The Songs of Kanyakumari (1974)

Kamal Haasan and Rita Bhaduri in Kanyakumari (1974)
Kamal Haasan and Rita Bhaduri in Kanyakumari (1974)

KS Sethumadhavan’s Kanyakumari (1974) had 2 songs in Malayalam written by Vayalar, set to music by MB Sreenivasan. There is an English song credited for its lyrics and music to MB Srinivasan but I strongly contest that and feel a collaborator on the lyrics have been left out. There are two instrumental pieces, catering to two disparate forms of dance as it were, a Shiv Parvati Lasya piece, and a music montage of Jayan’s memories of his Bohemian life, of a life-time of drugs, sex and rock-n-roll.

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Jayan’s Bohemia – Musical Interlude.

KS Sethumadhavan takes the help of MB Sreenivasan in putting together his drug-crazed years, along with the wine, the music and the women, and of course the money that flowed, based on MT’s pointers that he mentions in the screenplay too, and it come out this way. Even taken as a composite piece, I really felt a tad disoriented at the abrupt “drop” in between for a solo tone which again settles back into the rhythm piece laid out.Captures brilliantly the “spirit” of the times, so to speak.

Chandrapalunku.

Singers : KJ Yesudas and S Janaki.

Arguably, the movie is known for this song and made more famous by this song. Vayalar neatly lays out the imagery of Kanyakumari and through it the desire and sheer love the young couple in love have for each other. This song enjoyed endless replay in its times on radio and more than KJ Yesudas, its S Janaki’s voice that literally washes over you like a wave.

Aayiram Kannulla.

Singers : KJ Yesudas, P Leela, LR Eeswari and Chorus.

For the life of me , I just cannot understand why KS Sethumadhavan turned the camera indoors for an obvious song setting such as this, whilst the entire movie is set outdoors ! The ritual “offering-dance” in the local temple courtyard on the eve of their favorite deity’s festival, its Shankaran who performs along with the rest of the dancers with gay abandon as lady love Parvati, brimming with pride and a bit amused, watches the dance performance.

Question: Could anyone identify the main lead dancer ( female) ?

The Siva-Parvathy Laasya ensemble.

KS Sethumadhavan shouldn’t have made Rita Bhaduri do this. It is excruciatingly painful ( atleast, for me ) to watch Parvati go through the motions of expressing her love for her celestial beloved this way. Parvati pales in comparison at Shiva’s fluid, effortless and graceful moves ( atleast for movie standards, that is) and I really wish this had been expressed in another way, rather than this “obvious” one.

Here is one from 1969 for some perspective.

I’m in Love with Love.

Lyrics : MB Sreenivasan – MT Vasudevan Nair (?)
Singer : Usha Uthup (nee Iyer )

The movie titlecards credit MB Sreenivasan for the lyrics of this “Chillum-chillum” song but MT Vasudevan Nair’s screenplay already has the first four verses written down as the refrain of the song that Jayan listens to, from the courtyard. Which makes me wonder why the author himself was not given credit as co-collaborator on lyrics of the song ! It could mean MT Vasudevan Nair’s debut only (?) song lyrics for a Malayalam movie is a 4 -line verse in English🙂. ( Thanks Susie )

Question : Can someone positively identify the lead “singer”?

Do write in, about your “Chandrapalunku” times.

Related Classic Picks | KS Sethumadhavan | Kanyakumari (1974)

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16 thoughts on “The Songs of Kanyakumari (1974)

  1. Dear CM
    I appreciate your Endeavour to showcase a film which was quite different in its theme and treatment. You logically narrated the story frame by frame and at the outset let me convey my appreciation for your effort and I bet K S R Moorthy and K S Sethumadhavan will be really pleased to see one of their film widely discussed in the web. However, the way you finished your description without diaclosing the climax remind me of the ‘Kathasaram’ that is found in the song books and colorful notices of that time. I don’t know whether you remember the main poster of the film when it was released all over Kerala depicting Sankaran with a hammer charging Freddie who is holding parvathi.
    As you rightly pointed out, the song chandrapalungu was a hit and still a favorite to those who love the music and songs of that age. As usual, the song released in the gramophone record version is edited. The line swarnam pothinju njaan sookshikkum onwards in the charanam is missing in the record. The prelude to the song in the banjo was frequently used by MB Sreenivasan in several occasions, especially in veena with a slight variation. The pallavi was repeated only once just after the first anupallavi and the song just fade away at the charanam. This is another song which confirms the creativity of MB Sreenivasan. It’s interesting to note that the whole 12 notes in the octave are used in the composition. One may feel that it is composed in the minor scale. But the first line of the anupallavi and charanam, take you to the melodious boundaries of harikamboji and again reverts back to the features of the minor scale. The lyric framed in a question answer pattern was used by Vayalar and other poets for many songs. Iniyente Inakkilikkenthu Venam (Film School Master), Chitra Pournami Raatriyil (Film Kudumbam) etc are a few in this genre. The line Tottal padunna toonukal teerthoru, I feel was intentionally written to illustrate the Sapthaswara Pillars in the Sucheendram temple which is closely associated with Kanyakumari.
    The song I am in love, of course prove the in depth knowledge of M B Sreenivasan to compose songs in western style. The chorus with the humming in base creates an unusual mood. This song is a little bit slow when compared to Peethambara Oh Krishna (Film Sivathaandavam). I think that the song I am in love is the second song after Love is just around the corner (Film Chattakkari) of Usha. However, the line – May peace descend from high above and fill the earth with gentle love – is missing in the film though it was there in the record. The composition of this part in major scale was such a beautiful part and I don’t know why it was removed in the movie version.
    Finally, the dance music. To my knowledge, instrumental music was never included in the records of Malayalam film. The record of Kanyakumari had 4 tracks and the fourth was the Siva Parvathi dance. The producers of the record could have ignored the instrumental dance piece and devoted that space in the record to include the full version of Chandrapalungu Manimaala. Of course, I fully agree that the instrumental was better than the last festival song.
    Once again thanks for bringing a film like Kanyakumari for discussion and you even prompted a lot of our colleagues visiting here to see the film.
    B Sajith

    1. songs- tunes, difference between a raaga and a shruti or a pallavi and an eenam is all Greek to me!!!!!
      but the above post of Sajith Sir proves one thing- he is a true connoisseur of Malayalam film music. We need such passionate scholars like you to spread the good word on Malayalam cinema music heritage.. For now we have only Ravi menon (and i am the proud owner of all his books). Why dont you also write such interesting articles over here or in magazines- so that lesser mortals can read and enjoy the same

    2. Dear Sajith,
      I guess Narayan speaks for most of us on the Greek part🙂 The usual practice of witholding the end is, as you rightly surmised, to prod those who reach till the end of the post to actually buy the movie, watch and form an opinion for themselves, rather than going by the “vanilla” perspectives by the author expressed here. I have always held MBS and RKS to be the masters in marrying the original elements of western rock and pop into our movie music sensibilities. Thank you for the valuable insights as usual on the “composition”and “distribution” äspects of the songs.As usual, its a pleasure to read through your inputs. Thanks, cinematters

      1. Dear CM
        It seems that you are really interested with R K Sekhar who composed the BGM for lot many songs and films. I do agree with you and am looking forward for a detailed writing on his contributions. Thanks for all

        Sajith

  2. Dear C.M. Would you please help to clear a doubt? After KANNUM KARALUM,which was the 2nd film of Kamalahasan in Malayalam? VISHNUVIJAYAM or KANYAKUMARI? Please clarify. Ravi.C.V. Ottapalam.

  3. ബിജു,,,തിരക്കഥ പുസ്തകം ആക്കുന്നത് സിനിമ വന്നതിനു ശേഷമാണ്..അതാ‍ണ് അതിൽ ഗാനം കാണുന്നത്.ആ പാട്ട് എഴുതിയത് എം ബി എസ് തന്നെ

    1. പ്രിയ രാജേട്ടാ,
      അത് ശ്രദ്ധിക്കാതിരുന്നിട്ടല്ല🙂 പാട്ടിന്റെ വരികൾ ചേർത്ത അതേ വിവേചനബുദ്ധി ശങ്കരൻ എന്ന കഥാപാത്രത്തിനു എം ടി നൽകിയ വിവരണം എന്തേ എഡിറ്റ്‌ ചെയ്തു മാറ്റാൻ മറന്നു എന്നും കൂടി ചിന്തിക്കാതിരുന്നില്ല. അത്രേയുള്ളൂ 🙂

  4. Respected C.M,thanks a lot for taking me to the 1970s via. Film Kanyakumari.To be honest,I haven’t seen this film myself in the 20s as well as Kamalahasan,who hadn’t influenced me at that time.But, CHANDRAPALUNKU was/is my favourite. After Kannum Karalum[ also composed by M.B.S] I don’t remember which film released first, Kanyakumari or Vishnuvijayam released first with Kamal as hero. This song is noted for the very simple type of orchestra and blessed voices of S.J and Jesudas. The name of Kamal is Sankaran,I remember.Having not scene,I have no clue about the dancers. In my h Mumble opinion,M.B.S. was a composer of common man, though he is capable of making simple tunes. Such were the movies he got, those of A door G.K. etc. But Thamarathumbee,Paathirappovonnu,Kadaleevanatin Kalithozhanaya and some more are exceptions. In any case,Chandrapalunku is fantastic. Interestingly Rita has left cine field and Kamal continues to be hero. I am sure comments will follow soon. Ravi.C.V. Ambalapara, Ottapalam.

  5. Enjoying your “Kanyakumari” series.

    Chandrappalunku Manimaala has a distinct charm, a youthful melody which expresses the couple’s love for each other perfectly. As for S Janaki being better than KJY in this song, I beg to differ. They complement each other. That is all I will say😉

    According to data from MCC, MT has penned lyrics for the four songs from the movie Valarthumrigangal. I believe that if there was any collaboration on lyrics of this song, it would have been between MBS and Usha Uthup. Both of them are accomplished lyricists. MBS has also written the lyrics for the song “Peethaambaraa O Krishnaa” from the movie Sivathaandavam (incidentally, also sung by Usha Uthup).

    Regards

    Susie

    1. Dear Susie,

      Thanks. How could I ever miss Valarthumrugangal ? Have corrected it now. It should be his debut lyrics attempt for a Malayalam film then. The reason why I say it is that the first 4 verses – the beginning /spirit of the song had already been put down by MT in the screenplay, and all MBS had to do was add to it, and then set it to music. Peethambara O Krishna had Kamal Haasan singing along with her, isn’t it ?🙂 .cinematters

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