Of Death, Desolation and Dogmas | Philosophy in Malayalam Film Music

Desolation Malayaalees (and most Indians, for that matter) seem to have a fascination for philosophy in general. Almost every hit movie of yesteryear seems to have atleast one philosophical song in it. Most were very popular among the masses. Among these, I have several favourites, and as usual, it is extremely difficult to pick five of them.

1.Aathmavidyaalayame from Harischandra (1955)

Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair in Harischandra (1955)

The story of Harischandra is one of redemption through suffering. Cine Matters has given an enthralling review of this movie here . This movie, released in 1955, had Thikkurissi Sukumaran Nair in the lead role of Raja Harischandra. Reduced to being sold into slavery, in this scene he is seen lamenting his fate, tending funeral pyres in a cemetery and ruminating about the general vagaries of fate. Lyrics are by Thirunayinarkurichi Madhavan Nair, set to music by Br Laxman and sung with befitting solemnity by Kamukara Purushothaman.

2. Oru Jaathi Oru Matham from  Koottukaar (1966)

Koottukaar (1966)

For me the main drawcard is the young, innocent voice of Yesudas in combination with the haunting melody of MS Baburaj and the meaningful lyrics of P Bhaskaran which is relevant to this day. An exhortation to remember that all religions, castes and Gods are one and the same. I have not seen this movie, and can only visualise it mentally when I hear it.

3. Iniyum Puzhayozhukum  from Agniputhri (1967)

Sheela in Agniputri (1967)

The youthful voice of P Jayachandran, lends charm to this song, The river will keep flowing, and cool breezes will come by this way again one day. I have always felt that it is a song of hope glimpsed through desolation. An evergreen MS Baburaj- Vayalar creation. I have never seen the movie, but this song has always remained with me since the first time I heard it. You tube clips show a distraught Prem Nazir driving erratically along Kerala roads in an open roofed car trying desperately to keep straying strands of his hair in place and avoid oncoming traffic.

4. Pravaachakanmaare Parayoo  from Anubhavangal Paalichakal (1971)

Sathyan in Anubhavangal Paalichakal (1971)

Most philosophical songs are born out of man’s attempt to cope with adverse situations in life. Vayalar – G Devarajan – Yesudas team has come up with this hit song. The look of utter desperation on Sathyan’s face as he walks barefoot down the streets of old Ernakulam city (?) cannot be matched. I always try to ignore (without much success) the glaring marker on the road where Sathyan has to stop, look across the road and then walk to the side of the road. 🙂

5. Maranadevanoru Varam Koduthaal from Vithukal

Vithukal - Songbook Cover

I have been fascinated at how death is one of the several taboo subjects never openly talked about among Malayaalees. Lyrics of this song has cut close to the heart for me time and time again with its meaning. If the dead were to come back alive, the truth would be revealed, and things may not be always as they seem. The MD of this song is Pukazhenthi. Written by P Bhaskaran and soulfully performed by Yesudas. Although Pukazhenthi only composed music for twelve Malayalam movies, many of those songs have stood the test of time.

I hope you have enjoyed these songs. Please share your philosophical favourites here, too. Would love to know what they are.

14 thoughts on “Of Death, Desolation and Dogmas | Philosophy in Malayalam Film Music

  1. how about the philosophy in “Kalpantha Kalatholam” from the movie ENTE GRAMAM. its a mixture of romance and philosophy

    1. Hi Narayan
      I must have missed this post. Thanks for your suggestion. In my humble opinion, this song is more romantic than philosophical.

  2. Can i add a few to this category?
    Ee Yugam Kaliyugam (Vaazhvemaayam)
    Kaalam Oru Pravaaham (Lora Nee Evide?)
    Jeevitham Oru Chumadu Vandi (Aval Alppam Vaikipoi)
    Advaitham Janicha Naattil (Line Bus)
    Janichu Poi Manushyanaayi Njaan (Kuttavaali)
    Mrugam Krooramrugam (Tenaruvi)
    Kazhinja Sambhavangal (Kuruthikalam)
    Manushyanu Daivam Sakthi kodothu (Yamini)
    Yaksha Gaanam Muzhangi (Nizhalaatam)
    Srishti Tan Sowndarya Mundiri Chaarinaai (Srishti)
    Uthishtata Jagrata Praapyavara Nibhotata (Sarasayya)
    Nagaram Nagaram Maha Saagaram (Nagarame Nandi)
    Udayagiri Chuvannu (Ashwamedham)
    Sooryanennoru Nakshatram (Lanka Dahanam)
    Pralayapayoothiyil Urangi Unarnnoru (Mazhakkaru)
    Kaadukal Kali Veedukal (Maravil Tirivu Sookshikkuka)
    Aadiyil Vachanamundaayi (Chettathi)
    Ee Kadalum Maru Kadalum (Kadal Paalam)
    Karutha Sooryanudichu (Devi)
    Chirikkumbol Koode Chirikkan (Kadal)
    Hrudayam Marannu Naanayatuttinte (Chandana Chola)
    Sughamevide Dughamevide (Vilakku Vaangiya Veena)
    Muthu Vaaraan Poyavare (Agni Pareeksha)
    Niranja kannukalode (School Master) – This song of PB Sreenivas, i feel, is one of the beautiful song born from the Vayalar Devarajan combination.
    There are other songs which does not strictly belong to this family but they have the quality of being philosophical
    Kannuneer Tulliye (Paniteeraatha Veedu)
    Sarapanjaram (Kapalika)
    Veluppo Kadum Chuvappo ? (Darshanam)
    Mamsa Pushpam Vidarnnu (Ini Oru Janmam Taru)
    Swarnam Chirikkunnu (Cheruppakkar Sookshikkuka)

    Its a long list.


    1. Hi Sajith
      Thanks for this huge and quite exhaustive list! Although I would have classified some of these songs not in quite the “Philosophy” category. they are all classics.


      1. Hi Susie
        As usual I am late with my comments. Some of the songs that come to my mind in this category pertaining to death and desolation are 1.Parvanenduvin dehamadakki (Thurakkaththa vaathil), 2. Agniparvatham pukanju (Anubhavangal paalichchakal) 3. The three songs of ONV from Madanolsavam that’s all about death and a state of dismal emptiness..Sandhye , Saagarame and Nee maayum nilavo…

    2. Dear Sajith,
      As usual, “exhaustive information” has to be your middle name 🙂 Thank you so much. Now, if you could send across what your thoughts are, briefly, on each song, we could continue from where Susie left, and make a whole compilation of Philosophical Songs in Malayalam Cinema, what say? Please think about it and let me know..regards..cinematters

  3. Nice theme. 🙂
    My additions?
    Manushyan mathangale srishtichu from Achchanum Baapayum – a Vayalar / Devarajan / Yesudas collaboration.

    Oridathu jananam, oridathu maranam from Ashwamedham (I think?)

    Swanthamenna padathinenthartham from Mohiniyattam

    and finally, Kaadu, karuthakaadu from Neela Ponman

    And I’ll go away before I hog your comments’ space. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Anu. All the songs you mentioned here were in my list as well, They are all great. There are many more, and if there is a part two, then I will be listing will be some more.

  4. excellent selection as usual. i have always wondered if Harischandra’s skull scene was inspired by Hamlet strutting his stuff with Yorik the jester’s skull, although being in a graveyard, and picking up a skull to ponder upon could be quite natural…er.. so to say. (i couldn’t find a good video of Sir Laurence Olivier)

    pravaachakanmare is a favorite with me too. another one is kaattadichu from Thulabhaaram.

    (seriously, isn’t there an original version of this on youtube?)

    with all due respect to Vayalar and Co, i personally think that when it comes to philosophical songs, Kannadasan from across the border take the cake:)

    here’s a favorite:

    1. Dear Remitha,
      The Rumination with the Skull is very much an ispiration from Hamlet, the Grave Diggers scene – a fact corroborated even by Viajyji in his Column in The Hindu. But it is more the Sir Lawrence Olivier version (1948) that seems to be the inspiration. Checkout the clipping. Skip straight to 07 :25. 🙂

    2. Remitha,
      Thanks for the Hamlet perspective. I had not thought about that. But it was so obvious!
      Not knowing/understanding much Tamil songs (Except some Yesudas hits) I have no idea on Kannadasan and his lines. Is it TM Soundar Rajan singing in this clip? I cannot understand a word. I am sorry! 😦

      All the other songs are also in my favourite list. as well 🙂

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