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.

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Christian Songs From Old Malayalam Films -3

Salil Choudhary had this amazing sensibility to really get under the skin of any genre of music that he was briefed to create according to the Director’s vision. Add to the sound tapestry that we are familiar with, when it comes to Salilda‘s contribution to Malayalam cinema, a Russian composition for Nellu (1974), and I would say the most perfect Christian harmonic church chorale I have ever heard onscreen was in Aparadhi ( 1977), Nanma Cherum Amma. It is also surprising that he never repeated that composition anywhere, maybe because it was so appropriate and unique, just perfect for that moment for that one film in Malayalam. I have had the misfortune to listen to countless versions ( really really horrible, terrible, scary covers) of the song available in the market, and I chuckle to myself when you realise that even with the latest cut-and-paste sound engineering magic in recording studios these days, NO ONE has been able to replicate the haunting harmony of the song!

Continue reading Christian Songs From Old Malayalam Films -3

S Pavamani | The visionary who gifted MT, Sathyan Anthikkad and KS Chithra to Malayalam Cinema

1934 – 31 August, 2010

S Pavamani - Film ProducerS Pavamani, who passed away on 31 August, 2010 joins the ranks of an illustrious visionary greats from the old school of Malayalam Cinema, who will invariably turn footnotes if they are lucky. He belonged to that rare breed of producers who had an uncanny capability of finding productions or talents that would make them with the right balance of art and money. Though, for most of the times, he was willing to forgo the money part, and went with his convictions.

Else, how we would ever get greats like MT, Sathyan Anthikad and for that matter, our nightingale, KS Chithra become a part of the Malayalam film industry. He started as a distributor in the early 60’s, with getting the Ashok Kumar starrer Jeevan Sathi ( 1957), directed by RS Tara to Kerala, which was the precursor of things to come.I guess Pavamani was the one who made the Malayalis familiar with the then running superhits from up North, even going as far as Calcutta and getting Ray’s films down to Kerala. It is said that he was a great friend of Satayajit Ray, which explains how Debi (1960), Mahanagar(1963) and Charulata (1964) enjoyed their screen time, way down south in Kerala, a place which curiously had absolutely no idea how Bengali sounded like, and I’m sure at great personal risk in the commercial sense !

Continue reading S Pavamani | The visionary who gifted MT, Sathyan Anthikkad and KS Chithra to Malayalam Cinema

Poombatta’s Songs (1971) | G Devarajan, Sound of Music, RocknRoll and King Shibi

There were four songs and an instrumental dance track in Poombatta (1971). The lyrics for all the songs were by Yousuf Ali Kechery, set to music by G Devarajan. Being a self-styled ‘Children’s Film’, the songs were also crafted and set to music to gratify that belief, which also explains the song about King Shibi from the Jataka Tales.

Raagini and Baby Sridevi in Poombatta (1971)

I guess BK Pottekkad included it to probably propagate a sense of higher value and worth that the film conveys, but P Madhuri’s voice is not exactly what sounds agreeable to me as the voice of a loving mother (here Raagini) singing to her daughter ( Baby Sridevi).

Continue reading Poombatta’s Songs (1971) | G Devarajan, Sound of Music, RocknRoll and King Shibi

Poombatta (1971) and the promise of Baby Sridevi’s brilliant career in Cinema.

If you haven’t watched Poombatta (1971), yours truly recommends you to do that. Not just for the fact that it was a simple, straightforward story, without any fussy ‘superstars’ of that era ( well..almost, it does have Raagini in a guest role), but for laying it out in brilliant contrast, the acting prowess of a little girl called Baby Sridevi, or the Sridevi as we know her today. Karoor Neelakanta Pillai’s literary work ( I am of the belief that it has to be one of his short stories, if it ever was, or else he wrote it for the screen, and no, I have NOT read any of his literary works which I plan to, soon). The story was the done-to-death oneliner of little-girl-redeemed-from-her-suffering-by-kindly couple, and BK Pottekkad ( the director), gives you an advance warning that it is of course, a ‘Children’s Film.’

Continue reading Poombatta (1971) and the promise of Baby Sridevi’s brilliant career in Cinema.

KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-5

Visharikku Kaattu Venda | Kathirukanakkili.

There is some confusion regarding these two drama productions included in the KPAC compilation of Drama Songs. For one, they DO NOT feature in the “official KPAC List of Dramas” as published on their website.

Update : 15 July 2010 The celebrated musicologist, columnist and Malayalam Cinema archivist B.Vijaykumar , confirmed that these two productions were from Kerala Theaters and had nothing to do with KPAC !!!!

The probable reason was that both the productions, Visharikku Kaattu Venda and Kathirukanakkili were creations of Ponkunnam Varkey, the enfant terrible of Malayalam Literature, and as such were very, very popular on the drama circuit. Maybe HMV was milking the franchise dry with stuffing the last soundbyte on vinyl and getting the ‘maximum dough’ out of it.

But then again, there were songs that were equally popular in the KPAC dramas selected, like Neram Mangiya from Mudiyanaya Puthran that didn’t make the cut.

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KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-4

Ningal Enne Communistakki ( You made me a Communist )

Of the 12-odd  dramas that were adapted to film, the ones that were the most popular had to be Mudiyanaya Puthran and Ningalenne Communistaakki. And amongst the duo, this had the upper hand. If not for anything, but for the fact that Prem Nazir, Sathyan shared space with KT Ummer, a veteran from  KPAC , who would go on to become one of the most handsome villians, made all the more better with his signature style of dialogue delivery and mannerisms.

The drama was the defining production that dexterously weaved in the principles of collective ownership, struck against the fiefdoms created by caste strictures and the ensuing poverty in Kerala’s prevailing social system, exhorting people to rise up and fight it, portrayed through the lives of a crumbling, gone-to-seed Illam (a sort of Manor House ) whose head was still stuck on past glory, and the son who was unemployed, firebrand and ripe for a revolution with a cause.

Continue reading KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-4

KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-2.

Mudiyanaya Puthran.

Playwright – Thoppil Bhasi
Lyrics –  ONV Kurup
Music –  G Devarajan
Direction – Thoppil Bhasi

One interesting fact about all the KPAC dramas which were adapted for the screen was the fact that none of the songs that made it such a social phenomenon and contributed to the popularity in the first place, were NEVER repeated on screen! For Mudiyanaya Puthran ( The Prodigal Son), a new set was written by P. Bhaskaran, released in 1961.

Lyrics : ONV Kurup  | Music : G.Devarajan.
1. Chillimulam Kaadukalil ~  Sung by : K S George.
The song was about the naughty, playful breeze rustling up the neighborhood bamboo thicket with a tune on its lips. A sliver of thought that takes a lot of time getting used to, in this age of almost zero patience thresholds, more like  – “You got time to chat up with the evening breeze?!!!!” Bah!

Continue reading KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-2.

Umma (1960), the Meena Kapoor connection, and the Crow.

Umma (1960), was a movie that could be remembered for many reasons. The first mainstream Malayalam film that successfully integrated the Muslim social fabric into “the commercially existing family drama format” in Malayalam Cinema and made a high-voltage potboiler out of it. It also rescued Udaya Studios from going under, and saw the debut of  M.Kunchako as a director.

But it was the 12 songs (!) from the MS Baburaj – P.Bhaskaran team that I think made it all the more memorable, and amongst them, the funky Kadalivazha Kaiyyilirunnu sung by Jikky.

Continue reading Umma (1960), the Meena Kapoor connection, and the Crow.

IV Sasi’s Ina (1982), AT Ummer borrows from Ilaiyaraja.

AT Ummer was the most busy music director of the late 70’s. I guess he was under so much pressure to sustain the success of his teaming -up with Bichu Thirumala, and most of the times buckling under Producers who had a ready made Hindi or Tamil tune that had to be repackaged for their project.

It isn’t any different when it comes to IV Sasi’s Ina ( 1982),  which had 3 of its songs borrowed from other languages.

Continue reading IV Sasi’s Ina (1982), AT Ummer borrows from Ilaiyaraja.

Nadan Pattile Mynah, Vani Jayaram, Raagam(1975) and Dharmendra.

Raagam, released in 1975, was directed by A.Bheem Singh ( Sukumari’s husband) had its music of all the 6 compositions of Vayalar, done by Salilda, and the most popular among the soundtracks have to be Nadan pattile Mynah and Ividekattinu Sugandham.

The latter became the title of many risque one-liners and the butt of many jokes ( the expression that literally translates to “I love the fragrance in the breeze here” was a phrase begging to be misused, in the opposite sense).

Continue reading Nadan Pattile Mynah, Vani Jayaram, Raagam(1975) and Dharmendra.