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Tamil Songwriter Vaali Dies at 83

Vaali wrote 10,000 songs in 6-decade career

Tamil songwriter Vaali, who penned more than 10,000 tunes in a career spanning more than 60 years, died July 18 in Chennai, India, of respiratory problems. He was 83.

His lyrics drew composers such as M.S. Viswanathan, Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman to him over the years. Actors, who had to lip-sync the songs, also identified with his lyrics from 1960s Tamil leading men such as M.G. Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan, as well as later stars like Kamaal Haasan. Working up to the end, Vaali’s songs had many modern references, including one to Osama bin Laden.

Born T.S. Rangarajan in Srirangam, Tamilnadu, he came to Madras (now known as Chennai) in the 1950s to work in the prolific Tamil film industry, which followed a similar song-and-dance formula to that of Bollywood. However, the songwriter throne at the time was occupied by Kannadasan. Vaali finally got his break with “Karpagam” in 1963 and the poet never looked back, working, he said, as fast as the checks hit his bank account. His songs included such hits as “Naan anai ittal” for 1965’s “Enga veetu pillai,” “Kanpona pokile kaal pogalama” for “Panam padaithavan” and “Aandavanae un pathangalil” for “Oli villakal”  (1968). The latter became an anthem for grieving fans when Ramachandran died in 1987.

Singer P. Susheela told the Times of India: “My first national award came for the song ”Naalai intha velai parthu’ (from 1969’s ‘Uyarntha Manithan’), which Vaali wrote. How can I ever forget that? I will never forget him.”

He was also a playwright, acted in a few films and tried his hand at directing with “Vadaimaala.” His literary works included “Avathara Purushan,” a religious piece on the Hindu god Rama.

Survivors include a son.

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