Sunday, November 20, 2011

The making of the Kolaveri song (The Kolaveri Gumbal version)

You must have heard the Kolaveri song. Here it is, if you haven't. It's in Tamil. I don't speak it, but it isn't hard to understand what the song is about. The song has gone viral. I liked it almost instantly.

If I were a music critic, I would have launched into a long explanation about how the freshness of the concept and honesty of the lyrics were juxtaposed with the simplicity of the sound track and so on but I'm not. Anyway, I think it is the butler-english-ness of the lyrics that got me. Totally loved it!

And, I found out on twitter, so did most of my friends.

"Great minds think alike", I told the missus.

"Hmm" said the missus, unconvinced.

She has a generally low opinion of whatever I like, initially atleast. While I concede that my choice in clothes is perhaps not the finest in the land (there was some funny business recently about a 'wine colored' jacket I had been sold by a slick salesman which, in the opinion of the missus, is a shade of crimson that even the great Govinda must have refused to wear, which is why, she says, it was on the market in the first place, but I digress) or that my culinary preferences tend to be skewed towards the un-classsy but I rather pride myself on musical ability.

I ignored her lack of enthusiasm in my usual dignified way and repaired towards the home of Mohan and Girija, where we, along with Ramaa, Mahesh and Rahul, were planning to have a dignified discussion about the nuances of melody in Indian music.

Except that we didn't.

As we reclined on the sofa with our wine (most of us) or fresh water (Ramaa), as the case might be, the topic of discussion was the kolaveri song linked to above. Rahul and Mohan had put together a Carnaticised version (this) of the thing, but the lack of time ("we had about 5 minutes to spare, da" Rahul explained) had prevented them from according to the project the dignity it merited. They were sad.

"The euro is melting. We can take that. Evil forces are threatening to steal Pakistan's nukes and use them against civilians. We can suffer that. But to leave the Carnaticisation of this great song unfinished! Posterity will not forgive us" Mohan articulated.

We agreed solemnly. Our little company of thinkers was enriched by the induction of a new member M, formerly of Madras but now of Mumbai.

"Something has to be done!" said Mahesh, and we all sank in thought. All of us, that is, except Rahul and M who realized that they used to live on the same street in Madras and knew virtually everyone else who lived there, except each other, and spent a few minutes marveling at what a small world it was.

But soon, they too were deep in contemplation.

Something had to be done.


That something turned out to be the Raga Shubha Pantuvarali which is pretty much like the Hindustani raga Todi. Mohan sang a small piece in it and, emboldened by the fact that I was the only one there who knew any hindustani music, I weighed in with some Miyan Ki Todi.

Rahul and Ramaa pitched in and soon, the skeleton of the melody was established. M, who too is a trained Carnatic musician, pointed out improvements. Rahul played the thing out on the violin. Mohan and Ramaa were busy arranging the talam. Mahesh was planning out the rap part of the song.

And I? I was busy agreeing with everybody. I'm a world class agreer, with decades of practice at agreeing with everyone and everything.

My old uncle had advised me, when I got married, that just as a good cricketer gets in line with the delivery and keeps a straight backlift the moment the ball leaves the bowler's hand, so should a married man agree the moment the argument leaves the wife's lips. It's a matter of technique. With his, the cricketer is able to keep his wicket intact. And with his, the husband his peace. And what am I rambling about here? Sorry. I'll get on with the story.

As I was saying, I agreed with everyone, providing them with the critical reassurance that artists need to create something special and soon, this masterpiece, was born. (My voice can be heard in the fourth 'kolaveri' of the first verse. The one which sounds like Bhimsen Joshi's)

When we replayed the thing, we knew we had created something special.

"Hmm" I said, contemplatively, and the rest of the company echoed "Hmm" in agreement.

"What is the procedure to apply for a Grammy?" asked Mahesh, echoing the thought in everyone's mind

I realised, with a twinge of nostalgia that in the old days, if Grammies were under Indian Government management, we would easily have won one by the simple expedient of locating a friend who knew the Director General of the Department of Grammies, getting him to create a separate category for "Kolaveri songs" and prevailing on him to award the grammy to us but in this day and age, things are not as simple.

But I'm preparing my speech, just in case.


Nandini Vishwanath said...

ha ha! So hilarious :)

Right now, I think Twitter RTs matter way more than a Grammy, don't you think?

narendra shenoy said...

Nandini - Thanks very much :D

rahulk said...

This piece is awesome... captures last night's mood brilliantly!! Had a super great time working on this bit... Thanks to Mohan, girija, shenoy, ramaa, madhura and mahesh...

vrraghy said...

So, thats how this epic kolaveri was born...! and man, the hindustani touch, the swara korvais, and esp. the "love-u love-u oh my love-u" part... jus brilliant. u guys are awesome !!! :)

PriyaV said...

Just no words......rock on and don't forget to share!!!

Arun said...

LOLsome, loved the Kolaveri subhapantuvarali!

You might like this Madras Tamil to English translation we did:

K Balakumar said...

We need not be world class like you when it comes to agreeing. But most of us would concur this is world class humour. Spontaneous and fresh.

parthicle said...

master piece both
blog and song

Giribala said...

Wow! You deserve a solo hit!

Mohan Krishnamoorthy : : said...

Sorry for the late response. This is an incredibly refreshing record of an awesome evening of fun, creativity and leg-pulling; mostly M's leg-pulling! Thanks Machaan.

madconventie80! said...
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madconventie80! said...

I am over the moon.u listening to this song.... in a loop. You guys are just genial. The blog is fantastic too.

Puneet said...

Hahaha, love it! Do I have permission to link to that file and this post on my blog?

Anonymous said...


Not Specified said...

Congrats Mr.Shenoy... another feather to your ever so growing feathery hat!!!

Anonymous said...

Loved it! Awesome!! Shared it on fb too!


Shamli said...

I had just begun to get annoyed with the original till I heard your version. Good stuff! :)

Deepak Misra said...


AlwaysHappyKya said...

Ayyo, you actually sounded like Bhimsen Joshi there. And, I thought you were only kidding!

Where's your holy feet I say!

Great work -all of you. Enjoyed thoroughly.

Shivaja said...

Landed on this blog via google for "Kolaveri Pantuvarali" (heard it when a friend posted at FB, and I too 'shared' it!) ..and am smiling after reading ur post!

vikas mk said...

LOL . Loved the Cricketer analogy with married men!! :D Great Read!!

sathya said...

Phenomenal! I have taken the privilege of circulating the link to these pieces of art to some of my near and dear ones! As raconteur you are Par excellence!! Continue to enjoy reading your blog.

Anonymous said...


I bet this part was your favorite:-

Hand'la Glass'su
Glass'la Šcøtch'chu


Anonymous said...

And if you think Kolaveri Di making was good, then check this video out about how a song is created... Sonu Nigam creates a new song live on stage:
Aloo, Mooli, Gobi, Mutter Paneer

Sharatchandra Bhargav said...
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Sharatchandra Bhargav said...

Naren, I have been out of circulation for a bit due to various reasons. I think I rewarded myself today - the first working day of 2012 by revisiting your blog and made a silent resolution to myself to not meander away like I have done for the past few months.

1. Kolaveri Di is awesome. More particularly your explanation of Griha Bheda is spot on. T.M.Krishna sang raga Revagupti in a Mylapore Fine Arts society concert on Dec 23rd and did Griha Bheda. Your explanation totally cleared up the cobwebs for me. Thanks!

2. Though this is not the place for this, the Popat posting was drop dead fantastic. I am going to go home with a big smile to the missus today.

Keep writing, you are phenomenal :D