Shyam | My 10 Favourites

Shyam aka Samuel Joseph was like a breath of fresh air when he stepped in to take the baton of Music Composer in Malayalam. Not that there was a dearth of talent, but it was high time someone with a different ‘sound’ made his/her mark in Malayalam Cinema. And who else but Shyam, who was the pet of MSV and the favorite violinist of Salilda,  we owe a big note of thanks to him for bringing the Western thematic concepts into popular mainstream Malayalam cinema. Though he dabbled in independent projects and attended as a session violinist in the Tamil film industry ( his first Tamil film was Etrikal Jagrathai in 1968) , his first independent project in Malayalam was Manyashree Vishwamathran (1974), Madhu’s fourth film as Director, and was recommended to him by none other than Sheela. This note is just a frank appreciation of his immense talent and the dexterity with which he composed his songs that had his signature in almost every tune, at times even reminding you of Salilda’s magic.

His strong base in Western chorale from his Catholic upbringing and his tutelage under the legendary Dhanraj Master {You can read a fantastic write-up on Master here} . His contributions broadly fall ( in my perspective), under three broad categories – Playback Songs, Themes and Background Scores and Christian Devotional Songs. I just would like to mention my favorites from this huge body of work.

Manyashree Vishwamithran (1974)

There were 7 songs, written by Bhaskaran Master, and set to music by Shyam. The most popular one and the one that made Shyam a household name had to be the frothy, bubbly Kettilley Kottayathoru Mootha Pillechan, sung by P Madhuri.

Rowdy Ramu (1978)

Rowdy Ramu was one amongst the few films of M Krishnan Nair that Shyam composed and directed music for, and this, the teasing Nala damayanthi kadhayiley is one of my favorites from his early years. I absolutely love the Naadaswaram intro, one of the rare instances of the instrument being used for an upbeat number. The lyrics are by Bichu Thirumala.

Thrishna (1981)

I will repeat this once again. Apart from Hariharan, the director who collaborated the most with the taut screenplays of MT has to be IV Sasi, and he was lucky enough to have been able to explore a variety of genres (proof of MT’s talent ), and Thrishna was one of them. All the songs of Thrishna were again very popular and hummable, and the two that share my favorites list from the movie are the melody driven ( its a fabulous composition for an acoustic guitar and your voice) Shruthiyil ninnuyarum and the classic Mainaakam. Lyrics to all the compositions are by Bichu Thirumala.

Shruthiyil Ninnuyarum : KJ Yesudas

Mainakam Kadalilninnuyarunnuvo : S Janaki

Angadi (1981)

The box-office hit of 1981, and one of IV Sasi’s biggest successes of his career. Along with the powerhouse performance of Jayan ( who can ever forget his “We are not Beggars ” monologue), the songs were equally catchy, melodious and hence  popular. IV Sasi also dared to picturize the  entire song Paavada Venam Melaada Venam around Kuthiravattam Pappu, even with the presence of a house full of A-list stars in the project. It also proved to be Pappu’s most  memorable one. Kannum Kannum, my favorite was a duet between KJ Yesudas and S Janaki, with lyrics penned by Bichu Thirumala.

Kuyilinethedi (1982)

Kuyiline thedi was written by Priyadarshan and directed by M Mani, the producer. Chunakkara Ramankutty, who wrote the lyrics to the movie recalls in a recent interview that the tunes were already laid down by Shyam and he wrote the lyrics to the tune. You could watch the full interview here.

Engane Nee Marakum (1983)

Devadaru Poothu was probably the song that made you inquisitive about its composer and made you his lifetime fan. This is one song that reverberated through the 80’s in our innumerable Ganamelas, and no youth festival was complete without the song. The song was the climax of the movie, was defined by this song, the love triangle between Mohanlal, Shankar and Menaka, and it was perfect to wring your heart and hang it out to dry. The lyricist, Chunakkara Ramankutty speaks about the story behind the song here.

Aksharangal (1984)

Unnimenon‘s debut was with Shyam, and this was one collaboration that have mostly been relegated to the background in Malayalam playback singing. Shyam, it seems, made it a point to make sure Unni Menon got atleast one composition in every film that he composed for, and most of them turned out to be hugely popular. Of all the songs they collaborated on, I think this has to be the finest. Thozhuthu madangum sandhyayumetho had lyrics by ONV. Another piece of brilliant poetry.


Shyam repeated his award-winning spree for the second time with Kanamarayathu(1984). All the songs were hugely popular, and Kasthurimaan kurunney, rendered by S Janaki also won her the Kerala State Award for Best Female Playback Singer for 1984 with this composition. The movie was one of the few and rare collaborations between IV Sasi and P Padmarajan. I also consider Oru madhurakkinavin from the same movie , the best disco number ever created in Malayalam Cinema, the waw-waw pedals and the signature bass was just infectious. The lyrics for all the songs were by Bichu Thirumala.

Nirakkoottu (1985)

The  Joshisque thriller that revived Mammootty’s career from what the news papers used to deride as the “Mammootty-Kutty-Petty” movie franchise that almost did him in. The songs of Nirakkoottu, mainly the song Poomanamey also went on become equally popular as the movie itself. It was also very interesting to see 2 playback singers credited for the same song in the movie as a result of some cosmic screw up ! The excerpt of the male version that you listen to in the movie is by Markose, while the soundtrack  tape sold commercially has Markose missing! In its place, it has G Venugopal rendering the song, written by Poovachal Khader. Thankfully KS Chithra retained her voice in all the versions!

Anubandham (1985)

Another of IV Sasi-MT collaborations, I would strongly put this in the list of  “10 movies of IV Sasi to watch before you die” without a doubt. The bitter-sweet story of a relationship between a pushing 40 teacher and his student who has been recently widowed, Mmmootty and Seema excelled in the roles. Kannanthaliyum is a beautiful composition picturised as a song for the child sung by Mammootty’s character and a plea to accept the growing relationship between them to his mother. You could listen to  the same strains as the background score in Uyarangalil (1987), two years later! The lyrics are by Bichu Thirumala.

Related  : Shyam’s Theme Music  Compositions

RelatedShyam’s Gospel Music in Malayalam

12 thoughts on “Shyam | My 10 Favourites

  1. he Joshisque thriller that revived Mammootty’s career from what the news papers used to deride as the “Mammootty-Kutty-Petty” ……………COMPLETELY WRONG…nirakoottu was relesed in 1985 when mammootty was in full swing….his downfall started in 1986 (which coincided with the emergence of MOHANLAL) and was revived by NEWDELHI , a joshi film which was released in july 1987…u can check facts

  2. I heard Shyam`s song many times. Very beautiful music He was composed. he adopted his western style in film song very carefully and beautifuly

    1. Dear Babukuttan
      You are absolutely right. His experience in church choir plus ac quittance with the great Salil Chowdhury definitely shaped the western flair in his songs

      B Sajith

    2. Dear Babukuttan
      You are right. How can he be otherwise with the rich experience in church choir music plus ac quittance with the great Salil Chowdhury?

      B Sajith

  3. shyam sir is one of the best music composer south india has seen. His craft in orchestrisation is superb. His theme music infilm oru cbi diary kurippu is a master piece. He is a genius composer who was unfortunately not got celeberated. At least recently people start rediscovering his work.

    1. That he is truly a gifted and brilliant music composer, there is absolutely no doubt about it. Being the ones who grew up on his music from our impressionable years, his compositions were always held dear. I guess its only lately that the young ‘uns are slowly getting drawn into his compositions, as they sound just as fresh as they did, three decades ago. Thank you so much for writing in Doctor.regards, cinematters

  4. Hi Winny,
    Thank you so much for passing through and taking your time out to leave your impressions on Shyam’s Music. I guess even after two decades if a generation rediscovers his talent through a cellphone ring tone and then goes on to celebrate his entire work, so be it. It also shows the true calibre of his compositions. Old Malayalam Cinema is a blog that is meant for everything that the yesteryears ave contributed in terms of our listening and viewing pleasure and would continue to be so. Thanks once again and hope to see more of you at OMC.
    Regards.. CM

  5. Hello!
    I first want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time to listen, review & to comment about the music of Mr. Shyam. But as you have mentioned, this generation has rediscovered his talent & has appreciated it even more. I’m really very proud & glad that someone like you have noticed his talents & have created this website to enjoy. I’m sure Mr. Shyam will be delighted to see that people still follow his music. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Uma,
      Thanks for passing through and your kind words. Went through the link that you had posted, seems to be a surrogate ad campaign on social media for the Mobile company. Although found the rest of the content delightful. No offence but I try to steer as far away as I can from surrogate product pushes..Have a great evening…CM

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