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Memorable evening in many ways

AVM Saravanan presenting a memento to Vaali as MSV and Ilaiyaraja look on... — Pic. by S. Thanthoni.

KAVIARASU KANNADASAN Thamizh Sangam had organised the 78th birthday celebrations of the great poet and lyricist Kannadasan, the 13th anniversary of the sangam and a felicitation to poet Vaali at Vani Mahal recently. It was a function that brought out the best in the greats who adorned the stage that evening.

If AVM Saravanan, the chief guest, was as always a picture of modesty, M. S. Viswanathan was his usual self — the epitome of humility. Vaali, who talked about his struggling years with seeming light-heartedness, went on for quite a while. Still the audience thirsted for more. "Please go on" they shouted when he paused to look at his watch.

The surprise packet of the evening was Ilaiyaraja. His camaraderie and jubilant mood made him harp on his youthful days when his mind was more towards atheism, ("Time taught me the power of the Supreme"), his deference for M. S. Viswanathan and his admiration for Kannadasan's and Vaali's felicity of expression. His imitation of the manner in which Kannadasan gave the lyric for the song "Thaen Sindhudhae Vaanam," when Ilaiyaraja was an assistant to composer G. K. Venkatesh, had the audience lapping it all up with awe. The facile speech was interspersed with the man singing a couple of lines now and then and making it a treat for the gathering.

Mention Kannadasan and MSV's eyes turn moist. That's what happened that evening too. The veteran recalled the incident when he got a call from Kannadasan's house that the poet was no more. Shocked and disturbed Viswanathan rushed to his friend's home only to find the genius smiling. "I just wanted to see your reaction when you hear that I am dead," was Kannadasan's explanation. Even as he recalled it Viswanathan's voice choked.

Every time a guest on the dais got up to go to the mike or receive his memento, MSV stood up too, as a mark of respect. The genuine simplicity made the composer stand apart.

He maintained that to him lyricists, Vaali, Kannadasan and Pattukkottai Kalyanasundaram, are as important as his eyes — " My vision includes three eyes," he said.

It was a revelation when Ilaiyaraja said that he first composed music for a Kannadasan poem. He and his brothers (Paavalar group) sang it on stage when they travelled to the villages of Thanjavur with their troupe. "That was the time Nehru had passed away. Kannadasan had paid tribute to the leader with a poem and it was published in a magazine "It began thus, "Seeriya Netri Engay?" I set it to music. (Ilaiyaraja's strident tone as he sung it, was mesmerising.) My brother Varadarajan was very impressed and instead of the music shows being cancelled on account of the leader's death we could begin with this tribute song and conduct the shows, he decided," recounted Ilaiyaraja. The same poem would now be a fitting eulogy to Kannadasan himself, he concluded.

Vaali's candidness was moving when he proclaimed that but for MSV he would have been on the streets — "unheard, unsung and probably dead. I've noted all this in my book. I owe my life to MSV."

AVM Saravanan went nostalgic when he spoke about the gala recording sessions of the past that took place at AVM. Nowadays things are so distanced and different, he said and added that the Kannadasan Viswanathan Cultural Trust that had been mooted was taking shape. The other speakers included Sudhangan of Jaya TV, Jagatrakshakan, ex-MP, and filmmaker Kanmani Subbu, Kannadasan's son.

The only sore point was the light music show, "Kadhal Siraginilae." Except for Nirmala (the female voice) who tried to elevate the songs to a higher plane, the male singers often went off key and however enthusiastic Saraswathi Ramanathan, the emcee, sounded, their rendering was more an avoidable hindrance. But the Kannadasan Thamizh Sangam can be proud of the evening it had organised.


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