approve my lyrics. After reading it, Annadurai not only approved it but added that he would get me the chance to compose lyrics for another film — `Edhayum Thangum Idayam'.

The other day, when producer M. Saravanan came to congratulate me, he said only three persons — he, Manorama and myself — were around to celebrate 50 years in the industry. In this period, I have written more than 10,000 songs.

My personal favourites: `Koduthathellam Koduthan' — "Padakotti"; `Madhavi Ponmayilal Thogai Virithal' — "Iru Malargal"; `Uravu Enroru Sollirunthal' — "Idhayathil Nee"; and `Kan Ponapokkiley Kaal Pogalama' — "Panam Padaithavan".

Many people ask me as to how is it possible to write to the younger generation. I feel everything is possible only if one has the blessing of God. I have acted in movies such as "Poikal Kudhirai" (1982) directed by K. Balachander; "Sathya", "Parthale Paravasam" and "Hey Ram", besides two TV serials `Kaiyalavu Manasu' and `Anni'. After seeing `Kaiyalavu Manasu', Sivaji Ganesan told me he was moved to tears. That is a compliment I cherish.

The biggest compliment came from Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi after reading the first chapter of my Ramayanam.

Everybody knows he is an atheist. So I asked him how he entertained my writing about it. He said he knew Vaalee's Ramayana and Ramayanathil Vaalee.

I initially wanted to be a ticket examiner, then a popular painter. I did not succeed in both. So I do not have any aim now. I leave to God and He knows how to shape me.

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