Posts filed under ‘Tamil Film Music’

kabAli it is and not kapAli

The word ‘kabAli’ is prime cannon fodder for my pseudo Tamil friends who don’t lose any opportunity to deride the “consonantal economy” (read ‘their perceived inadequacy’) of the Tamil language with a friendly yet condescending smug smirk.

‘KabAli’ is the most uttered/searched Tamil word this week thanks to our native kannada/marathi speaking superstar.


Probably one of the most ancient landmarks of Chennai (perhaps not the current one but the one supposedly demolished earlier by the Portugese) is the Kapalisvara temple in Tiru Mayilai; and the association between the skull kapala and Shiva is there all over Indian mythology. However, for all practical purpuses, Kapalisvara becomes Kabalisvara and the Kapali temple becomes the famous KabAli koyil. Not only devotees and temple priests, even rowdies are named Kabaali.(I am very sure no rowdy was born one to start with).

There is so much of interchangeability between pa and ba both represented by the Tamil letter ப.

The humble ப doubles up, nay quadruples into pa, pha, ba and bha as demanded by the situation. Thus we have the sanskrit word pAdam to denote a foot, paNi to denote a snake (phani in sanskrit), palam pronounced balam in Tamil to denote strength, and pasmam pronounced basmam to denote bhasma (ash).

The nature of the Tamil language is such that sometimes the pa in a sanskrit word morphs into a ba.

Thus, growing up in Chennai, I always thought Poories were Boories. And I have also heard the word Padmini pronounced Batmini. Even the tamil word palli becomes balli on occasion.

If ‘pa’ occurs in the middle of a word, it gets pronounced as pa only when prefixed with an ‘ip’, as in kappal, theppam, kappam etc. or an ‘it’ as in natpu, thatpam etc. Otherwise, ba takes over. shApam becomes sAbam but japam becomes jabam, tApam becomes tAbam, kapham becomes kabam; even Gopal becomes Gobal – perhaps thanks to the Tamil word tabal (postal services) and needless to say subham becomes subam.
(Note – tapas, tApam, kapham, gopal, subham are all shared between Tamil and Sanskrit).


Our Karnatic Musicians regardless of some of their misadventures with Telugu words faithfully render the Papanasam Sivam song ‘kapAli’ with the pA intact!

Regardless of the mohana raga classic, the film kabAli establishes the ba firmly in place.

Try saying ‘kapali da kapali’! See how wimpy it sounds. It is an emasculated version of the now powerful swagger ‘kabali da kabali’.

So, I swell with pride as I tell my pseudo Tamil speaking friends. Wipe away your smiles. Sanskrit or no sanskrit – kabAli it is. None other than our superstar has established it. Even the lexicon will change in order to honor him.

July 21, 2016 at 7:38 pm Leave a comment

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The Music of Panneer Pushpangal – 1981

The song ananda ragam from panneer pushpangal is anyone’s favorite. (more…)

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Tamtana namtana – Puthiya Vaarpukkal – 1979

‘Have you heard this shanmukhapriya song in a new film? It is by Illaiyaraja’,  I heard someone say this in a PTC bus back in 1979, I think. (more…)

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