Oh no, She of the Mesmerising Wink is in trouble already.
Actor Priya Prakash Varrier will make her debut in the Malayalam romantic comedy Oru Adaar Love in June. Even before the movie’s release, she recently became one of the most-searched Indian people on Google on the day a snippet from the movie’s song Manikya Malaraya Poovi went viral.
In the song, 18-year-old Warrier flirts with a classmate (they appear to be in school), and winks devastatingly at him from afar. The original video on YouTube has been viewed over 19,000,000 times, and Priya Prakash Varrier herself earned 250,000 new Facebook followers and 2.9 million Instagram followers in just a few days. Is it the wink itself, the curvy outline her eyelid makes, the youthful charm of her 18-year-old smile? Nobody can say for sure.
Indian Express reports that she’s the new “expression queen”, although no one seems to be aware of whom she dethroned for the title. NDTV even credits a meme comparing Varrier’s extreme facial mobility to Katrina Kaif’s lack thereof for causing Katrina Kaif to inadvertently trend on social media on Tuesday, creatively dubbing it the Priya Prakash Effect.
Which of course means that supposed controversies have already begun swirling around her. A group of Muslim youths in Hyderabad has now filed a complaint under Section 295A against Varrier and the film’s director, Omar Lulu. They contend that the song’s lyrics offend religious sentiments and make objectionable mentions of the Prophet. Meanwhile, a group in Mumbai called Raza Academy has also called for CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi to block the video.
Except the song, originally written in 1978 by lyricist PMA Jabbar, composed by Thalassery K Refeeque and popularised on All India Radio at the time, is a “mappila pattu”, or part of the folk song and dance tradition of the Muslim community in Malabar, North Kerala. Mapilla pattu include songs about the Prophet, god, pious personalities, love and war, and combine Arabic, Malayalam, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Sanskrit and Tamil. Songs like these have been a part of Kerala weddings, opanna (a traditional folk dance) recitals and school dance performances for so long that nobody can seem to trace them back to an original creator.
Manikya Malaraya Poovi, which means precious pearl flower, reimagines this old folk song, and is currently under scrutiny for making references to the Prophet’s relationship with his wife, Khadija. The song contain the lines, “Mahathiyam ka Khadija Beevi/Makkayenna punya naatil/Vilasidum naari“, which means, “Her highness Khadija Beevi/The woman who lived like a queen in the holy city of Mecca”, and another that says that she desired the Prophet the very first time she met him (“Kanda neram khalbinullil/Mohamoudichu“). That’s about it. But as mapilla pattu singers have pointed out, references like this aren’t uncommon in the genre, and many allude to the Prophet’s love for Khadija.
I think senior journalist Aysha Mahmood had the right idea when she said to The News Minute about the complaint filed in Hyderabad, “I think it’s the differences in culture and traditions. In Kerala, we have basically grown up singing these songs that celebrate love. Maybe in other cultures, that is not done, which has now brought out this complaint.”