‘Makaramanju' is a classical blend of Hindustani and Malayalam tunes.
Considering the over-the-top fare we've been hearing for a while now in the name of Malayalam playback music, songs of ‘Makaramanju' composed by Pandit Ramesh Narayan is like a much needed breath of fresh air.
Veteran Hindustani vocalist and composer has tuned eight soulful Hindi and Malayalam melodies for the film. It's a period film on artist Raja Ravi Varma, set in the late 19th century, and directed by Lenin Rajendran. Director/cinematographer Santosh Sivan, who dons the greasepaint for the first time, and Karthika, daughter of yesteryear idol Radhika, star in the lead roles.
Perhaps the most striking number in the album is Mirza Ghalib's ghazal ‘Aah ko chaahiye ek umr asar hone tak/kaun jeetaa hai teri zulf ke sar hone tak' (My longing for you needs a lifetime for its realisation, Who may live that long to see its effect on you?), sung by Hariharan and Sujatha.
It's heard together with the Malayalam lines ‘Kaanuvaan ere vaiki…' penned by bureaucrat, lyricist, and artist K. Jayakumar. Rhythms of the tabla, the santhoor, the sarangi, and the sitar fuse melodiously with Western beats, giving a distinctly East-West flavour to ragas Darbari Kanada, Keervani and Jog Kalyan.
“Lenin sir had briefed me that the situation was a Hindustani vocal concert that Ravi Varma attends somewhere in North India. And what better to depict a Hindustani concert on screen than with a Mirza Ghalib ghazal?” asks Ramesh. “My version of Ghalib's most popular ghazal is a humrathif – essentially, a mixture of two ghazals, popularised on stage by Jagjit Singh. It is perhaps the first time that a humrathif is being presented in a film,” says the composer.
Top of the charts
Another song, ‘Mosobathiyaa banao' in raga Kafi, is currently top of the charts, as much for its scintillating melody as it is for the visuals of svelte Karthika, draped in a red sari, singing the bandish while Santosh as Ravi Varma paints a portrait.
The haunting song is an adaptation of a bandish composed by Ramesh's guru, Pandit Jasraj of the Mewati gharana.
Ramesh has added a few taranas and orchestration to the composition, sung mellifluously by Manjari.
Kavalam Narayana Panicker has also given an earthy touch to the album with his lyrics for ‘Mele Mele,' a folksy rendition by Anuradha Sriram that depicts Urvashi wooing Pururavas, and ‘Then Thennele' (raga Jaijawanti), which has been sung by Srinivas and Sunitha Menon in tandem with the bandish. Chandran Nair has penned the lyrics for the two promo songs – ‘Manjil Mele' and ‘Salabhanjike…' K.J. Yesudas has given voice to the first, while Ramesh himself has sung the latter, a soothing number in raga Malkauns.