« Thenpandi cheemayile » is the seed from which Nayagan’s story grows. When Ilaiyaaraja’s voice breaks the silence in the film’s opening credits, we understand that it’s an introduction song about Sakthivel. A child whose innocence is broken when violence brutally irrupts into his life. As violence leads to violence, the young Sakthivel commits his first murder after seeing his father being murdered by the police. The future don has first been a traumatized and betrayed child. And thus, Velu Nayakar’s destiny lies in this question : « Maan pola vandhavane, Yaar adithaaro ? » (He who came hopping like a fawn/Who could have hurt him?). Then, when the song comes again in the film, the point of view is reversed : it’s Sakthivel/Kamal Haasan himself who is singing about his own children who, just like him, experienced violence for the first time in their life when their mother was killed. “Thenpandi Cheemayile” finds the path of the heart, from the first note, from the first word, thanks to Ilaiyaraaja’s music but also to the lyricist, and I am wondering why this legend is so undercelebrated.
The great Pulamaipithan, who was born in Coimbatore in 1935, has been a textile mill worker, a Tamil teacher, a Deputy chairman at the Tamil Nadu legislative council, designated as “Arasavai Kavignar” by MGR when he was Chief Minister, and of course, has written thousands of poems for Tamil Cinema : think about “Naan Yaar” in Kudiyirundha Kovil, “Aayiram Nilave Vaa” in Adimai Pen, “Uchi Vaguntheduthu” in Rosapoo Ravikkaikari, “Sangeetha Swarangal” in Azhagan, “Engengo” in Nandha etc. When you read or listen to his interviews, he also appears as an intellectual of great wisdom. Pulamaipithan wrote the entire album of Nayagan (except “Nila Adhu” written by Ilaiyaraaja), and created this simplest but poignant poetic lullaby about/for children suddenly brutalized by life when they loose a parent. He sketched Nayagan’s story in a eight lines song with a few words that have impregnated our imaginaries for 32 years now.
As they say, beauty lies in simplicity.