There are the hero and his ladylove on screen; their dialogues let the audience know what they are doing and what they are thinking. But how do you know what they are feeling? Apart from the acting prowess of the artistes, the music plays a huge role here. A song with deep, soulful lyrics can exactly decipher a complex set of emotions and communicate them with a universality that everyone can understand. A lyricist, who can bring meaning and magic to words and images, contributes to the success of a film in a big way. Joe Paul, who has written songs for films like Queen, Swanthanthryam Ardharathriyil and the recently released Ranam, is one of them. Mind you, he did all this sitting in the far-off Philadelphia.
It was music composer Jakes Bejoy who recognised the talent in the young man’s verses and gave him a break. Joe says, “It was in 2017 that I happened to see a Facebook video posted by Dijo Jose Antony, the director of the movie Queen, which was a casting call. I did not know him but sensing my interest in writing songs, he was kind enough to direct me to Jakes Bejoy.” Joe stops for a moment and adds, “He did not have to, but he did and I had the good fortune of working with such a talented music director like Jakes.”
Writing songs for Queen, he says, will always remain an unforgettable experience in his life. “It was electrifying to see all the songs from the movie going viral.” Jakes, then, gave him the song Kaathangal from the movie Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil and Ini Raave and Aayudhameduda from Ranam.
Growing up, Joe was fortunate to be part of a family that loved music, art and literature. He says, “As kids, we actively participated in school youth festivals. My dad used to take me to any corner of the state where he knew there’s a versification competition.” Joe, right from his childhood, used to pay attention to the meaning of words in every song. He recalls, “I used to pester my parents to get the meaning of the lyrics if I did not grasp them.”
Joe started writing poems and even got them published in newspapers. The turning point came during his undergraduate days at the College of Horticulture, Thrissur. “I started composing my own songs, used them in university competitions and bagged prizes.” In 2000, a devotional song that he composed and wrote lyrics for – Krooshitharoopam — got featured in an album. Later, Joe moved to the United States for higher studies and kept his creative side under wraps. But the lid was opened when he, along with a group of musically inclined friends from Philadelphia, released three albums that featured many leading playback singers in the Malayalam film industry. “This was the wake-up call for me to revive my habit of writing,” he says.
Yes, the distance is an impediment, but not an insurmountable one as he says, “I have struggled a lot to get my foot in this industry. Though I was not explicitly told so, me being geographically away from the centre of happenings, has taken away a lot of opportunities. But it is comforting to see that there are many music directors and filmmakers who do not care about the distance. The rise of social media, especially Facebook, has been a tremendous blessing in staying connected to music composers. I used to reach them via Messenger and request them for opportunities to work with them. Though I knew by and large that the response would be a ‘no’, I shamelessly kept sending lyrical samples that I wrote,” he reveals.
What are his future plans? “I am currently writing songs for a couple of movies that are yet to be announced. In the meantime, I am also writing lyrics for a few short films, music videos and jingles. Getting more opportunities to write is vital and I am looking forward to it. Passion never dies, so keep writing is my plan,” Joe signs off....