This fifteenth of June,we will be celebrating the 71st birthday of the late Malaysia Vasudevan. I had always wanted to do a post on him. I was just waiting for the right excuse. No better than his birthday. You can read all about him in this wikipedia entry but I am not hear to talk about his life. I am here to talk about his music. The special voice that formed the backbone of many a Tamil hit.
Malaysia Vasudevan started his career as a stage singer at the age of eight in Malaysia. Soon, he found himself in Chennai as an actor in a tamil play. Soon he joined the Pavalar Brothers troupe, run by Ilaiyaraaja and Gangai Amaran. Vasudevan’s first big movie appearance came in the debut film of his close friend, Ilaiyaraja’s “Annai Kili” but his first big hit came soon after when he sang the song “Aattu Kutti Muttai Ittu” for Kamal Hassan under the music direction of Ilaiyaraaja for “Padhinaru Vayadhinile” Over the next 34 years, until his untimely death, Malaysia Vasudevan sang over 8000 songs, many for Ilaiyaraaja and quite a few for other music directors.
In this post, I will highlight some of my personal favorites of Vasudevan. As always, this list is incredibly subjective. Feel free to leave comments with your favorites that didn’t make this list. This list is in no particular order.
Every Malaysia Vasudevan playlist needs to start with this timeless classic from Murattu Kaalai. The first movie to portray the larger-than-life image of Rajinikanth, this song and everything about it is mounted large. The song is as rustic as it gets and much of the credit will go to the Ilaiyaraaja-Malaysia Vasudevan combo that totally rocks this piece.
This movie has some excellent music overall. Be it the sensual “Edho Moham” or the zany “Anne Anne”, Ilaiyaraaja has composed some interesting pieces for the movie. To me though, the standout is this Malaysia Vasudevan piece featuring Prabhu and a young Silk Smitha. Great, great song.
Another Ilaiyaraaja composition that showcases the best of Vasudevan. The instrumentation at the start of the piece and throughout the song offers the right foil for the singers, Malaysia Vasudevan and S.Janaki to let it go. Watch Vasudevan pick up with “Kadhal Nenjil…”It helps to have Rajini and a young Sridevi on screen too.
If you wanted a feel for the attitude Malaysia Vasudevan could bring to a song, look no further than this piece from “Punnagai Mannan.” Ilaiyaraaja concocts a whimsical composition that befits the Kamalhassan character on screen and Vasudevan completes the picture by delivering the song beautifully.
Possibly the one really slow song in this list, it had to be featured because of how big it was during its time. A movie that boasted a stellar everything, Ilaiyaraaja, Malaysia Vasudevan and S.Janaki weave magic set to the words of Vairamuthu. Spend some time listening to the words and you can feel the depth and much of the credit goes to the simple tune and the clean delivery of the singers.
The same movie features another classic Malaysia Vasudevan-Janaki piece in “Vetti veru vaasam”
Another popular song from the 80s that got a lot of radio time was this gaana-precursor composed by Ilaiyaraaja and sung to perfection by Malaysia Vasudevan. The song starts off completely differently and I have set the link to play from where the “En soga kadhaya” portion starts.
A rare non-Raaja song in this list, but nevertheless a nice showcase for Malaysia Vasudevan’s grasp of the medium and how the song played out in the screen. A rustic tune from Deva and featuring a much-in-love Napolean and Khushboo, see how Vasudevan makes you feel what is happening on screen – the playful sensuality and romance.
8. Ramarajan hits
I wanted to bundle two Ramarajan songs in this list. They are not spectacular but still a good couple of songs to demonstrate Malaysia Vasudevan’s range. The first is “Ooru vittu ooru vandhu” from the massive hit “Karakattakaran.” The second song is a much more romantic number from Ramarajan-Revathi starrer, Gramathu Minnal- “Nee pogum padhayil”
Another Malaysia piece for Rajini (of which there are very many), this song is an evergreen classic for Malaysia’s rendition and Ilaiyaraaja’s instrumentation.
Ilaiyaraja had immense faith in Malaysia Vasudevan to deliver complex songs with character. Look no further than this song for “Kalyana Raman” where simpleton Kamal Hassan is wooing Sridevi. In less than 5 minutes, Vasudevan and Ilaiyaraaja weave a complex tapestry that conveys a lot.
A fantastic movie set in Coimbatore and shot on location, 100 feet from where I used to live, this song is really a solid P.Susheela song but the reason to include it here is to showcase Malaysia Vasudevan’s classical leanings. Look for him to chime in past the mid point of this song. If you have not yet seen this movie, check it out. Rajinikanth kills it.
Another fantastic comedy that features an utterly brilliant Bhagyaraj, this song demonstrates Malaysia Vasudevan’s comic timing when it came to song delivery. Another song that deserves to be seen and heard. And yes, see this movie if you have not. As the teacher says, “Ek gaon mein ek kisan raghuthatha”
Malaysia Vasudevan had three key genres where he excelled- rustic, playful and sensual. This song showcases the sensual side of the singer. Composed by Ilaiyaraaja for the evergreen romantic in Kamalhassan, Malaysia Vasudevan and Janaki are key cogs in the wheel to make sure the experience is complete.
What a wonderful song that showcases the playful banter not just between the stars on screen, Rajini and Sathyaraj but also the singers behind the screen, SPB and Malaysia Vasudevan. In an interesting play, Ilaiyaraaja entrusts the job of doing vocals for Rajini to SPB instead of Malaysia Vasudevan and Sathyaraj gets to counter punch with the vocals of Malaysia Vasudevan. I could write a lot about how awesome this song is,. Instead, just check it out. One of those songs that feels complete with the visuals.
It can be argued that Malaysia Vasudevan was a bigger voice for Rajinikanth in his early years than SPB. One got to associate Rajini’s on screen songs with Vasudevan’s voice. And this Ilaiyaraaja composition is probably the best example.
I chose to end my list with this song because it represents exactly how I remember Malaysia Vasudevan. The tease, the flourish and the playful delivery- very much like Superstar made him a musical superstar. One whose songs, we continue to listen and cherish to this date.
Full Youtube playlist for the post can be found here or you can watch it below.