Pulamaipithan, poet and M.G.R.’s image builder, is no more

Pulamaipithan was also active in politics and served as Deputy Chairman of the now-abolished Legislative Council between 1980-83, as well as the chairperson of the AIADMK presidium till 2003

Poet Pulamaipithan, whose songs gave a fillip to the films and political career of AIADMK founder and late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, died in Chennai on Wednesday. He was 88 and is survived by his wife.

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Born in Pallapalayam in Coimbatore, his real name was Ramaswamy. He studied the now-defunct four-year ‘Pulavar’ course to become a Tamil scholar. His in-depth knowledge of Tamil and ancient literature found manifestation in his career as a lyricist in films. He adopted the pseudonym ‘Pulamaipithan’.

He was active in politics and served as Deputy Chairman of the now-abolished Legislative Council between 1980-83. Pulamaipithan was also chairperson of the AIADMK presidium for a few years, till 2003. He also had a stint as the poet-laureate of the State government.

According to R. Kannan, M.G.R.’s biographer, Pulamaipithan replaced poet Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram, after the latter’s death, in the creative team that boosted the film career of the matinee idol with tailor-made songs. The others were music director M.S. Viswanathan and playback singer T.M. Soundararajan.

His first song for M.G.R., ‘Naan Yaar Nee Yaar’, in Kudyiruntha Koil (1968) identified his potential as a lyricist. His next song for M.G.R., ‘Aayiram Nilave Vaa’ was featured in Adimai Penn (1969).

‘Neenga Nalla Irukkonum Naadu Munnera’, a song in Idhayakkani (1975) crystallised M.G.R.’s political stature. Ahead of the 1977 Assembly elections, Pulamaipithan penned the propaganda song, ‘Vaasal Engum Rettai Ilaik Kolamidungal (‘Adorn your homes with the Two Leaves symbol’) which was played after M.G.R.’s public speeches, Mr. Kannan said, and recalled that Pulamaipithan had told him that the song was an important element in the AIADMK’s victory.

Pulamaipithan was also an ardent supporter of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. “It was he who drew M.G.R. towards the cause. M.G.R., as Chief Minister, gave financial assistance to the LTTE,” recalled P. Dhileepan, grandson of Pulamaipithan. “He was very close to LTTE leader Prabhakaran and named me after Dhileepan, one of the martyrs of the movement,” he added.

His career as lyricist extended beyond the M.G.R. era. While his songs for M.G.R. are packed with political and social messages, what he wrote for others became renowned as some of the finest songs in the filmworld. Two of his songs — ‘Indru Pola Endrum Vaazhga’ and ‘Poomazhai Thoovi’— used to be considered auspicious and were played in marriages immediately after the tying of the mangalsutra.

He had a penchant for breathtaking imagery, as exemplified in ‘Raathiriyil Poothirukkum Thamaraithaan Kanno’ set to Ilayaraja’s music. ‘Uchi Vaguntheduthu Pichipoo Vacha Kili’ in Rosapoo Ravikkaikari captured the agony of a husband in response to wagging tongues about his wife.

Pulaimaipithan would say it was easy for him to write songs to tunes as these helped unleash his imagination to find suitable words. He would explain how he spontaneously wrote the lines ‘Amuthe Tamile’ and ‘Vedam Nee Iniya Natham Nee’ to the tunes set by Ilayaraja for the film ‘Kovilpura’.

‘Then Pandi Seemaiyile’, the theme song for Kamal Haasan starrer Nayagan is another song that speaks of his calibre as a lyricist who could capture the whole idea of a film. Beauty, aesthetics and messaging come together in ‘Nanjai Undu Punjai Undu’ in Unnal Mudiyum Thambi directed by K. Balachander.

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