The Legendary Lyricist

The Legendary Lyricist

Recently, I was watching a famous song on television when my mother commented, “No song of today can outperform the songs of my time”. I was immediately on the defensive, defending the songs of today and how fantabulous today’s notes are. However, reflecting back at her statement, I could not help but agree with her on certain facets. Although the scores today are smashing, we need to admit the fact that today’s music has good tunes but lacks the substantive lyrics. If we pay good attention, we would be able to observe that song lyrics of today are barely decipherable and it is the music itself which attracts us and not the lyrics.

Why should we speak about lyrics when talking about music? It is because, to produce proficient music, the singer, the music director and the lyricist play an equal part. One may argue that music has no language barriers and thus lyrics are subaltern when compared to the notes themselves. I would like to differ stating that good lyrics form the soul of the song while the notes form the heart. Thus stating, let me talk about one of the exceptional lyricist of the 20th century.

“Kaviarasu” Kannadasan (1927-1981) was a great Tamil poet, novelist and lyricist of the 20th century. He was born as A.L.Muthiah and he grew up as an atheist. Even as a child he had a deep interest in Tamil poems and novels. During his reading expedition, he came across “Thirupavai” written by Andal and was beguiled by it. It was then that he decided to follow Hinduism and became a staunch devotee of Lord Krishna and started calling himself as Kannadasan meaning “the servant of Lord Krishna”. He wrote a series of books on the Hindu religion called “Arthamulla Hindu Matham” which is one of his best works consisting of ten volumes. Since he was a Tamil poet, he did not have his name spread throughout the country. But undeterred by this fact, he wrote more than 200 books apart from nearly 6000 poems and 5000 lyrics. He also worked briefly for Thiraioli and Thirumagal magazines.


Apart from writing novels and poems, he was also a major contributor to the film industry. His songwriting was coveted by many. Although his style of writing seemed very simple and straight-forward, he was renowned for his philosophical style of writing. Quoting a few of his lines,

“Ninaipathellam nadandhu vittal deivam edhum illai. Nadandhadhaye ninathirunthal amaidi entrum illai…”


“If all our expectations come true, we are likely to forget God. If we keep thinking about the past, we are likely to forget peace…”

This is a just a diminutive glimpse into the philosophical verses of Kannadasan. He had a knack of portraying his thoughts through his words in a manner which almost seemed similar to pictorial representations.

Kannadasan was the proud recipient of numerous awards including the National Film Award for Best Lyricistin 1969 and the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1980. Kannadasan had a fecund imagination and he conveyed emotional nuances through his writings, his poems and his lyrics. His songs have survived through the ages and even now, they are incommensurable. His contribution to Tamil Literature was unparalleled and one of its kind. Having only an eighth standard education, Kannadasan had transcended heights which even many literature graduates find unmanageable. Thus it goes to show that real talent cannot be deterred by any kind of barriers in its way. Kannadasan is a treasure not only for Tamil literature but for the country as a whole.

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