Recently, parai artist and trainer Sound Mani made a 16-minute documentary called Kinnaram on the life of Arunachalam. “He is a paanar — a village singer who travels from one house to another singing folk songs. Hailing from Kunnathur in Tirupur district, thaatha travels to neighbouring villages and narrates the story of Kovalan-Kannagi, the historical tale popularly known as Silapadhigaram. He has been singing songs for about 50 years now. A few months ago, I was distributing groceries to folk singers who were suffering financially because of the pandemic. That time, I came to know about Kinnaram thaatha — I visited his house and was surprised to know that he is the last performer in India who plays the Kinnaram instrument. The 63-year-old folklore artist astounded us with his impeccable instrument and soul-stirring singing. I wanted to share his story with the entire world and decided to do a documentary,” says Sound Mani.
Mani reminisces that when he asked Arunachalam why he didn’t go to school, thaatha said that he likes to play Kinnaram than studying. “It is tough to find this kind of passion among folk singers. Kinnaram is made from scratch using dried white pumpkin, bamboo, etc. We hope that this documentary will help this legendary artist,” he adds.
For the past few years, Mani has been tracing and documenting unknown instruments and artforms in Tamil Nadu. “Instruments like Kinnaram are mentioned in the Sangam literature. But today, not many musicians use those instruments. The documentary was released by TM Krishna sir. We wanted him to launch the film because Krishna sir has been supporting various traditional folk artists,” concludes Mani.