O papa lali (Geetanjali) – a profound melody!

Today (June 2nd) is the birthday of two great film personalities – music director Ilayaraja and director Mani Ratnam. “Geetanjali” is one epic film in their combination, the only straight Telugu film by Mani Ratnam. It is a wonderful love story, beautiful and philosophical. A terminally ill guy and a girl, both in the prime of their youth, find eternal love and solace in an impermanent world through their relationship. Ilayaraja’s magic plays a big role in this movie where he wonderfully creates the mood of the story through his amazing compositions and background score. Lyrics by Veturi are to be specially mentioned too because he captures the soul of the movie in the depth of his poetry. I will attempt to translate/explain here the lyrics of a song in the movie.

The soothing melody “O paapa laali”, sung wonderfully by SPB, is anything but soothing in its content. The girl is hospitalized again and this time doctors do not give much chance to her. The guy, full of despair, sings this song imagining that he is consoling her. In his imagination, she rests in his lap and he keeps caressing her hair. He is indeed consoling himself that the darkness of night spread around him will eventually go away and dawn comes down smiling. Cinematography, music, lyrics – all gel together to create one of the most artistically brilliant songs of Telugu cinema.

The song begins with this pallavi

ఓ పాపా లాలి
జన్మకే లాలి ప్రేమకే లాలీ
పాడనా తీయగా

Lullaby to you, my love
Lullaby to your life
To our love
Let me sing sweetly

Lullaby to life and to love! What a beautiful expression! These young lovers, hit hard by fate, surely need this soft embrace of a lullaby.

The first stanza is heart touching –

నా జోలలా లీలగా తాకాలని గాలినే కోరనా జాలిగా
నీ సవ్వడే సన్నగా ఉండాలని కోరనా గుండెనే కోరిక
కలలారని పసిపాప తలవాల్చిన ఒడిలో
తడినీడలు పడనీకే ఈ దేవత గుడిలో
చిరు చేపల కనుపాపలకిది నా మనవి

Filled with sorrow, I plead with the breeze
To be as gentle as my lullaby!
I request my heart beat
To be tender so as to not disturb her!
I ask my eyes to restrain themselves and not shed tears
For a girl, whose dreams are still fresh, is resting in my lap
And the shadows of my tears may not tarnish the temple of that Goddess!

What a wonderful poetry! The Telugu words used are so tender and beautiful that a mild wave of sorrow will fill the listener even if he doesn’t understand the meaning of the lines!

In the second stanza, the guy pleads with the nature around him to cooperate –

ఓ మేఘమా! ఉరమకే ఈ పూటకి గాలిలో తేలిపో వెళ్ళిపో!
ఓ కోయిలా పాడవే నా పాటనీ తీయని తేనెలే చల్లిపో!
ఇరుసందెలు కదలాడె ఎద ఊయల ఒడిలో
సెలయేరుల అలపాటే వినిపించని గదిలో
చలి ఎండకు సిరివెన్నలకిది నా మనవి

O cloud, do not roar today, just fly away please!
O cuckoo, please sing my song and spread some sweetness
Dawn (hope) and dusk (despair) oscillate
In the cradle lap of my heart, a dark closed room where no sweet music can penetrate!
O moonlight! I request you to give way to the morning sunshine!

The guy’s mental state is portrayed here. He can’t tolerate unpleasant things (roaring cloud) and tries something pleasant (song of a cuckoo) but even that does not give him solace. His turbulent inner feelings do not leave him alone. He is hopeful this moment but filled with despair again in the next moment. His heart has become a dark closed chamber and nothing sweet or beautiful can penetrate inside. In just a few lines, Veturi captures so many feelings! The last line is interesting. Moonlight is pleasant and gives the impression of light but there is actually darkness around and only dawn can demolish that darkness. His “hope” is like that moonlight but he wants a “confirmation”, he wants dawn.

For such great lyrics to come out, we need a situation that inspires the writer. We need a director who can extract the needed feeling in the song. We need a music director whose tune establishes the mood of the song perfectly so that the lyrics can just flow out. Kudos to Mani Ratnam and Ilayaraja for making this happen and to Veturi!

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5 thoughts on “O papa lali (Geetanjali) – a profound melody!

  1. Is it he requesting his own eyes not to shed tears or He requesting her eyes not to shed tears? I thought “chiru chepala kanu paapalu” description more suits\used for females.

  2. According to me he is describing her eyes only as he knows her disease and sings for her. He is already reconciled to his own problem. Phani to analyse n confirm

  3. No, the guy is referring to his own eyes, not the girl's. This is clear from the line – “కలలారని పసిపాప తలవాల్చిన ఒడిలో తడినీడలు పడనీకు…”

    “చిరుచేపల కనుపాపలు” means “చిరుచేపల్లాంటి కనుపాపలు” not “చేప కనుల్లాంటి అందమైన కళ్ళు”. Seeing the girl's condition, his heart is agitated and is beating fast. Hence he asks his heart to beat gently in the previous line! But he could not control his emotions and there are copious tears in his eyes. So much that his eye balls have become like small fish floating in those tears! That is what is meant by “చిరుచేపల కనుపాపలు”. But he cannot shed those tears and cast a shadow on the girl who is resting in his lap!Hence his request to his eyes to cooperate! This is poetry at its finest!

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