How the Nonsensical can be a Rage (Kolaveri Di)

It was on November 21, 2012 when a Tamil sounding phrase started trending on Twitter - #kolaveridi. I had innumerable friends on Facebook share the link to this phrase/ sound - over 6 million shares!
I thought this was a new virus which was multiplying really fast and many were getting suckered into it.

Fast forward two weeks hence, more than 18 million views on You Tube from over 140 countries. This song was a rage. A frail looking man singing ' nonsense' as he called it himself, to a folksy beat! A song which had pretensions of being a Tamil song - but 90% of the lyrics were in English!

On a personal note, I thought it was a inane English song, with absolute illogical lyrics and the only saving grace was the Koothu ( a Tamil beat/ music) beat. See and hear it for yourself  - http://goo.gl/5mN2J


The numbers speak for themselves and to get so many people interested in a song takes something. Social media and other online devices are effective tools to communicate the song/ content. They serve to distribute the content and create a viral. But it took more than that to create such a hit. A look at some of the reasons:

  • Focused Target Audience
    • With 50% of India under the age of 30, the chances are that anything that appeals to that age group is sure to be a success. The funny thing is that even the above 30s want to feel young and aspire to be a part of the age group. This song hit the right chord with the youth and young at heart.

  • Uniqueness
    • Natural feel (if not impromptu) - The song had no exotic dances, no oomph nor any of the typical attractions which represent a film song. The element of glamour was missing and present. There seemed to be a natural ring around it. It showed some talented individuals (forget their pedigree) joining together and creating a song. The typical film sequences which you expect around a film song were absent. The presence of glamour came from the individuals - many of them stars in their own right, in non filmi surroundings. In an indirect way the film was underplayed.


    • Transcending language barriers -The song appealed to many sections of the multi lingual Indian population or the diaspora. English is largely understood by most in India. The lyrics of the song were not jingoistic and was not restricted to the typical south Indian populace.  Infact earlier songs which a mix of Tamil and English like 'Urvashi Urvashi, Take It Easy Policy', 'Mukkabala O Laila' and 'Mustafa Mustafa, Don't Worry Mustafa'  have all been fairly successful. It is the adoption of such lyrics which transcended language barriers which led to easy comprehension and adoption. 

  • Simplicity
    • Lyrics - Cow-u Cow-u and Moon-u Moon-u, all inane but simple lyrics-u! Even a kid like my son could sing this song. Why even Nivaan - Sonu Nigam's young son, could sing it! There was no deep understanding required. 
    • Music -There is a pronounced absence of complicated instruments/notes in the song. The omnipresent sound of the percussion holds the song together. Any amateur singer could sing this with any surface serving as a percussion instrument. This clearly would be a hit with the bathroom singers!

  • Self -Identification
    • The youth of today will only feel connected when they can identify with it. From the use of youth stars/ icons to a cool quotient brought in by all components of the song.  In effect the song brought in stars from different backgrounds - Dhanush has a rebel, common man kind of image; Shruti Hassan comes from a very pedigreed background with a certain hip factor; Aishwarya came in from ' God's" family and Anirudh was all of 21.  The diversity of the stars was tied in together by the song. The diversity blended in. 


  • Imagery
    • The way the whole song has been put together has a certain hip factor to it.  Youngsters in the video convey a certain 'I don't care a damn' attitude. And what's more they seem happy doing what they are doing. The cool quotient ranked very high. 

In conclusion this was a brilliant execution of marketing both the idea and the execution tied in together to create a rage. While the producers may have never expected the song to be such a hit, unwittingly they have hit the right notes!

Comments

virgovim said…
Smart and insightful dissection of the Kolaveri-di rage. I would expand just on one thing - the emotiveness or the emotion of the tune and the music. Much more than the simplicity of the arrangement and the cool quotient of the lyrics, the music - both the "raag" and "taal" - tugs at one's heartstrings in a manner that cannot be scientifically analysed. The "raag" (simply translated as the "tune") is vaguely but powerfully reminiscent of a snake charmer's tune to which we the listeners hum and dance. The "taal" (translated as the "beat") is seriously infectious, and especially easy to tap or drum along to. It's not surprising that anyone with even the slightest appreciation for music will discover an un-explainable affinity to this song. We might struggle to classify the song as mentally stimulating or even "good music", but most of us will not be able to deny how it has a knack for bouncing around in our heads without hope of easy expulsion...(like it's doing right now for some of the people reading this...lol).
S Vejay Anand said…
Thanks Vimal. very insightful Your points are bang on. There is something more than the tune or beat per se.

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