Saturday, September 27, 2014
As a child, he had to support himself from an early age. Barely four when his father died, Viswanathan was a burden to his mother and was forced to fend for himself. No school for him, but as a fetch-and-carry-boy in a cinema theatre somewhere in Kerala lit in him a desire for the silver screen and a love of music. He learnt music - it was the done thing for the lead actor to sing his own songs - thinking of it as the first step to stardom.
It was, but not the kind of stardom he initially dreamt of. He was turned away from his desire of becoming an actor, being advised to focus on his music skills. He was part of a music troupe and then, in combination with a fellow member, went on to become one of the most feted music duo of the 1950s and '60s. Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy was a guarantee of good music, and they delivered several hits, before deciding to go solo.
In that solo phase, Manayangath Subramanian Viswanathan achieved his stardom. In the fashion of the times, when stars were known by their initials rather than names - in the fashion of MGR or NTR - Vishwanathan transformed into MSV; the stardom that he sought was achieved in style. He has become a feature of the south Indian film firmament - and by extension, of popular culture as well. This is his place in the city: Vishwa Keerthi, on Santhome High Road. If you are lucky, you might get to hear a note or few!