Venkateswaran Dakshinamoorthy (9 December 1919 – 2 August 2013) was a veteran carnatic musician and composer and music director of Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi films, predominantly in Malayalam films. He has set scores for the songs in over 125 films. He has to his credit as many as 859 songs composed over a period of 50 years.
Dakshinamoorthy was born on 9 December 1919 as Venkateswaran Dakshinamoorthy, to D. Venkateswara Iyer and Parvathi Ammal in Alappuzha district, Kerala (Travancore, British India). His interest in music was nurtured by his mother who taught him keerthanas of Thyagaraja Swamikal when he was still a child. He had grasped at least 27 songs just by hearing them when they were being rendered by his mother and sister.
When he was ten years old, Venkatachalam Potti in Trivandrum taught him Carnatic music and the tutelage continued for three years. His first public performance, when he was 13 years old, was at the Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna temple. It was his habit to offer prayers to “Vaikkathappa Annadhaana Prabho” daily, in the morning and before going to bed. After finishing S.S.L.C., he learned carnatic music form Venkatachalam Potty in Trivandrum.
There is an incident which happened in Ambalapuzha. One midnight when Ambalapuzha was being lashed by torrential rain, ganjira vidwan Kaduva Krishnan knocked at the doors of Dakshinamoorthy’s house, inviting him to perform at a marriage kutcheri at Vaikkom the next day. His mother permitted him to do so and the two walked up to the Karumaadi boat jetty at Ambalapuzha and reached Vaikkom the next morning, 8 a.m.
After having a bath and a good darshan of Vaikkathappa’s, they reached Kaidarathu Madam for the concert. On the request of Kochi-based Konkini tavil vidwan to teach music to his relatives, Dakshinamoorthy remained at Vaikkom. He stayed there for 42 months and during this stay, he would sing daily at the temple, attend Nirmalya Darsanam and sang on all Ashtamis at the temple.
His first trip to Madras was in 1942, when he was to sing in a 30-minute programme on AIR. He was a regular visitor to the AIR for the next 4 years after which he settled in Mylapore in 1948.
He learned more about carnatic music and became an expert of it. He debuted in the film industry in 1950 with Nalla Thanka, produced by Kunchacko and K. V. Koshy under the banner of K & K Productions. The hero of the film was Augustin Joseph, father of renowned singer K. J. Yesudas. The film also had songs sung by Augustin. The producers wanted Dakshinamoorthy to compose a song on Lord Vinayaka and that was the first song he began his film industry career with.
Dakshinamoorthy went on to set scores for K. J. Yesudas his son Vijay Yesudas (for the film Idanazhiyil Oru Kalocha, directed by Bhadran) and his granddaughter Ameya (for the film Shyama Raagam, awaiting release) as well, thus achieving a rare treat.
He set the scores for many songs written by Sreekumaran Thampi, forming a famous musician-songwriter duo like the Vayalar Ramavarma – G. Devarajan and P. Bhaskaran – Baburaj duos. He had R. K. Shekhar, father of the music director A. R. Rahman as his assistant for a few films, who later became a musician in his own right. He went on to direct music for over 125 films including Navalokam, Seetha, Viyarppinte Vila, Sri Guruvayoorappan, Kadamattathachan and Indulekha.
His evergreen compositions include Swapnangal… Swapnangale ningal…(Kavyamela), Pattu padiyurakkan njan…(Seetha), Uthara swayamvaram…(Danger Biscuit), Kattile pazhmulam…(Vilaykku Vangiya Veena) and Vathil pazhuthilooden…(Idanazhiyil Oru Kalocha). He was guru of many singers and Music Directors including P. Leela, P. Susheela, Kalyani Menon and Ilaiyaraja. In 1971 he won the Kerala State Film Award for Best Music Director.
In 2003, he received the coveted ‘Sangeetha Saraswathi’ Award from the hands of revered Poojya Sri Guruji Viswanath of Manava Seva Kendra, Bangalore. In the year 2008, he composed four songs for the Malayalam movie Mizhikal Sakshi. He died in sleep on 2 August 2013 at the age of 94 in Chennai owing to age related illnesses. His last work was for a Malayalam movie Shyama Raagam (yet to release) which was done three months before his death.
Dakshinamoorthy is to be highly credited for his introduction of P. Suseela to Malayalam cinema through ‘Seetha’. He also introduced other singers such as Ambili, K.P. Brahmanandham, Shereen Peters, Vinodhini, Sree Latha, Kalyani Menon, etc.
His disciples included N.C. Vasantakokilam, Kaviyoor Revamma and Kalyani Menon.