CHENNAI: Renowned musician I S Murugesan, popularly known as ‘Meesai’ Murugesan, who redefined the scope of background effects in cinema using as ordinary things as a coconut shell, died due to ill health at the age of 87 in his house in the city on Saturday.
Son of famed ‘thavil’ expert Subramaniam Mudaliar, he was born at Idigarai village on the outskirts of Coimbatore city. A well-versed Carnatic artist who can play about 25 instruments, Murugesan created a trademark for himself by the host of instruments he invented, especially to give side effects in movies.
The shrill sound effect in yesteryear horror film “Nenjam Marappathilai” and the footfall of the horse in the famed “Rajavin Paarvai Raniyin Pakkam” song are some of his creations that will ever remain etched in the minds of Tamil movie fans for generations. What made Murugesan so alluring is the fact that he would use weird combinations like a saw and a violin bow to create the effects that would fit in a range of themes from comedy to horror.
He had also played roles of supporting characters in about 25 films. He started sporting a moustache donning the role of the heroine’s father in his first film “Sugamana Ragangal”, which earned him the nick name ‘Meesai’ Murugesan.
Running an one-man band ‘Apoorva Thalavaithiyangal’, he defied old age by actively conducting concerts in several countries amazing audiences with his skill to play a range of instruments in different styles. But a road accident ten years ago in South Africa, where he was to hold a concert, made him bedridden for most part of his life since then. His legs were badly injured in the accident and he was able to walk again only after a few years, that too only with the help of a walking stick. “After his accident, we did not allow him to go outstations to hold concerts as we were worried about his health. Recently he had a multiple organ failure and was discharged from hospital three days ago,” Sundaramurthy, a grandson of Murugesan, told Express.
He said Murugesan breathed his last at around 4.15 pm in his house at Kumaran Colony in Vadapalani.
Though a son of a famed classical musician of that time, Murugesan remained aloof in learning the family’s traditional art during his younger days. What he often termed as a turning point was when he heard the sound of his mother, Ponnammal, casually flinging a coconut shell on the floor. He was amused at the sound as the coconut shell hit the floor. Soon, he asked his mother to give him her two toe rings and put them on the fingers of his right hand. Then, he started experimenting playing rhythms by striking the coconut shell and varying its pitches with a skilful hold of the shell using the other hand. This experiment took him to great heights and it was using the same coconut shell that he played the horse footfall in a dozen songs that were massive hits of old MGR and Sivaji films.
Murugesan’s family is planning to conduct the last rites on Sunday afternoon. He is survived by wife Kannama, a son and two daughters.