Accham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada

My post is going to start with a confession . I’ve never been a huge GVM fan – so to speak . I’ve seen all of his movies , liked them in parts , been affected by a few of those moments but I always had the feeling that his movies were set in a La La land that I could never be a part of. And that was because to me the average GVM leads were people I could never relate to.

They are not reflections of the society at large . They are slightly psychotic , slightly eccentric and when faced with ordinary day to day situations , they react in an absolutely unreal way  which makes way for interesting viewing on screen .  Take Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya for instance , it resonated with a lot of people who had been through the turbulence that comes with first love , the angst that comes with heartbreak ,the inability to move on from a break-up and the searing pain that accompanies your life as a result of that. All of us had a friend who had loved and lost in college and the early career years , a friend who loved so deeply but bowed down to society and married elsewhere . But it was not every friend who faced that and it was never the norm. I could enjoy these movies but they never resonated with me and thus I had almost given up on GVM until AYM happened.

in AYM , You have a chubby , jobless MBA graduate who loves his sister’s classmate . She sees him in the buff , he later examines his figure in the mirror and says yeah I looked good but I can lose the belly . He has a posse of friends who are as normal as they come. He has a bike , plans to go on a road trip yet he stays back because Lovreeeee . She comes to his house for a stay and he tries to build a rapport and relationship with her. He wants her to accompany him on the road trip and yet when she arrives out of the blue , he warns her by providing reasons that are a deterrent . There is this lovely scene , where she keeps eating as they ride and he almost rolls his eyes . They are the normal , next door couple you could meet on your next road trip and boy did the first half resonate or what.

Me and the Mr kept chuckling as our minds went hurtling back to our early days when we dated around , where we did nothing but talk , that trip in Rhode Island where we sat in companionable silence watching the sun go over the cliff , the thanksgiving before the wedding where I kept nodding off because my sleep was ruined etc etc etc. GVM takes the entire first half to underscore this normalcy and BAM right in the middle of Thalli Pogathe throws this normal couple into an extraordinary situation that wreaks havoc in their life . The entire second half is about how this boy becomes a man overnight and how he reacts to this new crazy in an extraordinary way and yet GVM underlines this with a tinge of normalcy. There are no songs in the second half because lets face it who would have time to sing a duet when your existence is hanging by a thread or when your friend has been shot at and killed. The leads don’t make moon’s eyes over each other and they don’t seem to be sure or cognisable about what’s happening with them . They are in a nightmare that keeps getting worse and then there is sunlight. The mood is right , the scenes are set up the right way and Simbu has acted his heart out and yet this second half is so problematic that it has almost derailed the movie for most people.

All that you know of Leela Raman comes from the hero’s view and it seems one dimensional . You don’t hear Leela in the movie , don’t know if she really feels for the hero and hence you are not able to justify why he does what he does for the longest time . He gets into an accident and confesses his feelings and she abandons him in the hospital and goes home . My father has been hacked to shreds and mother has been shot at she says and he goes in search for her because Lovvreeeeee. Even when they meet at the hospital and afterwards , you don’t know what Leela feels because Leela doesn’t tell us. Even the scene where she confesses her feelings is staged from the hero’s POV. Enakku theriyum he says and we are supposed to accept it as a valid justification for the scenes that went past – only that it becomes even more difficult to do that. The movie is about this man called ‘R’ what happened in his life and how that affected him and he is almost always myopic in the way he narrates that and therein lies the film’s strength and weakness. Take for instance the scene where his friend asks R ” If you think you were dying , won’t your parents and friends come to your mind first” and R says ” Yeah I remembered them in flashes but what mattered to me at the point was Leela” and you understand that this guy is myopic in the way he views things . What we see is his retelling of the things that happened so far , the things that are going to happen and its like ek haath ki taali , almost , because he is not narrating each and every moment and he has no way to delve into his lady’s heart. But it is an honest narration and Simbu is terrific as the narrator . He has gained oodles of weight , has lost his good looks , has a beer belly that he doesn’t hide and has finally learned to emote with his eyes. Its almost as if the career slumps he has faced has made him into this no nonsense actor who is here to do his job and he has aced his brief. Manjima is lovely as Leela but given the fact that Leela is told from R’s POV there is very little substance to her – if only GVM added a few extra minutes to flesh her out and if only towards the end Leela and R lived a fairly normal life – him as an IT consultant in a faraway country recounting this incident over a drink in a pub to his friends with Leela by his side but R’s name is Rajinikanth and with a name like that he has to become a cop , get posted to the villain’s precinct and kill him , we feel shortchanged. Next time GVM , name this new normal hero of yours Karthik and give us more tales about the normal.

The King has departed…

I was at a birthday party this evening. As we were toasting the birthday boy , my phone beeped and there was a tweet from a friend that MS Viswanathan , the legend was no more. I became numb for a second and then life moved on. I was asked if I knew the man personally and I replied with an emphatic yes ( and then added – through his music)

He was introduced to me through my mother.Amma employed her repertoire of MSV songs to put me to sleep ,  feed me and to get me do anything that she wanted me to , when I was but a mewling babe . The Vivid Bharti and All India Radio fan that she was , I guess she wanted to share her joy of music with me. Soon enough I had an MSV song for every routine in my short life. Malarndhu Malaradha indicated my nap time. Chittu Kuruvi muttham koduthu indicated the much dreaded bath time ( and I had quite an aversion to this lovely song because of that). kadhalikka neramillai , Anbe Vaa , Server Sundaram, Pudhiya Paravai and so many of his lovely albums went on to mark milestones in my life.

And then all of a sudden I stopped listening to him . I don’t know why that happened but his songs became unpalatable compared to a Raja or Rahman. I kept discovering new music and kept moving away from MSV and TKR until one fine day in 2008 , MSV came back to my life with the soft wind on a balmy sunday night. Tired and Cranky , I was on the way home from the cognizant office and FM 93.5 decided to play paarvai yuvarani from sivantha mann and I was hooked again.

MSV became my companion on those tired journeys home , the late night graveyard shifts and saturday implementation support. His songs on a balmy stuffy night was a stress reliever and as I kept moving from goal to goal from moment to moment  his songs remained a constant companion. I had his entire discography in my iPod and depending on my mood I used to hit shuffle on a particular playlist.

He was there with me in New York and as I boarded the train towards Connecticut , leaving behind my fiancé of few hours , my iPod brought up anbulla maanvizhiye. I remember laughing at the co-incidence , wiping away the tears from my eyes while my co-passengers wondered if I had gone crazy .

These are just a few MSV moments from my life – There have been many many more and there will be many many more. The king of melodies has indeed departed but his music will stay on and enrich souls …

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