Introduction Film songs are not only for just music. They do have huge meaning and if the script is followed closely, can teach a huge number of lessons for the general public. In fact, Tamil Film songs have really had a massive impact on people, at all times. However, these days, the songs are very loud and the meaning is totally lost. Many belong to the pure entertainment variety and are directed at the huge young crowds.
The Golden Era The Golden era, just four or five decades ago, during the times of MGR and Sivaji Ganesan, was marked by superb Tamil songs, that were actually so melodious that they attracted nationwide attention. More often than not, MGR songs had a huge meaning and society impact.
For example, MGR had this special interest of infusing interest in his melodious songs, by combining the story with the song. In "Enga Vettu Pillai"(Our Own Son), a dual act by MGR was enough to keep the audiences spell bound .While one was the innocent MGR and the other, the rampaging, shrewd MGR. He goes on to sing "Naan aanai Ittal, athu nadanthu vittal "(If I give orders, and they are obeyed, what will happen?). This all time classic, formed the basis of his futuristic career in politics. He had a superb way of communicating messages with his audiences. The song "thoongathe thambi, thoongathe" (do not sleep brother, do not sleep), goes on to wake up a lazy guy, making him more socially responsible. To this day, this song is a super duper hit.
MGR had a lovely song called "Nalla Perai Vaanga Vendum Pillaigale" (Children, all of you should go on to get good names as responsible citizens) in his super duper hit movie, Nam Naadu, which was all out exposing corruption of Ministers in Tamil Nadu.
MGR was mentored by the late Annadurai, and was hugely influenced by him. He never had any corruption charge against him, at all times. During the later half of his cinematic career, MGR wove his political messages in his superb songs. "Naalai Namathe, intha naalum namathe" (tomorrow is ours, and today is also ours) from his movie called "Naalai Namathe" is one such.
The songs were sung mostly by one T.M. Soundarrajan, and another person, who is still around, Mr S.P. Balasubramaniam. The music was rendered by M.S. Vishwanathan, a very good music director.
Each of the aforesaid songs were simply superb melodies.
Sivaji Ganesan, who was a far more brilliant actor than even MGR, made waves through some melodies as well. The most famous ones are from his silver jubilee hit, the deeply emotional movie, called "baabu". The song "itho enthan deivam munnalae,naan ore oru punnagaiyil kandanae" (here is my divine soul, I see her through her smile), and "yaarukkaaga, ithu yaarukkaaga" (for whom is this mansion made?) from the film called Vasantha Maaligai, where he plays a drunkard, later refined by the leading lady.
The Ilayaraja Era The Illayaraja era started with the decline of Sivaji Ganesan, who was no more the young man he once was, and MGR, who was all into politics. The newer films had a new music director called Illayaraja. This music director was able to create a real sensation with his melodies, and he ruled most of the eighties and part of nineties.
Some of the superb melodies of Ilayaraja are "aanakilae, unnai theduthen" (am searching you, my love) , and "Naan oru sindhu," (am a nomad) from the wonderful K Balachander movie, called "Sindhu Bhairavi".
"Vasantha Kaala Nathikalie" (in these good waterways) from a Kamalahasan movie, rings so well even today. "Then pandi seemaiilae" (from the South of Madurai), a lovely song from the film Nayagan, was another classic of Illayaraja. This song was in the background of the young Kamalahasan being sort of baptized into the dirty underworld of Mumbai, and resonated very well with the audience. This film was even nominated for the Oscar award.
Enter A R Rahman A.R. Rahman's entry into the Tamil movie world, coincided with the onset of the IT revolution, and Chennai emerging as a huge IT spot, in terms of the tens of thousands of new jobs. This generation gave a damn to the old melodies. Even those who lived in slums, wanted songs that are very fast paced, and in the movie, sung by the hero, with at least thirty dancers around him. This trend continues today.
This trend was set by A.R. Rahman, and has been carried forward by other music directors. Rahman gave the young kids a chance to dance for the song "anjali, anjali, anjali", which was all about a very small kid, two years old, called Anjali, who is mentally disturbed. Rahman followed this very religiously and most film makers wanted the same trend. The net result is that the songs do not register in the minds of the film goers.
Of late, actors like Kamalhassan are trying to infuse some variety. They tend to combine the old tunes with the new. One such attempt was made in his movie, "Dasavatharam", in which he had nine roles. This song, "mukunda mukunda," sung in praise of the Lord, was a super hit.
The present times The present times are totally different and the younger generation wants a good amount of dance. Consequently, the songs will change too. The dance sequences will have a huge amount of loud noise and this cannot be helped. This will continue for a long time to come. This situation is unlikely to change in the near future. Not even in the next ten years.