Indian film composer M.S. Viswanathan, who composed tunes for hundreds of Tamil and Malayalam pics, died July 14 in Chennai, India, at age 88.

Partnering with T.K. Ramamoorthy, Viswanathan composed songs for such classics as “Paasamalar” “Server Sundaram,”  “Ayirathil oruvan” and “Enga veetu pillai.” After 1965 he started working on his own, although the two partnered on an unsuccessful film in 1996.

Maniyanga Subramanian Viswanathan was a child prodigy whose life was nearly cut short when his poverty-stricken mother decided to end both their lives after his father died. However, his grandfather stepped in and stopped the attempt, Viswanathan told a biographer.

He learned music by listening in at local maestro Neelakanta Bhagavathar’s lessons. Taken under the latter’s wing, Viswanathan gave his first singing concert at age 13 in Kannanur, Kerala. He had worked as a child actor and later at odd jobs at Jupiter Studios.

His big break came with composing music for “Jenova,” starring M.G. Ramachandran, the Tamil matinee idol. After teaming with top lyricists of the day like Kannadasan, Viswanathan composed for films of all the leading stars, who, besides Ramachandran, included Sivaji Ganesan, Gemini Ganesan (no relation) and Nagesh.

While the bulk of his composing was for Tamil helmers, he also worked with the top directors of the time in Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam films including C.V. Sridhar, K. Balachander, K.S. Gopalakrishnan, K.S. Prakash Rao, N.T. Rama Rao, Visu, Mouli and Komal Swaminathan.

Such tunes as “Yezhu Swarngalukkul Ethanai Padal” in “Apoorva ragangal” won singer Vani Jairam the National Award. He also composed “Neerarum Kadalodutha,” which became the state anthem for Tamil Nadu.

Among later composers who worked with Viswanathan are Illayaraja and A.R. Rahman.

Viswanathan is survived by four sons and three daughters. His wife preceded him in death.