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Of a poet unsurpassed


Kaviarasu Kannadasan Thamizh Sangam's recent celebration was three-pronged.

IN KANNADASAN'S NAME Worthy honour for the awardees Balu Mahendra and Lakshmi Sivachandran — PHOTO: M. Srinath

You never realised that the usual rigmarole of a Vote of Thanks could be so enjoyable, till you heard the lean and lanky Kanmani Subbu, son of the illustrious Kannadasan, at Vani Mahal, Chennai. The occasion was a celebration of three events — the poet's 79th birthday, Kaviarasu Kannadasan Thamizh Sangam's 14th year, and presentation of Kannadasan Awards to filmmaker Balu Mahendra and actor Lakshmi Sivachandran. Saraswathi Ramanathan, the president of the sangam, emceed the event.

T. K. Ramamurthy, chief guest, enjoyed every moment of the back-to-the-past show. His speech on the duo's association with Kannadasan and also his professional estrangement from M. S. Viswanathan was both cheerful and poignant. "Most of the time Kannadasan took just five minutes for a song. I was awe-struck, when he wrote the entire lyrics for `Karnan' in just two hours," he recalled. Each number of `Karnan' (that had Sivaji Ganesan as hero) is a classic.

Dr. S. Jagathrakshagan presided over the function. His felicity of expression and his heart-felt admiration for Kannadasan won applause. Balu Mahendra who seemed to be in frail health described the award as something very special to him. It was for his `Moondram Pirai' that Kannadasan wrote his last song. "He looked quite weak, as he listened to the story and the situation for the song. His eyes turned moist and he told me, `This film will live forever.' He took just about two minutes to write the song, and `Kannae Kalaimanae' stirs you to this day," said Balu Mahendra.

Looking sprightly and smart, actor Lakshmi, the other awardee, gave a spirited talk on her meetings with the poet. She also stressed on two points: that Kannadasan Thamizh Sangam should honour only artistes conversant with the Tamil tongue; her next was for the audience. "At least when attending functions can't cell phones be put off? We were living without it till a few years ago, weren't we?" was her gentle admonition, but one that was absolutely necessary.

Getting back to Kanmani Subbu's tailpieces, each was an eye-opener to the quick-wittedness and acumen of his father.


A sample: That was the time when Kannadasan and actor Sivaji Ganesan were not on friendly terms. Hence Kannadasan was not called upon to pen lyrics for Ganesan's films. But when a producer was keen to have the inimitable lyricist work in the Ganesan film he was making, Ganesan agreed. Composing had begun and Sivaji Ganesan was also present. He was just staring at the poet, because they had still not made up. The friction was palpable. M. S. Viswanathan was waiting with his harmonium for Kannadasan to spell out the words. Generally the poet would dictate and his assistants would note down the lyric. But that day Kannadasan took the writing pad and pen in his hands, jotted down the lines and gave them to MSV. One glance at the pad and MSV got tense. He judiciously returned it telling Kannadasan to read it out himself. The words read: `Ennai Yaar Endru Enni Nee Paarkiraai ... ' Sivaji Ganesan burst out laughing, walked up to Kannadasan, hugged him and said, "Muthaiah (Kannadasan's actual name)! You've not changed at all!"

As Subbu narrated anecdotes about his dad, the audience drank in every word with joy. And though it was well past 9.30 p.m., not many stirred out. Therein lay the success of the celebration for the poet nonpareil.

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