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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.
Musically, this was a typical year for Bollywood, a few good releases by A.R.Rahman, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and some good newcomers.
Best Film Album (OST)
This was a tough one, but I think I’ll go with Amit Trivedi for the music of Aamir. Let me defend now.
Jodha Akbar was complex, grand and multi-layered, Slumdog Millionaire was something different from Rahman, Rock On was one of the best albums I heard in quite some time (and if not for Aamir would have been an easy choice), Welcome to Sajjanpur was really melodious but very situational at times and Khuda Ke Liye was a great album overall.
About Aamir, it was earthy, it was simple, it was melodious. Heck, at some points it was so raw that it would make an A.R. Rahman cringe at the sound ! But it was very good music, it was different, it was experimental. I still listen to the songs of Aamir almost daily. The sufi number Ha Raham, the folk and earthy Chakkar Ghumyo, the fast Phas Gaya, the experimental Haara and of course the philosophical Ek Lau, which assumed great significance in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks (lyrics and translation here).
You might also want to listen to this song composed by Amit Trivedi for the Mumbai victims.
Best Non-Film Album
This was me was a contest just between Sonu Nigam’s Classically Mild and Rabbi Shergill’s Avengi Ja Nahin, and it was easy to choose Rabbi (review here). His first album was undoubtedly more catchy but Avengi Ja Nahin was deeper. Every song in this album deserves a proper listen and understanding !
Best Song : Bilqis (Jinhe Naaz Hai) (review here).
I do not think anyone would dispute this. This song is one of the reasons why music can be powerful yet subtle.
Best Singing Male : Sonu Nigam in Soona Soona (song here).
Sonu Nigam came back with some brilliant singing in a classical album this year and still managed to hold fort as one of the best singers we have.
Best Singing Female :
I really liked Dominique in Ye Tumhari Meri Baatein from Rock On but I think I will go with Madhushree in Ek Meetha Marz from Welcome to Sajjanpur. I haven’t heard a female playback voice sweeter than hers and you just have to listen to the way she sings this song (that too just one stanza).
First things first :
1. I am not an SRK fan.
2. I will be defending the movie.
A Shahrukh Khan release is like Diwali, Id and Christmas put together for lovers of good cinema and intellectual audiences. It is a celebration of togetherness and oneness like never before. They scout for the best dictionaries out there in the market, put on their cap of bitterness and set out to write a review, in many cases not even bothering to watch it. After all, what more do you want, it is an SRK movie and a Yashraj release. (I haven’t seen so much of activity at Passion For Cinema since Anurag Kashyap decided to blog there one fine day)
My main point being we should be giving credit where it is due. Lovers of independent cinema go all out defending their kind of movies, but the moment you cannot see what is good, it is no longer cinema. It is ego, attitude and superiority thrown in.
Getting to the movie now.
Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is no masterpiece. But considering how many masterpieces we have had from the Hindi film industry if you still went in expecting one, I would rather judge you than the movie.
The movie is entertaining in the first 3/4ths. It does fall in pace towards the end but given the theme, somewhere we had to run into emotional scenes. But to say it is a bad movie is by no means right.
What works :
1. Shahrukh Khan’s Surinder Sahni : A heart-warming and honest attempt at playing a middle aged middle class man. If any other actor would have played it, we would all have gone gaga using a generous sprinkling of hard work, method acting and perfectionist. Either way, I don’t think Shahrukh gets up on a Saturday morning and reads what people think of his acting. He acted when he had to and still acts when he gets a role. The other times, he is just entertaining the audience. (P.S. : Contrary to what you might think, I still maintain the fact that I am not an SRK fan)
2. Vinay Pathak’s Ballu : This guy can do no wrong. Put him in any movie from RGV ki Aag to the original Sholay and he’ll come out trumps. His first scene is probably his best in the movie. The perfect foil to Surinder’s character and in many ways complementary.
3. Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte : A grudge I have against the makers when it comes to this song is that it deserved the climax or some equally important part. I was really disappointed when it came on even before the halfway mark. Visually, it is memorable; musically, it is nothing short of intelligent and the sets, costumes, music, dances they all just work. No one could have sung it better than Sonu Nigam and no one could even come close to Shiamak Davar’s choereography.
Apart from this, newcomer Anushka Sharma doesn’t give any cause to complain. That is an advantage.
What doesn’t work : The remaining songs, the last part of the movie which is slow, some script loopholes, some logical flaws here and there.
Now addressing some points people often used against the movie :
1. How could she not recognize him ? Isn’t that just creative liberty ? They could have roped in Kamal Haasan’s make-up man and narrated stories of how it took long hours to make Raj look different from Surinder, or just take the liberty and move ahead with the story. Either way, this should not be a cause for complain for both non-thinking as well as thinking audiences. I don’t know where the rest belong.
2. ‘Rab’ : Yes there are lot of references to Rab. In fact the portait of the Sikh Guru could as well have been credited in the titles. This could have surely been toned down, including Rab’s influence at the ending. She could have realised it on her own but considering how important Rab is to this movie, obviously he had to show his importance.
If you ask me, it is surely worth a watch once for Surinder Sahni, if not anything else.
And I never said it was perfect. I am just saying it is good.
The much awaited music of Ghajini is out. If I had written this post yesterday, believe me it would have turned out *completely* different. As you guessed it, the music is by A.R. Rahman (Mental Note : Never review a Rahman album for the first 48 hours).
I think Rahman might just have a winner on his hands here. A good overall album after Jodha Akbar (I could never warm up to Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Ya and Yuvvraaj apart from the odd Kahin To and Zindagi). The essence of Rahman is best captured in the slower tracks, and if you go through your playlist for the songs of A.R. Rahman that you still listen to, chances are most of them are the slower numbers. We have that in plenty here (although that doesn’t really guarantee anything).
It is tough to select the best track here. The first song, Guzarish, comes closest to vintage Rahman. Sung beautifully by Javed Ali (of Jashn-e-Bahaara), but the winner here is Sonu Nigam providing the background humming for the full length of the song and yet managing to elevate it to greater heights ! You have to listen to it to know why Sonu Nigam’s name is mentioned in its credits. The mandolin sounds great in this track, almost reminiscent of the Saathiya beginning (and way better than the irritating Tujhe Dekha To piece, which led me to hate the mandolin with a vengeance until I heard U. Srinivas years later).
The second track Aye Bachchu is the one that surprised me, and in a nice way. It is just magic when the background and the foreground shift to the major scale with rhythmic lyrics giving it that extra punch. The rest of this track is about okay.
The third is another slower number, Kaise Mujhe, and another nice slow number you can listen to for a few years with its typical Rahman structure (the beats, vocals and strings all coming along exactly as expected). A damn tough song to sing with notes jumping around and high, but newcomer Benny Dayal impresses with his voice and range. Understandably, the range falls right in the comfort zone of the female lead Shreya Ghosal and she does her part with ease. A piece of advice : DO NOT attempt to sing this this song without adult supervision, especially if you are trying to impress someone.
Now I might not share views about Behka with a few. I think the lyrics and the music blend in perfectly with the theme of the song, especially the start of the stanza (antara) and singer Karthik is truly perfect in every note (and there are quite a few tricky parts) and word.
Now the downsides. The not-so-good track is just the one, Latoo and I am not really going to bother about its details. The second is the naming of the tracks. Whoever thought of Aye Bachchu and Latoo !!
Rahman is back. This time with a bigger orchestra, more grandeur, an Austrian ensemble and a music that is heavily western classical.
I’ll get to the point. Rahman’s albums are never about the fast paced tracks, they are about the slower tracks which we play on for years. That masterpiece is Zindagi, with some beautiful lyrics and sung equally beautifully by Srinivas. DO NOT miss this song. I was done with this album after I heard this song.
In case you are interested, the other good tracks : The first track, which is a rendition of Beethoven’s fifth symphony with a voiceover/introduction of the character Yuvraaj by Salman Khan, and it is thankfully different from this Indian version : Link @ 4:40. Apart from this, Dil Ka Rishta is nice (although sometimes Rahman’s voice is annoying, rare but true), Mastam and Tu Meri Dost Hai keep the album tight. The other 3 are okay.
Happened to watch Welcome to Sajjanpur over the weekend. The movie can be summed up in two words : Shreyas Talpade. You just have to see the scene where he reads the letter sent by Kamla’s husband towards the climax. With an impressive string of very versatile performances in Iqbal, Dor and now this, he is probably very underrated. He can safely be called the acting equivalent of Sonu Nigam (Sonu in singing, before you start throwing stuff at me).
The movie on the whole is a joyride, with all its characters and situations, makes sure that you laugh aloud atleast a dozen times ! And in many respects, the best movie I have seen in a long time. (For people who have seen the Marathi movie Valu, this is like its Hindi counterpart.)
Please do not miss this movie !!
P.S. : Downs : Couple of songs were not needed, but atleast they were trademark melodious Shantanu Moitra tracks.