Film music in Tamil
Regular readers of this and other columns in the Projector Page would
have noticed that I write mostly on International and Indian films I had
seen at the international film festivals in India. It was because there
are many journalists in Lanka to write about Sinhala and Indian Tamil
films in English but a few write about world cinema in English unlike
the yesteryear. In these days of computers it is easy to gather reviews
and film entertainment news not only local but also of Bollywood,
Hollywood and all the other ‘woods.
A. R. Rehaman
However it was gratifying to read a well written article on the
Indian Tamil Cinema a few months back. The article by senior journalist
and commentator Lucien Rajakarunanayake was published in the Daily News.
I wanted to thank him for the article but couldn’t get his contact
Reading his article I became curious to know something about the film
music in Tamil. I love all kinds of music as it is a universal language.
But being a Tamil at the roots I learnt to appreciate Tamil film music
since the late 1940s.
I know that there are a few people belonging to other communities
also seem to like Tamil film music of yesteryear in particular. Music is
an integral component in the subcontinent and Lankan films. Therefore we
could benefit by knowing certain details of Tamil film music.
History and mythology
Indian Tamil cinema is 79 years old now. Most of the Tamil films
those days had most number of songs. At least 12 to 30 songs were
included in the historical, mythological and other type of films since
The composer or lyricist found a top honour in making of films. The
late Paganism Sivan was a great and appreciated lyricist in early Tamil
films. The late M. K. Thyagarajah Bagavathar gave life to the lyrics
with his melodious voice. In other words Paapanaasam Sivan composed
tunes to popularize Carnatic classical) music through his own lyrics.
Until the emergence of Ilayarajah and M A Rehman (he was a Hindu that
became a Muslim), other superb music directors provided everlasting
melodies in films. We could mention some important music directors: G.
Ramanathan, S. V. Venkatraman, M. D. Paarthasarathy, S. Rajeswara Rao,
C. R. Subbaraman, K. V. Mahadevan S. M. Subbiah Naidu, Vedhashalam, M.
S. Visvanathan, T. R. Ramamurthy, Shankar-Ganesh, V. Kumar, T. G.
Lingappa, R. Sutharshanam and a few others.
Tamil film music then was not only based in Carnatic ragas but also
adapted Hindi melodies to suit the local flavour. Later I began to love
Tamil film music as some film songs were adapted from western waltzes
and jazz and Latin-American numbers.
For instance the box office film Chandraleka had more than four
western tunes. Donkey Seranade’ was one such tune. There were waltzed
too. Mangamma Sabatham featured Vyjayanthimala’s mother Vasunthara Devi
dancing to a waltz. Then there was T. R. Rajakumari singing a song based
on western music in the film Vijayakumari. C. R. Ssubbaraman, T. G.
Lingappa, Vedachalam, and G. Ramanathan were a few outstanding music
directors who brought variety of musical notes in Tamil film music.
The playback singers were very popular. To write abut them would be
another feature. And so it would be to write about Ilayarajah and A. R.
Rehaman. The millennium has brought about a host of music directors
belonging to the younger generation that produce some excellent fusion
music. Tamil film music now gaining popularity with Ilayarajah
conducting a symphony orchestra in the west and Rehman conducting music
for films from the west