Is there anybody on the planet who hasn’t heard the Malayalam song Entamedde Jimikki Kammal (My mother’s dangling earring)?

The American television presenter and comedian Jimmy Kimmel, whose name resembles the song title, has tweeted about it; Russians are dancing to it; Estonians are singing along. The tune is destined to become a staple at parties and weddings, and has clocked million of views on YouTube, making it the most watched Malayalam song ever.

Anil Panachooran wrote the song to Shaan Rahman’s music for Lal Jose’s August 31 release Velapadinte Pusthakam (The Book of Revelation), starring Mohanlal. Rahman is understandably breathless from the song’s success, which he attributes to its “raw rhythm and unpolished vocals”.

Did you ever expect ‘Jimikki Kammal’ to be such a global hit?
I compose songs in Malayalam. When you are composing a song in Malayalam, you pray to God that it’s a hit with Malayalis the world over. When I composed Jimikki Kammal for Velapadinte Pusthakam, I knew that Malayalis would love it. What’s not to love – it’s a film starring Mohanlal.

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Mohanlal in the Jimikki Kammal song.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime success for any music composer.
Oh absolutely. Jimikki Kammal has crossed all barriers of language, region, country. People don’t know who the composer or the lyricist is, or the film or album it is from. But they know Jimikki Kammal.

Jimikki Kammal was written in 15 minutes, composed in 15 minutes and sung by Vineeth Sreenivasan and Renjith Unni in half an hour.

What do you think of the tributes?
A lot of people around the world have taken it up and done their own versions. There are so many versions and variations that I have lost count. There is a Dharavi version, where people have made up the lyrics in Hindi. There is one in which Russian women are dancing to it. They have absolutely no idea what the words mean. They’re just dancing to this Malayalam song. It’s my favourite version.

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Russian dancers pay tribute to Jimikki Kammal.

What is the appeal of the song?
Jimikki Kammal has a very raw rhythm and unpolished vocals. It sounds as if it is set in a classroom, where everybody is joining in. A bit like how people in north India sit behind a desk and start drumming and singing Tujhe Dekha To Ye Jaana Sanam from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. And I think that’s what people liked – being able to join in, without language being a barrier.

The lyrics are quite catchy too.
The lines “Entammede jimikki kammal, entappan kattondu poye, entappante brandy kuppi, entamma kudichu theerthe” mean: my mother’s dangling earring (Jimikki Kammal) were stolen by my father; my mother drank from my father’s bottle of brandy.

Nobody knows the origin of these four lines or who wrote them. But it’s something that people in Kerala hum or sing. Everybody knows these lines. So we took these lines, got the lyricist Anil Panachooran to write an entire song around them, and composed the music. People around the world have kept these four lines and added their own lyrics to the rest of the song in their own language.

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Jimikki Kammal.

How did ‘Jimikki Kammal’ even come to be on people’s radar?
A lot of things fell into place when the song came out in September. The timing of the release was perfect – it was Onam. Then Mohanlal came out with a Jimikki Kammal challenge. He asked people to send in their version of the song done in no more than a minute. We started getting videos from schools, petrol pumps, cinemas, colleges, you name it.

Secondly, every Malayali around the world celebrates Onam. People invite friends over. When they played this song, others danced to it. They in turn started sharing it. That is how I think Jimikki Kammal travelled the world.

And now even Jimmy Kimmel is a fan.
It was the middle of the night, and I was fast asleep. A friend of mine called me to say that Jimmy Kimmel had tweeted about the song. A fan tweeted him a link to the song saying, “Hey Jimmy Kimmel, do you like Jimikki Kammal?” I told my friend to go away. But I did wake up and checked his tweet. That is when the BBC found out and wrote about it. Everyone else followed.

What is next for you?
I am doing the music for My Story with Prithviraj and Parvathy in the lead. It’s a love story with eight-nine songs. Then there is the romcom Love, Action, Drama with Nivin Pauly and Nayanthara. There are also a few Telugu films. And hopefully, I will also make my debut in Tamil.

 Shaan Rahman. Courtesy Kappa TV.
Shaan Rahman. Courtesy Kappa TV.