Artistes Sooraj Santhosh and Shruthi Sharanyam have rewritten the lyrics of ‘Aalayal Thara’, a popular folk song in Kerala.

Shruthi in maroon salwar had a hand raised as she talks to Sooraj who is in black shirt sitting on a step and laughing
Flix Music Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 12:48

The music of this calm folk song had seemed so endearing that no one paid attention to the words sung, or at least looked deeper into the meaning. A Malayalam song passed down generations, remembered through the voice of actor Nedumudi Venu, a master of folk music, ‘Aalayal Thara’ has been a favourite of the young and old alike in Kerala. Only now, two artistes have called out the problematic lyrics and brought their edits to the song. The ‘venam’ (yes) of the song – stressing on stereotypes and adhering to discriminations of varied kinds – change to ‘veno’ first, questioning the lines – and then to venda (no). Singer Sooraj Santhosh and lyricist and filmmaker Shruthi Sharanyam rewrote the words and brought out the song, ‘Aalayal thara veno’, which within hours of its release, has become the talk of the town.

“I have felt the lines were problematic when I used to sing the original version. I was part of the band Masala Coffee when we released a song with the original lyrics as a celebration of womanhood,” says Sooraj Santhosh who has since split from the band. The new song is an independent work.

It was at a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Thrissur, where both Sooraj and Shruthi were present, that someone asked the question – shouldn’t the lyrics of ‘Aalayal thara’ end with ‘venda’ instead of ‘veno’.

“It really struck me as true and Shruthi and I spoke over conference calls to come up with the new version,” Sooraj says.

The new version begins with these lines:

Aalayal thara veno / Aduthorambalam veno
Aalinnu chernoru kulavum veno

Does a banyan tree need a porch beneath it?
Does it need a pond nearby?

All that’s considered norms of the society are needed, the original lines seemed to say. So ‘poovu’ – flower – should have fragrance, a deer should have quality and a daughter should have discipline. Sooraj stops his song in between to ask the listener, if all this is needed or not.

After asking all the questions, the creators answer them all – no, not needed.

Poovayal manam venda / poomanenna ganam venda
Poomanini makalayal adakkam venda!

Flower needs no fragrance, deer no quality and daughters needn’t be disciplined.


Still from the song

More ‘no’s follow.

Naadayal nripan venda / arike manthrimar venda/ Naadu nannavan nalla nayangal venam / Yudham cheythorellam tholvi / Kulam vendorellam tholvi

A country does not need a king, nor ministers near him. What a country needs are good policies. All those who engage in wars and all those who stick to (caste) family names are losers.

Predictably, the new version has not gone down well with a section of people. “I have just received a few death threats on my message box,” Sooraj says. Right wingers didn't like the change of lyrics, but the artistes are only taking to heart the huge amount of love coming their way.

“So many people thanked us for opening their eyes to the meaning of these words. Few had thought about it before,” Sooraj says.

Haters also brought out photos from Sooraj’s personal life to accuse him of double standards. In the song he sings, “Manushanu mamool venda mangalyathinu swarne venda” – meaning humans do not need conventions and weddings do not need gold. Someone put a picture of his wedding in which the bride can be seen wearing gold.

“It was a time when I was less politically aware and gave into these societal pressures. I have always been against dowry and other such social evils,” says Sooraj, who is now divorced.

Shruthi too has been criticised for earlier carrying a caste name like Namboothiri but she took to Facebook to denounce it. “I am well aware of the privilege of the caste name. I also know of the privilege of cutting it off. This name has come to me before I became aware of all this. Knowing that what has to be corrected has to be corrected and that I need to separate myself from societal and genetic bonds to tell my politics, this name shall be corrected, from this moment. Or it would be the biggest injustice I do to myself,” Shruthi wrote.

 

 

സുഹൃത്തുക്കളെ, നിങ്ങൾ സത്താവാദം വിടൂ. Performativity യുടെ അടിസ്ഥാനത്തിൽ സംസാരിക്കൂ. ടെക്സ്റ്റ് സംസാരിക്കുന്നതു എന്തെന്ന്...

Posted by Shruthi Sharanyam on Sunday, October 18, 2020

 

The song she wrote with Sooraj says we need a peace that comes from togetherness.

Pouranayal bodam venam/ paaril samadanam venam/ Prajayennum rajanennum padavi venda

You need awareness if you are a citizen, the world needs peace. There is no need for labels as subjects and kings.

The song is rhythmic and the video shows a number of young people dancing to its beats in random locations. “We had released a one-minute groove earlier and asked people who stood against patriarchy to send in videos of them dancing to it,” Sooraj says.

He has just learnt that the folk song, he believed was passed down orally through generations, was written by Waddakancherry Namboothiri and passed down to poet Olappamanna. Late poet Kavalam Narayana Panicker helped popularise it.

The concept and direction of the music video is done by Goutham Soorya, cinematography by Syamaprakash MS and editing by Malavika VN.

Watch the song:

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.