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Did you know that the doyen of Tamil film music M S Viswanathan originally wanted to become an actor? Similarly, A P Nagarajan and Shankar are among a long list of wannabe actors who turned directors. Others like Veenai Balachandar, T Rajendar and Gangai Amaran have tried their hand at nearly every role from acting to writing to composing music and directing in Tamil Cinema. Given this background, it is not surprising that actors Sivakarthikeyan, Simbu and Dhanush have been penning lyrics and even singing the songs themselves.

Summa Surrunu penned by Sivakarthikeyan for Suriya starrer Etharkkum Thunindhavan, which is releasing on February 5, is the latest, along with Naan Pizhai by director Vignesh Sivan for the movie Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kadhal which is soon to be released as well.

But the question arises, are these songs becoming viral only because stars wrote the lyrics or do they really have lyrical value?

Before and after Kannadasan

When it comes to Tamil cinema lyricists, Kannadasan can be termed a central figure. He is the yardstick to measure the longevity, quality and success of Tamil songs. There were personalities like Papanasam Sivan, Udumalai Narayana Kavi, Maruthakasi, Ku Sa Krishnamoorthy, Thanjai Ramaiahdas, Mayavanathan and Muthukoothan during the 1940s. Reputed Tamil poets such as Bharathidasan and Suratha have also put their pens to work on film song lyrics. Another legend still remembered for his timeless songs is Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram.

Kannadasan was someone who is celebrated for taking lyrics to next level. His songs did not stop with romantic numbers alone but they touched upon all the emotions of human life. In Rathathilakam, he himself sang the song and acted in it too. Even tipplers can relate to his Oru Kinnathai Enthugiren’. The song Paramasivan Kazhuthulirunthu rolls like a debate, while songs like Veeduvarai Uravu and Satti Suttathada are philosophical notes on the fragility of human life. Sirippu Varudhu and Thillu Mullu are comical masterpieces. And, Kanne Kalaimane is one of the best lullabies of Tamil cinema.

Simbu penned the song Evandi Unnai Pethan for his 2010 film Vaanam. He sang it himself too. It turned out to be a blockbuster hit among Simbu’s fans simply because he wrote and sang it himself. He did not stop with that one song. He also went on to sing for movies starring Jayam Ravi, Santhanam, Bharat, Karthi, Vikram Prabhu and Prashant.

Lyricist Vali was a contemporary and competitor of Kannadasan. After these legends, lyricists’ stock went up, drawing many of them to the film industry, such as Vairamuthu, Alangudi Somu, Muthulingam, Pulamaipithan, Vidwan V Lakshmanan, Panju Arunachalam, Piraisoodan, Na Muthukumar, Kabilan, Yugabharathi and Thamarai. The next generation of lyricists includes Karky, Viveka, Gnanakaravel.

In the 2000s, lyricists like Na Muthukumar, Kabilan, Yugabharathi, Viveka and Pa Vijay were identified by the super hit songs of the time.

Despite the industry brimming with poets of noteworthy penmanship, sometimes songs penned by movie stars gain more popularity. The latest such instance is of the song Idhu Enna Mayamo by Sivakarthikeyan became a huge hit. It was for the movie Aditya Varma which marked the debut of popular actor Vikram’s son Dhruv.

Naan Pizhai - Kaathuvaakkula Rendu Kadhal

A videograb of the song Naan Pizhai, written by director Vignesh Sivan for his film Kaathuvaakkula Rendu Kadhal.

Stars becoming poets

Simbu penned the song Evandi Unnai Pethan for his 2010 film Vaanam. He sang it himself too. It turned out to be a blockbuster hit among Simbu’s fans simply because he wrote and sang it himself. He did not stop with that one song. He also went on to sing for movies starring Jayam Ravi, Santhanam, Bharat, Karthi, Vikram Prabhu and Prashant. Simbu also sang for the film featuring actors Sivakarthikeyan, G V Prakash, Hirish and Vijayakanth’s son Shanmugapandian.

After Simbu, Dhanush tried his luck with lyrics as well. One of the most noted of Dhanush’s songs is Why this Kolaveri di from the movie Three. But he proved his mettle beyond just peppy numbers with songs like ‘Kannazhaga’. He had earlier penned songs for his brother Selva Raghavan’s film Mayakkam Enna. But the songs in ‘Three’ were far more refined.

Following in the footsteps of Simbu and Dhanush, Sivakarthikeyan took on a poetic avatar by writing Kalyanavayasuthan Vanthuduchidi for Nelson Dileep Kumar’s film Kolamavu Kokila. The spoof song was a class apart and we are left to wonder if a professional lyricist would have been able to do justice to it. Another peppy number by Sivakarthikeyan was Gandha Kannazhagi for his movie Enga Veettu Pillai. Similarly, Enna Mayilu in the movie Lift, released on Disney Hotstar, also gained huge popularity.

Following in the footsteps of Simbu and Dhanush, Sivakarthikeyan took on a poetic avatar by writing Kalyanavayasuthan Vanthuduchidi for Nelson Dileep Kumar’s film Kolamavu Kokila. The spoof song was a class apart and we are left to wonder if a professional lyricist would have been able to do justice to it. Another peppy number by Sivakarthikeyan was Gandha Kannazhagi for his movie Enga Veettu Pillai.

Sivakarthikeyan’s next hit Chellamma from his movie Doctor resembled the Telugu hit ‘Putta Bomma’ in Ala Vaikunthapuramulo. The other song from the movie So Baby narrated the pain of a breakup well. We are left wondering if a professional lyricist would have brought out that emotion any better.

Grabbing attention

Director Shankar penned the lyrics for Petta Rap for his 1994 movie Kadhalan. Catchy as the song was, it became a hit. When directors and actors write hit songs, it helps them connect directly with their fans—perhaps to the fans it feels like a friend talking to them.

There was a time when stars who moved from theatre to the silver screen did not just do the acting in a movie; it was a complete performance, which highlighted their own writing and singing skills as well. There were a number of allrounders those days who could literally do everything. But, over time, lyricists came into their own. Now we seem to be back in the time of allrounders. This time, however, there are many factors that make a song go viral, such as social media reach, the use of new-age bilingual style that appeals to youngsters, and the promotions done by the actors themselves. But will these songs have timeless appeal like a Kannadasan number? Would they pass the test of time?


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