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Dear Srinath,,

Dear Srinath,

Or should I really begin with dear Javagal , for to me there are two of you out there – Srinath , the mild mannered instrumentation engineer and Javagal , the wily , menacing pace bowler who used to outthink and outsmart the best batsmen on their day.

My first memory of you is from that titan cup match against Australia where you and Kumble fought against the odds like two clumsy circus fools finding their way through the tight rope. I think it was a few months after the 96 world cup and I had by then been firmly addicted to the siren song thats cricket. I don’t remember much about the match except for Sachin’s 88 and your partnership. I remember elders in my family joking that your families were probably chanting slokas nineteen to the dozen hoping that your luck continued to shine and took us across the finish line. I now realize that it was not luck but sheer determination that got us home that day.

My next memory of you comes from that Ahmedabad test few months later where I pleasantly surprised by the score card reading 0-2 thanks to you. I later learned that you were reverse swinging the ball that day , which is a skill thats still largely mastered only by our feuding neighbors. You became my hero after that spell but then you got injured the next year and fell of my pedestal which has been largely occupied by Rahul Dravid ever since.

I now understand that the 1997 injury was scary and that when you came back , you were not the bowler you were thanks to the Injury. At least this is what I keep hearing from peers and fellow cricket nuts at college . The next three years are frankly a blur. You missed quite a few matches but when you did play there were quite a  few good memories here and there  – A five for against New Zealand , the 200th wicket at Sharjah (?)  and then that comeback to the Indian side for the champions trophy final against Srilanka that was rained out. I still remember your figures from that first rained out final . You went for 6 odd runs and I was like no way this oldie is going to South Africa but prove me wrong you did and in such a spectacular way that I was forced to eat my words until that day in March about a year and half ago when you and Zaheer went bust against Australia. Maybe I should not have worn that India Jersey that day. If I hadn’t may be Javagal would have come out and made the opposition cry. But Javagal didn’t come back. He pulled up his boots eight months later without bowling a single ball after that final.

I have since gone back and read about the previous games. I’ve talked to my dad and my peers who have sung paens to you and have told me how effective you were in overseas conditions. They lament that you were overworked and you let yourself be abused in such a manner for the better of the country and they hope and pray that the same won’t happen to Zaheer ( who has come back from an injury)

Today , we won a test match in Bombay and Zaheer Khan bowled 8 overs and got two wickets and that was the extent of his spell. I wonder how many overs you would have bowled had you played today. I don’t know . I had no chance of knowing because you retired less than a year ago and I guess I will forever hold it against you for not avenging that defeat to Australia in South Africa .

I guess Zaheer will have to do it for you. He is not the experienced statesman that you are , not yet anyway. He is a left arm pace bowler  and you are a right hander. He was the terrific understudy and hunting partner but you were the elder statesman and the kingmaker. He leaked a lot of runs during that World Cup final and you leaked a lot of runs during that World Cup Final. However only one of you will play the 2007 world cup in the land of the calypso.

They tell me Zaheer is also an instrumentation engineer like you. They reassure me that Zaheer will grow and become better. They say that he has an abundance of natural talent that you lacked in and that they will write calypsos about Zaheer as he swings his heart out on our way to the final. That image makes me smile. I hope to god that statement comes true. I hope that Australia will make the final in 2007 , I hope and pray that we do too and in that final I hope for Zaheer to get those wickets and then thank you and say “This is our revenge” – and somewhere in the calypso that is written for Zaheer Khan , I wish for a line or two about you , praising your talent and lamenting the fact that it was recognized only when you were gone too long.

PS : Someday I hope to meet you. In my head it is always at a place bustling with people moving frantically , going about their day to day lives , like an airport lounge or a coffee shop.You would be going through your motions too , no longer the wily bowler who nearly won us a world cup . I will approach you with caution and introduce myself as a fan and then say “Thank you! Thank you for going on when the rest of us didn’t bother to acknowledge you . Thank you for going there and bowling your heart out and thank you for making sure we have fast bowling riches to be proud of.” and then I will walk away with the satisfaction of a fan who finally got the chance to acknowledge your feats and pay her dues.

PPS : Except for the postscript , this blog post was written sometime in November or December 2004 , after a test match win against Australia in Bombay . The only edits I did today was to correct the tenses used and update my dreadful punctuation.  When I wrote this blog post I did know about the pre 96 Srinath, but not a lot  and I did not know that Zaheer would become the great he did. I also did not know that we would fizzle out of 2007 WC the way we did. This post has been languishing in my blogspot drafts for more than a decade until a photo of Srinath shared by Sachin , nudged me along and made me revisit this . I am posting this unedited , as @ungaaya asked me to. I will probably publish a revised version later , adding to the pre-96 Srinath era that I am familiar with now thanks to youtube , ten cricket and all that Jazz. I will also edit the post for the things that have happened since Nov-Dec 2004.

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 .