Mullanezhi | Remembering the Poet-Lyricist of Malayalam Cinema

Poet Mullanezhi
Courtesy :

Another patriarch has crossed to the Other Side. Knowing the poet was an an exercise that ran backwards for me. Like anyone who stood rooted to the spot as you first heard Karukaruthoru Pennaanu from Njavalppazhangal, I became increasingly fascinated by what made this unique lyricist tick, and was delighted to know that he was a poet who also put down lyrics for Malayalam films. And I began going back and listening to his previous works, both as poems and songs, and vowed myself to make sure that I do not miss an single one released in the popular mainstream media. Mullanezhi’s songs had an ‘earthy’ and ‘fond’ vitality when it came to describing grief, love, estrangement, pain and everything in between. If he went overtly ‘descriptive’ wit raw honesty in Karu karuthoru pennanu, he chose to employ the very common yet profound imagery of unbridled horses and momentum to describe the tribulations and moral exigencies of a circus performer in Mela with Manassoru manthrika.There was a deep river of fondness and love that ran through his lyrics, even if it was eclipsed with grief, like a door left unlocked for hope to shine through. Also there is another interesting bit I have noticed in his lyrics, the very frequent usage of  the thematic references of the limitless Sky. The firmamment is a regular symbol in most of his songs. His body of work  for Malayalam movies, as a lyricist, wasn’t voluminous, but the ones that he did was more than enough to make its indelible impressions in your heart. Here is a compilation of the ones that quickly come to mind when I think of Mullanezhi‘s songs, and I guess, most of them are ‘obvious’ choices.

Lakshmivijayam (1976) | Music : Shyam

Naayaka Paalaka, sung by Vani Jayaram.

Nayaka Palaka can clearly be considered as one of the rare compositions that sings praise to the “Spiritual Entity” that drives this Universe and intellect, and what is so beautiful about this one is the fact that it is truly ‘secular’. It is clearly one of the hymnals of praise that rises above all organised faiths and yet seems perfect and meaningful in every context.

Njavalppazhangal(1976) | Music : Shyam

Karukaruthoru Pennanu sung by Dr KJ Yesudas.

I remember from a recent interview of his at Manorama News where he recalls writing this popular number after the ones for Lakshmivijayam, but got released first, and with it, instant popularity.With his disarming candour and modesty, he attributes the success of the song to the music director Shyam, whom, he said did a wonderful job with the tune. We all agree wholeheartedly, don’t we?

Mela (1980) | Music : MB Sreenivasan

Manassoru Maanthrikakkuthirayaay sung by Dr KJ Yesudas.

കാലമേ..നിന്‍ കാലടിക്കീഴില്‍
കാതോര്‍ത്തു കാതോര്‍ത്തു നിന്നു
ജീവിതതാളങ്ങളേറ്റു വാങ്ങാന്‍ “

Swarna Pakshikal (1981) | Music : Raveendran

Smrithikal Nizhalukal sung by Dr KJ Yesudas.

Mullanezhi seems to have written down the entire set of songs for Swarnapakshikal sitting at Raveendran Master’s residence, spang in the middle of a cacophony of people constantly moving around, milling about, moving out and being replaced by more of the chattering kind. He says he has never, ever written in such an environment, and it also helped that P Sreekumar, acclaimed Director and now actor was also a personal friend, and one of the leads of the movie. It takes a while to place him, now when you watch the movie, as you jumpcut to the immediate present,  to the lewd policeman in Achuvinte Ammu who openly, crudely solicits female company with the finesse of a paper bag. 🙂 The song is pure Mullanezhi.

Kaattile Paattu (1982) | Music : K Raghavan

Chirikkunna nilaavinte sung by Dr KJ Yesudas.
Another perspective on ‘moonlight’, which is given a soul of its own, though steeped in pathos. I love the way Raghavan master has arranged the flowing ideas, with his usual dexterity of sticking to simplicity!

Njaanonnu Parayatte (1982) | Music : K Raghavan

Kannanthali muttam   sung by Vani Jayaram and Chorus

I have even included this in my Favorite Onam Songs. I also believe this is one of the last in its genre of Onam songs on the big screen.

Veenapoovu ( 1983 ) | Music : Vidyadharan

Swapnam kondu Thulabhaaram sung by Jency

I think this was Ambili’s second movie, and according to Mullanezhi, he insisted that there should be a song written by his guru, Sreekumaran Thampi, and we got another fabulous composition from him, Nashtaswargangale ! Veenapoovu immediately brings to mind these two compositions, though both speak about unbearable loss and pain, yet fabulous.

Kayyum Thalayum Purathidaruthu (1985) | Music : Raveendran

Aakaasha Neelima  sung by Dr KJ Yesudas

The last of the KPAC dramas to be adapted to film, I guess. I think this is also our first road-movie in Malayalam cinema.There is another composition too, Aathirathirumuttathu which is equally melodious and memorable. I loves this, as with Mullanezhi’s others, for that simple poetic imagery that instantly warms you up. He had a gift, that was unmistakable.

Vellam (1985) | Music : G Devarajan

Sourayoodha pathathil sung by Dr KJ Yesudas

I think this would be right up there with your favorite 10 list for any Malayali, and Mullanezhi recalls with natural joi-de-vivre, how Devrajan Master composed the song in six ways and asked him to choose his favorites. He chose two from that and Master took the best from both ending up in what we listen to, now. Mullanezhi also pointed out  ‘out-of-place’ breaks in the pallavi which seem to have surgically removed the intended meaning  and Devrajan Master corrected it. What Devrajan Master composed as മേഘദൂതിലെ *break* മോഹം*break* പൂവിലെ *break*  was thankfully welded together to convey what the poet wanted. This was also the one and only film produced by the actor Devan, who stuck to what he knew best afterwards. Kodanaadan malayile from the movie is another great composition.

Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam (1986) | Music : Jerry Amaldev

Pavizhamalli  sung by Dr KJ Yesudas

The first in the collaboration between Sathyan Anthikkad and Mullanezhi – the songs do not need any explanation. maybe the ‘outrageously subtle’ humor in the way it was picturised, the infectious rhythm, and above all the lyrics, it will always be a classic. Mullanezhi went on to write the songs of Sathyan’s Narendran Makan Jayakanthan Vaka, which has another melodious gem, Karutha Raavinte. Mullanezhi also went on to do delightful cameos in Sathyan’s Katha Thudarunnu and the latest Snehaveedu.

You can listen to Sathyan’s tribute to Mullanezhi here.

As an Actor.

Kazhakam (1996)
With Urvasi in Kazhakam (1996) | Pix Credit : Malayala Manorama
Mullanezhi in Neelathamara
Mullanezhi in Neelathamara (2009)

Mullanezhi in Katha Thudarunnu. Starts from 4: 14.


He also acted in Uppu, Piravi and as the main protagonist in Mounam ( to be released soon ), directed by Suresh Machad.

Do share your fond memories.

There is a Tribute Microsite put up by on the Poet which you can access here.

You can access the official website of poet here.
(Its still under construction !)


What do you think ?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s