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World of meaning

Film song critic T.P. Sasthamangalam laments that many contemporary songs fail when it comes to lyrics

Photo: S. Gopakumar.

Waxing lyrically T.P. Sasthamangalam analyses the lrycis of each film song he hears

Songs such as ‘Aatinkarayoorathe’ and ‘Mouliyil mayalipeeli chaarthi, manja pattambarum chaarthi’ from the movies ‘Rasathanthram’ and ‘Nandanam’ respectively are songs that is music to the ear.

But these songs are literally incorrect, says T.P. Sasthamangalam, film song critic. He points out that ‘kara’ and ‘ooram’ in Malayalam mean the same: land. So, mentioning two similar words in the song ‘Aatinkaraoorathe’ is unnecessary. Similarly, he says that ‘manja pattambaram’ should be ‘chudi’ (worn), not ‘chaarthi’ (applied) as the song vocalises.

T.P. Sasthamangalam alias T.P. Raju, who started analysing and criticising film songs since 1977, feels that Malayalam film songs lost its literary perfection after the death of lyricist Vayalar Rama Varma.

Lack of concept

He says that the present film songs are short-lived as they do not have a concept or meaning unlike the songs of yesteryear. Songs like ‘Aatinnkara,’ he says, are popular as it has a good lilt to it. Sasthamangalam, however, believes importance should be given to the meaning of the lyrcis as well.

He says that most of the new songs fail when it comes to lyrics. “The remix trend itself shows the lack of talent in the industry,” he points out.

While lyricists such as Vayalar, P. Bhaskaran and O.N.V. Kurup are his all-time favourites, new-age lyricists such as Yousafali Kecheri and Kaithapuram earn praise from the critic. “I cannot clearly demarcate between a good and a bad lyricist. I like some songs of a particular lyricist and may not like the rest,” Sasthamangalam says.

He finds the picturisation of new film songs monotonous. He points out that almost all the songs display group performances that lack quality.

Songs in ‘Perumazhakaalam,’ he says, broke the monotony with its excellent picturisation, especially the song ‘Kalaayi kadavathu.’ Songs in ‘Arabikatha,’ ‘Classmates’ and ‘Kathaparayumbol’ also rank high in his list.

The graduate in Malayalam from Mahatma Gandhi College recalls: “During the lunch break, we students used to discuss the literary trend and growth of Malayalam language. Film songs too became part of our conversation. We found that many songs that came after Vayalar’s death were shallow.” His first article in a magazine called Rasthra Prabha created headlines. He did not look back since.

An article in a Malayalam film magazine titled ‘Keezhanelliyude thannalum, ashtanga hridayathinte aniyarayum’ got him noticed. The articles showed the readers how to look deep into a song and not merely listen to them passively. According to Sasthamangalom, he keeps track of all the latest songs and knows all the oldies, starting from the first talkie ‘Balan.’

An employee of Food Corporation of India, he writes a regular column in a cine-magazine; a sort of a critique on film songs.

He hosts a programme on Asianet called ‘Layamaadhuri’ that discusses film songs, their history, lyrics and shows clippings from songs. Although an unabashed fan of film songs, Sasthamangalam says apologetically that he is a bad singer.

Favourite songs

Some of T.P. Sasthamangalam’s favourite songs are ‘Chakaravarthini’(‘Chembarathy’), Sanyasini (‘Rajahamsom’) ‘Arikill nee undayirunenkil’ (‘Nee ethra dhanya’) from the oldies. Some of the recent songs he enjoys listening too are ‘Kallayi kadavathe’ (‘Perumazhakaalam’), ‘Kaatadi thanallum’(‘Classmates’), ‘Thirikke njan varumenna vaartha kettu’ (Arabikatha’) and ‘Vethyasthanaam oru barberam balane’ (‘Katha Parayumbool’).

HEMA SREEKUMAR

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