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Non-stop 36-hour Guinness show -  The story behind success

The year was 1994. And the month was December. When the entire music world was busy with the annual classic music festivals at Sabhas in and around Mylapore, we at Lakshman Sruthi was busy at something else at Teynampet, Mylai’s very own backyard.

Yes, we were about to start a 36 hour non-stop world record concert at the famous Kamaraj Hall, of course with the blessings of some of the living legends of music world.  Though we were upbeat about the encouragement we received from various quarters, our heart beats were not that normal, as we had an uphill task in front of ours, that too at the cost of the reputation of our troop and the future of our team.

But then, the D-day came (17 December). You can also call it as M-day (read M for music), as the marathon event was kickstarted by none other than K J Yesudoss, who has a lion’s share in the hearts of millions, courtesy his indelible voice, which is the same for decades now.

For our own convenience and for that of the audiences, the 36 hour show was divided into 12 interesting categories. Abiding the rules of the Guinness that a five-minute break could be taken at the end of every hour, we, with the permission of the authorities concerned, decided to take it as a 15-minute interval once in every three hours.

As the show was split into 12 sections, the 15-minute break enabled the audiences who had purchased tickets for categories of their choice to enter and exit the hall. If you are quizzed about the sections we are talking about, here are they for you.

1. Devotional songs

2. MGR hits

3. Sivaji Ganesan songs

4. A R Rahman tunes

5. SPB special

6. Rendezvous with romance

7. Chit-chat special

8. Your choice

9. Vintage of Viswanathan-Ramamurthy

10. Rajinikanth songs

11. Kamal Hassan hits

12. Ilayaraja tunes

Devotional songs

As it was the season of Ayyappa devotees, we started the show with Ayyappa pooja. Living legend K J Yesudoss offered prayers to an ‘ambalam’ made out of banyan tree (set up by a 30-member team in two days) in front of the hall.

Dr Sankar Ganesh too sang a spiritual number and added value to the show. Noted dramatist Radhu, the inspiration behind the show, presented a silver band to Lakshman. Our troupe member Rajesh Sharma, a north Indian, sang in Tamil an Amman song and made the devotees to dance.

Mr Paramasivam of Raghavendra Traders distributed sweets to all fans. It was Paramasivam who had gifted us the ‘ambalam’.

MGR hits

As we were able to wind up devotional songs session only by 11.55 am, we had to start MGR hits within five minutes. This part of the event, which went till 3 pm, drew a huge crowd with enough participation from women audiences.

Actor Ramarajan was the special guest. When he wanted us to sing ‘Ninaithadhai Nadathiye Mudippavan….’, we fulfilled his wish within minutes though we had not rehearsed the song.

One Natarajan from Besant Nagar distributed laddus to the audiences, while Bharathi, a singer mimed MGR and drew huge applause. Devotees of the matinee idol even went to the extent of showing ‘arathis’ when some chartbusters were performed on stage.

Sivaji Ganesan songs

Tickets for this section were sold out  in just five minutes. Friends from Idhayavendhan Sivaji Rasigar Mandram at Purasawalkam presented us a shield even as the show was going on.

Though the legendary actor’s son Prabhu was busy with a shoot, he had sent us a congratulatory message.  Fans thronged Kamaraj Arangam not just from Chennai, but from remote places of Tamilnadu too, including Villupuram, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Salem and Dharmapuri.

When our friend Sundaresan sang ‘Sodhanai mel sodhanai….’, he himself became a Sivaji and enthralled the fans.

A R Rahman tunes

The next part of the event, A R Rahman tunes, started at 6 pm. Many expressed doubts as to how we would manually perform Rahman’s songs for three hours at a stretch, as the music composer was new to the field then and his songs were end-products of latest technology.

But we were prepared for the challenge as we had already handpicked 30 songs and rehearsed for 25 days. Rahman himself was present during the show and he presented us (Ram and Lakshman) gold rings. He hailed our attempt and appreciated our team members for their commitment and hardwork.

‘Kalaimamani’ Swarnalatha sung ‘Muquabla…’ and mesmerized the jam-packed hall, while Sahul Hameed performed the super hit number ‘Oorvasi Oorvasi…’ The encouragement we got during the section fuelled us for the remaining part of the mega event.

SPB special

When the clock struck 9, we started the SPB special. By that time, the news that we were on a Guinness journey reached the masses thanks to the media and a huge crowd gathered in front of Kamaraj Hall.

Many came with their families. Despite his busy schedule, SPB was kind enough to present us Rs 3,000 towards the souvenir expenses of the event and wished the attempt all success. The songs ‘Oru Ponmanai…..’ and ‘Pani vizhum malar vanam….’ made music lovers to jump with joy.

Rendezvous with romance

When we decided to dedicate a separate section for love songs, we wanted that songs symbolising success and failure of love should appear in the list. Hence we named it ‘Kadhal vetri-kadhal tholvi padalgal.’

Our special guest for this part of the show was T Rajendhar, the man of many talents. Fearing that the presence of audiences would be less as the timing was between 12 and 3 am, we promoted the section by pasting pamphlets in front of colleges and youth hostels.

It worked out well and there was a stunning presence of youth, which made the entry of Rajendhar into the hall difficult. His speech was in his typical style with rhymes and mimes overflowing.

One of the best drummers of the world Sivamani performed for five minutes and hogged all appreciation. Industrialist R Marimuthu, who has an important role in the growth of our troupe, announced cash awards for all our members and assured us a free trip to Ooty and Kodaikanal on behalf of his Trans India Resorts. When the section came to an end, many of us felt that this part was no doubt an unforgettable one.

Chit-chat special

‘The long queue standing in front of the auditorium at 3 am to get tickets for the show resembles the opening day of a MGR film,’ said Pandiarajan, who presided over the Chit-chat special (Gaeli-kindal padalgal) section.

The actor-filmmaker, who arrived at the spot at 2.40 am itself, said that we were attempting something unique which was not tried even by those in the tinsel town. As the show went on, the response was great from the audiences with some of them, including women and children, dancing to the tunes.

Even our own members used the opportunity to make fun of other members by singing funny songs. In short, the section was silly, funny, scintillating and evoked much laughter.

Your choice

It was the dawn of the next day (6 am). Fans, while entering the hall, were asked to write a song of their choice in a piece of paper and hand it over in a box. The top three songs asked by the audiences were – T R Mahalingam’s Senthamizh Thenmozhial….., Aattama Therottama… from Captain Prabhakaran and ‘Autokaran…’ from Superstar Rajinikanth’s Baadsha.

Chief guest of the section Gangai Amaran wanted us to shine like his brother Meastro Ilayaraja. A team of doctors examined our troupe and gave energy tablets and glucose. Members of the press and other friends expressed their admiration about our performance and the appreciation we received from various quarters.

Vintage of Viswanathan-Ramamurthy

Both Viswanthan and Ramamurthy, the doyens of Tamil film music, were present when we performed this section. Their presence made our weariness to vanish. Viswanathan sang the famous ‘Pullanguzhal kodutha moongilgalay….’ and mesmerized the audiences. On his part, Ramamurthy played in violin the famous tune ‘Unnai onru ketpen…’.

In his address, Viswanathan said we were making them proud by singing their songs. Both the doyens wished us success. ‘Kannana Poomagaley…,’ a number by Malathi from Thanneer Thanneer during the show received all applause.

Rajinikanth hits

It was almost like a first-day first-show of a Rajinikanth film when we started to perform numbers from Superstar’s movies. It was a full-house crowd of Rajini fans who cheered us for each and every song.

While telling this, I (Lakshman) also have to admit one thing. When fans asked to perform ‘Autokaran…’ from Baadsha during ‘Your choice’ section, we were unable to fulfill their desire as we had not rehearsed the song. We however assured them that the song would be performed during ‘Rajinikanth hits’ and we kept our promise by practicing the song during breaks.

Superstar Rajinkanth, who was out of town at that time, sent his assistant Karthik and honoured us with a bouquet.

Kamal Hassan songs

Our singers Parthiban and Murali kept Kamal fans in a jubilant mood all through the section. ‘Varudhu varudhu vilagu vilagu….’ and other racy numbers rocked the auditorium.

Gunaseelan, a key office-bearer of All India Kamal Fans Association was present on behalf of the versatile actor. The number ‘Inimai niraindha ulagamirkku…’ by Lakshman from the film ‘Ninathaley Inikkum’ made the audiences to dance, thereby energising the entire place.

Ilayaraja tunes

This was the final section. As we expected, the crowd was uncontrollable despite a heavy spell of rain. Right from the computer engineers who were keeping track of the event to Customs Collector Mr Senthilvel IRS, who was there to send his report to the Guinness, everyone was waiting for the successful completion of the attempt.

It was a great honour for us to have Maestro Ilayaraja as the chief guest of the valedictory section. Accompanied by his brother R D Baskar, the music genius lauded us for the attempt. I (Lakshman) went to his seat before he stepped into the stage and sought his blessings.

The Meastro presented mementos to our members and other well-wishers. He said: ‘Music can mesmerize any living being. There is no barrier
for it.’ He lauded our attempt and wished all success in our endeavors in the future.

Everything on this earth has its own end. And our show too came to a successful end at 10.05 pm. 23 fans, who watched the show for the whole 36 hours, signed a book confirming our triumph in the presence of Senthilvel.

Our thanks to veteran dramatist Radhu who inspired us to do the show. It was due to one of his earlier attempts to hold dramas for 36 hours that ignited a spark in us to conceive the idea. Our heartfelt gratitude to the Almighty too, without whose blessings, the show would not have become such a meaningful one.

To Read in Tamil/தமிழில் படிக்க

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