The beauty of poetry in Vayalar’s film songs

PT Bhavani’s book is a reminder about the late poet’s remarkable work for cinema, music

PT Bhavani’s book is a reminder about the late poet’s remarkable work for cinema, music

There is this stanza from the Malayalam film song Yerushalemile swarga doothaa… ( Chukku) that can be translated so: Streets of Israel we have adorned/ There is no Caesar here, neither Pontius Pilate/ No crown of thorns is there at Calvary/ Your land, this is your land…

You may not often come across such lovely lines in devotional songs. But, then, Vayalar Rama Varma was no ordinary poet, or lyricist, for that matter.

With lines such as these, Vayalar conquered the hearts of Malayalees the way nobody else could. He passed away in 1975, at the age of 47, but his songs continue to delight music lovers. In his two-decade-old career, Vayalar wrote over 1,300 songs.

Some of the finest from that long list are featured in a new book, Vayalar Ganangalile Soundaryabimbangal, that closely examines the poetry in Vayalar’s film songs. It is written by PT Bhavani, whose first book was a collection of her poems by her.

Published by Lipi Publications, Vayalar Ganangalile Soundaryabimbangal dwells on some of the poet’s popular and not-so-popular songs. Ms. Bhavani has devoted separate chapters to the songs according to themes, such as love, nature, woman, mythology, philosophy, moon and religion.

Since Vayalar penned hundreds of songs on these themes, her task may not have been difficult. However, it may not have been easy to decide which songs she to omit as well.

Ms. Bhavani talks, at some length, about some of Vayalar’s most popular songs, such as Manushyan mathangale… ( Achanum Bappayum) Sanyasini nin… ( Rajahamsaam) Ithihasangal janikkum munpe… ( Chuvanna Sandhyakal) Sandhya mayangum neram… ( mayiladumkunnu) Swapnangal, swapnangal… ( Kavyamela) and Seemanthini nin… (Athidhi). She also writes about songs that aren’t among the most anthologized of Vayalar’s songs, such as Kalindee Kalindee… ( Chuvanna Sandhyakal) and Yerushalemile swarga doothaa…

rich tradition

In a larger sense, the book is a reminder about the rich tradition of Malayalam film music. Vayalar wrote songs for cinema at a time when the line between a song and a poem was so thin.

Yet, not many take the trouble to appreciate the exceptional quality of writing in those songs. The music and singing were so great that perhaps the average listener did not think too much about the meaningful lines. Writers such TP Sasthamangalam have always been exceptions.

Hence, Ms. Bhavani’s book is quite significant. “I decided to write the book because I wanted to make this generation aware about the poetic qualities in Vayalar’s songs,” she tells Hindu over phone from her residence in Chennai.

Several pictures of Vayalar embellish the book. “I was able to get those photos because my husband, director Hariharan, used to work with Vayalar,” she says.

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