Music

Mollywood lyricist Joe Paul on why his poetry is beyond borders

Joe Paul

Joe Paul   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

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Joe Paul, who is now based in suburban Dallas, Texas, has penned some of Malayalam cinema’s most treasured songs of late such as ‘Parayuvaan’ from ‘Ishq’ and ‘Madhu Pole’ from ‘Dear Comrade’

Sitting in his home in suburban Dallas, Texas, Joe Paul has been penning some of Malayalam cinema’s most treasured songs of late. The imagery-rich ‘Parayuvaan’ from Ishq and soulful ‘Madhu Pole’ from Dear Comrade, are just two of Joe’s songs that hit the top of the charts last year.

Geographical limitations clearly are not a problem for this wordsmith. “Until recently, there was this misconception among music directors that the lyricist needs to be physically present in Kerala or at least in the vicinity, presumably to know its pulse. That mindset has changed.

Nowadays, they don’t seem to be that bothered by distance. For instance, during the recording of ‘Parayuvaan,’ Jakes Bejoy, Ishq’s music director, was in his studio in Chennai, Sid Sriram, the singer, was in California and I was in Dallas and all of us were working real time on group chat on the phone! Dear Comrade was also recorded pretty much the same way,” says Joe, over the phone.

“The only problem with being so far away from Kerala is that I am unable to physically go knock on the doors of music directors asking for an opportunity to work with them,” he adds.

Surely, with the phenomenal musical success of both Ishq and Dear Comrade and — to a lesser extent — his other works of 2019 — Manoharam, Porinchu Mariam Jose and Kalki — there’s no need for him to keep asking for chances...? “Unfortunately, unless you are an established lyricist, it doesn’t work that way. It’s still very much about networking. Out of sight is out of mind. Therefore, you need a steady flow of work and to get that you have to keep your name in the spotlight and hound music directors in the process!” says Joe, with a laugh.

Poet at heart

The lyricist, born and brought up in Kochi, actually studied at the College of Horticulture in Thrissur and is also a management graduate. He now works as an HR consultant in Dallas but he’s a poet at heart. In fact, he has been penning his thoughts into poems since he was in class six or so.

“My older brother, Jibesh, used to write humourous poems and get many laughs when he recited them for family functions. I started writing poems out of jealousy! He stopped and I just continued with it,” he says. “All this while, though, my dream has been to see my name on screen when the credits roll. The thrill of seeing it there is indescribable; it’s what drives me to write more,” he adds.

Before Mollywood came calling more than a decade after he first set out to become a lyricist, he put his creative skills to write, sing and compose a number of Christian devotional albums and songs, collaborating with a few like-minded United States-based friends. He eventually got a toehold in the industry in 2015 with Rasputin and You Too Brutus. That was followed by another dry spell, until Queen (2018) happened. While the film itself didn’t do particularly well at the box office, its music (recall the songs ‘Saare’ and ‘Lal Anthem,’ and so on) hit a chord with music buffs, especially youngsters.

“The struggle is real but perseverance pays. I took a shot in the dark when I approached its director Dijo Jose Anthony online and luckily he put me in touch with Jakes Bejoy and he in turn took a liking to my work,” explains Joe.

Joe and Jakes also worked together in Ranam and Swathanthriyam Ardharathriyil that same year. “Jakes is a meticulous taskmaster and a perfectionist as well. He gives you every last detail of the situation and really makes you think about each word, even each intonation. He is really keen on how the lyrics sound as well. For example, if a word ends with the Malayalam ‘th’ and the next one begins with the same alphabet, then he will make you change to an appropriate synonym to maintain the flow of the song. Working with music directors like him is a blessing,” says Joe, adding that he also likes to take his time with the lyrics.

“Sometimes, the words flow like a breeze, often, though, I have to satisfying my own exacting standards! And that's no easy task. I enjoy writing love songs the most and I think that’s what I am best at.”

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 3:38:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/mollywood-lyricist-joe-paul-on-why-his-poetry-is-beyond-borders/article30532827.ece

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