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Walking in his father's footsteps

K. PRADEEP

Vayalar Saratchandra Varma's lyrical songs prove that he has inherited his father, Vayalar Rama Varma's gift of poetry.


I consider myself very lucky to have Devarajan Master compose my first songs... He advised me never to hum a tune and search for suitable words later.

PHOTO: H. VIBHU

A WAY WITH WORDS: Vayalar Saratchandra Varma

Like molehills growing into mountains the shadow keeps growing. Vayalar Sarathchandra Varma loves to remain in its comforting shade; it is for him a tangible presence of his father, lyricist Vayalar Rama Varma.

"For someone who came to realise the greatness of his father quite late, every sign, every word about him becomes valuable. Comparisons to my father have always been there. His reputation, his greatness, like a shadow, has always been there. But it has not bothered me. For I know that I'm here only to complete a job he left incomplete," says Sarath, who is now firmly set on his mission.

Sarath never nursed ambitions of a career in writing. His father wanted him to be a doctor. "My father had great plans for me. He put me in St. Xavier's College, Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram. The reason he chose this college was because it was far from the city, far from strikes and bandhs. That was when I lost my father and with that ended my hopes of becoming a doctor. I went on to do my graduation from Mar Ivanios College."

Memories of his father

Memories of his father during those impressionable childhood years were like a flitting dream.

"He used to come to the hostel either on his way home from Madras [Chennai] or while going back. It used to be brief, happy moments. I never knew my father was a great poet, a great lyricist. For me, and my three younger sisters, he was just our dear father. It was only after his death, to be more precise, when the Vayalar Trust was set up, did I realise the great regard and immense affection people had for him."

The death brought in its train a whole lot of problems for the Vayalar family. The four children were studying and the money that Vayalar always said he had put away safe never came. The Trust collected Rs. 8 lakhs. "My family owes a huge debt to the people of this State. Had it not been for them, Vayalar's family would have been literally on the streets. It was the beginning of my journey to know more about him."

Immediately after his degree Sarath was offered a job at a distillery near Cherthala and he took it up.

"It happened through the efforts of Malayatoor Ramakrishnan, who was my father's very close friend."

The turning point in Sarath's career came when he lost his job after 12 years. "That was a terrible phase. My grandmother was critically ill and my second sister's wedding was fixed. I was unable to go to office for a long time, and that must have led them to sack me. The wedding was over, my grandmother died, and I ended up jobless. That was the time when I turned to reading."

Sarath drowned himself inbooks, those that his father had collected and much more.

Birth of a poet

"One day I tried putting my thoughts on paper. I finally managed to scribble down to what seemed like poems. It sounded good when I read them, and I sent it to Dasettan (K.J. Jesudas). He accepted it, and it was set to music by Alleppey Ranganath and appeared in Tharangini's 10th volume of Ayyappa songs. "

Sarath, who had by then got back his job at the distillery, made a memorable debut in films. Three of his songs and one song that was originally written by his father for a drama were included in the film `Ente Ponnuthampuran.'

"I consider myself very lucky to have Devarajan Master compose my first songs. He advised me never to hum a tune and search for suitable words later. I have tried to follow his advice."

Since his debut, Sarath made his presence felt through songs in films like `Mizhirandillum,' `Harbour,' Achamakuttiyude Achayan,' `Jaloltsavam,' `Bunglaowil Aoutho,' and the super-hit songs from the recent blockbuster `Chanthupottu.'

"I'm grateful to director Ranjith for giving me the chance to work with Raveendran in `Mizhirandillum.' Usually, I ask for some time to write songs. I have always felt that there should be links connecting the lines and sequences. Now, I'm working for `Achan urangathaveedu..,' Lal Jose's latest film."

Sarath now stays in his ancestral house at Vayalar with his wife Sreelatha and 11-year-old daughter Subhadra.

"It is always so relaxing to be here. I have experienced my father's presence here," he says.

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