Nostalgic Tamil Song 101: Mesmerising Nallavarkkellam by Ilaiyaraaja 1978

T.M. Soundararajan TMS Tamil Song Stamp MSV

If you look at the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s Tamil movie scenes, T. M. Soundararajan (TMS) was the top male singer, singing a reported 10,138 songs from 3,162 films and over 11 different languages. Image source: Wikipedia

However, when Maestro Ilayaraaja came into the limelight, TMS was not keen to sing for him. Apparently, he did not think highly of this “new” music director. If not mistaken, he only sang about 7 songs for the maestro so it is rather rare to find TMS singing for Ilaiyaraaja’s composition.

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One of the rarest occasions where TMS did sing for Ilaiyaraaja was for the 1978 Tamil movie, Thyagam (meaning Sacrifice) where he sang 4 songs, all of which are classic blockbusters. The movie starring Sivaji Ganesan actually has a good but nothing new storyline with a good ending.

The key highlights are of course Ilaiyaraaja’s background music and songs. In particular, in this song, Nallavarkkellam which the hero of the movie, sings on a boat as it makes the journey from one side of the river to another with his ex-lover is riding the same boat.

The lyrics for this song is written by the Tamil poet Kannadasan and it explains well the situation that the hero is in where he is falsely charged with crimes that he did not do and that ended his relationship with his lover.

“Every good person just needs 2 types of witnesses – one is your self-conscience as a witness and another is God as the witness”

“If you see an ordinary stone with strong faith and belief, you will see the vision of God. It is all in your heart”

“If the water in the river dries out, did the river committed any fault? No, you cannot blame it except that it is fated”

“Oh birds in the sky, please speak out and act as messengers between 2 hearts when humans are in a confused state”

“God is the only one who does not any evil intentions so I can only rely on Him and no other for support”

“I am just an ordinary human who is bound to make mistakes when I am confused & down so please give a chance to me to repent”

The opening of the songs reminds you of the beautiful evening sunset and as one makes a slow walk looking at the sun. To be fair, TMS put the effort to put the right feelings to this song. The orchestration for this song is simple with a drum in the background. Ilaiyaraaja however instead used the tone of the song to drive the message – with high pitches at the right moments.

It is just too bad that TMS did not continue to sing under Ilaiyaraaja especially in the 1970s and early 1980s which would have given us more Tamil gems songs to savour.

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