96 – A conversation

Love can be one-sided but a love story always has two sides. A man and a woman will have different things to say or have different ways to say things , at least in real life.

That , unfortunately is not the case when it comes to our films. More often than not , you have a man fantasizing about how he would like a woman to respond and 99 times out of 100 the response will be in a tone that that borders the servile. Women do write beautiful lyric but they don’t get the same space or footing and therefore their voices get drowned out in the din. Thankfully , 96 breaks the precedent . The album is nothing but a conversation between a man and woman on equal footing , where their views are given equal space and importance.

Karthik Netha waxes lyrical about love in Anthaathi , elevating the emotion to an omnipresent entity . To him , love is a dance that your mind and heart indulge in as you go about the world , a never ending search that remains your constant companion through life , adapting to you as you change to the rules and roles dictated by love. In Thaabangale , Uma Devi picks up from where Karthik left off . Love and desire have a form and shape she says . They tell their own story she adds , a story in which the racehorse of time takes you to that time and place in the past where echoes of a similar desire and love can be felt.

Yaen is a role reversal of sorts where Karthik gives voice to a woman who is clueless and hurting. Look at the way he paints her portrait  by describing her surroundings – The skies are grey , the clouds are missing , life is a puzzle and the path through it is drenched in tears that are prayers to find the missing. Her eyes are searching for him for he has left the city , but the heart keeps dissuading her search as he has forsaken his roots. The imagery is so vivid that you can envision a woman trying to soldier on despite the pain.

Uma Devi , on the other hand compares separation to a wasting spring  and a long stretch of never ending distance among other things. She compares the woman to the waxing moon of love and that comparison immediately took me back to the famous “Veramendrol valai negizhumme koorai thozhi yaan vaazhumaare” lines that speak so eloquently about separation angst. Vasantha Kalangal is all about Chinmayi and that brilliant guitar in the beginning , but once Uma’s lines take hold , they hold your heart in a vice grip and never let you go.

“Indha Thaamarai kulam neeril thani aaguthe. Athan Sooriyan pagal indri veyyil kaayuthe.

Oru paathaiyil iru jeevan thunai thedudhe. Ada kaalangal thadai meeri thadai poduthey. Nee indri naane dhinam vaazhavadhoru vaazhvaa , vaazhve vaa , nee thaan uyirin uyire “

Take a look at the uvamais in Iravingu Theevaai.  Karthik hails love in Anthaathi, and feels that a content life is one where  love is present in some form of other. Uma on the other hand , feels that a life without her lover is worthless , memories and love be damned. Her comparison of the woman to a lotus isolated in a pond sans her life line is poignant . Her comparison of the man to the sun who’s roasting in his own heat amidst the darkness is equally poignant .

If at all Karthik gets an edge , it is in “Life of Ram ” where his words paint the story of the male protagonist , a man who’s learning his lessons late in life . A man who is a slow learner, but keeps learning and keeps moving on. Karthik’s words help us paint a picture of the man and his past , his present and his hopes for future.  In the larger scheme of things though , this piece does not influence the larger conversation and for that I am super happy.

I set out on a mission to write about the music of 96. It is the best soundtrack to have come out of the Tamil Film Industry so far this year. It also has the distinction of having provided the same scope and space to its male and female vocalists . That in itself is a rarity. Govind then goes one step further and sticks with a single male voice and a single female voice for a major part of the soundtrack. The tunes are lovely , the guitar , flute and violin are soulful and dreamy and yet after multiple repeated listenings , it is the lyric that stands at the forefront – so much so that I am unable to look beyond them. One day , I will write about the music and singing for they deserve their own post. Until then , I am going to lose myself in this conversation and its words.