In the Seventies, for most Malayalis employed in the Gulf, the only way to get in touch with their dear ones back home was through letters. Telephone was a luxury in Kerala then. Since airfare was expensive, the Gulf Malayali normally visited home only once in three or four years.
In 1976, S.A. Jameel wondered how such a letter would read in verse.
The result was a song, Ethrayum bahumanappetta ente priya bharthavu vayikkuvan... Little did he think that it would go on to become one of the most popular Mappila songs. Actually its appeal cut across religions and it was a rage for years in Kerala, especially in Malabar. Though there were songs in this genre kathu pattu (songs in the form of letters) before Jameel's masterpiece, none of them came anywhere near its popularity. One reason was the quality of the lyrics: the pangs of separation are beautifully expressed.
"It's written in free verse, but some touches of a poet are also evident," says literary critic M.M. Basheer. "And the song was tuned rather nicely too."
Today's youngsters may not have heard it. A video album, Kathu pattum Ormakalude Ishalukalum, containing the famous song and the reply to it, will be released soon.
There are six songs in the album cut by C.N. Sreevalsan, director and scriptwriter of television serials, and produced by Mohammed Ashraf.
K. Raghavan has composed the other four songs, penned by Kanesh Poonoor, Jamal Kochangadi and Sreevalsan.
Manjari has sung the centrepiece: Ethrayum...
Sruthi has acted the lead role in the song.
The song's reply, Abu Dhabeelullorezhuthupetti... is rendered by Afzal, perhaps the best since Mehruba mehruba... (Perumazhakkalam).
Ramesh Narayanan has recreated the music, without doing any harm to the original tune.
The other songs in the album are Mizhi randum... (Gayatri), Vadi veena poovu... (V.T. Murali), Ini ninte... (M.K. Muneer) and Aralipoomaram... (Murali), among which the first two sound particularly sweet and are sung well by Gayatri and Murali, not surprising considering that they are playback singers.
But, the former Minister Dr. Muneer takes you by surprise.
It won't be a surprise though if the album does well.
After all, Mappila songs are back in vogue now, since the amazing success of Khalbanu Fathima by Thajuddeen Vatakara.