Thenisai Thendral Dr Deva is a vibrant personality who has greatly influenced the Tamil Music industry. I met him a few years ago during my brief years with the Times NIE as their two time Star Correspondent. My aunt was very helpful in this regard as she facilitated this interview. I was greatly touched by the mere appearance and humility of the man himself. I couldn’t help but pepper him with a lot of questions, forgetting to notice that two hours had passed. I hope to recreate the ambience of learning and sharing with all of you.. I have posted the original interview from 2011 with all of you. Part of it was published in the newspaper……
Dr Deva is known as ‘The Father of Gaana Genre’. His title defines his music-as sweet as honey. He holds the Guinness Record for being a part of the team which created a movie in just an unbelievable time frame:11 days ,23 hours and 45 minutes. He is the Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nadaga Mandram. He is credited for directing the music for over 400 movies and 411 devotional albums.
He candidly shared his experiences with his usual touch of humility.
Me: How did your passion for music take root during your childhood?
Dr Deva: I used to love songs as a child. In my childhood days itself I had set priority for Music over schooling. The interest gradually developed. I used to admire the songs of ‘Mellisai Mannar ‘ M. S Viswanathan. He is my ‘Manaseeka Guru’ (A teacher that I greatly respected in my mind) and my inspiration.
Me: Initially, you had to face a lot of hardships. Where did the courage and inner strength to get through them come from?
Dr Deva: Our aim is to reach the peak of Mount Everest; there will be stones and thorns on our way to hurt our feet. We should overcome these and move ahead. My desire to get into the Cine Music field was very high. So my financial constraints were not a roadblock on the way to achieving my dream. Strong determination, consistency and persistency helped me to transform myself from a Floor Assistant in Doordarshan to a Music Director.
Me: After directing music for over 400 films and receiving prestigious titles and awards, how do you still remain humble?
Dr Deva: Always remember that we have to do more and that we are yet to reach the peak of Mount Everest, in order to stay humble. When we want to reach heights we must learn to balance ourselves, failing which we tend to fall down. Moreover we must equally remember that there are more talented people who haven’t received this opportunity which we have received by God’s grace.
Me: How did you feel when you were bestowed the title Thenisai Thendral by your Manaseeka Guru “Mellisai Mannar M. S Viswanathan ?
Dr Deva: There is a small story to narrate. I used to release devotional albums before entering the Cine field. When I had reached my 100th album, a felicitation ceremony was organised by the “Karumari Amman Kovil”, where I had personally requested the authorities to extend an invitation to my Manaseeka Guru. My intention was to take a still with the legend. During the ceremony, to my surprise he said to the audience “Why give Deva a Pattam (title) instead give him a Padam (movie) as a music director, he will do the music very well”. That was a blessing for me.
Me: How do you choose the movies for which you have been offered to direct music for?
Dr Deva: I won’t say no to any movie. I am part of a big team and it is our source of livelihood.
Me: Was there any competition among music directors during your music directorial days?
Dr Deva: Yes. There was a healthy competition but no ego clashes. It was also a very tough competition. Even then 175 movies ran for 100 days, 25 movies for 175 days and 11 movies for 250 days. I composed songs in five languages; Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi.
Me: What do you value the most: high rewards or self satisfaction after directing a hit song?
Dr Deva: The greatest reward I can ever think of is the applause of the audience. There is a verse from The Bhagawat Gita which says “Kadamaye sei, Palanai ethir pakkathey”, it means; do your duty and don’t expect rewards in return. I follow this philosophy even to this day.
Me: What are your plans as the Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nadaga Mandram to bring the state to the next level?
Dr Deva: We should be thankful to our CM for extending excellent support to promote the South Indian culture to greater heights. Her vision is to encourage all artists across the state. In effect to this, for the first time in the “Iyal Isai Nadaga Mandram” there have been 28 programmes on 13 continuous days which displayed many forms of the traditional arts of Tamilnadu.
Me: How different is Music composing from learning to play an instrument?
Dr Deva: Composing is a God given gift for the rare few and it demands a lot of creativity. A tutor can assist you when you want to master an instrument but they can’t assist you when it comes to composing
Me: What is Music according to you?
Dr Deva: Music to me means ‘to feel happy and to make others happy’. We greet others in Tamil “Isai Pada Vazhka” which means, “lead a happy and melodious life”. Music is God. One generation is not enough to know music in entirety. Music can touch the mind directly and can heal wounds faster than medicines can. Good music can influence the society.