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.

Continue reading The Songs of Kanyakumari (1974)

വയലാറും, വെള്ളപൂശിയ ശവക്കല്ലറകളിലെ വെളിച്ചപ്പാടുകളും

Vayalar Ramavarma - Poetവിഗ്രഹാരാധനയില്‍  വിശ്വാസമില്ലാത്ത ഒരു സത്യവിശ്വാസി . “മതം മനുഷ്യനെ മയക്കുന്ന കറുപ്പാണ്” എന്ന് പറഞ്ഞ തത്വങ്ങളെ മുറുകെ പിടിച്ചിരുന്ന ഒരു അസ്സല്‍ ഇടതു പക്ഷ ചിന്തകന്‍. സ്വാഭാവികമായും ഇങ്ങനെ ഒരാളില്‍ നിന്ന് ഒരു ഭക്തി ഗാനം പ്രതീക്ഷിക്കാമോ ?

ദൈവം ഇല്ല എന്ന് ഉറക്കെ പറയുമ്പോഴും ദൈവം ഉണ്ട് എന്നതിന്റെ തെളിവായിരുന്നു ആ പ്രതിഭ !  മലയാള സിനിമ കണ്ടതില്‍ വച്ച് ഏറ്റവും നല്ല അയ്യപ്പ ഭക്തി ഗാനങ്ങള്‍ തിരഞ്ഞെടുത്താല്‍ “ശബരിമലയില്‍ തങ്കസൂര്യോദയം” എന്നും ആദ്യത്തെ ഒന്നിലോ രണ്ടിലോ വരും. എന്നു കരുതി അത് കൊണ്ട് വയലാര്‍ രാമവര്‍മ എന്ന മനുഷ്യന്‍ ദൈവ വിശ്വാസി ആണെന്ന് കരുതണ്ട . കാരണം അതേ ചിത്രത്തില്‍ തന്നെ “ഒരു കുപ്പി കള്ളടിച്ചാല്‍ ഈശ്വരന്‍ പിണങ്ങുമെങ്കില്‍ ചുമ്മാ പിണങ്ങി ക്കൊട്ടെ”  എന്നും പറയുന്നുണ്ട്.

Continue reading വയലാറും, വെള്ളപൂശിയ ശവക്കല്ലറകളിലെ വെളിച്ചപ്പാടുകളും

Vayalar’s Classics gets a reintepretation as Paintings, courtesy KV Jyothilal

Vayalar Ramavarma_Lyricist Came across this fantastic re-interpretation of a magical kind altogether the other day, based on a small report in the Malayala Manorama daily. KV Jyothilal, an accomplished and experienced artist from Kollam has done this exquisite series of paintings based on the Malayalam Classics that we have grown up on, and have come to love and cherish. He has done a series on his favorites composed by Vayalar and another series dedicated to the classics by P Bhaskaran.

It is quite commendable and the more you go through his ontepretation of Vayalar’s compositions, one is amazed at the different layers and textures that he reveals, that is the best part about the sets. He had just completed an exhibition of the series last week,  a tiny report of the same that stoked my curiosity. And thank God, he did have the good faculties to have uploaded all of it as separate blogs termed Nirakkoottam ( a play on the term Nirakkoottu – color palette). I have attempted to showcase his creation against the celluloid original  ( as available on the Web ) that was his inspiration so that it becomes easy to put them in perspective. He has in total, painted 32 interpretations of his beloved classics of which only 10 have been displayed online. Here  are a few from the series.

Continue reading Vayalar’s Classics gets a reintepretation as Paintings, courtesy KV Jyothilal

Samayamam Rathathil , V Nagel, Guru Dutt and Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Rev V NagelThere is no other dirge that we hold close to our heart than the classic Samayamam Rathathil (In the Chariot of Time, here I am, on my journey to heaven), which has become a symbol of passing regardless of caste, creed or social boundaries. No ‘Passing ‘ is complete without Samayamam Rathathil, if you are in Kerala, regardless of caste, color creed or social barriers. It is amazing that a hymn written as an exultation of praise and longing to be with the Lord, somehow over time gradually migrated to represent the collective pathos and separation of a whole community. I believe it was Aranazhikaneram(1970) that played an important role in the popularisation of this hymn that somehow got stamped as a dirge with the effective usage of that in the movie. Vayalar seems to have taken the original lines written by Rev V Nagel, tweaked it a bit, and Devrajan Master speeded up the tempo a bit to form Samayamam rathathil, as we know it today. But the song itself, along with the central idea of the chariot that’s taking one on a journey has some interesting cousins in history. I’m sure most of you know it, this is for the ones who don’t.

Continue reading Samayamam Rathathil , V Nagel, Guru Dutt and Swing Low Sweet Chariot

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

Onam Songs from Old Malayalam Films | My Favorites.

Onappaattukal that transcend time.

Onam Songs from Old Malyalam FilmsSongs that celebrate the festive spirit of Onam, the harvest festival of our homeland ( wait a minute, harvest festival? I can’t even recall the last time someone celebrated a decent harvest), have got themselves their own special place in the realm of Malayalam Cinema. Come to think of it, it has been quite some time, since someone decently picturized a traditional Thiruvathira recital or an Onappaattu worth its salt in recent years. Should we blame the increasing disconnect with our traditions, and as an implication, less recognition by the movie-watching public, which again means less marketability? I don’t know.

Continue reading Onam Songs from Old Malayalam Films | My Favorites.

The Revolution on Film – 2

Mukhamukham (1984).

From being the cinematic ‘experience’ of the movement, captured from real life ( with a reasonable amount of commercial ingredients added), I guess the genre got itself a kick in the face (literally) when Adoor Gopalkrishnan‘s Mukhamukhom (Face to Face) released in 1984. Adoor, just pulled apart the rotting guts of the ‘movement’, and then laid it bare on the silver screen. Broadly, I feel, from this point on, the focus was more on the effect of the ideology on the individualities/personalities, rather that glorifying the ‘revolution’. The past 2 decades haven’t budged from this perspective – it was more about the “I, than the Ideology ” . I guess the ones that come to mind, across these 25-odd years, reasonably explains well, the enduring perspective of the dilemma of the human being who gets caught between the ideology, consumed by it, and is gradually disillusioned by it.

Continue reading The Revolution on Film – 2

Christian Songs From Old Malayalam Films -2

Ragini in Bharya (1962)

Bharya (1962)

All the 9 songs in Bharya (1962) were super hits. Starting from Periyare by AM Raja, and ending with the dirge Dayaaparanaya Karthave, between themselves ensured that M Kunchacko laughed and danced all the way to the box-office.

Presumably based on the real-life incident of an illicit affair gone horribly wrong involving a college professor’s family, there were three songs that could be termed as Christian devotional songs. Written by Vayalar and set to tune by G.Devarajan, maybe they remain classic and timeless, even today, for the simplicity and unique structures of the songs. Speaking of uniqueness, nothing could beat Kanivolum from Snehaseema (1954) composed by Dakshinamurthi. That and more, as we go down the sepia lane.

Continue reading Christian Songs From Old Malayalam Films -2

The Revolution on Film – 1

Malayalam Films’ Revolutionary Songs.

When KPAC went ahead and transferred the ‘socialist revolution’ on to the commercial framework of Malayalam Cinema, they were also cleverly marketing the principle onto those parts of the community that had not yet heard or known about the ‘movement.’ That was one aspect. It also gave us some great compositions through them movies that still manage to capture our attention, and sing along with it, amazed at the way some can turn on the goosebumps routine. But, whether they are equally as inspiring as they once were, hmmmmm..that would be something really worth thinking about, when the idea itself is gradually sliding down the planet’s  history dustbin. No, personally, I still believe the idea will have universal relevance. It was the ‘execution’ part that did it in. Here are the ones that still manages to get my eyes misty and the heart reasonably wistful.

Continue reading The Revolution on Film – 1

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.

Continue reading KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-5

KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-3


Playwright – Thoppil Bhasi
Lyrics- Vayalar Ramavarma
Music- MB Sreenivasan and K Raghavan
Direction- Thoppil Bhasi

Ashwamedham and the one that followed, Sarasayya addressed the same issue through the drama – the social stigma surrounding Leprosy as a contagion. Though the drama was instrumental in increasing the awareness of the “rights” of a section of the society which was deliberately kept out of the mainstream, the film version was a far cry from the original script, wallowing in melodrama and pithy glycerine histrionics. The movie adaptation was shot entirely in the Leprosy Sanatorium in Nooranadu, the only one in Asia. Even the drama was freely staged for the inmates of the Sanatorium by Thoppil Bhasi.

Continue reading KPAC’s Old Malayalam Drama Songs-3