Bombay ki Baat Karen toh ….

Bombay is a fascinating city and the Bombay of 1960s all the more fascinating because of the transitional phase the city was going through. A lot of things were happening in Bombay in the 60s – the jazz scene , gentrification , migration . A city undergoing metamorphosis would make for a fantastic movie provided someone could spin a cohesive narrative from the chaotic happenings and therein lies Bombay Velvet’s problem.

Take Mistry and Khambatta , the childhood friends each running a magazine. Khambatta is    the gay capitalist , who has risen above genteel poverty . In a masterstroke , his character  is explained in a few words ” maine woh sab kiya jo kisi khambatta ne nahi kiya. Mistry on the other hand has married into property. Both men have sacrificed and gambled to build their fortune and fight on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Khambatta of the old money wants the elite ( his elite too) to control the economy and change the face of the city whereas Mistry , him of the new money talks about equality , help for the mill workers.  Their point of contention – an incriminating set of photos about a minister. Khambatta has his pawns Hiral and Johnnie to click his photos and Mistry sends his mistress Noronha to retrieve them . Both of them want to control the situation and force the outcome in their favor but are reluctant to get their hands dirty. This is a storyline that would make a hit. Plot this ” fourth estate” type narrative against the 1960s film and it screams blockbuster.

And then the love story , the fragile Rosie and Johnny who is quick to anger . In one of the telling moments of the film , Rosie sings naak pe hai gussa , sitting in a bathtub. Johnny comes home and she stops singing – perhaps she is guilty of romanticizing the angry outbursts (and probably abuse)of her man. He slaps her and she slaps him back. She loves him enough to give up singing and he does not love her enough – There in a dingy hotel room , cornered by adversaries and adverse situations ,she begs him to leave his plans and plots and run away. He refuses and she runs out , only to become a bait to draw him to his  death and there are those incredible push and pull moments between them.

The two narratives would have been great – provided they were made as two different movies. Kashyap combines these two narratives and they just don’t mesh. To me the movie struggled in finding the right balance between these two . The first half focuses on the conflict between khambatta , Mistry and the second half is dedicated to the love story making the balance go off kilter , and tragically the movie never recovers from this faux pas.

That said , it’s not a bad movie and has its moments of brilliance . There are fantastic performances within the film be it Karan Johar , Satyadeep Mishra or Manish Chaudry. There is that sizzling chemistry between Ranbir and Anushka. There is the jaw dropping music , taking the story forward , segueing with the situation and characters. I loved behroopia , sylvia , darbaan and I wanted to pause , rewind and watch dhadaam dhadaam again ( never mind I was sitting in a theatre ) cos I loved the way the narrative was mentioned in puzzle pieces.  I loved how the characters were named too – Rosie for she looks at the rosier aspects of life . Balraj , the brawny guy with little brain and then he gets that Johnny epithet added ( johnny come lately anyone ?).

This is not lazy filmmaking by any stretch – you can perceive that quite clearly when you watch the movie. I just felt that with separate narratives the movie would have worked better . May be years later , Kashyap would sit at the editing table , work on the footage he captured and give us those two movies about Bombay – but until then , I will love this movie flaws , warts and all for this is a labour of love . You might be bored , be disappointed with the jarring narrative , but you will take a piece of Bombay with you when you go back from the movies…..

OK Kanmani – Not a review.

There is always that one song that lovers and newly weds can always identify with and I bet my money that in 2015 this song would be naane varugiren – a cracker jacker of a composition set in darbari kanada. It is often said that darbari kanada is the most apt raga to be played in the dark hours of the night , its richness enveloping you in comfort and enriching its emotion. As the song continues to play , I can’t but wonder what a masterstroke this has turned out to be . A song that heralds two minds and bodies coming together , set in a raga that is apt for the night , elevating the words of vairamuthu to a high. As Sasha starts serenading her man , the continuum thrums and leads to the whiffs of Sarangi/Esraj and sets the stage for the seduction of our aural senses.The seven (Not quite)beat tala adds to the urgency and When Satya Prakash responds with the chinanjiru line , the song takes a beautiful deceptive sojourn into jaunpuri and steps back into the darbari kanada domain , this time accompanied by synth and strings. The percussion reminds me of a train lulling one’s body to sleep , the raga the uber comfy blanket and I wake up with dismay as the song ends – boy 6 minutes never seemed this short.

Malargal Ketten reminds me immediately of vaishnava janato – in tune that is. Then the Kanjira steps in to weave a gentle web of joy with KS Chitra’s voice . The flute doesn’t want to be left out and joins in as Chitra whips those swaras into splendid shape. The tanpura is then heard – silent until then , she marks her presence and gives way to strings and jathis – boy quite an embellishment this song has. Behag is always so lovely , no matter what and with all these embellishments it sparkles and sparkles and sparkles and then ARR joins in with a surprising cameo. I’ve never known that this man could render a tamil krithi ( for lack of other descriptions) so beautifully.

Where the father shines , the son couldn’t be left far behind right? AR Ameen steps in with a cover of maula wa salim – his voice ringing with honesty and innocence. This simple prayer brings you peace and calm.

Parandhu sella va is almost an acapella and scintillatingly so. Karthik hums away to glory making ur feet tap to the beat. Karthik and Sasha are at their sensual best imbuing that naughtiness ( if u know what i mean ). And then like the sudden speed breaker on the smooth expressway , the singers break into an aalap on the hindolam detour and you go ada – doesn’t it sound similar to singaravelane deva at this place or oh there is this nod to varaayo vennilave.Oh and its a karthik – ARR song after ages and this man can sound really romantic and make hearts skip beats.Oh and the violins and Pararirarithaaaaaaa – and I can no longer write about the song cos I want pull my man into a dance before the song ends.

And the second Karthik song starts with chords and flute and a weird name ( who would ever call their kid or lover sinamika . What does that word mean Duh? ). Nee ennai neengathe begins and all the ennui flies away and boy this vairamuthu is one young guy in his mind – he has this absolute gamut of words to describe a woman.The strings and the chorus build the song into a crescendo mid way and I imagine Nitya Menon with her hair out in the wind riding pillion behind the hero on the bike. ( yes I am that crazy about the cliche) . Before I forget , the guitars and the drums deserve special credit . I was on a drive today , playing this song on the stereo and did this song sound awesome or what and the subtle sea board – ecstasy personified I say.

Mental Manadhil is the standard issue Mani – ARR love song. I found nothing great about it the first time and the song hasn’t grown for me – despite the play count in my iPod. But the female version of the song has a few variations and creates quite an impact. Jonita sounds ever so playful and I adore the way she pronounces taka taka , okay et al. She renders “like a like a laila Laila ” oh so differently and that just lifts the song with the male chorus – and orchestral work is kept simpler and smoother compared to the male version.I have a hunch that the leading lady is some one who is a singer cos Jonita gives those ever slight brighas and sangathis when she renders a western tune.

Theera Ula is meandering – its theera la after all and boy how radically different does sound. I love love love the drums and the singers render the words as if it will pain the words if any more stress is applied. I discovered sitar behind all those drums and chorus and how joyful did I feel! Darshana kicks in with her portions rendered like a carnatic musician and the veena underlines her words beautifully. No one aces fusion like Rahman does and boy this song gives a jil feeling to my ears.

Kaara Aatakaara was the song I heard in the trailer and what a melange – the rap like a malayali boat song ( pardon me u mellus) , the chords , drum and then the refrain – very very interesting and catchy. I played it all evening trying to categorize this and nope I haven’t been able to nail it until now.

Now Mani Ratnam Sir , you have yet again , a so very beautiful soundtrack from ARR. Indha murai paathu picturize pannungo 😛 ( please please don’t ruin the picturization)…

Sandi Kudhirai and Serenading mogana

Imagine songs having personas ,imagine they have feelings –  imagine that  Vishwanathan vela venum and nadodi poga venum ododi met each other at dinner , fell in love , eloped and had a baby who was put on a crack / dope diet – imagine all this and you end up with “Sanda Kudhirai” the new sensation from Rahman’s newest soundtrack .

A goat bleats pitifully , the koel coos , the horse neighs and then Haricharan starts crooning to the Congo drums . The accordion and the Congos  then take a backseat and let the vocalists take over up until the first interlude . Come the interlude , they take the center stage and steal the stage. You start nodding your head to the beats and stop as soon as the various yaanai kuttis , poonai kuttis , aatu kuttis , aandha kuttis, maan kutti and muyals make an appearance . All these animals then join you in the dance , where you serenade an imaginary Mohana who laughs at your dancing skills.

The animals then start making these weird noises and the xylophones soon join in. You soon start stalking the imaginary lady as she walks off in anger . You jump , hop and trip , all in the pursuit of the lady , lost in the beauty of the song. Soon the lady too trips thanks to the beauty of the song and you catch up.

All her indignation is lost on you as you are lost to the song – the animals and the chorus catch up with you soon and you see them off to the zoo and mental asylum as the song ends on a pulsating crescendo

They say songs that captivate you are pretty rare. Songs that captivate you and paint strong visuals as you grasp the beauty of the song are rarer. Sanda Kuthirai belongs to the latter quality . As I looped the song again and again and again , I could visualize yesteryear heroes from the eastman era serenading their ladies with their smiles and steps . I could visualize the merry making that probably happened in the recording session as easily as I could visualize MSV , ramamoorthy , valee and kannadasan nodding with approval at this effort. Rahman knocks the song off the park and people all over the world hail mogana.

She came , She saw , She captured and She won – All hail Mogana the new beauty.

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Gzhand and his girls

No Reader – this is not a post about Gzhand’s numerous girl friends. This is also not about his Krishnaleela (not the movie , but his offscreen shenigans , if one may call it that ). This is not about a DD or beedi wanting a chumban from him and this is not about his so called famous kissing scenes – and for the fans of his creation er daughters , this is not about the baby Gzhands . This is about the women in his filmy creations – women who are empowered and brainy yet surprisingly belittled.

It is indeed a fact that in order to become a superstar in the tamil cine industry , one has to pander to the male chauvinistic attitude prevalent in the tamil society. The hero is an all encompassing entity in his movies and his leading lady will almost always fall for him ( not the other way around) despite his shortcomings – his education , economical and social background , looks et al. She is expected to defer to him – and after being chastised for being rude , uncultured ( never mind that he speaks rowdy tamil and she convent English , never mind that he is poor , uneducated and uncouth and she well-off , well mannered and cultured as per her background) ends up swapping her louboutins for hawai , her louis vitton bags for manjappais , her cool dresses for cotton sarees and enjoys her happily ever after in a hovel , fending for her man and his whims , fancies and drunken binges.

For a long time I was a girl in la la land when it came to tamil movies – I whistled for MGR films , enjoyed the great Rajnikanth’s punch lines

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Jaisi mile ajnabi…. my take on Madras Cafe , Shantanu M’s latest

There are some people who are known for their volume of work and there are others who are known for their quality of work. Shantanu Moitra , definitely falls into the latter category in my humble opinion. His recent work in films like paanch adhyay and aparajita tumi stands evidence to this fact and his latest soundtrack for Madras Cafe adds to the credibility of his stellar reputation.

Electric guitars and strings give lead to Papon in the simple and stunning Sun Le re . The song has minimalistic orchestra work involving strings and drums while the lovely sarangi playing peekaboo in the interludes enchants one and all. The tune is further embellished by the stunning string work which includes splendid carnatic music riffs.The song also has a reprise version , which to me sounds like a pale version of the original. The tempo is faster than the original and the arrangements are the same , yet the feel of the original seems lacking.That said the interlude of the reprise dominated by the guitar is something quite striking.

To round off Sun Le starts off as an anthemic number and grows into a completely different creature while the reprise has a stunning interlude which grabs one’s attention and holds it However one tends to forget all this as ajnabi ( which BTW is the best song of the album IMHO ) starts playing.

Guitars and great collaborators are mainstays of any Shanatanu Moitra soundtrack and more often than not , this powerful combination results in an intoxicated concoction which never fails to captivate. In the days to come Ajnabi will definitely be hailed as such. Featuring Zeb of the famous Zeb-Haniya duo on vocals , and a lonely acoustic guitar ajnabi is that number that one would hum on a friday evening thinking about missed chances and memories of days gone by.One can’t help but close ones eyes and sink into the song as the pipes and the faint accordion join the guitar and Zeb to bring the screen down on the song. The eyes open as the song ends , gently and smooth and one hits the play button again to soak in the feel.

If the electric guitars captivated in Sun Le , the electric violins leaves one spell bound in Khud Se. The song which is dominated by the lovely piano and the electric violin in the interludes  is helmed by Papon who charts his course quite well.If I have one complaint with the song , its that the electric violins could have been given a greater part to play.

The soundtrack also has a considerable instrumental portion with 4 instrumental tracks. The first of these , the titular Madras Cafe (theme 1) , has a celtic feel and features some splendid string work , including the mesmerizing violin.  The choral portions when featured are non obtrusive and add to the charm of the song.Just Like Sun Le Re , this theme has a second version , which features only the violin and boy what a difference the violin makes. At 3 min and 16 sec , this piece  is a showstopper , and nothing short of it.

Shantanu compensates for the lack off violins in Khud se in entry to Jaffna , which at 1 min and 7 sec , is the shortest instrumental piece but this short track is to me the most effective piece from a background perspective with the violins depicting the political unrest and urgency of Lanka with their intense yet discordant co-ordination.

The Soundtrack is brought to a fitting end with conspiracy , whose key attractions are the string work and the vocal segments rendered perfectly by Monali Thakur.The electric violins make yet another appearance and close the proceedings with aplomb.

To Summarize , Madras Cafe is yet another feather in Shantanu’s cap – one which tickles all the right musical bones .

PS : I personally believe the buying original music is the greatest acknowledgement one can make to the one who creates it. This album definitely deserves the honor and is available for purchase at : https://itunes.apple.com/in/album/madras-cafe-original-motion/id684217378

The Raanjhanaa Distraction!

The Release of an AR Rahman soundtrack is like a festival for his fans . Rahmaniacs like self liken it  to being served with a feast after starving for a week. The wait for the album gets even more desperate when the music company decides to go for single releases. With the case of Raanjhanaa , the desperation , wait and the gamble seems to have paid off as the album is a winner. The songs hit your soul , creating an impact which will last forever and leave you smiling .This is not the review of the OST , and not a critique either. What this post is , is an acknowledgement of the sheer musical genius of  a stalwart and a nod to a director who knows how to get the best out of the said stalwart. Before you start reading further , I should warn you about disjoint sentences , abrupt exclamations and high number of spoilers – for reader , I am still listening to the songs on a loop as I write this !

You know you are in for a winner when a brilliant Sarangi wafts in followed by lilting percussion (the tic tic tic sound , kartal may be), mild strings and the ever dependable tabla – all within the first 20 seconds . That the song stars the ever dependable Shreya Ghoshal and the splendid flute (Naveen) is a very welcome addition. Banarasiya has super hit written all over it. Shreya Ghoshal nails her brief and I am sure that the lady will have a slew of award nominations this year , for this splendid outing.The Sarangi , flute and tabla set a sedate pace for Shreya and co to showcase their talents and cometh the interlude – the tabla hands the baton over to dhol even as you are blinded by the brilliance of the flute. The Dhols take center stage at this point and takes us through the latter half of the song which is equally brilliant. The bits and pieces of strings , the muffled kanjira and the thavil (not sure) vie for your attention even as Shreya lures you with her voice and you keep discovering more every time you repeat the song.

Rahman can hardly go wrong when it comes to sufi . Team him up with Irshad Kamil and you have a winner. Get Sukhwinder to render the vocals , and you have a classic . Piya Milenge is a classic example of a sufi ace from the Maestro. Right from the piano , violins and the backing vocal support from KMMC Sufi Ensemble – Rahman gets every thing right The sound of the ghungroos , the tabla and strings provide ample support to Sukhwinder , who hits the ball out of the park with his rendition.KMMI sufi ensemble shine equally and the segment from 2:04 – 2:40 where they take center stage is captivating to put it simply.The lesser said about this song  the better as the divinity and the musical brilliance deserve to be experienced rather than being read about. It was quite difficult for me to move on to the next song , as I kept hitting the replay button for quite a few hours. Raanjhanaa may have nine songs , but when one thinks of a stunner , Piya Milenge is the only song which comes to mind.

Aye Sakhi is rendered by an all female quartet – but Madhushree is the one voice which I could recognize very easily. I am sure I can recognize the other voices with multiple replays , but at the moment Madhushree is the one which comes to mind – for her spotless rendition. A fun song , along the lines of naina milake , this one makes for an engrossing listen and the verbal embellishments added by the maestro add to the masti element.I’ve been going tyu tyu tyu pe pe pein all over the house – so much so that the room mate has threatened to take away my sennheiser earphones and shut my mouth up with tape if I repeat it another time 🙂

Nazar Laaye sounds like a left over from Jhoota hi Sahi at the first listen . Is it because of Rashid Ali’s fluid vocals ? I am not sure and I do not want to take that road. Nevertheless , the song grows on you – thanks to Neeti Mohan , Rashid and the guitars ( Kebah Jeremiah – am not sure on this too). Nazar Laaye might not be the stunner that Piya Milenge is . It does not grab your attention and make you speechless neither does it make you wax lyrical.It eats you heart little by little and only when  you start swaying to the guitars you realize that this melody has taken hold of you.

Tu Mun Shudi to me has an RDB air about and I mean it in the best way possible.The percussion , the part-techno , part desi string work , the shenai and Rabbi’s vocals scream energy and wow what an energy pack this number proves to be.Rahman and Rabbi provide a fitting reply to the criticisms received for their earlier collaboration and  fans can feel relieved for the fact that Aanand Rai has better sense of music  when it comes to Rahman. Tu Mun Shudi is one number which will play on my music system if I end up taking the cross country trip I’ve been wanting to for a while.

ARR dons the singing hat again for the jazzish Aise Na dekho – a song which has vintage written all over it. The strings are a winner and the accordion makes a lovely cameo yet again . The whistle and the accordion in the interlude are soon going to become a rage and while this is not the best song of the album , this is the loveliest.

Land of shiva is all about percussion. The Damrus , the holy chants and the tinkling bells take you back to the 16th century Kashi in all it’s glory preparing for maha arthi. Short and impactful , Land of Shiva will serve to be a superb visiting card to Benaras where the movie is based.

Raanjhanaa is one of the two songs which were released as singles. Much has been talked about the Shenai and the singing featured in the song on which I’ll take a pass. What i’ll focus on is the strings you hear in the background and the sitar which appears in a cameo and takes your breath away. I do not know who played the Sitar , but whoever did merits a special merit. The kinikinis , the shenai motifs and the dholaks pale in comparison to that sitar and just for that Sitar , I’d sing Raanjhanaa hua main tera 🙂

Last , but not the least comes Tum Tak – the song which released first , the song which drew a lot of flak for the composition , the song I fell n love with almost immediately. The kinkinis , the strings , piano and sholkis providing ample support to Javed Ali , as he worships his lady love like a goddess. The shenai in the interludes give lead to the female vocalist Pooja AV mesmerizes one and all with her lovely voice. The song shifts into a bhajanish pace when Javed goes into the Nainon ki baant leja phase making you go Ada.

And thus ends my take on Raanjhanaa – which has completely erased the blemish that JTHJ had created in my mind. It is an album that belongs in the league of other classics like Delhi 6 and rockstar and Anand Rai deserves a pat on his back for giving Rahman full freedom and for his musical sense.

Rahman and Rai – Take a bow please !

PPS : Isn’t  Dhanush a lucky bugger ? Nothing for 13 years and then two back to back masterclass albums from ARR .

Maryan – The deep and mysterious ocean…..

If there is a musical equivalent of magic , it should be Allah Rakha Rahman’s music . This may not be the universal truth , but it does sound true when one listens to some of his soundtracks which deserve to be called classics. This evening when I laid my hands on Maryan’s OST – I had a question on whether it will be magic to the ears . It took some time for me to get my answer , but once I had it , i felt it had to be shared and hence this blogpost.

Nenje Ezhu kicks off with chords and percussion which remind you of Rahman’s earlier works . The man himself takes center stage thereafter to sing about eternal hope , a hope which is born out of divine love. The song talks of never ending hope and eternal love and the superb lyrics make you repeat the song again and again and again. As ARR croons kadhal endrum azhivathillai , the song reaches it’s crescendo and takes you another world – a world where fairy tales come true. Yet this song is not without glitches. The tune has a heard before feel which I couldn’t shake off and I felt that the pronunciation of the inspirational words could have been better. That said , the flaws seem minor when compared to the feel of the song.

Innum konja neram is true to its words. By the time the song ends you wish that the song could have lasted longer , that lovely it is. The ghatam , accordion and the flute create a lovely menage e trois , which becomes all the more lovely thanks to the fantabulous lyric and the superlative singing by Vijay Prakash and Shweta Mohan. As the song goes on , one is taken back in time to a journey in a bullock cart , with the lovely bells from the bull’s anklets ringing in your ears .The singing , tune and the orchestra work is so very reminiscent of MSV , so much so that one wonders if this is ARR’s tribute to the maestro. The song clocks 5 minutes and 14 secs , yet once the song ends , you wonder why the song was short. Innum Konjam Neram Irunthathan enna indeed.

Vijay Prakash is on a roll these days. He completely pwns Innum Konjam Neram with his Hariharan-ish rendition and nails down the brief completely with Netru – so much so that , when one listens to this songs with eyes closed , his rendition reminds one of a young K.J yeshudas in superlative form. Vijay creates magic with the mellifluous tune , Chinmayi and the orchestral work adding to the glory. The orchestral work is very minimal but sweeping – like a banked fire , if one can call it that. In a matter of hours , this song has become a favorite and to me its one of the best songs of the OST , if not the best – you know you’ve hit pay dirt when you listen to a song for 30 minutes on loop.

Sonna Pareeya is the masala song of the album , if one can call it . To me it is that song of the album , where people take a break from the analysis and just go ho hum to the tune. To me it is one of the weakest song of the album and sounds almost like a kuthu song. What redeems the song is that nayanam in the interludes and the guitar work in the background in addition to the orchestral work. May be it’s because the song appears after two killer melodies , it didn’t stick with me at all.

Sakthisree Gopalan sure can make a living out of angsty tracks . She is almost as heavenly as she sounded in Nenjukulle and it is her singing which redeems the song along with the splendid tune and superb string work. Just like Aditi Paul’s version of ayyayyao was called a lady and the violin , Enga Pona can be called the Siren and the guitar – as they are the only things that stay with you even after the song ends.What works against the song are the horrendous lyric – wonder if the lyricist was not paid enough or on time , to turn in such third grade work .That said , a superb sophomore effort from Sakthisree.

Africa can as well be used by Africa’s tourism department or by the African Cricket team – cheenu mama able and willing. Blaaze collaborates with AR Rahman after a long time and ends up creating an almost Carribean sounding visiting card for the African Continent.One need not be an oracle to know that this song will be placed when the titular character lands on Africa and the song may sound better with Visuals.

Last but not the least comes Kadal Raasa. When I heard that yuvan had sung this number for AR Rahman , I thought it was prone to be a disaster but Yuvan surprises ( with or without processing) and how ! Kadal Raasa is all about a man’s yearning for his land and roots. The nadaswaram makes an appearance yet again and segues infinitely with the percussion work which goes on to take center stage.The lyrics are again crafted beautifully and give away the titular character’s feeling and condition and an inkling of the story. The song is a keepsake , just for the nadaswaram in the interludes , which stays in one’s mind hours after one is done listening to the song. While Kadal Raasa is not the best song of the album , its not the worst either and may be could have sounded better had Velmurugan sung it as initially planned.

To sum up , Maryan is not the masterclass that kadal was but its not mediocre like Jab Tak hai Jaan. What it is , is the musical equivalent of magic , thanks to innum konja neram , netru and yenga pona raasa.