The accusation of plagiarism of the Oscar nominated lullaby song of Life of Pi composed and sung by the popular Carnatic vocalist Smt Bombay Jayashri is absurd to say the least.
The Irayimman Thampi Smaraka Trust had alleged that the lyrics were copied from the 18th-19th century Malayalam composer, Irayimman Thampi's lullaby Omanathinkal Kidavo. Even Thampi's composition can be accused of plagiarism of Periyaalwar's famous composition of a lullaby on Krishna (MaaNikkam katti..). Bhakthi has found its expression in the lullaby as we have a composition of lullaby on the lord of Thirukkannapuram by another Alwar, namely Kula Shekara Alwar. Thampi hailing from the land of this Alwar can well be accused of copying the idea of the Alwar. But the bottom-line is that anyone expressing motherly affection can compose a lullaby and can make it his or her own original composition. That has been happening all the times from an undated past in Tamilnadu.
If someone wants to compare Bombay Jayashri's composition to any of the existing and established lullabies, the song "KannE kalaimaane" composed by Kannadasan and sung in the Tamil film Moondram pirai comes closer. But then these compositions are common place ones that any rural mother can compose in no time. The emotion conveyed in this type of song is such that any mother –however unlettered she may be- can produce her own version of lullaby to put her beloved child to sleep.
The popular raga used in lullabies is Neelambhari. But Thampi's composition was in raga Kurinji while Bombay Jayashri used Shankarabharanam (heard so from a musician). The 'rararo' is one of the common words in lullabies which use meaningless words ending with "O" sounds in continuous repetition to make the child sleep. I think researchers can make a study on effect of "O" ending sounds on new-born kids. I have seen it in my experience in putting kids to sleep.
The song is such a common one in Tamil culture that most mothers would have sung a similar lullaby in their own imagination. The Mayil (peacock), Kuyil (Koel), Nilaa (moon), Imai (eyelid) are all common metaphors for babies in expressing one's love for the baby. Krishna, the lord is called as Kanna in Tamil - which means one who is the eye!
I have reproduced below an article from The Hindu on lullabies that says how the things around the baby and the things that are considered precious are used in the lullabies. This kind of language and similes has a standard application in all lullabies which no one can accuse the other of having copied. When I first heard that this song was nominated for Oscar for the Best original song, I thought it is an honor to all our mothers of the past many generations. If this song has appealed to the Oscar Juries, then it means countless mothers of our country have been lauded for their originality in expressing their love for their babies.
Lullabies, the songs with a sophoric effect
The entire village of Thennamanallur seems to be asleep, except for the women at Kuppathal's thinnai . They have gathered there to chat before their afternoon nap. Uma, the youngest of the lot, has just had a baby boy and 63-year-old Balamma prepares to sing a lullaby to him. She cradles the baby in her arms and begins:
"Dhoori dhoori dhoori
En ayya nee dhoori dhoori dhoori
En kannae nee kannurangu
Ennoda kanmaniye nee thoongu…"
With swaying coconut trees in the background, the song has a soporific effect. The pen and the scribbling pad almost slip from my grip. "It has been many years since I sang the thaalaatu ," says Balamma, looking up at her sleepy audience. "The last time I sang it was for my son; he's 33 now." Balamma has magic in her voice — she knows innumerable folksongs she learnt from her mother Chinamma.
"When a mother sings for the baby as she cradles it, the baby's thoughts will focus on her voice. The baby's concentration will improve," says Balamma as she launches into another lullaby: " Kumbakonam veedhiyilae, kolamitta thinnayilae …" The song is about a mother's learned brother who sat on a thinnai decorated with kolam in Kumbakonam to write accounts.
Lullabies gave mothers an opportunity to recall the fun times they shared with their brothers, says Balamma. "A brother is very special to a woman. She speaks highly of him at her in-law's place." When she sings, the entire household will ring with words of praise for her brother, words she hopes her child will remember for life. Balamma fears that lullabies are dying out. "Who sings them these days?" she asks. "A lot of mothers don't have the patience." Eighty-two-year-old Kuppathal, who has been listening without a word all along, volunteers to sing us a lullaby. In a voice that trembles with age, she sings, " Raari raari raari mutho… " Her voice cracks; she repeats lines; but the song does something to us. She has tears in her eyes when she finishes. "She's thinking of her dead son," whispers a lady. Kuppathal starts again: " Raari raari …."
According to D. Lourdes' Naattar Vazhakaatriyal: Sila Adippadaigal, a book published by the Folklore Research Centre, Palayamkottai, the term 'thaalaatu', literally translates as a song sung using the movement of the tongue. ('Thal' – tongue; 'aattu' – shake.) A lullaby mostly begins with meaningless syllables such as 'lu lu', 'ro ro', 'aaraaro', 'bo bo' etc., writes Lourdes. He explains that, according to linguist P.R. Subramanian, a lullaby's lyrics are mostly about the baby, the objects he uses and his relatives. "He is not an ordinary man," writes Lourdes, about the mother's brother. There is a Tamil tradition of calling the uncle 'Amman', a man who takes the place of a mother. "In African communities, the mother's brother is called 'malemother'," he writes. This is why the uncle forms an important part of a lullaby.
"Lullabies have no written form," says Dr. S.M. Ravi Chandran, Professor and Head of the Department of Tamil at Bharathiyar University. Singers make up the lyrics as they sing. "They improvise to suit a tune," he explains. Ravi Chandran has composed one of the 10-part series Naattupura Padal Kalanjiyam brought out by Meiyappan Tamil Aayvagam.
The book, which is a result of extensive field work across various villages, is a collection of folksongs of the Kongu region.
Irayimman Thampi: lyrics
Nalla Komala Thamara Poovo,
Poovil Niranja Madhuvo,
Pari poornendu thande nilavo,
Puthan Pavizha kodiyo,
cheru thathakal konjum mozhiyo,
mridhu panjamam padum kuyilo,
Eswaran Thanna Nidhiyo,
ente bhagya drumathin phalamo,
Vatsalya ratnathe veppan,
ma ma vachoru kanchana cheppo,
kooriruttathu vecha vilakko,
Keerthi lathakkulla vitho,
ennum kedu varathulla mutho,
Arthi thimiram kalavan
ulla marthanda deva prabhayo,
Sookthiyil kanda porulo,
athi sookshamam veenaravamo,
thande kombathu pootha poovalli,
Pichakathin Malar chendo,
navinnischa nalkunna kalkando,
Kasthuri thande manamo,
perthum sathukkalkulla gunamo,
ettam ponnil kalarnnoru matto,
nalla gandhamezhum panineero,
Nanma Vilayum nilamo,
bahu dharmangal vazhum grahamo,
Daham kalayum jalamo,
marga khetham kalayum thanalo,
jnanum thedi vachulla dhanamo,
Kanninu Nalla Kaniyo,
ma ma kai vanna chinthamaniyo,
Lavanya Punya Nadhiyo,
Unni karvarnnan thande kaliyo,
Lakshmi bhagavathi thande thirunetti melitta kuriyo,
Ennunnikrishnan Janicho, Parilingane Vesham Dharicho,
Padmanabhan Than Kripayo, Muttum bhagyam varunna vazhiyo.
1.Is he the darling baby of the moon?
Is he a very pretty lotus flower?
Is he the honey filled inside the flower?
Is he the soothing light of the full moon?
2.Is he the newly formed coral reef?
Is he prattling of the parrots?
Is he the slowly moving peacock?
Is he the sweet song by the Nightingale?
3.Is he a jumping baby of the deer?
Is he the swan which shines?
Is he the treasure given by God?
Is he the parrot held by Parvathy?
4.Is he the tender leaves of Parijatha?
Is he the result of my lucky streak?
Is he a golden box given to me to store the gem of my love?
5.Is he the pot of nectar kept for taking out an evil eye?
Is he a lamp kept in pitch darkness?
Is he the seed for the creeper of fame?
Is he the pearl that never gets spoiled?
6.Is he the light of the Sun god,
Meant to remove cataract and gluttony,
Is he the meaning of philosophy?
Is he a very lower note of Veena?
7.Is he the flower at the end of the creeper of happiness?
Is he the bouquet made of sweet scented jasmine flowers?
Is he the sugar candy which creates desire in the tongue?
8.Is he the incense of the musk?
Is he the property of good people?
Is he the wind carrying scent of flowers?
Is he that which makes the gold more pure?
9.Is he boiled and condensed milk?
Is he the rose water with sweet scent?
Is he the land from which goodness is reaped?
Is he the house where great charities live?
10.Is he the water which removes the thirst?
Is he the shade which removes tiredness in travel?
Is he the jasmine flower which never fades?
Is he the money that I have earned?
11.Is he the lucky first sight to the eye?
Is he the wishing gem that I have got?
Is he a pretty holy river?
Is he the play of the baby Krishna who is black?
12.Is he the dot worn in the forehead by Goddess Lakshmi?
Is he the baby Krishna who has dressed like my baby?
Is he the gift of Lord Padmanabha?
Is he the luck entering my courtyard?
Life of Pi: Tamil Lullaby by Bombay Jayashree.
Mayilo, thogai mayilo,
Kuyilo, koovum kuyilo
Nilavo, Nilavin oLiyo
Imaiyo, Imaiyin kanavo
Malaro, malarin amudho,
Kaniyo, senkaniyin suvaiyo
My dear one, the jewel of my eye,
Sleep my dear precious one.
You are the peacock, the dancing peacock,
You are the koel, the singing koel,
You are the moon, light of the moon,
You are the eyelid, dreams that wait on the eyelids.
You are the flower, nectar of the flower
You are the fruit, sweetness of the fruit.