PMA Jabbar in the grocery store in Saudi Arabia Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Art must never be commodified and it fills me with such happiness to see my composition written four decades ago being picturised in such a splendid manner, said PMA Jabbar the original composer of the viral Malayalam song Manikya Malaraya Poovi.  

The chief architect of the hit folk song from Northern Kerala featuring the winking sensation Priya Prakash Varrier from Kerala, was not speaking to Gulf News tabloid! over the phone exclusively from a swanky music studio, but from a grocery store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as he took his afternoon break from selling bread and everyday essentials to his steady stream of customers.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the song that I wrote when I was 20 would create such a big hype … It’s still unbelievable,” said Jabbar in Malayalam. He hasn’t ever received formal training in music, but claims he has an insatiable interest in music and songs.

■ It’s all in the eyes: The power of a wink
■ Priya Varrier is back with another viral video

■ Kerala ‘eyebrow girl’ turns instant internet sensation
■ Who is Kerala's eyebrow girl, Priya Prakash Varrier?

■ When the eyes spoke a thousand words

The Thrissur native, 62, also claimed that he has not charged any fee to the makers of Malayalam romantic comedy Oru Adyaar Love in exchange for the rights to re-mix of his composition either. 

“I will never agree to sell my art for money. I have been the biggest fan of music and I scribble songs that come to my head in between selling things to my customers. I can never put a price to my songs,” said Jabbar, who has lived as a grocer in Qatar and Saudi Arabia for the last thirty years. In his downtime, he also teaches Arabic to children, but shirks from asking money in return.

“Even if they extend money, I turn it down because I don’t feel comfortable demanding money to sell knowledge or art. I can never treat music as a means to earn a livelihood.”

Since his composition’s release in the teen romance, the song featuring the winking beauty has nabbed more than 3 million views. While it catapulted the actress Varrier into an overnight social media star, Jabbar is relatively untouched by the frenzy surrounding his song.

“I loved the picturisation and I don’t understand the reasoning behind anyone objecting to the picturisation. This song just has a few cheeky teenagers having a bit of fun … If you think like that, then it’s easy to see this song in an innocent light,” said Jabbar responding to the complaints levelled against the song.

The pragmatic grocer and musician, who is known to jot down song inspirations as he attends to his customers, doesn’t believe in making a big deal about his skills as a composer.

“During my time, music was never considered a viable option to earn a livelihood. At that time, harbouring ambitions to be a musician meant that you may be out of work for a long time. We lived in another era. Now with the internet, everything has changed dramatically,” said Jabbar. While life came in between him and his dreams, his two children and wife have always supported him.

“While I knew that I could never pursue music as a career, I never gave up making songs. Even now, I write songs when I get some free time. I scribble notes that strike me and I jot them down when I reach home,” said Jabbar.

But things have been looking up for this Kerala native ever since the release of his re-mixed composition, which was written on a whim at the request of his singer-relative Thalassery Rafeeq.

“I just wrote song for Rafeeq who sang it on stage shows and on TV. It became a hit locally and people began including it in the weddings near my home. Now it has become a huge hit and I can’t believe it.”

Jabbar has becoming something of a local hero among his friends in Riyadh now.

“Everyone is happy for me. It fills me with such happiness to know that my music is being heard and enjoyed by millions … I don’t know what the future holds for me but I will still continue to work in this grocery store. But I will never give up making music. That’s my passion.”