A Blog on Cinema

Music Director: Johnson


When music director G. Devarajan passed away recently, all the articles were talking about his association with Vayalar and the beautiful songs they made Yesduas sing. A little known fact is that Devarajan was responsible for grooming up the music director Johnson.Johnson started his career by singing in the female voice in ganamelas. Then he learned how to play the harmonium and violin and formed a troop called the Voice of Trichur. Once he went to Chennai to buy an accordion for his troop.

Voice of Trichur’ used to give accompaniment music to P Jayachandran and Madhuri in their ganamelas in Kerala. This connection brought music director G Devarajan across their path.”I came to Chennai 1975 to buy an accordion for our troupe. Devarajan Master asked me to remain here. I couldn’t think of not returning to Kerala. But master wouldn’t relent,” says Johnson.

“I knew Master had a programme in Kerala after a few days. So, I stayed here with a dream that I would run away when we went to Kerala for that programme.”

But he could not escape. Devarajan Master met Johnson’s parents and convinced them of his talent and brought him back to Chennai to make the youngster his assistant director. Master taught him Carnatic music and appointed Dhanarajan to teach him western music, violin and piano.[Play on Johnson]

Thanks to Devarajan’s ability to identify talent we got beautiful songs in films like Chamayam, Ee Puzhayum Kadannu, Mazhavil Kaavadi, Njan Gandharvan, Oru Minna Minunginte Nurungu Vettam, and of course, Kaneerpovite from Kireedam.

Johnson started his film career by composing the background music for Aaravam, a film which we have not seen. Recently in the movie Padom Onnu Oru Vilapam we were very irritated by Johnson’s background score and hope that he composes more songs and stays away from background scores.


  1. I have only recently come across this blog. I enjoy all your articles.
    Nice work


  2. Sunny,

    Thanks for the compliments.

  3. Am glad to you guys wrote about Johnson. Johnson is indeed a very talented guy. I think his background scores are equally great to the songs he composed. Be it “paadam onnu”, “danny” or numerous others, he is a maestero in that too. He could bring out the right emotion of the scenes.

    I wish he comes back to composing and doing BG scores.

    PS: The news is that he is a total alcoholic now.

  4. Jo,

    Somehow I felt that his BG score is very noisy and overshadows the performance of the actors. I prefer BG score which stays in the BG.

  5. I think he is a great artist than any other music directors.but the news i hear is so bad”he is an alcoholic”.

  6. VC..regardin the bg score..I guess you haven’t heard the one he composed for ‘Thuvanathumbikal’:)

  7. Kiran, Is it very noisy. It has been a while since we saw Thoovanathumpikal.

  8. Guys,
    Johnson is a legend.He is the one i admire the most in the world.U can check out the list of all the songs he composed & only then shud u comment on his ability.And dont say that his BG score is noisy.He’s better known for that & does that even now.He did the BG scores for films like Chitram,Thuvanathumpikal,Manichitrathazhe,etc along with the films in which he composed songs by himself.Just hear the BG and music in Ngan Gandharvan.What abt Kireedom?The list is endless.No comparisons!He’s simply a genius.Hats off to him………….

  9. JK,

    We said the background score in Padom Onnu was noisy for our tastes. He is talented, but that does not mean that we should like everything he does.

  10. What ever you say, Johnson is truely one of the grat Music Directors we had till date. Let it be background score or Songs , no one could beat the talent of Johnson. The songs Etho Jnma Kalpanayil, Mounam Pnmani, Ithalazhinju Vasantham, Madhuram Jeevamritha bindu,Gopike Ninviral, Moham Kondu njan etc are simply marvellous. Its a grat news that Ranjan Pramod is giving a new life to Malayalam Films by bringing Johnson back to blues through his Photographer

  11. “The news is that he is a total alcoholic now.”

    absolutely wrong news…he himself has said that he is under treatment and hes avoiding this alchohol thing

  12. I agree that Johnson is a genius.

    I also agree that his BG score in Padam Onnu Oru Vilapam hindered the movie in many places. But I would place that blame on the director. The director tells the composer what kind of music they want in certain scenes. Mr. Chandran, in my opinion, unnecessarliy added pathos music in places to add commercial appeal. Take that out, and you have a near perfect movie.

  13. johnson is a truly creative me he stands above all except perhaps his mentor g.devarajan,a stickler 4 perfection.devarajan and johnson has done to movie music what godard and truffaut did to new wave…johnson and gd mash are truly auteurs……

  14. johnson and devarajan liberated movie music from rigidly structured classical system and gave the imaginative creative leap to songs..this is clearly discernible in many of their compositions unlike many others who overused carnatic and north indian ragas minus the imaginative component characteristic of an auteur.effervescent auditore ideation was the hallmark of both gd andj.

  15. hai, you article is good.johnson is the no.1 composer in malayalam,other are only tune makers.
    i think you havn’t heard bg score for “manichitra tazhu” “toovanatumbikal” “njan gandarvan” “chitram” like that.

  16. realy.i havent listened to the bg aspect of johnsons vith the insight u have given me i must try to listen to some of the ones u mentioned thanx gbc menon

  17. an incident i heard about johnson is his skill as a conductor of orchestra..he is said to have conducted music continuously for 8 hours that veteran naushad who was in the audience paid rich tributes to johnsons talent..its widely accepted that when it comes to rerecording johnson is unsurpassed..

  18. Re the BG score he did in “Thoovanathumbikal”-the stuff was out of the world. Yes it was so marvellous that I wish to comment “out of the world”. The piano, violin, flute notes. The BG score while introducing Sumalatha(Thara), the pairing scenes of Lal and sumalatha, actually did gave a lift to the scenes. I sincerely think that particular movie is one of the rare movies in Malayalam to be noted for its background score. If the camera was handled by Venu it might have enhanced the worth of that movie. Venu was not available and Padmarajan was very much because of that.(Guys, while commenting on this movie in particular I can go on writing for several hours since “Thoovanathumbikal” happens to be my favourite movie)Another piece of cake is that the master of the craft “PADMARAJAN” liked this guy a lot that he did music for 19 of his movies. We cannot forget “Kalakala mozhi” number of Premageethangal. Satyan Anthikadu used to take him in almost all his movies. But from “Manassinakkare” he went after Ilayaraja. This guy has got real substance in him. But eventually he got detreriorated. Songs in “Swayamvarappanthal” which had shades of “Naushad” proves that. Nice to hear he is tapering. He should come back and contribute and enrich the movies.

    VC, why you left out Rajamoni for noisy BG scores. He is the one with the “chachacha” numbers. I request you to hear the BG johnson did in “Thoovanathumbikal.” You will regret what you commented.

  19. johnson gets the ravindran puraskaram for 2007

  20. i think johnson is the one of the greatest music director in malayalam. his songs in “njan gandharvan” is very good .music lowers always remember this songs.

    johnson can make apropriate songs for situations.

  21. dear friends

    Read few comments on Johnson here. Its pity, most of the people who have posted comment doesnt know Johnson mash well…even his music. How many of you knows that the songs which was composed by him and the bg scores. For eg. still a lot of people believes Manichithrathazhu bg score is not by Johnson but MGR. People who criticize him most are infact not aware of most of his works. Johnson is far superior to any music directors in his era. We could easily say he is much talented than Ravindran mash. One’s talent and quality should not be measured in a minor aspect. When it comes to Malayalam cinema, no one can compose the soul of a movie, the bg score better than Johnson. He is the king of melody. When it comes to classical side, he not behind Ravindran mash or any other MDs. Take, Kudumbasamedham, Njan Gandharvan, Sallapam etc. He is a master in all aspects of film music. He can handle all moods of music, which most of the music directors cant. Yes at present, lot of people are in the field with the support of modern technology. But see their works dont overcome time, but Johnson has rendered timeless classics. And one who doesnt absorb the creativity in Johnson’s bg score..needs a bit education on music and cinema.

    Thats all!
    (Anyone who need a justification can mail me at I will reply)


  22. anoop has expressed precisely what i was trying to say..even his latest, photographer stands testimony to johnsons credentials..i have worked with him for a corporate ad and was completely impressed by not alone his acumen but his value system.soft spoken,with no airs he came out with a musical composition in just about 30 minutes….in photographer too the discerning listener can notice a nummber of genres coalescing from the raw tribal to the highly evolved notations..unforunately,his non media savviness and other parameters of contemporary movie making made him reclusive as we find him now..woe unto you,malayalam movie industry.

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