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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lullabies in La-la Land

When we went to see the "Life of Pi" movie, the starting credits startled me, in a pleasant way. A female voice soothingly intoned the standard motherese type of lyrics lulling her little one to sleep. It was soporific and generic, even as it surprised me that a Hollywood production should use Tamil lyrics in a very prominent spot in the movie. I realized only much later that it was sung by Bombay Jayashree.

It's over a couple of months later, and now we have Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashree , nominated for an Oscar for the best song. It's an honor indeed, that this merited this nomination, even if its chances of winning fall considerably in face of competition from the likes of Adele for the Skyfall song (she has already won the Golden Globe for this, and is the strongest contender for the Oscar). "Pi's Lullaby" might be no more than a tuneful also-ran.

Enter the Irayimman Thampy memorial trust (or as close as I recall the name). They, being good Malayalees 'n'all, decided to carp against the Tamil hegemony represented by the nomination for Bombay Jayashree. I assume that the mellifluous cooing at the start of the film landed upon their ears as unpleasant cacophony, since it wasn't in Malayalam. Cue the accusations of plagiarism against Jayashree, who avers that her lyrics were no more than the outpourings of a mother's heart.

A key part of the accusations is the usage of the 'mayil- kuyil' combination, also present in the lyrics of Omana thinkal kidavo by Irayimman Thampy.  The problem with that is that the words naturally lend themselves to use as rhyming words, per usage in Tamil songs as well as  as Malayalam. If  one threw a stone into the river every time any poet famous or not chose to use that combination,  the river would be completely dammed by now.

Given the original import of Irayimman Thampy's lyrics, saying that Jayashree's lyrics are plagiarised from those are rather like pointing to a firefly and calling it a star.

I suspect either a case of rather severe sour-grapes on the part of the Irayimman Thampy trust, or just a cheap attempt to cash in on stirring controversy for no real reason.

The song in question itself is unremarkable, and I doubt that it means anything more than a 'cool' but casual outreach by Bombay Jayashree, whose oeuvre in Carnatic music outshines anything that she has sung for films, whether Indian or Western.

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