The best voice for Superstar?
Prabhu Deva  

Sometimes, in the excitement of novelty we tend to forget the reliable elements that have been with us for a long time. There is always a tendency to celebrate what is new and blissfully ignore the good old things. While the change towards new and fresh is quite a natural process, it does not always serve well to overlook the goodness of what we have had for a long time. In cinema especially, success and stardom are overnight acquisitions, while oblivion is just around the corner for anyone whose fortunes are not great at a given point of time.

Who is Superstar’s voice? The question might not be clear. It means, who is the best person to lend his voice to the Superstar on screen. Many have sung for Superstar, but only few of them have managed to match the fans’ imagination of how Superstar would sound like if he sings. Many would be already thinking of SPB and how well he has sung for Superstar over the years. Yes, SPB has been an almost inseparable element of Superstar movies for well over a decade now. His voice has matched Superstar so

well that it has become hard to imagine anyone else singing the intro song. Many even say that an SPB rendered intro song is a must for the success of a Superstar movie, a sentiment that was ingrained after the rather lackluster performance of Baba and Kuselan, both of which did not have SPB doing the intro song. But, are we forgetting someone? Not just Superstar songs, try naming all singers that you know. Most would list Hariharan, Unnikrishnan, Shankar Mahadevan, Jesudas and many other leading voices, but almost everyone ends up missing one prominent name- Malaysia Vasudevan.

For the younger generation, this might not be a familiar name. But there cannot be any lack of familiarity with songs like ‘Podhuvaga En Manassu’ from Murattukalai, 'Naan Pokkirikku' from Pokkiri Raja, 'Aagaya Gangai' from Dharmayutham, 'Manidhan Manidhan' from Manidhan or ‘Aasai Nooru Vagai’ from Adutha Vaarisu. While these songs are immensely liked even today, the voice behind them is forgotten. It is sad that Malaysia Vasudevan, the singer, got lost sometime during the last decade of the 20th century. Why, we don’t know, but we are sure that he was still as good a singer as ever when he last sang in Tamil cinema.

It is easy to say things in hindsight, but we don’t know the circumstances under which Malaysia Vasudevan ceased to be a regular playback singer for Tamil cinema. He might even have decided to sign off while he was still doing well, many people like to leave when they are on a high, not waiting for time to catch up. But, one thing that can be said for sure is that Tamil cinema music could definitely do with a voice as clear and deep as that of Malaysia Vasudevan. I am not attempting a comparison here, many may swear by the SPB-Rajini combination. But the Malaysia Vasudevan-Rajini combination never lacked in vigor or energy. Talking too much about Malaysia Vasudevan’s Rajini hits might amount to doing injustice to the singer as there is the chance of him being perceived as one dimensional by those who don’t know much about him. So, it is necessary that some of his other evergreen hits too be looked at. ‘Vettiveru vasam’ from Mudhal Mariyadai, ‘Katta vandi katta vandi’ from Sakalakalavallavan, 'Vaan Megangalae' from puthiya varpugal, 'Indha Minminikku' from sigappu rojakkal, ‘Aayiram Malargalae’ from Niram Maradha Pookal are some of his non-Superstar superhits.

When we talk about singers, we associate their voices with them, their most characteristic tone. Jesudas’s voice has to be among the sweetest that God made, Hariharan’s is one of the most soothing, Shankar Mahadevan’s is infectiously enthusiastic, SPB’s is open and charismatic, so on and so forth. If one is familiar with Malaysia Vasudevan, then one would associate energy and adrenaline with his voice, though he had other facets too.

Talking about the other facets of Malaysia Vasudevan, let’s come to another question. Who are the singers of Tamil cinema who have also been successful actors? Again, most of the younger generation would say SPB for his many memorable roles in Tamil cinema. While that is not wrong, it is also not complete. Malaysia Vasudevan has sometimes been known more as an actor than as a singer; so much so that there are times when he was regarded as an actor first by the audience. His roles in Oru Kaidhiyin Dairy, Mudhal Vasantham and Thiruda Thiruda are evidence of his acting prowess.

Finally, what has to be said in conclusion? This is not a tribute to an artiste living in retirement. In fact, I wouldn’t like to think of Malaysia Vasudevan as a singer who has done his job and paved the way for the new generation. Many of his contemporaries are still active in the field of music and being a great fan of his I believe that he has at least one last hurrah left in him. While I am not in any measure averse to young singers and new age music, there is an undeniable charm in the deep resounding voice of Malaysia Vasudevan that cannot be replicated.

(By Sudhakar, with inputs from Arun Gopinath.)

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