When the Pen was mightier!

The year was 1982. M G Ramachandran was addressing a radio show when he recalled the influence of Pattukottaiyar’s lyrics on his political life. He had, two years ago, won consecutive assembly elections to become the Chief Minister for the second time. He was already the first film actor in India to hold the highest chair in the state.

“I do not know of the three legs that are part of the Chief Minister’s chair (I hold). But, the fourth leg is certainly Pattukottaiyar,” Tamil Professor and motivational speaker Parveen Sultana quoted MGR as saying in the show. Prof Sultana was speaking at the 87th birth anniversary celebrations of the poet-lyricist held in the City on April 13.

“Kavignar’s (Poet) words definitely played a huge role in building the image of MGR as a Makkal Thalaivar (People’s leader),” the professor added.

The professor was not exaggerating. Pattukottaiyar’s influence on the previous and a section of the present generation was evident from the jam packed auditorium at the Indo-Russian cultural center. People on the dais included a former State Minister, a retired Bureaucrat, a High Court Judge, a Film Director, academicians and artists alike. Members of the Public from all walks of life turned up to remember a man and his words. It has been 57 years since he died.

How many contemporary film lyricists can command that? “Not many,” rues K Pattabiraman (83). A retired bank staff, Pattabiraman’s calendar every year is bookmarked to attend the birth anniversary of his favourite lyricist. To imagine that a man with no formal education was the owner of words and verses which each one of us hold dear and celebrate five decades after his death is astounding.

Nalla Pozhudhaiyellam thoongi keduthavargal naatai keduthadhudan thaanum kettar (The ones who spend their productive time sleeping have spoilt themselves and with them, this nation)” – Pattabiraman quotes the poet’s verses from his famous, “Thoongathae Thambi Thoongathae,” song from MGR’s 1958 movie Nadodi Mannan. “How is that for drawing a parallel to our contemporary politicians?” the octogenarian lets out a laugh.

Former State Minister R M Veerapan, himself 92 years old and in frail health never misses an opportunity to attend the birth anniversary celebrations of his favourite poet. “A personal happiness to me is that I was the one who introduced Pattukottai to MGR,” Veerapan said.

Film Director P Vasu too shared his two cents about pattukottaiyar’s legacy and with elections around the corner, he could not but resist himself from tweaking another one of Kalyanasundaranar’s lyrics- “Veetai thedi kodukkum kootam Koduthu kondae irukkum…. Vaangubavargal thirundhavittal Vote virpadhai thavirka mudiyadhu,” – a tweak of ‘Thirudahe’ song to comment on the cash for votes practise in our state.

Kalyanasundaranar died at the young age of 29 after developing health complications. For the six years he was active as a lyricist, he has left behind a legacy that is still being talked about.

  • Kalyanasundaranar was born on April 13, 1930 in Senkapaduthankadu village in Pattukkottai town, hence earning the moniker Pattukottai to his name
  • Did not have formal school education
  • Worked in a magazine run by Poet Bharathidasan before he went on to write lyrics for movies
  • Wrote lyrics for thespians Sivaji Ganesan and MGR, several of which are talked about to this date.
  • Died on October 8, 1959 at the age of 29.
  • Was posthumously conferred the Paavendhar Bharathidasan award in 1981 by MGR

(This story appeared in The New Indian Express on 27th April 2016 )

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