Centenary of lyricist Ku Ma Balasubramaniam ignored

Updated by admin on Monday, August 24, 2020 08:11 PM IST

Chennai: Centenary of Ku Ma Balasubramaniam -- the writer who brought chaste Tamil into film music -- ignored 

Seventy years ago, a song broke out to create waves in Tamil Nadu. The breezy and lilting number of Ayyaa Saamy Aaaoji Saamy in Or Iravu (1951) became an overnight hit, sung by the most unlikely musician for a song of this type, Carnatic vocalist M L Vasanthakumari. Its unusual words, a mix of Tamil, Hindi, Telugu and English, captivated audiences. The writer was Ku Ma Balasubramaniam (Ku Ma Ba) in his first film, although the song book credited it to K P Kamatchi Sundaram, through whom the lyrics were given to music director R Sudarsanam.
  ‘O Saamy Aiyyaa Saamy, Ayya Raayaa Vaayyaa U Come Ayyaa;
Ayyaa Saamy Aaoji Saamy,
Narik Kombu Irukku Vaangaliyoa’.
The tune for Ayyaa Saamy was actually a takeoff on the Hindi song Gorae Gorae sung by Amirbai Karnataki and Lata Mangeshkar for the 1950 film Samadhi, music by C Ramchandra who had ripped off the tune ‘Chico Chico from Puerto Rico’ that was first heard in the 1945 Hollywood film, Doll Face. The tune also found its way to a Bengali version in the early 50s -- ‘Shono Shono Kothati Shono’, composed by Debu Chatterjee, sung by Dhananjay Bhattachariya.

Ku Ma Ba, as he was later known, was actually proficient in writing chaste and classical Tamil and went on write over 600 film songs for leading music directors like G Ramanathan, KV Mahadevan, TG Lingappa, Sudarsanam, Salil Chowdhury and so on, in films starring MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan, SS Rajendran, Vijayakanth among others. Born on May 13, 1920, at Velukkudi village in undivided Thanjavur district, to Marimuthu-Govindammal in an agricultural family, his centenary too has been ignored by the film industry as in the case of several others.

Ku Ma Ba could not continue his studies beyond class 6 as his father died when he was just five, and the family was in dire straits. His mother taught him the songs of Devaram, Thiruvaasagam, Thiruvarutpa, Thayumanavar and the like. Upto the age of 18 he attended to farm work as also an employee in provision and cloth stores. At the same time, he would regularly read Tamil newspapers and began writing poems and short stories.

A short story of his, ‘Inbathuli’, was published in Navayugan newspaper, and thereafter his short stories appeared in other publications like Thirumagal, Sandamaarudham, Present Vikatan, Kalaimagal.  He began his tenure in public life by joining the Periyar group of poet Ka Mu Sheriff (secretary) as deputy general secretary. Later, he worked for several newspapers and magazines in Madurai and Coimbatore. He incurred losses while running his own paper called Thamizh Kural in association with his friend P M Sevugarathinam at Rayavram in Pudukottai district in 1947. He joined the party floated by Tamil scholar-activist Ma Po Si, Tamizh Arasu Kazhagam, and went on to become its central executive committee member and general secretary. He also shouldered the responsibilities of the party publications Tamizh Murasu and Senkoal, as deputy editor.
Balasubramaniam took part as one of the prominent activists in the TAK border agitations, demand for renaming Madras State as Tamil Nadu, State Autonomy etc., during which he courted arrest.

He came into contact with several writers like M Karunanidhi, poets Kannadasan, Ku Sa Krishnamurthi, Kuyilan and film director P Neelakantan.

On the recommendation of Neelakantan, Balasubramaniam was drafted to make copies of Annadurai’s dialogue for film ‘Or Iravu’ of AVM Films in 1950. He then also had the opportunity to work as assistant director and write a few songs for the film. His first song was Pennnaaga Pirandhaalae Vaazhvil Ennaalum Thuyar Dhaanae. He wrote two other songs Ayyaa Saamy and Enna Ulagamadaa (sung by K Ramasami) for the same film. He then joined the Story Department of AVM Films on a monthly salary.
In 1952, director M V Raman took him to Mumbai and got him the work of writing dialogue and songs for Tamil remakes of films Naasthigan and Saamraat of Filimistan company. He returned to Chennai in 1954 and wrote lyrics for films like Gomathiyin Kaadhalan, Kanavane Kankanda Deivam, Thangamalai Ragasiyam, Chakravarthi Thirumagal, Sabhash Meena, Veerapandiya Kattabomman, Maragatham, Ambikapathy, Uthama Puthiran, Kalathur Kannamma, Thirudadhae, Konjum Salangai, Naanum Oru Penn, Chithraangi, Mahakavi Kalidas, Dhoorathu Idi Muzhakkam, and so on. He wrote over 600 songs including films remade from other languages for leading music directors and captivated the hearts of music lovers.
Some of his significant hits which continue to haunt music lovers were Inbam Pongum Vennila (Veerapandiya Kattabomman), Maasila Nilave Num (Ambikapthy), Aadaadha Manamum Aadudhae (Kalathur Kannamma), Chithiram Pesuthadi and Kaana Inbam (Sabhaash Meena), Amudhai Pozhiyum Nilavae (Thangamalai Ragasiyam). He also excelled in dance numbers like Yaaradi Nee Mohini (Uthama Puthiran) and vampish Unnai Kan Thaedudhae (Kanavane Kankanda Deivam). .
Ku Ma Ba provided an element of modern breeziness in Ninaikkum Poadhae Aahaa (Illaramae Nallaram), Indru Vandha Sondhamaa (Chithraangi) and Ullamellaam Thallaadudhae (Dhoorathtu Idi Muzhakkam).

He also wrote for heavy classical songs like Singaaravelane Deva (Konjum Salangai), Malarum Vaan Nilavum (Mahakavi Kalidas); folk element in Kunguma Poovae Konjum Puraavae (Maragatham) and Yaemaara Sonnadhu Naano (Naanum Oru Penn).

He also catered to the Bhakti element in devotional numbers like Vaeloadu Vilaiyaadum Murugaiyya (Chithraangi), and in films like Mahakavi Kalidas and Sri Krishna Pandavar Yuddam. 

Ku Ma Ba wrote dance-dramas Sakunthalai, Silapadhikaaram, Alli Thirumanam, Rishya Shringar, Usha Kalyanam etc, and compiled them in a book called Kaaviya Nadanam.
Ku Ma Ba had a political side too. He addressed meetings of the DMK-led alliance in the run-up to the 1967 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. The DMK honoured him with the Paavendar Award.

On the recommendation of Ma.Po.Si, the DMK government nominated him to the State Legislative Council in 1974 from the field of arts, in which post he continued till 1980.
On January 25, 1975, the Tamil Nadu government headed by chief minister M Karunanidhi conferred the Kalaimamani title on him. On May 13, 1975, the Erode Tamizh Kavignar Manram conferred on him the title Kavikkuyil. In 1976, following ideological differences with Ma. Po. Si during the Emergency, Balasubramaniam along with some others, quit the TAK and joined the DMK.

In 1989, the DMK government appointed him as Secretary of Tamilnadu Iyal Isai Naadaka Manram, but he quit the post in 1991 when DMK failed to retain power after the 1991 elections.

The end came on November 4, 1994, when he suffered a heart attack at home in Chennai while reading a morning newspaper. Once considered extremely close to Karunanidhi, it is strange that even the DMK which held massive celebrations for his 60th birthday, did not celebrate the centenary of this noted Tamil writer, activist and former MLC in a befitting manner.

******·          Ku Ma Ba, in his early days in the film industry, worked for AVM company on a monthly salary after his stint as Assistant Director for its production Oar Iravu (1951), for which he also wrote three songs. Later, he informed AVM group that he wanted to work as a freelancer and left the company. Yet, a few years later, AVM had recommended him to write a song for Narayanan Company in 1955. Ku Ma Ba was surprised to find a Cadillac car in his street, and its driver shouting ‘Kavignar, Kavignar” some houses away. He thought  they had come in search of poet Thanjai Ramaiah Das. However, the driver showed him a piece of paper which carried his name, and said he was invited by Narayanan Company to write a song.  Ku Ma Ba got dressed up and travelled by the car to the recording studio. 
******He was asked to write the song Unnai Kan Thaedudhae for Kanavane Kankanda Deivam (music Hemant Kumar, A Rama Rao). This was sung by Bhanumathi (also the heroine) and recorded in Mumbai but she later walked out of the film. P Susheela then sang thesong. Later, Bhanumathi told Susheela, ‘My hiccup song has come to you”, and they had a hearty laugh. The song was the first to be sung by Susheela for Ku Ma Ba.

*******·         When director P Neelakantan wanted Ku Ma Ba to write a song for the MGR starrer Chakravarthy Thirumagal, the writer was unsure of his position. He wrote the song Aadavaanga Annathae, Anjaadheenga Annaathae, but felt it may not be accepted  by MGR as normally such songs were written by Thanjai Ramaiah Das. However, he was pleasantly surprised when MGR immediately okayed the song, and said he liked the play on the words Annathae. Ku Ma Ba went on to write four more songs for Chakravarthy Thirumagal.
*******·         Director R R Chandran invited him to write songs for Sivaji Ganesan starrer Mahakavi Kalidas as he felt Ku Ma Ba would do justice as a writer of immense calibre and proficiency in chaste, classical Tamil. However, Ku Ma Ba said he had already had an unpleasant experience of Sivaji rejecting him and opting for Kannadasan for Annai Illam. Sivaji then invited the writer, asked him not to keep in mind the earlier incident when he had given commitment to Kannadasan to write songs for Annai Illam. Thus, Ku Ma Ba wrote most of the songs for Mahakavi Kalidas in literary Tamil which pleased Sivaji immensely, says Ku Ma Ba Thirunavukkarasu, son of the lyricist.
·         The Song Yaemaara Sonnadhu Naanoa which Ku Ma Ba wrote for Naanum Oru Penn was originally shot on AVM Rajan in a military dress along with Pushpalatha who orders him to march, left, right , about turn. The censors objected to the use of army uniform. The producers  decided to shoot the song again with the actors in colourful dresses. The song was thus saved and the film went on to be a big success.
  By R. Rangaraj (the writer is President, Chennai 2000 Plus Trust)
Following is the link of the article in The Times of India on August 24, 2020. 


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