For Malayalam cinema, 2016 was the year of light melodies and sublime lyrics. There was Jerry Amaldev, the same musician who made the musical scene of the ‘80s unforgettable, making a stunning comeback with Abrid Shine’s Action Hero Biju. There was composer Bijibal’s music in Maheshinte Prathikaram, where he reaffirmed his position as the best of his ilk in Malayalam cinema. And there was Gopi Sunder, striding through our heartstrings with the youthful songs of Kali.
As the year winds down, here’s a look at the best Malayalam playback songs of 2016.
Idukki (Maheshinte Prathikaram)
This melodious song is set to top every ‘Best Malayalam Soundtracks’ list in 2016. Featured in Dileesh Pothan’s brilliant debut film Maheshinte Prathikaram (The Revenge Of Mahesh), the song’s lyrics describe the beauty and serenity of Idukki, Kerala’s highland district. The slow-paced ‘Idukki’ was composed and sung by Bijibal, and belongs in the league of evergreen songs like “Periyaare” (Bharya), which beautifully connect the soul of a river and that of a coy village girl. Fahadh Fazil, Alancier and a number of actors and non-actors appear in the song, portraying the modest everyday life in a hamlet of the district.
Minungum Minnaminunge (Oppam)
This song from Priyadarshan’s Oppam is sweet enough to be a lullaby. Sung by MG Sreekumar and the 11-year old Shreya Jayadeep, the lyrics describe the father-daughter bond. Mohanlal plays a blind man and Meenakshi plays his foster daughter. The song is set against the backdrop of the picturesque locales of Ooty, a location Priyadarshan used extensively in ‘80s.
Director Abrid Shine’s film Poomaram hasn’t yet released, but the first song from the film (also titled “Poomaram”) was out on YouTube in November itself, and became instantly popular (with over 9 million views currently). The song was composed by debutant Faizal Razi, an alumni of the iconic Maharajas College, where the movie is set. Although the lyrics made little sense, the composition and the soulful rendition made it an ear-worm. The video has Kalidas, Jayaram’s 20-year-old son, strumming a guitar, with a group of young and old people seated around him, singing the chorus.
Vaarthinkalee Nin Chaare (Kali)
Gopi Sunder’s biggest hit in 2016 was the album of Kali, a Sameer Thahir directorial starring Dulquer Salmaan and Sai Pallavi. “Vaarthinkalee” was sung by Divya Menon, and is notable for its beautiful lyrics about companionship. Sameer Thahir, who is also a brilliant cinematographer, choreographed the song with charming vignettes from the life of the protagonists, a married couple in Kochi. Sai Pallavi’s stunning smile and Dulquer Salmaan’s portrayal of the sulking lead man are the highlights of the video.
Kaadaniyum Kaalchilambe (Pulimurugan)
What’s a list on Malayalam cinema without a mention of Pulimurugan, the biggest hit of the industry? “Kaadaniyum Kaalchilambe”, sung by Yesudas and Chithra and composed by Gopi Sunder, is a lovely romantic melody. The song features Mohanlal and Kamalini Mukherjee, and the visuals portray their modest yet playful life in a pristine forest hamlet. The song also deserves a special mention for bringing together two of the best singers in the country – KJ Yesudas and Chithra – after a long gap.
Pookkal Panineer (Action Hero Biju)
Rarely have the lanes and archaic buildings of Kochi looked more beautiful on screen than in “Pookkal Panineer Pookkal”, a song from Abrid Shine’s Action Hero Biju. The video features Nivin Pauly and Anu Emmanuel as a newly betrothed couple on their first date. But the visuals aren’t even the best part. Composed by Jerry Amaldev, the song has a fine vintage charm reminiscent of an ‘80s’ classics.
Theliveyil (Maheshinte Prathikaram)
“Theliveyil” from Maheshinte Prathikaram begins with school children singing a capella. Instruments pick up as the sequence moves to the now-adult protagonists meeting again. Fahadh director Dileesh Pothen shot the video in a curious way – he set it in the backdrop of a funeral in an Idukki village. Fazil and Anusree play two young lovers who quietly eye each other during the sombre function. The song has minimal orchestra, but the vocals, rendered by Sangeetha Sreekanth and Sudeep Kumar, compensate. Roopa Revathi’s violin segment in the middle of the song is alternately playful and serious, and enhances the song’s beauty.
Payye Veeshum (Aanandam)
This song from Aanandam is breezy and romantic, with a number of young actors. Composed and sung by Sachin Warrier, the video revolves around a class of engineering students who are on their first trip together. The melody flows like a gentle stream, reflecting the innocence and curiosity of the early youth, and the charm of first love and friendship.
Para Para (Kammattipaadam)
This song from Kammattipaadam, directed by Rajeev Ravi, was composed by K. The tune and lyrics carry angst and a sense of foreboding, hitting the perfect note for the movie, which is a brilliant take on how Kochi’s dalit community was economically and politically exploited by the upper castes. The song’s initial and final portions have the elements of a ritualistic folk song sung by peasants in Kerala. The visuals, brilliantly directed and shot by Rajeev Ravi and Madhu Neelakantan respectively, sum up the childhood of the three protagonists of the film.
Thiruvaavani Raavu (Jacobinte Swarga Rajyam)
This melodious Onam song from Jacobinte Swarga Rajyam was the most popular song of this year’s Onam season. Composed by Shaan Rahman and sung by Unni Menon, “Thiruaavani Raavu” carries a refrain of energetic Poove Poli calls. The video depicts an Onam celebration in Dubai with actors Nivin Pauly, Renji Panikker and Lakshmi Ramakrishnan.