ON AN EVENING IN NOVEMBER 2012, workers and passersby milling around an old warehouse near a beach in Kozhikode were greeted with the unusual sight of veteran Malayalam film actor Mamukkoya in their midst. Clad in a blue dhoti and an old white shirt, Mamukkoya sipped on a glass of sulemani tea, waiting for his shot to be called. But when he took his place in front of the camera, onlookers who might have expected him to break into one of his famous goofball performances were disappointed—instead, he spoke lines that were tinged with grief.
The actor was shooting for the music video of ‘Native Bapa’, a hip-hop song by the Kozhikode-based group Mappila Lahala, named after the 1921 uprising of Kerala’s Mappila Muslim community against the British rulers and their feudal supporters. The group comprises friends who met often at film festivals and cultural events around Kerala. Muhsin Parari, founding member of the band and the video’s director, explained that during these meetings, they discussed “the state and plight of our community in terms of representation” in popular media. “We were sick of the popular narratives endorsing the stereotypes of Muslims and Dalits as savages, and we wanted to give different perspectives of these to Kerala society,” Parari said. “We formed a band to engage with multiple genres of music.”
‘Native Bapa’, the group’s first song, features a Malayalam prose-poem written by Parari in 2008 in reaction to the killing by security forces of four alleged terrorists that year in Kupwara district, Kashmir. Among those killed was 22-year-old Mohammed Fayaz from Kerala’s Kannur district. His mother reportedly refused to accept the dead body of her son, calling him a traitor to the nation. “This unusual reaction from a mother triggered frenzied debates in the mainstream media,” Parari said. “The lady was celebrated as the champion of patriotism and secularism. I thought it was ridiculous, what the media was doing with a mourning mother, and I wrote this poem.”