Have you ever listened to Malayalam song lyrics and gone “Wait, sing that again?” or more like “Vyakthamayilla” like the judge from Crazy Gopalan who crops up in every other troll? One of the earlier times my curiosity piqued in this regard was when I heard the chorus bit of Oru Simham Alarum from Thenkasipattanam and wondered if it was Greek, Latin or Swahili. But a couple of weeks back @soumiaruth’s post gobsmacked me as she decoded Malayalam song lyrics and it turned out that the chorus was not a foreign language but our good ol’ Malayalam.
Lyricists toss multilingual verses in songs to make the song stand out and let it blend with the overall narrative of the film (for example, we all know why the song Tharakamalarukal from Arabikatha has Chinese lyrics in it; well supposedly Chinese at least) or even to up the coolness quotient of the song. Today we talk about those incomprehensible bits in songs (or even the song as a whole) that throw you for a loop and puzzle you the first time you try to decode the lyrics.
There you are admiring the beauty of the pristine lyrics of the song and suddenly you are flung into an ocean of gibberish. Of course, you would have later figured out using translators and all that (or chelappo case vittu kaanum). Or maybe it just turned out to be a meaningless and random string of syllables thrown in as filler lyrics. But for now, let’s walk you through some of those Malayalam song lyrics to which your instant reaction was “Dude, ith ethu bhaasha?”
Onnam Vattam Kandappam/Appukutta Thoppikara
I’m sure all 90s kids would agree that this song from Chandralekha, composed by Berny Ignatius and sung by MG Sreekumar and Chitra, is indeed a trip down memory lane. But have you ever pondered this segment of the song that crops up before the stanza and tried to make sense of it (at least all the Appukuttans would have; c’mon how many of you have namesake songs?)
Konnari konnari konaari
Illinakkiri Naachi Kattore re re
*goes back, sings the lyrics and confirms there are 3 ‘re’s * lest someone @s me.
I heard this song the first time on-air while driving and I was like “When did Malayalam radio stations start playing out-and-out Kannada songs?”. Nevertheless, the song was catchy as hell and soon it became a rage all across the world, giving life to millions of reels on Instagram irrespective of language and geographical boundaries. I later realised that what I listened to was not Kannada lyrics but a Tulu folklore song which belonged to nammude swantham Mollywood.
The prelude of this song kickstarts with a bunch of obscure lyrics that go
Susunu sulala sunusunu sunusunu
Gun Gun Sithara Sithara
The above lyrics would belong to the same league as “Idli garba, dosa garba” and “Bukkaro Chinnakutty”, the famous dialogues mouthed by Basanthi from Ee Parakkum Thalika. Whether it is actually a tribal language or just some made-up language is something only Mollywood’s beloved decipherment expert, Monai from Summer in Bethlehem can confirm.
If you were a regular viewer of Chitrageetham back in the late ‘90s you would surely have seen this song from Priyam at least a hundred times. This song along with Minnaminni Ithiriponne from the same movie was an anthem of all kuttipattalams back then. And, didn’t we all want an uncle-aunt duo as cool as Chackochan and Deepa? Before nostalgia consumes you entirely, let me bring your attention back to this portion of the song, the lyrics of which have been boggling my mind for years. No, make that decade! Probably just a string of arbitrary phrases off the top of the writer’s head?
I had no idea a language called Irula existed until I heard the 60-year-old Nanjiamma crooning “Kalakkatha Sandana Meram”, the popular folk number from Ayyappanum Koshiyum which was one of the blockbusters of 2020. In fact, this song, composed by Jakes Bejoy, went on to garner 10 million views as quick as a wink and emerged as the most viewed song of the year. It also introduced us to Irula, a language spoken by the minorities inhabiting Nilgris, various regions of Palakkad and a few parts of Karnataka.
I may not have been over four the first time I saw this song from the movie Mazhayethum Munbe. To be honest, the tiny me was a little frightened watching the camera zooming in on these madcap women with facial whitening masks loitering around mouthing words supposedly belonging to some dubious language. I still have no idea what Minarake Ne means and occasionally do wonder what the lyricist, Bichu Thirumala wanted to convey through it.
If you’ve managed to summon yourself to stop weeping and wailing while listening to the song Nilave Maayumo from Minnaram, you might surely have permitted this portion of the song to puzzle you:
If my little one ever asks me what this means, I’m just gonna tell him that they meant Lilli’s papa’s name is Loli. Or I could even tell him that the lyricist was referring to Lillipup of Pokemon! Although, for the former part of my life I thought the lyricist was talking about the Lilliputians from Gulliver’s Travels. What? Don’t sneer at me, Minnaram had a whole song dedicated to nursery rhymes. Anyway, tell me, what images come to your mind when you hear these lyrics?
We’ve all lost count of the number of times this peppy track has entertained us.
Hey surika rika mukka muzham
Potte maaari kozhunth
Kabathilu maatti pudichu
As gibberish as these lyrics sound, we’re all hearts for it ever since we first heard it from our legend, Jagathy Sreekumar in the ‘80s movie Kinnaram. Since Neram was a bilingual movie, a lot of Tamilians initially thought the lyrics were in Malayalam, whereas the Malayalis were having their déjà vu moment soaking up these lyrics. Fortunately, the makers of the movie cleared the confusion of many first-time hearers who were scratching their heads over the lyrics with a disclaimer that said “Please avoid researching the meaning of the lyrics, as these have no meaning”.
Swargathilo Nammal Swapnathilo
Every time we dreamed of earning big bucks in the future, wasn’t it this song from Akkare Akkare Akkare that played in the background? Remember this bit of this song, the lyrics of which have made you scratch your head in bewilderment?
Nabi Sekwa Seeteeta
Contextually this song indicates that this segment of the song could be one of the myriad languages spoken by Africans, because duh, they roped in an African in the visuals just for this bit. But only the lyricist of the song, Sreekumaran Thampi can confirm if these verses actually belong to one out of the 1500-2000 African languages.
What other Malayalam song lyrics would you add to this list?