Hridayam – Music Review (Malayalam Soundtrack)

Songs and album credits at the end.

In interviews that Vineeth Sreenivasan and Hesham Abdul Wahab have given different media houses in the context of Hridayam, they mention that one of the primary reasons that they ended up working together in this movie is Hesham’s 2015 sufi album, Qadam Badha – which made me particularly happy because I quite liked the album (and reviewed it as well, back then) and have felt that it deserved a lot more credit. And quite fittingly, there are songs in Hridayam that come across as an extension of the album. The most obvious one being the composer’s take on Bulleh Shah’s Bas Kar Ji, wonderfully delivered by Sachin Warrier (and a fine chorus, of which there is a lot in this album). And then there is Manasse Manasse, the opening track of the soundtrack written by veteran lyricist Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri and delivered by Vineeth that kinda sorta feels like a spiritual successor to my favourite song from Qadam Badha, Sangeet Mera (they even seem to be both based on the lovely abheri raga), but with a more pronounced middle eastern influence (of which there is a lot in this album as well, courtesy the Istanbul Ensemble). An instrumental version of the song appears later, in the orchestral theme song played by the ensemble alongside Cochin Strings. Hesham’s mirroring of Manasse here extends even to the way the percussion kicks in – in Manasse it happens towards the end when Vineeth sings the classical notes, the theme too features tabla as Cem Ekmen replicates Vineeth on his duduk (big fan of his prelude solo for the track by the way). Continuing on the raga, the makers do a short, ambient adaptation of the most famous Carnatic composition in abheri, Thyagaraja Swami’s Nagumo. The choice of song bears additional significance here since, as the album notes mention as well (really appreciate this touch from the makers, trivia notes for each song), a popular adaptation of the song was featured in the 1988 movie Chithram that involved the parents of some of the key figures in this movie. I generally try not to compare covers, but in this case it is inevitable, and the singing by Arvind Venugopal in particular underwhelms a tad. What I did enjoy though is Punya Srinivas’s work on the veena. In fact I liked the Revival version more, where the composer mashes up elements from different songs of the album, and a second singer – Swetha Ashok – joins the proceedings. Actress Darshana Rajendran’s ad-lib rendition of Baawra Mann (Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi) in the 2017 film Mayanadhi had gained a lot of attention back then – in Hridayam she finally makes her playback debut, with a track incidentally named Darshana! Hesham himself leads the singing in this one, and Darshana’s echoing voice makes for a neat addition in the second half. My favourite thing about the song is the bass groove though, spruced up by the oud, baglama etc as it progresses. Arun Alat’s lines from Darshana get recycled in Sarvam Sadha that sees Srinivas behind the mic – nice to hear the man in Malayalam after long. The sarvam sadha refrain that is repeated almost throughout the song by Vineeth gives the song a prayer-like quality, even as it gradually builds up intensity. Felt a bit of Thattathin Marayathu throwback with this one.

In one of last year’s best soundtracks, Meenakshi Sundareshwar, a curious thing composer Justin Prabhakaran did with his vocal choice was employing the most senior singer to feature in the album, Sadhana Sargam, in a cameo of sorts, humming in the movie’s theme song. It’s not often one sees a veteran in that kind of a role. Not that it was any less effective, of course. Hesham does something similar in the song Minnalkodi, one of my current favourites from the movie (emphasis on current). The folk track is very Rahman-esque, the heavy percussion sitting well with the rainy metaphors in Kaithapram’s lines. Hesham, Sachin Warrier and Mohammad Maqbool Mansoor lead this song, but the surprise twist happens about halfway through the song, with K S Chithra playing chorus (she somehow sounds..younger here?)! Unlike Meenakshi Sundareshwar though, this is not the doyenne’s only appearance in the movie – Chithra gets a solo track in the form of Mukilinte, a gentle, soulful track much like the beauty she delivered in Malik last year. Composer keeps the orchestration quite minimal as well, letting the singer take the spotlight (learnt about an Arabic instrument called tanbur, thanks to this song). Onakka Munthiri kind of sits in the same zone as another wedding-themed song from Vineeth’s first movie, Changayi, except this one is better realised. Hesham composes this a cappella with a lot of charming folksy sounds, and even the words (written by Vineeth Sreenivasan) carry a very cutesy feel. Divya Vineeth takes the lead on this one, Vineeth and the chorus offering her solid support. Actor Prithviraj is roped in for Thaathaka Theithare, a song that is thematic of the college life that is central to the movie – one of his better renditions, but a regular playback voice would have worked better for this, I feel. Groovy song, that said. The movie’s longest track (Arike Ninna) goes to Job Kurian who dominates the song in his trademark style even as the composer goes experimental with the heavily electronic soundscape – particularly enjoyed the first interlude that has some nice flute-playing by Nikhil Ram. After Anoop Sathyan’s tribute to Chennai city in Varane Aavashyamundu two years back, Vineeth Sreenivasan decides that it is now his turn to do one (although Chennai Pattanam from Oru Vadakkan Selfie kind of counts as one as well). Kural Kekkudha is a Tamil song written by Guna Balasubramanian treated to a very catchy execution by Hesham. That it is Unni Menon singing (and whistling!) the track makes it an even better experience.  Finally my other two current favourites from the movie – Pottu Thotta Pournami and Puthiyoru Lokam. The former is a romantic piece with a delightful melody (based on durga/shuddha saveri raga it would seem) delivered to perfection by Sachin Balu and Megha Josekutty – that give-and-take in the second verse is splendidly done. And Puthiyoru Lokam is fabulous classical-pop fusion from the composer (think the dominant raga is mohanam, although I am not sure) that once again features two top class singers, Vimal Roy (debutant I think?) and Bhadra Rajin.

Hesham Abdul Wahab apparently always wanted to compose in a Vineeth movie, and that desire clearly shows in Hridayam. This truly is a labour of love from the composer – a multilingual, multi-genre treat. At a time when most Malayalam soundtracks do not last more than 15 minutes, a soundtrack of this length and diversity (quick hat-tip to Minnal Murali as well, on that note) is a welcome change to a music lover like me. Add to that the way this album has been packaged and marketed, feels nice to see this level of care compared to how a lot of movies do not even have their songs come out on time.

Music Aloud Rating: 4/5

Top Recos: Too many to name, but do start with Pottu Thotta Pournami, Minnalkodi and Puthiyoru Lokam 🙂

Album Credits

Song: Manasse Manasse
Sung by Vineeth Sreenivasan
Lyrics by Kaithapram
Additional Vocals by Ayshath Safa
Strings by Francis Xavier, Josekutty, Herald Antony, Francis Sebastian,
Carol George, Jain Purushothaman, Danny John and Mariadas VJ (Cochin Strings)
Ney by Eyup
Duduk by Cem Ekmen
Daf, Bendir and Additional Percussions by Omer Avci

Song: Darshana
Sung by Hesham Abdul Wahab and Darshana Rajendran
Lyrics by Arun Alat
Oud by Selim Boyaci
Qanun by Onur Cicin
Duduk by Cem Ekmen
Baglama by Adem Tosunoglu

Song: Mukilinte
Sung by K.S. Chithra
Lyrics by Kaithapram
Tanbur by Adem Tosunoglu

Song: Onakka Munthiri
Sung by Divya Vineeth
Lyrics by Vineeth Sreenivasan
Additional Vocals by Suroor Musthafa, Sara Maria Rose,
Adwaith B Kumar and Amrutha KS
Vocal Percussions by Vineeth and Hesham

Song: Thathaka Theithare
Sung by Prithviraj Sukumaran
Lyrics by Kaithapram
Solo Trumpet by Trumpet Babu

Song: Minnalkkodi
Sung by K.S. Chithra, Mohammad Maqbool Mansoor,
Sachin Warrier and Hesham Abdul Wahab
Lyrics by Kaithapram
Additional Vocals by Suroor Musthafa, Sara Maria Rose,
Adwaith B Kumar and Amrutha KS
Davul and Stick Percussions by Omer Avci
​​​​​​Song: Arike Ninna
Sung by Job Kurian
Lyrics by Arun Alat
Flute by Nikhil Ram

Song: Pottu Thotta Pournami
Sung by Sachin Balu and Megha Josekutty
Lyrics by Kaithapram
Zurna by Cem Ekmen
Guitars and Bass by Sumesh Parameswar
Saxophone by Nikhil Ram
Pumpkin Drums, Brushes, Udu and Shakers by Omer Avci

Song: Nagumo
Sung by Arvind Venugopal
Original Composition and Lyrics by Tyagaraja
Veena by Punya Srinivas
Mridangam by Kammath

Song: Puthiyoru Lokam
Sung by Vimal Roy and Bhadra Rajin
Lyrics by Kaithapram
Additional Vocals by Suroor Musthafa, Sara Maria Rose,
Adwaith B Kumar and Amrutha KS

Song: Sarvam Sadha
Sung by Srinivas
Lyrics by Arun Alat
Additional Vocals by Divya Vineeth and Vineeth Sreenivasan
Guitars by Nikhil Nair

Song: Kural Kekkutha
Sung by Unni Menon
Lyrics by Guna Balasubramanian
Whistling by Unni Menon
Additional Vocals by Swetha Ashok, Haritha Balakrishnan, Narayani Gopan,
Bharath, Sreejesh and Nandhagopan

Song: Bas Kar Ji
Sung by Sachin Warrier
Poem by Bulleh Shah

Song: Hridayam Theme
Performed by Istanbul Ensemble and Cochin Strings
Duduk by Cem Ekmen
Solo Violin by Francis Xavier
Strings by Francis Xavier, Josekutty, Herald Antony, Francis Sebastian,
Carol George, Jain Purushothaman, Danny John and Mariadas VJ (Cochin Strings)
Ney by Eyup
Kemenche by Adem Tosunoglu

Song: Nagumo Revival
Sung by Arvind Venugopal and Swetha Ashok
Original Composition and Lyrics by Tyagaraja
Strings by Francis Xavier, Josekutty, Herald Antony, Francis Sebastian,
Carol George, Jain Purushothaman, Danny John and Mariadas VJ (Cochin Strings)
Oud by Selim Boyaci
Baglama by Adem Tosunoglu
Additional Vocals by Vineeth and Hesham

All songs composed,
arranged and programmed by Hesham Abdul Wahab

All songs mixed by Harishankar V at My Studio (Cochin)
Mix assisted by Akshay Kakkoth
My Studio sessions managed by Murali Krishna Nair

Songs mastered by Biju James at Inspired One Studios (Chennai)
Mastering Assistants – Abin Ponnachan and Kelvin Mathew

Recordings Engineers – Sai Prakash, Omer Avci, Antony, Hesham, Pg Ragesh, Avinash Sathish, Nandhagopan, Amal Mithu Anitha, Midhun V Dev, Shiju Ediyatheril, Sanju Arakkal, Sree Shankar, Biju James, Lijesh and Roopesh

Recording Studios – My Studio (Cochin), K7 Studios (Cochin), Krishna Digidesign (Chennai), 20db Studio (Chennai), VGP Studios (Chennai), Omer Avci Studios (Istanbul), Audiogene Studio (Cochin), Muzik Ministry Studios (Cochin), Voice and Vision (Chennai), Sapthaa Records (Cochin)

Additional Audio Technical Assistance by Sai Prakash, Bibin Ashok, Vipin Lal and Vishnu Raj
Musicians/Singers coordinated by KD Vincent

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