Maestro, Music and Memories

244fr-vaidhy_jpg_2483486gM. S. V. VAIDY of MSVtimes. com

A vidwan, actor and a fan talk about their association with MSV.

Was it Divine will that it began to drizzle as M.S.Viswanathan’s mortal remains left his house for the final journey? Listening to his compositions over the last few days with friends was a revelation. He had drawn out the best from his singers and orchestra players. Every song was capable of touching hearts of enthusiasts and the uninitiated.

The innovations in rhythms (two examples: ‘Thedi Varum Deiva Sugam’ and ‘Vizhiye Vizhiye Unakenna Velai’) music depicting the mood of the character, title score conveying the story of the film all came to him naturally. His compositions had something special. Even the process of reinventing himself was spontaneous. MSV is a gift of god, rather a personification of the saptaswara devathas.

Some of his close associates shared their memories. Excerpts.

Madurai G. S. Mani (vidwan): It was exactly 58 years ago (July, 1957,) that I first met MSV at a film production house, where he was working as music composer. That morning I had performed on the radio and was was pleasantly surprised when he praised the recital. Right away he asked if I could join him. I had no such plans, but I gave him a spontaneous nod. From then on, it was non- stop work with him during composing and recording sessions.

Viswanathan was a workaholic. I was awestruck by his focus, as he listened to directors while they narrated the situation for songs and his capacity to churn out several tunes in no time. Navarasas were at his beck and call. He was supremely talented in emoting the lyrics of Pattukottai, Kannadasan, Pulamai Pithan, Marudakasi and Vali to name a few. Nothing disturbed his concentration at work. I have accompanied MSV to several night shows at the New Elphinstone theatre in Mount Road. The interval was bonus time for the tea boys. Each boy was given Rs.10 as tip. Those were the days when a square meal cost 0.75 paise or at most a rupee. To my friendly chiding, he replied, “Mani I have worked as a tea boy in theatres and I know their difficulties. That’s why I am generous.”

He would leave no stone unturned during re-recording and he had the best musicians at his command. He was a trendsetter in that he used several foreign instruments during recordings. There was a big piano in his house and later I realised his prowess in playing it. Viswanathan diligently gave the upper hand to instruments only during interludes between Pallavi and Charanam of a song. Each score of his, had something unique. To sum it all up, I feel that it was Mozart reborn in India as the maestro, M.S.Viswanathan.

Y.G. Mahendran (actor): I became his slave the day I saw ‘Kadalikka Neramillai.’ This film left an indelible impression on me. (YGM sings some snatches). Despite his busy schedule, MSV also performed on stage. On one occasion, a show was organised at Raja Annamalai Mandram by my father, YGP. That day our car broke down as we were returning from Chidambaram. My brother and I were adamant that we should reach Chennai to attend his show. We created such a ruckus on the road to the embarrassment of my father, that he packed us off in a lorry that took us straight to Esplanade where the mandram is situated. That was a memorable experience.

None of the music composers in India used whistle in songs. MSV had decided to have the entire tune of a song whistled. Kannadasan came to know of this and protested against MSV’s novel idea on the sets of the film in which Sivaji was acting, as he felt it denied him an opportunity to pen a song. Sivaji Ganesan intervened and the rest is history. The song is ‘Neerodum Vaigayilay’. Kannadasan wrote it in 15 minutes. Taking cue from this I paid my tribute to MSV by whistling some of his hits and released them as a CD. His chorus usage was always on a different plane. He named them ‘Aaravaara Peigal’ after they sang his song, ‘Satti Suttadada’. We, the fans, are hurt that he received no national recognition. The only solace was the special honour given to him by Chief Minister J.Jayalalitha alongside Ramamurthy, a few years ago.

M.S.V.Vaidy ( I am addicted to his songs, which I have been listening to since 1969. I was running a food court in one of the software companies where I played only MSV songs on my public address system. This turned another fan of his, Sriram Lakshman, a software engineer, into my friend. Although I was yearning to meet the legend, I did not know how. It was Sriram who finally took me to meet MSV in 2006 and a special bond grew between us till his death. I started visiting his house regularly and we spent time together talking about his songs.

Ramakrishnan, Ramkumar, Sabesan, all hard core MSV fans, joined me in hosting a website,, dedicated to his music. We decided to go it alone as we never got any support from the film industry. In December 2006, another MSV admirer, Cho.S. Ramaswamy inaugurated it. MSV was not computer-savvy and innocently wondered whether he would have to pay for the photo on the site. Till the end he never got the pronunciation right, calling it or Since then, musicians who have worked under him have been honoured in MSV’s presence during the anniversary.

Nanjappa Reddiar, during one anniversary, did not turn up and MSV became restless. He pressurised me to take him to Reddiar’s house and half way through the function we left. At Reddiar’s house, they exchanged their feelings with tears and without talking. MSV gave him the award. Next day, Reddiar passed away.

The memories of long drives in and around the city and its periphery with MSV in my car and his songs playing on the system are still fresh.

His music was beyond time, caste, creed and race. It was the huge poster of that covered him as he was taken out in a procession for cremation.

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