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Death By AutoTune: Kollywood Focus: Kolaveri & Beyond

First it was Rihanna being randy and now it’s Why This Kolavari di. Thank you Facebook, for spreading the virus.

NO, we are not going to analyze the song. Not right away, at least. Everyone’s been bashing AutoTune and all of that earnestly, but I really would like to take a Kollywood (Tamil Film Industry) focus on this. 

Dear Northies and closeted Southies who have rarely been subjected to commercial Tamil music before The Kolaveri (pretty much the same thing)

Let me put all this in perspective for you. This is pretty commonfold in the Tamil film industry. Guy sings about pheelings. Inserts English bits or catchy Eng refrain. Puts off the psychedelic dhik chik club beat/kutthu. There you have it. One commercial sizzler to go.

And hello there, I’m normally the first to jump at some popular fad like this and embrace it shamelessly. I definitely did when this came out:

Case 1: Evandi Onna Petthan (Who Gave Birth To/Raised You?)


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You can understand this without knowing Tamil. It is full technology words + nee dhan. What is nee than? YOU only!

Obsessive boyfriends countrywide grooved to this. Girls were momentarily confused, paused to think of their dads and then joined in the grooving. Simbu (Chennai’s own Ranbir?) is quite obsessed with omnipresence. He is basically telling the girl that he’s her everything. Everthing like her lip gloss, shower gel and watchman. And on more graphic levels, her nails & limbs & inside-running blood. This can only have two effects:

  1. Girl loses sanity due to bombardment by boyfriend imagery (On friendum naan dhaan, boyfriendum naan dhaan, ellamey naan thaan – insert muhahaha and it IS quite frightening)
  2. Girl cannot wait to get with this hot piece of poet ass.

Okay, effect b applies when girl is in the extreme bouts of desperation or is myentally sick.

Case 2: Jilla Vittu (never you mind)

This modernizing through AutoTune or whatever you want to call it is yeverywhere. Even traditional music does not escape the onslaught:

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No middle-aged woman sounds like this unless she’s part computer program. Of course, Chinnaponnu has proved her mettle with the supremely popular Naaka Muka, which is if anything barely produced except for a bassline and beats. To the layman atleast (audio engineers, remain seated).

This is happening and we might as well watch from a distance instead of resisting the trend, us being the laid-back South Indians we are. 

Case 3: Kalasala (just give up already?)

Joining this list is another recent entrant:

I apologize in advance for the screenshot of Mallika Sherawat in her flabtastic best. 4 minute ordeal survivors get free pizza. Bet you can’t enjoy it when you think that your tummy will look like that if you reward yourself so much. Ngyahaha.

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When you first listen to the song, the thought that flashes is ‘Is Mallika going to mouth those lyrics or some midget in a cameo?’ Hyuk hYUCK. Sigh.

Dhanush + Hip Hop = Mass

Moving over to Dhanush territory. Another actor – far better than Simbu (the guy in the aviators in all the prev clips) if I may – cum dabbler in music. Dhanush is actually not a bad singer. He has that rustic swagger & bad boy tone that has worked in the past. Like with Un Mela Aasedhaan

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See there’s a decent song without the singer sounding like he’s gargling words. 

(1:53) Yen edhira rendu papa, kaai veccha yenna thappa

 Translation: In front of me are two babies, is it wrong if I touch them?)

I did a double take when I heard it without the video. Imagination I tell you. Tamil song innuendos should take another post. I must not digress.

This was an EVEN more popular ‘youth’ number WITHOUT autotune & all.

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Oh yes, it does happen. Genre jumps can be successful. Hip hop + Tamil together is a better concoction than with most other Indian tongues because of certain linguistic traits, this is true. 

Hip Hop: From The Homie’s Perspective 

But today hip hop itself is facing an identity crisis. Would you call Flo Rida a Hip Hop artiste? Every song of his lately seems to invariably feature David Guetta who is a DJ = Dance. Boundaries are getting thinner all the time but how thin? When you have blinged out rappers talk about where the girls are ALL the time, there’s an issue. Gangsta rap is not popular in mainstream today because evidently 2011 is a time when people all just want to get jumpy and jerky about getting high. EYE. ROLL.

This is perhaps a trickling effect, so it would have an impact on Hip Hop revelling Tamil music. Genres WILL keep reinventing & borderlines are meant to be broken. They are not very definitive and okay, AutoTune is the toast of the season – you can’t beat em, tune em! 😛

Kolaveri: The New FacePalm

And finally, most recently:

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Being a biased Dhanush fan, I won’t say anything about the man. Except. MASSSS- U!!!


  • Why’s it SO SLOW-u, slow-u? – Were it not for the subtitles, I wouldn’t have had the patience to wait for each line to finish & THEN understand the bad English, re process and laugh.
  • Hair pulling levels of AutoTune-u – I say this only because Dhanush really doesn’t need it. He could have pulled this off without it. (1:56 – for one, two, three n all WHY YA this AutoTune?

What Is Kommon Man Saying-u? (I cannot stop ‘u-ing’!!)

I asked the everyday sarcastic tyrant and this was his take:

Is he stoned? Why’s he so obsessed with the night background? But mostly… Fuuuhuu***.. How is he reading my mind? Also, what is a soup song? Is it a clever product placement by Knorr? Is it perhaps a deeply philosphical reference to all us boys being in deep soup due to the “black hearted” girl he keeps talking about? Really. This song has more layers than the number of onions the singer must have consumed to work himself upto the deep state of dyspepsia that he is undoubtedly in as he sings it. Also, has anybody noticed the girl in the background is really very hot? Xray reports on her black heart still pending though

In Conclusion, What Has This Talkative Woman Been Trying To Say?

I’m not complaining. I enlisted all the above songs to make a point that this ain’t anything new – Tamil film music LOVES the gimmickry that audio software today allows. So yes, one has to DEAL WITH IT! And hey ho, anything that gives my mother tongue national popularity, I will never have a problem with. 

But then I’d be lying if I said this didn’t trigger some level of worry. There have been such melodious songs that have come out of the Tamil film industry. Will no one sustain that? Appealing to the youth at what cost really? 

A sincere addressal to the powerful people who produce ‘things’ (here I mean music), economical considerations aside, don’t go by what your audience needs because they don’t know what they want – the last man who knew this left behind a multi billion dollar legacy n turned every creative stone, YES, Steve Jobs (RIP).

If you continue to make songs that are deliberately stupid (lets not forget Dheaon Dheaon), sure the young and the wannabe-young will lap it up. But someone needs to maintain the balance. I for one do not want to be remembered as the generation that mutilated English AND melody.

So for every 10 Kolavaris, can there please be at least one Kannamucchi?

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