geethamanian / 3 yrs ago /


I have walked through the street bearing the name of the great Tamil poet Kannadasan many times. I have grown up listening to the songs penned by him for decades, but being young, those times, I was lost in the sheer melody of the songs rather than appreciate the greatness behind the lyrics and the lyricist. But when I stepped in to the portals of my college with Tamil as my second language, it was my puny looking Tamil lecturer speaking chaste Tamil who took us in to the mystical world of Tamil literature, a spell binding journey, starting from the Sangam era to the modern era, including the amazing literary works from Tholkaapiyam (the 'Wren and Martin' of Tamil Grammar) Thirukkrural, Naaladiyar, Agananooru , Purananooru, Kamba Ramayanam, Periya Puranam, five epics like Silapathikaram etc to the modern literary works, comprising the writings of Bharathiyar, Bharathidasan, Kannadasan etc…At a first look Tamil literature was quite intimidating, but turned friendly very soon, thanks to the expertise of our Tamil lecturer who took great pains to retain the dwindling class strength (many students preferred French to Tamil and left within a few days of joining) by infusing a good deal of humour, with never a dull moment in the class through out the year. We had a glimpse of lives of people of the Sangam period, their relationships their benevolence, ethics, valour and customs - all through poems penned by scores of poets belonging to that era.. Finally after treading works of poets like Pattinathar, Auvaiyar and Arunagirinathar when it was time to study the works of Kannadasan, we were more relaxed since we were on a familiar turf with the songs composed by him belonging to Tamil films, an aspect which made the study all the more interesting.and entertaining.. When one student wanted explanation for his song 'Koondal karuppu, Kumkumam sivappu'( The hair is black the sindoor is red) the whole class went in to splits. But when two songs' Athikaai kai kai' from the film 'Bale Pandiya' and 'Veedu varai uravu' from the film Pada Kanikkai.were put under the scanner and discussed thread bare we had no words to convey our deep appreciation.When our lecturer explained the significance of the same word (the word kai) used repeatedly through out the song but with different meanings, we were all wonder struck by his sheer mastery over words - simple. magical and lucid.

Welcome to the literary world of a great poet, an exceptional genius - Kannadasan- lyricist of countless Tamil film songs, author of innumerable books dealing in myriad issues.- a distinguished poet with hardly any formal education but still a remarkable literary giant who reigned the Tamil literary world for decades with his sheer command over the language, his expertise of converting his fascinating experiences in real life in to simple verses through Epics, stories, essays, poems, drama, biography- but above all a humble and compassionate human being who never failed to touch the core of the hearts of the masses.

The song "athikai kai kai":

Though this song sounds more like a catchy jingle endorsing a potpourri of exotic vegetables and fruits, the song in the movie is sung by two married couples caught in a small fight over a trivial matter on their first night of their marriage and summoning the moon as a witness, they plead with the moon with their respective requests.

atthikkai (fig) ==A+thikkai (that direction)
aalangkai = like a poison don't hurt me
pavaikai (Bitter gourd) = pavai+ kai (shine on the lady)
madulangkaai (pomegranate fruit) = Maadhu + ullam + kaai ( A lady's gentle heart)
iravukkaai =( Iravu+ kai) for the night
uravukkaai = Uravu+ kai ) for the relationship
yezhaikkaai = ezahai+kai (poor fellow as his woman is quarreling with him)
Avaraikai( broad beans)= avarai +kai (shine on him)
Elakkai ( Cardamom)
Koviakai(Ivy guard) = Kovai+ kai ( get angry at my beloved)

Kannadasan's intense love for literary works saw him delving deep in to the works of Pattinathar ,Thirumoolar and Arunagrinathar - all great saints. Many times he was passionate about penning down lyrics reflecting the works of those great saints through simple words which even a lay man could comprehend and correlate - the results were astounding songs echoing deep human emotions. Here is just one song of Patinathaar from where Kannadasan got inspiration to pen down lyrics 'Veedu varai uravu' for the movie Padha Kaanikkai



Aththamum vazhvum agaththu matte! vizhi yambozhuga
Methiya maaddharum veedimatte: vimmi vimmi iru
Kai thalai mel vaiththu azhum maindharum sudukadu matte
Patrit thodarum iruvinai punniya pavamume!

The meaning of this song is that when our soul leaves the body, we leave all the riches right at home, all the close relations including wife and mother at the end of the street, a loving son at the crematorium and it is only the good deeds or sins which follows a person finally.

Kannadasan's stand on death is aggressive and like a tornado, the powerful words hits us flat and shakes us out of our inertia and stupor…

Aadiya aattamenna pesiya varthaiyenna thediya selvamenna? thirandathore sutramenna?) kooduvittu aavi ponaal koodavay varuvadhenna?

when you were alive…what all games you played , what all words you spoke, what all materialistic things/wealth you accumulated, how many relatives/ people surrounded you; When your soul leaves the body what comes along with you;

What spectacular effort in catching the ephemeral nature of life !!

Born as Muthiah in a family of nine children, even as a young boy he was interested in penning down verses rather than attending the school. Being restless by nature he dabbled in a surfeit of activities including tuRning editor for literary magazines, writing lyrics for films,script writing, playing an active part in politics, producing movies and above all writing a stunning commentary on Hinduism through his book 'Arthamulla Indhu madham' where the complex concepts of Hindu religion are explained in a simple language.

His initial stint in Modern Theatres studios (Salem) provided him a meagre but regular monthly income but the strict disciplinary environment didn't suit him and when he found the atmosphere too stifling he left for Madras.

He was a staunch supporter of DMK and a close pal of the ex-chief Minister MK Karunanidhi. He went to jail many times for supporting various political causes but came out with some best literary works while whiling away his time there. He was an atheist for some time but after reading the works of Tamil saint Andal's Thirupaavai and Tiruvembavai he turned religious.


From Tamil Film Music Portal's R. Mahendra Raj, comes this great description for how this song was created.

Sridhar and Kannadhasan were close friends ever since they started to work together for "Meenda Sorgam". "Sumaithaangi" (1963) was a joint effort by both these stalwarts. Whilst shooting the song scene "Manithan Enbavan Deivamaagalam" on the sands of Marina beach, Kavingnyar reminisced his first day of arriving penniless in Chennai way back in the early 40s. It was the very spot in the beach where he was shooed away by policemen for sleeping for the night. He then asked Sridhar to do the song scene with his own eight "Ambassador" cars giving the spotlight on Gemini Ganesh, the hero, instead of the usual studio lights. The scene was not to show of his wealth but to show how a penniless man can achieve great heights in life purely on true grits. Anyway the song is a gem of a motivation theme even now.'


Manithan enbavan deivamagalam
















Again, the treasure-tove of information, R Mahendra Raj elaborates on Tamil Film Music Portal about how this amazing song came about:

"When Director A. Bhimsingh, Viswanathan (MSV), Ramamurthi and Kannadasan sat to work on a song for the film 'Paava Mannipu' there was a telephone call for the latter. He excused himself and answered the phone. MSV noticed that Kannadasan who was in good spirits till then suddenly turning dull. After finishing up his phone call Kaviarasar returned to the spot where all were gathered to compose the song for the situation.When MSV enquired Kannadasan whether things were alright, he nodded his head in affirmation.. After listening to the situation of the story the poet immediately wrote the song and collected his dues and left in a hurry. MSV turning curious over the whole incident decided to find out the truth behind the phone call.. In the evening on the same day he dropped by Kaviarasar's house and asked him about the phone call. This time Kannadasan told him the truth.  His creditors had taken judgement debt notice of his house and were already in the house to seal the same. That was when he was infromed through  the phone call from his household. MSV was further shocked to understand that the song he had written earlier that day was for Kaviarasar himself. 

 The song? "Silar Sirippaar Silar Azhuvaar" (film: 'Paava Mannippu".  The line "…kaalam oru naal maarum nam kavalaigal yaauvum theerum, vanthathai enni azhugindren varuvathai enni sirikkindren"" was a moral booster to himself. He was sad that such an embarrassing situation took place ("vanthathai enni azhugindren") but happy that he would resolve this matter after getting the cash for the song. He paid this cash to the notice servers to postpone their action.""


Wine and women were his lifeline as he describes all about himself in the song 'Oru Koppaiyile en Kudiyiruppu, Oru kola mayil en thunai yiruppu,Isai paadalile en uyirthudippu; Naan parpathellam azhagin sirippu (I love wine, women, writing songs and beauty in nature)'. Once when he was short of money for buying a costly foreign brand liquor in a Hotel he phoned his brother AL Srinivasan for some money. But his brother refused to lend money when he found out the reason and abruptly cut the phone.This incident hurt Kannadasan deeply and when he was in the process of writing a song for the film Pazhani he spontaneously wrote the song "Annan Ennada thambi Ennada Avasaramaana Ulagathile"




 Kannadasan's huge repertoire of film songs is as deep and vast as an ocean and picking out the best out of the treasure trove is no mean task. Romantic, spiritual, philosophical- his songs have stood the test of time because they are spontaneous outbursts of a sensitive human being put forth in a simple yet captivating language with a tinge of humour, satire and philosophy. Though he wrote arrogantly "Naan Nirandaramanavan Azhivathillai, Entha Nilaiyilum enakku maranamillai", ( I am permanent in this world.There is no death for me) he could not fight death and breathed his last at the age of 54 in Chicago. He has enlightened us about many things through his songs including life and death but still the mystery continues as we walk through the journey of life…


Puriaythu vazhkaiyin ragasiyam puriaythu

geethamanian / / 3 yrs ago

Hi usha,

Be it the vegetables or fruits whenever i think about them, it is either a yummy Avial or a lip smacking fruit salad with a delectable ice cream topping which comes to my mind and i start drooling over these tasty delicacies. I wonder how Kannadasan could get over such gastronomic delights and come out with a compelling romantic song which still has not lost its flavour even after so many decades.Sure he is a genius.The present day songs with a few exceptions are lewd and crass. My Mom is better and coping with her demands patiently - each day is a novel experience for me.


ushasuryamani / / 3 yrs ago


 I was in Kumbhakonam when you posted this and missed the alert  that got  drowned..

I feel like kicking myself...

"Mannikka vendukiraen...."

A GREAT Blog...on  a wonderful Lyricist..

I could relate to your appreciating the lyrics  rather late..

Today most of the lyrics are just trash...some of them stinking kuppai

The best lyrics of the poet I love are from the movie Paasa Malar..

the song -  Malarndhum malaraatha...

and this line is awesome..

".....Nadhiyil viLayyadi kodiyil thalai seevi nadandha iLam tendralae...'

Phew !! What an imagination..

Now it's just - anga thodava inga thodava...what a desert- brain some of these song writers have !!

Thank you Geetha..

Hope your Mom is better...

geethamanian / / 3 yrs ago

Hi mangala,

I think the songs of the movie "Moonraam Pirai' were the last he wrote before his death.Though he has written scores of romantic songs, i prefer those songs expressing pain, anguish and the harsh realities of life. Thanks for your visit and appreciation.


Mangala / / 3 yrs ago

Hi Geetha,
Its lovely ,this blog of yours.Kannadasan is my favorite,who else can write songs so beautifully according to the screen play and so meaningful too.Kanne kalaimane of moonram pirai and each one of his song is a gem no doubt.

Mahendraraj / / 3 yrs ago

Hi Geethamanian,

The song 'Kaasiku Pogum Sanyasi' (Chandrarothyam) is by Vaali.

R. Mahendra Raj

geethamanian / / 3 yrs ago


He was sure a 'Padikkatha Methai', with an exceptional ability of coming out with stunning verses portraying funny, embarrassing and sad incidents of our day to day life. Thanks for your valuable feed back.


N K Ravi / / 3 yrs ago
N K Ravi

If i start writing on his film songs and it critical appreciation - the list would be endless and the comment will become a mega blog. OH sure Athikkai is definitely among the best and what a pun and what flow of words.Unbelievable - only Tamil knowing persons can appreciate this.

After Barathi it is kannadasan. NKR

N K Ravi / / 3 yrs ago
N K Ravi

"Thadumarum Podaiyilum Kavi padum medhai avan."

Once in the 60s he wrote a poem in Kumudam - not to disturb his sleeping grand child - as the world around him is not all that good to see.- if he is woken up.

"Avanai Ezhuppadheer - Appadiye Thoongatum" ( Don't wake him - let him sleep ).

Shockingly the child died in the same week.

He wrote a poem of life time in the next issue of Kumudam -

" ARam padivitteno Ariyen - siru Kuzhandai thiram pada mattamal Settha kadai Padugiren "

Aram Paduthal means - poet's word will come true in life..Have I sung an aram casually by mistake ? Instead of writing about the playful joys of the child - I am reduced to singing the death poetry

Such was his genius.

Indiya indirave - indira Indiyave.

indiya malaigal thorum indira Oli ketginraye; Indiya nathigal dorum indira oli ketkinraye

was another poem in kumudam on Indira Gandhi which I can not forget.

Cheers.  NKR

geethamanian / / 3 yrs ago

Hi Sampath,

Thanks for your presence here and appreciation.


geethamanian / / 3 yrs ago


You have done a great deal of research on Kannadasan's songs by classifying them under different headings like Anitthesis, Metaphors, Similies etc. Thanks for the valuable information from your side, an exhaustive analysis which was quite interesting.'Ullam enbathu Aamai' from Paarthal Pasi Theerum, 'Kaana vantha kaatchi Enna velli Nilave; from Bhagyalakshmi,'Maalai Pozhuthin mayakkakthile ' form the same movie , Kann izhantha manithar munne Oviyam vaithaar" from Aadiperukku, 'Pirakkum pothum azhukinraan" are some of the songs with deep sentiments and makes a profound emotional impact on us while listening to them. 'Aatharavana varthaiyai pesi arumai mikuntha manaiviyai nesi, Anbenum paadathai avalidam vaasi , avalai vidava uyar nthathu Kasi!!- the song Kasikku Pogum sanyaasi' from the film Chandrothayam- what relevant advice to a husband who is on the verge of renouncing family life.

Well can go on and on about his songs, making our comments look more like mini blogs. Once again i thank you for your valuable feed back and your presence.



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