A Blog on Cinema

Music Review: Photographer


There was a time when Malayalam music had simple lyrics and simple music. Those were the days of Devarajan + Vayalar Ramavarma + P. Bhaskaran etc. Although I am not upto the idea of ‘only’ old is gold, I do agree with the factor that it is the simplicity of the lyrics and music that makes old as gold.

Even a layman can sing or hum these tunes without any difficulty. A couple of weeks before, I was in the regional theatre in Thrissur, listening to a music concert in rememberance of Sri P. Bhaskaran maash. There was a wonderful audience consisting Sri. Shobana Parameshwaran Nair, Sreekumaran Thampi, Asianet Sasikumar, and Sakkariah. I could feel the pulse of the audience when Pradipettan sang the first song ” Engine nee marakkum…

It is the simplicity of the music and the lyrics that makes us listen to this songs again and again, even in these days.

maRakkuvaan paRayaan entheLuppam
maNNil piRakkaathirikkalaaNathileLuppam
maRavi than maaRiTatthil mayangaal kiTannaalum
ORmakaL OTiyetthi uNaRtthiTunnu…

Such an eternal truth summarized in such simple words and music… Can we hear it ever again in Malayalam music? I am talking about the music for the masses. Music does not always need to be created for the appreciation of the masses.

Music, first and foremost, is an individual thing. But talking about film music, it should be done in a way so that it can be appreciated by the mass audience. Simple, yet creative. It is not necessary that every person should be able to sing every song. We cannot demand that.

Even the maestero Raveendran who composed songs like ” raama katthaa gaana layam” has made songs like “aaraadyam paRayum” with simple lyrics and music. People appreciated both. If I take music for an easy listening, I would anytime prefer ” aaraadyam paRayum” than “raama katthaa gaana layam” because of the lyrical and musical simplicity.

Over time, musicians and lyricists have relied heavily on complicated music patterns and heavily poetic lyrics. Sometimes it would make us wonder what the words mean and how it suits the occassions. Ironically, the most celebrated and worshipped poet of our times, Sri. O. N. V. Kuruppu wrote songs for movies with simple words that go straight into our hearts but with deeper meaning.

Take the songs from Nakhakshathangal as an example. ” aareyum bhaava gaayakanaakkum…” or “kevala marthya bhaasha kELkkaattha…” or his evergreen hits like “ arikil nee undaayirunnenkil…” or “innumente kannu neeril…” – There are lots and lots of examples like this that would make our so-called lyricists of the present days to put in shame. That is the genius of a poet like Sri. O. N. V. Kuruppu.

When we talk about simplicity in music, we cannot forget one name that Malayalees world over are familiar with – Sri. Johnson. We always had simple but everlasting melodies from this great music director. Most of his hits were born when he worked with director Sathyan Anthikkad. He was on a long break since his last work yaathrakkaaruTe SRaddhakk~. Last year, this musical genius came back to the scene with the songs in Photographer. I am just having a look at the songs he composed for this film.

Enthe Kannanu
(Male version: K. J. Yesudas)
(Female version: Manjari)

Guruvayur and Kannan have been a cliche in the Malayalam cinema if we take a look at the recent Malayalam movies (Moonnaamathoraal, Aanachantham and now Photographer). But you will love this song for its lyrical quality and music. I don’t know how well it goes with the song sequence in this movie though. But if we take the song as in an album, it is of good quality. The lyricist writes about how Lord Krishna got his black complexion through his creative imagination with a pinch of romance and bhakthi.

As for the singers, Yesudas has done a very good job singing this song even at this age. Eventhough I feel he is losing control over his voice in many of the recent releases, I wonder if there would be anyone who can sing a song like this with full emotion. Take a look at the part where he sings ” anuraaga kuSumpu koNTennO…” or “chuTu chumpanamEtathinaalO…” – Even the young Manjari couldn’t emote that part like KJY does. That is the greatness of this legendary singer.
In Manjari’s singing I felt she is singing a little raw when it comes to the lyrics. For example, she sings “kaRuppu niRam” in a very raw form. She could have sung it in a light form. Otherwise, beautiful singing.

Vasantha Raavil
(Singer: Sujatha)

Very soulful, melodious and perfect rendition.

(Singer: K. S. Chitra)

I don’t know how this song is picturized in the movie, but the music and the orchestration of this song sounds exatly like a Christian devotional song. This is a very melodious composition though. I think we have not recognized the musical genius of K. S. Chitra enough. We talk about the legends like Yesudas and I think Chitra also stands on par with KJY in the female part. Such a melodious voice even after all these years and such soulful rendition.

Chandrikaa Raavil
(Singers: Vijesh Gopal, Gayatri)

This is a signature Johnson song. I heard (from a person who worked with this movie) that the male singer Vijesh Gopal came to sing the track of this song and later music director decided to keep his track for the original song. But I am not quite impressed with the guy’s voice. But Gayatri has done a very good job. Very controlled and soulful rendition. One thing you would notice with the singing of Manjari and Gayatri is, Manjari is going too much in the classical way and I felt she is too much open throated. Sometimes we feel she is losing her control over the voice which is required when singing a melody. But Gayatri has a very good control over her voice.

(Singer: Vijay Yesudas)

Vijay has done a decent job in this song. But I feel that at times he is trying to imitate his father. And unfortunately he is imitating his father in the late 90s or 2000, not that magical voice of KJY we used to hear.

(Singer: Vaishali)

The kid who sang this song has done a very good job in this song. You can listen to the typical Johson effects in the orchestration part of this song. Be it the flute or the rhythm part.

I sincerely hope and pray that film makers would make use of the great talent of Johnson and restore some sanity in Malayalam film music scene.

Author: Jo

For bloggers, Jo needs no introduction. He is a wonderful singer, composer, website designer and the creator of the first Malayalam podcast on Internet.


  1. Jo,

    Johnson still prefers to compose the tunes once the songs written,may be thats why hes not doing muich films these days.nashtam malayalathinu..

  2. Oh, I didn’t know about that. Like you said, nashtam Malayalathinu thanne…

  3. Hi Jo:
    Nice review. Because of your review, I listened to the songs again. I agree with you that the songs are simple and melodious. But, frankly, I expected more from Johnson. So, I was a little disappointed. However you are rigt, people always forget that simplicity is not a crime, and complexity does not automatically equate to performance. Great review!

  4. Enthe kannanu… is one of the best songs in recent times…As the reviewer mentioned ,I liked the way Yesudas sung the song.Due to some reason,I didn’t get that feeling from Manjari’s voice.
    Johnson is one of the greatest music directors in Malayalam.We want more songs from him.

  5. KK:

    Thanks man. I think Enthe Kannanu is the only exceptional song while Chandrika Raavil comes second. Like you said we expect more from him. 🙂

  6. I just wanted to say that some of Johnson’s compositions are very repetetive;like the songs we hear in a dozen of Sathyan Anthikkadu films.
    Sorry i didn’t want to hurt u all.I like his songs Especially the ones he composed for directors like Padmarajan,Bharathan etc.

  7. Enthe kannanu is the most beautiful malayalam song I’ve heard in recent times. I liked Manjari’s version much better than Yesudas’s. Also, there’s a recording by Pradip Somasundaran on his website, which is excellent.

  8. I felt Manjari’s voice doesn’t have the feeling what Yesudas has…I liked some of her songs like Attinkara,Chillujalakam and Muttathe…But Enthe kannanu and Kayyetha doorathu (Vinodayathra) were not her best.

  9. In this review, the theme seems to have made a diversion from simplicity of lyrics to just the simplicity of the music of Johnson master. No doubt Johnson master’s comeback is a welcome sign for Malayalam music.

    But the lines of one of the so called top rated songs, Enthe Kannanu Karuppu Niram doesn’t qualify for that great admiration. It reminds me of one old Hindi song “YashomaKi Maiyya Se Bole Nanda Laala…Radha kyon Gori…Mei Kyon Kaalaa…”.

    Also, have we heard of a story of Kannan killing Kaaliyan in Puraana?…I don’t think so. I think the story is that Kaaliyan was sent away by Krishna from Kaalindi area to some other place.

    May be, this song’s lines are ‘kaadu kayariya’ imagination of the ‘song-writer’.

  10. Anil

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I was talking about simplicity in both music and lyrics. I believe Johson belongs to the group of the music directors who give simple and melodious music that would hang on in your mind for a long while.

    As for the lyrics of Enthe Kannanu – I loved the lyrics. I don’t think it’s a ‘kaadu kayariya’ imagination. 🙂 If it is so, almost all of the poetic works in the world would be in that way, but imagination is the beauty of poetry.

    I think in this song the lyricist has included Bhakthi and Romantic expressions very well because the song is about Krishna and these two expressions are very much suitable for a song about Krishna.

    My concern was to know if the lyrics go well with the story line or song sequence in the movie.

    By the way, that Hindi song you mentioned – Is it same as Enthe Kannanu in tune or lyrics?

  11. Nice songs of photographer, I liked the song “chandrika raavu” most because of the background score given to it. Also, who is this singer, nice sound. Gayatri is not up to the mark. Chitra has done a great job with ‘kadalolam’. In my listing ‘Enthe kannanu comes only third in the album song rating.

  12. Hi jo,
    Most of ur views i agree. But i have something to say. We cannot compare a male singer with a female singer singing the same song. Yesudas and manjari cannot be compared. Because the expressions given should be different. Otherwise there is no point of making a second version. Vijay yesudas imitating his father i disagree with ur views. He has his own voice. Every singer has to learn from yesudas, the part of modulation and when his son does this why should we criticise. Also Johnson has introduced a new voice vijesh gopal and i think he has done his part. I think Jo, u lack tha ability to identify fresh voice. Voice registration will happen only if he sings 4 or 5 songs. I think this singer will make his mark in malayalam music industry. It is very early to criticise him. Gaytri also singing certain portions ‘Poruvan thaamsichu’ is not perfect comparing with ‘Thennalin kai kuzhanju’ by vijesh. Gayatri sings it in a very easy way, while the life of the song lies in the grip given to the song. She lacks that grip. Other singers lacking that grip are venugopal, Kallaragopan etc… Thats the diff in rendering with KJY, MGS, Chitra and sujatha.Thanks

  13. Juvin

    Thanks for the detailed feedback.

    I agree with what you said about male and female singing part. But let us take the song in discussion – Enthe Kannanu – to explain this. This song can be sung by male or female if we look at the lyrics. The lyrics is from a Krishna devotee’s view. However I believe in the parts like “pathinaaRaayiram kaamukimaaruTe anuraaga kuSumpu koNTenn~” (just imagine the jealousy of other Gopikas over Krishna’s love towards Radha) can be sung extremely bautiful with the right emotion by a female singer. But sadly Manjari has failed in this. A singer should do justification to the lyrics by emoting it perfectly and to decide if a song is for a male or female or should an album have 2 versions is upto the lyricist and the composer.

    About Vijay Yesudas – I disagree. He does try to imitate his father in almost all his songs or atleast I feel so as a listener. But it is not guilty of him to imitate his father as there is a saying in Kerala that any wanna-be singer in Kerala has a ‘Yesudas syndrome’. It is because we Malayalees have heard his voice from a very very long time and it will have influence in our singing style. But from a critic point of view he must be criticized about this to improve himself as a singer with little influence of his father. Another example of such singer-kid would be SPB Charan who sings exactly like SPB. (I know they can have genetic influences. I am not talking about the voice, but the style).

    I have no problem to identify fresh voices Juwin. If you look at my previous music review of Aanachantham in VC, you would notice how I judged the fresh voices. – Akhila and Rakesh Brahmanandan were gems that Jaison J Nair brought into the music industry. Also I loved Nikhil Mathew’s rendition of Nilaavinte Thooval from Moonnaamathoraal (composed by Ouseppachan) if you need just another example. I agree with what you said – Voice registration will happen only if he sings 4 or 5 songs – but in my review I just pointed out that the first impression isn’t so good.

    About Gayatri’s rendition – It was smooth as I believe. And that smoothness is required for a such a song. Vijesh is the one who lacked it. Imagine the lovers singing in a moonlit night (as the lyrics show). Do you think it should be ‘grippy’ or should be ‘smooth’ (I would say it was smooth)?

    As for lines you mentioned – ‘Poruvan thaamsichu’ and ‘Thennalin kai kuzhanju’ – I must politely disagree with what you said. If you look at the words, you will see that ‘Thennalin kai kuzhanju’ is where you can give better emotion than the other part – Especially the two words of “kai kuzhanju”. But in my opinion Vijesh hasn’t put the right emotion there.

    In the new singers, one perfectly emotive rendition I heard in the recent times is Nikhil Mathew’s rendition of Nilaavinte Thooval from Moonnaamathoraal. To be more precise, listen to the portion where he sings “oru kaLLa chiri kaNT~…”

    Just sharing my thoughts here. Thanks.

  14. Hi jo,
    Actually I heard the songs of photographer in the releasing date itself, since I am one of Johnson’s fan. But as you said all songs where not up to his mark, but just as I heard all songs, I was deeply attracted to the song ‘Chandrika Raavu’ and the sound of the youngster. I am a person who is interested in learning each and every singers and the situation in which they sing that song. Unlike other music directors Johnson is a M.D who takes the song in one stretch or one take, other M.D relying mostly in punching. Ousepachan and all will take even 2 days to finish one song while Johnson will take 3 or 4 songs a day.You said that he sang the track of the song. I am sure it may be in one stretch. Rakesh Brahmanandan, Akhila, Nikhil in my view cant be compared with this guy. I bet you he will come top once…..just wait and see…. Pls, can i get his contact number if you have?

  15. Hi jo,
    Again Jo you rated the song chandrika second. The totality of the song is given by vijesh only and in my view Gayatri has not at all done justice to the song. This is not my opinion alone, but lot of high class listeners out here….Thank you Jo.

  16. Juwin

    I am not against your personal preferences. If I thought Vijesh is not upto the mark, I have given my reasons for that.

    I don’t think it is wrong to have re-take to get the best out of a singer and make the song a perfect one. And as far as I know the softwares do not do the ’emoting’ trick, but pitch correction and other technical stuff.

    And I am not a “high-class listener”, just a music lover.

  17. Is there any reason why you did not analyze Vasantha Ravil? That is the song I liked the most.

  18. Jibs

    I also was mesmerized by the song and didn’t find the need of analyzing it, so just mentioned this:

    Very soulful, melodious and perfect rendition.

    And also I missed to mention (actually I am thinking about it only now!) that this song was composed very nicely. But the lyrics didn’t impress me much, so I would still give Enthe Kannanu the first place and Chandrikaa Raavil the second. Because these two songs were lyrically and musically good.

  19. Hi Jo,
    Interesting views from Jo and Juwan. I liked the song vasantha ravil the most. I think its sreeragam, right? Reminds me the song ‘etho vaarmukilin’. Is it from our johnson or ousepachan. I had the cd of palunku with me. songs of photographer is also there.Sujathas voice very sweet. Enthe kannan a variety song. Chandrika raavu also I like, but it seems to be a repetition of chandana cholayil. But the background given to it is excellent. Also singers did good job, especially the male singer. Gayatri good as always. vijay yesudas song i didn’t like the song. Pulchadi is the biggest hit in the album. Kadalolam is a beautiful song. Lot of changes in the song, already heard in certain Johnson’s ‘Pin nilavin” etc but still felt the freshness. AND THANK YOU JO, MADE ME CAREFULLY GO THROUGH ALL THE SONGS WITH YOUR REVIEW. OTHERWISE I WOULD HAVE HEARD ONLY ENTHE AND PULCHADI. Thanks again.

  20. Jo,
    An average review.
    Enthe kannan, kadalolam and chandrika raavu better songs in the music album. Kaithapram’s Kayyethum doore and enthe kannan are his lst years top lyrics.
    Good to see Johnsonson bringing new talents and voices giving chances to vaishali, vijesh gopal, vijay yesudas and gayatri.

  21. Thank you Sudha and Smith.

  22. You said: “There was a time when Malayalam music had simple lyrics and simple music. Those were the days of Devarajan + Vayalar Ramavarma + P. Bhaskaran etc.”

    I could not agree more. Add the adjective, “incredibly melodious”. How I long for those days and those golden oldies.


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