Date:04/05/2007 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2007/05/04/stories/2007050400380200.htm
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Down melody lane

N. GANESH

After a long innings in Chennai, music director Johnson plans to return to Kerala.


... For me, whether it's songs or background score, everything is a spontaneous process.



KING OF MELODY: Johnson

It was a walk down memory lane. Recollecting his association with the legends and paying tributes to his masters, Johnson, the king of melodies, spoke on his career at length.

Come 2008 and Johnson will be entering his 30th year as music director. After spending 32 long years in Chennai, he gets ready to come back to Kerala. Back from a break, forced by health reasons, he wants be again in the thick of things. His next movie will see him touching the 300-mark.

"I felt really weak and did only two major films `Yathrakkarude Sradhakku' and `Photographer' during that time. Ranjan Pramod was keen that I should compose music for `Photographer.' Though I was reluctant initially, I did a good job. I really enjoyed the work, but sadly the film didn't do well."

The three songs, `Enthe Kannanu,' `Pulchadi' and `Kadalolam,' however, went on to become big hits and were praised for its charm and freshness. And he promises more.

The rise of Johnson, from a violinist with the `Voice of Trichur' to one of the best the Malayalam film music has ever seen, has been mercurial, and the credit must go to Devarajan who spotted the talent in him and took him along.

His master's disciple

The disciple of Devarajan treaded his master's footsteps. He made his debut with `Aaravom' (1978) and later came the association with directors like the late Padamarjan and Bharathan, and also with filmmakers like T.V. Chandran, Mohan, Sathyan Anthikkad, Sibi Malayil, Kamal among others. And we were gifted with songs such as `Adi vaa kattae... ' (`Koodevide'), `Gopike... ' (`Kattathe Kilikkoodu'), `Devanganangal... ' (`Njan Gandharvan'), `Thane Poovitta... ' (`Sasneham'), `Kanner Poovinte ... ' (`Kireedom'), `Madhuram Jeevamrutha... ' (`Chenkole'), `Pathirapullunarnnu... ' (`Ee Puzhayum Kadannu'), `Sooryamsu' (`Pakshe') to mention only a few.

And then there are his background scores, which he never overplayed, but have only gelled well with the tone of the movies. One such serene touch in `Ponthan Mada' won him a National award. Johnson won the National Award twice and the Kerala State Award on five occasions.

"The movies of the late `80s and the `90s were more realistic. Everyone had doubts about `Doore Doore Sagaram... ' (`Varavelpu'), since it came almost at the fag end with just two characters on screen. But I had the confidence, and the song made an impact."

A blessing

It's his self-confidence that keeps him going and on his composing he says: "I believe it's a divine blessing. I get a spark. A final shape is given to it after hearing the story. For me, whether it's songs or background score, everything is a spontaneous process."

"I work hard, make all the needed corrections and then present it before others. I can't rework on my product, which according to me is final. If you ask me why, the answer is: that's me," says the musician. He gives due credit to the lyricists and singers for his hits and showers praise on S. Janaki. When it comes to fast numbers, isn't he a little reserved? "I'm particular that the music should not disturb the lyrics and the total mood and meaning. For me that's a priority."

Calling himself a third-generation artist - the first being Devarajan, Baburaj, Dakshinamoorthy and others, and the second consisting of Syam, A.T. Ummer and others - Johnson feels that the transition from one generation to other had been rather smooth. "Our generation had to concentrate on the orchestration part a bit more than our predecessors, but that was the need of the hour."

Talking about the current generation of composers, Johnson is deeply sad and extremely angry at some `unhealthy' trends. "A few newcomers are neglecting the great musicians of the past and our living legends like Dakshinamoorthy with their imposing ways and ambitious methods. They try to act smart at times. Those trends should be nipped in the bud."

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