Malayalam Features

Making Of A Song: Ranjin Raj On Composing ‘Karineela Kannulla Pennu’ From ‘Joseph’

How are songs composed? How do those different ragas, tunes and beats fall in perfect harmony? Making Of A Song explores the vocals, visuals, lyrics and other features that define a musical creation.


Karineela Kannulla Pennu of Padmakumar’s Joseph (2018) opens with a short rendition of a Margam Kali verse. On the screen, a group of women dressed up in shiny white traditional costume, dance around a lamp as a crowd watches. Soon, the crowd dissolves, and the song shifts to an intimate space. Two lovers in the dark by the backwaters. The chime of an elathaalam sublimely punctuates the silence in the part that precedes the vocals (sung by Karthik), reflecting the drama on the screen.

Ranjin Raj, a 30-year-old musician from Palakkad, who composed the audio album of Joseph talks to about this unusual melody.

“I decided to start off the song using the Margam Kali bit since the song unfolded in the backdrop of a function at a Christian household. I wrote the first line, Karineela Kannulla Pennu, as I composed it. When I sang it to lyricist Harinarayanan, he quickly wrote the following line, Mazhavillin Chirakulla Pennu.

The production was very organic, he says. “It is not a programming-oriented song. I didn’t want to use anything gimmicky to keep the listener engaged. I left slices of silence between the lines, and recorded the orchestra live. I wanted to make a melody that is shouldered purely by its tune.” At one point, he considered including a guitar portion to lend the song a more ‘contemporary’ touch, but Joju George, the lead actor and co-producer of the film insisted that the earlier version was better.

“I don’t really have a genre preference,” says Ranjin who comes from the advertisement industry where he has done more than 700 jingles. “I have dabbled with a variety of genres. Blues, Jazz, Electronic, Indian.. But I think Indian melody comes more easily to me than other styles.”

Joseph was Ranjin’s sophomore feature film album, after Nithya Haritha Nayakan. Poomuthole, which emerged as the most popular song from Joseph, was composed on the lines of vintage melodies of Ilaiyaraja. “Padmakumar sir (director) wanted something like a Raja sir (Ilaiyaraja) composition, like Aalaapanam (Ente Sooryaputhrikku, 1991) or Unarumee Gaanam (Moonnam Pakkam, 1988), which evokes the south Indian cinema of the 80s.”

Karineela Kannulla Pennu has some shades of Kaapi raaga. “That was purely by accident. But there are times I based a song on a particular raaga. One of the songs from Nithyaharitha Nayakan, another film I worked in at that time, is completely founded on Sreeragam.”

Johnson Master and Ravindran are the two music composers he looks upto. “I have found their music so much connected to my spirituality. I grew up listening to their music at home,” says Ranjin.


Ranjin, who was one of the finalists of Asianet’s music reality show, Star Singer, is a trained Carnatic vocalist and a self-taught keyboardist. Although he sings the dummy track for the songs that he composes, he is yet to debut as a playback singer. “While working in Joseph, Joju insisted that I sing all the songs in the film, especially Poomuthole which I’d made a dummy version with my vocals. But I convinced them to use other singers. I always use a different singer for the final version because my excitement is in the process of music production and not in singing it. Nevertheless, in the future, I might experiment a little with my vocals too.”