Veteran music composer Maniyanga Subramanian Viswanathan, popularly known as MSV, passed away in Chennai on Tuesday at the age of 88. MSV composed music for over 750 south Indian films since he started his career in the 1950s. His versatility was such that his compositions ranged from traditional classical songs to popular disco songs.
Born in Elapulli in Kerala’s Palakkad district, MSV’s first tryst with the film industry was when he was cast as a child artist in a Tamil movie, Kannagi. As music composer, he first worked in Jenova, an MG Ramachandaran-starrer.
During his career, he forged a great partnership with veteran violinist T K Ramamoorthy and both composed music for hundreds of films under the title MSV-Ramamoorthy. Tamil devotional songs with MSV’s music and lyricist Kannadasan’s words were immensely successful. After the demise of Kannadasan, MSV also took an initiative to erect a statue of the veteran lyricist.
Industry experts describe MSV as one who worked from the generation of Ilayaraja to that of A R Rahman.
He composed songs for chief ministers over a span of four decades — MG Ramachandran, M Karunanidhi, N T Rama Rao and J Jayalalithaa. He is also remembered for composing the official song of Tamil Nadu government, Neerarum Kadalodutha.
MSV composed music for films of legendary actors like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Sivakumar and Shivaji Ganesan and also played a major role in the careers of singers P Susheela, Vani Jayaram, S P Balasubramaniam, K J Yesudas and P Jayachandran. It was MSV who introduced Jayachandran, a Malayali singer, to the Tamil film industry.
In his condolence message, musician A R Rahman, who assisted MSV on the keyboard in his early days, said, “MSV took us to the deepest core of Tamil and colourful melodies over the past 40 years. We’ve lost our beloved melodic genius”.
For Kamal Haasan, MSV was always a child at heart. “MSV has blended inseparably into the history of Tamil cinema. He is part of the Tamil and south Indian cultural tapestry and has become the background score for many people’s lives. They nostalgically recount their own life with his music playing in their minds. He has fans beyond his own generation and time,” said Kamal, adding that his music will stay on. “I am thankful to him for enriching my life with his music,” he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Tuesday: “The unfortunate demise of M S Viswanathan is a major loss to music lovers. People across generations enjoyed his compositions. When it came to music, MSV was always ahead of his time. Condolences to his family and his several admirers.”
In a statement conveying her condolences to MSV’s family, friends and fans, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said, “His death is an irreparable loss to the film world and me.” She also expressed pain MSV did not receive a Padma award.
Reacting to MSV’s demise, MDMK leader Vaiko said, “His music is solace to me. I listen to most of those old songs during my trips or after a day of protest. Even though he has departed from the face of earth, MSV will always remain with us. I offer my condolence to the bereaved family.”
MSV is survived by four sons and three daughters. His last rites will be performed on Wednesday.