Ode to Baburaj

Drama ‘Babukka' narrated the story of the one and only M.S. Baburaj. It was a homage to the genius of the man whose compositions continue to enchant music lovers even decades after his death. Suneetha B.

M. S. Baburaj a.k.a Babukka represents everything evergreen in Malayalam film music. He is the composer of several timeless melodies that the Malayali hums across three generations. But it remains a sad fact that this music-magician died an impoverished man at 57.

The Raju Koorkancherry Smaraka Kalakendram of Thrissur recapped Baburaj's life story in a biographical play ‘Babukka,' which was enacted at the Vyloppilly Sanskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram.

Baburaj's childhood

The young son of a noted Hindustani singer Jan Muhammed Khan, Baburaj, sings on the streets of Kozhikode for a living after his father returns to his native Bengal, leaving his family in the lurch. The little singer finds a mentor in the policeman Kunjahammed whom he calls Kakku. Kakku takes care of Baburaj through his growing years, nurturing the boy as well as his talent and introduces him to filmdom.

Baburaj's life takes off from there. The plays shows Baburaj ascent to fame followed by his descent into alcoholism and financial difficulties. His fair weather friends desert him in his hour of need and the gifted director dies penniless.

The story is told in a straightforward way with no frills and as the first theatre adaptation of Baburaj's life story, deserves applause.

One goes back to the 1960s, the renaissance era for Malayalam film music for a while;the songs of the period evoke nostalgia.

The play highlights Baburaj introducing touches of Hindustani music to his compositions, perhaps for the first time in Malayalam.

One would expect that unforgettable numbers such as ‘Surumayezhuthiya mizhikale,' ‘Akale Akale neelakasam,' ‘Pranasakhee' or ‘Suryakanthi' would find their way into the script of the play. But playwright and director Jayan Chethalloor has used Babukka's songs like ‘Daivamevide,' ‘Allavin karunyamillenkil,' ‘Dukhangalkkinnu njan' and ‘Swantham Karyam Zindabad' in the background, which one doesn't associate with pleasant and romantic memories.

One couldn't help feeling disappointed at hearing the strains of just one romantic favourite ‘Thamasmenthe varuvan' and one qawwali ‘Panchavarna thatha pole' through the entire one-hour of the play.

Perhaps the aim was to evoke in the audience a feeling of how far removed from romance and happiness was Baburaj's life. Still, even that does not justify the elaborate drinking scene introducing the songs, which seemed to go on for ever. Baburaj's end was filled with pathos in real life and the scene where he asks for a radio brings us close to reality.

Reality bytes

Speaking of reality, the playwright has chosen to end the play with a scene from a reality show where a contestant sings a Baburaj song and gets commented about in an unfocussed manner. Perhaps to remind viewers that there are realities and realities along the path of life and these days ‘reality' often spells as money?

Baburaj is played on stage by Vijayan Kolangattukara, and Sabu John comes as the mentor, Kakku. Master Sharat impresses as the young Baburaj and Usha C. plays Babukka's mother.

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