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TAMIL ISAI Sangam had come forward to honour `Mellisai Mannar' M. S. Viswanathan with the coveted `Isai Perarignar' title this year. If one analyses rationally keeping the petty debates apart, the fact remains that Viswanathan's contribution to music is undoubtedly something extraordinary. Since his area of expertise turned out to be film music he reached a larger section of audience. But then has cinema not become an integral part of our life? The fully packed Raja Annamalai Mandram on
the first day programme of MSV was the attestation of his name, fame and his long innings in popular music. One cannot expect MSV to sit and perform a Carnatic music concert with violin, mridangam and ghatam. But with his full contingent of orchestra, MSV presented some of the vintage melodies tuned purely on classical base.

As a music lover and movie buff who keeps listening to both classical and film music for years, I was amazed the way MSV handled several classical ragas so pleasing to senses. His two different ways of handling Kalyani (`Isai kettal puvi asaindadum'-Thavappudalvan and `Mugathil mukam parkalam'-Thangapadumai), the competence to manage a flexible and catchy melody of Mahati with just three swaras (`Adisaya raagam'-`Apoorva Raagangal'), classically composed Latangi (`Aadatha manamum undo'-Mannathi Mannan), a finely tuned `Parakkum em killaigal' (Thiruvachagam), touchingly set in Sindhubhairavi `Enda madavam seidanai' (Thevaram), exclusively improvised Mayamalavagowla for `Thayagi thandaiyumagi' (Thiruvasagam) and the way Viswanathan seamlessly slipped into `Kallellam manikka kallaguma' (Aalayamani) were just sample sof the genius who has worked for 1,750 films with at least six songs in each! MSV also included many of the songs of his contemporary music directors without bias. MSV's songs were rendered by Raghavender, Ananthakrishnan, Kalpana, Prasanna and Deepan Chakravarty. Only the inescapable bane of high decibel noise level acted as a damper. Tamil Isai Sangam and its audience function on an entirely different plane. Here, Tamil music, like Thevaram, Thiruvachagam and Divya Prabandam, take precedence over music. For them, the music is only a vehicle to transport the poignant verses of the Tamil poets. It is not the occasion to indulge in the elaborate exercise on ragas and their nuances. The saintly looking Isai Perarignar Kalaimamani Thevara Sangeetha Booshanam Pa Saminathan presented `Thirumurai Isai Arangu' to the packed audience in the hall. He could hardly sing a single note in its swarasthana of the ragas such as Kamboji, Kamas, Pantuvarali or Kedaragowla. Never mind. The age and stamina would have withered his once musical prowess. That did not prevent him from conveying the lyrics in his strong luminous voice. When he sang `Attuvithal aaroruvar adathare,' `Ponnar meniyane,' `Namachchivaya vazhga,' the audience was spell bound. The harmonium (T. S. Chittibabu) was sharply going most of the time just on the ascending and descending notes of the chosen ragas. Mridangam support was by N. Shakthivel.

By G. Swaminathan
Tamil Isai Sangam
Rich fare of Tamil music
Jan 2, 2004 (Fri), Chennai
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