Villupattu exponents Subbu Arumugam, daughter get TN awards

Villupattu exponent Subbu Arumugam, his daughter Bharathi Thirumagan, son-in-law Thirumagan with Eyal Isai Nataka Manram president Deva at the award function.

Chennai: It was a rare occasion where father and daughter from K K Nagar received awards from Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami 13 August.

The Chief Minister presented Kalaimamani awards to artistes for the years 2011 to 2018. Subbu Arumugam (92), whose name is synonymous with the art of villupattu, was conferred the Bharathi award (2018) and his daughter, Bharathi Thirumagan, the Kalaimamani award for 2015.

Speaking to News Today, Bharathi Thirumagan said, “It was a memorable moment for us as my father and I received awards on the same day.”

Subbu Arumugam who was born in Chathirapudukulam village of Tirunelveli district. At the young age of 17, he got in touch with comedian N S Krishnan when he was studying in school. Impressed by Subbu Arumugam’s performance, Krishnan asked him to come to Chennai to work with him in his villupattu troupe. There is no turning back for Subbu Armugam after that and he excelled in villupattu, writing comedy tracks and dialogues for movies and so on. He penned dialogues for 66 movies for actor Nagesh alone.

Bharathi Thirumagan, who grew up by watching her father’s performance, joined his troupe at a very young age. “My father is a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and in every event, he wouldn’t complete his villupattu without mentioning Gandhian principles. Now, I am also following the same principles,” she said.

“As a staunch Gandhian and follower of Subramania Bharathi, my father named me Bharathi and my elder brother’s name as Gandhi,” she added.

T Kalaimagan

Bharathi said nationalism and spiritualism were the two eyes of her father during storytelling which she follows. “We have played for various government initiatives such as family planning, AIDS awareness, tree plantation, pollution control, small savings, old age literacy, farm activity and even in the recently-concluded parliamentary elections, stressing on the importance of voting,” she said.

After Bharathi married Thirumagan, he joined the troupe. He holds a doctorate in villupattu. His theses was on ‘Rise of villupattu during Subbu Arumugam’s period.’ The couple has a son, T Kalaimagan, who is also into villupattu. Kalaimagan (27), a trained Carnatic singer and villupattu artiste, said, “I am blessed to be born in the family of villupattu exponent Subbu Arumugam. I am happy that my mother and grandfather have received awards. I am with the troupe from 12 years of age and have performed 700 solo concerts and 2,500 stage shows at prominent sabhas and also abroad.”

Kalaimagan said universities should introduce a degree course or certificate course in villupattu to save the classical folk art. Kalaimagan, who has an M.phil in music, is now pursuing doctorate in music at University of Madras.

“To stay relevant in contemporary times, I have started performing modern-type of villupattu by mixing Tamil, English and Hindi while performing in other States and countries,” Kalaimagan said.

“To take villupattu to the next generation, we started the Subbu Arumugam Fine Arts Centre on my grandfather’s 90th birthday. I take classes online and offline. There is a student from Switerzland who is learning Carnatic music and villupattu from me online,” he added.

“Mainstream television channels should help villupattu artistes to perform at least during festival days like Deepavali and Pongal,” Bharathi said.

Bharathi Thirumagan resides at No. 12/2, Nehru Avenue, Bharathidasan Colony, K K Nagar. Ph: 98404 43278.

M Chitharth