On MS Viswanathan’s first death anniversary, a new song and what fans remember fondly.
ON JULY 14—which marks one year since the passing of the legend, MS Viswanathan—television channels will predictably feature a throwback to the MSV era. Even as you’ll watch his songs (which you once revelled in and cried for), there will be a new track in the mix, Alayae, which the maestro had recorded in early 2013 for a movie that was since canned.
The song, composed by Satish Chakravarthy, features both Viswanathan and Haricharan. “This was for the film Neelam, based on the plight of Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan refugee camps,” explains its 36-year-old director, Venkatesh Kumar G. Smitten by MSV’s emotion-filled rendition of Vidai Kodu—also on the Sri Lankan issue—in Kannathil Muthamittal, Kumar says he had to persuade the musician for a month before he agreed to sing the song. “This is the last song sung by him, if you do not include the Thillu Mullu remix track that he did with Yuvan Shankar Raja,” he says. The song will be released on July 14 on TV and YouTube.
Around the same time, Anil Srinivasan’s YouTube channel, Anil Talkies, will also run an MSV special. I ask him for his favourite songs, and he mentions Enna Enna Vaarthaigalo (Vennira Adai), for its use of the piano and extremely innovative harmony. “Like the lead in line to the main melody, which is like a tumble down of arpeggios,” he says. The cue line to the main melodic line is something MSV is very interested in, Srinivasan explains, citing Rajavin Parvai, where the singer changes the harmonic base line five times.
Striking a chord
This unique approach shows in how he dealt with Carnatic ragams too, says singer Nithyasree Mahadevan, who has worked with the legend in devotional albums. Among his film work, she picks Pon Enben (Policekaran Magal), the classic work by PB Srinivas and S Janaki. “I don’t think I’ve ever listened to another song in Darbaari Kanada which starts with the lower panchamam,” says the feted vocalist, hailing from a celebrated family of musicians herself.
For Mohan Raman, the film historian, MSV was an embodiment of the teamwork it takes to get a good song. Like Yaar Andha Nilavu (Santhi). “When Sivaji Ganesan wanted a modern song, he composed this one and had TM Sounderrajan sing it in a muted fashion. So flummoxed was Sivaji by the output that he took two days to rehearse for it,” he says. Even today, when one hears a beautiful song which is let down by puerile lyrics or bad singing, the imbalance will remind you of MSV’s songs, where everything from singing to voice and lyrics are perfect,” he explains.