Priya Varrier’s Viral Song Is a Part of Tradition, Why Outrage?

‘Manikya Malaraya Poovi’ is a Mappila song that has been sung for years in festivals and celebration. 

Published
Music
3 min read
Priya Prakash Varrier in <i>Oru Adaar Love</i>.&nbsp;
i

The internet has gone bonkers after the release of the song titled Manikya Malaraya Poovi from the upcoming movie Oru Adaar Love, featuring Priya Varrier and Roshan. While the initial hype was centered around Priya's now famous "wink", the popularity of the song has also paved way for a controversy.

A few Muslim youths from Hyderabad filed a police complaint against the film's director Omar Lulu and Priya Varrier. An FIR has been filed against the duo alleging that the song mentions the Prophet.

The group’s grouse is that the song is about Prophet Muhammed and his first wife Khadija. They have found the lyrics and the picturisation of the song, offensive. The song has visuals of youngsters flirting with each other.

Mumbai based Raza Academy has written to CBFC Chairman Prasoon Joshi, asking the board to block the released video.

However, the song isn't new and neither are the lyrics. In fact the composer of the song Shaan Rahman had announced even before its release that he was only reimagining a famous Mappila Pattu. (Mappila is a word used to refer to the Muslim community in northern Kerala, while pattu means song).

The song was written in 1978 by PMA Jabbar and composed by Thalassery K Refeeque.

Way before the song made it into the film in the voice of popular singer Vineeth Sreenivasan, it was a part and parcel of many celebrations in the Muslim community.

The Mappila Pattu is a folk tradition that involves songs and dances about the Prophet, peace, love and war. These songs and dances are a common sight in weddings, other celebrations and even at art festivals conducted in schools and colleges.The songs that blend Arabic and Malayalam also use phrases from Urdu, Persian, Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit and Kannada and became a part of the Muslim community’s tradition centuries ago.

The songs include Malappattu – in praise of pious personalities, Urudi or Padapattu– tales of war, Viruthangal – songs in praise of god, Kissukal – songs narrating the stories of prophets of Islam, Khessukal – romantic ballads. There are also marriage songs that are popular across Kerala. (Source 1 and Source 2)

The original and lengthier version of the Manikya Malaraya Poovi song describes the first meeting between the Prophet and Khadija. Describing Khadija as a 'woman like the pearl flower living like a queen in Mecca', it is about how she was impressed by the Prophet and sent him a marriage proposal.

Speaking to TNM, senior journalist Aysha Mahmood had this to say.

“This is one of the popular Mappilla songs and had always been sung during weddings and in schools. Even songs for oppana (a dance) talk about the Prophet and the love he had for his wives. So for us, we have all grown up hearing and singing these songs.”
Aysha Mahmood, Journalist

On the complaint filed by a Muslim group in Hyderabad, Aysha said, "I think it's the differences in culture and traditions. In Kerala, we have basically grown up singing these songs that celebrate love. May be in other cultures, that is not done, which has now brought out this complaint."

Echoing Aysha's thoughts, VT Murali, a popular Mappila Paattu singer says that the song Manikka Malaraya Poovi has been part of the Mappila Pattu genre for years together.

“This is not a new song, it has been there all along. I don’t know why there’s a controversy now. “
VT Murali, Mappila Paattu Singer

59-year-old Naseema, a native of Kozhikode, has been a Mappila Paattu singer for years. She shares her surprise at the latest controversy surrounding the song that she has sung several times in different venues.

"I don't see anything wrong in the song. Most of the songs in this genre talk about the Prophet and his wife Khadija. Some others talk about weddings and describe the groom and the bride. "

She asserts that nobody in Kerala who is familiar with Mappila Paattu genre, would see anything offensive in the song.

"We even have competitions at school youth festivals where kids sing such songs. I think people outside aren't familiar with these songs, that's why they are making a controversy out of nothing."

(The story first appeared on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)

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