The beauty of poetry in Vayalar’s film songs

PT Bhavani’s book is a reminder of the late poet’s remarkable work in film, music

PT Bhavani’s book is a reminder of the late poet’s remarkable work in film, music

There’s this stanza from the song from the Malayalam movie Yerushalemile swarga doothaa… ( chukku) which can be translated as: We adorned the streets of Israel / There is no Caesar here, nor Pontius Pilate / There is no crown of thorns at Calvary / Your land is your land…

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

With lines like these, Vayalar captured the hearts of the Malayalees like no one else could. He died in 1975, at the age of 47, but his songs continue to delight music lovers. During her two-decade career, Vayalar wrote over 1,300 songs.

Some of the best from this long list are featured in a new book, Vayalar Ganangalile Soundaryabimbangal, which takes a close look at the poetry in Vayalar’s film songs. It is written by PT Bhavani, whose first book was a collection of his poems.

Published by Lipi Publications, Vayalar Ganangalile Soundaryabimbangal dwells on some of the poet’s popular and less popular songs. Ms. Bhavani dedicated separate chapters to songs according to themes such as love, nature, women, mythology, philosophy, the moon and religion.

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

Ms. Bhavani talks quite extensively about some of Vayalar’s most popular songs, such as Manushyan mathangale… ( Achanum Bappayum) Sanyasini nin… ( Rajahamsam) Ithihasangal janikkum munpe… ( Chuvanna Sandhyakal) Sandhya mayangum neram… ( Mayiladumkunnu) Swapnangal, swapnangal… ( Kavyamela) and Seemanthini nin… (Athidhi). She also writes on songs that are not among Vayalar’s most anthologized songs, such as Kalindee Kalindee… ( Chuvanna Sandhyakal) and Yerushalemile swarga doothaa…

rich tradition

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

Yet few people bother to appreciate the exceptional writing quality of these songs. The music and vocals were so good that perhaps the average listener didn’t think too much of the meaningful lines. Writers like TP Sasthamangalam have always been exceptions.

Therefore, Mrs. Bhavani’s book is quite significant. “I decided to write the book because I wanted to make this generation aware of the poetic qualities of Vayalar’s songs,” she says. The Hindu by telephone from his residence in Chennai.

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

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