Legendary lyricist ‘Kavignar’ Vaali passed away on Thursday aged 81.
Whether it was MS Viswanathan and Ilayaraja or A R Rahman and the young G V Prakash Kumar, Vaali had remained the go-to man with a flow of words that have so magically fit into the varied tunes the maestros had churned out. Born in Thirupparaithurai as TS Rangarajan in an Iyengar family in 1931, Vaali studied at the Government Arts College in Chennai and took up a part-time job at Tiruchy AIR.
Professor at Asian College of Journalism, Sampath Kumar, who had done a popular series on Tamil film music for the BBC, says that the late singer T M Soundararajan was one of the first to identify Vaali’s gift of words.
“Vaali sent a postcard with a poem to TMS, who loved it. TMS then composed a tune for the lyrics and sung it for AIR in Chennai. It was Karpanai Endralum Karchilai Endralum, a devotional song on Lord Muruga which is still hugely popular,” says Sampath Kumar.
Vaali owed much to then character artist V Gopalakrishnan, who introduced him to many producers and directors at a time when he and his close friend, comedian Nagesh, were struggling for opportunities. His first break came in 1958 in the film Azhagar Malai Kalvan. Nilavum Tharaium Neeyamma his first song, topped the charts.
However, it was his association with M S Viswanathan that earned him huge popularity. Beginning with Poovaraiyum Poonkodiyae Poomalai Podavaa in Muktha Srinivasan’s Idhyathil Nee, Vaali penned lyrics to some of MSV’s most popular tunes such as Malligai En Mannan Mayangum and Rajavin Paarvai Raaniyin Pakkam. But as he himself had proclaimed on many platforms, it was MGR’s, who addressed Vaali as Aandavane, liking for him that helped him scale new heights.
Whether it was the romantic Kumari Pennin Ullathile from Enga Veetu Pillai, or the politics-laced evergreen Naan Aanai Ittaal from the same movie, Vaali adapted seamlessly to MGR’s mood on the screen. Noted writer Vamanan says that while Kannadasan should be credited with making song lyrics poetic in Tamil films, Vaali followed suit. But Kannadasan’s short temper, which resulted in his ruffling feathers of many giants in the film world, helped Vaali’s growth as many shifted to the latter. “But you cannot take anything away from Vaali, who was highly talented,” he says. The most striking aspect of Vaali’s, who took the name owing to his fondness for artist Mali, was his ability to adapt to changing times.
A philosophical Tharai Mel Pirakka Veithaan in Padagotti or a Chikku Bukku Raile in Gentleman, Vaali’s lyrics appealed to different generations, so much so that he remained busy writing even a month ago. Actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan had fondness for the lyricist. Vaali also has a formidable collection of literary works to his credit, the most popular being Avathara Purushan, a work on the life of Lord Rama and Ramanuja Kaaviyam.