With music till the last
Film music or devotionals, composer T. R. Pappa, who passed way recently, always made a mark. MALATHI RANGARAJAN talks to a few musicians who knew him well.
DR. SIRGAZHI Sivachidamabaram cannot stop talking about his association with veteran composer T. R. Pappa, who passed away recently. The singer gets sentimental because his father Sirgazhi S. Govindarajan sang more than 1,000 devotionals just for Pappa. "It is a record partnership between a singer and composer ... I vividly remember the days I would sit enraptured as the two worked on the music of "Abhirami Andhadhi" or "Kandar Alankaram." Sivachidambaram recalls the time when happenstance Pappa heard him sing and insisted he come for an audition test. "Not just me ... if he was impressed with a voice he would reach out and see to it that it was used well. His acumen to identify talent was incomparable. S. Janaki, for one. Composer Vidyasagar was another. And the innumerable voices he has used ... T. V. Ratnam, my dad, C. S. Jayaraman, Chandrababu, T. K. Kala, Sasirekha, Rajkumar Bharati, myself ... the list is endless," Sivachidambaram goes on. Pappa knew the range of each singer and used it suitably. "And he was particular about the diction. It had to be perfect," he adds. Pappa has opened the doors of opportunity to many a percussionist and instrumentalist. "Realising A. R. Rahman's potential and skill on the keyboard even as a young boy, Pappa would go to Rahman's house, pick up the boy for recordings and drop him back safely at home," he says.
"Talent, new or old, fresh or experienced, Pappa always treated them with kindness and patience. And that psychologically put the singer at ease and made him perform with confidence," says S. N. Surendar. As a graded artiste with All India Radio, Surendar has sung a couple of Pappa compositions and speaks of him with great deference. "He was so generous in his praise that you felt happy and honoured to have worked with him," Surendar recollects.
"Whenever you listen to Sirgazhi Govindarajan's bhakti music you are bound to think of Pappa," says singer A. L. Raghavan.
T. R. Pappa
The seasoned yesteryear voice of many a number (Who can forget Raghavan's "Engirundhaalum Vaazhga ... " from "Nenjil Oar Aalayam?") talks about Paapa with affection. "He was a close friend and a great Carnatic music vidwan. Excellent teacher that he was, the calm manner in which he imparted his songs is still etched in my memory. His music will live forever," Raghavan ends on a pensive note.
"He was an accomplished violinist well versed in Classical music and his violin accompaniment in many of my vocal concerts enhanced the shows," reminisces P. Leela even as she enquires about Pappa's death. Leela has sung many film, light and devotional compositions of Pappa's. "I was not in touch with him for some time and heard the news on television. Everyone has to go but when it is such a friendly and knowledgeable soul like Pappa the loss is more. Could you get me his son's address," asks Leela, a vibrant voice of the past.
A. L. Raghavan
"He enjoyed my music and would openly appreciate me. I have played the piano for some of his songs," M. S. Viswanathan tells you as he dwells on how Pappa was instrumental in finding his way into the world of film music. In 1941, MSV came to Chennai to act in the film, "Kannagi," but soon lost the chance.
T. R. Pappa, then a violinist in S. V. Venkatraman's troupe, sensed the young boy's yen for music and saw to it that he was made an office boy at the music room. The exposure led MSV into composing and once Pappa understood the young man's innate music strength he began to encourage him. The rest, as they say, is history. "Till the end I visited him often and we would spend time talking music," says MSV.
S. N. Surendar
Vallalar's poems, Thiruppugazh or Nalayira Divya Prabhandham these are not works that lend themselves easily to devotional music.
A trained musician with a strong classical bent alone can make scintillating compositions of them Pappa achieved this with ease. On the day Sirgazhi Govindarajan died, Pappa and he were rehearsing for a recording of the Divya Prabhandam.
Later Sivachidambaram sang them in his father's stead. Coincidentally, a few moments before his demise, Pappa was recording the music for Thiruppugazh, which Sivachidamabaram was to sing. The man lived with music till his last, literally. "A true gentleman and the eldest member of my family," Sivachidambaram sums up.
Association with AIR
M. S. Viswanathan
Undoubtedly his death would create a void at the station of All India Radio in Chennai. The composer has created so much music for AIR, that it must have been a second home to him. The day before he died he had attended the AIR Sangeet Sammelan at Bangalore for a `Vadya Vrinda' programme and had returned just that morning, you hear.
Pappa's film compositions are equally worthy. Be it the lilting philosophical title number of Jaishankar's debut film, "Iravum Pagalum," Chandrababu's equally ruminating refrain, "Onnumae Puriyalae," the majestic strain of "Muthai Tharu Paththi ... " by T. M. Soundararajan from the film "Arunagirinathar," the jubilant melody of Sirgazhi S. Govindarajan, "Sirikkindral Indru ... " or P. Susheela's dulcet notes in "Teacheramma" Pappa's music skills will ring in the connoisseur's ears for long.
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