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The Fervent

Joined: 20 Jan 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:24 pm    Post subject: PEERLESS SUSHEELA ....Part 2 Reply with quote

Come the mid-fifties, 1955 to be precise, the promise that P Susheela’s career carried was actualized. Yet another maestro, Adhepalli Rama Rao was the tool destiny used to further P Susheela’s career. “kanavaNE kaN kaNda deivam” was the movie wherein the great composer roped in the young singer to sing what eventually became cult classics, “enthan uLLAm thuLLi viLaiyAduvathum yEno”, the serpent woman’s peals of romance, the depiction of inebriated pining with the “hic” “unnai kaN thEduthE”, “anbil malarntha nal rOja” the soothing lullaby amidst helpless deprivation, a melodic wonder whose allure increases by the passing minute. Then there was this open hearted scream towards The Mother Divine, “o mAdha vantharuL” and the chirpy duet with P Leela “intha veeN kObam varalAmO”. The legend had arrived well and truly !!!! Little wonder that the numero uno composer of that era in Tamil, G Ramanathan had wanted her to sing for him and for reasons still nebulous, P Susheela was giving him the slip. The great composer finally got her to start singing for him through “ennai pOl peNNallavO” in “vaNangAmudi” , a song set to Todi in its most expressive splendor, but that too was after Susheela had tried squeezing out with a lame excuse. “I will make you sing if you don’t, yourself “ the genius of a composer had thundered. Several other songs were awarded to her the same movie and yes, the composer stuck to her until his untimely demise in 1964. “Susheela enrAl Auditorium voice. Sangathi kAlam avangaLa thoda mudiyAthu. Enaku kidaithha miga periya pokkisham”….those were observations made by MS Viswanathan about P. Susheela on several occasions . “Sangathi kAlam”, an interesting coinage used by the path breaking incomparable legend points to the ability of the songstress to roll out rapid gamaks within a short interval span. MSV’s voice had carried overtones of justification for having chosen Susheela as his first choice lady singer. Rewinding back to G Ramanathan, the first ever composer in Tamil to compose specifically for the vocals of P Susheela was he. Many of his songs had gamaks laden phrases that exploited the “sangathi kAlam” ability of P Susheela most wonderously. To quote only a few of those G Ramanathan nuggets with rapid gamaks for P Susheela “Thannai maranthAdum en manam nAdum chandiranE from SarangathAra , enjoy the gamak slides and glides within the charanams and at the pallavi at the word “chandiranE”, “unnazhagai kanniyargaL” from uthhamaputhhiran, the agArams that serve as the prelude are example enough, “kannA manam kallO” from “kadavuLin kuzhanthai” the phrases that complete the tail end of the charanams are riveting enough. G Ramanathan, it is said, would on purpose, sing out the word “kaNdithnAlE” in the song “unnazhagai kanniyargaL” in the classical mould and would ask his troupe members to observe how P Susheela would automatically modernize it and give it a polish that resonated with the cinema situation. Her final assignment with the blessed composer was “deivathhin deivam” which marked his effortless foray into “light music” . He could do that too, you know!!! What perennial classics he had her singing for him in that film “nee illAtha ulagathhilE”, “pattu pAda vAyeduthhAn” and “annamE sornamE”, a lilting duet with S Janaki. Listing the movies that G Ramanathan had Susheela singing for him would be a tiresome exercise, let us simply observe that she sang everything from vampish to classical for the much respected G Ramanathan and had remained his singer of choice since 1957. A watershed was this year for Susheela in all languages except Malayalam where Shantha Nair and P Leela were still being awarded a major slice of assignments. The pEsum padam awards for 1957 and 1958 were clearly reflective of the market position of artistes in Tamil. For 1957, the Best Music Director award went to G Ramanathan for his delicious score in “vaNangAmudi”, TM Sounderarajan bagged the award for the best male singer (for “vaNangamudi”) and P. Susheela was chosen as the best lady singer for “several movies”. Her market presence in both Tamil and Telugu during this phase belittled every other singer’s by the proverbial mile. Every composer of substance plumped for her starting from the already established Rajeswara Rao to the then up and coming Viswanathan-Ramamurthy. Interestingly enough, the “pEsum padam” awards for 1958 had the “Usual Suspects”, G Ramanathan for Sarangathara, TM Sounderarajan for Sarangathara and P Susheela again, for “several movies”. Now , she didn’t have to wait for too long for a call from God’s Own Country as the veteran V Dakshinamurthy roped her in for “pAttu pAdi urakkAm” from Seetha in 1959-60 as an entry point in Malayalam movies. He was to follow this up with several more offers for his protégé as far as Malayalam Films were concerned and eventually, one of the most impactful combinations in Malayalam Film Music G Devarajan-P Susheela happened and most enriching was it to be. G Devarajan like a few others in Malayalam Film Music Industry would compose a tune and place it in abeyance for 2 weeks for the songstress to lend her voice to it. Similar was the case with M Ranga Rao and Vijayabhaskar in Kannada too. Call sheet issues you know, Susheela experienced a plethora of Call Sheet issues and that extended into Tamil and Telugu as well!!!
Such was Susheela’s demand in the South that she had ended up not singing several hundreds of numbers all four languages, especially in Malayalam and Kannada that were composed keeping her mind. The fact that the technology of that era demanded that the song recording be a very protracted process was one of the main reasons. Any mistake by any musician would call for re-commencement of the entire process and inevitably every take would be embellished with amendments to the composition itself.

And what about the difficulty level of songs ?!!!? Very high !!! Especially in Telugu !!! The Telugu filmdom was replete with historical movies and sub-plots culled out of epics like Ramayana and Mahabharatha made into movies. The Hindustani idiom was used extensively by composers such as Adi Narayana Rao, Pendyala Nageswara Rao and Rajeswara Rao for these movies and how Ghantasala Master and P Susheela rose up to this idiomatic challenge !!!! Several unprejudiced artistes up North were forced to marvel at the natural predilection of the Telugu composers, and the singers Ghantasala and P. Susheela towards this Carnatic’s equivalent up North. They were in for a greater surprise when they were informed that none of them had undergone any training in Hindustani Music !!! And add to it , Padhyams that were composed in thousands. Padhyams are typically what in Tamil is termed as “viruthhams” set to a string of ragas (ragamalikas) involving very intricate passages. Tons of such toughies came Susheela’s way and she greeted all those challenges with diligence, patience, understanding and her talent in giving an aural shape to the creations of these masters.

The VIswanathan-Ramamurthy mode however, posed a different set of challenges !!! In Tamil, post the G Ramanathan phase, the V-R combine was blooming with its trail blazing “novelty without loss of worthwhile musical values” philosophy. They were presenting songs like none else had with music deeply intertwined with the cinematic situation. The V-R combination touched the innermost recess of the listener’s Hearts as they could spin out compositions that well and truly depicted the common man’s sentiments with uncanny accuracy and telling effect. They mixed the process of running the melody through chord progressions with grammar defying phrases and adding to it, a generous dose of sangathis of the “neo” kind. Please do listen to “nAN uyara uyara pOgirEn” from “nAn ANai ittAl” , especially the tail part of the charanams which has rapid tonic shifts (an unheard of thing, down South those days) combined with a need for portrayal of drunkenness with brighas as well. Please do enjoy P. Susheela’s “drunken ramblings” prior to her commencing the second stanza. Unblemished drunkenness alright !!!! If “thithhippathu ethu” from “thattungaL thirakkapadum” presented an erotic, sleazy invite , “kalyANa panthal alangAram” from the same film portrayed a woman at her bashful womanly best. Polarities of sentiments all of them were dealt with, with alacrity and with obvious dexterity. Turning Westwards, the subtle vibrato delivered in falsetto in the song “enna enna vArthhaigaLO” at the word “vArthhaigaLO” , the exaggerated vibratos in “oruvan kAthalan” (both songs in veNNira Adai), letting the proverbial hair down in “pAvai pAvai thAn” in enga mama all of them had the indianized nuggets from the Western world of singing . “ragasiyam parama ragasiyam” in periya idathhu peN was hushed musicality sprinkled with romance, “nAn sathham pOttu thAn pAduvEn” (veLLI vizha) , pesky, impish mischievousness with immense musicality and swaram phrases, the halting paralyzing shyness in “athhAn ennathhAn”, the brooding “vasantha kAlam varumO” (TKR), the resigned helplessness in “idaya veeNai thoongum pOthu” (KVM) and several hundreds of those, she had them all covered and verily laid down the pathway for others to follow. “thookkaNAn kuruvi koodu”(KVM) (vANambAdi), “kurunjiyilE” (kanthan karuNai) (KVM), “kaveri meenadiyO” (KVM)(with TMS in ”alli”) and many others melodiously exhibited the rustic side to Susheela’s singing and what impeccable rusticity in Tamil!!!! Talk about respectable, serious romance and you have the feminity dripping “kaNNan enthan kAthalan”, “oru nALilE uravAnathE”, “kunguma pottin mangalam” and tons more…womanhood expressed at its feminine, romantic best !!!! Mention racy romance and you have “neeyE thAn enakku maNavAtti”, “nallathu kaNNE” and yet again, tons more !!!! Listen to “paN pAdum paravayE” in arasa kattalai, the melodious voice comes down as a hammer, a true clarion call for the complacent and the slavish to rise up and show some grit and mettle, an uncommon assignment awarded to lady playback singers. Only Susheela’s voice could have sounded melodious and boldly assertive simultaneously, yet another unique attribute!!!
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Joined: 08 Nov 2006
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Location: Madras, India

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:50 pm    Post subject: PS - THE BEST THAT HAPPENED TO INDIAN FILM MUSIC Reply with quote

Dear Vatsan

After reading your part-2, no wonder all the MD's started queuing up to PS for, here is a singer who could deliver anything beyond human comprehension (here include every MD)!! The technicality involved in her singing has always been too complex especially in the golden era where music in itself was of very high standards, but look at the way with what dexterity she has been performing for decades!!! Have we ever heard any discordant tone from her in all these years??? These present singers are nothing but a farce...

But, how does PS maintain this consistency is still worth an attempt for a massive research which finally may not see any end as this is a voice created by the Goddess Kalaivaani to be channelised through many MDs, only to reach our ears finally, virtually pushing us to ecstasy!!!

Vatsa, your article has not only opened up the avenues to know more about this singing phenomenon PS but what kind of great composers we have been bestowed with!! As a matter of fact I never knew many of the names earlier but through you, I got a little bit of gnanam to know more!

From Part 1 to Part 2, my reading journey has been blissful. Over to part -3....in search of more bliss of course!!


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