MSV: My Soul’s Vibes

Some things are intensely personal. Music is such. Almost everyone loves music but the reasons you love it are your own. It is as if you dip into a community pond to scoop out your special share which you deem distinct. Any way, that’s how I justify my ‘exclusive’ bond with my favourites who all just ‘happen’ to be in public domain!

I am not reminiscing on MSV, for you do that only for something that is past; Rather, you relish and regale in your daily diet. That’s what the tiny titan means to me. The music MSV personified has everlasting echoes. After all, this original maestro has been missing in action for over two decades now. Yet for me, he remains the unseverable umbilical chord to music.

AR Rahman in his tribute hits the right note: ‘MSV, Ramamurthy, Kannadasan, Vaali, TMS, Susheela and PB Srinivas were all part of the recipe for recurring, inimitable magic in the ‘60s and 70s. Their keen following have still not moved on to other music than this, staying in their zone’. I will add KV Mahadevan and LR Easwari to this list. Also, many like me not only stray beyond this comfort zone but truly enjoy the pleasures and treasures offered by the Gen Next and next. But eventually, we fall back on our soul’s secure safety net: MSV & Co’s ecosystem.

MSV and TMS would rank as pioneers, pathbreakers and powerful bridges across generations and genres. They took film music to the masses. Masters themselves in classical music that formed the undertone of the fifties, they subtly and safely supervised the shift to colloquial, without diluting or dumping the former. Both the thigh-patting elite scholar and the foot-tapping lay fan had their fill. A raaga ignoramus like me could feel elevated to a connoisseur, thanks to their endearing touch. It was this dynamic duo that took the Tamil and tongue-twisters of Kannadasan, Vaali etc as well as the heroics and histrionics of MGR and Sivaji, to a wide audience.

Together this monumental musical brigade of composers, lyricists and singers expanded the horizons of Tamil film songs far beyond our shores and sowed the unseen seeds for the lucrative music market that others reaped later. Rationalism and religion, rollicking numbers to lilting melodies, pathos to political messages, all rode on the reliable backs of those geniuses. They have launched many musical careers and heralded most of what is heard today.

MSV is a rare musician who understood his role well. He was the key link in the chain of scriptwriter, director, actor, lyricist, singer(s) and of course, the filmgoer. In his time, songs were critical components in the story, situation and a star’s image. His stupendous success lay in delivering what every stakeholder in a film wanted. He dominated Tamil filmdom for a mindboggling 25-plus years. Yet the rest of India has been deaf to his music!

MSV was a creator who let his creations speak, or rather, sing. In this endeavour, he lay much store by the power of his tunes. He gave full leeway for lyricists and singers by not blocking them out with orchestra, which he believed is a support for a film song and not the be all. That said, he was an orchestrator non pareil who introduced new and unlikely instruments to great effect. And since a bad singer or a poor lyric can’t take refuge under loud music, MSV’s songs invariably came good as wholesome compositions that stood the test of time and, importantly, technology.

He was versatile and could easily render Karnan and Kaadhalikka Neramillai, two opposites, in the same year. He is novelty, name changed, be it when combining song and speech in Andha Naal Nyabagam or mixing mimicry in Oru Maharaja. Ennadi Raakkamma remains the ultimate Kuththuppattu while Ponmagal Vandhaal is as modern as you can get. Aagaya Pandhalile is a shower in Kutralam. Anything that produced sound and often even pregnant pauses have turned musical tools in his deft hand. From whistling his way to glory in Vanda Naal Mudhal to raining violins in Yenge Nimmadhi, he has produced beauties with pittance and plenty alike.

MSV’s personal humility and professionalism ensured that he could hold his own even while working with several stalwarts. He gave MGR the platform for political leap. He gave Sivaji the wide canvas the actor deserved. Directors Bhim Singh, Balachander and Sridhar had in him an unfailing ally. With TMS and Susheela, he was on sure ground, prolific, profuse and profound. It was PBS for the silken, soft feel. Easwari was unleashed for the kicks. Later, SPB and Janaki catered to his cheery, playful side while Yesudas and Vani Jayaram kept his classical itches alive. With Vaali were most of his naughty lyrical outings but it was always his dear Kannadasan he was at home with. And now rests with too.

I have MSV on cassettes, CDs and now, computers. But it is my very core that he has infiltrated into ever since I first switched on that Murphy radio as a teen. There is no way I will miss him.

e-mail the writer at [email protected]

Jawahar T R