Suradha – The man who looked for rhythms in words

Updated by admin on Wednesday, June 02, 2021 07:28 PM IST

Chennai: Suradha – The man who looked for rhythms in words

The King of Similes – will people celebrate his Centenary? (Nov 23, 1921-- June 20, 2006)

When the producer-director of the film Abalai Anjugam (1959), R M Krishnaswami, wanted eminent film lyricist Udumalai Narayanakavi to write a song for the film, he requested the poet to provide a song like Amudhum Thaenum Edharkku of the film Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum. The poet, controlling his anger, said if you want a poem like that, "Why can't you ask that lyricist to give you the song, why do you call me?" The poet then left the office in a car. The producer was worried that he may not come back. However, after half an hour, Narayanakavi came back, and brought with him a person whom he introduced to the producer thus, "This is Kavignar Suradha. He wrote that song Amudhum Thaenum Edharkku. Now, you can ask him to provide you a song like that", and left the place.

Suradha provided the pallavi for a new song, Vennilaa Kudipudikka, Vellimeen Thalaiasaikka, which the producer found wonderful. However, Suradha and the music director K V Mahadevan developed a difference of opinion over the charanam. An angry Suradha left the office. Later, Narayanakavi pleaded with Suradha to complete the song. But Suradha did not relent. The next day, a saddened Narayanakavi, went on to write the charanams and complete the song to the satisfaction of the producer. The song is credited to Suradha, as desired by Narayanakavi (sung by TR Mahalingam and P Leela).

The incident goes to show not only the high regard Narayanakavi had for Suradha but also the uncompromising nature of Suradha and why he wrote only about 50 songs in 22 years for 26 films. However, his songs will be remembered forever for their quality, especially the literary favour and the similes. Will the Tamil diaspora celebrate the centenary of Kavignar Suradha who was called the Poet or King of Similes?


Suradha was born on November 23, 1921 at Pazhaiyanoor in Nagapatnam district to Thiruvengamdam-Shenbagam couple as T. Rajagopalan. Pazhaiyanoor was near Narimanam, the village of Gopalakrishna Bharathi. Being a fan of Bharathidasan, he adopted Bharathidasan's name  Subburathinam, and added Dhasan) at the end to use the name of Subburathinadhasan, which he shortened to Suradha.  He wrote over 3,000 poems and was called Uvamaik Kavignar (The Poet of Similes). He was his own fiercest critic. He said some of these poems were good!

Suradha studied upto  high school. He was initially a fan of Sudhanandha Bharathi, and began writing poems even as a school-goer. When a tea-shop owner of Pazhaiyanoor Azhagappan presented him a book of Bharathidasan poems, he became a follower of Bharathidasan.  He learnt Tamil literature from Sirkazhi Arunachala Desigar.
When he studied in a school at Orathanadu, it was obvious that he would come under the influence of the Dravdian movement. Many of his school friends also assumed an important role in the Dravidian movement in later years.
He wanted to meet Bharathidasan but did not have enough money to undertake the journey. He took to white-washing the walls of a temple and earn enough money for the trip. 

Suradha happened to meet Bharathidasan on January 14, 1941, and from then on his life changed. Suradha became a disciple of Bharathidasan, helping the latter with the printing of his works, making proof corrections and co-ordinating with the printer. He was given a monthly salary of Rs. 20.

Tamil magazine Ponni published Suradha's poem Solladaa in its issue of April 1947, and Suradha was introduced as a poet of the Bharathidasan legacy.
He looked upon Periyar EV Ramaswami Naicker as his guru in politics, and Bharathidasan as his guru in the world of literature.

Suradha came to Chennai to act as a minister in the Puratchikavi drama of Bharatidhasan staged in the presence of 'Periyar' E V Ramaswami Naicker and N S Krishnan.   He also assisted Poet Laureate Namakkal Kavignar V Ramalinga Pillai for some time.

He worked as assistant editor for the magazine Thalaivan brought out in Pudukottai by its editor, Narayanan. In those days, Suradha wrote several short stories. Some of Suradha's poems were also published in the magazine Sivaji, brought out by Poet Triloka Seetharam. Trichy AIR would air some of Suradha's poems. While he worked with Thaaynadu, another publication in Pudukottai, he came into contact with actor P U Chinnappa. Suradha later wrote the dialogue and screenplay of the film Mangaiyarkarasi in 1949, starring P U Chinnappa. The screenplay which was later brought out in book form, in a first-of-its-kind publication.
Poet Ku Sa Krishnamurthy is said to have provided him an opening to write for films. 

He first started writing songs for Tamil films in 1952 for En Thangai. Wrote his last song for Netru Indru Naalai in 1974. In 22 years, he wrote for 26 films.
Suradha wrote nearly 50 songs for 26 Tamil films. He wrote the dialogue and songs for MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar's 'Amara Kavi'. Yaanaithantham polae Pirainilaa (crescent-shaped monsoon like an ivory tusk, from a song in Amara Kavi drew high praise.
In the song Puriyaadhu Puriyaadhu for director K Shankar's film Aadiperukku, Suradha wrote the philosophical lines, Valarndhavar vaazhvil koduppadhai marandhaar, Oru Pidi Saambalil Mudivaanaar (The man who prospered, failed to help others. Ended up as a fistful of ashes).

MGR was highly appreciative of Suradha's lyrics -- Kannil Vandhu Minnalpol-- for his own production Nadodi Mannan.

In the song Vinnukku Maelaadai, in the film Naanal directed by K Balachander, (sung by TM Sounderarajan and P Susheela, music by V Kumar), Suradha proved yet again why he was a king of similes -- there were many similes using the phrase 'upper garment' or the ‘perfect outfit’ -- The eyelashes are the upper garment protecting the eyes, the upper garment for a dream is the sleep that follows it.

Vetrilai Podaamalae Vaaysivandha Pachai Pasungiligal. Pagal Iravaay Vayadhaagi Kondirukkum Ivvulagam, were lines from his song in Amarakavi which superstar MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar highly relished, served Suradha lunch on a gold plate, and presented him cash of Rs. 500.
One of his best songs was Aadi Adangum Vaazhkaiyadaa in Neerkumizhi, Vaguppaar  Adhupol Vaazhvadhillai, Vandhavar yaarumae Nilaithathillai, Thoguppaar silar adhai Suvaippadhillai, Thondanguvaar silar adhai mudippathillai.

For the film Mangaiyarkarasi, actress P Kannamba uttered the dialogue , "Neruppu Sooriyanukku Theriyum Niraparaadhi Naanenru"  (Hot Sooriyan is ware that I am innocent) during the shoot and wondered why Neruppu Sooriyan (Hot Sun) when Sooriyan (Sun) already means hot. The poet replied, "Nilaa Enraale Adhu Venmaidhaanae, Adhai Yaen Vennilaa Engirom? (When the moon already signifies whiteness, why call the moon White Moon). Actor PU Chinnappa appreciated Suradha's reply with a "Sabhaash".

For some time he worked in Muthumizh Nilaiyam set up for Bharathidasan in Chennai in 1943. He brought out his own publications Ilakkiyam in 1958 and Suradha in 1966. He received the Rajarajan award of Tamil University and the Tamil Nadu government award of the Best Book for his collection of poems Thaen Mazhai. When the Paavendhar award was instituted by the Tamil Nadu government in 1990, Suradha was the first recipient.   

Suradha was extremely popular in Tamil literary circles having presided over debates on Tamil poetry -- numbering over 300.

He also presented  a poem on the occasion of the unveiling of Thiruvalluvar statue in Kanyakumari.
In the song EnnamellaamOr Idathhaiyae Naadudhae (Thirumanam), Suradha's lines were widely appreciated especially, Maamalarin Nizhaldhaan Manamveesumaa? Muthumalaiyin Nizhaldhaan Vilaipogumaa? (Will the shadow of a flower provide fragrance, will the shadow of a necklace have buyers?)

Suradha attained immortality with the opening lines of Aadi Adangum Vaazhkkai Adaa (Life may be extravagant but you will have to accept containment) in the film Neerkumizhi, especially with the second line Aaradi Nilamae Sondhamadaa (In the end, only six feet of land is your own) achieved immportality for Suradha. When someone questioned him as to why he mentioned six feet (needed for a burial) while Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram had referred to Eight feet (Sattappadi Paarthhaal Ettu Adi Dhaan Sondham – only eight feet of land is yours), Suradha quipped, Naan Kullam, enakku 6 adi podhum, Pattukottai Uyaramaanavar, avarukku 8 adi thaevai padum (I am shorter than him, for me six feet is enough, Pattukottai was tall, he would need eight feet!)

The following is the list of Kavignar Suradha film songs -- almost complete

As Film Lyricist
1.  Aaadum Oonjalaip Pole in   En Thangai (1952), sung by TA Modhi, P Leela. Music by CN Pandurangan.
2.   Vetrilai Podaamalae Vaay Sivandha in   Amarakavi (1952), music by G Ramanathan,  sung by MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar
3.   Vaan Mazhai Pole, MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar
4.   Vin Pola Neera Niram Kaattum, MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar   
5.   Ellaam Inbamae Enrumae, MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar, NL Ganasaraswathi
6.   Paadharasam Pole Venmaiyaana, sung by G Ramanathan
7.   Ellaam Thunba Mayam , NS Krishnan
8.   Pasiyaalae Nondhaenae, (Kaiyendhi Pizhaikkum Kaalam) TR Rajakumari
9.   Sedi Maraivilae Oru Poongodi, MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar, P Leela
10. Yaanai Thantham Pole Pirainilaa, MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar, P Leela
11. Konjip Pesum Kiliye, MK Tyagaraja Bhagavathar, P Leela
12. Thoondi Mullu Pole Valaincha, TR Rajakumari
13.  Aasiyae Alaimodhudhae in film Genova (1953), AM Raja,  P Leela, music  MS Viswanathan, MS Gnanamani, TA Kalyanam
14.  Thunai Neeyae Deva Thaayae, P Leela
15.  Pudhidhaana Kudhoogalam Inrae, P Leela
16.  Seidha Paapathinaalae Naanpadum, AM Raja
17.  Naamae Jeevasukham Ullaasam, AM Raja, P Leela
18.  Kannukkul Minnal Kaattum,  AM Raja, P Leela
19.  Aadavarae Naattinilae in   Anbu (1953), music by TR Pappa, sung  by AM Raja, ML Vasanthakumari.
20.  Azhagu Nilavinilae Alli, in  Maamiyaar (1953) , P Susheela.
21.  Azhaikkinraar Azhaikkinraar in   Ammaiyappan (1954), music TR Pappa,
22.  Vaazhvinil Or Tirunaalae,  (Ammaiyappan).
        Kathanayaki (1955)
23.  Kottu Melam Kovililae     Suradha     Music: G.Ramanathan     Sung by (Radha) Jayalakshmi  Pudhu Vazhvu (1957)
24.  Yaarai Nondhu Kolvathingae     Suradha     Music:  G.Ramanathan     Sung by M.K.Thyagaraja Bhagavathar
25.   Vannamayil Velmurugan (Pachaimalai Pavazhamalai) in  Boologa Rambai (1958), AG Ratnamala. music - CN Pandurangan. lyrics -  Suradha, Pavalar Velayudhasamy.
26.    Kannil Vandha Minnal Pole    in   Nadodi Mannan (1958), music SM Subbiah Naidu, sung by TM Sounderarajan, Jikki.
27.    Naamaath Dravida Kulakae, sung by Jikki, P Susheela, Nair, NL Ganasaraswathi, Vaidehi.
28.    Varuga Varuga Vandhae, sung by NL Ganasaraswathi, Vaidehi.
29.     Amudhum Thaenum Edharkku,  in Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum (1958), music by KV Mahadevan. sung by Sirkazhi S Govindarajan.
30.     Ennamellaam Or Idaithhaiyae in Thirumanam (1958), music by  SM Subbiah Naidu, sung by TM Sounderarajan.
31.     Kaadhal Thandhidum Suvaiyai  Senkarumbu Thanthidumaa:   in Kanavu Balithathammaa (1958) :      Film not released though censored:  
32.    Vennilaa Kudaipidikka in Abalai Anjugam 1959, sung by TR Mahalingam, P Leela, lyrics by Suradha and Udumalai Narayanakavi. Music KV Mahadevan, Gnanamani
33.     Nithhiraiyil Chithhirak Kanavu in Nalla Theerpu (1959), sung by P Susheela, music by SM Subbiah Naidu
34.     Vachhirukkaen Naan Vachhirukkaen in  Thalai Koduthaan Thambi (1959), sung by K Jamuna Rani, music by Viswanathan Ramamurthy.
35.     Vaada Vethhilae Vadhanga Vethhilae, sung by AL Raghavan, K Jamuna Rani.
36.    Vaalibam Pola Pudhumai, Kizha Vayasu Pola Pazhamai.  Yaar Manamagan (1961)    Music:  Brother Lakshmanan:  Song not included in film.
37.     Maattu Vandiyai Ottikittu:  in Yaar Manamagan:  (1961):    Music:  Brother Lakshmanan:  Song not included in film:  
38.     Puriyaadhu Puriyaadhu in  Aadi Perukku (1962), sung by PB Sreenivos. Music by AM Rajah.
39.     Kannaa Thaamarai Kannaa in Bhakta Kusela (1962), sung by AP Komala, S Janaki.  Music:  Brother Lakshmanan
40.     Thithhikkum Tamizhilae in Indira En Selvam (1962), sung by Soolamangalam Rajalakshmi, Jayalakshmi. Music C N Pandurangan.
41.      Kaattuk Kurinji in Kaattu Mainaa (1963), sung by P. Susheela. Music Brother Lakshmanan.
42.      Kaattuk Kombaa Kaattuk Kombaa, sung by SV Ponnusamy, P Susheela.
43.      Veettinilae Vennilaa Vilaiyaada Pogudhae  in Punithavathi (1963), sung by Ghantasala, P Susheela. Music by Hussain KH Reddy.  
44.      Vazhi Pirandhadhu Nalla Vazhi Pirandhadhu in Vazhi Pirandhadhu (1964), sung by K Rani. Music T Chalapathi Rao, Baburao, Abbasraj.
45.       Vinnukku Maelaadai in  Naanal (1965), music by V. Kumar, sung by TM Sounderarajan, P Susheela.
46.       Aadi Adangum Vaazhkaiyadaa in  Neerkumizhi (1965), music by V Kumar, sung by Sirkazhi S Govindarajan.
47.      Thunindhu Nil Thunindhu Sei in Major Chandrakanth (1966), music by V Kumar, sung by Sirkazhi S Govindarajan.
48.      Vasanthakaalam Varumo in  Marakka Mudiyumaa (1966), music by T K Ramamurthy, sung by P Susheela, KJ Yesudas
49.       Sathhiyam Thavaraadhae in Sathhiyam Thavaraadhae (1968), SV Ponnusamy, S Prema. Music CN Pandurangan.
50.       Nerungi Nerungi in  Netru Indru Naalai (1974), music by MS Viswanathan, sung by TM Sounderarajan, P Susheela.
51.       En Mana Oonjalil Un Ninaivu Aadudhae in Nizhal Suduvadhillai (1982).   Sung by Malaysia Vasudevan, Vani Jairam.   Music Gnanaraja.

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


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