Chennai and Tamil Nadu
Weaver of melodies
M.B. Srinivasan’s music direction and orchestration supported the rendition while retaining the feel of the lyrics.
MBS was the favourite of several choosy film-makers like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, M.T.Vasudevan Nair, K.G.George, Mohan and Lenin Rajendran.
He did not score the music for a large number of films. But the quality of his output immortalised the works of M.B. Srinivasan in the annals of Malayalam film music. That is why music buffs still remember MBS (as he was popularly known) even 20 years after his death on March 9, 1988.
He was not only a music director. He was the person who revolutionised chorus singing and projected it as a tool for national integration. He trained poor rural Tamil children in choral singing. He founded the MBS Youth Choir in Thiruvananthapuram and trained hundreds of young singers.
He was the person who initiated the formation of musicians’ trade unions in the South, thus ensuring security in life for a number of artistes. And he was the hero in John Abraham’s award-winning Tamil movie of the Seventies, ‘Agraharathil Kazhuthai.’
MBS, who hailed from Tamil Nadu, was associated with Malayalam cinema from the Sixties onwards. There were occasional hits such as Yesudas’ ‘Njanoru Veenadhari’ (‘Sivathandavam’) in the mid-Seventies. The same film had a pop number ‘Peethambara oh Krishna,’ sung by Usha Uthup.
It was in the late Seventies that he managed to create a distinctive niche for himself. He learnt Malayalam well enough to imbibe the spirit of the lyrics. ‘Ulkadal,’ the 1979 film directed by K.G. George, was a trendsetting hit and the movie was greatly enriched by four haunting melodies by MBS – ‘Ente Kadinjool,’ ‘Krishnathulasi,’ ‘Nashtavasanthathin’ and ‘Sharabindu malardeepa.’ Later, in ‘Yavanika’ (1982), another offbeat movie directed by George, MBS gave us one of the best chorus songs heard in Malayalam cinema, ‘Bharathamuniyoru,’ along with other melodies such as ‘Champakapushpa’ and ‘Mizhikalil.’
In Lenin Rajendran’s ‘Chillu,’ in the same year, MBS gave us three gems –‘Oruvattam koodi,’ ‘Chaitram Chayam’ and ‘Pokkuveyil….’ MBS conjured the apt kind of tune, which was marked for its simplicity, melody and haunting feel, for the nostalgia-soaked lyrics of O.N.V. Kurup’s ‘Oruvattam koodi.’ His tunes had a classical base, but never an overdose of classicism. The songs were marked by an apparent simplicity, but rendering them with all the subtle nuances would test any singer’s calibre.
Style of orchestration
MBS stood out for his individualistic style of orchestration where the instruments never went berserk or drowned the voices. His orchestration supported the rendition effectively while retaining the feel of the lyrics. And he never indulged in electronic gimmickry to beef up the orchestration.
It was obviously this innate ability to empathise with the theme and his knack for providing mature, restrained background music that made MBS the favourite of even a fastidious director like Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Till the musician’s demise, MBS had scored the music in Adoor’s films.
MBS was also a favourite with several other choosy film-makers like M.T.Vasudevan Nair, K.G.George, Mohan and Lenin Rajendran. More than in his mother tongue, Tamil, MBS was recognised in Malayalam cinema.
Indian film music benefited from was yet another major contribution of MBS. In 1961, when a Kochi-based youth sang Mukesh’s soulful ‘Saranga teri’ in an audition, MBS was quick to spot the innate talent of that youngster. MBS gave him his first film break in ‘Kalpadukal.’ That young man, K.J.Yesudas, went on to become one of the greatest singers in Indian cinema. It was the same man who immortalised many of MBS’ unique compositions in the decades that followed. When Malayalam cinema’s great composers are discussed, one often finds that MBS is conveniently forgotten. Few singers, while choosing the odd old song for their stage shows, seem to choose pick an MBS number. But the rich tapestry of melody that MBS wove into millions of hearts will ensure his place among the all-time greats of Malayalam film music.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu