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Eternal notes

Ravindran has left his indelible mark on Malayalam film songs.

A style of his own.

M. RAVINDRAN'S LIFE and work emphasise the truth that without hard work there is no real creation. Ravindran never got things on a platter... he had to strive hard, often pushed to the far corners of despair, bouncing back to build a career. And at the end of it all, Ravindran left a brand of music that was much appreciated.

One quality that stood out in Ravindran was his unwavering belief in himself and his talent. Even when forced into vocations other than what he aspired for, Ravindran believed that he would make it one day. It was a dream that he nurtured right from the time his schoolteachers, friends and well-wishers in Kolathupuzha in Kollam district dinned those musical dreams into him. Whenever Ravindran talked about those early days he never forgot to talk about how he stood before Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer for the interview at the Swati Tirunal Music Academy, Thiruvananthapuram. That interview and the few years he spent at the academy were virtual eye openers for him. Ravindran went through a valuable learning experience in which he also realised that he had to unlearn and change some of his staunchest ideas on music. During those days at the academy, he used to sing for `ganamelas' and for various drama groups in order to pay for his education.

Like most youngsters chasing a dream, Ravindran landed in Chennai in 1966. He stayed at Ayyanpuram with a friend hoping to make it big as a playback singer. That was the start of a gruelling, exasperating phase of his life. Those were the days when Malayalam film music was dominated by a few established music directors and their favourite singers. Every attempt to gain entry into the world of music was met with strong opposition.

In Chennai, Ravindran got his first break as a singer in the drama troupe of Tamil stage and screen actor S.V. Sahasranamam. He worked there for about two years, yearning for that elusive chance to sing in films. Knocking at various doors and meeting all those who mattered finally bore results. Producer-director M.M. Neshan, brother of the actor Sathyan, gave Ravindran his first chance to sing in films. The two people who were responsible for this were Sathyan and M.S. Baburaj, the music director of the film. The duet with S. Janaki `Pavana rajani... ,' in the film `Velliazcha' was noted but the film flopped. Ravindran the singer was also forgotten. But Ravindran persisted and went on to sing, mostly in choruses, for around 30-odd films.

A dubbing artiste

By then, with a family to support and finding songs very hard to come by Ravindran tried his hand at dubbing. He put his heart and soul into this job to become one of the highest paid dubbing artistes in the Malayalam film industry. As he himself once said, he earned something between Rs.2,000 and Rs.10,000 for his work. Ravindran put to use his some of his musical skills such as intonation, matching the sruthi, into dubbing. But all the while he kept working to achieve the goal he had set out to achieve.

When opportunity presented itself again, it came with a little twist. K.J. Jesudas who had been deputed to compose music for the film `Choola' offered the job to Ravindran. This was something that Jesudas had always advised his friend to do and now Ravindran was not going to let go of the opportunity. The songs from this film such as `Tharake mizhiethalil... ' and `Sindoora sandyakku mounam...' were instant hits. A new music director was born. Ravindran proved that his success was no fluke, repeating his magic in his second film `Oru Varsham Oru Masam.' With the songs in films such as `Thenum Vayambum' and `Tharattu,' Ravindran became a much sought after music director.

Setting a trend

From then on, till his latest work in `Vadakkunathan,' Ravindran set a trend, creating his own brand of music that stood out, rich, different and not easily imitated. He diligently used Indian classical ragas, blending them ingeniously with modern tunes. He was willing to experiment, taking the ragas out of their rigid parameters to create different and suitable moods. Use of instruments in his music was the equivalent of colour in painting - vibrant and varied.

Ravindran also left his imprint through some lovely songs in Tamil. Ravindran's association with Jesudas and K.S. Chitra produced some breathtaking melodies in Malayalam. Ravindran never hesitated to pay tribute to the genius of these singers. His songs had won national awards for many singers like M.G. Sreekumar (1990) and Jesudas (1991), while he himself was ignored. Surprisingly, he was considered for State honours only twice, for `Bharatham' in 1991 and for `Nandanam' in 2002. But then Ravindran would always be remembered for his songs rather than such awards.


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