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By Arun Gopinath
When Kamal Haasan turned 57 on November 7, it was time to write another tribute. So, what was there left to write that had not been written about him in more than 50 years of cinema glory. Really, it is tough to find adjectives that have not been already used. The acting, directing and scripting genius of Kamal Haasan is common knowledge to every average Tamil cinema follower. No use going down the same road again, one thought! Is there anything about Kamal that has not gone under the radar? His singing perhaps! Yes, everyone knows that he is a wonderful singer with many superhit songs under his belt. But, the
appreciation for his vocal skills has always been a bit forgotten because of his other magnificent deeds. So, after he has turned 57, we look at the best that Kamal Haasan has delivered as singer. Take a look. And, there is still the lyricist in him that has gone underappreciated. Perhaps that is for another day!

Sigappu Rojakkal – Ninaivo Oru Paravai (1978)

This song is still consistently played out on music channels that is more than 30 years after it released. That is not a great feat; there are many other songs from the 1970s and 80s that are still favourites with people. But, the longevity of this song’s popularity is proof of the fact that songs sung by Kamal Haasan don’t become hits just because of the curiosity factor of an actor singing them; they have genuine quality to resonate over decades as evergreen melodies.

Nayakan – Thenpaandi Cheemayile (1987)

One of the most emotionally heavy songs in the history of Tamil cinema; also one of the best remembered and most recalled songs ever! Can you count the number of times this song or recreated versions of it have been used in various points in other films? That sums up the sheer impact of this song which underlines the unequalled genius of two wizards, Ilayaraja and Kamal Haasan. Anyone who has heard this song cannot miss the magnetic quality of Kamal’s voice. It is almost like an emotional vortex which will suck you in. No wonder then that it is an indelible mark on the mind of anyone who follows Tamil cinema.

Apoorva Sahodarargal – Raja Kaiya Vacha (1989)

Well, for all those who thought that Kamal Haasan was all about melody and emotions, here is this, a dance number that has lived for two decades. Even now, try turning on this song at a party or event and you are sure to get an enthusiastic response. Kamal’s voice leaves the terrain of the sweet and melodious and enters the infectious mode. You really can’t help tapping you feet to this one.

Michael Madana Kama Rajan – Sundari Neeyum (1991)

Two decades after it first sounded in cinema halls, this song still remains one of the choicest romantic numbers; it is safe to call it an evergreen romantic melody. It is a song that highlighted two facets; that Kamal Haasan’s voice can be infinitely sweet and his versatility with languages. The song has a heavy Malayalam flavour to it and Kamal gets the perfect dialect. And, also remember the fact that singing along with him in this song was none other than S. Janaki. But, listening to it, you never felt that a non-professional singer was trying to match up to a singing legend. Those were the days of fairly lesser technological aids in recording. That Kamal managed to hold his own alongside Janaki is proof of the fact that music comes naturally to him.

Devar Magan – Inji Iduppazhagi (1992)

This is one of the most distinctive romantic songs ever in Tamil cinema. Again, the genius of Ilayaraja comes to the fore as he builds a song that relies on nothing but the voices of two singers and a couple of instruments at the most. Only an accomplished singer can carry off such a composition with such élan that Kamal Haasan did. The rustic feel and simplicity of this song is simply amazing.

Avvai Shanmugi – Rukku Rukku (1996)

This one is an example of Kamal’s wizardry with his voice, singing like a woman past middle age. That Kamal gave his voice to Shanmugi is known to all, but we are so used to such feats of genius from this man that we sometimes fail to appreciate certain things which would have elicited huge gasps of wonder had they come from someone else. The best thing about this song is that Kamal has struck the right balance! Producing a middle aged woman’s voice can be reduced to a funny, almost farcical exercise, if it is not done by someone who has amazing control over his voice. Listen to the song once again to relive the magic.

Hey Ram – Ram Ram (2000)

You have to listen to this song exclusively for the opening rendition of the lines ‘Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram’. These lines have been used umpteen number of times in various media, but they have all been mellow and calm renditions. Here, Kamal gives it a new dimension, bringing the turbulence of the protagonist’s mind into the equation. The high pitch that he hits has to be heard to be believed. Of course, the rest of the song too is as powerful. And, you also hear the voice of Shruthi Haasan!

Aala Vandhaan – Kadavul Padhi (2001)

This song has Kamal’s voice at its menacing best! If ever there was a song that summed up all the qualities and anxieties of a lead antagonist, it is this one. This one song in Kamal’s voice is aural portrait of Nandhakumar. The genius is evident in the way he stresses on the syllables that underline the character being described. The other song which comes to mind that effectively portrays an antagonist’s character is Arima Arima from Endhiran.

Anbe Sivam – Yaar Yaar Sivam (2003)

You cannot help but be influenced by this song. The depth, both in the meaning of the lines and in Kamal’s voice, will grip you tight. You wonder whether a ‘part time’ singer, who picks and chooses the songs that he wants to sing, can so effortlessly handle such high pitched compositions. And, with Kamal, there is something special; his voice always draws attention to the lyrics. Think for yourself and you will find that the lyrics of songs rendered by Kamal are much easier to recall than any other singers’. Is it a mystical quality of Kamal Haasan or is it that he chooses only those songs whose lyrics deserve that special mention?

Virumaandi – Unna Vida (2004)

This one kind of reminds one of Inji Idduppazhagi from Devar Magan. The feel is the same, rustic and simple, the tune is not complicated or fast, neither does it have too many ups and downs. It is almost like a conversation between two lovers. The clinching aspect of this one is certainly the feel that is achieved by the two singers. It is slow, lazy, relaxed and romantic at the same time.

Vasool Raja – Kalakka Povadhu Yaaru (2004)

This is one song that Kamal fans can never forget, an absolute celebration of everything that makes him the phenomenon that he is. The lyrics are a perfect reflection of everything that Kamal embodies; the way he swims against the tide, the way he avoids tried and tested methods of success. And the rendition by Kamal was the icing on the cake. An open and gregarious voice taking all the listeners on a thoroughly enjoyable ride! This definitely ranks right up there as one of the favourites amongst Kamal Haasan’s renditions.

Pudhupettai – Neruppu Vaayinil (2006)

This is remembered because of its rare nature, Kamal Haasan singing in a film that does not feature himself. That itself proves that the industry considers him good enough to be a singer in his own right. This song is perhaps one of the strongest renditions by Kamal, bringing out the fears and concerns of a thug’s mind in a way that does not betray his fear. Many are unfamiliar with this song and the fact that Kamal has sung it, but it definitely is a must for all those who love to listen to Kamal sing.

Dasavatharam – Mukunda Mukunda (2008)

Yes, this song does belong to Sadhana Sargam, but Kamal stole the thunder with an unbelievable two lines right at the end, lending his voice to Krishnaveni Paatti. The hoarse cracking voice of a woman who had seen at least 80 years was brought about by Kamal with a degree of perfection that would have put professional mimicry artistes to shame. The excellence lies in the fact that it never felt like mimicry. One never believed that the voice belonged to Kamal Haasan until seeing it in the official credits. And, of course, he dubbed for the character of Krishnaveni Paatti in the movie. In times when it is hard to find heroines who dub for themselves, Kamal Haasan underlines his greatness with such small statements.

Unnaipol Oruvan – Allah Jaane (2009)

You must listen to the opening moments of this song to understand the versatility of Kamal Haasan, the singer. There are very few playback singers in India who can render the ‘Allah’ chant with so much authenticity. We have heard Rahman do it with utmost devotion and perfection in songs like ‘Khwaja ji’ and ‘Maula mere maula’. Here Kamal delivers something that would have troubled even very experienced singers.

Manmadhan Ambu – Neela Vaanam (2010)

The song puts you in a thrall! There are very few voices which can be strong, soft and sweet at the same time, you realize that Kamal’s voice belongs in that rarefied category after listening to this one. The amazing ability of Kamal Haasan to emote through his vocal chords is seen at its best here. Anyone unfamiliar with Tamil cinema will not believe that this song has been sung by a person who doesn’t like to call himself a professional singer. The song in fact had such an effect that it prompted a popular awards ceremony to include a special awards category: ‘Best Actor as Singer’, simply because the perfection with which this song had been rendered could not be overlooked.
Tags : Kamal, Unnaipol Oruvan, Manmadhan Ambu, Dasavatharam
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