Vasudevan Nair (15 June 1944 – 20 February 2011), known as Malaysia Vasudevan was a Tamil playback singer and actor in the Tamil film industry. Malaysia Vasudevan's parents were from Palakkad. In the early years of the last century Chattu Nair of Ottappalam, Ammalu of Polpulli along with their respective families migrated to Malaysia in search of livelihood. They became labourers in the rubber estates of Klang Valley. After a few years Chattu Nair and Ammalu became husband and wife in an arranged marriage. Vasudevan was born on June 15, 1944 as their eighth child. Even though he was a Malayalee, his surroundings in Malaysia were predominantly Tamil and his life was lived in Tamil, at school and at home.
Chattu Nair was musically inclined and all his children grew with a natural ability to sing and appreciate music. Malaysia Vasudevan had once said that all his family members, except his mother Ammalu, were singers. He first started learning music from his father and later on, his brother taught him. Vasudevan started singing on stage when he was eight. And yes he was interested in acting too. When Vasudevan grew up he got attached to Tamil drama troupes in Malaysia as an actor and singer. The producers of one of his plays Ratha Paei wanted to make it as a film. Vasudevan came with the group to Chennai and acted in the film Raththa Paei. He even sang a song for the film under the baton of G. K. Venkatesh for whom Ilaiyaraaja was working as the assistant.
Malaysia Vasudevan's first major song was in the film Delhi to Madras that starred Jaishankar and Srividya. It was a comedy song "Paalu Vikkira Padma Un Paalu Romba Suthhama?" for the music director V. Kumar. This chance was possible because of his friendship with the film's producer Pollachi Rathnam. After that he joined Pavalar Brothers troupe which was run by Ilaiyaraaja and his brothers. During a stage performance, music director M. S. Viswanathan heard Vasudevan and gave him a small piece of a song in Bharatha Vilas (he sang for the Punjabi in "Indhiya Naadu En Veedu") and then a song in Thalai Prasavam. The first big break came when Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan made him sing "Kaalam Seyyum Vilaiyattu" in Kumasthavin Magal. Vasudevan was rechristened Malaysia Vasudevan by A. P. Nagarajan in this film.
Later when his good friend Ilaiyaraaja debuted in the Tamil film industry with Annakili, he was made to sing in Annakili and after "Aattukutti Muttai Ittu" from 16 Vayathinile happened, Malaysia Vasudevan never looked back. Ilaiyaraaja backed him until he became a star singer. Malaysia Vasudevan has sung close to 8000 songs in his three decades of active career out of which most are for Ilaiyaraaja. Illayaraja made Malaysia Vasudevan sing songs of all kinds and genre. Every song Malaysia Vasudevan rendered with utmost sincerity and surprised everyone with the range he had. Soft romantic songs like "Indha Minminikku" (Sigappu Rojakkal), "Vaan Megangalay" (Pudhiya Varpugal), "Malargale Nadha Swarangal" (Kizhake Pogum Rayil), "Malargalilay Aaraadhanai" (Karumbu Vil), "Kodai Kaala Kaatray" (Panneer Pushpangal), "Poove Ilaya Poove" (Kozhi Koovuthu), "Thangachangili Minnum Painkili" (Thooral Ninnu Pochchu), etc. must be some of the timeless favourites of Tamil film music lovers.
Even under the baton of M. S. Viswanathan, Malaysia Vasudevan had sung many illustrious songs. "Ezhudhugiral Oru Pudhukkavithai" (Saranaalayam), "Enniyirundhadhu Eadera" (Andha 7 Naatkal) and the super duper hits from Billa are just a few rare gems. Sensuous songs like "Kanna Thorakkanum Saami", or "Nila Kaayudhu" and emotional songs like "Oru Thanga Rathathhil" (Dharma Yuddham), "Allithhandha Bhoomi Annai Allava" (Nandu), "Adi Aadu Poongodiye" (Kali), "Vaa Vaa Vasanthamey" (Puthu Kavithai), "Pattuvanna Rosavam" (Kannipparuvathile), "Ponmaana Thedi Naanum Poovodu" (Enga Oor Rasathi) all came easy to Vasudevan and succeeded in showing some other brilliant facets of the wonderful singer. His largely folksy tunes sung for Shankar Ganesh are also of inimitable class. In the nineties, he got to sing a few, but most of them sensuous hits, for A. R. Rahman, including "Then Kizhakku" (Kizhakku Cheemayile) and "Monalisa Monalisa" (Mr. Romeo). The famous song "Poo Pookum Osai" (Minsara Kanavu) featured Vasudevan's voice in the chorus part.
Some of the best songs of Malaysia Vasudevan happened at the time when he was considered the voices of Sivaji Ganesan and Rajinikanth; songs like "Mudhal Mariyathai", "Pothuvaga En Manasu Thangam" (Murattukalai) and "Aasai Nooru Vagai" (Adutha Varisu) to name a few. Malaysia Vasudevan is like T. M. Soundararajan who was content with the popularity achieved only in Tamil. He was of the notion that to sing in other languages he should have known well the nuances of other languages. At a time when not knowing the language is the first preferred criterion to sing in Tamil, Malaysia Vasudevan’s resolve may sound funny to many today. Vasudevan worked with many music directors such as M. S. Viswanathan, Ilaiyaraaja, Shankar Ganesh, Deva, A. R. Rahman, and Vidyasagar. After T. M. Soundararajan, he was called as ghost voice for Sivaji Ganesan. His first song was for the film Delhi to Madras. He has sang over 8,000 in Tamil and over 4,000 songs in various other South Indian languages. He has also sung few songs in Hindi.
Malaysia Vasudevan has sung a lot of songs for Rajnikanth. Some of his notable songs for Rajnikanth were "Ennama Kannu Sowkiyama" (Mr. Bharath), "Singamondru Purapattadhe" (Arunachalam), "Yejaman Kaladi Manneduthu" (Yejaman), "Agaya Gangai", "Oru Thanga Rathathil" (Dharma Yuddham) and many others. He has also lended voice for a few albums, the most notable among them is Disco Disco (1987), a collaboration with composer Dilip (A. R. Rahman) and playback singer K. S. Chithra. The album is noted for being the first album production of A. R. Rahman. Though it didn't become much popular, Disco Disco Vol 2 was also released later.
Malaysia Vasudevan has also acted in nearly 85 films. Veteran Tamil director A. P. Nagarajan christened him as "Malaysia Vasudevan". Some of his notable films include Mudhal Vasantham (with Sathyaraj), Oomai Vizhigal (with Vijayakanth), Kathanayagan (with Pandiyarajan), Oru Kaidhiyin Diary (with Kamal Hassan), Jallikattu, Thiruda Thiruda, Amaidhi Padai, Poove Unakkaga, Badri[disambiguation needed],Punnagai Desam, and Kokki. Besides acting in films, he has acted in a good number of tele serials. Malaysia Vasudevan wrote a book of poems called "Ennam Thondriyathu Ezhutha Thoondiyathu" in the year 2010. Vasudevan's last song was "Happy" from the film Bale Pandiya (2010), in the music of Devan Ekambaram. His last film as an actor Ithanai Naalaai Engiruthaai is yet to be released. The last song he wrote was "Devathaiye" for the film Balam (2009), in the music of his son Yugendran Vasudevan Nair.
Malaysia Vasudevan married Annaporani also known as Usha Vasudevan on 26 January 1976. Malaysia Vasudevan has three children Yugendran, Prashanthini and Pavithra. His son Yugendran Vasudevan Nair has acted in many films in Tamil and other languages. He is also a playback singer in Tamil. His daughter Prashanthini is a playback singer. She has sung songs like "Mundhinam" in the movie Vaaranam Aayiram and many more. Pavithra is married and resides in Malaysia. Malaysia Vasudevan has four grand children. Visashan Naarayan and Kishan Naarayan born to Yugendran, Sai Narayan born to Pavithra and Rithvik son of Prashanthini. He has been awarded Kalaimamani by the Tamil Nadu Government. He is also a winner of Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Male Playback. Malaysia Vasudevan died on 20 February 2011 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.