by Sachi Sri Kantha, January 31, 2020
In Tamilnadu, there have been three renowned musicians with the name Jayaraman.
D.K. Jayaraman (1928-1991), singer and the younger brother of Carnatic music diva D.K. Pattammal, Lalgudi Jayaraman (1930-2013), one of the leading Carnatic music violinist, and Chidambaram Sundaram Jayaraman (1917-1995) – chronologically the senior among the three.
On January 29, 1995, Chidambaram S. Jayaraman died at the age of 78. Though 25 years had passed, the special slot held by his tremolo voice still remains vacant. This fact attests the beauty of Jayaraman’s mystic voice and talent for clear diction of each Tamil word in the lyrics. He brought to life the essence in the pulse of a poet’s yearnings by his voice. The words of poets Mahahavi Bharati, Udumalai Narayana Kavi, Aiyampillai Maruthakasi, Ku. Sa Krishnamurthy, S.D. Sundaram, Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram and Kannadasan danced magically in his tongue and lips. It’s not an exaggeration to state that Jayaraman was the ‘King of pathos, as well as satire sentiments’; his voice pinched the nerves of listeners in every octave of the pitch. Music directors also used his voice for conscience-driven (or echo) songs to express the plight of hapless characters. Apart from his credits as a stage and movie actor, music director and playback singer, as a concert artist, Jayaraman was also a pioneer in the Tamil Music movement. Being close to Anna, the founder of DMK, Jayaraman also promoted the party with his songs.
The Parasakthi movie, scripted by Karunanidhi and released in 1952 had received the accolade as one of the landmarks in Tamil movie history. It was the debut movie Sivaji Ganesan and S.S. Rajendran. Apart from the acting and script, the songs for this movie also played a significant role for its success. And Jayaraman’s three songs for the new face Sivaji Ganesan turned out to be ‘jewels’ in the crown of debutant actor. It is on record, that two years later when producers and the music director for the ‘Thooku Thooki’ movie introduced T.M. Soundararajan to sing for Sivaji Ganesan, the latter was crest-fallen saying that ‘rather than using Jayaraman pillai to sing for me, they are using an untested new face’. That subsequently, Soundararajan turned out to be the lead singer for Sivaji Ganesan was a different story. Even after the ascent of Soundararajan, for a few movies produced subsequently, Jayaraman continued to sing for Sivaji Ganesan.
The best five (in my choice) among Jayaraman’s songs which express satire sentiments were,
‘Kaa Kaa Kaa’ song – Parasakthi (1952) movie
‘Desam Gnanam Kalvi’ song – Parasakthi (1952) movie
‘Nenju porukuthillaiye’ song – Parasakthi (1952) movie
‘Kuddi aadu thappi vanthal KuLLa nariku sontham’ song – Pasavalai (1956) movie
‘Melam Kotti thaali katti’ song – Puthumai Pithan (1957) movie
Two songs are embedded in the following link. The first song is ‘Melam Kotti thaali katti’. You tube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESqpRUMjBss
Jayaraman also sang sentimental duet songs, more for Sivaji Ganesan than for MGR. A popular song in this category for MGR was Mahakavi Bharati’s ‘Kaani Nilam Vendum Parasakthi Kani Nilam Vendum’ song with M.L. Vasanthakumari, for Andhaman Kaithi (1952) movie. The Youtube link for this song is,
Plugged in Voices of Actors in Jayaraman’s songs
A special delight for Tamil movie fans in Jayaraman’s movie songs were the interspersed voices of legendary actors and actresses plugged into these songs.
MGR and B.S. Saroja’s voices in ‘Karumpum Erumpum Pole’ (‘Like a sugarcane and and an ant ‘- Puthumai Pithan movie)
Two songs are embedded in the following link. The second song is ‘Karumpum Erumbum Pole’. You tube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESqpRUMjBss
Padmini’s voice in ‘Arambam avathum Pennukulle athu aadi adanguvathum mannukulle’ (‘Life’s beginning is inside a woman, and it’s end is underneath the soil’, Thanga Padhumai movie). The You Tube link for this great song is,
M.R. Radha’s raspy voice in ‘Kutram Purinthavan Vaazhkaiyil nimmathi koLLvathenpa thethu (‘Can a guilt conscious guy have peace in his mind?’ in Ratha Kanneer movie). The You tube link for this classic song is,
Sivaji Ganesan’s voice in Pennoruthi en ethiril vanthaal (‘A woman came in front of me’ in Paavai Vilakku movie)
Brother in law of Karunanidhi
Jayaraman was a brother in law of DMK leader M. Karunanidhi (1924-2018), who’s first wife Padmavathi was Jayaraman’s younger sister. Padma died young at the age of 20, in 1948, after giving birth to a son Muthu. Though Jayaraman was older than Karunanidhi by 7 years, weddings of both were held on the same day September 13, 1944. Karunanidhi mentions in his autobiography that while his wedding was held as a ‘reformist wedding’ without an officiating Hindu priest, that of Jayaraman was held in the traditional Hindu style. It was Jayaraman who introduced Karunanidhi into Tamil movie circle in 1945-46. By that time, Jayaraman had earned his name there as an actor, singer and a budding music director.
Jayaraman debuted as a singing star in a 1934 Tamil movie Krishna Leela. This movie had 60 songs! He continued to act till 1948, in movies Bhaktha Dhuruvan (1935), Nalla Thangal (1935), Leelavathi Sulochana (1936), Ilantha Kaathal (1941), and Krishna Bhakthi (1949). He was also co-music director for Tamil movies, Udayanan Vasavathatai (1946), Vijayakumari (1950), and Krishna Vijayam (1950).
Then for two movies, MGR starrer- Naam (1953) and M.R. Radha starrer – Ratha Kaneer (1954), Jayaraman was the music director. Quite a number among the 10 songs for the latter movie turned out to be hits. Other than his own three songs, a song by T.V. Rathinam, for the vamp character in the movie ‘Alai alai parkirar- aadathai parthidamal alai alai parkirar’ was so popular that the title line became a Tamil metaphor indeed. The Youtube link is,
Another pathos-tinged song of T.S. Bhagavathi, for the suffering wife of the hero (a lothario) also turned out to be unforgettable. It’s Youtube link is,
Karunanidhi’s sketches on Jayaraman
In his autobiography, Karunanidhi mentions (in two locations, vol.1 and vol. 5) that famous comedian N.S. Krishnan (NSK) and his group delivered his humorous exposition ‘Kinthanar Kathakaladchepam’ to felicitate the double weddings of Jayaraman and him. It was so crowded that both bridegrooms couldn’t even reach their specially allotted seating. He could enjoy the performance of NSK, only via the loudspeaker that was placed near the well located in the backyard of the house. One could only infer that in 1944, at the age of 20, job-less and poor Karunanidhi was a non-entity for NSK, to perform at this wedding function. It was only due to Jayaraman’s popularity in the music and movie world, NSK would have agreed to deliver his open-air performance.
My gripe with Karunanidhi is that, in his 6 volumes of autobiography, he had deftly hidden the favor offered by Jayaraman, in introducing him to stars like Krishnan, and directors like A.S.A. Samy, who offered him the first break in script writing for MGR starrer Rajakumari. Also, other than three specific mentions (about their weddings being held on the same day, and the passing of Jayaraman at the end of January 1995), Karunanidhi’s interactions with brother in law related to music hardly receive any notice, except one episode in a paragraph. It was this.
“Once I had the fortune to travel with T.N. Rajarathnam, from Chidambaram to Kanjipuram. [Note by Sachi to non-Tamilians: Thiruvaduthurai Rajarathnam Pillai was a reputed Nadaswaram maestro.] Mr. Chidambaram Jayaraman – Music Mystic, is my brother in law. I married his sister Padmavathi in 1944. In 1945, Anna and a friend Ponnappa had arranged a music festival in Kanjipuram. It was held for 10 days. Both TNR and C.S.Jayaraman were invited. It happened that I too had to accompany them. Though I couldn’t participate in the discussion both had about music all the way due to my limited knowledge, I did enjoy listening to their expressed thoughts tremendously.”
Lyricist Vaali’s reminiscence of a car trip with Jayaraman
In his 1995 memoir, lyricist Vaali has a chapter entitled, ‘Isai Chittar’ (translated as ‘Music Mystic’). It’s an honorific title tagged to Jayaraman. I provide a translation of this chapter below:
“A son of the proprietor of the Thiruvarangam Big Temple was about to be married. The wish of the bridegroom was that a concert of Music Mystic C.S. Jayaraman has to be arranged. As I had become popular in Chennai then, the bridegroom’s party approached me to arrange this for them. They were willing to offer whatever compensation solicited by the singer.
When I became established as a lyricist, Mr. C.S.Jayaraman didn’t sing that many songs as a playback singer. As such, I didn’t get an opportunity to meet him. As I had given word that somehow I’ll arrange C.S.Jayaraman’s concert to the bridegroom’s party, I approached Mr. Ramamurthy [of Visvanathan-Ramamurthy duo] whom I used to meet daily. He had called Jayaraman related to my request, and asked me to meet Jayaraman with advance payment.
At that time, C.S.Jayaraman was living at the Mampalam Madurai Veeran street, I remember. Personally, I was a long time fan of Mr. C.S.Jayaraman’s music. Thus, the opportunity to meet him face to face delighted me.
I was under the impression that Mr. Ramamurthy might have told about me to Jayaraman on phone. Later only, I realized that not much was told to him about me in detail.
‘Come in come in. I was told that our Tiruchi guy will come to see you regarding a concert. Please accept his request, told Ramamurthy. Are you that Tiruchi person?’ asked Jayaraman.
‘Yes sir’ I responded, and agreed to his honorariam request. Then, handed him a cheque for 501 rupees. I told him, ‘Next week, I’ll come to pick you and we travel to Tiruchi in car. Jayaraman told me, accompanists for the concert can be arranged with the Tiruchi radio station.
That I was traveling with Mr. C.S.Jayaraman in the car to Tiruchi was a delight for me.
His songs, ‘Inru Poi NaaLLai Vaarai’ in Sampoorna Ramayanam movie, ‘Arambamavathu Pennukulle in Thanga Padhumai movie were reverberating in my ears in those days. I remember – may be in 1964.
Mr. C. S.Jayaraman was seated in the front seat. He was digesting a full mouth of betel leaf. I was seated in the back seat. Car had passed Chingleputt. Jayaraman was in his mood and was expositing a raga in three speeds. I was listening to it with pleasure, and at one spot uttered ‘Aha- superb’. Suddenly, he stopped singing, and asked,
‘Thambi – do you know music?’ I replied, ‘I can appreciate to a level. But, don’t know the intricacies that much.’ Then, he asked, ‘What was the raga, I sang now?’ I replied, ‘Kamavarthini’. He responded, ‘Bale!’ [good].
After that, whatever he sang, I recognized the ragas. ‘This is Harikamboji’. ‘This is Nadabhairavi’. ‘This is Hameerkalyani’.
Jayaraman praised me ‘Thambi! You are from Kaveri water region. So, musically gifted, isn’t it?’
We had coffee at a hotel in Madhuranthakam. Then, our music conversation continued.
He told that his father Mr. Sundaram Pillai was the mentor of Embar Vijayaragavachari. Then, he asked me, ‘Thambi, what job you are doing?’
I replied, ‘I’m writing songs’. He was surprised, and turned his body towards me. He asked, ‘Has anyone sung my songs in gramophone records?’ I responded, ‘T.M. Soundararajan and P. Suseela had sung’.
C.S.Jayaraman was curious. ‘Sabash! Sabash! What song T.M. Soundararajan had sung? Please sing that to me.’
So, I sang, Mr. T.M.Soundararajan’s songs written by me – ‘Karpanai enraalum’, ‘Oraru muham’, and Mr. P.B. Srinivas’s song ‘Isaiyaal ethuvum vasiyamahum’.
Jayaraman was so appreciative. He told,
‘Thambi, your compositions are superb. I have already heard the songs you had said now. But, I didn’t know that you were the author of these songs. He didn’t allow me to talk, and continued,
‘Thambi, you have a good gift to write songs. Words flow easily. Meanings are also fine. If you attempt to write in cinema, you will become well known’.
And I interrupted. ‘Anne –’. But, he didn’t allow me to speak.
‘Thambi, I understand what you are coming to say. You have doubt that who will acknowledge your songs in cinema. You don’t need to worry. Your skill is superb. These days, there are guys who have entered cinema, who write worse’. After saying this, he stuffed another betel leaf in his mouth, and said,
‘Athai madi – methai yadi’ [Note by Sachi: a Vaali lyric]
‘Moonrezhuthil en moochirukum’ [Note by Sachi: a Vaali lyric for MGR]
‘Punnakai enna vilai?’ [Note by Sachi: a Vaali lyric]
Songs like these with low grade quality have become the routine now. Some guy named ‘Vaali’ had appeared as a new face. He is the one who writes most for Visvanathan-Ramamurthy. All his songs seems to be propaganda songs for (a) party. Compared to that Vaali, you are far better’ Jayaraman completed his sentence.
Our car stopped at Thindivanam, for a tea break. Driver had gone for tea. Jayaraman and I were merely observing the scene. Suddenly, about 10-15 school boys appeared. They shouted, ‘The person inside the car is lyricist Vaali. Come on, let’s get his autograph’ and they came toward me. For all, I wrote, ‘Greetings – Vaali’. After they left, suddenly Mr. C.S.Jayaraman grabbed my both hands and with affection told, ‘Thambi, I’m sorry. I didn’t know that you are Vaali. Why you didn’t tell me, your name earlier?
I said, ‘Anne, you didn’t ask my name. That’s why I didn’t tell. I inquired, ‘Didn’t Ramamurthy annan tell you anything about me?’
He replied, ‘My friend, from Tiruchi region will come. Please accept his request for a concert. That’s all I heard.’ Then, he left his front seat, and came to sit besides me in the back seat.
I told him, ‘Anne! If someone asks my name only, I’ll tell my name Vaali. Otherwise, I don’t tell it. My policy is – my lyrics should tell my name.’
The Music Mystic was silent for a while. Then, he pulled my cheek lovingly and quipped, ‘There is indeed mischief in the Kaveri water’.
For a 150 min collection of C.S. Jayaraman songs in Youtube, those interested can check the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BZp959RPx4&t=17s
- Karunanidhi: Nenjukku Neethi (autobiography) vol.1, Thirumagal Nilayam, Chennai, 2nd ed. 1985, pp. 76, 78-79.
- Karunanidhi: Nenjukku Neethi (autobiography), vol.4, Thirumagal Nilayam, Chennai, 2003, pp. 543-544.
- Karunanidhi: Nenjukku Neethi (autobiography), vol.5, Thirumagal Nilayam,
Chennai, 2013, pp. 219-220, 787.
Poet Vaali: Naanum Intha Noorandhum, Kalaignan Pathipakam, chapter 45, Chennai, 1995, pp. 333-337.
Vamanan: Thirai Isai Alaigal, vol.1, 2nd ed., Manivasagar Pathipagam, Chennai, 2004, pp. 83-93.