Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan

  • When people were clamouring for the cassettes of movie albums, Vijayalakshmi turned the situation with her Tamil Folk songs. Folk songs are not a rarity as such, but they were not popular enough for every person to sing it. The songs pretty much stayed wherever they were sung and didn’t make an impact. In the 1990’s Vijayalakshmi changed this by recording folk songs on cassettes. This created a huge market for Tamil folk songs. She and her team have released almost 10000 cassettes!

  • Folk songs are not ones that are scripted or documented. They are songs sung in the flow and spun from the mood, situation, with no preparation. Compiling such songs is a Herculean task as they lack uniformity or documentation. There are songs as infinite as moods. But Vijayalakshmi took this task on her shoulders and compiled a great number of songs. For example ‘Vellai Pillaiyaar’ song which was sung in remote villages is now on the lips of urban people. This is how Vijayalakshmi took folk songs to every person in Tamil Nadu.

  • Numerous hours of research went behind every song of hers. She aspires to create a Dictionary of Tamil Folk Songs.

  • It is impossible to ignore her husband, Navaneethakrishnan’s role in her success. Since their research days in Madurai Kamarajar university, they recognised one another’s flair for folk songs. From that time to today, she hasn’t given a solo performance – such is their understanding!

  • She has also appeared in a few movies. Most of her songs on the screen are happy tunes. ‘Jothinila pola appam, Athali poo pola idli, kadal nurai pola soru..’ – these lines are enough to make anyone regret that there are only 3 meals a day. When the same song sways to the lyrics ‘Kaanaadha Saamiyellam Un Mugathil Kanden’, our mood and attention shifts from food to love. The diversity and variations in a single song will leave no one unimpressed.

  • In the 1990’s, the market for her songs grew feverishly. It’s hard to find Tamilians who haven’t heard the song ‘Thottu kadai orathile..’

  • Along with entertainment, some of her songs were bundles of information. For example, there’s a song where Vijayalakshmi explains about how a bullock cart driver instructs the cattle. The terms ‘mappu kotradhu’, ‘nochu kotradhu’ refer to sound signals. Explaining it in text doesn’t do justice to her explanation. Do listen to her songs to know about it.

  • When the topic of ‘Gummipaattu’ comes, one cannot go on without being reminded of Vijayalakshmi. There is not a type of gummi she hasn’t explored. It is not an exaggeration when we say that Amman temple functions are incomplete without her gummi songs. Sometimes, she dazzles the audience with ‘Anju thattu gummi’, the most fervent version of gummi.

  • Do not make the mistake of assuming that her songs are limited to small concepts! Some songs of hers have scientific themes. ‘Yettu anu oru immi, yettu immi oru dhoosi, yettu dhoosi oru yellu, yettu yellu oru nellu, yettu nellu oru viralu, ettu viralu oru saanu, yettu saanu oru udambu.’ These lines are loaded with information on measurements!

  • In 2018, the Indian Government honoured her with the ‘Padma Shri’ title.