Poster of Kaithi Kannayiram, downloaded from

When I was a kid, the song Konji Konji Pesi Mathi Mayakkum was frequently played over UngaL viruppam programme of AIR’s Vividh Bharathi. I really liked the song though I could never make out what the kid said in the intervals between the verses sung by P Susheela. All I could make out was the rhythm of that part which went ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting followed by the mellifluous ‘Sabhash’.

The song I later discovered, was from the film Kaithi Kannayiram, a 1960 production of Modern Theatres, directed by ASA Sami. The lyrics were by A Maruthakasi and the tune by KV Mahadevan. The film is based on the theme of a man wrongly imprisoned and how he fights for justice, the kind of thing that Alexander Dumas successfully got around 800 pages out of. It starred all the people you would associate with a crime film of those days – PS Veerappa (he of the Sabash, Seriyana Potti fame), RS Manohar and Javert Seetharaman. The female lead was Raja Sulochana. The kid, that mouths the ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting ting bit was probably Daisy Irani. I say probably because the movie featured both the child artistes – Honey and Daisy Irani. Incidentally, the Youtube credits for this song are all wrong.

Cut to a summer vacation of the 1970s when cousin Malini Subramanian (now Giridhar) came to stay from Bombay. Konji Konji was played over the AIR and she sang the Hindi equivalent – Meethi Meethi Baaton Se – flawlessly. Of course she too could not make sense of the tong tong tong tong tong tong tong tong tong tong tong tong tong tong bit (it sounded that way in Hindi anyway). Much later in life, having nothing much to do, I found out that old Kaithi Kannayiram was a direct lift (maybe with permission) of a Hindi film – Qaidi 911, produced and directed by Aspi Irani, in 1959. The lyrics were by Hasrat Jaipuri and the music by Dattaram Wadkar. The film had Nanda in the female lead and the song Meethi Meethi Baaton, sung by Lata Mangeshkar was featured on her, with Daisy Irani.

When young I used to like Daisy Irani’s performances. Later I read an interview of hers where she wrote about how unhappy she and her sister were to be forced into films. Most child artistes have said stories to tell. We never realised the trauma they experienced while we, comfortable in our normal childhoods, sat in theatres and watched them emote on screen.

Talking about sadness, there are two versions of both songs – happy and sad, the latter without the ting ting bits. You can listen to the sad version on Youtube.

This article is part of a series I do on old film songs, chiefly Hindi and Tamil. You can read the earlier parts here