Devarajan Master’s Demise and Our Crisis

15 03 2006
Devarajan Master is no more ……

A legend has passed away, leaving behind melodies and classics which still reverbrates in the heart of every malayalee. How can those ever green film songs composed by this maestro, fade away? Devarajan, Baburaj and Dakshinamurthy truly represents the divine trio of malayalam music. Very much like what Thyagarajan, Muthuswami Dekshithar and Shyama Shasthri represents for Karnatic music. An athiest who composed the most touching religious songs like ‘ Guruvayoor ambalanadayil oru divasam..’, ‘Nithya vishudhayam kanya mariyame …’.;the ‘gandharvan’ – celestial lover – who meserised generations with his tunes and the maverick who defined new levels of meanings for the writen words through his compositions. Rebellion, love, pain, piety, everything; every emotion flowed out so uniquely though his works. And when his voice and tunes become yet another page in our memory, he vanquishes death with his art. In deed, a true artist will never die.

It remains a wonder as how a person could cling malayaalee to the radio set (and later T.V.) from the beautiful songs in the black and white era to the uncomparable melodies like ‘arikil neeyundaayirunnenkilennu njyan ..’ in the medival era. The rebellious drama songs he composed for K.P.A.C still remains unparallel. The classical touch without ever compromising on melody aspect, is too remarkable for any composer. I still get stuck to the A.I.R when I hear the announcement about a song with ‘sangeetham, Devarajan’. The old gramphone records and noon time ‘chalachitra ganangal’ will ever go blessed by his tunes. Even in this age of ‘zig-zag’ F.M. radio stations, no malayalee will ever find a replacement for the enchanting voices of Yesudas, Jayachandran, M. G. Sreekumar, P. Susheela, S. janaki, P. Leela, Shanta P. Nair, reciting the divine notes of this emperor in the kingdom of music.

I always wondered how music actually communicates more than the poetry in its words. And still that wonder has never ceased. But when I listen to the brilliant works of the likes of Devarajan, it metamorphasises into a deep reverence for the skill of the composer. Whatever words I write goes dumb when even lesser elegant words becomes magical by the touch of a maestro like him. And what if even the words too comes from the pen of poets like Vayalar, O. N. V., P. Bhaskaran etc. It becomes a metephor, just like the usage of gold with fragrance.

Modern generation has moved far too away from creating an identity for themselves by and large. This cannot be blamed as a cultural invasion per say. Such cliched usages only depict our incompetancy. Real talent is in creating a space for one through unchartered waters; through unexplored ways and making it conversant with common people’s emotions. Our old maestroes did that quite remarkably. Beatles were great and so was Elvis Presly, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix etc. They brought rock and roll, folk or blues to a new level. Rolling Stones, Metalica, Radio Head etc all had their unique signature in compositions. But come back to our contemperory Indian music. How far has it retained an identity apart from the traditional or imitation-gold-of-western-styles? More when it comes to regional languages. Truly, standing in this transition era, our greatest crisis in every field is our identity crisis. We are too reluctant to search for our identity too. How many classics exist in our music, our films, our theatres or even literature to a large extend contributed by this present generation? And still we take a hollow pride in a ‘Lagaan’ or ‘Devdas’ which by any measure has no comparison with ‘Pather Panjali’ or ‘Elipathaayam’ . We boast about the literary works of a few hyped up pop works like ‘God of small things’ (strictly in the literary context alone) while ‘Khasaakinte Ithihaasam’ remains an ‘ithihaasam’ – a legend – eventhough often not praised to the same level. We boast about Indian rock bands with appreciation from outside while none has created anything which could be deemed as a master piece. The greatest thing we still boast is about our economy, which floats openly on the soap bubble of a current trend……… One hundred more things to say, still understanding the life and works of a maestro serves as the best lesson for a retrospective.

I am a malayaale at heart in every sense of cultural identity and would ever like to be. This is not as a ‘conservative regime’ thought stream. But as a liking for ‘white mundu’, tender coconut, traditional food, literature, music, river, rain and the ever present green serene beauty. For the passion towards democrazy, egalitarian ideals, political thought and importantly to be a moderate in views to all possible extend of convictions. This very identity makes me feel the lose of one of our greatest composers as unreplaceable. Perhaps nothing is irreplacable, but that doesn’t console.

In here, Banglore, as once Arun rightly described as the paradise of Ayn Randists, what makes me puzzled is the earnestness among Kerlalites to despice and often abhor the very circumstances which made them what they are…….Perhaps we may not be able to expect O. V. Vijayans, who while being one among the greatest critic of communism and CPI(M) in Kerala wrote the most memorable and touching obitury to Com. E. M. S., any more – “Tuchamaaya tharkangal Keralam marakkum. Onnumatram njyan ariyunnu, angillaayirunnenkil njyangellavarum ennathe niyalil ninnum ethrayoo cheriya manushyaraayi theernneene. Saghave Lal Salam. – Published in Malayalam weekly” – Kerala will forget our trivial debates. But I know one thing for sure, had you not been there we would have been far lesser mortals. Red Salute comrade.

I remember even my mother – a supporter of Congress(I) – chanting these words while his funeral march was being telecast in 1998- “He was simply great. There is one and only E M Sankaran- the first chief minister of kerala.” When I consider that she (and me too) belongs to a family from which excess land was taken by the Land reforms act, I find this remark as a great reminiscence about the towering figure, who redefined history and by that process walked ahead of time earning respect of all people cutting accross ideologies. But do we, the present generation, cherish any reminiscenes? Did we address the question, how we became us? Forgetting past is easy, but when you do that, what we create is a future we owe to no one. And therefore, a future in which even our children and grant children finds it easy to forget. History can be a chain but for that realisation we need to feel and understand it. This exactly is the idea that bothers me, when a Devarajan’s death is just another demise for the Malayalees here – the people who takes pride in proclaiming themselves to be ‘fraud mallus’ for whom eating hamburgers, (even if dosa is available and tastes better), inserting three M.T.V slangs in every sentence(even when a better off or even elegant English is not unknown) and swearing by Nirvana or Ramstein sounds fashionable (even when at heart, no music could touch them deeper than the melodies of mother’s lullaby)- it is our identity crisis that gets exposed. The cliche of a ‘fraud mallu’, I wrote may not be applicable to all including rock lovers and burger eaters. But still a wide majority.

My concluding words is from a beautiful song composed by Devarajan master.-

Ee manoohara theerathu tharumoo,
Eniyoru janman koodi,
Enikkiniyoru janman koodi ….. And if, you are reborn let it be as the creater of more divine melodies for the generations to come ….. Lal Salam.

PS:- Does any one have more information to update this wiki entry about Devarajan Master – -?




12 responses

16 03 2006

Great post.Fitting tribute.I suggest you make a Wiki entry pointing to this link.I really dont expect to see a better description about Devarajan Master in the net.

God bless.

17 03 2006

Why don’t you update the wikipedia entry with whatever knowledge you have? And make more people aware..

Also, I dont think it’s a good idea to post a link to a blog entry in Wikipedia. It’s best to create a static page and link it from Wikipedia.

27 04 2006

Lovely, lovely post. I’ll comment on just one aspect.

>> An athiest who composed the most touching religious songs like ‘ Guruvayoor ambalanadayil oru divasam..’, ‘Nithya vishudhayam kanya mariyame

Vayalar was also an athiest. There are many more songs by this pair – Chethi mandaram thulasi, Kanikanum neram, Ezhara ponnana purathezhunnallum Ettumanoorappa, Saranamayyappa swami saranamayyappa, Sabarimalayil thanka sooryodayam, Devi Kanyakumari, Jerusalemile swargadootha (and ‘Gurudeva, gurudeva’, if it may be included here) etc – which remain the standard works in the field; the quality of lyrics and the piety that they can generate have not been equalled by another pair before or since. It was Devarajan’s luck that he had a Vayalar, and it was Vayalar’s luck that he had Devarajan.

But ours is a culture where art and literature transcends relegion and caste (despite strenuous efforts by many to change that) where we have a Yusufali Kecheri who wrote ‘Rama, janaki jaane’ and where Poovachal Khadar and A.T. Ummar combined to produce ‘Kanninu kannaya kanna’.

29 01 2007
Abraham M Joy

Devarajan Master is one who diverted the malayalam film music to a diffrent level by his adequate works and skillfull approch.The songs which he composed are the best till today and it will be the best for ever.

12 05 2007
jose thomas

i choose to believe that it was vayalars poetry that MADE those songs…the compositions and the music may have added glory to them…rem the fiasco when yesudas’ son tried to appropriate those songs…what fools some mortals be…can one separate the singer and the song…maybe not..but if at all any of the three can claim the songs as exclusiveley as his..only VAYALAR can.

3 01 2008
Suresh C.G

A very well written eulogy to the great maestro. You have a very sensitive style and a big heart in the right place. To hear someone echo my own thoughts about the loss of identity of the “modern” malayalee (or should I join the club and say “mallu”) was a great feeling.

Ennum nanmagal, sakhave!

14 10 2009

Its very nice article about Devarajan Master. We are making a website for Paravur. can we include this article in that?

2 05 2010

Sure you may include the write up.

4 05 2010
Kishore A

Great article. Devarajan Master is a legend. Not only are his melodies ever green but he influenced another generation of music directors as well.

Regarding the identity crisis, I couldn’t agree more. A lot has changed in the last ten-fifteen years or so. Perhaps it’s influenced by the homogenization brought about by globalization. Anyway, I’m someone who always wishes that I was born at least 20 years earlier. Not because of any romantic old-is-gold prejudice, but I feel that life back then was somehow more genuine, if I may use the word.

Now that we have moved away from our cultural identity, there is a huge emptiness which we know not how to overcome, and desperately fill it with poor imitations of other cultures.

4 05 2010

Much more than globalization, I think that the life for an average middle class person has become much more set and stable that it is much more easy to confine oneself to mundane things. It is true that innovations and original things are more prevalent during ‘difficult’ times when people reject old and chart out new paths. I was not placing a question ‘where are the giants’; rather my point was that in this transition era most talented people are all interested in going with trends than creating a niche of their own. That, I believe, is an identity crisis.

No idea need be rejected because they are ‘western’ or ‘eastern’. Yet, accepting an idea for the same reason is again irrational. That is the problem with ‘trends’. Cultures grow and develop due to contribution of ideas to society by its individuals. At present we are in a stagnatition, if not deterioration.

4 05 2010
Kishore A


All throughout history we can see that it’s mostly during times of crises that people come out of their shells and create something new.

Do you think conformity to trends is an inevitable result of a perceived stability in which a majority of the people, say the middle class, can afford to be complacent?

5 05 2010

No Kishore, I do not. That was just a general observation and nothing beyond. In fact I believe, whether or not circumstances are condusive, people who dared to think beyond were/are the real pioneers.

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