After a long time I was listening to Tamil songs on my mobile and suddenly it was playing a Tamil Gana Song. It was Ulaganathan’s all time hit, ‘Vaazha Meenukkum Vilangu Meenukkum Kalyanam’ (The scabbard fish and eel are getting married). Nonsensical as the lyrics may sound, it is very rhythmical and has a catchy tune. In fact the song contributed significantly to the movie’s success and Ulaganathan’s rise as a Gana singer.
Gana songs in Tamil movies possibly function similar to Item songs in Bollywood – they can make fortunes on musical rights, they are not really related to the story and often feature specialist Guest stars and they add hep & energy to the scene. They are fast paced, often the lyrics just make no sense, they are sung at a higher pitch and often include a rapid crescendo.
But Gana songs did get a makeover in recent times – the trend seems to have started in North Madras and many songs were associated with booze parties. They were supposed to act as stress busters as one could simple let one’s hair hang down and party. Though the lyrics were quite nonsensical they did have a few pet themes. A popular one would be about an unrequited lover trying to impress and gain the affection of his lady-love. Youth would be another big theme – put in the rap, some English worlds, a cool sunglass and hip hop steps and you could be on your way with a cool song. Some featured the rural countryside and for once female leads could lead the way and chase the hapless hero.
The songs have mixed fortunes like everything else related to movies – most of them sink without a trace, a few achieve immediate popularity but fade out soon. Only a few become chartbusters and lead your path to stardom. Mysskin, having recognized the potential of the song and Ulaganathan’s histrionics, created him to be a minor character in the movie. The movie tanked initially but was re-distributed. And it was then that the song caught the imagination of the audience – guess we can say it is similar to going viral online. It made the movie a sleeper hit of the year and everyone knew Ulaganathan.
There are quite a few other practitioners of the genre and Deva instantly comes to our mind. The songs can then range into slightly different variants including ‘Dappan Kuthu’ and remix version of traditional folk songs as well.
The songs always entertain and energize so are a popular option at informal gatherings and in-house parties. So don’t be surprised if you hear ‘Vaazha Meenukkum, Vilangu Meenukkum Kalyanam …’ somewhere. It goes with the territory.