Cool-u song-u, hear-u hear-u: Why this Kolaveri di?
by Radhika Chandrasekhar
It is a music video shot in a sound studio. It looks deceptively simple. It features Dhanush – a National Award winning Tamil star – little known north of the Vindhyas. Watching him is the 21-year-old music director of the song, Anirudh, his co-star Shruti Hasan and Aishwarya, Dhanush's wife and the director of the Tamil film the song features in. If you are one of the 4.3 million (and counting) people who have watched the video on YouTube, you know what I am talking about. The super hit song “Why this Kolaveri di” which was recorded and released recently, and has since become an enormous sensation.
I posted it on my Facebook page the moment I saw it. My friend Victor Southwell, a lawyer who teaches pilates in South Africa, shared it almost immediately on his page. Hindi radio channels are playing it – pretty much a first for a Tamil song. My Punjabi editor was humming: “Empty life-u, girl-u come-u, life-u revers-u”. Amitabh Bachchan and Abhisek Bachchan have taken time away from Baby Bachchan to tweet about it.
What is with this song?
Well… It is laidback and hummable, with hilarious, tongue-in-cheek Tanglish (Tamil and English) lyrics. But that is not a first – AR Rahman, Ilayaraja, Harris Jeyaraj – the Tamil film industry is overflowing with amazing music. Years ago there was “Take it easy policy” and more recently, “Loos-u penne” (penne is girl… loose-u is loose). But Kolaveri di has outdone all its predecessors and become an anthem of sorts.
Here are some reasons that I believe the song resonates with everyone who hears it.
The lyrics are completely whacky. Dhanush, who is also the lyricist, claims he wrote it in six minutes. They are mostly in English, but sung as if they were Tamil. Here is a sample: “Hand-la glass-u, glass-la scotch-u, eyes-u full-a tears-u.”
The theme of the song is universal. Boy got dumped by girl. If you dig a little deeper – it is a local boy, dumped by a fancy chick (or should I say chick-u). And Dhanush almost exemplifies the boy in question, who is not likely to get the cool girl (in real life, his wife Aishwariya is Rajnikanth’s daughter). There is a line in the song that goes: “This song-u for soup-u boys” – soup song is supposed to mean a “love failure” song. Which is a great concept – I can imagine Soup Boys becoming a catch phrase. I can see a Tarantino movie called Soup Boys.
Overwhelmingly the song has a chilled out irreverence that strikes a chord. Dhanush almost laughs out loud at the madness of the lyrics as he sings. The song manages a fine balance – it’s Tamil because of the flavor and the idiom, but since it is largely in English everyone can relate to it.
But sensations are rarely rational. Otherwise we could all replicate them. Sometimes a combination of circumstances falls into place – the right medium, the right look, the right time, the right mood. See the elements at work here: sharing information has never been easier. So a leaked song becomes a phenomenon overnight – with tweets, Facebook shares and YouTube likes jostling all buzzing in cyberspace. Subversive seems to have become mainstream – with movies like Delhi Belly and LSD working in populist spaces. And in a welcome change –the loser hero is almost cooler than the dashing superhero. So Dhanush singing about a boy who has been dumped perfectly matches the mood of the moment. This amalgam creates a certain magic that spawns a sensation. And so all of a sudden all my non-Tamil friends are asking me: “What does Kolaveri mean?”
As a Tamilian, I’m thrilled. We have a cool sub-culture that is not apparent to the outsider. A subculture with mad slang, odd nicknames and lots of slapstick humour. A culture where the anti-hero works as well as a Rajnikanth, mystery pulp fiction novels are a roadside craze and fat women are allowed to be hot. So I’m personally delighted that a song like this makes waves to this extent. What can I say but “Appadi podu”? (or “take it away”).
Radhika Chandrasekhar is an independent film maker based out of New Delhi.
Updated Date: Nov 26, 2011 15:21:52 IST