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He breathes Tamil

He made his foray into the tinsel world in 1980 with his superhit number `Ponmalai Pozhudhu' in `Nizhalgal', and since then Vairamuthu has never looked back.


"Kallikattu Ithikasam" - a confluence of various emotions like sadness, sufferings and depression -- crammed his mind for more than four decades. Finally, when it exploded, the natives of `Kallikadugal' found their biographies in the book. But with a silver lining. The novel won him the Sahitya Akademi award for Best Literary Work in 2003.

The author, Vairamuthu, needs no introduction.

In city recently, he found time to chat up. Attired in a sandal-hued kurta-pyjama, the middle-aged author willingly trudged down the memory lane recalling his early days in native village Mettur, which lies submerged in the Vaigai dam.

"We were among the few families which migrated to far off villages. I remember I was four when we pitched our new tent at Vadugapatti in Madurai district."

"Nature was in abundance there and so was my love for nature. The area was completely serene and green, bustling with farming activities. All that is associated with village life, cattle and flies, tillers and axes, the traditional practices and customs was in full view here. But then poverty also co-existed," he reminisced.

As Vairamuthu grew relishing in the nature's bounty, his love and passion for the land and the language - Tamil - also started growing.

Such was his quest for the language, that it drove him to master every element of Tamil. The outcome was a `Venba' compiled on the `Yaapu' format of grammar, which he wrote as he was breaking into his teens.

"The flash came when my teacher said the Tirukkural is compiled exactly as per Yappu rules. The same night I finished checking all the 1331 kurals. Finally, Valluvar defeated me. But I won in the grammar and the outcome was the venba", recounted the ace lyricist on his deliverance of this difficult literary work.

With libraries cropping up in every hamlet, Vairamuthu's fort of knowledge got armoured more and the Dravidian movement galvanised his interest in the language.

After topping in the district in the school finals, he moved to Chennai to join the Pachaiyappa's College, the `birth place' of many Tamil scholars, for his degree course.

In the last year of his graduation, he got caught in a controversy for one of his strong writings, `Karuppu Nila', a book on Kannagi. Immediately followed one of his best compilations, `Vaigarai Megangal', an anthology of poems. It earned him laurels and also won him a great friend, director Bharathiraja, who introduced him as a lyricist.

He made his foray into the tinsel world in 1980 with his superhit number `Ponmalai Pozhudhu' in `Nizhalgal', and since then he has never looked back. Today, he stands tall as a five-time winner of national award. But not to be taken in by his super success, the lanky poet humbly quips : "the journey has gathered pace only now".

"Ramayanam and Mahabharatham are the two great epics of the country written by two different persons of two different eras. But I have already written one (Kallikattu Ithikasam) and plan to write the second one soon. So it is a rare combination, one poet writing two ithikasams in the same age", says the writer of 32 books.

An ardent lover of Tamil `Isai', Vairamuthu is now busy with an album, the processing work for which is being done by an engineer in the US. "It is the reflection of my anger. There is a drought in Tamil Isai because people now sing only a few songs. I want to put a stop to this. Mr. Rahman is likely to make the background score", he shares.

The lyricist promises the finished album to be the best of its kind, devoid of colloquial words. Known for his modern style of poetry he has also penned some film songs using slangs. Defending it, he says, "a poet has two dimensions - when writing for self-content it is conscience-driven (Manodharmam) and for films the requirements of the theme and the character (Kadhai dharmam) has to be met".

With 5,600 songs to his credit, it is natural for Vairamuthu perhaps to reel off harmoniously. "Songs displays the mastery of a poet over the language. It portrays the expertise in using the same words in different contexts with different meanings".

Ask him about his literary influences and without a wink, he mentions Shelley and Keats. In the same tone he admits that Khalil Gibran, Firdausi and Nizami have had a greater impact on him. "No modern poet can escape this syndrome, as these bards are genius in modern poetry, expressing love and nature in their best dimensions," he says candidly.

One thing is sure. Whatever Vairamuthu does, it has to be in Tamil, for Tamil. In other words, he breathes, speaks, thinks easy in Tamil. But he holds one more secret. His fondness for "moustaches". "It is one of the identities of Tamils", he parts with a smile.

M.R.ARAVINDAN

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