For the love of language :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Vairamuthu lives and breathes Tamil. SRINIVASA RAMANUJAM speaks to the lyricist ahead of his talk at The Hindu Lit for Life

In a cul de sac in busy Besant Nagar stands a big, white bungalow with the word Tamizh engraved on its façade. It belongs to renowned poet and writer Vairamuthu, for whom the language is as dear as his chidren. Hell elucidate on his love for the language this weekend at The Hindu Lit Fest. Excerpts from an hour-long candid conversation:

What will you be speaking on at the festival?

Words, Meanings and Music — the combination of these three elements is like the Triveni Sangam, and Im delighted to be discussing it at the festival. Its only when these three meet that language attains salvation. This festival will not just elevate the literary senses of the audience, but also give us an opportunity to reinvent ourselves.

At a time when the concept of the global citizen is catching up, where do you think the Tamil language is now, and where is it headed?

Anyone born in this world is a global citizen. The world has been broken by humans and Nature. While it is true that even those who speak different languages are connected with each other in some way, it is imperative that we do not lose our identity. And, by that I refer to three things — language, culture and value system.

What is the impetus for a child to learn the local language when the path ahead is to master English, which is the accepted global means of communication?

When you are a new-born, you drink your mothers milk — and that helps you develop immunity. Its the same with your mother tongue.

Tamil has survived the test of time and thrived for many centuries. Would you consider the next few decades to be challenging?

This challenge is not just for Tamil but for vernacular languages throughout the world. I fear that the world is moving towards concepts such as one food, one currency and one clothing.

Languages might face the brunt of it. Like how Vardah uprooted our trees, globalisation is set to uproot local languages.

Whats your solution for this?

When I see the advent of English-medium education in schools, I see it as progress in one sense and failure in another. While Im happy that our children are learning the language of the world, Im distraught at how Tamil-medium education is looked down upon. A slum dweller, a vegetable seller and a flower vendor — all of whom made the vernacular language thrive — are now proud that their children are writing and speaking in English.

Can technology help popularise Tamil?

Surely. Man first wrote on sand, on the walls of caves, manuscripts and then on paper… and now is writing on laptops. When you change the vehicle of communication, a language that will survive will automatically latch on to it. We have to realise that we are moving towards a paperless society. My son, Madhan Karky, recently gifted me an electronic slate. You can write, edit and erase on it; it can store all the songs Ive written. I have been writing on paper all my life, but now, Ive moved on too. But, in all this my love for Tamil has stayed.

After more than three decades as a film lyricist, would you now say youre choosy about the work you take on?

Yes. When I entered the industry, films with a lot of substance came by. Sindhu Bhairavi, Punnagai Mannan, Roja… so many of them.

They had scope. Today, songs fill up the blanks in many films; language isnt needed much in them.

Those who still have a story and feel my language skills would contribute to that come to me — and I take up these projects.

Do you miss writing for rural-based films?

I pride myself to be a rural man. Only when poets take up subjects based in villages do they transform into characters; with urban films, you still need embellishments. I feel that MNCs, are governing the tastes of Tamil audiences by telling TV channels to stay away from rural films. This is one of the reasons why they are on the decline; Im also one of the parties affected.

Tell us about the Mani Ratnam project…

The title, Kaatru Veliyidai, is itself a line by Bharatiyar. There are six songs and theres good scope for lyrics and music.

What are the other big projects you are working on?

Theres Bairavaa, and Sanghamitra, in which we are thinking beyond Baahubali. Another thing close to my heart is chronicling 24 trend-setters of Tamil; such as Kambar, Ilango Adigal, Tholkaapiar and Paavendar Bharatidasan. Im passionate about this project; a humble tribute to the language to which I owe everything.

Vairamuthu will be in conversation with Thamizhachi Thangapandian on

Sol, Isai, Porul from 9.45 a.m. to 10.45 a.m. on January 15 at Sir Mutha Concert Hall as part of The Hindu Lit for Life 2017 source - THE HINDU

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