Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two decades on, MGR is still a vote-catcher

Two decades on, MGR is still a vote-catcher


TIRUCHI, April 5, 2011

Artistes perform to MGR's popular hit songs at an AIADMK campaign rally in Tiruvarur constituency. Photo: M. Srinath

Artistes perform to MGR's popular hit songs at an AIADMK campaign rally in Tiruvarur constituency. Photo: M. Srinath

'Koduthathelam koduthan, avan yarukkaka koduthan, orutharuka koduthan, illai oorukaka koduthan' (Whatever he gave, he gave it for all and not just for one) … belts out the lead singer of a small-time orchestra in a small village near Tiruchi. The boisterous crowd of avid MGR fans and AIADMK cadre goes into raptures at this popular MGR number from yesteryears.

The orchestra's job is to keep the crowd entertained until party general secretary Jayalalithaa arrives. The music troupes and the accompanying dancers may not be big crowd pullers by themselves, but there is little doubt that the politically-loaded MGR songs continue to sway the masses. More than two decades after his death, they stand the party that he founded in good stead.

For MGR fans and the party cadre, this is a valuable inheritance, and a singular legacy which no other party can lay claim to. "There is no doubting their (MGR hits) popularity, especially in the rural areas. They seem to give the audience a sense of déjà vu and bring MGR back before their eyes," observes M. Sivaraman alias Jayanthi Siva, who runs the Shadjam Music Troupe, which played in many of the villages during Ms.Jayalalithaa's recent visit to Tiruchi.

For troupes such as Shadjam, the opportunity to perform at election rallies offers a platform to exhibit their talents and brings in some seasonal income. Most of these small time groups are made up of amateurs, but some have some good professional musicians too, waiting for a break. "We can compete with anybody. But recognition is hard to come by," says Mr. Sivaraman, who is about to celebrate his troupe's 1000th performance soon.

Son of late morsing Mahadeva Iyer of Pudukottai, Mr. Sivaraman has been running the troupe for the past 15 years. An AIADMK supporter, he has been playing at party election rallies since 2009. His troupe has 28 members, including a lecturer and an employee of BHEL. Some, like C. Sahayaraj, a lead singer from Jayamkondam, are well grounded in music. Sahayaraj has studied music at the Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts in the city. Many among the troupe entertain ambitions of becoming playback singers.

"I am hopeful of getting a break, right now I manage by singing for local troupes and bringing out albums," says Mr. Sahayaraj.

"Recognition depends on your performance. We constantly strive to improve our quality," says S.Arun, a singer who runs the Geetanjali Music troupe in Thanjavur.

The troupes get paid about Rs.20,000-30,000 for a performance, which is split among the members, which means a paltry remuneration of Rs.1,000 to Rs.2,000 per head.

Yet they are game enough. "At times we are called to perform at short notice. We have to be ready. Our troupe can play about 500 numbers from MGR films any time," says Mr. Sivaraman, who plays the drums and sings too.

Very often, he says, his troupe has to play for three to six hours at election or political meetings. "It is our job to hold the crowd together." Most of the AIADMK cadre are crazy about MGR songs. "I have seen MGR fans moved to tears on hearing us play his songs," he says.

According to him, "ethanai kalam thaan aemattruvar intha nattilae," (how much longer will you fool this nation?) "neenga nalla irukkonam nadu munnera," (you have to be taken care of if the nation is to progress), 'naan aanai ittal, athu nadanthu vittal' (if my commands can become reality), and 'ninanithathai mudipavan naan,' (I do what I set out to do) are among the most sought after hits. They also have some popular numbers from MGR-Jayalalithaa starrers such as 'Amma Endral Anbu' to play to the gallery.


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