BABURAJ THE GENIUS
Have you watched those urchins singing songs and begging in the trains? It may be
a wonder to know that Baburaj was one of them. That is what we call genius. He came
up in life to become the most beloved composer of Malayalam. Lotus blooms in dirty
Muhammed Sibir Babu (M.S. Baburaj) was born in 1921 as the son of a Hindustani musician from Bengal and
a Malayali mother. His father deserted them and went away. His life was in complete
poverty. He tried to find food by singing in the trains and other places. A policeman
of Kozhikode found the quality in the singing of this boy and helped him. He had
some Hindustani in his blood. His singing made him a regular in the meetings of
main persons. Kozhikode was a centre of cultural persons. He got acquainted with
P. Bhaskaran who had ventured to the film world. It is said that Bhaskaran named
him ‘Baburaj’. Then he got a chance to tune the songs for ‘Minnaminungu’ in 1957
directed by Ramu Karyat, with lyrics by Bhaskaran. Its songs were not noticed much.
In 1960, a film with a Muslim story came to him, ‘Umma’. ‘Kadalivazhakkayyil’ was
a nice song and he became a noted composer. Malayalam films were just emerging and
there were only few films. In 1962, Yesudas sang for him for the first time in ‘adyathe
kanmani’ which was his first major hit. In the next year, Janaki sang for the first
time for him in ‘thaliritta kinakkal’ which is an evergreen one. He got blockbusters
like ‘Kuttikkuppayam’ and ‘Thacholi Othenan’.
But till then he has been making the
songs in the old style. He emerged with the new style completely in ‘Bhargaveenilayam’.
All the songs in it were hits. ‘Thamasamenthe varuvan’ by Yesudas and ‘Vasanthapanchaminalil’
by Janaki describing the waiting for lover and its pangs, created sensation. His
Hindustani/gazal style was very much appreciated by the people of Kerala. He made
a style of his own where voice is sweet (Yesudas/Janaki), the pitch is low, tone
is soft and pace is slow and flowing. His songs made us doze off and that is his
Still, he was called upon to tune for many Muslim-based stories which
there were many at that time. He was not exactly an expert in Muslim tunes as Raghavan,
but he was successful in making many such famous Muslim wedding songs like ‘oru
kotta ponnundallo’, ‘pullimanalla’, ‘madhura poovana’, ‘ee chiriyum chiriyalla’
But when he hear ‘Baburaj’, the songs that come to our mind are those soft,
romantic and sad melodies sung by Yesudas and Janaki. ‘Oru kochi swapnathin’, ‘sooryakanthi’,
‘kannu thurakkatha’, ‘innale mayangumbol’, ‘thamarakkumbilallo’, ‘eeranuduthumkondambalam’,
‘surumayezhuthiya’, ‘anuragaganam pole’, ‘kanneerum swapnangalum’, ‘thane thirinjum’,
Baburaj was also good at creating light romantic songs, ‘pavadaprayathil’,
‘annuninte’, ‘enprananayakane’, ‘avidunnen’ etc.
He tried a different style (high
pitch) in ‘akale akale neelakasam’ in which Yesudas and Janaki reach the blue sky
through their voices. He has made some good devotional songs like ‘kanninu kannaya
kanna’, ‘vakacharthu’, ‘allavin karunyam’ etc. ‘Chandrabimbam’ was a different kind
of song, which has a loud humming in an unexpected position. Though he is known
as the prophet of sorrow, he creating some comedy songs also, like ‘ayiram ponpanam’.
He also sang a comedy song himself in ‘Chuzhi’ which contained all his tunes. He
also created some special songs like ‘anuraganadakathin’, ‘ekanthathayude’ etc.
After the first years, Baburaj tended to experiment using Janaki’s voice and created
songs which were not in his style. The mischievous ‘madhumasarathri’, the complaining
‘kalindithadathile radha’, loud and plain ‘hridayathil nirayunna’, the joyful ‘kattaruvi
chilanka ketti’, the powerful ‘muralikayoothunnu’, the stylish ‘manasse aswasikku’,
the loud wailing ‘kanmaniye’ etc. were such songs. Actually, it was Baburaj who
found the immense abilities of Janaki. Without Baburaj, Janaki would not have survived
those decades before Ilayaraja. Generally, the Malayalam composers have a male-orientation,
perhaps due to the domination of Yesudas. They are not very good at composing female
songs. But Baburaj was better in composing female songs and composed many good songs
sung by Janaki.
His base was Hindustani music. He used minimum instruments like
tabla and harmonium. Remember the stoppage, silence and the suddenly rising tabla
in ‘oru pushpam’ in the film ‘Pareeksha’. ‘Anjanakkannezhuthi’ the song of seduction,
had ‘thaithom theyyathom’ the traditional boat humming in the background.
varuvan’ may be his best song. He repeated the tune in a different way in ‘pranasakhi
jnan verumoru’ in the film ‘Pareeksha’. While the first is a soft one waiting for
the late entry of the lover, the latter is in a very sad tune of a poor singer who
promises Taj Mahal built of golden dreams in his liver to the lover. Yesudas sang
both in totally different style. Actually these songs are based on the famous Hindi
song ‘Mere mehboob’. But that Hindi song is just an ordinary one while these two songs are great gems immersed in the emotions. (He had copied
some other Hindi tunes also, like 'en prananayakane').
Most of Baburaj’s great songs came
in the years around 1967. He lived with pomp.
He wore fancy dresses and sitting like a hero surrounded by all the people, he created
tunes by playing the harmonium. But it was short. 1970 onwards, his presence declined. Actually, he was
ruining himself. Geniuses mostly go through their paths only. He never liked to
walk on the professional path. He was addicted to liquor. His style also changed
a little. But his non-professional attitude was his undoing. He became a pauper.
In those days when money was not immense for the artists, his earnings were spent
and he was again poor. He was living his sorrow tunes in his own world. ‘Thrikkakkare
theerthakkare’ in the 1978 film ‘Yagaswam’ was his last main song. He was found
unconscious near a railway track. He died an early death (in 1978).
While his songs were revered,
the poverty of his family made news.
But the geniuses never complain. They are satisfied
with their way of life. His songs are the most beloved songs of every Malayali.
Hear it again and again and you will notice something new in it every time. So the
Malayalis never stopped listening to it. Baburaj represents nostalgia.