Research findings have established clearly that folk music
preceded traditional, classical music in Tamil Nadu. Cave men and tribal men
made sounds that developed into a language. These people gave simple tunes
without any rules, but a sense of music was apparent even then.
In my childhood days, there was no cinema as there is now.
Performers travelled from village to village telling stories . Songs were
interwoven in the stories. The appreciative audience offered these
performers whatever they could. This was the beginning of symphony.
During the era of silent movies as recounted by our present
CM Dr.M.Karunanidhi, a great lover of arts, musicians used to sit in front
of the screen and sing, render music and dialogues at appropriate places to
keep the audience enthralled.
Sri Shankaradas Swamigal, a magan was the individual, to the best of my
knowledge who gave a fillip to integration of music, verse and dialogues in
a drama. Great creations such as Meenakshi Kalyanam, Yesu can be attributed
to this Mahan. He included songs in appropriate places. 'Kayatha Kanagathe'
is a prime example. He established the Bala Nataka Sabha, where only
children were involved in enacting all the roles. Then came Sakthi and Vaira
Nawab RajaManickam was a note-worthy person of these days
who enacted plays using grand props and settings. Sakthi Nataka Sabha has
gifted to the world of Tamil Cinema such greats as Shivaji Ganesan,
V.K.Ramaswamy. The troupe used to consist of about 60 members and it was
important for each artiste to be thorough with the dialogues and songs of
all characters for each actor was made to play a different role each day.
Vaira Nataka Sabha has contributed greats like M.G.R and Nambiar.
In the early stages of talkies, people who sought to act in
movies had to be endowed with good looks, good voice and capacity to sing.
Kittappa, Bhagavathar, P.U.Chinnappa, all great singers and actors of
yesteryears were persons endowed with such gifts. As these actors act and
sing, the orchestra had to move along with the actor and this recording was
done in single track. The records were created with the whole group doing a
special recording of the same song all over again in the studios. Saraswati
Stores of A.V.Meyappa Chettiar was a renowned company that released records
of film songs. Gramophones were owned only by the very rich, who preferred
carnatic trend in film music also and hence the songs of those days were
based entirely on carnatic music.
We owe a great deal to the Britishers for introducing
technology into cinema. Ellis.R.Duncan is one person I can single out, whose
assistants after learning the tricks of the trade from him branched out to
make their own movies. Drama, thus developed into cinema and in its wake
came studios, recording with mike etc. The concept of dubbing was not known
in those days. For a song to be perfected the entire troupe would work for
months, paid on a monthly basis.
If you look at the chronology of singers, Kittappa was
followed be T.R.Mahalingam, who was followed by T.M.Soundarajan, Seergazhi
Govindarajan, all persons who could sing in very high pitches.
G.Ramanathan brought a fresh air to cine music. But folk
songs were not appreciated in those days. Along with Papanasam Sivan who was
a great composer he gave a variety of songs. There was no need do to go to a
Kutchery. The Tamil film songs were strongly based on Carnatic music
P.U.Chinnappa was followed by Chidambaram Jayaraman, Tiruchi
Loganathan. Gantasala was followed by P.B.Srinivas, S.P.B ,Mano etc.,
K.J.Yesudoss is a singer who emerged with a different voice. Sivaji Ganesan,
the recipient of Dada Saheb Palke award, could sing eloquently, but did not
do so in movies giving way to the playback singers. Though T.M.S. claims
that he used to change his voice to suit Sivaji and M.G.R., but his voice
definitely suits Sivaji best and it is my personal view that he has not
really changed his voice much.
The domination of actors and singers from the Telugu field
existed for a time. In order to sing for Telugu actors such as Nageswara
Rao, N.T.RamaRao, Adi NarayanaRao, P.G.Lingappa, Chalapathi Rao etc. several
singers such as Gantasala, P.B. Srinivas were introduced in Tamil. Other
singers from Telugu field are S.Janaki, P.Susheela. Music obviously has no
All the veterans of the early days had paved and smoothed
the road for us in the present days. The trials faced by Viswanathan
Ramamurthy, G.Ramanathan, S.V.Venkatraman are not faced by the present day
musicians. Illayaraja's way was smoothed by his peers and in his turn he has
shown the way for the next generation.
M.S.Viswanathan started his career as a chorus singer in
K.V.Mahadevan's troupe and then became a great music director. He changed
the history of Tamil cine music by giving lighter, melodious songs
appreciated by all. Sudarsanam and Devarajan Masters were also great music
directors of the day.
Hindi music was popular then, and several songs were based
on Hindi music tunes. M.S.Viswanathan- Ramamurthy were great, for, they took
the essence from other music but managed to deliver their own creations and
hence their music is able to stand for long. Chandrababu with his interest
in western music also got them to make songs for him mostly based on western
Shankar - Ganesh have directed music in several films.
V.Kumar was a music director who was brought into film music by
K.Balachander from his drama days. Kunnakudi, Deva , A.R.Rehaman are people
who entered the film music line from other related fields such as devotional
music, jingles, etc. A.R.Rehaman is an extrememly talented youngster and
some of the music rendered by him, can only be done by someone who has a
wonderful understanding of music and the medium.