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I am on a movie re-watching spree, and I caught Kannathil Muthamittal today. Mani Ratnam can extract great performances from child artistes. That in part is responsible for Kannathil Muthamittal being among his finest movies. Much of the movie is in Sri Lanka, with the civil war providing a backdrop. Mani Ratnam doesn’t take sides as always (not unlike Roja), and the film is one of his best.
But just see how he has fallen since then! After Kannathil, Mani Ratnam’s resume reads:
2002 Kannathil Muthamittal
2004 Aayutha Ezhuthu (Yuva)
All other movies had one thing in common: Abhishek Bachchan. To be fair, Abhishek’s lack of acting skills didn’t ruin those movies. But he was around. Just sayin’.
I finally gathered the time to give the sountrack of Raavan a patient listen. I was rather kicked about writing a music review after a long time — but the music was disappointing, so I don’t have much to say. The songs of Raavan might just make more sense when seen in the context of the film.
The song that excited me in the trailer is Beera, which is one of the only two songs in the album I liked. The second is Khili Re, but just for Reena Bharadwaj. She is the female who sang the fabulous Yeh Rishta from Meenaxi. Pity she doesn’t sing more often.
That being said, I wouldn’t count out the other songs as yet. I’ve liked songs by Rahman months after listening to them.
While I was gone, the first trailer of Raavan was out. Here it is :
The junior of the Bachchans seems all set to give a delightful performance — depending on what delights you. He was restrained in Guru, but he seems to have realized that restrain is for silly actors. Anyway, I digress.
I am looking forward to the music more than the movie. A.R. Rahman looks in fine form. I don’t want to get my hopes high based on the 30 seconds in the trailer. A good director can churn out a great first-look of any Rahman OST. Think Swades, The Rising (good director doesn’t apply here), even Kisna.
What makes me curious about Raavan is the use of chaos in this track. It sounds weird at first, before the familiar Rahman guitar arpeggios kick in. Few musicians can make chaos sound nice; they probably also view chaos as something beautiful. Rahman has used utter chaos in the past to a wonderful effect (for instance, the Bombay Dreams title track), and manages to do it again in whatever this track is. The signs are good, the rest remains to be seen.
More than being sure that this album will be good, I am praying that it is something special. His last great timeless album was Jodhaa Akbar (am I missing any album here?), and 4-5 individual tracks later.
There was a time back in the ’80s and ’90s when an artiste just wasn’t allowed to suck too badly… The fans would leave them. Now, I don’t think the fans really know the difference. Or they just don’t care.
He is referring to Western music here, but the quote is so apt for Indian music too.
Much of the music of Bollywood last year was terrible that I am still happy with Coke Studio (note to self : write that long-pending post on Zeb and Haniya). Himesh was an okay-ish composer until he took to singing and ruined it for everyone. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy just refuse to budge from their good-but-not-excellent position. Anu Malik can be good, but is hardly consistent to be significant in this debate. Rahman doesn’t come across as the genius whom I used to listen to in awe.
It’s not just film music. There is hardly any popular music besides film music in India. The standards of classical music are way higher which keeps it safe from mediocrity — although exceptions sneak in. I’m not naming names.
I guess we’re to blame. We allowed them to suck so badly.
I reserve the final comment for fusion music. Only a handful of musicians understand what fusion music really is. For the rest, any combination of a drum and one alaap or harkat is fusion. Things are so bad that I am scared when someone recommends a fusion music piece.
Zakir Hussain is one who understands fusion. Shakti is a fine example of fusion of instruments, and his performance at the San Jose Jazz music festival was a fusion of music. Remember Shakti is a good example of not-so-good fusion.
Sonu Nigam features prominently in a music album (3 Idiots) after many years. He has been in hibernation for the last 3 years — even announcing his retirement from singing due to lack of quality work. Perhaps that announcement was directed at music directors so they would stop seeking him for uninspired numbers. I’m sure he wanted to maintain a high level of quality but looking at his recent works – Yuvvraaj, Blue and especially, 3 Idiots — I am in favour of Sonu Nigam retiring from Hindi film music.
Until he gets a challenge.
I know my bit about music, and I have no doubt that Sonu Nigam is the most talented singer Hindi cinema has at this moment. There are more skilled, more accomplished singers, but Sonu is far superior as a playback singer (strictly).
His formative years were spent mimicking Rafi saab, the next few in tearful songs for Gulshan Kumar movies and a few more getting a foothold in the industry. Since then, he was quick to rise up and gave some wonderful songs, a lot of them for A.R. Rahman. His acting remains pedestrian, but the stint helped his mimicry skills. Not many know, but he is a superbly talented mimicry artist — often mimicking singers from Adnan Sami and Kailash Kher to Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Uthup.
He has some superb songs in Meenaxi, Bose – The forgotten hero and his recent album, Classically Mild. Besides these sporadic gems, he has been largely disappointing.
This is where regional cinema steps in. Few Hindi music directors could give him a challenge, and singing in an alien language is in itself some effort. I’m not surprised that he has done well there, while not butchering the language, as other ‘outsiders‘ often do.
I’m posting some songs of his non-Hindi songs — judge for yourself.
First, HirwA Nisarga from NavrA MAzA NavsAchA. Note how he sings the ‘cha‘ (as in ‘chamcha‘ — the Marathi word, not Hindi). The language isn’t seamless, but I am not sure if someone who doesn’t speak Marathi often can do any better.
This also reminds me of an anecdote related to the song Ashwini Ye Na (the video is hilarious — mostly unintentional), Kishore Kumar’s only (?) Marathi song. Kishore Kumar was terrified of singing in Marathi (not because of the MNS — they were infants then), because he could never get the pronunciation of ‘cha‘ right. He agreed only after Sachin, the director, and the lyricist assured him that his lines wouldn’t use the syllable ‘cha‘. I went through it fleetingly, and it seems true.
Back to Sonu Nigam, he has been active on the Kannada circuit lately, starting with the 2006 blockbuster Mungaru Male. He also released a Kannada album this year. From the few Kannada songs I heard, this one I liked best : Ninnindale from Milana.
The south-Indian singing style is unmistakable. I asked about the pronunciation to a Kannada-speaking friend : he agreed Sonu Nigam was miles ahead of other non-Kannadiga singers. It wasn’t perfect — which I believe is very hard to achieve — but Sonu Nigam was close.
I still wish his best songs were in Hindi, but I don’t mind following non-Hindi songs in the hope that he might reinvent himself and show his potential — as he did in Classically Mild.
Thanks to Raghu, Srikanth for inputs.
Feel free to write in with other non-Hindi songs of Sonu Nigam.
It is hard to come across a sentence involving Anu Malik that isn’t preceded or succeeded by plagiarism. I too have done that in the past. It is easy for us sitting at a vantage point and unconditionally poke fun. But for once, I’d like to credit the music director for one soundtrack that is arguably his absolute best : Refugee.
Until last week, I had just heard the most popular track — Panchi Nadiyan — which I think is a very good track. I had fleeting listens to the other tracks in the past, but never really thought much of them. While I was travelling last week, I heard the other songs of Refugee closely and I’m thoroughly impressed.
It is tough to point out the best track in the album. It has to be a close call between Panchi Nadiyan, Raat Ki Hatheli Par, Aisa Lagta Hai and Mere Humsafar. The lyrics by Javed Akhtar superbly complement the music and I think he has only gone south after this film’s release in 2000.
The strongest link in the entire album is the melody. Malik has gone beyond creating obvious tunes and riffs to explore the possibilities of longer melodic constructs. Udit Narayan is in superb form and while Alka Yagnik usually annoys me, she is fairly good in this album. Sonu Nigam was at his peak around that time, and it shows.
As far as I know, none of the songs of Refugee have been blatantly plagiarized. So it is a well deserved National Award for Anu Malik and a superb effort — I’ll concede that. Malik has himself to blame for biasing our views. If he hadn’t been such a blatant lifter of tunes, he wouldn’t have to defend every new album of his as awe-riginal in interviews — although I’m not sure if he would’ve been around for as long if he hadn’t pleased his directors and producers by not providing those tracks.
But I have my complaints.
For one, the use of the verse and chorus tunes in musical interludes. This is one most obvious difference between the better music directors like A.R. Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Lo, Amit Trivedi, etc. and the lesser ones like Jatin-Lalit, Nadeem-Shravan and Anu Malik. A song loses out on creativity by using the main tune played on different instruments in interludes — and it is one of the things that annoys me most.
Second, is the obvious arrangement. Malik and his like need to think out of the box when it comes to arrangement. Until that, they can never provide a different sound and will have to rely on melody. Rahman stormed into the industry with both strong arrangements and melody. It is no wonder that others still find it tough to catch up with him.
Anu Malik can be good if he wants, and Refugee only proves it. He is talented too, but then anyone whose name is placed next to Abhishek Bachchan in the credits of a movie directly seems talented.
And I’m back at the vantage point.
Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, a top Muslim body recently declared that Vande Mataram was un-Islamic :
Jamait-e-Ulema Hind or the JEU on Tuesday issued a fatwa against singing national song ‘Vande Mataram’. According to a resolution, Muslims should not sing ‘Vande Mataram’ as its reciting is against the Islam.
The resolution, which was passed at the Deoband national convention meet, says that Muslims should not sing ‘Vande Mataram’ as some verses of the patriotic song are against the tenets of Islam. The JEU leader said that the some of the line in the song is against Islam.
When I read this, I knew this was headed to be something special. You guessed it right, I immediately went to the corresponding Rediff article to read the comments.
With over 550 comments in less than a day, this is marvelous. Here’s the link. I can safely say the rest of your day has been taken away from you.
Oh yes .. the issue.
I would disagree with it if they forced someone to not sing Vande Mataram. Likewise, I would also disagree with anyone who forces them to sing Vande Mataram. I personally wouldn’t have an issue with anyone as long as they did not force their opinion on others.
I don’t think an A.R. Rahman is going to stop singing Vande Mataram at his concerts after this fatwa.
And the clerics would agree with me that he’s a fine Muslim. So there.
I finally got down to watching Blue, the most-expensive Bollywood movie ever. Most of the reviews have been negative and the audience hasn’t exactly loved this movie.
Which, I frankly, don’t get.
Because this movie is so absofreakinglylute awefreakinlysome and mindfreakinglyblowing that I can’t remember the last movie I enjoyed this much (okay, maybe it was Karzzzzz). You get where this is going, right ?
The actors are going to sweep the Oscars (if the cleaning guys there are fired). The script is going to be preserved in archives for generations. Having already won an Oscar, Rahman’s been there, done that. Watch out for him at the Razzies though.
Without blading you further, let’s jump right into the golden moments that make Blue what it is.
1. Sanjay Dutt, while distributing gyaan about diving (because he is the most super duper awesome diver ever), says,
Diving ke teen golden rules hain
Ek .. Saans kabhi mat rokna.
There are three golden rules of diving.
One .. don’t stop breathing.
Great advice, except for one teeny tiny fact – That is true everywhere.
2. Katrina Kaif is on her first date with Zyed Khan (which reinforces the claim by some that she is indeed stupid). She offers him some assignment that would pay $50,000.
KK : Tum in paison ka kya karoge. (What will you do with this money ?)
ZK (with a cunningly sweet smile) : Hamari future plan karoonga. (I’ll plan our future)
KK : Abhi 12 ghante bhi nahi hue hume mile, already future plan kar rahe ho ? (It’s been hardly 12 hours since we met !)
ZK : Main to pichle 12 ghanton se plan kar raha hoon. Bas tumhare haan ki deri hai. (I’ve already been planning it for the last 12 hours. I’m just waiting for a yes from you.)
KK (shyly,coyly, embarrassingly smiling) : Har baat kehna jaroori nahi hai. (It is not necessary to explicitly say everything.)
You just freaking met him !!!
Here, the right thing to do is pause the movie, enter a sound-proof closet .. and laugh.
3. The guy who credited Katrina Kaif is this movie was out on a social cause, methinks. She has about 20 seconds (okay maybe 57 secs) in the entire movie. Add that she is neither hot, nor cold .. just about at room temperature.
4. The movie attained the rare distinction of having Zyed Khan, Lara Dutta, Rahul Dev and Sanjay Dutt in one frame.
What do you do when you see them in one frame ?
You freakin’ get a pen and paper and take down acting notes !
5. Little Sanjay Dutt (umm .. no double-meaning meant) is diving with his dad, when his dad is stuck under a steel beam and has no chance of surviving. His expressions are a combination of frantically waving and instructing little Sanjay Dutt to head back, lest he exhaust his oxygen.
This is construed by little Sanjay Dutt as, quote, “Aur unhonen mujhe kasam di ke main us khazane ke baare mein kisi se na kahoon” (and he asked me to never ever reveal about the treasure to anyone).
6. What are the sharks doing in the movie ?
They don’t attack anyone, they don’t bother anyone, they don’t even make any noise, they basically do nothing in the entire movie !
Unless it is a metaphor for the Congress, someone please enlighten me what they were doing in the movie.
7. This one’s just for Sanjay Dutt :
Dude, when the bad guy is down on the ground (courtesy a superb punch by you), and is lying next to gun, it’s really okay if you don’t complete the monologue assigned to you.
No, really. That’s okay.
8. This one’s by @alltalk :
Q : Whose acting is the best in Blue ?
A : The sharks.
I rest my case.
Conclusion : Don’t miss this awesome movie. Movies like this come once in a lifetime, as your chances of survival after watching them are bleak.
I was happily working away today when I got this IM from my friend Onkar, “Dude, listen to Dheemi Dheemi at 2:53″. (from the movie 1947-Earth)
By this time, I was pretty sure Rahman must have done something weird there, but I more curious as I seemed to have missed it in my few hundreds hearings of the song. When I finally discovered the hack he made, I was almost kicking myself for having missed this !
Anyway, here is the song. Hear for yourself at 2:53 :
Not all readers are musicians, so here’s a gist of what is going on :
The interlude by Hariharan that starts with “Yeh tera tan badan .. ” is compressed in terms of singing – the singer doesn’t take any beats to relax, which gives a running flow to the song. The lines are recited in immediate succession. Now it’s a 4 beat rhythm going on. After a few such compressed lines, the singer is about to begin with the verse, but now he is singing with the 3rd beat as the sam (first beat of the rhythm). The bass guitar gives this away immediately, because it has a continuous riff, and the singer’s main beat does not coincide with the bass guitar’s. So Rahman cuts the bass riff after 2 beats, and starts with it afresh at the 3rd beat. In effect, the whole rhythm has shifted by 2 beats.
But here’s the catch. The piano riff is left as it is – I still can’t figure out why he didn’t adjust the piano track (my guess is the piano track just slipped away unnoticed. The effect being – the piano riff at the start of the song is reversed by the time it ends. This was how my friend discovered something had gone wrong somewhere in the song.
Rahman is known to play around with beats, like the chorus part of Ghanan Ghanan in Lagaan, so this doesn’t come as a surprise.
But it was immense joy to discover this.
Thanks to Ashish J. for pointing out Shekhar Kapur’s new short film – ‘Passage’. It is based on Swarovski’s Passage, and has music by A.R. Rahman.
This is a marvelous little film, not to be missed. The theme is passage while the plot is open ended and left to the interpretation of the audience. The music by Rahman is refreshing (especially the use of an unlikely instrument for the given setting – sarangi), and we deserve this after Blue.
The winner, though, is the cinematography – the visuals are spellbinding. Never before have I seen a movie where each frame seems like it has been painted by an artist, at leisure, relishing every stroke. It has some very creative use of every aspect of the cinematography – lighting, focus, shape, orientation. You should watch it for the visual effect alone.
The movie is freely available for viewing in HD here. So you don’t really have any excuse to miss it.
Internet speed is one, but I’ll give that only to South Indians.