The Tamil film Annamalai, starring Rajinikanth, has a special significance across multiple facets.
This was one among the 3 films announced by director and producer K.Balachander in the early 1990s that did not have Ilayaraja’s music. The 3 films were Vaaname Ellai (directed by Balachander himself), Roja (directed by Mani Ratnam) and Annamalai (directed by Suresh Krissna). K.Balachander’s last film with Ilayaraja was Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal and after they broke up, he announced 3 other music composers for these films (Maragadhamani aka M.M.Keeravani aka M.M.Kreem—who Balachander had introduced in his earlier film, Azhagan—for Vaaname Ellai, Deva for Annamalai and debutant A.R.Rahman for Roja).
Annamalai (the remake of Rakesh Roshan’s Khudgarz, which was inspired by Jeffrey Archer’s novel Kane and Abel) was the first Rajinikanth film to have a hero introduction (or ‘mass entry song’ as it is called in Tamil movie circles) song. That song was “Vanthenda Paalkaran”.
The interesting part about this song is that it has two sources of inspirations that both go back to Rajinikanth’s past (both Bengaluru-past and Marathi-past) – the lyrics are inspired by a Kannada poem/song, while the tune is inspired by an iconic Marathi koli song!
The lyrics, first. It is said that Rajinikanth gave lyricist Vairamuthu a Kannada poem/song to seek inspiration from. That poem was also a Kannada film song, “Neenaarigadayo Ele Manava” (or, “Hari Hari Gou Naanu”) written by G.V.Iyer, and was part of the 1966 film Emme Thammanna, starring Dr.Rajkumar. (It was later remade in Tamil as ‘Maattukara Velan’, starring M.G.Ramachandran, in 1970)
The poem goes on to explain the usefulness of a cow in Indian society, the importance of milk, about how the cow dung is used to make sacred ask and how the cow’s skin helps make footwear for humans. Vairamuthu uses this base to create his Tamil song in a way it suits the milkman hero character in Annamalai.
As for the music, composer Deva seeks inspiration from a popular Maharashtrian koli song (folk songs of fishermen), “Mee Dolkar Dolkar Daryacha Raja” (1969). The song’s tune is composed by Hridaynath Mangeshkar and the lyrics were written by Shanta Shalke. It was first sung by Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. It’s an incredibly beautiful song, regardless of your ability to understand the meaning.
Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUTeNfpdUIM
Deva makes a clever adaptation of the original’s tune. The original has a strand of mellow backdrop, while the Tamil song is an exuberant tune. The original starts with a chorus, “Valhav re nakhava ho valhav re rama” and Deva converts that into the Tamil song’s boisterous start, “Vanthenda Palkaran Adada Pasumaatta Paththi Paadaporen”.
For the 2nd line in Tamil, Deva picks up the Marathi’s song’s actual opening line: “Mi dolakar, dolakar, dolakar daryaacha raaja” becomes “Pullu Kudutha Paalu Kudukkum Unnaala Mudiyadhu Thambi”.
Deva, of course, completely changes the antara to move away from the Marathi’s song’s antara.