Guest article by Anuradha Warrier
(There are some guests on whose arrival you exclaim, “Wo aye hamarey ghar khuda ki qudarat, kabhi hum unko kabhi apne ghar ko dekhate hain!” Anu writes an outstanding blog spanning books, movies, music and whatever. She is also a writer and editor. With all that, and with the constraint of having grown up outside Kerala, it is indeed a very kind gesture on her part to agree to write on similar songs from Hindi and Malayalam movies. With such generous people I am confident we should be able to cover all the major languages in India in which such cross fertilisation with Hindi movies and songs have taken place. Thank you , Anu, for your excellent article. – AK)
I’d been following the mega-series of posts by Mr Ashok Vaishnav on the various combinations of multiple versions of songs on Songs of Yore with great interest. With AK hosting these posts, and Mr Arunkumar Deshmukh and Mr N Venkatraman writing on the links between Hindi-Marathi and Hindi-Tamil songs, it’s been a journey worth travelling.
I do not presume to have the knowledge of music that any of these gentlemen have; this post came about as a result of my telling AK that Hindi film tunes crossed boundaries into my home state of Kerala as well, and asking if listing them in the comments would be an issue. In return, he promptly asked me to develop that into a post. So, with trepidation, here I am, writing a guest post for the first time. I agree with Mr Venkatraman that inspired/adapted songs from each of the four South Indian languages should have a separate post of its own; that said, I will only be writing about Malayalam film songs.
Having grown up outside Kerala, my initiation into Malayalam film music, apart from the songs I heard over the radio, came much later in life. As is the case with Hindi music, I tend to like old Malayalam songs, with certain exceptions being made for some excellent work in later years. I would like to acknowledge the great help and support that a fellow blogger, Cine Matters, gave me when I was floundering, wondering where to begin.
1928 (1930 – the jury is still out on this one) witnessed the birth of Malayalam Cinema. This was when the first silent movie Vigathakumaran (The Lost Child), directed by JC Daniel, was released. What is interesting about Malayalam cinema is that once talkies became the norm in the intervening two decades, Malayalam film songs drew their inspiration heavily from both Hindi and Tamil songs. For instance, the iconic Mohammed Rafi-Noor Jehan duet Yahan badla wafa ka reappeared as Manoharamee rajyam. Unfortunately, I cannot find a video or audio clip for this song. It seemed that the state’s rich musical heritage was being deliberately ignored in favour of imported compositions.
It wasn’t until Neelakuyil (Blue Cuckoo) in 1954 that the state of matters changed. Neelakuyil was a milestone in Malayalam films – a social drama that dealt with feudalism, untouchability and the treatment of women by society, made by a band of idealistic youngsters, and it changed the face of Malayalam cinema setting it firmly on the path of realism and in the social ethos of the state. Scored by K Raghavan, the songs introduced Malayalam folk music into Malayalam films for the first time.
Let me begin with pre-Neelakuyil examples. On his website, Cine Matters listed quite a few songs from Jeevitha Nauka (The Boat of Life) and Ponkathir that were direct lifts from old Hindi songs. Jeevitha Nauka, released in 1951, was Malayalam filmdom’s first ‘super hit’. With a theatrical run of more than 280 days, the film was simultaneously made in Tamil and Telugu and later, a dubbed version in Hindi was released. Its music director was the venerable V Dakshinamoorthy. In his debut film, Nalla Thanka (1950), the veteran music director was forced to adapt songs from Tamil, Hindi and Telugu. For those who understand Malayalam, here is a clip where he describes the brief given to him in those early days.
Here are two songs from what Cine Matters calls the ‘Xerox’ years. There is absolutely no effort to mask the origins, and songs have been taken from as many Hindi films as possible.
Malayalam 1: Akale aarum kaividum (Jeevitha Nauka/1951/MD: V Dakshinamoorthy/Singer: H Mehboob)
Hindi 1: Suhani raat dhal chuki (Dulari/1949/MD: Naushad/Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Malayalam 2: Anandamekoo bale (Jeevitha Nauka/1951/MD: V Dakshinamoorthy/Singer: P Leela)
Hindi 2: Hawa mein udta jaaye (Barsaat/1949/MD: Shankar-Jaikishen/Singer: Lata Mangeshkar)
Music director Mohammed Sabir Baburaj, better known as MS Baburaj is often credited as the man who engineered the renaissance of Malayalam film music. Having learnt Hindustani music in his childhood, he pioneered the use of Hindustani ragas in Malayalam music. His professional association with lyricist P Bhaskaran and singers KJ Yesudas and S Janaki resulted in some of the evergreen hits in Malayalam film songs.
Malayalam 3: Kadalivazha (Umma/1960/MD: MS Baburaj/Singer: Jikki)
This film saw the emergence of a new musical talent who would enthral listeners for almost two decades. Music director, MS Baburaj, who had made an indifferent debut in Minnaminungu (Firefly) three years earlier, began a new phase with the success of this film and carved a place for himself in the pantheon of the greats. Interestingly enough, this song mimics both lyrics and picturisation of its Hindi original. While the musical connection may seem tenuous to most listeners, that is because the music director, Baburaj, seldom copied the tune as it is. From what we have listened to from his huge body of work, one can safely say he was inspired by the tunes he heard to create his own, leaving his unique stamp on the final creation. The cawing of the crow signifying the arrival of a visitor seems to be a belief common to many cultures.
Hindi 3: Mori atariyan pe kaaga (Ankhen/1950/MD: Madan Mohan/Singer: Meena Kapoor)
Malayalam 4: Tamasamenthe varuvaan (Bhargavi Nilayam/1964/MD: MS Baburaj/Singer: KJ Yesudas)
A great fan of music director Naushad, Baburaj was inspired by the veteran composer’s tune from the Muslim social Mere Mehboob to score not one, but two songs in Malayalam. This was a true case of inspiration and paying allegiance to the master – while Mere mehboob tujhe was composed in Raag Jhinjhoti, Baburaj used Raag Bhimpalasi for Tamasamenthe varuvaan. He later reworked his own tune for its twin version Pranasakhi njan verumoru from Pareeksha (1967).
Hindi 4: Mere mehboob tujhe (Mere Mehboob//MD: Naushad/Singer: Mohammed Rafi)
Now, here are two songs from Avalude Ravugal, Malayalam cinema’s first ‘Adults Only’ movie, which became notorious outside Kerala – for all the wrong reasons. A powerful film based on a prostitute’s life, it dealt with the emotions that a ‘fallen woman’ feels, and the way society treats her, even as it uses her services. Music director AT Ummer mentioned in an interview once that he was ‘forced’ to use Rajesh Roshan’s composition from Swami. One wonders at the compulsions that also led him to recycle RD Burman’s tune from Jheel Ke Us Paar for the wonderful lullaby from the same film.
Malayalam 5: Ragendu kiranangal oliveesiyilla (Avalude Ravukal/1978/MD: AT Ummer/Singer: S Janaki)
I personally prefer the Malayalam song to its Hindi original. The words seem to flow better, the Malayalam lyrics are definitely more meaningful, and S.Janaki’s voice has the pathos down pat.
Hindi 5: Pal bhar mere kya ho gaya (Swami/1977/MD: Rajesh Roshan/Singer: Lata Mangeshkar)
Malayalam 6: Unni aaraariro (Avalude Ravukal/1978/MD: AT Ummer/Singer: S Janaki)
What was a plaint in the Hindi film became a lullaby in its Malayalam avatar. Both songs are equally fascinating to listen to, and both are equally poignant, but for different reasons.
Full credit for the songs attaining their evergreen status goes to lyricist Bichu Tirumala for writing lyrics that fit so well into the Malayali ethos, and to S Janaki who sang both numbers.
Hindi 6: Keh rahe hain ye aansu baraste hue (Jheel Ke Us Paar/1973/MD: RD Burman/Singer: Lata Mangeshkar)
Malayalam 7: Mazhavil kothumbileri vanna (Adwaitham/1991/MD: MG Radhakrishnan/Singers: MG Sreekumar, Chitra)
A political thriller from Priyadarshan (as far as I know, the film’s plot was original), the film had a wealth of very melodious songs; again, as far as I know, they were all original compositions. So it beats me why MG Ramachandran had to be ‘inspired’ by:
Hindi 7: Mausam hai aashiqana (Pakeezah/1972/MD: Ghulam Mohammed/Singer: Lata Mangeshkar)
Malayalam 8: Ende manassiloru naanam (Thenmavin Kombathu/1994/MD: Benny-Ignatius/Singers: MG Sreekumar, Sujata)
Is it a sign, I wonder, that most of the ‘inspired’ songs in this list belong to Priyadarshan’s films? -What is a bigger shame is that music director Benny-Ignatius received the Kerala State Film Award for Best Music for this film. See if you can identify the classic Hindi song from which this is unashamedly ripped off.
Trivia: RD Burman had been signed on to compose music for this film, but he died before completing the score, and Benny-Ignatius was signed on.
Now listen to the Hindi original…
Hindi 8: Piya milan ko jaana (Kapala Kendal/1939/MD: Pankaj Mallik/Singer: Pankaj Mallik)
Malayalam 9: Kaliveedurangiyallo (Desadanam/1996/MD: Kaithapram/Singer: KJ Yesudas)
A copy, in my opinion, that far surpassed the original, whether it was the poignancy in the lyrics (the Hindi version was a nursery rhyme), the richness of the arrangement, or the depth of emotion in the singer’s voice.(Actually, it would be interesting to find out who copied whom in this song – both films were released in 1996.)
Hindi 9: Ghar se nikalte hi (Papa Kehte Hai/1996/MD: Rajesh Roshan/Singer: Udit Narayan)
Malayalam 10: Njan oru paatu paadam (Megham/1999/MD: Ouseppachan/Singer: KJ Yesudas)
So the ode to middle-aged romance is mangled beyond belief in this supposed-to-be-comic picturisation. (Watching Mammooty dance is unintentional comedy, anyway.) This is one of the should-never-have-been-touched songs that leaves the listener/viewer with only one question: What were they thinking of? (Actually, once I learnt that this was a Priyadarshan film, I stopped wondering.)
Here is the classic original…
Hindi 10: O mere zohra jabeen (Waqt/1965/MD: Ravi/Singer: Manna Dey)
Now, for the reverse… Apart from Salilda, who delighted in rearranging his compositions in multiple languages, I found a couple of instances where popular songs from contemporary Malayalam films ‘inspired’ their Hindi counterparts. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised to know that the director was Priyadarshan and the music directors were Nadeem-Shravan. Two of the songs in the former’s Saat Rang ke Sapne, a remake of his own highly successful Thenmavin Kombathu, were recycled from other Malayalam films. (Ironically, Thenmavin Kombathu’s musical score used one of Hindi cinema’s iconic songs – copying and reverse copying? Why doesn’t it surprise me with Priyadarshan? It does surprise me that Nadeem-Shravan agreed, though. Not because I have any great faith in their ability to compose original tunes, but because they were usually ‘inspired’ by Pakistani and Arabic tunes.)
The title song of the Hindi version Saat rang ke sapnon mein was recycled from Poo venam (Minnaminunginte Nurunguvettu), while Jhoot bol na was ‘inspired’ by Paathiraakkili from Kizhakkan Pathrose.
In my trawling the web, however, I found that Malayali music directors have been, by and large, composing original songs (though I still found more songs than I’d hoped to find). Perhaps the reasons lie in the fact that our movie scripts are still rooted firmly inside the state, or if they do meander outside, the ethos is still Malayali. Music directors could, therefore, work within these constraints, not needing to go outside the state for ‘inspiration’. It’s also the reason why, until recently, we did not have many really good ‘western’ songs.
Secondly, for a small state, we have a wealth of folk music upon which to draw – Mailanji paatu, Oppana, Koyithu paatu, Vadakkan paatu, Pulluvan paatu, Ottamthullal paatu, Vanchi paatukal, Vilpattu, apart from the rich traditions of Carnatic classical music. In the many decades since Neelakuyil released, charges of plagiarism against a Malayali music composer have been few and far between (though, sadly enough, not completely unknown). In today’s times, that is a refreshing thing.