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Down music lane

P.K. AJITH KUMAR

Veteran composer V. Dakshinamoorthy’s hallmark is the classic touch he added to all his evergreen songs.

Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

Living legend: V. Dakshinamoorthy.

When P. Leela, who was supposed to sing a lullaby for the 1960 film, ‘Seetha,’ failed to turn up, music director V. Dakshinamoorthy decided to introduce a new voice to Malayalam film music. Her name was P. Susheela, but she nearly gave up on that song.

“I can’t sing this song, the pronunciation is difficult,” she told the composer. He didn’t pay heed to her.

The song was ‘Pattu padiyurakkam njan…,’ which remains a popular lullaby in Malayalam cinema, nearly five decades on. Making Susheela’s golden voice heard in Malayalam is one of the many contributions of Dakshinamoorthy.

“I had heard Susheela sing some Tamil songs and was impressed by her voice and rendering; I wanted her to sing that song in ‘Seetha,’ but she had a problem with the Malayalam letter ‘na.’ She just couldn’t get it right. I told her that she should touch her teeth with the tip of her tongue. She got it right finally, and we recorded the song the following day,” says Dakshinamoorthy, who was in Kozhikode recently for a Carnatic vocal recital at the Navaratri festival.

Full of anecdotes

He may be 88, but he can still regale you with many such anecdotes. “It is the first tune that comes to my mind as I go through the lyrics of a song that I retain in the final composition; first impression is the best impression after all. And usually, the producer and the director agree with my choice too. But when I composed ‘Kakkakuyile cholloo…,’ for the film ‘Bharthavu,’ the producer T.E. Vasudevan wasn’t happy with it and there was no consensus. So I composed another tune and it was decided that we should vote as they were five of us at that time. My original tune won by a huge margin,” he chuckles.

This living legend in Malayalam film music says he never wanted to impose music on the lyrics. “What I did was just apply music lightly on the lines.”

When he did that, we got immortal songs. He took a two-decade break after composing ‘Vathil pazhuthilooden…’ (‘Idanazhiyil Oru Kalocha’). Recently he recorded three songs for a film titled ‘Mizhikal Sakshi.’

It was with Sreekumaran Thampi that Dakshinamoorthy worked with in the highest number of films. They formed one of the most fruitful combinations in Malayalam film music, like Vayalar-Devarajan and P. Bhaskaran-Baburaj.

“Though I was just 26 when I began associating with Dakshinamoorthy, for ‘Cochin Express,’ I felt comfortable working with him. Our first hit together was ‘Hrudaya sarassile…’ I would say Dakshinamoorthy was the first composer who brought pure Carnatic music to Malayalam cinema. He knew precisely how to use classical music in Malayalam light music,” says Thampi.

If one looks at Dakshinamoorthy’s compositions, Kharaharapriya would seem a favourite raga. He explains why: “When I found that ‘Uthara swayamvaram…’ was loved by people, I thought I would as well tune one song in Kharaharapriya in all my films,” he says with a smile.

The Chennai-based composer, who would be visiting Kerala more often as he is one of the judges of a classical music talent hunt on television, is surprised that only a few of his songs are heard in ganamelas. “Maybe because they can’t sing some of my compositions for K.J. Yesudas, like ‘Kattile pazhmulam…’ I have seen only Madhu Balakrishnan attempt that song,” says the man who made his debut in Malayalam cinema, with ‘Nalla Thanka,’ way back in 1950.

Unforgettable

Some of Dakshinamoorthy’s unforgettable melodies:

‘Ponveyil manikacha…’ (‘Nrithashala’)

‘Swapnangal…’ (‘Kavyamela’)

‘Hrudaya sarassile…’ (‘Padunna Puzha’)

‘Uthara swayamvaram…’ (‘Danger Buscuit’)

‘Kattile pazhmulam…’ (‘Vilakku Vangiya Veena’)

‘Shranthamambaram…’ (‘Abhayam’)

‘En mandahasam…’ (‘Udayam’)

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