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Monday, May 27, 2013

Isai Chakravarthi TMS departs

India Pundit records with inconsolable sorrow and deep regret the departure of the ethereal voice of Tamil Films, the irreplaceable playback singer Sri. T.M.Soundararajan (TMS to all his worldwide fans). This phenomenal South Indian vocal legend is no more with us. His singing career spanned over 60 golden years in which he cut 10,000 film songs and 3000 devotional songs. This 91 year old maestro born on March 24, 1922, experienced breathing difficulties for a while and passed away peacefully at 3:50 PM on Saturday in his Mandaveli residence in Chennai. A lifelong devotee of Lord Muruga, he reached the Lord's lotus feet as serenely as he lived his last few years. Is that not a gift his Lord would gladly bestow on him that lived the role of Arunagirinathar singing the evergreen Thiruppugazh verse Mutthai Tharu Patthi Thirunagai?

Thuguluva Meenatchi Iyengar Sundararajan, like many of the Saurashtrians hailing from Madurai was born talented. Studying under Chinnakonda Sarangapani Bhagavathar and later under Ariyakkudi Rajamani Iyengar, this gifted singer first started as a carnatic musician at the age of 23. Even though he was rejected by film fraternity in the beginning because of his nasal rendition and sruti variation at higher octaves, his fate was to take a turn for the better. The legendary composer Sri. S.M. Subbiah Naidu gave TMS his very first break in 1946. But it is after singing Innum Etthanai Kaalam Thaan Yemaatruvaar Intha Naatile? for MGR that TMS actually shot to instant fame. But after the year 1955 he never really looked back. His uncanny ability to sound just like the voice of the hero he lent his playback for, made the thespian doyen Sri. Sivaji Ganesan prefer him for all his films. Sivaji-TMS-MSV-TR/KVM-Kannadasan/Vaali/Maruthakasi became an inseparable and insuperable team that would provide hit after hit and many memorable Silver Jubilee films with unforgettable songs. TMS sang for MGR until he entered politics full time in 1977, and sang for Sivaji as late as in 1995. A misunderstanding between him and Composer Maestro Ilayaraaja signaled the downward spiral in his film career after that. But till such time he ruled the roost in Tamil Films as a leader of Chennai's own film quintet - TMS, SG, A.M.Raja, PBS and SPB. He continued to thrive until Yesudas (see video at 4:26 for TMS reaction) became the stock choice for Ilayaraaja's classical film songs. TMS's duets with P. Suseela, S. Janaki, L.R.Eswari, Jikki and Jamuna Rani are a class in themselves.

It is an urban folklore that if one would sleep quietly on the terrace of a Chennai home, listening to TMS on a radio set, it would transport you directly to the heavens. That scintillating voice with an immense range from classical to western to devotional, is now no longer live. But I would rather think of it as his singing in front of Lord Murugan and His divine consorts an Azhagendra Sollukku Muruga, or in front of Parthasarathi Swami of Triplicane a Pullanguzhal Koduttha Moongilgale. Like his many fortunate fans, my parents, my brother and my family got to meet him few years back at the Lanham Murugan Temple in USA. Though considered imperious by many, his last years saw a remarkable change in his personal and public demeanor. He became more lovable as his die-hard fans celebrated his 90 years of earthly life with pomp and splendor. It is truly an irreparable loss to all Tamil language and music lovers. To borrow a quote from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar where Mark Antony reminisces Caesar's greatness - Here lay TMS, when comest another?

A recent alert from Smt. Rangam Balaji, my cousin who sent me these 100 tidbits about TMS listed in Thank you Rangam!

Walk down your memory lane with the unforgettable and irreplaceable TMS, viewing the slideshow A GOLDEN VOICE FALLS SILENT, courtesy of THE HINDU Newspaper.
Awards Won (just to mention 12):
  • Honorary Doctorate
  • Padma Sri from the Indian Government in 2003.
  • The Tamil Nadu state's honorary Kalaimamani Award.
  • "Isai Chakravarthi" Pattam.
  • "Padakar Thilakam" Pattam
  • Lifetime achievement for "MGR Memorial Award".
  • Lifetime achievement for "Shivaji Memorial Award". 
  • Tamil Nadu Musical Artist Lifetime Achievements Award  
  • Tamil Nadu State Awards, many years continuously (1960s), shared with [[K. J. Yesudas]
  • "Pesum Padam", awarded 21 times, including consecutive annual awards from 1954 to 1969
  • Tamil Film Fans Award, 22 times in the early 1950s, 1960s and 1970s
  • 20th Century Top Playback Singer from South African city mayor through Tamil fans, 1995
A video of the coverage on this world famous vocalist par excellence and a jukebox of his everlasting songs for your listening pleasure:

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