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VaidyMSV & Sriram Lax

Joined: 15 Apr 2007
Posts: 852
Location: chennai

PostPosted: Sun Mar 29, 2015 8:21 am    Post subject: ARTICLES AS TOLD BY MELLISAI MANNAR Reply with quote


M.S. Viswanathan on a Madras that was calm, driven by values, and packed with live recordings

With stars in my eyes and empty pockets, I landed in Madras in 1941. I was in my early teens and wanted to act in films. Jupiter Pictures’ ‘Kannagi’ starring P.U. Chinnapa and Kannamba was being made. I got to play the role of Bala Kovalan in the film that went on to become a mega hit. My performance was appreciated by many in my unit but someone close to the producer thought I looked like the hero’s younger brother. The next thing I knew was that the footage was scrapped. Hopes shattered, I began working as an office boy because I was very poor and had to sustain myself. Since I loved music, I enjoyed being a full-time assistant to music composer S.M. Subbaiah Naidu in Jupiter Pictures.

I used to stay in a lodge in Kellys. The area was dark and desolate. Being war time, there were frequent blackouts. There were not many buildings. There was thick vegetation all around and a river flowed nearby. Many outdoor scenes were shot behind the office of Jupiter Pictures near the Kellys bus stand.

Very few buses plied and traffic was negligible. There were not many eating places. Whenever I had some money, I would walk to Easwari Lunch Home in Mylapore or Woodlands in Royapettah. Those who couldn’t afford a radio enjoyed spending time at tea stalls where there was one. I would go the tea stall near the Kellys bus stand to listen to the hit songs of the time. I loved watching films. Actor T.R. Rajakumari would often give me money to go to a theatre.

The floods and cyclone that hit the city in 1942 was nightmarish. Water entered into houses. Our lodge was flooded too. If not for P.U. Chinnappa, I would have been washed away. He rescued me from the lodge and took me to a safer place in the dead of the night. Imagine such a gesture from an actor of his stature. What marked life then was nesam and paasam.

While working in Subbaiah sir’s office, I would compose tunes on the harmonium on the sly. He caught me one day, but liked some of my tunes so much that he used them in a film. Finally, in 1952, I got a break as a composer. Violinist T.K. Ramamurthy and I became a duo.

In the late 1950s, I shifted to a rented accommodation in Santhome before moving into my present house in the same area that I bought for Rs. 23,000. Throughout the day not more than three cars would pass. There were very few houses in the neighbourhood. The Santhome church was the only main building. With hardly any traffic, it just took a few minutes to walk to Mylapore or Luz. In the evening, many in the area would visit Kapaleeswarar Temple. Its huge premises still serves as a nice place to sit with family and friends and take in the evening breeze.

The concepts of weekend outings or family holidays were unknown then. Shopping was hardly seen as a leisure activity. Clothes were purchased only on occasions such as birthdays, weddings and festivals. Kutcheris were a big draw, especially during the December music festival. I never missed the concerts of M.S. Subbulakshmi, M.L. Vasanthakumari, D.K. Pattamal and GNB.

I would go to the recording studio at 7 in the morning and return at 2 in the night. We would work three shifts and record about two to three songs a day. Initially, recordings happened in Newtone Studios in Kilpauk. Then, there were AVM, Sarada and Vauhini studios.

All recordings were live. Each member of the orchestra had to be alert and perform flawlessly. Even a minor miss by someone meant playing all over again. If the music of that era continues to haunt us, we owe it to the many expert and passionate musicians who were part of film music recordings. My team included dedicated artistes such as ‘shehnai’ Satyam, Prasad, Murugesh, Noel Grant, Henry Daniel and Nanjappa. After a song was recorded, the entire team, along with the singers, the director and the producer, would listen to it. Everybody was free to point out a flaw. There were hardly any ego issues. I have suggested words to the legendary lyricist Kavignar Kannadasan and he would gladly incorporate them in his lyrics. Paattil meterum venum; matterum venum, melodyum venum (a song requires lyrics, music and melody). Mutual respect, honesty and dedication were given more importance than money. Adho andha paravai poala vaazhavaendum…

* * *
M.S. VISWANATHAN Born in 1928, he is popularly known as Mellisai Mannar (king of light music). He learnt classical music from Neelakanda Bhagavathar. He has composed music for over 1,000 films in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. He is an expert on the piano and harmonium. He has sung about 500 songs and has acted in a few films. He has also composed music for many albums.

* * *


Once, while recording for a Sivaji-Jayalalithaa starrer, Kavignar couldn’t come up with suitable lyrics for a tune I had composed. When Sivaji came to know about it, he called me and dictated a few lovely lines. He requested me to pass it on to Kavignar as my own. Later, when the song became a hit, Sivaji revealed at a function that those lines were actually Ammu’s (Jayalalithaa).

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Sai Saravanan

Joined: 10 Jun 2008
Posts: 631
Location: Hyderabad

PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice find! It was like reading some portions from a novel...So beautiful and really brought some unknown facets and images of the city and its artistic population before us.
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