Madhan Karky
Interviewer : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar & Inian | Camera : Balaji | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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Irumbile Oru Irudhayam in Endhiran was noticed for its scientific Tamil flavor. Madhan Karky, who was responsible for this is the son of Kavi Perarasu Vairamuthu. Armed with a doctorate degree in Computer Science, Karky is involved in the research of lyric engineering in Tamil putting to use his technical prowess and his passion for the language. In this exclusive interview to, Karky talks to Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar and Inian on Endhiran, Payanam and of course ‘kuviyamila’, the latest fad.

A brief intro about yourself

Hi to behindwoods viewers! I am Karky and have penned the lyrics for two songs and the dialogues in Endhiran. I am born and raised in Chennai. I did my B.E. in computer Science from Anna University and went on to do my Masters and Doctorate in Australia. Currently I am working as an Assistant Professor with Anna University.

How did the tryst with cinema happen?

I never had any plans to enter film world when I was studying. However on my return from Australia, I felt I could do some creative projects. That was the time Shankar was working on Endhiran. I approached him and expressed my desire to be involved in a scientific project and he gave me the opportunity.

Working with Shankar

Shankar expects quality in every feature of work. He was keen (during Endhiran) that even a small dialogue or a line in a song should be understood by every section of the audience. He would discuss at length about how various things would reach the public. It was a good experience to have worked with Shankar in my very first film. I am lucky to have worked with a top technician of the country and I am delighted about it.

Rajni appreciated my dialogues

Experience with Rajnikanth

I met Rajni sir only twice during the making of Endhiran. The first time was during a dubbing session when I was helping him out with the technical words. He appreciated my dialogues especially in the climax sequence and had good things to say about my work. Shankar’s team is such a motivating team and it is a matter of pride for me to have worked with it in my first film.

Ko experience

Shankar sir was the one who introduced me to K V Anand and Harris Jeyaraj. It was more than a year since I wrote the lyrics for the song ‘ennamo yedho’. It was a very simple situation. A photo journalist falls in love with a girl who sweeps him off his feet. Love mystifies and baffles him. This bemused state had to be recorded in a song and Harris had set a tune for this.

Shankar sir introduced me to K

V Anand and Harris Jeyaraj

As soon as I heard this, I immediately texted him saying that it was such an addictive tune. I worked on it for two days and brought out the lyrics of ‘ennamo yedho’ which had much scope to bring in photographic words.

One such example is ‘vanna pirazhchi’. There is also a catch phrase ‘yeno kuviyamila kuviyamila oru kaatchi pezhai’ and people ask me the meaning of the word ‘kuviyamila’. Kuviyam denotes focus and kuviyamila means out of focus. A photographer’s confusion can best be described in his own work jargon as ‘kuviyamila’ or ‘out of focus’. Kaatchi Pezhai describes a display unit such as a TV monitor or a PC monitor. The photographer sees his entire world in the display unit in which nothing seems to be in focus and he questions the reason for this in the song.

I am very fond of the last line in the song – ‘nizhalai thirudum mazhalai naano’. A photographer’s job is to capture the shadow and he is in the state of a child who steals the shadow and says that nothing belongs to him but for the shadow. This is a song in which pathos and love are woven together in an intricate manner. I would like to thank K V Anand and Harris Jeyaraj for having given me the opportunity to write this song.

Payanam’s promo song

I am a big fan of Radha Mohan’s works and the songs in his films. He wanted me to write a song which is to feature in the trailer of Payanam though the film as such does not have any songs. When I completed the work, he was impressed with it and said that he had not expected it to come so well and appreciated every line. He approved it without any correction and the song went for recording the same day. We have recorded a journey of human race and how it is perceived in the song.

Neerchirai kizhiya karuvadan payanam
Vaarthaigal theliya mazhalaiyin payanam
Korthidum poyil kuzhandaiyin payanam
mudiyum payanam

The journey of a fetus completes when the amniotic sac breaks open; the babble of a child comes to an end when the words take shape; when a child starts sequencing lies, its childhood comes to a close.

Likewise, I have written about the journeys of various stages of human life and about the elements of nature.

Each line was an offshoot of a philosophical thought and I enjoyed doing it. Praveen Mani had scored the apt music for the lines.

My dad is my role model

Your parent’s influence on you

I cannot deny their influence on me especially on the genetical side. Driven by my mom’s genes, I am travelling on the academic track and thanks to my dad’s genes I am trekking on the creative surface writing lyrics. Besides these, I have learnt a lot from my parents. My dad is my role model and I have seen him work listening to the tunes of songs. There is definitely a lot of influence of them on me.

Is it a boon or bane to be Vairamuthu’s son?

Both! It is a pressure to be compared with my dad at the start of my career. But it is a boon when I take the pressure as a challenge.

It is a pressure to be compared

with my dad

My professions complement

each other

How do you manage two diametrically opposite professions?

I don’t look at it that way. My thoughts centre around the creativity involved. At the university, I am working on Tamil computing and allied subjects. I am training my students to bring out computational creativity. Writing lyrics support this venture of mine at the university. I am very fond of teaching. I have been bestowed with the ‘Best Tutor’ award when I was doing my PhD in University of Queensland. I am trying to bring out innovative methods in teaching. I think both my professions complement each other.

About Mellinam Foundation

My wife Nandini and I have started Mellinam Foundation and we are doing small projects right now. We have brought out songs for children of current generation called ‘I Paatti’ which has 35 songs from different domains like science, history, geography, family etc. Songs are all educative and entertaining. We have done the songs in rap, hip hop, carnatic style which can be enjoyed by parents also.

What are your other projects?

I have done nenjil nenjil idho idho in Engeyum Kaadhal, 2 songs in Ko, 5 songs in Jeyendra’s 180. I have also written the dialogues for Shankar’s Nanban which is the remake of 3 idiots. I hope I will be doing the lyrics for the film as well.

I have written Nanban’s


Have you brought out compilation of your works?

No, I have not done it as yet.

My mind always goes to the


How has your technical knowledge helped in the lyrical segment?

I have been following cine lyrics for quite some time. Different people look for different components when they listen to songs. But my mind always goes to the lyrics; I look for the words used, the sound arrangement, the situation, the synchronization of music with the lyrics and so on.

In this context, I am doing a research on Lyric Engineering on refinement of lyrics using the tools of technology. There are many sub topics under this. For instance, when we analyzed the lyrics, we found out the top 100 most frequently used words like kaadhal, nila, nee, naan etc. Having found this, we are looking at avoiding these words and using fresh words in their place.

Another aspect is Rhyme Analysis where we are looking at pattern of verse like ‘edugai monai’ and the frequently used rhyming words. For instance, when the word ‘saami’ is used in the first line, the probability of the word ‘bhoomi’ in the second line is very high. Hence we are looking to find out if such clichés can be avoided and if avoided, whether it would heighten the freshness of the song.

Pattern of the song is one more segment. For example, the song ‘nee kaatru, naan maram, enna sonnalum thalai aattuven’ travels on the same format of ‘nee’ and ‘naan’ as objects and the next line being the reason for the objects. We look at verses which compare a woman with moon and the man with cloud, which are quite common. We study the repetition of such concepts. We are exploring these aspects under Lyric Mining.

The next topic under Lyric Engineering is the Lyric Generation. Under this, we are attempting to bring about the right kind of words with apt meaning for a specific situation, when a tune is given. In addition to it, we are also working on Lyricists Modeling and checking to see if we can model every lyricist i.e. if certain lyrics are given to the computer, is there a possibility to figure out the lyricist based on the style?. If a song written by Kannadasan is given, can it be changed to Vaali style? We are researching on these subjects.

How do you plan to take Tamil to the current generation?

Film songs are the best form of literature which has a wider reach. When a good word is introduced through film songs, it reaches more people. There is a constant influx of new words into Tamil every day as scholars are continuously creating words but only thing is that we are not using those words. We are using English as it is easy. I am keen to introduce many Tamil words. I am happy that when the word ‘kuviyamila’ was introduced, it evoked a sense of

Film songs are the best form of


curiosity among people who went all out to learn its meaning which gave them that ‘Aha’ moment upon learning anew word. I want to revive those Tamil words which are very beautiful but are in the process of getting extinct. I want to project Tamil as the modern language for the next generation. Tamil is not tough and it is cool. It can be put to use the way we would like it and it is sweet on the ears. And hence I believe it can definitely be taken to the next generation.

On naming your son as Haiku

We were contemplating on a lot of names when our son was born and that’s when decided on Haiku. We like the philosophy of Haiku poetries which convey profound meaning in just three lines. We expect our son also to lead such a meaningful life with few words but with a purpose in action. In Japanese Haiku means word in action.

Tags : Madhan Karky, Rajini, Shankar, Nanban, K V Anand
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