Being a 90s kid, I think I’ve had the good fortune to witness the late stages of what I’d call the Golden age of Malayalam film music – helmed by the likes of Vidyasagar, Ousepachan, Raveendran et al. Probably it was the TV exposure to the works of these greats (thank god for Jukebox and Kiran TV) that acclimatized me to the range that this industry was capable of. But as the years passed, I began to feel a deterioration in the frequency of good quality music in Malayalam films. This phase coincided with the rise of independent artists who were constantly experimenting and producing new sounds – Job Kurian, Avial, Agam, Street Academics to name a few – and so I immediately switched tracks and listened to more indie music. In my opinion, in the last few years, we’ve hardly had a handful of film albums that have been effective in the true sense – both as individual works of art as well as contributing to the film’s larger vision. And so, naturally, my expectations from the industry had drastically dwindled. Until 2022, that is.
Hridayam, Bheeshma Parvam, and now Thallumaala. Dayum!
Even in the above-mentioned trio, I was hyped about Hridayam’s music way before its release, because of their deal with Think Music to sell audio cassettes. Bheeshma Parvam again, was no surprise because it was Sushin Shyam at his peak, plus it was a Mammukka – Amal Neerad film which automatically garnered massive expectations from the masses. But, but….the Thallumaala album was what blew me away – day by day, song by song – with its unabashed quirkiness and originality.
When the first single, Kannil Pettole released, I remember watching it and thinking – WTF, this is by Vishnu Vijayan? THE Vishnu Vijayan who has churned out melodies like Aradhike and Thaniye? Definitely a miss. But as the Thallumaala team released their songs one single after another, I realized that I was being taken for a ride. This was definitely not an album that was aiming for pure melodic supremacy. The music was far more than just that.
An instrument here, a word there, a note here, a beat there…and you get an out-and-out original product that is not just pleasing to the ears but also pleasing to the brain, if you will? Moreover, music, like movies, can be looked at as a collective experience, and Thallumaala is a great example of music that aims to cater to a social experience.
I’m not generally one that does music reviews, but I honestly feel that this album is here to stay, and would mark a new chapter in mainstream film music. And so, I decided to take you through the entire album, ranked. Here goes!
TLDR; GG, Vishnu Vijayan and MuRi!
This song tries to cash in the virality and appeal that songs with simple lyrics and catchy beats often garner (What a Karavad – style). It somewhat succeeds..but at the end of it all, it leaves you wanting more (at least lyrically). Also, the Malappuram flavour is heavy on this one, and “JJindakkiko” might catch on in pop culture lingo, much like many of the dialogues in the film.
Arguably the most polarizing song of this album, Thupaathu strives to achieve a level of quirkiness that is seldom seen in mainstream music. There are some insane word plays and rhymes in motion – “high mala” being rhymed with “high on my love”, “Beepathu, just be, Paathu” et al. Most of the lyrics are random words taken from outside of the film’s context, and the stanzas aren’t super coherent. But that’s clearly not the point here! It’s a case of the makers thinking – How offbeat can we portray the playful banter between two lovers? And even if you find some of Tovino’s portions cringey (the Lionel Messi reference was so forced!), you’d most likely enjoy the flute interludes by Vishnu Vijayan which take you by surprise.
#4: Kannil Pettole
The swag anthem of the year, Kannil Pettole is a peppy number that is instantly likeable for the way it seamlessly includes Arabic and hip-hop elements in it. What particularly stands out is the rap by Irfana Hameed – it made me wonder how less frequently we get to witness female rap in the mainstream. Both musically and visually, it does a better job of portraying the luxury and fervour associated with Dubai, as compared to earlier attempts such as Nenjinullil (Diamond Necklace).
#3: Thallumaala Paattu
This song is the soul of the album, which succeeds in capturing the essence of what the film is trying to achieve. It is written and performed within the format of a maala paattu – a genre of Mappila paattu that is usually written in a mix of Arabic and Malayalam. The “Lola Lola” portions are the catchiest bits of the song. Moreover, I particularly liked how, as the song progressed, it simultaneously got both groovier and more ominous!
#2: Manavaalan Thug
This promotional track did complete justice to its mission – increase the buzz leading up to the release of the film. Written by Dabzee and performed by Dabzee and SA, this track is conceived as a hype-up vehicle for the protagonist, Manavaalan Wazim. But it goes far beyond that – it lashes out at you with some killer beats and insane beat drops, brings talented independent artists like Manushyar to the mainstream, and above all, opens up the possibilities for more original work in the Malabar hip-hop space – which clearly has a lot of lyrical potentials.
P. S: There’s a line that discreetly refers to the brand Nike. Guess which one?
#1: Ole Melody
Probably the only song in the album that tries to be a singable “melody”, Ole Melody is still quirky enough to fit into this film’s universe. This is because, even though the song has a strong Carnatic base, it deviates into kadha prasangam territory at times (courtesy Salim Kumar’s fun narration), and at other times, makes you laugh out loud at the puntastic lyrics by Muhsin Parari – Interestingly, in the first stanza, he uses the word ‘adi’ in 4 different contexts – adikkaran (fighter), anj-aar adi (5-6 feet tall), panjaara adikkaraan (flirt), and of course, mel-adi (melody). Genius!
(P.S: We haven’t included ‘Thoottikanoda Patha’ and ‘Grudge Theme’, considering their short duration and relative irrelevance to someone who hasn’t watched the film yet. They are equally experimental tracks that add a lot of value to the film, primarily functioning as background scores.)
So, which was your favorite track from the Thallumaala album and why? Write down in the comments below!