No film gets by without an adequately popular song album.

Even though there is a growing misconception about the kind of songs and music that get people interested, with a tendency to focus more on the loud, over-the-top songs that are meant to overwhelm rather than make an impression and warrant second chances, well-considered albums always triumph in the long run.

There are some songs like Ordinary Person from the Vijay-starrer Leo, Nenjamme Nenjamme from Maamannan and Venmegham from 2018 among others that tick all the boxes.

Arjun Menon lists some popular songs from South Indian films in 2023.


Kaavaalaa from Jailer
Music: Anirudh Ravichander
Lyrics: Arunraja Kamraj
Singers: Shilpa Rao and Anirudh Ravichander

Some songs sell the idea of a movie to the prospective audience, directly cutting down a huge chunk of the promotional budget right away.

Heard of Kaavaalaa, anyone?

This peppy song which features in a crucial stretch in Rajinikanth’s Jailer is one of the most viral songs of the year that inspired umpteen social media reels and cover versions, with many imitating Tammannaah Bhatia’s exquisite styling in the video.

The song stood out for the seamless blend of the tribal music-themed percussion, followed with the breathless hook line that instantly oozed a sense of sensuality and repeat value.

Only a few composers can deliver bangers one after the other in various sub-genres of music and this song ticks all the boxes.

Neela Nilave from RDX
Music: Sam CS
Lyrics: Manu Manjith
Singer: Kapil Kapilan

A retro ode to the pop music of the late ’90s, this infectious song is one of the most crowd-pleasing earworms from Malayalam cinema this year.

Featuring in the blockbuster action flick RDX, starring Shane Nigam and Mahima Nambiar, the song has echoes of EDM music, coupled with an old-school breeziness.

The ’90s setting of the film helps to elevate the song’s nostalgic affectations and the carefully placed flute-inspired tonal shifts land better in subsequent listens, possibly lending to the song’s long shelf life.

You rarely get such visceral energy and scope in mainstream songs without relying on cheap thrills or vocal distractions.


Sooreede from Salaar
Music: Ravi Basrur
Lyrics: Krishna Kanth
Singer: Harini Ivaturi

After the worldwide sensation of Gagana Nee from KGF Chapter 2, which emphasised a mother’s love and aspirations for her child, composer Ravi Basrur returns with a similarly ambitious zinger that will tug at your heartstrings.

This time, he juggles the themes of brotherhood with Sooreede Godugu Patty that tells the tale of a friendship forged in fire and blood.

The song makes use of an emphatic central drum roll beat that is echoed throughout with the flute interludes.

Prabhas and Prithviraj Sukumaran get to play the two aforementioned friends in the lyrical video, which charts their growing up years and sparkling dynamics, with one being the protector and the other, the protected.

The lines emphasise the duality of their characters and their love and trust for each other.

The Hindi iteration, titled Sooraj Ki Chhaon, will also grow on you with a sense of immediacy and the lines would work its magic without being hammy or contrived.


Naa Ready from Leo
Music: Anirudh Ravichander
Lyrics: Vishnu Edavan&
Singers: Vijay and Anirudh Ravichander

This dance number, modeled on the evergreen musical spirit of Jumma Chumma De De (Hum) is one of those rare songs that capture the aura of a superstar, without alienating the listener by relying on gimmicky and show-offy trends.

The striking rap rendition by Asal Kolaar alone has been riffed on in a major way on social media circles.

The vocals by actor Vijay, (who also appears in the song video) is quirky and unconventional.

The old-school beats complement Vijay’s on-screen aura with some delightful irreverence on show. A banger for the ages!


Nadiye o Nadiye from Sapta Sagaradaache Ello – Side A
Music: Charan Raj
Lyrics: Dhananjay Ranjan
Singers: Kapil Kapilan

The title song from the first installment of the recently released, two-part epic romantic tragedy Sapta Sagaradaache – Side A, sums up the thematic and tragic subtext of the film.

Nadiye o Nadiye starts with synth sounds, gradually giving way to Kapil Kapalan’s high-pitched renditions, which then morph into a classical veena-based piece, all in the matter of the song’s first two minutes.

The tonal variation and post-modern synth soundscape of the song make it an instant favourite, with shades of sorrow and longing with only a ray of hope hinging in the energy of the vocals.

A case can be made for including all the songs from this one-of-a-kind album but let’s stop at this one for now.


Thalatherichavar from Romanjam
Music: Sushin Shyam
Lyrics: Vinayak Sasikumar
Singer: Zia Ul Haq

Maybe the breeziest entry in the list, this is the unofficial theme song for the countless youth in Kerala online these days.

The song, mostly rendered in monotone-like line readings with minimal instrumentation, emphasizes the lazy lifestyle of the protagonists in Romancham, who lead a directionless existence.

The cheeky lyrics underline the futility of the group, who pas.

You can’t help but vibe to the minimalistic rhythms of this one that grow on you over time.


Olave Olave from Sapta Sagaradaache Ello – Side B
Music: Charan Raj
Lyrics: B R Suvarna Sharma
Singers: Srilakshmi Belmanu

Another great feat in the integration of a modern string-based sensibility, with age old traditional instruments like veena and tabla in the interludes, Charan Raj manages to merge the two schools of music composition seamlessly.

The song is a romantic ballad that underlines the weighty themes of Hemanth Rao’s magnum opus Sapta Sagaradaache Ello – Side B, which tells the heartbreaking story of the bond between Manu and Priya.

The lyrics make use of the metaphors of sea and river, which were major motifs used in the film’s narrative to etch out the innate tragedy of their fate.

The song, featuring Rakshit Shetty and Rukmini Vasanth, is a call back to a happier place and offers some respite from the impending pain.


Maamadura from Jigarthanda Doublex
Music: Santhosh Narayanan
Lyrics: Vivek
Singers: Dhee, Santhosh Narayanan

The Tamil folk dance number from Santhosh Narayanan is the ultimate groovy song for today’s generation.

The Kutthu vibe of the song catches you off guard and the playful lyrics guide you through the experience.

Raghava Lawrence perfectly complements the visceral energy of the song with his slick, well-choreographed dance steps.

The use of more natively rooted instruments add to the breath-neck pacing of the song.

The culturally resonant soundscape coupled with Western influences make this a great addition to the list.


Na Roja Nuvve from Kushi
Music: Hesham Abdul Wahab
Lyrics: Shiva Nirvana
Singers: Hesham Abdul Wahab and Manju Sri.

This tribute to Director Mani Ratnam, by way of the repeated use of his film titles in the song lyrics, is a soothing love song reminiscent of older songs of ilk.

Composed and sung by Hesham Abdul Wahab, the song slowly builds into a crescendo with the female vocals that sing the song’s hook line.

The conceit of using the titles of Mani Ratnam films does not distract the song in any way as the lyrics gel with the mood of the film.

The video features Vijay Devarkonda’s attempts to woo Samantha and the song works with the nature of their romance and tone of the film.


Haalaake Marunne from Sulaikha Manzil
Music: Vishnu Vijay
Lyrics: Muhsin Parari
Singers: Vishnu Vijay, Pushpavathy and Ahi Ajayan.

Set against the backdrop of a marriage, the song is a celebration of sorts, with the word ‘Hal‘ translates to ‘state of ecstasy’.

The lyrics are mostly echoing spiritual ideas of the eternal place and the music captures the joy and fleeting reverie surrounding a marriage through the bride’s perspective.

Vishnu Vijay lends a playful mood to the song and injects a sense of immediacy into the wordplay in the lyrics.

It’s one of those songs that leaves a great aftertaste.

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