‘Swami’ Dakshinamoorthy centenary ignored by Tamil film industry

Updated by admin on Friday, November 13, 2020 09:16 PM IST

Chennai: 'Malayalam' Dakshinamoorthy, as was called the famous music director, had composed for over 125 films including 13 in Tamil, and had groomed Ilayaraja, Yesudas, NC Vasanthakokilam, P Leela, P Susheela, Kalyani Menon and Bhavatharini among many other singers and music directors. Yet his birth centenary last year was totally ignored by the film industry in Chennai. Barring a small function arranged by his daughter Gomathishree at Mylapore where he breathed his last, and a couple of music groups, his centenary went unnoticed and uncelebrated.

V Dakshinamoorthy (December 9, 1919 - August 2, 2013) was called Malayalam Dakshinamoorthy to differentiate him from S Dakshinamurthy who was called Telugu Dakshinamurthy in Chennai.

Malayalam Dakshinamoorthy holds the unique distinction of having provided songs to four generations of musicians from a single family --  Augustin Joseph, his son the renowned K J Yesudas, the latter's son Vijay Yesudas, and Ameya, grand-daughter of K J Yesudas!

What is even more interesting is that Dakshinamoorthy used songs from all the four singers of the Yesudas family in his last film, Shyaamaragam (2020), released some seven years after his death.

Venkateswaran Dakshinamoorthy Iyer was born to Parvathiammal and D. Venkateswara Iyer a Bank Officer, at Mullakkal in Alappuzha, Travancore.
His mother taught him Tyagaraja kritis from a young age. As a child, he had absorbed 27 of his kritis, formally learnt Carnatic music from Venkatachalam Pothy in Thiruvananthapuram. He delivered his first public performance, when he was 13 years old, at the Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna temple, watched by M K Tyagaraja Bhagavathar, who told Swami's father that the boy had a bright future! He performed  large number of Carnatic concerts but failed in the History test. "I had no interest in History subject at all. If asked when did Henry the Second rule, I would write 'None of my business", Swamy said in an interview later. After completing HSC, he gave up studies and opted for music as his future.

His first trip to Chennai was in 1942, for a 30-minute programme on AIR, and settled down in Chennai in 1948 and got married to Kalyani. His first film as music director was Nallathanka (Malayalam) in 1950. There were songs for the hero, Augustin Joseph, who was also the father of singer K. J. Yesudas. 

Dakshinamoorthy was widely regarded as a pioneer in the Malayalam film industry by introducing Carnatic raagam -based film songs. He went on to compose music for over 100 Malayalam films (with about 859 songs) and 13 Tamil films, a total of over 1,400 songs in a period of 65 years.

Dakshinamurthy came to be known as Swami while he mentored countless singers and music directors including father of AR Rahman, R K Shekhar who worked as his assistant, and Ilayaraja, who learnt Carnatic music from Swami and worked as his assistant for some time. Navalokam, Seetha, Viyarppinte Vila, Bharyamar Sookshikua, Kannur Deluxe, Marunattil Oru Malayalai and Arakkallan Mukkal Kallan, Kadamattathachan and Indulekha were among his memorable films.
His partnership with lyricist and producer-director Srikumaran Thambi produced innumerable chart-toppers.

Yesudas owed a lot to Swami and said it was this guru who shaped him as a musician, and taught him to appreciate nuanced singing. Yesudas said Swami treated him like a son. An emotional Yesudas, unveiled a portrait of Swami at his residence in Abhiramapuram in Chennai in 2017.

It was Swami who introduced P Susheela to the Malayalam music world. When P. Leela did not turn up to sing a lullaby for the 1960 film, ‘Seetha,’ failed to turn up, Swami chose a new voice, Susheela, whose Tamil songs he liked but she wanted to opt out due to a problem with the Malayalam letter ‘na.’ Swami later said, "I told her that she could touch her teeth with the tip of her tongue. She got it right finally”, the song was ‘Pattu Padiyurakkam Njan…,’ which remains a popular lullaby even after five decades.

At 90, he composed music for ‘Mizhikal Sakshi’ starring Mohanlal and Sukumari.

His early Tamil films were bilinguals – Chandrika (1950), 'Jeevitha Nowka' or 'Pichaikkaari' (1951) and Amma (1952). 'Aashadeepam' in Malayalam and 'Aasaimagan' in Tamil (1953). Who can forget the MLV-P.Leela classical number ‘Kalaigal Migundha Engal Thamizh Vaazhgavae’ from Aasaimagan?

In 1954 came 'Kanavu' and in 1959, ‘Arumai Magal Abirami’ had a lovely PB Sreenivos- P.Susheela duet ‘Thanga Niram Idazh Sempavazham’.
In 1968, ‘Devi’ had the popular number Devi Sri Devi, sung by P Susheela, with another version by PB Sreenivos.

Among his other Tamil hits were  'Jeevanaadi', which had an astounding duet Aruvi Magal Alaiyosai (Yesudas, Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi), Oru Ooothaappo Kan Simittugiradhu -- Nalla Manam Vaazhga’ sung by Yesudas (picturised on Kamal Haasan) and ‘Aandavan Illaa Ulagam Edhu’ (Kannadasan) sung by TMS and Vani Jairam; and the title song of  'Nanda En Nila', with one of the longest pallavis in the history of world cinema. SPB would tell Swami that wherever he went he was asked to render this song.

The dubbed Jagat Guru Aadi Shankarar’ in 1977 had Kannadasan provide an exquisite translation of Bhaja Govindam (in Sanskrit) into Tamil.
Swami’s songs in  ‘Oru Koyil Iru Deepangal’ in 1979 and ‘Bhaktha Hanuman’, (1980) were well received, especially his brilliant compositions soaked in Bhakti such as ‘Rama Rama Rama’ and ‘Rama Jayam Sri Rama Jayam’ by Yesudas.

Ilayaraja requested his guru Swami to sing the rare Thyagaraja Krithi ‘Sudha Madhurya’ along with Janaki in raag Sindhuramakriya for the 1986 film 'Maragadha Veenai'. Swami readily obliged Ilayaraja.

Swami also wrote a book of Tamil devotional songs titled ‘Aathma Deepam’.

Once, after a concert in Mumbai, some fans wanted to know who his Guru was. Swami went towards Venkatachalam Pothy standing nearby and fell at his feet. Suddenly, his head was wet -- with the copious tears shed by the Guru.

When writer Chandilyan wanted changes for the Tamil version of the Malayalam film Amma, producer Vasu agreed on condition that music director Dakshinamoorthy, an ever cheerful person, should weep at a particular point in the story. When Chandilyan read out this portion of his script, Swami began weeping inconsolably. Mercifully, Vasu allowed Chandilyan to write the entire film!

On why he had become so thin, Swami said, “I am trying to become thinner, so that I may not be a burden to my pall-bearers when they carry my body!”
Swami has passed on to younger music directors the burden of providing good chaste music to listeners. His everlasting contribution was in instilling in Ilayaraja the need for semi-classical or light classical melodies which tradition the latter has maintained to a large extent. This probably explains why Ilayaraja is as popular in Kerala as in Tamil Nadu. Today’s music directors have to choose between the Swami path of light classical melodies and trash.


By R. Rangaraj (the writer is President, Chennai 2000 Plus Trust)


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