Song lines

Explained: The traditional roots of the viral ‘Manikya Malarayi Poovi’ song

The song is part of the Mappila Pattu genre, sung by the Muslims of Kerala’s Malabar region. This tune was originally recorded in 1978.

On Friday, the song Manikya Malarayi Poovi from the upcoming Malayalam movie Oru Adaar Love went viral shortly after it was released, turning Priya Prakash Varrier, the actress featured in the clip, into an overnight sensation. But in a dramatic turn of events, on Tuesday morning, a police complaint was filed against the song in Hyderabad by a group who alleged that it hurt the sentiments of Muslims.

The group’s contention was that the song, which depicts school students exchanging flirtatious glances across a crowded hall, was about Prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadija. Speaking to TimesNow, one of the complainants said that he enjoyed the song and the video, but was upset when he found a translation of the lyrics online. According to a report in The Hindustan Times, the police will take a decision on filing a case after examining the complaint.

The version of Manikya Malarayi Poovi in the movie, composed by Shaan Rahman, is in fact a reimagination of a 1978 song written by PMA Jabbar and composed by Thalassery K Refeeque.

The song belongs to the Mappila Pattu genre – a folk tradition of the Muslims of Malabar in North Kerala. The songs are performed at marriages and family get-togethers.

Like the dialect of the region, the songs combine Arabic with Malayalam, and also sometimes include words from Urdu, Tamil and Persian. The lyrics of Mappila Pattu
songs often praise prominent Islamic religious figures, recount anecdotes from the Prophet’s life and recollect historic battles. A leading proponent of the Mappila Pattu tradition was 19th-century poet Moyinkutty Vaidyar, most well known for his battle songs.

Manikya Malarayi Poovi opens with a description of Khadija as a “woman like the pearl flower”. It goes on to say that she fell in love with the Prophet at first glimpse and sought to marry him.

The original song (below) is longer than the version adapted for the movie. The original song describes how Khadija sent a representative to the Prophet’s uncle Abu Talib, as a formal proposal, who promptly gave his consent. The song ends with Khadija dressing up for the wedding with the blessings of Allah and everyone offering their best wishes to the model couple.

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In an interview to Scroll.in published on Tuesday, before reports of the complaint emerged, Oru Adaar Love director Omar Lulu had said that Manikya Malarayi Poovi had been a part of his growing years. “When I bought the rights, I knew people everywhere would connect with it,” the director said.

Lulu said he was aware that some people would perhaps object to the song. “There has been some opposition from some old Muslims in the community,” he said. “They feel that a love song that is about the Prophet Muhammad and his wife in a film is insulting to Islam. But these people are in a small minority. I think the song is now reaching more people than it did originally.”

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