Music composer Ramamoorthy passes away

Legendary South Indian film music composer, an able violin exponent and a glowing discovery of the ‘gramophone era’ of the 1940s’, T K Ramamoorthy passed away at a private hospital in Chennai on Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 92 and is survived by six daughters and four sons.

Ramamoorthy was more known, for decades, as the Siamese twin of South Indian film music along with another legendary film music director M S Viswanathan; the duo was popularly referred to as ‘Mellisai Mannargal’ (Light Music Kings)’. Their joint legacy left an indelible imprint till the mid 1960s in the celluloid world.  Later till the mid 1990s, they shined as individual composers too.  

He was born into a musically gifted Brahmin family in Tiruchirappalli in 1922; both his father Krishnaswamy Iyer and grandfather Malaikottai Govindasamy Iyer were well known violinists.  Ramamoorthy  came into the limelight as music composer-producer C R Subburaman hired the talented boy as a violinist for HMV in Chennai when he was barely 14.   

Ramamoorthy’s early training in Carnatic music tradition stood him in good stead. The efflorescence came forth later, when he collaborated with an equally gifted music composer M S Viswanathan.

As the ‘Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy duo’ — after jointly completing the soundtracks for some of the unfinished films left behind by their mentor Subburaman who died suddenly — they began making waves with N S Krishnan-starred film, ‘Panam (Cash)’. They composed music for over 700 films in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, to be hailed as the “uncrowned kings”. 

  However, in the mid 1960s their long partnership sadly broke, when Ramamoorthy went his own way to score music for 19 films from 1967 to 1986. The famous duo, in the twilight of their careers, met again to team up in 1995 for the Tamil film ‘Engirintho Vanthaal’.

In his solo phase, Ramamoorthy even ventured into a ‘daring fusion of Carnatic Music and Jazz’, which gave another dimension to the ‘swinging sixties’ of Indian cinema, say experts.

 While the musical duo had also played a small part in shaping the careers of melodious singers like the late P B Sreenivos, as a solo music director, Ramamoorthy had scored many a memorable number.

Terming Ramamoorthy’s demise as an “irreplaceable loss” to the world of South India cinema, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha, in her condolence message, recalled Ramamoorthy’s several hit tunes like in the MGR-starrer ‘Panam Padaithavan’.  

“I shared a 60-year-long friendship with Ramamoorthy,” recalled the DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, who himself was once a powerful film scriptwriter,
Expressing deep grief over the passing away of the unassumingly genius music director, he recalled, “I still remember the days when he (Ramamoorthy) set music to my song ‘Kaagidha Oodam’ for the Tamil film ‘Marakka Mudiyuma.”

Ramamoorthy had also been conferred the State ‘Kalaimamani’ Award. After his body was brought home from the hospital, hundreds of people from the film world including M S Viswanatahan and other music composers paid homage. The last rites will take place on Thursday, family sources said.

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