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Mark of the master composer, musician

Prema Manmadhan

Music director Shyam has composed the signature tune of all the CBI movies made by the K. Madhu-S.N. Swamy team.


I used to work with M.S. Viswanathan as a violin soloist... He and others started calling me `Shyam.'

Photo: S. Gopakumar

IN TUNE WITH THE TIMES: Shyam

The deep baritone could well be the voice of a seasoned singer. Music director Shyam is back in the news after a hiatus. Shyam has composed the popular theme music of all the CBI movies of K. Madhu-N.Swamy team. `Nerariyan CBI' also has the same theme music, for which he has composed the background score too. The theme music played a big role in the movie, mimicry artistes picking up the tune and making it a familiar one.

The composer, who gave us offbeat film music in unforgettable numbers like `Mynakam kadalil ninnuyarunnuvo... ' in Trishna and `Nishayude Thazhvarayil..' in `Muhurtam 11.30' lives in Chennai today, engaged in composing Christian devotional music. He also runs a choir.

In chaste English, Samuel Joseph, touching 70, narrates how he became Shyam. "I used to work with M.S. Viswanathan as a violin soloist. He always found it hard to pronounce `Sam.' He and others started calling me `Shyam.' In those early days, I even got pay cheques in the name of `Shyam.' That's when I decided I would be `Shyam.' Even now I write my name, `Samuel Joseph alias Shyam.'

Fond memories

Having scored music for over 300 films, he has fond memories of Malayalam movies, as over 200 of these were in Malayalam, and the others in Telugu, Kannada and even in Hindi. "It is not that I dropped out. The industry was then in Chennai, but now, the Malayalam industry has gone to Kerala, the Kannada to Bangalore and the Telugu to Hyderabad. Therefore, there were practical difficulties and I did not make efforts to get offers either. But I am open to work, if I can do it here in Chennai, like this one, `Nerariyan CBI,'" says Shyam.

He has just brought out `Yesu Pugazh Paduvom,' a classical music album, with musical notations so that students can learn it. Musicians such as Balamurali Krishna, Lalgudi Jayaraman and Ramani have contributed to it "because of my long association with them," he explained. This album was brought out to help blind children, who are orphans.

Shyam is sad about the changes that have come over the industry and the dilution of values.He made music his own way, both melodies and fast numbers. If he made `Mazha thulli, thulli, thulli' and `Thozhuthumadangum Sandhyayumetho..,' he also composed `Kettille Kottayathoru Mootha Pullechan... ' and `Karukaruthoru Pennanu... ' He worked with Salil Chaudhury for some time as his assistant.

"We were like brothers," he remembers. Apart from M.S. Viswanathan, he worked with R.D. Burman, T. Chalapathi Rao, G. Devarajan and V. Dakshinamoorthy.

The confidence he had in himself prompted him to drop out of Law School, much against his parents' wishes to pursue a career in music. "I learnt the violin as a child, but it was western classical music that I learnt."

But when he worked with MSV for the famous song, `Thankaratham Vanthathu therinile,' he picked up Carnatic music on the violin as well and worked hard at it. Gradually he became a soloist and then hopped on to the composer bandwagon, first as assistant and later independently.

First assignment

His first assignment was a Tamil movie, which had Sheela and Ravichander in the lead. It was a film called, `Appa Amma' and the song went, `Pappa Vandane... '

It was Sheela who introduced him to Malayalam cinema through `Manyashri Viswamithran.' Although his maternal grandfather was from Palakkad, Shyam did not know Malayalam, having been brought up in Chennai. He picked up the language well enough to understand the meaning of the lyrics and went on to compose music for more than 200 Malayalam films.

They were hits of the times, in the late Seventies and Eighties, when he worked with I.V. Sasi and Joshi. He set to music the lines of many lyricists, but mostly Poovachal Khader, ONV and Chunakkara Ramankutty. Apart from all the South Indian languages, Shyam has worked in Gujarati and Bengali.

Although Shyam has a style all his own and each song bears his stamp of quality, each one is an independent entity, a quality that is rare.

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