Vijay Antony paid tribute to his late friend, lyricist Annamalai, at an event to inaugurate his portrait, recently. The music director worked closely with Annamalai on many successful albums and considered him to be a mentor of sorts.
“Lyricists Priyan and Annamalai are my only contacts in this industry. I feel like I have lost an elder brother. I keep thinking about the last time I met him. I spoke with him for hours. And even now, when I think about it, I feel like it was a sign. Maybe, a sign that I wouldn’t get to speak to him again. When he was about to leave, I told him, ‘Anna, we’ll do my next film together. You’re writing all the songs.’ I can’t believe he went away so soon after that” he said.
Music director Dhina spoke of the struggles Annamalai faced in his early days as a lyricist. “The fact that Annamalai came to the kind of level he was in when he passed away, is a testament to the kind of hard work and ethics he possessed. I’m sad that he left us just as he was on the cusp of fame. A few more years and he would have become a great artist,” he said.
Dhina has collaborated with Annamalai on songs for television serials. “Annamalai’s writing was very evocative. His poetry had a strength to it. It was brutal, hard hitting. His loss is a depressing one for us all,” he said.
Dhina also spoke at length about the struggles artists face in the industry. “Talented artists are pushed to the maximum in this industry. There are strict deadlines. There’s no time given to an artist to complete his work. People will call songwriters at all times of the day with demands for songs. They’d want three or four songs in twelve hours time. That kind of stress leads a person down dangerous paths,” he explained.
This stress makes artists drink, Dhina claimed. “Some can handle the stress. Others can’t. Besides, at locations and story discussions, everybody is encouraged to drink. Soon, one gets consumed by this habit. They will all drink with you. But, once you become an addict and you get a disease, nobody will stand with you. The producers and the directors will all abandon you. Such is the sad state of affairs in the industry,” he lamented.
He also had a few words of advice for budding lyricists. “First, we must all take care of ourselves. That’s the priority always. Only after this comes work,” he said.
Vijay Antony, in conversation with Silverscreen, refused to respond to Dhina’s comments. “What he said at the event are his comments alone. I’m not sure what that has to do with Annamalai’s passing,” he said.
Music composer Dhina also chose not to comment on the issue. He only said, “I was in a highly emotional state that day. I am not willing to speak further on the matter,” he said.
Annamalai died on 27 September after a sudden cardiac arrest. He was 49. The lyricist was found unconscious at his Chetpet home by his wife. Though he was promptly taken to a nearby hospital, doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. He is survived by his wife and a four-year-old daughter.
Annamalai’s death came just a month after the sudden demise of lyricist Na Muthukumar.