MS Viswanathan was a great musician-cum-composer and an outstanding singer in the field of cine music. He was a true and devoted musician and his compositions are unparalleled. Besides being a great musician himself he has been an inspiration for many and mentored a number of upcoming musicians. A great era has come to an end. MS Viswanathan, whose film compositions transcended every known category of music and refused to be pinned down, died on July 14. He was 88 and is survived by four sons and three daughters.
He was the only music director who constantly reinvent himself and composed music in four completely different styles close to five decades to cater to the taste of filmgoers. A music director who enthralled three generations of music lovers. He may have left the world but he will continue to live through his music. He truly has no parallel. His songs not only touched the heart but also one’s emotions.
One can keep listening to those master pieces again and again. Tamil cinema will always remember this genius. Evergreen songs were composed by him for over 50 years. It is not just for many of his evergreen songs, but also for the State Song of the Government of Tamil Nadu the—Neerarum Kadalodutha—that he will be known for ever. His harmonious mixing of Hindustani and western instruments like Shenai and Xylophone was simply divine. His orchestration was superb. A massive, consistent and quality output stands testimony to his prowess. He did the orchestration for violin maestro Lalgudi G Jayaraman's thillanas rendered by Maharajapuram Santhanam at a live concert.
MSV gave life to so many professional voices like TM Soundarrajan, PB Srinivas, P Susheela, S Janaki, KJ Yesudas, SP Balasubramaniam and Vani Jayaram. MSV also gave musical hope to many millions of common souls. He is unquestionably the melody in Tamil Film music.
Big loss to the world of music
The great legend of music can be replaced by the one and only MSV . No doubt the vacuum created can be filled in by none other than himself. He is immortal through his Music. He was the only film music composer to receive the Tamil Isai Sangam’s ‘Isai Perarignar’ title, usually conferred on professional classical musicians.
Born Maniyanga Subramanian Viswanathan in Elapulli in Palghat District, Kerala. He entered the film world as a child artist starring as the child Kovalan in Kannagi produced by Jupiter Pictures in Tiruppur. As it did not suit him, he was given the role of Bala Murugan. He has no family history of music, except that he had the privilege of sitting on the belly of his father Subrmanian and listening to him singing.
The passion stayed
After the death of his father, who was working as a jailor, his sister, his mother, driven by poverty and the name earned by MSV as a cursed child, decided to commit suicide along with him by jumping into a tank. “I wanted my mother to jump into the water first. When she asked the reason, I told her what if she changed her mind after I was drowned. By that time, my grandfather arrived and we were saved,” MSV had recorded this in his biography penned by Ranimainthan.
MSV’s career in the film world started with the Jupiter Studios in Tirupur. As an office boy, his regular work involved cleaning the harmonium of SM Subbiah Naidu, music director of the studio. Later, he joined CV Subbaraman, another music director.
‘Mellisai Mannars’ (Kings of light music) MS Viswanathan and TK Ramamurthy conquered the turf from the early ‘50s to mid ‘60’s giving us some unforgettable lyric-laden numbers. MSV-Ramamurthy composed music for over 750 films before their separation. After they separated Viswanathan composed music on his own for hundreds of films and each and every one of his compositions justified the sobriquet ‘Mellisai Mannar’ (King of light music) that had been bestowed on him. In the Tamil film music world, no other composer was as diverse as MSV. He had composed music for over 1,700 films in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. —Shivkumar