Susie’s Fab Five | Songs on the Travails of Women

Her TravailsIn life humankind faces many situations; life in general is fraught with trials and tribulations. In Malayalam films such situations call for a heart-rendingly sad song sequence. Women and men seem to face adversity with different mindsets. From a woman’s perspective, almost always someone is to blame. Whan a man faces adversity, he faces it with philosophy of creation and existence (or so Malayalam lyricists would have us believe). Whatever the case, these situations have given us several unforgettable tear-drop gems in Malayalam film music. Post my Favorite  Five songs from the Male perspective, here are five that are close to a Woman’s heart.

1. Kannuneer Thulliye from Pani Theeraatha Veedu (1972)

This song from the movie Pani Theeraatha Veedu is sung by MS Viswanathan to his own music. Lyrics were by Vayalar. This song expresses the anguish Prem Nazir’s character Jose feels when he sees a young girl who reminds him of his own sister, being exploited by a rich man. I have heard a story that originally MSV had KJ Yesudas in mind to sing this song, but then for some reason this was not possible, and so MSV decided to sing it himself. There are a few spoken lines interspersed in a couple of places in the song. In the movie version these are spoken by Prem Nazir, but in the record version it is MSV himself who voices those lines.

2. Chirikkumbol Koode Chirikkaan from Kadal (1968)

This tear-jerker is from the movie Kadal, with soul-rending music by MB Sreenivasan, and the philosophical lyrics by Sreekumaran Thampi.

If you are happy, there will be a thousand people to laugh with you, but when you are sad, no one will be there to cry with you. Joy is a one-time visitor, but sadness is a relative who never leaves.”

S Janaki‘s golden voice gives it that forlorn tone.

3. Theeraatha Dukhathin from Dathuputhran (1970)

This is a song after my own heart, may be the sentiments it echoes are ones very close to my heart. The sweet voice of P Susheela evokes the desperation of a woman who feels that her loneliness and unfulfilled desires have not been validated. She blames all her misfortunes on her God. I don’t agree with that totally, but that does not stop it from being one of my favourite sad songs. A Vayalar – Devarajan classic from the movie Dathuputhran.

4. Agnikireedamaninjavale from Adhyaapika (1968)

Adhyaapika was one of the first movies that I really remember watching from my childhood. One hundred percent a tear-jerker. Especially in this scene, where Padmini is dying from Tuberculosis after a lifetime of sacrifices, toiling for her family and being exploited by all including her own father and sister for their own gain. I cried and cried and cried watching this movie, especially the part where she cries out for water when she is dying, and the dog brings it to her. In my child’s mind that was the best scene of the movie. Lyrics were by ONV Kurup and music by V Dakshinamoorthi, sung by KJ Yesudas with feeling.

5. Mulkkireedamithenthinu Nalki from Bharya (1962)

Bhaarya was a true crime story made into a movie. The tragic story of a woman dumped for a younger woman by her husband, and then was brutally murdered. This story happened during my parent’s youth, and their real life counterparts were known to them, and so we used to discuss it at home. Somehow, this song became the epitome of sadness to me. The beauty of Ragini, the lyrics and music richly reflecting her heart breaking sorrow (another Vayalar-Devarajan classic), and the forlorn voice of P Susheela together creates magic.

What are your favorites ? Do write in.

20 thoughts on “Susie’s Fab Five | Songs on the Travails of Women

  1. “Karimukil Kattile, rajani than veettile” from the film Kallichellamma in 1970’s, based on G.Vivekanandan’s novel of the same title, is my favourite. Kallichellamma, the labour class woman, potrayed by Sheela is one of the strongest female characters in Malayalam film history. It is pathetic if we compare Chellamma’s courage and personality (She is smart, has self respect, independant, kind, supports others; even the heros, not accepts any favour), with that of the female characters in Malayalam films today. Does this show the deterioration in our society? The hero, the engine driver potrayed by Prem Nazir, the then super star, has many weaknesses. Do the superstars of today has the courage to accept such a role?

    1. Hi Neena
      Kallichellamma had a great story, splendid actors at their best, and great songs. Such a coming together can only result in a classic 🙂 Chellamma’s great humanity is reflected in the scene where she takes in the Engine Driver’s impoverished wife and kids. I have always thought of Karimukil Kaattile as a “Good Bye” song….

      Sheela has done a few such strong character roles in Malayalam Cinema. Oru Penninte Kadha, Ezhuthaatha Kadha tp name a couple. Sadly, in their mad rush after commercial success, such great roles get left behind….


      1. Can we add Neeyum vidhavayo (Raasaleela) to this list? Though this is strictly travails of a widow, that too of a particular religion, you could say this is the agony of a woman. What do you think?

        1. Hi Jagadish,
          Neeyum Vidhavayo is a lovely sad song., as you say, reflects the agony of widowhood. Thanks for your suggestion.


    2. it was not about courage neena.. those days producers and directors had the last word and all of the stars of those times were simply following them (except SATHYAN master, he also rejected roles that not suiting his kind of nature or went out from location on certain circumstances) the most courageous lady in malayalam cinema was JAYABHARATHI.. sheela never matched jaya in accepting challenging roles.. YOU WILL FIND ME RIGHT, ONCE YOU SEE VADAKKAKKORU HRIDAYAM, NAKSHTHRANGALE KAVAL or many such roles..

      and modern day actors has also shown courage in accepting such roles whenever such a script came in front of them.. but where are those kinds of script nowadays????

  2. Susie,good selections!
    ‘Daivam sthreeyaay janichaal’ (Dathuputhran)is one in the same Genre.Another tearjerker is ‘pennaayippirannengil’ (Ammye Kaanaan).

    1. Jayashree Chechi
      I don’t believe i have heard the song Daivam sthreeyaay. Is it really from Dathuputhran?

      1. Susie
        There is another song in Neethipeetam – Daivam Manushyanaai Pirannal. But i think that the song meant here is from Dattuputran. However, Streeyaayi daivam appears in the second line of the song.
        The song goes like this….
        Teeratha Dughathin Teerathoru Naal
        Streeyaayi daivam janikkenam
        Aattin tolitta Chennaikkal meyum
        Naattin Purathu valerenam…

        Am i right


  3. Kannuneer thulliye.. definitely on my list too. Theeratha’ from Datthuputran is a first. mulkkireedam wonderful tearjerker. and i would add kannu thurakkatha deivangale too. ‘do you think Kdambari pushpa vanathil would fit into this list?

    a very fertile ground for lyricists indeed.. the plight of women. usually these songs seem to sum up the whole essence of the movie in those few lines.

    1. Hi Remitha
      I agree. Kannu Thurakkaatha would be high on this list. Not so sure about Kaadambari…The lyrics do seem to summarise the whole story most times! 🙂

  4. Susie, thank you for warning me off Adhyapika. 🙂 Yes, the yoke that women bear – beautiful songs, but oh, the lyrics usually make me want to bang my head against a wall. That would make me less depressed than listening to the never-ending whines.Sorry. I’m just not up for martyrdom yet. 🙂

    1. Dear Anu
      Glad that I was useful to you, in that you can avoid these songs, and the movies, too, if you don’t like them! Your positive attitude is refreshing. 🙂


  5. A favorite topic for lyricists. They often tend to be too pretentious to merit any objective criticism, or I feel so. Here’s an example:
    BTW, the first song is visually and musically interesting; and the last, sensational in the film’s context.

  6. Susie
    You made the best selection. The first song i consider in this genre is also kannuneertulliye…
    But i think Kannu turakkatha Daivangale of Agniputhri,

    Aadiyil Vachanamundaayi of Chettathi,

    Mannil Pennai Piranna Tettinu of Thara, Pennai pirannengil of Ammaye Kaanaan, chumalil swapnathin of Virunnukaari can also be included as a supplement from my side. Thanks for the write up also


    1. I agree, Sajith. Kannu Thurakkatha Daivangale…and Karutha Chakravaala from Aswamedham are definitely up there … I did not include Aadiyil Vachanamundaayi because I had it in one of my earlier lists. Thank you.

      1. Susie
        The song Karutha Chakravala mathilukal from the film Aswametham tries to narrate the plight of the lepers in the sanatorium.
        See the two lines…Njangale maatram karutha chayam mukki enthinee mannil varachu vikruthamaayi & poojakkedukkate puzhu kuthi nilkkumi pookkale ningal maranno kozhiyumi pookkale ningal maranno.Please notice the BGM of the song so unique among G. Devarajan compositions
        Similarly there is a song in the film Kaattupookkal….Kaattupookkal njangal Kaattupookkal written by ONV and music composed by G. Devarajan describing the miseries of orpans.


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