Tracing the Journey of Tamil Music

Renowned presenter B H Abdul Hameed talks about the upcoming show Innisai Varpugal, which will explore how Tamil songs were influenced by Hindi music in the past, and the changing trend now

Published: 30th April 2015 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th April 2015 06:04 AM   |  A+A-

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CHENNAI: Celebrity presenter B H Abdul Hameed, the voice of the then Radio Ceylon, the oldest radio station in South Asia, will be hosting the second edition of Innisai Varpugal, an annual thematic music programme. The show will trace the journey of Tamil music in the last 75 years. “In those days, in Tamil dramas, the songs used mostly Sanskrit words. I remember meeting S V Venkatraman, who was the first to become a music director in Tamil, in 1993. He said that in those times, everyone wanted to copy Hindi music. Most do not know that MS Subbulakshmi’s famous song Kaatrinile Varum Geetham was copied from a Hindi song,” he says.

B H Abdul Hameed.jpgThe trend changed after music composers like M S Viswanathan and KV Mahadevan came to the fore. “Now, singers like Kumar Sanu and Anu Malik copy Tamil tunes in Hindi songs. Also the North has now accepted A R Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja,” he says. The show will focus on the popular songs, the melodies of which most people do not know, whether it came from the South or North. “I am not tarnishing anyone’s image. I am just going to show the audience which songs were copied 100 per cent, and which borrowed portions of it from the other,” says the host of the popular TV show Rasigan. 

Sri Lanka-based Hameed, who has over eight decades of experience in broadcasting, would have done over 5,000 shows, including interviews, quiz programmes, game shows and so on, but the most important lesson in his profession came from the meeting with the Superstar in the early 1980s, he says. “It was an unforgettable interview. He had come to Sri Lanka for the movie Thee. Producer K Balaji arranged for an interview with Rajini. The recording system was set and the technicians were ready,” he recalls, laughing a bit. “I greeted him and asked my first question. Rajini looked this way and that, scratched his hair, and said just one word - ‘Yes’, the same thing continued for the following questions. And all the while, for nearly 40 minutes, the tape was rolling!” he recalls.

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Hameed was never able to broadcast the interview as, he says, there was absolutely no content in it. “Later, I introspected and realised that for the questions I asked one could give answers like what Rajini did. I learnt that one should induce the other person to speak,” he says, breaking into a laugh.

Among the other interviews that remain evergreen in his mind is the one with Sivaji Ganesan, whom he had idolised right from his childhood. “He had come to Sri Lanka for a fund raising programme after a flood in TN. He was so tired that his manager refused all media people except me, on Sivaji’s request. I still remember, he was standing in the terrace, it was a full moon night. Even as I was deciding whether to call him anna or ayya, he said, ‘Vango captain Sambasivam’. That was my character’s name in the famous radio play Komaligal. I realised that the legend had listened to my play. It was shocking!” recalls Hameed, who has several radio dramas to his credit.

Hameed’s interview with a young A R Rahman in 1994 remains one of the iconic interviews till date. “There was lot of criticism against Rahman at that point of time. This was after he won the National Award. Many said that the credit should go to the technology he used and not his voice. It was an ugly situation. I wanted to clear it. That was the first interview Rahman gave for a Tamil channel. That programme created a better understanding of him and explored the secret of his success,” he says.

The New Indian Express is partnering with Gala events, which is organising Innisai Varpugal 2015 on May 23 at The Music Academy.

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