The home, Ulpreksha, had a distinctive, captivating aura — of poetry, of music… The living room was full of awards and shields. In the showcase were black and white photos of Yesudas, P. Leela and Ilaiyaraaja with a young lad, on whose face shone reverence for the legends. Sporting his trademark red tilak sat R.K. Damodaran, the poet and lyricist; the reverence was still there on his face as he spoke of Devarajan, M.K Arjunan, Vayalar, his mentors and colleagues in the music industry.
“Each word is musical; how we arrange it without losing the charm and meaning of each work makes it beautiful lyrics,” he says. He was just 20, a graduation student at Maharajas College, when his first song shot him into fame. The song Ravi Varma chithrathil rathibhavame... was erotic in nature, but the lyrics were stellar, making it one of the classics. Recalling the recording that happened exactly 40 years ago, on a November 2, RK laughs at the nervous moments he had been through back then. “It was a noon like this. The recording was happening at AVM — Threatre in Kodambakkam. The composer, M.K. Arjunan, the super star of those days Prem Nazir and the one and only Yesudas were present. The recording began. During the take, Yesudas felt that it would be better if the word nirvrithi could be changed. I was so frightened that I couldn’t utter even a word. Sensing my fear, Yesudas said that the word was fine and rendered it with such beauty only he is capable of.”
That pep talk later grew into a lifelong bond. Yesudas will be coming to Kochi on December 4 to inaugurate Madhuram Damodaram, the event organised to honour him on his 40th year as a lyricist. The day-long event, also attended by Arjunan master and writer C. Radhakrishnan, will comprise a discussion on film lyric composition and a ganamela led by Unni Menon at Fine Arts Hall.
Over the years, RK has penned 118 film songs, including gems like Chandrakiranathil, Hemanthageetham, Manjil chekkerum in the 80s to the Maranno Poomakale and Omane Unni from the 2000s. A pioneer of Malayalam devotional music genre, he and composer T.S. Radhakrishnan, with whom he share a special chemistry, have brought out hundreds of songs in devotional and light music genre. Apart from penning around 1,000 political songs and 130 songs for plays, RK has written songs for children, sports meets, youth festivals, national integration themes, folk songs and also two Sanskrit songs. “Music can be found everywhere. As long as you can find beauty in everything you see, you are a poet,” he opines.
Film music and poetry, for him, are different. “In films, we need diluted poetry. The lyrics vary according to the story, the character’s personality and of course, the director’s demands. I too have penned songs I personally don’t like much, only because the director demanded it. Not all poets can conform to cinematic standards. That’s why the likes of Balachandran Chullikkad, Sugathakumari and G. Sankarakurup bade goodbye to film songs and concentrated on literary world,” he says. RK doesn’t listen to the new-gen songs much; it doesn’t interest him. But he doesn’t want to blame anyone. “Everything from our generation is ‘archaic’ for today’s youngsters — from love affairs to food and dress sense. So, there’s no basis in comparing the two. There are talents like Rafeek Ahmed and Santhosh Varma, but it’s the directors who give a space for their talent. I was blessed to get such a space. I am happy about it.”
Ram Rahim, the movie that featured Ravi Varma chithrathil..., might not be available now, but the song still stays fresh in everyone’s heart. Not everyone can create a masterpiece in his first attempt. RK could; that’s what makes him a genius....