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We need sweet memories…

L. Vaidyanathan, the composer who passed away last week, is very dear to every Kannadiga who loves his films. The musical genius will continue to live on in his unforgettable compositions K.R. GANESH

Photos: Courtesy

IMMORTAL A scene from the film Aparichita which has the wistful song “ Savi Nenapugalu Beku”

Film music has captured popular imagination like no other form has. Few have been able to escape its magic. This is true not just of the listening public but also true of its creators. We have instances of artistes coming from the most conservative of musical backgrounds making a plunge into the enduring world of film music. Needless to say they have produced immortal numbers with the grandest of imaginative flights. L. Vaidyanathan is no aberration.

This unusual musician-composer who passed away recently was born to musician parents. His father V. Lakshminarayana Iyer was a renowned man of the Carnatic music world. In fact, L. Vaidyanathan and his two brothers the renowned violin duo, L. Shankar and L. Subramanium, received training from their father. Having his roots in tradition and being a very competent Carnatic violinist, interestingly, L. Vaidyanathan began his musical career as assistant to the famous composer G. K. Venkatesh, who could probably be referred to as the R.D. Burman of Kannada cinema.

Away from limelight

The quiet, media-shy L. Vaidyanathan fondly known as Vaidi, spent an entire lifetime in the world of film music. Vaidyanthan had a sound training in the south Indian music tradition but had great familiarity and erudition even in the Western schools of music too. Having a deep knowledge of these two traditions gave him the edge to conceive compositions in a manner most refreshing. In fact, this musician, who worked in close association with G.K. Venkatesh for many years, and composed the background score for his compositions gave it a distinct, melodic touch. For all those who have closely followed G.K.V.’s music, Vaidi’s sophisticated touches and his use of unheard, rare instruments is immediately recognisable. His value additions were so remarkable; the subtle mix of mandolin, violin, flute and the various folk percussion instruments lifted the compositions to new heights. And this he achieved at a time when technology was not what it is today. He had such a fine sense of music that he never overdid the embellishments: the re-recording bits hold testimony.

For instance, if you recall the song with the breezy, caressing lilt “Beladingalaagi Baa” and the foot-tapping energetic number, so full of unusual twists “Rajaadhiraaja” from the film “Huliya Haalina Mevu”, there is Vaidi’s distinct stamp on them. The use of percussion instruments and their arrangement is so characteristic that you instantly know it’s him. The other song that rushes to the mind is “Santasa Araluva Samaya” from the film “Yelu Suttina Kote”. Though one could trace it back to the memorable “Pankh Hote to Ud Aati Re” from a Shantaram film, Vaidi does wonders with the raga Bhoop, which, overused by the film industry often takes very predictable turns. The take offs are brilliant and the stanzas sparkle with his creative genius. An analysis of Vaidi’s music is incomplete without a mention of the song “Savinenapugalu Beku” from the film “Aparichita”. Yet again, he uses the hackeyed raga Shivaranjani and pulls off one of the finest numbers that has such a delicate balance of grief and longing. “Neenendu Baadada Hoomallige” from “Baadada Hoo” is yet another fantastic song.

Among his independent forays are Siddalingaih’s “Hemavathi”, in which he adapts his knowledge of Carnatic music to the medium of films so wonderfully.

Vaidi met Kannada’s own C. Ashwath during the recording of the film “Kaakana Kote”. This meeting led them on to a strong relationship of almost three decades. Vaidi provided the orchestra for many of Ashwath’s compositions, but it was with the film “Yene Barali Preeti Irali” that the Aswath-Vaidi duo became collaborators of great music. Their many memorable songs are from the films “Narada Vijaya”, “Bhoolokadalli Yamaraja”, “Anupama”, “Aalemane”, “Antaraala” and others. Remember the songs “Yendu Kaanada Belaka Kande” and “Nammoora Mandara Hoove” so reflective in their tone and the acute pain and hopelessness in “Preetiya Kanasella Karagi Hoyitu Konegu” with the brilliance of its unpredictable flourishes.

What shot the otherwise reclusive Vaidi into popularity was the title music of Shankar Nag’s “Malgudi Days”. In fact, the tune has outlived its time and is now all pervasive what with mobile ring tones singing it all the time.

L. Vaidyanathan with the singer S.P. Balasubramaniam and director T.S. Nagabharana

A major component of Vaidi’s music apart from melody was silence. This is something one believes that he learnt from his guru G.K. Venkatesh. Because, one sees it as part of Ilaiyaraja’s music too, who also trained under the masterly G.K.V.

As I set out to write this tribute, I realised that like other celebrities, there was no anecdote, no popular mythology I could write about Vaidi. He was just his music. For a film music buff like me, who sorely misses all those fantastic lyricists and exceptional composers who, with their songs, triggered off deep contemplation and ecstasy, is gladdened by the fact that one can still revisit the likes of Vaidi, who continue to offer sustenance. He is my sweet memory.

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