Pukazhenthi's music was simple, clear and free-flowing.
LIKE THE man, his music was simple, chaste. Remember the eternally green `Gopuramukalil vasanthachandran... ' Thiruvananthapuram Kesavapillai Pukazhenthi was one of those composers who sought, above all, a melodic line that was ample, generous and free-flowing, without the laboured juxtaposition of little fragments that often tend to jar. It was a brand of music created without confusion, never losing its virtue, safe from falling into baseness. It was music that flowed out of a simple, clear, creative mind.
Born on September 27, 1929, to Kesava Pillai and Janakiamma, life was not a bed of roses for T.K. Velappan Nair alias Pukazhenthi. From his childhood days, Velappan Nair yearned to make it big in music and even neglected formal education. Waiting for a chance to jump on the music bandwagon, he joined the Balaganasabha of the well-known Ethartham Ponnuswamy Pillai's Tamil drama group. Velappan Nair was just 10 years old then. For five years, till his voice broke, he donned women's roles in various plays for this group. It was here that Velappan Nair met his `guru' M.P. Sivam (M. Parameswaran Nair), the man who was to guide his life thereafter.
It was Sivam who gave Velappan Nair the name Pukazhenthi and encouraged his musical talents. They had by then joined Shakti Krishnaswamy's drama troupe where Sivam was engaged to write the script and songs. Pukazhenthi got his first break during the production of the Sivaji Ganesan play `Thozhan' in the late 1940s. Sivam who had other commitments entrusted Pukazhenthi with the work of composing songs for the play. The play and all the songs were a big hit. People began to sit up and notice this new, young talent.
Pukazhenthi's film career began in 1952. Sivam introduced him to C.N. Pandurangan, leading music director of the time. Pukazhenthi worked as assistant to Pandurangan in films such as `En Thankai' (1952), `Mammiyaar' (1953) and `Ethir Parathathu' (1954). The music of all these films was a success and Pukazhenthi's contribution was recognised.
Perhaps the most important break in his career came when he met the music composer K.V. Mahadevan. This happened in 1954, again through Sivam who had penned the lyrics for Mahadevan in the film `Madanamohini.' From then till Mahadevan's death, Pukazhenthi remained his loyal assistant. It was an association that lasted for nearly 30 years and about 250 films. If ever Pukazhenthi accepted independent offers, it was only after he got the nod from his mentor.
Incidentally, Pukazhenthi composed music on his own for hardly two or three Tamil films. But he left a firm imprint on each of his compositions.
Pukazhenthi made his debut in Tamil with the film `Selviyin Selvan' (1968). The song that really made him popular was `Paar paar, nalla paar... ' from the Sivaji Ganesan-Padmini starrer `Gurudakshinai' (1969).
Pukazhenthi's foray into Malayalam films began with the film `Muthalali' (1965). This was a remake of the tremendously successful Tamil film of the same name. However, it was from `Bhagyamudra,' his second film, that Pukazhenthi established himself. Songs such as `Mambazha kootathil... ' and `Maduraprateekshathan... .' stood out for their vibrancy and rich orchestration. Songs such as `Gopuramukalil... ' `Aparasundara Neelakasham... ' `Maranadevan oru varamkoduthal... ' (`Vithukkal'), `Swantham hrydayathin... ' `Gopurakilivathilil... ' `Nizhalnatakathile... ' (`Vilakuranja Manushyar'), `Vinnilirunn urangunna... ' `Kanmunayale cheetukkal... ' `Sakhi kunkumamo... ' (`Moonu Pookal'), `Chaitramasathile... ' and the beautiful title song from `Snehadeepame Mizhithuraku' have found a place among the immortal songs in the language.
Pukazhenthi owed his success to his `guru' Sivam and to his mentor K.V. Mahadevan. He was always ready to acknowledge the invaluable role of his trusted team of musicians in his career even as he created a rich variety of film songs in Tamil and Malayalam and innumerable devotionals.
In Chennai, Pukazhenthi was actively involved in the activities of the association of musicians, a welfare organisation of which he was one of the founder members. Dressed in trademark whites, polite and simple to a fault, he was extremely popular among the singers and musicians. A god-fearing man, Pukazhenthi always made it a point to visit his native place during the Attukal Pongala festival. This was an opportunity to be back home from where his long, musical journey began. And where it also ended. Pukazhenthi's music is a salute to his life.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu