He knows the sorrow. In his childhood, with his father dead, he was in total poverty.
He was made to live in an asrama for food and schooling. During the prayers, the
main monk noted his singing abilities and arranged musical training for him.
After growing up, he did some odd jobs to fight poverty, but soon he was trying to enter
the film music. His first film had P. Bhaskaran as the lyricist who wrote the above lines. Arjunan tuned it in such a way that Yesudas made sorrow flow out as his voice.
The film had ‘manathin muttathu’ sung by Yesudas and Janaki also. Thus the music
director M. K Arjunan was born. That was in 1968.
In the next year, he got another chance in ‘Rest house’ directed by Sasikumar, with
Sreekumaran Thampi as lyricist. It was the start of another successful team. The
song ‘padatha veenayum padum’ (even the veena that doesn’t sing will sing if touched by the magical fingers of love) is an evergreen one. It is a song of extreme sorrow
born out of separation. (Interestingly, the occasion in the film does not warrant such
intensity). ‘Marakkukilla marakkukilla ee ganam ini nammal marakkukilla’, yes, we
will not forget this song. ‘Pournamichandrika’ and ‘muthinu muthaya’ are soft romantic
songs. When Janaki sings ‘Yamune…’ followed by the sound of the anklet, the listeners
are in awe. Interestingly, Yesudas is said to have been suffering from cold while
singing these songs.
But films were hard to come
due to the established teams. Further, Arjunan’s songs
were generally ascribed to Devarajan as the style was the same. Many refused to
believe that this soft and silent man was creating these tunes. Some alleged that
someone else was helping Arjunan while creating the tunes. A producer decided to
verify it and shut Arjunan in a room. Arjunan still composed the song.
Gradually, he came to be accepted and the increasing number of films in 1970s also
helped him to get many opportunities. ‘CID Nazeer’ had the love songs ‘nin mniyarayile’
by Jayachandran and ‘neelaniseedhinee’ by Brahmanandan. ‘Thulavarshameghangal’ followed. In the film ‘Pushpanjali’, he composed another gem of intense sorrow ‘dukhame ninakku’.
It also had ‘nakshthrakinnranmar’ by Susheela.
1973 onwards, he was on song. Many entertainment Nazeer films were churned out by
Sasikumar, AB Raj etc. Most of them had Arjunan as the composer. Actually it was a pitched battle
between Vayalar-Devarajan and Sreekumaran Thampi-Arjunan teams. Both had the same
style and the songs were completely indistinguishable. They fought for the honour. The winner was
undoubtedly the Malayalam music. Those years produced the golden songs of Malayalam.
The happy and rhythmic ‘muthukilungi’, the philosophical ‘sukhamoru bindu’, bible
story ‘adaminte santhathikal’, the extremely pleasant ‘kuyilinte maninadam’, the
loud and happy ‘palaruveekarayil’ (noted for its starting humming), the melodious
‘akasagangayil njanorikkal’, sweetness overflowing in ‘swayavarakanyake’, again the sad ‘hridayathin oru vathil’, the pleasant ‘nandhyarvattapoo’, the classical
‘rambhapravesamo’ etc. flowed from his talent.
‘Nineteen Seventy Five ithu Nineteen Seventy Five’, when Arjunan composed this ecstatic
song celebrating the year 1975, he was also celebrating it. He was at his peak.
The Sasikumar film ‘Chattambikalyani’ represented this mood. ‘Jayikkanayi janichavan
njan’ sung by Jolly Abraham is famous as the typical Nazeer style and for its lyrics.
The hilarious ‘nalukalulloru’ sung by Madhuri was a hit. ‘Poovinu kopam vannal’,
a loud teasing song
brought the abilities of Yesudas in singing such songs. It also
had the romantic songs ‘sindhooram thudikkunna’ and ‘tharivalakal’. ‘Anuragame’
was his best classical song. The lullaby ‘rariram padunnu’, the traditional style
‘thalirvalayo’ etc. followed. The film ‘Padmaragam’ had the Punjabi-style ‘sindhunadeetheerathu’,
the intense romantic ‘urangan kidannal’ and ‘ushassam swarnathamara’ which is a
very refreshing morning song asking the beauty to wake up. ‘Picnic’ was another
musical blockbuster of Sasikumar. Led by one of the Arjunan’s best known song ‘kasthurimanakkunnallo’,
it had the light romantic ‘odippokum vasantha’, the whining ‘chandrakkala manathu’,
slow and yet slightly modern ‘Valkkannezhuthi’, the patriotic group song ‘silpikal
nammal’ and the dancing group song ‘thenpoove’. He celebrated the time with the
duets ‘mavinte kombilirunnu’ and ‘lajjavathi’, the romantic ‘thedi thedi’, the foot-tapping
tune that falls into
the sorrow in ‘chettikkulangare’, the traditional-style ‘malleesayaka’,
the soft melody ‘ethra sundari’, the unconventional ‘tharam thudichu’, the auspicious
‘thiruvonappulariyil’, the playful ‘kannezhuthipottuthottu’ etc.
Thereafter, Arjunan churned out many songs in the coming years. But the percentage
of good songs was very less. The good songs are ‘randu nakshathrangal’, the mysterious
‘velichamevide’, the lullaby ‘pookale pole’, romantic ‘sarovaram poochoodi’, semi-classical
‘ayiram ajantha’, the pleasant ‘nilavilakkin’, romantic ‘kamini nin’, the marvelous
song of the extreme sorrow ‘thirayum theeravum’, the Muslim devotional ‘allavin
thirusabhayil’, the high pitch ‘chembakathaikalpootha’, special-style ‘mavu poothu’, classical ‘ravivarmachithrathin’, light romantic ‘chandanakkulirchoodivarum’, the
sorrowful ‘ella dukhavum’, flowing ‘oru premalekhanam’, soft romantic ‘ravininnoru’
1980 onwards, his songs were irrelevant though continued his presence with many
films. Sreekumaran Thampi had withdrawn from
the scene. Arjunan composed the traditional
romantic ‘anuvadamillathe’ and ‘poomethapurathu’, the Muslim song ‘hasbi rabbi’
and the extreme soft ‘kayal karayil’ in the early 1980s.
He still had surprises in his music box as seen in 1986 when he composed the well-received
songs ‘chandrakiranathin’ and ‘chellacheru veedutharam’. The beautiful ‘kananazhakulla
in ‘Oozham’ 1988 is his last accepted song.
Melody was Arjunan’s forte. All may like his song. No complaint may be raised.
He was a master in composing sad songs, but his films were generally pure entertainment
films with little room for sad songs. He gave the songs to all the singers, but
naturally Yesudas dominated. His time was 70-75. He challenged the establishments
and created chaos in the well-set music world. So many composers emerged after him
and the healthy competition ensured a lot of good songs. Thus even though his style
was pure traditional, he opened the door for change.
His self-effacing personality was, at the end, no hindrance to unleashing his talents.
His career at the high level may be short, but that was enough for him to be a main
contributor to the Malayalam music.