M. S. Viswanathan

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This article is about the music composer. For other meanings, see Viswanathan.
M. S. Viswanathan
Background information
Birth name Manayangath Subramanian Viswanathan
Also known as M.S.V
Born (1928-06-24) 24 June 1928 (age 86)[1]
Origin Palakkad, Kerala, India

Film score composer

music director
Instruments Vocals (playback singing), keyboard/harmonium/piano
Years active 1945 to present
Website http://www.msvtimes.com
Notable instruments

Manayangath Subramanian Viswanathan, also known as (M.S.V.) is a Music Director from South India. He is considered to be one of the versatile and significant composers in Kollywood,he is popularly known as Mellisai Mannar (Tamil for "The King of Light Music"). He has composed for a total of 1200 films composing songs in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu languages.[2] His major works over the past five decades have been in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu films. He has also acted and sung in a few Tamil films. J Jayalalithaa conferred the Thirai Isai Chakravarthy (Tamil for "The Emperor of Cine Music") title on him in August 2012[3] and presented with 60 gold coins and a new car to him.[4][5] Viswanathan Ramamoorthy duo composed music for 90 Tamil films from the film Panam in 1952 till Ayirathil Oruvan in 1965.[6] Thereafter M.S.Viswanathan on his own composed music more than 700 films from 1965 till 2013 including 78 Malayalam films and 29 Telugu films. He reigned supreme in Tamil films from 1965 to 1985 and films with his music released consecutively every year from 1950-1996. He sang under his own composition over 500 songs and in addition sang 200 songs composed by other music directors Ramamoorthy composed for only 19 films on his own after the break up in 1965 till 1986.

Early life[edit]

Viswanathan was born on 24 June 1928 to Manayangath Subramanian and Narayanikutty (or Naanikutty) in Elappully village in Palakkad, Kerala, India. He lost his father when he was four. He was saved by his grandfather when his mother decided to kill him and herself as an escape from abject poverty and lack of support.[1] According to him,he even sold refreshments in a movie theatre for a living in his childhood and learned music from Neelakanda Bhagavathar in the period 1933–1939 resulting in his first stage performance in Trivandrum when he was only 13 years old.[7]


T. K. Ramamoorthy was born into a famous musical family in Trichy and was a talented violinist since young.His father, Krishnaswamy Iyer and grandfather, Malaikottai Govindasamy Iyer were well known violinists in Trichy. Ramamoorthy gave several stage performances along with his father since his childhood days. C. R. Subburaman noted the young Ramamoorthy's talent and hired him as a violinist for HMV when he was only fourteen years old.[8] He later worked in Saraswathi Stores where AVM Studio's boss, Avichi Meiyappa Chettiar,was a partner – which lead him to play violin for AVM's music composer, R. Sudarsanam, in some films. During these days, he also became friendly with P.S.Diwakar, the famous pianist cum music composer in the Malayala films and was staying with P.S.Diwakar while seeking opportunities. By this time, C. R. Subburaman, was a rising star in the South Indian film music world and Ramamoorthy rejoined him as one of his violinists in his musical troupe. There, he met T. G. Lingappa, another famed violinist. M.S Viswanathan joined this troupe later as a harmonium player in 1950.

Viswanathan had always wanted to be an actor and singer, but was not successful. He had done a few small roles in stage dramas in the 1940s. The famous music composer in the 50s, T. R. Papa, who was a violinist for the doyen of the Tamil film music, S. V. Venkatraman when he met the young struggling Viswanathan, took a liking to him and arranged a job for him as an errand boy for S. V. Venkatraman's musical troupe. In that company of all musicians, Viswanathan realised that he had the inclination and the potential for composing music. He thereafter joined S. M. Subbaiah Naidu and at times assisted him. He then joined C. R. Subburaman as a Harmonium player where he met both T.K.Ramamoorthy and T. G. Lingappa, the two leading violinists at that time. T. G. Lingappa also became a renowned music composer on his own in the 1950s. MSV was known as a master of playing 3 instruments -harmonium, keyboard and paino by the age of 13 whereas Ramamoorthy was known as master in playing violin by his age of 14.


In 1952, C. R. Subburaman died unexpectedly, Ramamoorthy and Viswanathan joined together and completed the background music for the films Subburaman was working on like Devadas, Chandi Rani and Marumagal. N. S. Krishnan knew them both fairly intimately and also their respective talents by then because of his close relationship with C.R.Subburaman, with whom he had worked earlier in several films.Meanwhile M.S. Viswanathan also worked as the third composer in the film Genova where the other composers were M.S Gnanamani and T.K.Kalyanam.[9]

Ramamoorthy, despite being an excellent musician with an orthodox carnatic musical background, was a modest, shy, and a reserved person whereas M. S. Viswanathan was naturally talented, charming, forward and dynamic although he lacked the similar background in Carnatic music. Ramamoorthy was older than Viswanathan by seven years, but placing of their names as Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy was agreed upon by both parties on the advice of Krishnan, who thereafter got the duo their first chance to score Panam a 1953 film produced by A.L.Seenivasan and directed by Krishnan himself. The duo considered C.R.Subbaraman as their mentor and have said their other inspirations include music of T.R.Papa and S.V.Venkatraman. Later the duo was asked to do the background score for the film Ratha Kaneer by its music composer C.S.Jayaram.

The Duo composed for over 100 films from 1952-1965.[10]

On 16 June 1963, at a special function M. S. Viswanathan and T. K. Ramamoorthy were each given the title of Mellisai Mannar(Kings of the Light Music).[11] It was granted by Sivaji Ganesan at the Madras Triplicane Cultural Academy. The function was supported and facilitated by the Hindu Group of Publications, especially Mr. T. M. Ramachandran, Director C. V. Sridhar and Chitralaya Gobu.

The duo parted in 1965 after release of Ayirathil Oruvan and since then they had composed for films individually. Although M.S. Viswanathan enjoyed a successful solo career, with just over 1100 films from 1965–2013, Ramamoorthy composed for only 19 films from 1966–1986. Vishwanathan was the highest paid music director from 1965–1985. After 29 years, they had rejoined in 1995 just once for the Sathyaraj starrer Tamil film Engirundho Vanthan

They were awarded an honorary doctorate, along with M.S. Viswanathan, by the Sathyabama Deemed University in September 2006.[12]

J.Jayalalithaa being the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, conferred the Thirai Isai Chakravarthy (Emperors of the Cine Music) title in August 2012[3] and presented with 60 gold coins and a new car to them.[4][5]

M.S.Viswanthan as an independent music director (1965–present)[edit]

A legendary perfectionist, he established a prolific career composing film music in the Tamil film industry.

M.S.Viswanathan's achievements range from introducing fresher melodies with changing trends, style and orchestration approaches to incorporating various genres of what is now called world music into Indian cinema music. Humming, Chorus, Whistling were all incorporated swiftly in the songs composed by M.S.V without usage of advanced technology way back in the 1950s to the 1970s. MSV continued to upgrade his music with new trends like western music and disco from the early 1970s till the 1990s and blended them with Indian classical tunes. Viswanathan during the late 70s and 80s chose mainly the young, up and coming singers, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam, and Vani Jayaram giving career's of these singers the much needed boost.

During the 70s and 80s he chose mainly the young, up and coming singers, S. P. Balasubramaniam and Vani Jayaram giving their career the much needed boost whilst still continuing with P.Susheela, L.R.Eshwari and T.M. Soundararajan in many films between 1970-1991. Although S.P.Balasubramaniyam shot to fame with the song "Ayiram Nilave Vaa" from Adimai Penn, a K. V. Mahadevan composition in 1969 which S.P.Balasubramanyam got to sing the song the insistence of M. G. Ramachandran, but fact was that it was Viswanathan who booked him first for a Tamil film and gave him his first Tamil song, from Shanthi Nilayam with the song "Iyarkai Ennum" also in 1969, though the latter got released after Adimai Penn. S.P.Balasubramaniyam regards Viswanathan as one of his patrons and Gurus in the Tamil films. Viswanathan introduced Jayachandran, the Malayalam singer to the Tamil films in Manippayal(1973) with the song Thanga-chimizhpol and used him for many more films in the 70s. K. J. Yesudas was given a big break in the film Kathalikka Neramillai in 1964 by the duo. Then Ramamoorthy used him for the hit song Vasantha Kalam Varumo in the film Marakka Mudiyuma in 1965.But Viswanathan started working with him again only in 1973 after a long gap at the insistence of M. G. Ramachandran in the film 'Ulagam Sutrum Valiban'. Yesudas then continued to be his voice in many films like in Nalai Namathe, Urmaikural, Sirithu Vazha Vendum etc., in Viswanathan's music. Then Viswanathan used Yesudas as the voice for the up-and-coming actors of the late 70s like Sivakumar, Kamalahasan, Vijaykumar and others. He is also considered responsible for making singers like R.Balasaraswathi in the early 1960s and then in making Vani Jayram, S.Janaki, A.L. Raghavan, Yesudas, S.P.Balasubramaniyam a popular name since the late 1960s.

Film directors like S.S.Vasan, B.R.Panthalu, B.S.Ranga, Krishnan-Panju from the 1950s then A.Bhimsingh, Madhavan, C.V.Shridhar, T.R.Ramanna, A.C.Trilogchander, K.Shankar, K.Balachander, Mukta V Srinivasan, Chitralaya T.R.Gopu, Cho Ramasawamy, Malliyam Rajagopal, Madurai Thirumaran, K.S. Gopalakrishnan, Dada Mirasi from 1960s preferred to have Vishwanathan as music director in their films from the 1960s till early the 1990s. From the 1970s directors like S.P.Muthuraman, Major Sundarrajan, N.S.Manian, Bhagyaraj, R. Krishnamurthy, D.Yoganand, C.V. Rajendran, P.Madhavan, K.S. Prakash Rao, R.C.Shakti, I.V. Sasi, Vietnam Veetu Sundaram, M.S.Gopinath, Taraka Rama Rao Nandamuril, Amirtham frequently worked with Vishwanathan and later from the 1980s to the early 1990s new directors like Visu, S.A.Chandrashekar, Mouli, Major Sundarrajan, A.Jaganathan, Komal Swaminathan,Amirtham, R.C.Shakti collaborated with Viswanathan regularly. In the 1990s directors like Lakshmi, K.Raghunath collaborated with him.

Many of the Tamil movies were also dubbed into Hindi. He has done playback singing for 500 songs composed by himself and has sung over 200 songs of composed by music directors like V. Kumar, Sankar Ganesh, Ilaiyaraaja, Gangai Amaran, Deva, Bharathwaj, A. R. Rahman, Yuvan Shankar Raja. M.S.Viswanathan has also scored music for many non-film albums and for political campaigns. MSV is the inspiration for music directors Shankar Ganesh, Ilayaraaja, Deva, V. Kumar, A.R.Rahman, Vidyasagar, Gangai Amaran, Bharathwaj, Yuvan Shankar Raja and others. His achievements also include appearances in numerous films and television series.M. S. Vishwanathan went on to act in a couple of Tamil feature films notably appearing in Kaadhal Mannan after being convinced to do so by actor Vivek, while he also starred in Kamal Haasan's Kaathala Kaathala and Karthik's Rojavanam.

He mainly teamed up with the well-known Tamil poet and lyricist Kannadasan in the 1960s and 1970s and also with Vaali from late 1960's. Viswanathan continued to belt out hit songs from 1965 till 1996.

Since 1996 Viswanathan has focused on composing devotional music and serving as a judge in Malayalam TV reality shows.He has collaborated with Illaiyaraja in 'Mella Thiranthathu Kathathavu', 'Senthamizh Paatu' 'Vishwa Thulsi' and 'Senthamizh Selvan' starring Prashanth. He sang the song "Vidai Kodu Engal Naadae" for 2002 Tamil film "Kannathil Muthamittal" composed by A.R.Rahman. Then in 2013 he sang for the film Neelam – the song called 'Alayae o Alayae' and it was recorded in the supervision of music composer Satish Chakravarthy.[13] He in 2013 composed music for the film Thillu Mullu, with Yuvan Shankar Raja[14] While M. S. Viswanathan composed the tunes in the 2013 Thillu Mullu film, Yuvan Shankar Raja orchestrated and recorded them.[15] Including this No. he has Sung a Song,‘Saami Namba saami' which is penned by Snehan for the film "Mannar Valaiguda",Composed by S.Siva Pragasam.[16][17]


Viswanathan was married to Janaki and they have four sons and three daughters. His wife, Janaki, died on 14 May 2012.

He is known to have looked after his original Guru, S.M.Subbaiah Naidu, when the latter fell into financial difficulties and then continued to look after his wife until her death.


M. S. Viswanathan has won many awards include the following:

  • Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award – South (2001)
  • PBS Puraskar Award presented by Aruna Nithya Gopal Foundation awarded on 29 September 2013 at Ravindra Bharati[18]
  • Honorary doctorate from Tirunelveli-based Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU) on 3 January 2013[19]
  • Paramacharya Award, meaning 'The Ultimate Guru' in 2006.
  • Doctorate conferred by Sathyabama University in 2006.[20]
  • Madhavapeddi Satyam Award by Siva Foundation in 2005.
  • Won Gold Remi Award for the best music score for movie Vishwa Thulasi in 2005.
  • Life Time Achievement Award by Sangam Kala group in 2004.
  • Isai Sangam honoured him with Isai Peraringnar, meaning "Great Scholar in Music", in 2004.
  • Kalaimamani – A jewel for art – from State Govt of Tamil Nadu
  • Seventh Kamukura Award – given by Kerala Cultural Ministry.
  • WorldFest Houston (USA)
  • People and Media describe him as "University of Music".
  • Media gave him title "Mellisai Mannar" along with T.K. Rammoorthy, meaning "King of Light Music" or "King of melodies".
  • 'Sangeetha Saraswathi' by Poojya Sri Guruji Viswanath of Manava Seva Kendra.
  • 2013 - Asiavision Awards - Lifetime Achievement Award[21]



  1. ^ a b http://cinema.maalaimalar.com/2013/11/23225210/ms-viswanathan-cinema-history.html
  2. ^ "CM honours Viswanathan-Ramamurthi". Nowrunning.com. 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Amma confers title of Thiraiyisai Chakravarthy on legendary MSV". ChennaiOnline. 30 August 2012. 
  4. ^ a b News, Express (30 August 2012). "CM confers Thirai Isai Chakravarthy on MSV". The New Indian Express. 
  5. ^ a b "After Padma snub, Jaya says one day Centre will listen". The Indian Express. 31 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Vamanan, Mellisai Mannargal Paattu Payanam 
  7. ^ http://cinema.maalaimalar.com/2013/11/24231505/ms-viswanathan-cinema-history.html
  8. ^ "Music composer Ramamoorthy passes away". Deccan Herald. DHNS. 17 April 2013. 
  9. ^ http://cinema.maalaimalar.com/2013/11/26224406/ms-viswanathan-cinema-history.html
  10. ^ Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy
  11. ^ "Veteran Tamil film music composer T K Ramamurthy is no more". Indian Express. 2013-04-17. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  12. ^ "Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : Honorary doctorates for seven eminent personalities". The Hindu. 4 September 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  13. ^ After 11 years veteran Vishwanathan croons for 'Neelam'. Realbollywood.com (8 February 2013).
  14. ^ "Thillu Mullu 2 with Yuvan & MSV's music". Indiaglitz. 20 August 2012. 
  15. ^ Nikhil Raghavan (1 June 2013). "Classic gets a new twist". The Hindu. 
  16. ^ The legendary MSV's juggernaut continues, M S Viswanathan, Yuvan Shankar Raja. Behindwoods.com (29 April 2013).
  17. ^ MSV in demand – Times Of India. The Times of India. (30 April 2013).
  18. ^ http://www.realbollywood.com/2013/09/ms-vishwanathan-vani-jairam-receive-pbs-puraskar.html
  19. ^ "Honorary doctorate for veteran musician M S Viswanathan". The Times of India. TNN. 10 January 2013. 
  20. ^ "Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : Honorary doctorates for seven eminent personalities". The Hindu. 4 September 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  21. ^ http://www.emirates247.com/entertainment/mammotty-kavya-madhavan-bag-asiavision-awards-2013-11-05-1.526962

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