Bichu Thirumala obit | Prolific and poetic, a Malayalam lyricist for all tunes

Bichu Thirumala was prolific as a lyricist in Malayalam mainstream cinema from the 1970s till the 1990s, penning around 3,000 film songs as well as several non-film and devotional songs

Published - November 26, 2021 07:20 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Bichu Thirumala

Bichu Thirumala

Lyricist Bichu Thirumala, who penned many a popular film song known for their poetic quality, passed away on Friday. He was 80.

He had been under treatment at a private hospital following a cardiac arrest a few days ago and had been under ventilator support.

Bichu was prolific as a lyricist in Malayalam mainstream cinema from the 1970s till the 1990s, penning around 3,000 film songs as well as several non-film and devotional songs. However, despite penning songs by the dozens every month, he ensured that most of them stood out for their lyrical quality.

For Bichu, lyrics was not just something to go with the tune. The words bore a character and an existence of their own, perhaps why many of his film lyrics would easily fit in a poetry collection.

Born B. Sivasankaran Nair, he gave early hints of his literary bent by penning a play as a student at University College in the capital. In 1970, he worked as an assistant to M. Krishnan Nair.

One of his poems published in a magazine during this time opened the doors to writing lyrics in films. Bhajagovindam , the first film he wrote lyrics for, never released. However, by 1975, he began receiving several offers. Within a few years, he established himself as one of the most sought-after lyricists.

Unique imageries

Even as his lines, with its simplicity, remained accessible to the common people, he demonstrated a talent for conjuring up unique imageries through his words, evident in the song ‘Neelajalashayathil’ from Angeekaram (1977).

Through his words, Bichu used the same imagery to evoke different emotions and contexts for different songs. For instance, the imagery of the eye was used in ‘Mizhiyoram Nananjozhukum’ ( Manjil Virinja Pookkal ), ‘Kannum Kannum’ ( Angadi ), ‘Aayiram Kannumayi’ ( Nokkethadoorath Kannumnattu ) and Mizhiyariyathe ( Niram ).

He introduced many a word that are not commonly used in the mainstream film lyric vocabulary. His extensive reading habits enabled him to produce lyrics of exquisite quality in no time. He also wrote some of the film songs as well as memorable lullabies that are immensely popular with children, be it ‘Olathumbathirunnu’ ( Pappayude Swantham Appoos ), ‘Unnikale Oru Kadha Parayam’, ‘Kilukil Pambaram’ (Kilukkam), ‘Unni Aarariro’ ( Avalude Ravukal ) or ‘Kannodu Kannoram Nee’ ( Ente Mamattikuttiyammakku ).

Through the decades, he constantly kept on updating himself, which enabled him to appeal to the youth of different generations. In 1984, at the heights of the disco wave, he wrote ‘Oru Madhura Kinavin’ ( Kanamarayathu ), while in 1990, he penned ‘Unnam Marannu’ ( In Harihar Nagar ) and in 1999, he came up with ‘Prayam Nammil’ ( Niram ), all of which became youth anthem of sorts in their time. Bichu also poignantly captured the sense of longing and nostalgia through songs such as ‘Evideyo Kalanju Poya Kaumaram’ ( Sakthi ).

He has worked with a range of composers, from M.S. Baburaj to A.R. Rahman, but his longest partnership perhaps was with Shyam, with whom he worked in 75 films. Notably, his partnership with Raveendran produced some evergreen songs, including ‘Ottakkambi Naadam’ ( Thenum Vayambum ) and ‘Ezhu Swarangalum Thazhuki Varunnoru Ganam’ ( Chiriyo Chiri ).


He had proved to be adept at moulding words to suit all kinds of situations, evident in songs such as ‘Padakali’ ( Yodha ) and ‘Oottippattanam’ ( Kilukkam ). In most such songs, the words too carried a rhythm of their own, while also remaining meaningful.

Bichu won the State Film Award for the Best Lyricist in 1981 for Thenum Vayambum and Thrishna and in 1991 for Kadinjool Kalyanam . A collection of his poems was published under the title Kalathinte Kanakku Pusthakam .

Some of his non-film albums, such as Vasantha Geethangal in which he worked with K. J. Yesudas and Raveendran, had a wide appeal, with songs like ‘Mamankam’ gaining much popularity.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.