Friendship Day special | Decoding AR Rahman's hit song 'Mustafa Mustafa'

It’s been 23 years, but this Tamil song still occupies a place of pride as the most iconic ‘friendship song’ of our times. No school/ college farewell, reunion party, why, or even a random family gathering is complete without the track playing at some point. And today, on Friendship Day, the lyrics and music echo not just in Tamil Nadu, but all over the country!

Also read: How ‘kothavaranga’ evolved into ‘Mustafa Mustafa’

We are talking about ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ of course: a song unparalleled in its popularity two decades since its inception, a staple Rahman favourite at any concert and one that echoes his astonishing arrival onto the Indian music scene in the 90s.

With lyrics by Vaali, the song appears in the Kadhal Desam soundtrack that also featured other hits like ‘Kalluri Salai’ and ‘O Vennila’. The film was directed by Kathir, and starred Vineeth, Abbas and Tabu in the lead roles and earned them massive fandom in Tamil Nadu.


However, ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ still remains one of the best memories from the film, for a variety of reasons: Rahman’s lilting vocals (that listeners were still discovering and falling in love with) and music; Vaali’s intense yet easy-to-latch onto lyrics that struck a chord with the youth; the incredible chemistry between Abbas and Vineeth (yes, why can’t there be chemistry in bromance?) throughout the song – let’s admit it, we all wanted to smash tomatoes and eggs on each other’s faces and light up candles before a concert stage; and the beautifully-crafted visuals by director Kathir which had everyone nostalgic over their old, new or forgotten friendships.

This Friendship Day, we talk to those associated with filming this gem that has transcended across generations. Here is ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ decoded:

A.R. Rahman, composer and singer:

Who is Mustafa? (laughs) Usually, I use a dummy lyric when I compose and used the word ‘Mustafa’ for the opening tune. Lyricist Vaali liked it, and said that we could retain it. In fact, for the ‘July Pirakum, Juniorukum Seniorukum’ lines, I used the dummy words ‘kothavaranga kothavaranga’ while in the basic tune stage!

A.R Rahman

A.R Rahman  


I have many Mustafas in my life… I have a friend called Aslam Mustafa, whom I’ve known for 35 years. There’s another Mustafa, a friend based in Singapore. Mustafa is a very common name I thought of while doing this number; there’s actually a Queen song titled ‘Mustapha’ as well.

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Kathir, director:

Friendship is present in every human relationship, and I wanted to make an entire film revolving around that. Kadhal Desam was essentially the story of three friends – Vineeth, Abbas and Tabu – and I wanted it to have a ‘friendship anthem’.

Friendship Day special | Decoding AR Rahman's hit song 'Mustafa Mustafa'

A.R. Rahman was very inspired by the idea, and we travelled extensively for the making of the song, before freezing on ‘Mustafa Mustafa’. This song’s filming was unique as well – I did not separately reserve a few days exclusively for it and shoot it. Instead, because ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ was always on my mind, whenever I was filming my talkie sequences and spotted something unique, I’d get the actors to change their dress and shoot them having casual banter. Except the candlelight farewell day sequence, every shot in ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ was separately done wherever we filmed the movie.

Vineeth, actor:

The credit goes completely to Rahman sir for making the song magical and Kathir sir’s filmmaking which makes it relevant even today. Everyone who watched the song could relate to it so much; that’s what makes it a favourite after two decades also.

Friendship Day special | Decoding AR Rahman's hit song 'Mustafa Mustafa'

There’s a strange incident I remember about shooting the song: all of us were at Presidency College to shoot the ‘farewell scene’ in Mustafa… One of the supporting dancers got into an argument with a small kid from the nearby slum who had wandered onto the shooting premises. Within minutes, the kid brought a whole gang of people from the slum who were threatening to wreck the area! Abbas and I had to be whisked off secretly lest we get injured, and the shoot had to be postponed to another day.

However, looking back at it now, guess all that trouble was worth it! The song is truly unforgettable.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 4:03:29 PM |

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