In 1977, when R K Damodaran was a second year BA student at Maharaja's College, he got a
letter from Cochin Haneefa, actor and his friend, calling him to Madras to write a song for a movie. For a young man whose world until then was confined to Kochi, Kodambakkam was an alien world, a place beyond his wildest dreams. Despite odds, he set out to the city.
Says Damodaran: "I had known Haneefa since childhood. He knew I write poetry. So, when an opportunity came, he wrote to me immediately. I was a bag of nerves, but I managed to write the song Ravi Varma Chitrathin... for the movie Raju Rahim, starring Prem Nazir. The producers liked it and I couldn't believe my fortune."
The song, rendered by Yesudas, went on to be a superhit, featuring in the bests of Yesudas, even today. And, that day also marked the start of a rare bond between him and Yesudas. "What started that day blossomed into a great friendship," says Damodaran about his relationship with the legendary singer.
As he marks the 40th year of his career as a lyricist in the Malayalam industry, Damodaran terms his eventful journey nothing short of spectacular.
An exemplary poet, whose mastery over Malayalam helped him weave a magnificent tapestry, says he never faced a challenge writing rich lines, rather it was simpler songs that gave him a tough time.
"Songs in cinema should add layers to the story. I always worked with this fact in mind. Poetry came naturally to me and that's one reason why I could easily pen songs like Ravi Varma chitrathin..... Ironically, it was songs with simpler lines and situations that posed me a challenge, " says the poet, reminiscing about the days he spent to write the hit number "Thanithankakkina pongal..,. the song in Siddique-Lal's Friends.
"It was a song that features some slapstick comical sequences. It was a challenge. I spent days and time was running out. In my desperation, I remember telling Siddique to hire someone else to write the song. He wouldn't budge and wanted me to do it. The lines just sparked on my mind on the fourth day," says Damodaran. But then, humour isn't something he hasn't done before.
Damodaran remembers Cochin Haneefa guffawing after reading the lines "Brucelee Kunjallayo... he wrote for Raju Rahim itself.
In his four-decade-long journey in Malayalam film industry, he has penned over 118 songs, having worked with legends like M K Arjunan, Ilayaraja and Johnson. But, Damodaran says he doesn't mind numbers. "118 songs in four decades may not be something big, but for me, it was a conscious decision to keep it that way. I didn't want my talent to be totally consumed by the film industry," says Damodaran, who has also worked as a journalist.
In his career, Damodaran has penned over a whopping 1,000 light music songs and his tracks even featured in Akashavani's bests of light music. "Over the years, I could contribute 2,000 political songs and equally large collection of drama songs. I am happy to have enriched the parallel branch of music in that way," says Damodaran. The lyricist has also written many jingles, including the famous Pennayal Ponnu venam. He has also written many devotional albums, most of which were sung by Yesudas.
Yesudas and I
I still remember being scared and nervous to meet him for the first time. His first words were:"good job, keep it up". What started that moment went on to be a bond for the lifetime. His dedication and passion for music are unparalleled. He is a legend, one who deserves to be worshipped.
As part of R K Damodaran's 40th anniversary in the industry, a music night will be held on December 4, Monday. The event titled "Madhuram Damodaram" will be inaugurated by Yesudas and M K Arjunan. Many singers, including Unni Menon, Madhu Balakrishnan, Biju Narayanan and Chitra Arun will sing at the event. A discourse on film songs of the present and past will also be held on December 3, Sunday.