TFA pays tribute to V. Mathavan, the man whose song touched Tunku Abdul Rahman

Singer, dancer, dramatist V.Mathavan passed away on April 15 this year at the age of 87. He was known for his dedication to the world of arts. As a pioneer performer in the formative years of Radio Television Malaysia (RTM), his contemporaries and friends included the late Tan Sri P.Ramlee, SM Salim and Ahmad Daud.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 2 – The Temple of Fine Arts paid a moving tribute recently to one of its highly regarded teachers, Shri V. Mathavan who passed away on April 15th this year at the age of 87.

Held just before the start of MCO.3, the event saw a select number of teachers and students, who had worked with Uncle Mathavan, as he was know at the institution, taking their turn on stage to tell the story of a multi-talented man, who dedicated almost his entire life to the world of performing arts. Right from the time as a singer, actor, lyricist, dancer and choreographer with the national television station, RTM, in its formative years, to his later years with the TFA.

A panel comprising senior teachers from the arts institution also related their personal stories revolving around Mathavan from his humble beginnings in the performing arts to his unique choreographies, his excellence as a production advisor, his friendship with co-teachers and his participation in many of TFA’s stage productions.

Senior teachers of the TFA, (from right) Radha Gopal Shetty, Vatsala Sivadas, Malar Gunaretnam and Kanagamani Vijendra
TFA President Dr.Paranjothy

Speaking to Weekly-Echo, TFA Music Director, Kumar Karthigesu said they had taken extra precautions to hold the event and kept strictly to the required Standard Operating Procedures, from wearing masks to seating only in designated places, in view of the then prevailing CMCO period.

“Uncle Mathavan was a cherished teacher in the TFA. He had so much to offer, and was always smiling, never got angry and always had a good word to say about everyone.”

While the event was kept modest and short — the many number of X-marked empty seats in the Shantanand Auditorium was both a contrast to the usually packed auditorium and a stark reminder of the COVID-19 situation in the country – the efforts taken to honour the man was beautifully reflected in the various narratives of him including one from TFA President, Dr. Paranjothy, as well as the dance performances based on his song compositions and choreography.

His ”Sungguh Indahnya Seluruh Negara Malaysia,” song from one of Temple Fine Arts’ popular production “The Legend of Mashuri”, for which he wrote the lyrics and sang, was one of them. The immortalised lyrics and music were said to have particularly impressed the late Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tunku loved the song so much that he directed Film Negara to record the song and have it played in all theatres across the country. The students also performed another dance associated, a lively folk dance depicting the tribal Kurati (gypsy)’s innocent and carefree way of life.

Born in 1934, Mathavan had also served as a teacher until his retirement in 1989 and during that period he had the distinction of having been called to tutor His Royal Highness Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, the current Sultan of Selangor.

He also became the country’s first non-Malay to sing Malay songs in public following the country’s independence and went on to learn traditional Malay dances from Cikgu Abdul Manaf. He was also close friends with the late music luminaries such as Tan Sri P.Ramlee, SM Salim and Ahmad Daud.

At the TFA, Mathavan taught Bharata Natyam and Malay dance from 1981 to 2018. He was honoured with the Jeevita Kala Seva or Lifetime Achievement Award by the TFA in 2012. His wife, Susiela Chathukutty, whom he married in 1972, was a guest of honour at the Anjali (Salutation) programme for the man who was considered a “backbone” for many of TFA’s dance dramas.