Vintage Tamil film songs continue to linger | Sunday Observer

Vintage Tamil film songs continue to linger

A critical appreciation of Tamil film songs and music directors of memorable old Tamil films we have not known so far has been published in Tamil. The writer is T Sounthar in London, formerly from Sri Lanka. He is an artist of high repute, a music critic and researcher, and is the son of the late Thangavadivel in the North. Sounthar had to leave his motherland for Denmark, after the Black July in 1983. For five years he studied Art at the Denmark Art School and graduated. In the nationwide Art competition, he secured the first prize. He now lives in London with his wife and two children.

The book of 168 pages is published by Discovery Book Palace (Pvt) Ltd, No. 5, Mahaveer Complex, Munusamy Salai. K K Nagar West, Chennai- 600078 and is priced at Indian Rupees 140.

The title of the book: Thamil Cinema Isaiyil Akath Thoonduthal (Inspiration in Thamil Cinema Music)

Apart from the matter that T Sounthar provides in his book, there is a 17-page noteworthy Foreword by Prof S Maunaguru.

There are six chapters in this book. Although I appreciate the film music of G Ramanathan for his classical compositions, I am bent towards the music of C R Subbaraman, Visvanathan-Ramamoorhy and Ilayarajah.

This is because I like the western tunes adapted. But this is only a personal choice and will not deter my appreciation of the ground work that Sounthar has done.

It is impossible to report and comment here on what the author has said in each chapter. But I shall give the main points only on the first chapter.

The author devotes nearly 20 pages on the first chapter.

The music prevalent in India up to 13 BC was Tamil classical music. What is known as Hindustani music was a medley of Arabian and Persian, Thamil classical music. Sangardas Swamikal was the first to introduce Fusion Music in Tamil Drama.

By 1920 Gramophone records became popular in India. M S Subbulakshmi’s first record was available in 1924. The first Tamil film to be produced was Kaalidas in 1931. K L Saigal, Punkah Mullick, Juthika Rai in Northern India composed light classical music. Rabindranath Tagore used an Irish song- Auld Lang Syne - in one of his plays. This tune is related to Mohana Raaga in the Carnatic music. This Raga is known as Poopali in Hindustani. Until the arrival of Ilayarajah, the influence of Hindustani music began in 1940 in Tamil films.

The writer says, songs in Mohana Raga can be heard in South Asia, East Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Assam, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia). Even in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Arabia songs have traces of Mohana Raga. Tagore’s “Ananda Loge Mangal Loge” has inspired Tamil film music directors such as, Visvanathan-Ramamurthy, K V Mahadevan and Ilayarajah. Tagore’s “Bruno Sei Dinar” has inspired Chandra Bose.

The music in early Tamil films had tunes adapted from Hindi and Bengali films. For instance, S. V. Venkatraman composed music for the film “Meera”. M S Subbulakshmi sang the songs in 1945. In 1940, a song sung by M K Thiyagarajah Baagavather was from a Bengali music director Das Gupta. One of Tagore’s Bhajan song was adapted in the film Sakuntalai in 1940.

In the 1940s, G Ramanathan, S V Venkat Raman, SM Subbiah Naidu, C R Subbaraman, R Sudharsanam produced fine classical and folk music in films.

In the 1950s, music directors decided to create original Tamil film music.

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