The fervor, flamboyance and festivity that increase every year prove that Onam is more than a harvest festival. It’s a time Malayalees take pride in their unity, gaiety and traditions, wherever they are. When most of them celebrate the season with feast and games, a few take the creative route to make Onam memorable for all.
Many new-generation Onam songs are already out and have become a huge hit; thanks to the non-conventional making and music composition. The experiments – in videos, music and even lyrics – have brought a twist to the nostalgia-laden Onam musicals by Tharangini and East Coast.
When the song Onam Pon Thiruvonam came out a few days ago, it was the visual treat that made it go viral. The melodious song composed by Dr. Sandeep Rajasekharan, a cardiologist, and Unnikrishnan R., was shot as an interesting romantic story set against the backdrop of Onam with references to boat races and Onathallu. The whole song was made like a short film. Dr. Sandeep reveals that they had planned to shoot it with a difference, but hadn’t expected such a humongous feedback. “Since it is the age of videos, we knew that just an album song wouldn’t be enough to attract people. Hence, we planned a video shoot and roped in director R. Ajay, an assistant of Shaji Kailas, and cinematographer Rahul Menon, who has assisted Azhagappan. Himalayathile Kashmalan-fame Dheeraj Denny and Oru Muthassi Gadha-fame Krishnaprasad were roped in and the shoot began in Alappuzha. Luckily, the Champakulam boat race was happening and we got to shoot it live for the song. Even the crowd was real,” he says.
Coming to fresh composition, Orma Pookkal composed and rendered by Sajna Vinish is one of the best songs of the season. The soulful song, interestingly, doesn’t have the traditional accompaniment of the veena or chenda. “Instead, we chose the guitar, flute and ghatam. It was an experiment and I am happy it has come out well. The orchestra is minimal but the effect is bigger than what I had imagined,” she reveals. The song composed in Sarangi, Hamsanadam and Kalyani ragas marks her debut as a composer.
An assistant professor in music at Maharajas College, Sajna has brought out the song with the help of her dear students. “A lot of people – my gurus, mentors, friends, colleagues and students – called up saying how much they loved the song. The responses have boosted my confidence and I am thinking of working on a second single now,” says Sajna, who calls the song a tribute to all those people who are away from home, unable to celebrate Onam – like those in the army, the police, nurses and mediapersons.
However, not everyone away from Kerala limit their celebrations to gatherings, contests, and feast. A Bengaluru-based band of IT professionals, Bangalore Muzic Café, has brought out a fusion Onam song with a mix of English and Malayalam lyrics. Their Maveli Naadu song has its lyrics penned by composer Praveen Francis himself. The singers range from noted playback singer Ramesh Chandra to the teenager Jubil Christina Jose, all bound by a passion for music. “It is composed as a fusion of Vanchipattu and Western music. We shot it in Wayanad on the premises of the Banasura Sagar Dam and a few parts of Bengaluru. We think we could absorb the charm of the greenery into the song,” says director A.R. Jose. A photographer for over three decades, Jose is the brain behind the concept of the song and the band. He also adds that the spirit of Onam is more outside Kerala. “I am settled in Bengaluru for several years now. Here, Onam begins long before Chingam and goes on till New Year,” he adds.