Ravi Menon’s book has thumbnail sketches of some of the popular and lesser-known names of Malayalam film music.It is not a chronological or historical roster, rather a personal perspective on the music makers.
This book is a compilation of columns by music critic Ravi Menon in various magazines. The columns are all about singers, lyricists and composers, who have enriched Malayalam film music through the years. In steady, flowing, journalistic writing Ravi makes thumbnail sketches of some of the popular and lesser known names of Malayalam film music. It is not a chronological or historical roster, rather a personal perspective on the music makers.
“The columns and writings included in ‘Engane Naam Marakkum,’ brought out by Olive Publications, are from 2003 onwards. Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about how such a book would be received. Even a couple of publishers expressed this fear. But my earlier work on Hindi film music ‘Soja Rajakumari’ has now gone into the third edition. And the feedback for this book is also very encouraging,” says Ravi, who is now the research head of an FM channel.
There has been no attempt to arrange the articles in a particular order. They have been broadly classified into singers, composers and lyricists. This has resulted in overlapping of incidents, even usages. The book opens with a personal, sensitive piece on S. Janaki that is peppered with interesting anecdotes. Accompanying this article is a rare photograph of the singer. In fact, use of choice photographs, enhance the mood of each piece.
“This picture was given to me by Janakiamma. The cover photograph, which has K. Raghavan and P. Bhaskaran, is a rare one, clicked during the music composing for the film ‘Kallichellamma.’ Another interesting photo is that of K. J. Yesudas and P. Jayachandran during their school youth festival days. This is from the collection of photographer Leen Thobias.”
Other pieces on P. Susheela, P. Leela, L. R. Ishwari also make interesting reading. Though generally Ravi’s opinions and voice is strong and consistent, the one on P. Leela turns emotional.
“I wrote that because I felt bad about the way Leela Chechi was treated by the music fraternity. I firmly believe that she was not given her due.”
Ravi could have reworked on many of the articles, at least to give it contemporaneity. Yesudas’ age has not been updated; the author simply says that Kozhikode Abdul Khader died in a city hospital but does not say which city, and in the same piece there is the mention of a controversy over a song, but not what the controversy is all about. “I realised it when I read the book. I should have worked on each article, deleted certain things and added others to make it more topical,” he admits. Another book of Ravi’s ‘Meri Awaaz Suno’ (Lipi Publications, Rs. 75.00) is about all those who made Hindi film music immortal.