Malayalam lyricist BK Harinarayanan hasn’t looked back since he wrote for Prithviraj’s The Thriller (2010). He achieved popularity through songs such as ‘Kaatu Mooliyo’, ‘Ee Kaatu’, ‘Chillu Ranthal’, ‘Pularan ‘Neram and now ‘Kim Kim’ from Santosh Sivan’s Manju Warrier, Soubin Shahir and Kalidas Jayaram-starrer Jack N’ Jill.
Kim Kim’ is inspired by the song ‘Kantha Thookunnu Thoomanam’ from Paarijaatha Pushpaaharanam, a musical drama sung and enacted by Vaikkom MP Mani. The lyricist speaks to Soumya Varier about learning about traditional styles of music to write ‘Kim Kim’ and working with Santosh Sivan. Excerpts.
The song is inspired from a play, how did you work on the lyrics?
When I spoke to Santosh sir, he wanted an old song that would suit a particular situation. During discussions, I remembered a song I had heard in a play by Vaikkom MP Mani for Paarijaatha Pushpaaharanam. I mentioned that to Santosh Sir and he liked it.
I retained the words ‘kantha’, ‘kim kim kim’ and ‘mey’ from the original pallavi, and rewrote it. Composer Ram Surender tuned it like an old song, not the one you hear now. He gave me another tune for the charanam, and I wrote the lyrics. That’s how this song came about. It’s a tribute to those times when we couldn’t save our works, where one performed on the spot, and there was no mic.
‘Kim’ and ‘Mey’ are Sanskrit words, meaning ‘what’ and ‘me’, respectively. Kids now love it because of the repetition of the words. Did you even imagine the words would take on a different meaning?
Not really, ‘kim’ and ‘mey’ are the hooks for the song. In the original, the line means: “Why is this fragrance coming to me?”. Now, we have reworked it to say “Why isn’t it coming to me?” Malayalam is a mix of several languages — Tamil, Arabic, Portuguese and Sankrit — and English words have also found a place in it.
In the early days, Sanskrit was used a lot in the arts, and we also had Manipravalam Shaili, a fusion of Malayalam and Sanskrit. This was used a lot in musical dramas. We used the same and adapted it to film.
Why did you feel that this would suit the film?
Well, Santosh Sivan saw a hook point in these words. While researching for this song, I found out that Paarijaatha Pushpaaharanam was first written in Tamil. Our folk songs were rarely recorded. They would write in a particular style and sing it. That Tamil script was transformed into Malayalam. So the expert said that ‘kim kim’ also has a style like Vanchippaattu and Kurathippaattu.
Both the songs have certain similarities apart from the words. Rap artists write lyrics over beats. How did you approach writing this song?
That’s true. We took the same meter from the old version, only the tune is different.
It’s also catchy, because in the current version, you’ve amped the chorus.
In one of your previous interviews, you had mentioned that writing poetry offers freedom while lyric writing means following a certain etiquette. How do you work?
We write lyrics for a film, where every process is a joint process. We write for a situation, so we need a tune, story and vocabulary. But, we write poetry according to our thoughts, imagination, and feelings. If the lyrics are to be sung by a child, it should be written keeping that in mind.
The basic idea of the lyrics come from the director or script writer, we only write it. There are limitations. We can of course infuse our thoughts into the lyrics but we should also incorporate the film’s idea. I don’t consider this a restriction because that is the way this works. Having freedom or not having it is just a perception. Lyric writing and poetry are different and have different processes.
How was your experience working on this song?
I enjoyed working on this as well as other songs because of Santosh Sivan. He is a good creator and gives us the freedom and space to speak our mind. He too gives his suggestions, so it was a happy process. I have worked with Ram Surender for albums, he’s like a brother, and it was very comfortable to work with him.