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Conjuror of tunes

P.K. AJITH KUMAR

After keeping away from the music industry for four years, Johnson is back with a bang.


Johnson is the most gifted composer of his generation Sathyan Anthikkad



TOUCH OF MAGIC: Johnson has mesmerised many a listener with his tunes.

Johnson has done it all. He has conjured up many a tune. Be it `Ariyathe, ariyathe... ' (`Oru Katha Oru Nunakkatha'), a jazzy `Isabella nilpoo nee... ' (`Isabella') or a sublime `Etho janma... ' (`Paalangal'), he has mesmerised many listeners with his range of music.

Then four years ago, after a hummable, `Onnu thodanullil... ' in `Yathrakkarude Sradhakku,' he faded away from the music industry.

The king of melody is back though. He has just completed composing for Kaithapram's lyrics, which were penned for Ranjan Pramod's directorial movie, `Photographer.'

"I was away because I was unwell," says Johnson who was in Kozhikode composing for his 296th film. "I wouldn't call this a comeback, as I chose to stay away," he says.

Although Johnson chose to take a break, his songs never faded from our minds. K.S. Chitra's `Doore doore... '(`Varavelpu') or M.G. Sreekumar's `Mayamayooram... ' (`Vadakkunokkiyanthram') are just some of the songs that he touched with his magic wand.

Mark of a great composer

Like all great music directors, Johnson has a knack of bringing the best out of a singer. Naturally, many leading singers hold him in high esteem.

According to G. Venugopal, who has rendered many compositions of Johnson like `Thooval... ' (`Thalayanamanthram') and `Mainakaponmudiyil...' (`Mazhavil Kavadi'), "He is the most comprehensive composer in Malayalam cinema after Devarajan. Some of my best songs are by him," says Venugopal.

And these `best songs' came mostly in the 1990's as Johnson made a series of hits. "There were also songs that weren't hits, but would have been, had I done them now. The songs of `Manathe Vellitheru' for instance; it was pure pop. I guess a song like `Anthimanacheppu... ' was ahead of its time," he says. Although he says choosing his favourite is difficult, he adds that `Ariyathe... ' (`Oru Katha Oru Nunakkatha) is an all-time favourite.

Brought up in his hometown, Thrissur, Johnson grew up listening to various genres of music.

"I enjoyed singing in church and in the live programmes of our troop `Voice of Trichur.' I was a fan of Cliff Richard and Tom Jones, even as I was fascinated by Shanker-Jaikshen," he recalls.

From Thrissur, Johnson moved to Chennai where he worked under G. Devarajan.

"It was from him that I learnt the discipline and dedication that one requires to be a good composer," he recalls.

It was the songs from `Parvathi' (`Nandasuthavara... ') and `Premageethangal' (`Swapnam verumoru... '), both released in 1981, that helped him make his mark after his debut in `Inaye Thedi,' went unnoticed. He was also composing the background scores as well. "It's something I enjoy very much, though it isn't a very easy job."

National Awards

But his tunes won him the National Awards for the best background score in successive years for `Ponthan Mada' and `Sukrutham.'

Johnson is now making a re-entry by scoring the background music for the Mohanlal-starrer, `Mahasamudram.'

"Johnson is the most gifted composer of his generation," says Sathyan Anthikkad, the director for whom Johnson has done some of his best work.

"He is a close friend too. When Fazil asked me to direct his production `No. 1 Snehatheeram, Bangalore North,' I knew that he had made a commitment to Jerry Amaldev. But he knew that I worked only with Johnson. But Johnson, who opted out himself, told me something I will never forget: `We may have become friends through cinema, but we don't need cinema to continue our friendship.' You don't see too many men like that in this industry."

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