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Ode to a legend

N.J. NAIR

Poet Perumpuzha Gopalakrishnan explains how he went about writing the biography of veteran music director G. Devarajan.



THE WRITER AND THE MUSICIAN: Perumpuzha Gopalakrishnan and G. Devarajan.

There are many creative geniuses who loathe to be in the limelight. After casting many an indelible imprint through their creative endeavours, such great men refrain from coming to the forefront. The veteran music director, G. Devarajan, who has made invaluable contributions to Carnatic music, theatre and cinema, is one among them. An introvert, he shuns publicity and refuses to confide even in his confidants who are few in number.

The noted poet Perumpuzha Gopalakrishnan took up the onerous task of etching the life and contributions of his friend and benefactor.

"I share a strong emotional bond with Devarajan and my book, `G. Devarajan, Sangeethathinte Rajasilpi' is an ode to our camaraderie. Writing the biography of a person who is alive is not an easy task. The biographer would have to depend solely on the person and cannot afford to go wrong on even minute aspects since it would be questioned. Perhaps this was one of the major challenges I had to overcome once I started working on the book. It took three years to complete the work," he says.

Clear insight

Initially, well-wishers of Devarajan proposed publishing an article about him. On realising that a metaphysical piece would not prove to be relevant, it was decided to bring out a biography that would give a clear insight into the life and contributions of the music director who revolutionised both drama and film music. Convincing Devarajan was not easy.

He instantly turned down the proposal, but ultimately they succeeded in getting his consent.

"I collected all the material that has been published about him, including the song `Ona poove... ' written by O.N.V.Kurup and composed by Devarajan in Janayugam in 1951 with its notation. This was the most precious material of all," he says.

It was a tightrope walk for Perumpuzha. Tackling the composer was more difficult than the collection and compilation of facts. At times he would engage the biographer in long conversations and garner his thoughts and suggestions. Sometimes it would be brief, in fits and starts.

He had extensive sittings with Devarajan at his residence in Chennai. Braving his ill-health, Devarajan would also engage the biographer in protracted discussions. The writer would meticulously take down the notes and discuss it with Devarajan.

Perumpuzha had made elaborate preparations as if he were writing a novel.

Without delving into the specifics of the political milieu of his formative period, the theatre movement and film industry, Perumpuzha was trying to see the world from Devarajan's view.

Focus on the person

"My focus was the personality, demeanour, creative genius, his association with various poets, including O.N.V. Kurup and Vayalar Rama Varma, and also on what differentiates him from his contemporaries.

"Like his life and music, Devarajan's thoughts are pristine and well-marshalled. Precision is his hall-mark. Our discussions were not centred around his drama and film songs alone. The book is a window to his world of music.

"All the melodies and songs he had heard as a child has had a profound influence on Devarajan. The milieu that fostered the proletarian movement in Kerala, influence of Soviet literature, and the class struggles had its influence on Devarajan's music.

"His ingenuity in blending music and poetry, research in Carnatic music, the `Shad kaala pallavis' he has composed and the studies to discover rare `thaalas' have all been covered in the book," says Perumpuzha.

Quite often the biographer was compelled to rewrite the material he had prepared after prolonged discussions and his patience was put to test. Still, he refused to give up and boldly went ahead. Devarajan's unique style of composing, the rare ragas he had used, his special affinity for Mohana raga and also the deft handling of western music have all figured in the biography.

"This book cannot be considered as the final word on Devarajan and his music. This would spark off a debate and many others who know him more intimately would come out with valuable inputs. Devarajan is an ocean of music and this book would help them familiarise themselves with his life and mission," says Perumpuzha.

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