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Sithara Krishnakumar in the music video ‘Bhagavathi’

Sithara Krishnakumar in the music video ‘Bhagavathi’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Celebrating the legend behind Muchilottu Bhagavathy Theyyam is ‘Bhagavathi’, a music video by Sithara Krishnakumar’ s band, Project Malabaricus. The versatile artiste, known for pushing her boundaries as a performer, musician and singer, renders a power-packed track, backed by arresting visuals.

‘Bhagavathi’, according to the band, is ‘the tale of unwavering strength that is named woman.’ “There are so many legends associated with Muchilottu Bhagavathy and there is one particular story that I have always loved to hear. I wanted to compose a song based on that, especially because it is relevant,” says Sithara.

A still from the music video, ‘Bhagavathi’ by Project Malabaricus led by Sithara Krishnakumar

A still from the music video, ‘Bhagavathi’ by Project Malabaricus led by Sithara Krishnakumar
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The legend is about this young scholarly girl from a reputed family whose erudition did not go down well with male scholars, especially because of her gender. When a public debate was organised to find a groom for her, no suitor could defeat her. Therefore, the men hatched a plan to humiliate her and, eventually she was ostracised following which she self immolates. By then the community realises that she is a goddess and deifies her as Muchilottu Bhagavathy. Another legend goes that she is a part of Lord Shiva.

A universal scenario

“The song is more about the story of that woman than the spiritual side of the legend. Circumstances might have changed but situations remain the same because, even now, being a successful woman is not easy. There are two extremes — society either deifies a woman or relegates her to the margins. This has been happening across the world,” says Sithara.

Sithara Krishnakumar in a still from the music video, 'Bhagavathi'

Sithara Krishnakumar in a still from the music video, ‘Bhagavathi’
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The song has been written by her husband, Dr Sajish M, a cardiologist, who has his roots in Karivelloor in Kannur, the land of Theyyams, where one of the many temples dedicated to Muchilottu Bhagavathy is located. “He is familiar with the legend and the world of the Theyyam. That is why I wanted him to write about it. It is the first time that he has written a song for me,” says Sithara.

The video, set in Payyannur, is directed by Sumesh Lal and shot by Mahesh SR. Sithara says that the team did its research and interacted with the people before the shoot. “Once the song was ready, we wanted visuals to go with it and that’s how the music video happened. However, this is not a documentation of the Theyyam. We are presenting only the story and have taken certain elements from the Theyyam, such as the poykannu [metallic, see-through eyes]. It is believed that she hides her grief and anger behind those eyes. The Bhagavathi Theyyam is not ferocious or aggressive like some other Theyyams,” she says.

Sithara adds that there are several challenges involved when you place Theyyam, a ritualistic art form, in a popular medium. “We can’t recreate the grandeur of the art form. The team has tried to create a work that is close to the concept and we believe it has come out well,” she says.

She had watched a full performance of Muchilottu Bhagavathy Theyyam at the temple festival before working on the project. “The detailing is out of this world. I can never explain the experience in words. It is such a beautiful work of art and is above religious boundaries,” she points out.

Members of the band Project Malabaricus during the shoot of the music video, 'Bhagavathi'

Members of the band Project Malabaricus during the shoot of the music video, ‘Bhagavathi’
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Sithara stresses that her band worked a lot on the musical structure of the composition. “However, it is not influenced by the music of the art form. Thottampattu (ballad sung before a Theyyam performance) and the sound of the kuzhal (a wind instrument) are used in the backdrop. ‘Bhagavathi’ is a melody that has been given a contemporary soundscape,” she says.

Being an independent musician

Sithara, who won the State Film Award for the best playback three times, holds that these are exciting times to be an indie musician with the kind of encouragement being received.

Members of the band Project Malabaricus led by Sithara Krishnakumar

Members of the band Project Malabaricus led by Sithara Krishnakumar
| Photo Credit:
Jaseel Azeez

“I have been part of a popular medium like cinema and have always longed for a space in the independent music scene. The acceptance is overwhelming. Earlier, at our shows, over 70% of our songs were from films and the rest comprised our original songs. But that ratio has reversed and the six of us [members of the band] are thrilled when people ask for the songs we have made,” she signs off.

The video features Sithara and the five members of her band, Liboy Praisly Kripesh (rhythm guitar), Vijo Job (lead guitar), Ajay Krishnan (bass guitar), Midhun Paul (drums), and Srinath Nair (keyboard).

‘Bhagavathi’ is streaming on YouTube.

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