Renowned Malayalam music composer MK Arjunan, who has composed music for over 700 songs in 200 films and regarded as the original master of melody in Malayalam films, passed away at his home in Palluruthy here, on Monday. He was 85.
Born on August 25, 1936 as the youngest of 14 children, Arjunan Master, as he’s fondly called, received his first lessons in music when his mother sent him and his brother to the Jevakarunyananda Ashram, Palani, when their father passed away when he was just six months old.
He began his career by composing music for the small-time amateur play and soon he was a sought-after name among the amateur troupes in Kerala. Later, he began to associate himself with top names like Changanassery Geedha, People’s Theatre, Kalidasa Kalakendram, Desabhimani Theatres, Alleppey Theatres and KPAC. He would go on to compose around 800 songs for 300 plays.
The next logical step was the Malayalam film industry. When stalwarts like G Devarajan, K Raghavan and MS Baburaj ruled the roost, the young Arjunan established his own identity. Making his debut as a composer in ‘Karuthapurnami’ in 1968, he was known for his association with lyricist Sreekumaran Thampi, with whom he composed the music for nearly 50 films, emerging as the most prolific composer-lyricist partnership in Malayalam film industry.
Despite setting the score for hundreds of songs, the master composer had to wait until 2018 to receive his first state award — after 50 years since he began his career – for the movie ‘Bhayanakam’. “I have never thought about awards. For me, it has always been about the music,” he had said then.
Arjunan master is also credited with giving music maestro AR Rahman the first break when he played keyboard for the 1981 film ‘Adimachangala’.