He recalls that while growing up in Thalassery, he was influenced by the folk tunes.
Born in 1914, he brushed with football in Mumbai and efforts for entering into films
in Chennai before joining All India Radio. The life would have spent with a radio
job, but his life turned when, in 1950, he joined All India Radio at Kozhikiode which had a circle of cultural people at
that time. P. Bhaskaran was his colleague, who was trying his best in creating films.
It was the pathbreaking film ‘Neelakkuyil’, directed by P. Bhaskaran and Ramu Karyat
in 1954 that gave K. Raghavan a great place in the history of the Malayalam music.
All the songs were hits and it rode over the trend of copying the tunes from Hindi
songs. It had different types of songs - the sad ‘Engane nee marakkum’, the mappila
song ‘kayalarikathu’ sung by himself, the classical devotional song ‘unarunaroo
unnikanna’ and other rural-style songs. Raghavan’s wide range of abilities was evident
But he never had a smooth ride. Due to his employed status, he sometimes used the
name ‘Raghunath’. He could not repeat the success of ‘Neelakkuyil’ in the coming
years. His career has some resemblance to that of Dakshinamoorthy. The comedy song
‘kathu sookshichoru’ and the sad song ‘annu ninne’ were there. But then the new
composers Baburaj and Devarajan were setting a new style. Raghavan reemerged only
in 1963 when he created the wonderful song ‘unarunaroo unnikkatte’ in film ‘Ammaye
kanan’, sung by Janaki. Janaki’s voice reverberates in the air when it goes up to
the sky singing the first line. The joyful mood is fully expressed by her voice.
In the same film, Janaki sang the nice and happy song ‘konnappove’ in a very sweet
voice. In the film ‘Rebecca’ with Vayalar, Janaki sang ‘kothikkalle kothikkale’
in very giggling sweet voice. But all these stylish songs were far ahead of the
time. Raghavan was still not making songs in the ‘traditional’ style. ‘Pathivayi
pornami thorum’ can be said to conform to this norm. But he had to go through a
low patch again.
Like other composers, 1967 onwards was a good time for Raghavan also, though he
was well into his fifties. He got the
chance to tune the famous poem ‘Ramanan’ of Changampuzha when it was made a film.
He used the old style and the old singers and created nostalgia. ‘Kananachayayil’
and ‘vellinakshathrame’ became hit songs. He
also composed the song ‘manjanippoonilavil’
sung by Janaki, which is really a fully traditional-style song. In the next year,
he composed for the film ‘Kodungallooramma’. It had the devotional song ‘kodungallooramme’
sung by R. Balamuralikrishna, the extra soft and sweet ‘manjubhashini’ sung by Yesudas
and the soft and sad ‘bhadradeepam’ by Janaki. He didn’t forget his own style and
created the evergreen rural song ‘kunnathoru kavundu’ in the film ‘Asuravithu’.
In the next year, he composed the nice traditional style ‘karimukilkattile’ sung
by Jayachandran and ‘manathe kayalil’ sung by Brahmanandan.
He was not prolific. But from 1970, he made at least one good song every year. ‘Thurakkatha
vathil’ directed by P. Bhaskaran was a musical hit. ‘Nalikerathinte nattil’ represented
the emotions of the Non-resident Keralites and its importance grew in the later
years. ‘Manasinullil’ sung by Janaki represented the feelings of the women at home
thinking about the men working in other lands. Another Yesudas song ‘parvanenduvin’
was a sad song. The mysterious ‘attinakkareyakkare’, the sad ‘ekanthapathikan’,
the loud ‘sandhymekham’ etc. followed. He used rural tunes in the songs ‘sreemahadevan’
and ‘thinthinam tharo’ in MT’s film ‘Nirmalyam’. The sad song ‘kannerattile thoni’
by Brahmanandan followed.
But there was definitely a lull in the mid 70s. It was broken in 1977 when the
director Kunchako felt that Raghavan was the best to compose for his vadakkan pattu blockbuster
‘Kannappanunni’. He created a celebration mood by adding Dakshinamoorthy style grandeur,
Devarajan-style flow and Salil-style orchestration to his sound base in folk music
- ‘allimalarkkavile’, ‘ayiram phanamezhum’, ‘ithiri mulla’, ‘manathe mazhamukil’,
‘neervanjikal’ and ‘ponninkattayanennalum’. It was followed by ‘kshethramethennariyatha’
and the highly successful ‘Syamasundarapushpame’.
Next year, he got another vadakkan pattu blockbuster ‘Thacholi Ambu’ directed by
Appachan. It was the first Malayalam cinemascope. Raghavan repeated his success
– ‘anuragakalariyil’, ‘nanamkunungikale’, ‘nadapuram palliyile’ and ‘makaramasapournamiyil’.
The sad ‘kootiladacha pakshi’, the folk ‘varutha pachari’ and the enchanting mappila
song ‘perutha monchulloruthi’ were followed by another lull.
He came back to form in 1982 with the song about Mother Nature, ‘amme prakrithi’
in ‘Kattile pattu’, which created a ferocious atmosphere. The soft songs ‘ee neelayamini’
and ‘neelamalapoonkuyile’ followed.
In 1983, he created a sensation with the folk group song ‘appozhum paranjille poranda
porandannu’. The humorous song became a superhit. It was sung by Raghavan himself
and the song represented his style, firmly rooted on the native tunes.
In 1984, he composed for the ‘yakshi’ film ‘Sreekrishnapparunthu’, a Mohanlal-starrer.
The sensual songs of the seductive spirit ‘mothirakkaiviralukalal’ by Janaki and
‘nilavinte poonkattil’ by Lathika were instant hits.
He may not have a big number of good songs, but it is a historical fact that Raghavan
created superhit songs in 1954 and 1984 alike!
‘Swapnamalinitheerathundoru’ in ‘Devadas’ in the year 1989 became a surprise hit
and it is his last accepted song.
Interestingly, he is best remembered for the songs that he sang himself and all
those songs were sung by him releuctantly after being forced to sing by the producers.
He stood aloof. He concentrated on his power – the folk music. In Malayalam where
the modern colours were absent, he made it colourful with his native tunes.