The explorer of Tamil Film Music, G. Ramanathan or Gobalsamy Ramanathan Iyer also known as GR was a well-known music composer. He was born in Bikshandarkoil, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, India. His father was a sub-inspector of Indian Railways. He only received his primary education. He got married to Jaya Iyer in 1942. They had three children- a son named Baba Iyer and two daughters, Sai & Lakshmi Iyer. He joined a drama troupe (Bharath Gana Sabha) at a mere age of 18 and played harmonium in their plays. Afterward, he joined another drama company ( V. A. Chellappa Drama Company) where he not only played harmonium but was also on vocals. For his fabulous works in the field of music, he has been awarded many splendid titles such as Isai Methai (Genius of Music) & Sangeetha Chakravarthy (Emperor of Music).
He is been considered as one of the most influential Tamil music composer to introduce the beauty of Carnatic (the main style of classical music in southern India) music to the Tamil masses. G.R never received any proper training in Carnatic music. He was so passionate about Carnatic music that he learned it by listening to it repeatedly. His passion paid off as his music ruled over the Tamil film industry for around 25 years. He first played his musical instrument for a Tamil cinema - Kalavarishi which was been produced in Calcutta in 1932. In 1938 he became the music director for the film “Sathyaseelan” which was been made in Bombay (Mumbai) followed by “Vipra Narayan” under the banner of Trichy Thyagaraja Films and Sound City respectively. The first film produced in Madras which had G.R as its music director was “Poogailas”.
The time when he became a music director of films as well as stage dramas were very popular among the audience, so he had to create a very delicate balance between his movies and stage theaters. In the early 40s cinemas had songs composed of basic Carnatic music which, according to many, can never match up to pure Carnatic music. G.R. proved everyone wrong when he created “Manmatha Leelaiyai Vendrar Undo” for the film “
Haridas” sung by M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. He has done most of his music making for Modern Theaters. He has created music for over 100 films and worked with many well-known singers like Radha Jayalakshmi, T.A. Mothi, P.B. Sreenivas, T.V. Rathinam, A.P. Komal, M.S. Rajeswari, T.M. Soundrarajan, Thiruchi Lognathan, C.S. Jayaraman, P. Leela, T.V. Rathinam, R. Balasaraswathi Devi, V.N. Sundharam, A.M. Rajah, etc.
He loved working with Hindi film music director,
Naushad Ali. Besides he helped many actors in singing for many movies. He composed music for three films in Hindi, Telugu & Kannada. In Hindi, he worked under director T. Prakash Rao – Sitamgar in 1958, which had Shivaji Ganesan, Ragini, Padmini, Helen & M. K. Radha as its cast. Inspector in Telugu by director R.S. Mani in 1953 & Kogilavani in Kannada in 1956 by S. A. Natarajan. He won the award for best music director at an African international film festival in 1960 in Cairo for the film “Veerapandiya kattabomman” (The Brave Warrior) also known in Hindi as Amar Sayeed. He tried his hand at acting too. He played the role of Sanyasi in “Aayiram Thalai Vaangiya Apoorva Chinthamani “(1947). His last film was “Deivathin Deivam” by K. S. Gopalakrishnan. He couldn’t complete his final composition for the film “Arunagirinathar” which was later been completed by his co-music director T.R. Pappa. He suffered from cirrhosis of liver & died in 1963. India lost one of its precious jewels.