Saturday, 1 February 2014

Penning the ‘Struggle’ of a Salaried Man

The great Tamil poet Udumalai Narayanakavi

In an age, when the monthly salary of a sole bread winner is hardly enough to make both ends meet, the lyrics penned by the popular Tamil poet Udumalai Narayanakavi echo the consumer culture of the present day, though he wrote them for various Tamil films in the early 1950’s.   

Born to the couple Krishnasamy and Muthammal at the village Poolavadi of Udumalpet in the then Coimbatore district, Udumalai Narayanakavi, whose real name was Narayanasamy, lost his parents when he was a boy and could not pursue education beyond class IV. After the demise of his parents, poverty forced him to sell match boxes in the villages around Poolavadi to eke out a living with his earning of 25 paise per day. However, he developed a taste for art and literature, as he observed the performances of the Kongu folk art forms including Puraviyattam, Udukkayadi Paattu and Oyil Kummi in his village.
The poet, who later carved out a niche for himself as a popular lyricist in the Tamil filmdom, learned the nuances of composing lyrics and staging plays from eminent playwright and Tamil scholar Udumalai Sarabam Muthusamy Kavirayar. Working with him from the age of 12, Narayanasamy accompanied his teacher to the places, wherever he staged plays and wrote scripts, lyrics and even acted in his dramas for about 13 years.
And returning to his native village at the age of 25, he started a business of his own by founding a shop to sell Khadhar cloth in his village. However, experiencing a great loss in the venture, he set out for Madurai with just Rs 100 in his pocket. After meeting ‘The Father of Tamil Theatre’ Sankaradas Swamigal in Madurai, Narayanasamy worked in his dramas and learned the depths of Tamil prosody from him. Later, he got the friendship of Dravidian movement stalwarts including Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, C.N. Annadurai and Kalaingar M.Karunanidhi through Kalaivanar N.S.Krishnan, which opened him the gates of Tamil filmdom.  
At a time, when the world of Tamil cinema was dominated by themes from religious literatures, Udumalai Narayanakavi’s entry into Tamil cinema as a lyricist brought new changes on the silver screen. His innovative lyrics with strong themes of rationalism and atheism infused new blood to the cinema industry, as he wrote the unforgettable numbers Kaa.. Kaa.. Kaa.. and Thesam Gnanam Kalvi Eesan Poosai Ellam Kaasu Mun Sellathadi in the Karunanidhi scripted box office hit Parasakthi.
His popular lyric Onnulayirunthu Irupathuvaraikkum Kondaattam Kondaattam in the 1955 film Mudhal Thethi is still to be enjoyed for its lines, which humourously portrays the financial struggle of a family once its sole bread winner’s monthly salary is run out. A line in the lyric reads that the salaried man usually repays his debts on the first day of every month soon after drawing his salary.  

Interestingly, Udumalai Narayanakavi too had huge debts in his life and took a vow that he would never enter his village before repaying them. Standing by the word, he repaid all his debts through the money, which he earned by working in the plays earlier.

Sources: Kongu Kalanjiyam – Volume I, Miscellaneous articles on Udumalai Narayanakavi. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: 


No comments:

Post a Comment