The initials LPR is familiar to music lovers all over Kerala. LPR Varma was a music director par excellence who enthralled at least three generations of Malayalis through his great tunes and stage performances in music. A classical musician, belonging to the old school, he was totally ignorant about the tricks of the trade in the commercialization of music. Yet, his tunes are sung by many a music lover sometimes not even knowing as to who composed these tunes.
LPR, the maestro in Carnatic music, who won the national award for music direction in 1969, was born as Kochu Ravi to Mangala Bai Thampuratty of Lakashmipuram Palace and Vasudevan Nampoothirippad of Vadakkanchery Mana in 1926.Lakshmipuram Palace in Changanacherry, in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore is renowned as the birth place of Keralavarma Valiya Koil Thampuran, alternatively known as Kerala Kalidasa. Mahakavi Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer who had his childhood spent at Lakashmipuram Palace has written extensively on it through his essays.
Initiated in earlier childhood into the world of music, LPR was trained under the great stalwarts of Carnatic music like Muthaiyah Bhagavathar, Semmangudy Sreenivasa Iyer and Madura Keshava Bhagavathar. Such training helped him to imbibe the great heritage of Carnatic music with all its charm, vibrancy and tradition.
Writings in musicology by great masters describe the Classical Indian music as essentially creative (manodharma), and not simply as recitative. Therefore, it is said that the classical musician is a born prodigy and not one who is made so. Music is his life-breath from birth. As such it is believed that the accomplished musical faculty is a divine gift. Tantric texts say that the people with great artistic or musical skills have the elements of the Gandharva – the celestial musicians-in them. All these were truly to be observed in LPR who was also gifted with great physical and personal charm.
Starting his musical life at the age of eighteen through All India Radio, LPR electrified innumerable stages in his time spanning over 6 decades. In 1978, he won the award of the Sangeetha Nataka Academy for classical music.
As a music director to various dramas, during the golden age of Malayalam stage, he associated with Vayalar Rama Varma, the redoubtable lyricist of Malayalam cinema. In 1985, he won the State award from the Kerala Government for music direction of dramas.
LPR dazzled in films as music director and the first national award to Malayalam cinema for lyrics came through his music direction. The lyrics start in Malayalam as follows: “ajnjaatha sakheee, aathma sakheee “.
Music lovers in Kerala will always remember his following songs which were written for various dramas.
· Parannu parannu parannu chellaan ------
· Maanathe mazhavillinnezhuniram--------
The first national award for a song in Malayalam film was for the one starting, Upasana, Upasana, of which the music direction was by LPR and sung by Jayachandran as his first song.
LPR also had some illustrious students who learned classical music under him. Besides many professional musicians, this list includes noted film personalities like Kaviyoor Ponnamma, Sreelatha and Nedumudi Venu.
LPR was instrumental in introducing many known personalities into the wonderland of music and singing. Adoor Bhasi, the renowned comedian of early Malayalam cinema was introduced to singing by LPR.
Apart from his musical genius, he was remarkable as a great conversationalist. I have many pleasant memories of him on various discussions spanning over two decades.
He was Vallyacchan to my wife Sindhu, having married the elder sister of her mother. Obviously Vallyacchan had a lot of affection for me .Occasionally he has stayed with us in Trivandrum and Eranakulam where I have been working on my banking assignments. I must say that he was most considerate to me for whom music was like Greek or Latin. Despite knowing that he was talking to an ignoramus, he tried to explain various facets of music for my information. I remember the time when he stayed with us and explained to me on Boopaala raga (a morning raga) through his melodious rendering when I felt that the early morning light was just breaking and things were beginning to glow in the early sun light.
He had a wonderful circle of friends from various walks of life. It included many politicians, ministers, musical geniuses, film personalities, businessmen, officials, music lovers and common people. The children always found him young at heart. His wife Maya Rani was his shadow all through his life as they had married pretty young.
In 2002, after attending the marriage of a grand niece, while being surrounded by all the loved ones, his soul flew away to the beautiful world of the Gandharvas where the music never stops.
Besides, Vallyamma, his children, Prem, Raaj, Sobha and Beena carry the fond memories of this wonderfully affable human being in their daily lives. The youngest daughter Beena has been particularly fond of her dad in that she has taken pains to collect all available press clippings and other paraphernalia on the great man and his music.
I too cherish his memories and have with me some compositions of his memorable music in many a 78 RPM record.
I am sure; he is having a josh time in the Gandharva loka as he was having it here.
Dubai, 6th January 2008.