Life in lyrics

Damodaran is celebrating his 70th birthday, which he lovingly dubbed as ‘Praaya-ulsavam’ (celebration of age)
Life in lyrics: Damodaran is celebrating his 70th birthday
Life in lyrics: Damodaran is celebrating his 70th birthday

Welcome to Ulpreksha, where the air is filled with the cadence of poetry and the weight of musical history. Awards stand proudly, like sentinels of creative accomplishment. A showcase becomes a window into history, adorned with monochrome snapshots of luminaries: Yesudas, P Leela, and Ilaiyaraaja.
Nestled amidst them sits R K Damodaran, the wordsmith, his forehead marked by a red tilak that has become his signature. 

Damodaran is celebrating his 70th birthday, which he lovingly dubbed as ‘Praaya-ulsavam’ (celebration of age). “At this age, I am glad that I still have it in me to contribute to the Malayalam language. You smiled when you heard my invented word. That is all I seek!”

Damodaran fondly recalls the journey of his life. At twenty, the young scholar, who enrolled at Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam, found fame for his lyrical abilities with his debut song Ravi Varma Chithrathin Rathibhavame... sung by none other than Yesudas. 

“I still remember how nervous I was to be in the same room as him. But, we ended up becoming lifelong friends. Since then, I have written 118 melodies which is a satisfactory number for me. I don’t want anything to be too excessive,” he smiles.

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The heart of music, he says, is where rhythm and emotion converge in a sacred meeting ground. “Imagine, rhythm whispers hidden in every corner, waiting to be discovered. It’s in the silent conversations between heartbeats. Our hearts beat 72 times a second without fail,” he smiles. 

“I am from Palakkad, and having grown up around many talents, the first thing we ask anyone is if they have music in them,” he muses. In addition to researching musical history, he also occupies himself with inventing new Malayalam words that border on satire. For example, he recently coined the term 
cash-putri, a play on the Malayalam word for hospital, which to him has collapsed into money-minting schemes. “To convey the hypocrisy of our world is not easy, since no one reads much anymore. This is why I have taken up the task of coining double-edged words that can strike into just about anyone’s mind.”

“Music and verse remind us to be human. A small verse that I write can have a profound effect on somebody — that is the square root of empathy,” he shares. “I have had autorickshaw drivers and people on the street stop me and tell me that my verse is imprinted in their hearts. This is what satisfies my spirit the most.”

However, Damodaran is disappointed in the Malayalam film industry and its lack of lyrical explorations today. “I feel sad when I hear what is served up by today’s entertainment industry. There is no depth to anything anymore. There was a certain place given to music in films since it lent notes to the unspoken emotions that played out on the screen. Now, it feels like nobody has any patience for it,” he concludes.

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