Sreekumaran Thampi in London: 'Lifetime Achievement Award' and a 'Crystal Trophy' for Sreekumaran Thampi!
by Elizabeth Menon
Sreekumaran Thampi, the One Who Makes You Feel the Power of Words and Love: A cold evening in London turned warm with excitement at the magnificent function in London, the most enjoyable evening with the Master of Words, at the 16th Annual Day Celebration of ‘Kerala Arts and Literary Association, UK’ (KALA), where Sreekumaran Thampi, the ‘Prince of Malayalam Cinema’, was felicitated! A 'Lifetime Achievement Award' was bestowed on him, and he received a Crystal Trophy and a 'Ponnaata' (Celebratory shawl put around the recipient as a mark of respect) to commemorate his splendid achievements spanning 46 years: a Lyricist (3500 songs, covering 263 films!); Poet: seven books of compilation of his poems, 'Ammaykkoru Thaaraattu (Odakkuzhal Award for poetry in 2009, Asan Smaraka Kavitha Award for 2012), Achante Chumbanam (Revathi Pattathanam Krishna Geethi Award in 2003; Pravasi Kairali Literary Award in 2004), 'Omanayute Oru Divasam' (Sree Padmanabha Swamy Award for the Best Children's book), ‘Sheershakamillatha Kavithakal’ (Muloor Poetry Award in 2005), ‘Engineerute Veena’, ‘Neelathaamara’ and ‘En Makan Karayumpol’; Novelist: Four novels, ‘Kaakkathampuraatti, Kuttanadu’, ‘Njaanoru Kathaparayaam’ and ‘Karayum Karalum’; part-Autobiographical book (Aatmakathayile Penmanassukal); 'Prem Nazir' Enna Premagaanam, a book on Prem Nazir; 'Kanakkum Kavithayum', the book on the history and technique of Cinema that won the National award ('Golden Globe'), Compilation of 1001 Film songs ('Hridaya Sarass'); Music Director (‘Bandhukkal Shathrukkal’), Film director (29 films), Film producer (22 films), Story and Screenplay for films (78 films), Story and direction of Serials for the Mini-screens, etc.
In addition to this he has held high positions as the Member of ‘National Feature Film Jury’ (Thrice), Chairman, ‘Kerala Feature Film Jury’, Member of ‘Indian Panorama Selection Panel’ (Four times), Executive Member of the ‘South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce’ (15 times), Member of ‘N.F.D.C film Script Panel and Export Consultative Committee’, Former Vice-President, ‘Malayala Chalachitra Parishath’, Former Vice-President, ‘Malayalam Film Producers Association’, Member of Kerala Sahithya Academy and Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy (1995-98). The auditorium in London was blessed by the presence of such brilliance and the audience was entranced by his wisdom, brainpower, compassion and the inimitable style of delivering poems and songs from memory, however long or old they happen to be! And it didn’t take long for the audience to take him to their hearts!
It is rather difficult to comprehend that a person with such virtues does exist – one who is recognized as the ‘Nation’s Best’ for his writing (‘Golden Lotus’ for ‘Kanakkum Kavithayum’), International Awards for Poetry (Achante Chumbanam), Award for the Best Children’s books (Omanayute Oru Divasam), Asan Smaraka Kavitha Award for 2012 (Ammaykkoru Thaaraattu), and at the same time producing and directing films of the highest excellence for mainstream and Mini-screens, writing around 3500 songs of supreme calibre, conducting music, writing novels, etc. But Sreekumaran Thampi has done all this and more, and excelled at everything he has done! What amazed me most was his brainpower, ability to render film songs and recite poems so beautifully from memory, even the much earlier ones he had written, and he has a great voice! His speech, without any visual aids, was exemplary, talked about evolution, word, projective geometry, sound, philosophy, sympathetic vibrations, neurones, etc. and he received standing ovation! He was most disturbed by the cultural decay in the Malayalam film Industry and hoped that the people responsible for this would put an end to this appalling trend! He also stressed that the serial makers have a big responsibility to promote good moral values as they have a wider audience, of all age groups!
He explained the importance of ‘Word’ in different religions, the meaning and usage of greetings, such as ‘Sukham Aano’ (Su= Nallathu (Good); Kham= Sky), which does not make any sense as the words only mean ‘Clear or good sky’, with such precision that I was reminded of Panmana Ramachandran Nair, who educated Malayalees how to use the language through his books, ‘Nalla Malayalam; Thettillaatha Malayalam’, etc. and silently thanked him! Sreekumaran Thampi stressed the importance of realizing the basic fact in life: the hardships and tribulations in one’s life will only make that person stronger, without which life has no meaning – so, it was an evening of philosophy, geometry, language, grammar and moral values fortified with poetry, film songs and plenty of charisma from Sreekumaran Thampi, the darling of Malayalees, who was considered to be the ‘Prince Charles of Malayalam cinema’ in the seventies and eighties, and he proved that he still had the power to demand adulation!! The admiration and the excitement among the audience were overwhelming and the time spent with him would remain so precious for all those present! His speech was a lesson in oratory and the poem, ‘Ammaykkoru Thaaraatt’ was rendered exquisitely by Sreekumaran Thampi, and listening to that ‘Masterpiece’ filled with so much of love and yet, melancholic, brought tears to my eyes and most of the audience, and I almost felt like going up to the stage to touch his feet in reverence! The interaction with the audience was fascinating and his comments were laced with humour, philosophy and moral values. He also talked about the divine power, the importance of women and Motherhood, the need for respecting both and learning to live with compassion for our fellow beings.
The Annual Day celebration of KALA was a display of excellent talents in singing; various dance forms, Poetry and a splendid play by the youth team of KALA entertained the audience. The main event in the cultural Programme was the visual representation of ‘Seven Way Posts’ in the path of Malayalam Poetry from its roots in Tamil to the modern Malayalam’; various stages were displayed by a ‘Music – Dance – Drama’, directed by the Patron, Dr P K Sukumaran Nair, and recited by Prof. V Madhusoodanan Nair. Vaasavadatha, Dhritharastralinganam, Shankaracharya etc. followed; the Choreography was by Ms. Sreekala Kishore and Dr Mayadevi Kurup. Splendid performance from everyone and Dr Sukumaran Nair’s Sankaracharya was exceptionally good! Mr. Philip Abraham, Chief Editor of Kerala Link was also felicitated on stage and Sreekumaran Thampi honoured him with a ‘Ponnaata’, for becoming the Councilor, in the Loughton Town Council (First person of Asian origin to Loughton Town Council!) Everyone in the audience enjoyed the ‘Face to Face’ with Sreekumaran Thampi and there was great participation! His great sense of humour was evident through the session while he answered their questions about few of his songs, especially, ‘Hridayasarassile pranayapushpame’! He also gave rendition of few of his songs, and when he sung the most romantic song of all, ‘ Urangaan kitannal Omane Nee Urakku Paattakum’, the song with words that exude love and adoration for one’s darling, such was the spell that there was pin drop silence in the auditorium! A medley of Sreekumaran Thampi’s beautiful songs shown as a visual delight was most entertaining and more nostalgic as the creator was amidst us!
Sreekumaran Thampi is a Civil Engineer whose passion was always films and writing! He had a ‘Construction Company’ that excelled in design and construction of buildings. He resigned the job as the Town Planner, when he finally realized that the purpose of his existence was writing, making films and music! And then on, nothing stopped him from fulfilling that dream, proving the dictum that, ‘Everything happens for a reason’ and that ‘Reason’ was to churn out beautiful words laced with love, passion, pleasure and philosophy, with a melancholic nuance -- and Malayalees’ blessing for eternity! Mutippookkal Vaatiyalenthomane, Karalin Kilimarathil, Paataatha Veenayum Paatum, Dukhame ninakku pularkaala vandanam, Neelambujangal Vitarnnu, Chumbanappookontu, Oru swaram Madhuratharam, Chandrikayilaliyunnu chandrakaantham, Chandrabimbam nenchilettum, Swanthamenna padathinenthartham, Karineelakkannulla penne, Karalin kilimarathil, Ee Loka Golathin, Hridayasarassile, Pushpaabharanam, Kaalamorajnaatha Kaamukan, Pushpathalppathil, Sukhamevite Dukhamevite, Akale ninnu njaan, Ennum chirikkunna Suryante, Akale Akale, Aa nimishathinte, Ethra chirichaalum, Ezhu swarangal than, Urangaan Kitannal Omane Nee, Ponveyil manikkacha, Makaram poyittum, Uthara swayamvaram, Ayila porichathuntu, Bhagavaan Bhagavat Geethayil, Eshwaranorikkal, Bhagavaan Parathan kettiya Pattom, Neela nisheethini, Kasthoori manakkunnallo, Orumukham maathram, Athi manoharam Aadyathe chumbanam, Aavanippakshi, Uthraatappooviliyil, Innumen kannuneeril, Hridayam kontezhuthiya kavitha’, thus goes the long list of superb songs of varied nature from this multifaceted genius! But it didn’t stop there – he went on to write poems that went into seven books of compilation of his poems: Omanayute Oru Divasam (Sree Padmanabhaswamy Praskaaram for the Best Children’s book), Achante Chumbanam (Pravasi Kairali Literary Award and Revathi Pattathanam Krishna Geethi award), Ammaykkoru Thaaraattu (Asan Smaaraka Kavitha Award for 2012), Sheershakamillatha Kavithakal (Muloor Poetry Award in 2005) En Makan karayumpol, Engineerute Veena and Neelathaamara’. He has four novels to his credit: ‘Kaakkathampuraatti, Kuttanadu, Njaanoru Katha Parayaam, Karayum Karalum; the autobiographical book, ‘Aathmakathayile Penmanassukal’; ‘Prem Nazir Enna Prema Gaanam, and the Compilation of 1001 songs, ‘Hridayasarassu-Thiranjetutha 1001 Gaanangal’, which is on to its 5th edition since its release in 2006!
Though he explored the possibility of writing scripts for films in the beginning, providence had other exotic plans for this handsome young man! Destiny came into his life in the shape of Merryland’s Mr. P Subramanyam who recognized his flare in writing songs, and started him on his epic journey! He wrote 10 songs for ‘Kaattumallika’ – ‘Thaamarathoniyil Aalolamaati (Yesudas) Avalute kannukal karinkkadalippookkal, Avlute Kannukal, Penne nin Kannile, Maranathin nizhalil’, etc. I feel that this milestone should be a celebration for Malayalees because that sparkle in Sreekumaran Thampi is what brought love, philosophy, pleasure and deep felt emotions laced with melancholic bliss into our lives for infinity – and most of his songs became part of our lives through the celestial voice of Yesudas, followed by Brahmanandan, Kamukara Purushothaman, P Jayachandran, S Janaki, P Sushelea, Chithra, and the others! But the combination of Yesudas and Sreekumaran Thampi was pure magic, meeting of two celestial beings with charisma and the talent to match! And when Dakshina Murthy, M K Arjunan, Baburaj, M S Vishwanathen, Devarajan or Raveendran played their magic wand over his words, it spelt ‘Formidable Music’ and Malayalees were sanctified! His musical journey started with ‘Avalute kannukal karinkkadalippookkal (P B S) from ‘Kaattumallika’ in 1966 to Nanayum Nin Mizhiyoram’ and ‘Kasthoori manakkunnallo’ from ‘Nayika’ in 2011, after a long gap of 18 years, since ‘Malayaalippenne Ninte Manassu’ from ‘Bandhukal Shathrukkal’ in 1993, till the Kasthoori fragrance from ‘Nayika’ that overwhelmed Malayalees everywhere for the second time -- songs from the film Picnic in 1975!
And Sreekumaran Thampi has written Screenplay for 78 films, directed 29 films and produced 22 films, for which he should have been considered separately without branding him as just a 'Lyricist', but he was ignored! He wrote the story, screen play and all the eight songs for T S Muthayya’s ‘Chithramela, at the age of 26 years – all the songs were rendered by Yesudas, and people still talk about those songs, enjoying them immensely – Paatuvaan moham, Neeyevite nin nizhalevite, Aakaashadeepame, etc. ‘Chithramela’ was the first film that used three stories in one film, ‘Apaswarangal’(Thampi), ‘Nagarathinte Mukham’ (M K Mani) and ‘Penninte Prapancham (Bhavanikkutty). Sreekumaran Thampi produced and directed his first film ‘Chandrakaantham’ at the age of 33years, and the last to produce and direct was ‘Bandhukkal Shathrukkal’ in 1993 - and one hopes that he will return to making films again!’
It's rather difficult to understand why he only received two State Awards, first in 1971, for ‘Sukhamevite Dukhamevite’ from ‘Vilaykku Vaangiya Veena’ and the second, for ‘Nanayum Nin Mizhiyoram’ from ‘Naayika’ in 2011, though one must remember here that Sreekumaran Thampi stopped writing for films after Bandhukkal Shathrukkal’ in 1993, as he was totally unhappy with the decay in Malayalam Film Industry -- he wore six caps for this film, Producer, Director of film and Music, Lyrics, Story and Screen play! I can fill a whole page or more with his songs that deserved National or State awards -- if songs such as 'Uthara swayamvaram, Hridayasarassile, Ethra chirichaalum, Akale Akale, Dukhame ninakku pularkaala vandanam, Aalaapanam Aalapanam, Bhagavan Bhagavat Geethayil Paati, Vaikkathastami, Swarnnagopura narthaki, Ezhu swarangal than, Eeshwaranorikkal, Innumen kannuneeril, Hridayam kontezhuthiya kavitha, Pushpathalppathil, thozhuthittum thozhuthittum, etc, etc; didn't get the state or National awards, there is something seriously wrong somewhere!
And I am glad that those in the Award Committee are waking up to see what he is worth, to give him recognition now, like the 'Asan Smaaraka Kavitha Award for 2012, A P Udayabhanu Award, Kozhisseri Balaraman award' and the State award for 'Naayika'! I feel that the award for ‘Naayika’ was chosen 'Wisely', by not giving it for 'Kasthoori Manakkunallo', only to avoid questions as to why it wasn't given all those years ago, when M K Arjunan, Yesudas and Sreekumaran Thampi deserved it, and they deserved it the second time too, because M K Arjunan composed it again and Yesudas sung it so stunningly, and they did not reuse the old recording that was made 36 years ago! There are millions who follow Sreekumaran Thampi's music all over the world and the variety of songs by him is known to those who love music, wherever they are! His words are such that they don’t need to be told that they are written by Sreekumaran Thampi, because when you listen to his words one identifies the creation to be his, as his signature is easily recognizable due to its beauty and supremacy!
He has this power over the words, to make them do what he wishes them to do, almost wishing the reader or listener to accept melancholy as a pleasurable experience to be endured, only to emerge with renewed vigour and happiness! Pain and pleasure ooze out of every word making his songs and poems more beautiful, as pleasure is another facet of melancholy; songs such as ‘Pottikkaranjukontomane, Sukhamevite Dukhamevite, Akale ninnu njaan, Innu Nin Kannuneeril, Swantamenna padathinentartham, Ee loka golathin, Sukhamoru bindu, Enthinenne Vilichu Nee, Paataatha Veenayum Paatum, Chirikkumpol koote chirikkan, Dukhame ninakku Pularkaala Vandanam, etc. are examples! His exquisite words can convey pain and pleasure, even when he talks about love, longing, laughter, loneliness and ecstasy! And I would say, 'Sreekumaran Thampi has joined the elite club that has John Keats', and I feel that this is better than any of the awards that can be bestowed on him; and he has the people’s award that has its weight in gold, for every song or poem he writes, which has more credibility than the formal ones!! Sreekumaran Thampi is also saddened by the fact that the Sahithya Academy has never recognized his achievements! It is unpardonable that he has never been chosen for the Sahithya Academy accolade, in spite of all his literary work, which makes one question the integrity of these awards!
Malayalees are celebrating Sreekumaran Thampi’s come back with open arms, because all these years they have been pining for his songs, and although there were around 3500 songs and many poems of Sreekumaran Thampi to feast on, they want more from their Prince, as they know that he has an infinite supply of beautiful words that flow straight from his heart, that can pull on their heart strings, gliding them to ecstasy! One hopes that Sreekumaran Thampi, the Prince of Malayalam Cinema, the one who knows the language of love, is given the recognition that he deserves. I wish him happiness and triumph over adversities from now on with a smooth path in front of him laced with rose petals and the whisper of love caressing him in the gentle breeze that says, “Let the music of love play on”