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Vayalar Rama Varma

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Vayalar Rama Varma, who rose to be identified by simply VAYALAR, is the most adored lyricist by the Malayalam film music fans. He was not criticised during his lifetime for using meaningless and wrong words. The flamboyant lyricist led a careless life, being pampered by admirers often detriment to his health. Many of his close friends attributed his ill-health to uncontrolled addiction to alcohol. He was willing to sacrifice friendship rather giving up alcoholism. Some of his ‘so called’ close friends did not do a benevolent act but led him to an untimely health. He was only 47 when he breathed his last.

Vayalar is a small hamlet near Cherthala in Alappuzha district. Even though it was connected to Cherthala by road only in 1970, it was known to the external world because of the peasants’ unrest and Vayalar Rama Varma. Vayalar Rama was born in Raghavaparambu Kovilakam to Ambalika Thampuratti and Vellarappalli Kerala Varma on March 24, 1928. Four generations earlier, another Rama Varma had translated Valmiki Ramayanam in prosaic form and he built a temple for Rama (Raghava) in his compound and hence the kovilakam was known as Raghavaparambu Kovilakam. Following the matriarchal tradition, they were staying at Raghavaparambu Kovilakam itself. Rama Varma was the only child of the couple, born after fifteen years of married life. He lost his father at an early age of over two years. Hence the mother and son were under the protection of his uncle Kerala Varma.

Education

After initiation to the world of letters, Ambalika Thampuratti herself taught him the alphabet and writing. When he turned five, he was taken to the nearby lower primary school. Head Master Mathai Sir gave him a test to assess his intelligence and found him superior to other students of first standard. So Rama Varma was admitted to second standard and after half yearly examination, seeing his very high marks, he immediately promoted Raghava Varma to third standard. When he passed from UP School, uncle decided that Rama Varma should pursue Sanskrit education while his own sons were sent to English School. This was a ploy to avoid the monthly fee of six and a quarter rupees. This decision badly hurt his mother but she was helpless.

Uncle granted about 400 gms of rice daily and four sets of clothes a year to her. A part of this cloth was used to stitch clothes for Rama Varma. At night, when Thampuratti wept because of their poverty and sad plight, Rama Varma used to console her saying, once he grew up he would make her happy. The boy was sent to Thykattusseri Mana for learning Sanskrit. There he had to do some domestic chores and to carry the betel box of is guru wherever he went and the lessons were done whenever the guru was inclined to teach. However, Rama Varma acknowledged that these lessons greatly helped him to become a poet.

Shortly, because of the intervention of a relative, the boy was taken back and was enrolled in Cherthala English School. During this period, Rama Varma started writing small poems and when he was in 9th standard, he won second prize for writing a poem while the present Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram head P Parameswaran won the first prize. Varma thought of getting his poems published in periodicals, and started sending them to various periodicals. When many of them came back rejected, one was published in Swarat under the name G Rama Varma Thirumulpad.

When Rama Varma passed ninth standard, uncle put a stop to his education and took him to Ettumanoor Temple to undergo a one Year Prayer Session in the temple.

 

Birth of a poet

 

Karoor Neelakanta Pillai was running a provision Store in Ettumanoor those days. Whenever Vadakkumkoor Rajaraja Varma, K P Narayana Pisharodi, Anandakuttan et al visited the temple, they would meet Karoor and one day Vadakkumkoor told Narayana Pisharodi that this lean boy wrote poems and he should be encouraged. On Pishaodi’s orders, Rama Varma send him some poems and within a fortnight, one poem ‘Shukranakshatram’was published. It was based on Subhash Chandra Bose and his fight against the British. After reading that poem some Communist leaders mistook him to be a Communist co-traveller and decided to encourage him.

One day Rama Varma was summoned to meet C K Kumara Panicker (father of Chandrappan who later became MLA and MP) at night. He was a Communist worker hiding from police. Panicker advised him to write on progressive ideas. After a fortnight, Rama Varma received a letter from ‘Arunodayam’asking for a poem. Soon many periodicals associated with Communist leaders asked him for poems.

Rama Varma was a follower of Gandhian philosophy. He was a regular visitor to the office of Cherthala branch of All India Charka Sangh. They were organising nonviolent processions every month and Varma used to take part in the procession. He was then 15. Uncle Kerala Varma died soon after the demise of his wife and as per tradition, Rama Varma became the head of his mother’s clan but unlike his uncle, he did not show much interest in farming and other activities required to earn any money. He wanted to publish a collection of his poems in book form and managed to persuade Madhava Pai of NarasimhavilasamBook Depot to do so. When it was printed under the name G Rama Varma Thirumulpad, neither Pai nor Varma had the money to pay for the printing. With a lot of difficulty, Varma raised Rs 75 and got 10 copies of the book released. Pai decided not to get the remaining copies as the poetry had no demand then.

Soon there was an agrarian revolt in Vayalar followed by firing by police. The name of Vayalar reached everywhere. Pai then had a miraculous idea. He raised money and got the remaining copies from the printer, after changing the name of the author from Thirumulpad to Vayalar Rama Varma. Soon the whole lot was sold out. He then got all the rights of the book to himself from Rama Varma and came out with a second edition. Though Rama Varma did not get any money out of this book, ‘Paadamudrakal’(Footmarks), his became soon a recognised name.

Though Pai made plenty of money out of ‘Paadamudrakal’, the poet Vayalar Rama Varma did not benefit a paisa. When he approached other publishers, they were all unanimous in their opinion that poetry had no demand. They advised him to write detective novels, an impossible task for him. After learning the style of short stories after reading those of S K Pottekkat, Karoor, Ponkunnam Varkey, Malayalam translations of Maupassant etc, Vayalar wrote some short stories and got them published in periodicals. When other publishers declined, Madhava Pai was again approached and ‘Vettum thiruthum’came out in book form.  However, this book also did not help him earn any money.

Stage actor

Vayalar was convinced that unless the literacy level of people boosted, books printed would remain in the book shelf. To achieve this object to some extent, he took initiative in establishing a library and reading room, ‘Navasahiti’in Vayalar. On the occasion of the first anniversary of Navasahiti, they decided to stage T N Gopinathan Nair’s ‘Akavum Purhavum’and Vayalar appeared in it as an old man. When audience realised that the old man was none but Vayalar, he was cheered. Then Vayalar thought of making the stage acting a way of living. Soon Communist party decided to exploit Vayalar’s talent to its advantage and he was asked to write lyrics for their plays. Then he deviated to writing plays for the