12.30.2005

Spirit of Lagaan



Lagaan is one of my all time favorite movies as I said in one of my recent posts. There is nothing new to say about the movie. It is a proven classic. Ever since I heard about this book called “Spirit of Lagaan”, I was searching for it in every possible way but finally got it through Ebay.com. Satyajit Bhatkal the author of the book is one of the close friends of Aamir Khan who was with him all through the process of making of Lagaan helping him in production works. He also directed a documentary on Making of Lagaan called “Chale Chalo” and won national award for it.

The book may definitely be boring for those who just like the movie. It is for hardest core fans of Lagaan. Also it has nothing to do with the creative process of the movie making. It doesn’t say how the story was written or such a streamlined screenplay is achieved or anything of that sort. It is just about the whole cumbersome process of bringing the Asutosh’s creative genius in paper live on screen and the practical problems they faced for it.

The “Spirit of Lagaan” tells a real story that is more gripping and fascinating than the actual movie. It is all about 1000s of crew and cast of the movie, working hard in every possible way in bringing a dream of a man come true, which of course becomes everyone’s dream later in the process. The book is about dreams, courage, sacrifice, miracle, hard work, determination, optimism, team spirit and above all synergy. He takes us with him for a long journey right from the moment when the seed of Lagaan was sowed in the minds of Asutosh till the movie getting an Oscar nomination. With a high level of observation, he covers almost every important episode of this exciting real life story dated accurately.

The author says that every one involved in Lagaan will have his or her own story to tell but what he registers here is the combined story of all of them together from a different perspective. It is like a superset of all those sub stories, the story that will touch the individual stories of every one involved in the movie making process. The author gives more emphasis on the cultural amalgamation as the movie brings people from various social and cultural backgrounds together. Of course, it really is interesting to know how well they got together to an extent that two of them from the British Cast fell in love and got married in the Champaner village temple set before the entire cast and crew of the movie. And it happened like any other Hindu marriage. It truly reflects the kind of bonding these people had while shooting.

He gives more emphasis on the problems they faced while shooting than the joyous moments. He records everything from thorns in Champaner plains that ached the legs of the cast who have to walk with bare legs (period factor), the extreme heat of the desert to the trouble of production executives in getting 10000 people for first day cricket match shoot in a village that is far away. In the vein, there are lots of interesting trivia about the movie. The final pages of the book is so touching and overwhelming as like the climax of Lagaan. When the book pictures in words about the moment Asutosh got the first feedback call about the movie from her sister from Mumbai, I felt like how I was when for the first time I saw the rain pouring in the climax after they win the match in the movie. The last few pages in my book turned wet as I read through.

Now eagerly waiting for the official DVD release of the movie in India.

12.29.2005

Plagiarism - I am Not Sure.

"Warriors of Heavan and Earth" is the chinese film for which A.R.Rahman wrote a great score fusing indian and western classical elements with traditional chinese music. The album also had an indian release with Hindi version of the Chinese song included.

Oflate, Warriors Of Heaven and Earth tracks are being used in many TV channels. But in this trailer of Kalabha Kadhalan, they have used most of the tracks from this album. But for that i am not sure, how responsible Niru (the music director of the movie) is. We can't say that he has copied from ARR. His Moongil Nila album had genuine and fresh music. I have full faith on him. The marketing people are doing this just to grab the attention of the viewers by giving a grand international sound to the trailers. But the big question is, "Are they doing it with proper rights?".

There are many other examples in recent times, "Vairavan" trailer used "Why?Mr.Anderson" track from Matrix Revolution. For Majaa they used WOHE tracks again. Even for "Kangalal Kaithi Sei" trailer for which A.R.Rahman is the composer, they used a Lord of the Rings soundtrack intially. So, i strongly belive that the composer cannot be blamed for this.

12.28.2005

Missed a Life Time Opportunity



It has always been a dream for me to watch a wstern classical symphony concert live. But when such a life-time opportunity came to Chennai, i missed it for rather silly reasons. Zubin Metha came to chennai to perform three symphonies to raise fund for Tsunami relief measures. It held in Music academy on December 26. Hindu has lot of scoops and image gallery on the concert and also an exclusive interview of Zubin Metha.

In my Must Buy List

Titanic is THE all time favorite movie of mine. Nearly after 7 years of its release a complete special collector’s DVD edition has been released this year with lots and lots of special features. Again, it got released in US and in other major international markets but not yet in India. Eagerly waiting to grab this DVD.

Water Album



Actually I have heard the songs of this album online. It has great melodies from A.R. Rahman. Never heard ARR using very less instruments with great emphasis on melody before except for some songs like “En mel vizhundha mazhai thuli” and “Vellai pookal”. It is a must buy for any hardcore ARR fan. I don't know why they haven't released it yet in India.

Lagaan DVD



I am really surprised to know that VCD and DVD rights of “Lagaan” are not yet sold for Indian market. Lagaan is also THE all time favorite Indian movie of mine. Don’t know what is the problem in releasing it. Even the DCD of “Mangal Pandey” has got released. I expect a complete package DVD for Lagaan like that of Titanic. I hope they would include national award winning documentary “Chale Chalo – Spirit of Lagaan” along with the movie in the DVD. Also director’s commentary would add some value.


Illayaraja Concert DVD

Recently held Illayaraja Concert in Chennai delighted around 10000 hard-core fans of Illayaraja. Now negotiation is going on between ilayarajafans yahoo groups and Jaya TV to release the whole concert in a DVD. And it seems jaya TV has accepted to give the rights. The DVD will definitely be a great treat for all IR fans.

12.27.2005

Rajini in Sivaji

King Kong - Raaja Korangu



If you find my translation of the movie title in Tamil is pathetic, then so is the Tamil dialogues in the Tamil version of "King Kong". I have seen both versions. To an extent, it is understandable if the dialogue writer changes the meaning of the original to match with the lip movements but what the writers have done in King Kong cannot be excused.

In the final scene after the King Kong falls down, one of them in the crowd will say "The airplanes killed the beast" and Carl will say " It is not the planes but the beauty killed the beast". The beautiful one liner at the end of the movie goes dumb in its tamil translation.

This is how our guys have written it.

The guy in the crowd says, "Cityoda nimmadhiyayae ithu keduthiduchu"("It has disturbed the peace in the city").

Carl will say," Athu theevula nimmathiya irundhadhu, naan than athoda nimmathiya keduthutaen"("It lived peacefully in the island, it is me who disturbed it peace by bringing it here").

12.26.2005

Angels and Demons



Heard people saying that “Angels and Demons” is the best of Dan Brown but after reading it I would say, “Da Vinci Code” is still the best of his if we consider the amount of action, adventure, entertainment value and the pace of narration in the novel. If we look at the other way around, based on the content and the moral of the novel, “Angels and Demons” has more insight and thorough analysis on the debate between God (Christianity in specific) and Science than any other book. In fact the hardcore philosophical books so far I have read haven’t dealt this topic in the way Dan Brown has perceived it.

The conversations written based on this debate are highly thoughtful and enlightening. Especially, the Camerlango’s speech to the media about victory of science over God is highly diplomatic. It is for this philosophical analysis I like the book so much than for Langdon’s brilliance in finding the path of Illuminati to stop the murder of the cardinals.

Actually there is no much of puzzles and riddles to solve except for a single poem, which they find from one of the books of Galileo. Everything else seems to be tackled by the information either in Langdon’s memory or with the help of somebody else around him. And that is why the way they trace out the path of Illumination by using the directions of the angel in every Bernini’s work is kind of boring. But those boring episodes in between are made up by the tension buildup in the reader’s mind out of curiosity to know how each of the cardinal is going to be assassinated in such an open space.

In DVC, there were more practical and mathematical puzzles and riddles, the complexity of which the readers can easily understand. So when Langdon solve them successfully, we just can’t stop admiring the brilliance of Langdon and in turn the writer. But here that is not the case.

The book is pretty descriptive considering the fact that the whole story happens just in 24 hours. The adventure of Langdon actually starts only after first 200 pages. But there is enough surprise in those 200 pages to keep us involved. The first part was like reading a science fiction novel with lot of technical details about one of the most shocking inventions that a scientist in CERN has done to prove that God and Science meets at a point. Then the second part is full of suspense, thrill, chill, action and adventure by Langdon.

The third part that is the last 150 pages is just brilliant. It is the best part of the novel. Hell a lot of twists and turns, surprises and shocks lay there in those final episodes. The best thing about the novel is that no character can be blamed for whatever has happened, everyone has a valid reason for his or her actions. There are some logical glitches in the novel say for example the real intention of the Hassasin, who actually does all the killing is not explained well. Also the death of Camerlango remains a mystery till the end. I won’t say this as a racy page-turner like DVC, but still it is brilliant.

12.25.2005

Tamil Film Music 2005 - A Round Up

The year 2005 can be called as the year of high expectations (from composers). The reason being most of the movies released in 2005 had successful director and composer combinations those who have delivered either hits or classics in their previous ventures. Fazil + Illayaraja’s Oru Naal Oru Kanavu, Balu Mahendra + Illayaraja’s Athu Oru kanaa Kaalam, Kamal + Illayaraja’s Mumbai Express, Thagar Bachaan + Illayaraja’s Chidambarathil Oru Appasamy, A.R.Rahman + S.J.Surtah’s Aa Aah, Ameer + Yuvan’s Raam, Yuvan + Vishnuvardhan’s Arinthum Ariyamalum, and Vidhyasagar + Lingusamy’s Ji. Another reasons being some new interesting combinations like Shankar + Harris Jeyaraj in Anniyan, Cheran + Sabesh-Murali in Thavamai Thavamirundhu, Rajini + Vidhyasagar in Chandramukhi, Yuvan + Lingusamy in Sandakozhi. But as a whole, composers couldn’t meet the expectation of the audience, though they gave some good songs. It is because their previous efforts were far superior and excellent. So, mere good songs are not enough to accept. We the music lovers were not completely satisfied with the output. Am I right? However there were some great songs.

“Kaatril Varum Geethamae” will definitely be there in the list of Illayaraja’s all time best melodies. It is a healer. The simple yet haunting melody takes us to the heaven directly. “Antha Naal Nyabagam” is vintage IR melody with heavy violin orchestra backing. Though it may not reach the classic status, it is a good song to be remembered. And I can’t forget the beautiful Celtic violin piece in philosophical song “Kaatu vazhi” in Athu Oru Kanaa Kaalam. Mumbai Express – Mind blowing is the word. “Poo poothathu” is here to stay in our mind for decades to come. While listening to this song, don’t fast forward the dialogue part in the start; It has got some beautiful piano melody. The jazzy interludes in other peppy songs, and the symphonic instrumental “Monkey Chatter” are refreshing to listen to. The collaboration of IR and Sivamani almost after 2 decades for this album is pretty evident in the rhythms. Though there is a deja-vu sound, I feel elated when I hear the starting chorus bit of “Kaetkalayoo” from Kasturimaan. To surpass all the complaints that we have on IR’s music in movies, the most ambitious “Thiruvasakam” album got released in 2005. No words can express the beauty and form of the music that IR has given for Thiruvasakam.

Just the name A.R. Rahman is enough to create high expectation both on the movie and the music, no matter with whom he collaborates. A.R. Rahman came back to TFM with a bang. The music of “Aa Aah” was a big hit. “Aarai kodi” is an ideal introduction song that any hero would long for. “Varugirai” is a nice experiment in music sounding the anger and sober at the same time with a unique orchestration that only ARR can set a song to. Hey, next year seems to belong to ARR as we have lot of projects lined up. Jillendru Oru Kadhl Kathai, Puli, God Father, Dasavatharam and above all Sivaji. Don’t worry ARR fans; we all are in for a great treat next year.

As a composer Vidhyasagar, didn’t move even a step ahead in this year. His music for Chandramukhi became popular more for Rajini than his music itself. Though music of Ji is a major let down, “Ding Dong koyil Mani” is typical VS melody. The soothing female humming and veena pieces are beautiful in this song. Then we have Rahmanish “Konja Neram”, IR ish “Athinthom” from Chandramukhi. Both are pleasant to listen to. But the pick of the album is obviously “Raa Raa”. Actually this song takes a lot of inspiration from the songs in Malayalam and Kannada versions of the movie and yet it sounds better with a fresh orchestration. Binny Krishnakumar needs a special mention for her beautiful rendition of the song. Vennila from Ponniyin Selvan and Moolai Thirugum from Kana Kanden, Chi chi from Majaa are other note worthy compositions from him. But on the whole, something is missing in his music this year. Hope he will deliver his best in 2006.

When I heard the theme of Anniyan named “Stranger in Black”, I was totally disappointed with Harris Jeyaraj. It is a blatant copy of “Resurrection” theme from Passion of Christ. Harris for sure has talents but at any cause one cannot accept plagiarism from the composer (same holds for Illayaraja for his “chittu kuruvi” song from Chinna Veedu which is a blatant copy of Dvorak’s symphony). Anyway, let us forget about it. Anniyan has two good semi classical melodies “Ayyangaru veetu” and “Kumari”. I liked even the catchy Remo song. But to me, his melodies in Thotti Jaya were the best of his compositions in 2005. “Uyirae En Uyirae” and “Yaridamum Thondravillai” are soothing compositions from Harris. I like the sax piece in Suttum Vizhi song from Ghajini so much to an extent that its tune lingers in mind more than the actual tune of the song. There are tune of certain songs that you can casually whistle and enjoy, “Oru Maalai Ila veyil” song has got one such. Harris, please stop plagiarism and those horrible noisy western choirs and chants as background scores in movies at least from 2006. Sure he would have something fresh to offer to Gautam’s “Vettaiyadu Vilayadu”. Let us see.

Undoubtedly Yuvan Shankar Raja is the composer of year 2005. He composed music for so many films but managed to come up with wide variety of songs and was also able to strike a balance between IR and ARR and class and mass. His best albums are Raam, Kanda Naal Muthal. These are two complete albums in which I liked all the songs equally. I needn’t press FF button when I play these albums in my player. Even some of his mediocre albums had good melodies. Say “Kadhal Enbadhu” and “Unakku endru” from Oru Kallooriyin Kathai. Another successful album is “Arinthum Ariyamalum” which had lot of inspirations from various music forms. Yet I liked the way Yuvan was able to get “Manmadha Leelaiyai” fit in modern rhythms in “Theepidikka” song. Also I like the whistle tune in “Yela Yela” song very much which is also the main theme of the movie. And surprisingly the songs of Kalvanin Kathali also sound fresh and different. But Yuvan was not consistent. He gave flops like Daas, Sandaikozhi and Oru Kallooriyin kathai. Yuvan keep up the good work and try to be more consistent because that is what TFM is starved of as of now, we have no consistent composers as IR and ARR were before.

Other Composers

There is this beautiful “Muthal Muthal” song by Bharadwaj from Priyasakhi. You cannot stop admiring the ease with which Chitra adds so much of emotion and expression in her voice while singing. D. Imman proves that he too has got some good melodies in his mind. “Kathal Illai” and “Manjal” song from ABCD and “Kathal Enbadhu” from Thaka Thimi Tha are some better compositions of his in 2005. Devi Sri Prasad (an ardent fan of Illayaraja) fills the vacuum created by Deva in TFM. Occasionally he comes up with some good music, though most of them have a Telugu hangover especially his rhythms. I liked “Jo Jo Jyothika” and “Mayaavi” songs from Maayavi. I was expecting a lot from Niru who gave a beautiful private album called Moongil Nila. But his music is “Kalaba Kadhalan” is nowhere near his music in Moongil Nila. Yet, “Chellamae Ithu” song has got good melody and strings backing.

Finally, most surprisingly the best soundtrack of the year is “Thavamai Thavamirundhu” by Sabesh – Murali. The songs gel well with the movie. The songs are refreshing with a variety, catchy tune, melody, just enough orchestration and meaningful lyrics.

Notable Absentees

Karthik Raja and Ramesh Vinayakam are two talented composers whom I feel are under rated and under utilized by our directors. Karthik Raja’s score in Kudaikkul Mazhai was stunning and Ramesh Vinayakam gave some pleasant melodies in Azhagiya Theeyae last year. I wish to hear more of their compositions at least in 2006. Also Joshua Sridhar who gave a hit music in Kaadhal last year wasn’t able to continue with the success due to some personal issues. Heard that now he is composing for a couple of movies. Hope to hear more from him too.

12.24.2005

The Memento


Watch it and test your memory power. I watched it only once and I still have a lot of questions in my mind. But overall, it is great attempt and movie is worth watching at least thrice. The narration keeps our mind busy but forgets to touch our soul. There could have been brief introductory scenes that reveal their love and bondage other than Lenny saying it through words. It would have provided a strong reason for a man in such a condition trying to take revenge. We don’t empathize his conditions. Though it had an admirable screenplay, the one issue I find with the film is that we don’t emotionally relate to Leonard.

Actually, there is another parallel track that moves in a linear fashion shown in black and white, which initially is very confusing but when we later we come to know that this is the link used to end the story, we couldn’t imagine the genius of the screenplay writer.

Of course, may be Christopher Nolan might have thought us to realize a character like Leonard is lot better than normal people for whom a new world begin in every few minutes, through his non linear narration. We go by our belief that what we believe to have happened is what actually happened, we never go by facts. While watching this movie, it is interesting to know, even we who claim to be the normal people, don’t remember what we saw just 15 minutes before. The style of narration made all the difference and tests the memory power of the audience and kindles an interest in them to watch it again and again. Actually, it wouldn’t have been special it if had taken the linear path of narration.

Even though I already know it is going to proceed in backwards, there was lot of confusions. The first shot and the scene of the movie clearly explain us how the movie is going to proceed. The title starts to scroll as and when the movie starts with a shot focusing on a hologram, in which we see a dead man lying down showing his back, slowly the image fades and the hologram goes back into the camera, Lenny recedes back, the bullet goes back to pistol and then we see what actually happened. That starts from the end and reaches the start of the plot at the end. Memento is a psychological thriller that travels back in time.

Okay, Let me not get into the difference between Ghajini and Memento, as it is quite obvious and let me just discuss Memento. Ghajini takes just the character and unusual condition of Lenny and his unique methods to survive in and adds masala necessary for the Tamilians to grasp the idea. It will be degrading the level of acumen with which this movie is crafted to say that Ghajini is inspired by Memento. Thanks to Murugadass and his Ghajini for creating awareness about a movie called “The Memento”.

12.23.2005

In my Must Buy List - Memoirs of Geisha


Ever since I heard this album, I have become a greatest fan of John Williams. As “Memoirs of Geisha” is co-produced by Steven Spielberg, for the most obvious reasons John Williams got the opportunity to score music for this Japanese film. I always wondered how it would sound if JW writes south East Asian music and now I know how it would. Actually I liked his similar work in “Seven Years in Tibet” very much. JW scores mostly include heroic timpani, trumpets, and brass and string section dominating the orchestra. But for this movie, JW has given a dark, quiet, intimate score that beautifully brings out the emotions and also the sound of the place in which the drama is set in.

Yo-Yo Ma has played the Solo Cello pieces and Itzhak perlman has played (who played the haunting solo violin pieces in Schindlers' list) violin pieces with other traditional Asian instruments and minimal symphonic string orchestra supporting them aptly. Listen to the 1-minute audio clip of all the tracks here. This is a must buy album for any JW fan. I can’t wait to get hold of this CD but really don’t know whether it would be released in India. Not a surprise to know that this score has been nominated for Golden Globe awards thie year.

12.19.2005

Speaking of Films - Satyajit Ray



Immediately after watching Pather Panchali, I went to a bookstore and bought Speaking of Films written by Satyajit Ray. It is a collection of essays and articles on various aspects of movies and moviemaking written by Satyajit Ray. This book is published marking the 50th anniversary of release of the classic “Pather Panchali”. Film buffs and aspiring moviemakers may consider this book as a treasure. I haven’t read many books on moviemaking except for “Thiraikathai Yezhuduvadhu Yeppadi (How to Write Screenplay)” by Sujatha.

But reading this book is a totally new experience. It is almost like a textbook on filmmaking. The depth of details that Ray describes about movie making is stunning, revealing and interesting. Ray has great knowledge about world cinema. While reading his comments on Indian cinema and other world cinema, I felt Ray is not just a great filmmaker but also a great (harsh) critic. The extent to which he analyses each and every scene in the movie is a lesson to the professional film critics know, who does nothing except for filling half of the page with the story of the movie and rest to write one line about other very well known aspects of the movie which even a commoner will be able to say. The one basic principle of movie making that Ray keeps repeating on the book is “A Cinema should speak and communicate through visual images and sounds and not through dialogues”. I was really surprised to know how obsessed with western classical music (as I too am) Ray was. At many places, while explaining on movie making techniques he uses western classical music for the analogy and now I know how he himself turned as a composer (and won national award for best music) for his films.

In “My life, My Work”, he talks a lot about how and why he became a movie maker and why “Pather Panchali” is the way it is. He says that he wanted to break all conventions in Bengali cinema. The explanation of first 7 minutes of the movie “Charulatha” is another great part of this article. He explains how those 7 minutes of silent happenings communicates content of so many pages of a novel without even a single conversation or any director’s voice over behind to read about the characters and what they are doing. The interesting part of the next article, “making of a film” comes when he describes the screenplay and various technical aspects of last 5 minutes of “Pather Panchali” in detail.

Language of Cinema: Then and Now (1969) has lot of insight details about language used by various great movie makers and the evolution of new techniques of film making in all parts of the world. The major emphasis here is on the slapstick comedy. And so he talks more about Chaplin and Buster Keaton who were considered the fathers of Slapstick comedy and the techniques they used to make their comedy appealing on screen. “Soviet Cinema” tells about the evolution of cinema in Russia and some of the great works in Russian cinema. I should say this is the article I liked the least because it is just a history of Russian cinema and touches a very little upon the movie making techniques.

The subsequent articles focus largely on Bengali cinema. It is very evident how much Ray hated the theatrical approach in every aspect of movie making followed by Bengali filmmakers. He also tries to strike a balance saying that the pressure of making the movie commercially successful was responsible for less aesthetic movies in Bengali and also adds that with very little exposure about the techniques in movie making, the level of technical expertise that Bengali makers have shown cannot be seen if it were the same condition in any other part of the world. He also gives a rather surprising practical reason for Ray’s reluctance towards making films dealing with urban issue.

The article Background Score in films is an eye-opener. I suggest all the composers must read this article. I thought he would speak more about the symphonic background scores used in Hollywood films but he restricted his article to just about that in Bengali films. I would say this article is the most interesting one (to me) in the book. He talks in length about the evolution of background score in films, when and why it is necessary for a film and how he used it in his own films. He also explains certain norms and principles by which a score has to be written for a film.

Dialogues in films has nothing new to say. He again emphasize on his basic principle that only images should speak in a film and the dialogues should be treated as an alternative for communication. And if it were used, it should be as real as possible.

Colors in films is another interesting article about filmmakers reluctance in using color for serious films those days. He clearly puts forward that such a notion is absolutely wrong. Color is just another visual technique that takes a film close to the reality and it can be used for movies based on serious issues also. He also adds many examples to prove how colors make the job of a filmmaker easier by providing various ways to convey a lot through images. He also criticizes the way the colors were used just for glamour in Hindi films.

All those so-called professional film critics have a great lesson in the article Critics in the eyes of a director. And the next two articles are Ray’s angry take on worst criticisms on his films “Apur Sansar” and “Charulatha” that got published in magazines. Both the reviews had comparisons of the movie with the actual novel from which the screenplay is adapted. He quotes each and every line of those reviews and explains how invalid they were by illustrating it with all necessary details from the novel and the scenes in the movie. Ray has trashed those critics extremely to an extent they might have left the job and ran away out of shame.

Indir Thakran is an article about how much Ray admired the professionalism of this 70 year old actress Chunibala devi who enacted the role of Indir in Pather Panchali. It was indeed great to know about one who gave one of the most realistic performances on Indian screen ever. In “A Quarter of a century” he writes about how much he has evolved as a filmmaker in last twenty-five years and talks about his own favorites scenes from movies of his own. Other articles are nothing to do with cinema. They are about Ray’s unforgettable personal friends.

Now after reading this book, I am on my way to buy “Our Films, Their films”.

12.16.2005

Pudupettai Music Review


The very first note of the soundtrack starts with a unique flute sound playing a melody (reminds God Father theme, just the sound not the music) and then the same melody is played by a full throttled symphony orchestra which makes it evident that this is not a soundtrack that we usually get to hear in Tamil film music. Also it is evident that Yuvan and Selvaraghavan has strived hard to make this soundtrack unique with a never before heard feel and sound. As they do in Hollywood, this music is more of a soundtrack for the movie, which we will be able to appreciate better after watching the movie. There are 10 tracks, 4 of them are songs, 5 are theme music and one is a remix song.

Now are they really successful in trying something completely different? Well somewhat. For the sake of trying something daringly different, I think they have gone too far, I mean the use of symphony orchestra for movie with such a gangster movie. It sounds too European and
I don’t know how well it is going to fit in the situations in the movie. Also I should say it is quite an amateur attempt from Yuvan’s side. A symphony if not done well may turn into a cacophony. I don’t say that it is too bad. He has got the melodies right but it is the orchestration where he has to learn a lot from his own father and other western classical composers. Here is an evidence of what would happen when a composer, who doesn’t know to write the notes on score sheet of his own compositions, composes a symphony

But yet I should say Yuvan has handled some of the solo Thai instruments deftly in the songs, which adds to the overall uniqueness of the songs. Selling dope is better than other theme tracks in terms of deft orchestration and also has got various moods in it meeting the needs of the situation. Going Thru Emotions: Prelude is a nice fusion of various string instruments, sounds, rhythms, voices and thereby emotions. But I don’t know why I hear the music that I got to hear in advertisements in the between the songs when I hear them in Raaga.com at some places in this song. Night Life is the catchiest of the lot with a flute piece playing a dappanguthu tune accompanied by heavy rhythms. Clash of Titans and Pudupettai Theme are the tracks that are evident of what I said about Yuvan’s orchestration abilities.

The blend of Thai instruments, strings, synthesizers and rocking percussions and electric guitars makes this unconventional number Ithu Enna Kadavulae stand out. Kamal Haasan’s voice is rough and tough in this song and he is just perfect with right expressions. The guitar strumming in the start of Yenga area is nice but it is too situational to grab our attention with just the audio. The rap like singing in Tamil is quite different but there is too much of electric guitar and synth in the song that makes it sound alien. Oru Naalil is the pick of the album. The song is a nice melody with some good philosophical lines penned by Na. Muthukumar. Better Yuvan can stop singing such emotional songs. He is just not perfect in pitch and expression. In spite of Yuvan’s faulty singing, the song works mainly because of the simple rhythm and beautiful guitar and violin pieces performed by Amalraj. Don’t ever try to listen the remix version of this song at all. We should definitely not encourage such songs. It is pure noise. Pul Pesum Poo Pesum starts with a catchy synth piece but soon falls flat as the vocal tune of the song is not so exciting but the interludes and the strings are great in this song.

I don’t know how commercially viable this album is. There are no romantic or peppy dance tunes in it. Anyway in spite of its flaws, I really like this album for its experimentation more than anything else. Let us wait and watch the movie for this soundtrack to grow on us. And also for an extended soundtrack release after the release of the movie as it always happens with Yuvan + Selva movies.

12.14.2005

Sivaji, Pudupet and LOTR


1. Today’s Hindu carries a poster of “Sivaji: The Boss” and it says the shooting starts today. Rajini looks pretty cool in the picture. He wears a blue tuxedo and a cooling glass. His dense hairstyle reminds younger Rajini in early 90’s. But I don’t like that thick mustache much. Sorry guys, I don’t have a scanner to post the picture here.

2. The most eagerly awaited soundtrack of the year (next to Aa Aah), “Pudupet” is releasing tomorrow. The tag line of Pudupet is “The survival of the fittest”. Let us see what this successful (Selva Raghavan + Yuvan + Na.Muthu Kumar) combo is to deliver. The poster also has a promise about the music. It says, “Music that will enlighten your soul from tomorrow”. Considering the subject of the movie, I feel there will be dappanguthu numbers but with a class of their own. Let us see. Also Selva and Yuvan went to Bangkok Symphony orchestra to record the theme music of the movie.

3. There is a short review here on the ‘taste’ of Lord of the Rings the musical that is going to be staged on Feb 2006.

It has few words to say about the music in which our master A.R.Rahman is also involved.

The words written by Shaun McKenna and Warchus, united with the music by A.R. Rahman and Värttinä, stood with enough strength of their own.

Already, it's possible to see how orchestrator Chris Nightingale is creating a unique sound: not folk, not symphony, not show tunes, but an inspired distillation of all three.

12.10.2005

Rang De Basanti Music Review

A.R.Rahman is pretty sure about the kind of response that he wants for his music in Rang De Basanti. He wants it to sell as like any of his albums sold in the start of his career. He is more concerned abut delivering a hit music. But he has done it without compromising the quality or the class. Commercial failures of some of his best works in the recent past seem to have really bothered him a lot. Though the songs of this movie may not be the best of A.R.Rahman, they are energetic, youthful, refreshing and ground breaking. The album is sure to become a chartbuster. Also as like any of A.R.Rahman songs, these songs take little time to grow but once it do, you will not stop listening to it. The album has got 10 songs. Lyrics are penned by Prasoon Joshi.

Ik Onkaar by Harshdeep Kaur is a devotional number. Don’t know whether it is tuned by A.R.Rahman. Lets us switch to next number

Rang De Basanti (Daler Mehndi, Chitra)

At last we have a Punjabi number which doesn’t have a deja-vu sound. With all the usual elements of bhangra music intact, Rahman adds his unique elements which make the song more spicy, energetic and refreshing to listen to. The unique elements are the melodious guitar that joins Daler Mehndi whenever he starts with “Thodi se dhool meri”, the additional percussions that adds a punch to the looping bhangra beats, innocent vocals of Chitra which turns the number a little soothing in the middle and above all the Mandolin that plays the “diggu diggu” tune. This song is destined to be a hit at the time of its birth itself. Ever since I saw the promos playing this song, the funny “diggu diggu” was lingering in my mind. It gives a whole new flavor to the song. Daler Mehndi does a great job as the song belongs to a genre that in his genes.

Paathshala (Naresh Iyer, Mohammed Aslam)

It is a ground breaking song all the way. The pumping beats along with electric guitar captivate us the very moment it reaches our ear drums. I think this kind of lyrics, mixing Hindi and English words is pretty new for bollywood music as far as I know. This is already there is Tamil film music. Prasoon Joshi has done a good job here. Listen to the acoustic guitar pieces that come and go out the song in the middle, another Rahmanish element that gives a new sound to the song. There is also another version of the song which has got English Rap bits by Blaaze in addition to the original version. This version is again very catchy with more synth stuff and additional beats. The sweet guitar piece that I mentioned in the original version gets a slot in this version to sound alone without any voiceover. Get ready to lose your control while listening to this song.

Tu bin bataye (Madhusree, Naresh Iyer)

This is the only romantic melody in the album. I think this is just an average melody which gets elevated by the beautiful orchestration. The string section conducted by Sirnivasa murthy is just brilliant in this song. Also the choir backing Naresh’s vocals in the later part of the song is beautiful. The strings and choir carry lots of necessary emotions with it. Madhusree sounds sweet as honey. Naresh Iyer has a soothing voice and we can expect him on more melodies like this in days to come. It somehow reminded me a Tamil song of A.R.Rahman.

Khalbali (A.R.Rahman, Aslam, Nacim)

Those who follow Rahman’s music from the beginning will definitely know about his special fascination towards Arabian music and that comes to fore yet again in this song. It is a very unconventional number rich in Arabic flavor. When Rahman’s different style of singing with an Arabic accent, Arabic lines by nacim sandwiched in between, the Arabic percussions by Hozam Ramzy (who collaborated with A.R.Rahman before for Meenaxi), the middle-eastern strings, and synth bass are mixed together, it evolves as a new sound which we get to hear in this song. This song needs at least ten times of listening to get used to the unusual format and sound of the song. It is another great number in the album.

Khoon chala (Mohit Chauhan)

It is a beautiful song with a nice melody and great orchestration. The beautiful piano notes, the strings, the haunting Cello piece together impose a haunting effect on the listeners. The orchestration and beats backing the final crescendo are brilliant. Mohit chauhan’s quite unique vocals are soothing and expressive enough.

Luka Chuppi (Lata Mangeshkar, A.R.Rahman)

The guitar strumming all through the song is similar to that of “Chanda Sooraj” song from “Vande mataram” album. But the resemblance makes no harm to the beautiful melody in this song. Instead it aptly aids the melody. Rahman used Lata’s refined voice by restricting her not to go high and nasal. Rahman has also done a neat job especially swara alap at the end is great. I liked Vibraphone usage in this song which I feel has a sound that could make listener easily relate to kind of emotion that this song celebrates. There are lots of surprising deviations in the form of orchestration and rhythm as the song proceeds. The much talked about Maa-betta song doesn’t disappoint.

Lalkaar

It is kind of a poem recited by Aamir Khan widely misunderstood as sung by Aamir Khan. We will be able to know more about this song with the visuals. It has got additional bass section, distant vocal humming and chorus running in the background creating a strange aura.

Roobaro (Naresh Iyer, A.R.Rahman)

Yet another song that starts with a speedy casual guitar strumming. I don’t know how to categorize this song. It is very peppy and captivating. “Roobaro Roshini” is where Rahman’s peeps into the song in between and it sound like high-pitch “Anjaana” bit from Yuva. The song has catchy jazzy beats and strange backing vocals. This song turns addictive on second listening.

Highlights of the album

First of all, this is an A.R.Rahman album without Naveen’s flute. I don’t remember any album of A.R.Rahman without Naveen’s contribution.

A.R.Rahman avoided the usual Udit, Sonu, Alka and others in the album paving way for new singers to exhibit their talents.

The variety in the songs. No two songs sound same in this album. Of course this is true for most of ARR’s albums.

Naresh Iyer seems to the latest favorite of A.R.Rahman. He has got 3 songs in such a big film and that is definitely a great debut for any new singer. Naresh Iyer does a great job in all three songs which are completely different from each other.

At last, an album which even common bollywood music lovers will like and that will make the album a big success commercially.

12.08.2005

Other Side of Me - Sidney Sheldon


Have heard a lot about Sidney Sheldon but never read his works. I was eagerly waiting to buy his next release. Then accidentally saw this book Other Side of Me in a bookstore and without even reading the synopsis on the back cover of the book, I bought the book thinking that it is an entertaining thriller like most of his previous works.

I was little disappointed initially to know that it is not a novel but just his autobiography. After knowing the content of the book, thought that immediately flashed my mind was when a writer runs out of ideas, the next best thing he would do is write his own biography (as I was aware that Sidney’s last book was not at par). But Sidney’s narration and its pace changed my opinion on the book.

As Sidney author himself quotes, life is a novel with suspense. You never know what would happen before turning the next page. Though this book is an autobiography, it takes us in a roller coaster journey through the life of Sidney Sheldon that is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, adventure, suspense, thrills and surprises. You never know what will happen next.

Never knew that an autobiography can be written in such an entertaining way. It is because Sidney seems to know what and what not to write rather than how and how not to write to make the book entertaining. He just skips all unnecessary episodes of his life. As we all know, the highlights of a test match with are more entraining than the match itself. Sidney has opted to just register highlights of his life but without loosing the thrill that is attached to the last ten overs of a one-day match.

I wonder how these writers remember all that happened in their life half a century before. Or may they would have maintained a diary, which helps them while writing the book. I admire Sidney a lot for his diverse talents, determination, self-confidence, optimism and hard work. It is rather surprising to know how fate changed his name. In every turn of a page, I was eager to know what made him to go for writing a novel. Of course, it is disclosed almost at the end of the novel and you have just 10 pages to turn after he becomes a novel writer.

The book mostly concentrates on his public life than the personal life after few initial episodes. Yet, death of his second daughter and its consequences are emotionally moving parts of the novel. My only concern about the book is that, it could have had more novel writing experiences of Sidney. Also there are too many names and personalities (of course it is necessary as Sidney had been in show business for most part of his life), one who know Hollywood in early 20th century would better enjoy the novel than others.

Now i will start to read Sheldon's work starting from "The Naked Face"...

12.06.2005

Rang De Basanti Music Releases



The year 2005 has been great for A.R.Rahman and his also his hardcore fans. Though his albums were not selling like hot cakes as any other run-of-mill stuffs do in bollywood music, A.R.Rahman was able to open up new horizons in music with each and every album. The albums that got released this year are Bose: The Forgotten Hero, Mangal Pandey, Kisna and Aa Aah (Tamil). All the albums are critically accalimed but failed commercially except the Tamil one. Water and Rang De Basanti are yet to be released. Water is expected to release on December 13. But the happy news here is that "Rang De Basanti" album release date is comfirmed. It is on 11 December. If both these albums are going to be released in the same week. A.R.Rahman fans or even any good music lover are in for a great treat. I wish at least this time, Rahman's work get noticed by even common people and the album should become commercially successful.

12.04.2005

Thavamai Thavamirunthu Review


Cheran is back with a bang after Autograph. Cheran has identified his strength and used that to a maximum in Thavamai Thavamairunthu. Like Autograph, this story takes us in a trip down the memory lane but this time the theme is different. The theme that is hardly touched upon by the Tamil filmmakers before. It is about an ideal father. So far we have seen only stories that celebrated the greatness of mother but now Cheran throws a bright light on the sacrifices and struggles that every father faces in his life for their prodigies to come up in life. The father figure is portrayed like a god. It is shown effectively in such a way that when we go back to home, everyone (at least I do) will look at their father differently and treat him with more respect. And this I feel is the major success of the film.

Almost every frame of the movie shows the homework that Cheran has done on the script. The story is simple and straight. There are no major twists and turns. The movie is 3.20 hours long but it was not at all boring except for few moments in the second half. The two songs in the second half, “Oru muraithan” and theme music are stretched too long. Especially the theme music used in the montage while showing that family lives happily after all the problems. But there are just too may clips which makes it boring after a point and same is the case with “Oru muraithan” song which is used while showing the struggle of the lovers after they run away from home.

Without any compromise, Cheran has taken sufficient enough (little longer) time to unfold every single scene and that tests the patience of the audience a little. Yet I feel the movie will go down well with all type of audience. We all would have heard or seen such stories in our day-to-day life. But the way it has been transferred to celluloid is what that is laudable. Though it is a well-known story, it is great to see that there are no clichés in the screenplay. There are lots of touching moments and dialogues in the movie. One is sure to shed tears many a times while watching the movie. People may call it melodrama but I don’t find any fault in it if it can take the audience close to those illusionary images and make them empathize with the characters. Actually Cheran has tried to maintain subtlety in emotions of characters in most of the scenes and to be as real and natural as possible in every aspect of the film.

Rajkiran in the father character is the heart and soul of the movie. He has given an extra ordinary performance (May get a national Award) and may be his best in the career. Just look at his face expression and body language when he comes to know that his son was arrested for seeking a prostitute. Cheran has improved his acting skills. I didn’t like his performance in Autograph. Padma priya looks cute and fits to T for the role. Saranya has got some one-liners and she too has done a commendable job. The casting is perfect for all supporting roles are perfect especially the lady chosen for first daughter-in-law of Rajkiran role is perfect for that role.

Technically the movie is at par. Cinematography by M.S. Prabhu is true to life. For a change, he has shot the flash back scenes in color and present period in black and white. I thought that when the screenplay that travels between past and present meets at a point, the color scheme will transfer but that didn’t happen. It is okay, that was just my idea. Songs by Sabesh –Murali are good gels well with the movie. They have done a fairly good job in Background score too. The main theme cue is very good and that is being used all through the movie exhibiting various emotions through different orchestrations. I don’t whether this movie will be as successful as Autograph. But according to me, this movie is better than Autograph.

Though Bhagvad Gita is just a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna; it had something to say to all. While reading it, you feel like it is being told to you. Similarly, this movie has something to say to all of us. The highlight of the movie is that it drives the point home without being preachy. The movie teaches a lesson to the parents, the adult children and the society about the values of culture and family tradition. It tells how a father should grow his child and also how a son should take care of his parents in their final days.

12.03.2005

Asian Mozart to Score for Mozart Film


The Asian Mozart (I never liked this tag of A.R.Rahman linking him with Mozart) is going to compose a part of the soundtrack for a film made on one of the greatest western classical composer, Mozart. Don't assume that A.R.Rahman is going to compose western classical symphonies in Mozart way, he is just going to do what he has been doing in Indian films as the script of the movie demands indian music also. Read more about this here

Kamal's Hunt in Newyork

Here is an scoop on Kamal's Vettaiyadu Vilayadu. It does sound interesting.

12.01.2005

Akale Album


I am happy that my first try to listen to Malayalam music album turned out be a pleasant experience. Yes, Akale is the first Malayalam album that I bought and it has got beautiful soul stirring melodies. The composer is M.Jayahandran about whom I have heard a lot before but misunderstood him as the singer with the same name who has sung some immortal melodies in Tamil like "En Mel Vizhundha Mazhai thuli", "Rasathi unna kaanadha nenju", "Oru theivam thantha poovae" and many more.

As I said, all the songs are melodious and there is a variety in the album. The composer has tried a fusion of pure western classical and Indian classical music with one form of music not disturbing the other. These songs are perfect for listening in loneliness especially at night. The simple and elegant orchestration with just enough instruments gives a touch of class to all the songs. Every single solo instrument piece is composed with care and each carries a feel and emotion of its own. You have every indispensable instrument for a melody in the songs of this album like flute, solo violin, strings, piano, sax, sarangi, sitar, soft guitar and what not. Most of the songs don't even have a percussion rhythm running in the background. Just the backing orchestration carries the song all through which makes the listening experience a scintillating journey through various moods and emotions. The songs ranges from slow to too slow and one really need patience to enjoy the songs completely. If you really have that patience, the listening experience is nothing short of bliss. Other than the composition, the highlight of the album is the choice of singers. You have lots and lots of talented (both new and old) singers featuring in the songs of this album. I always have a feeling that Mallu's have got most and most number of soothing vocals in India. The healing freshness of the greeneries in kerala reflects in the voice of malayali's too.

The divine vocal of Chitra makes the title song more soothing to listen. Karthik is not far behind, he also has got a soothing vocal which most of the Tamil composers are yet to explore in him. I was surprised by the rendition of Ganga (has sung "Nizhal Santhyae"), who has been in A.R.Rahman's chorus group for almost a decade. She has got a great voice and talent. Wonder why ARR didn't gave an opportunity for her to sing in his composition. Chinmayi is one of the most talented singer right now in south India and only one who has the caliber to compete with Shreya Ghosal. Her strong classical base is evident in her songs. "Ravugal" song sung by Chinamyi can't get any better rendition. Sujatha is at her best in "Janavariyil" song. Not just the name, the mesmerizing vocal of P. Jayachandran and M.Jayachandran sounds same. Strongly rhythm based "Pranayae" get its melodious counter part with the vocals of M.G. Sree kumar. Though they are equally good in rendition Vidha Prathap, G. Venugopal and Preetha Prasad are to be heard more to find uniqueness in their voice.

The only minor issue with the album is that the blatant copy of some of the popular western classical pieces in the songs. The "Akale" song has got a strings piece in the background that is for sure a straight rip-off from a symphony which I have heard before but forgot the name. And we have a note-to-note copy of Beethoven's Fur Elise in the song "Janavariyil". A talented composer like M.Jayachandran could have avoided this for sure. May be he would have done this desperately but should have given some space in the credits to the original western classical composers. Anyway, this album is a must buy for any good music lover.

11.27.2005

Anand - Manchi Coffee Lanti Cinema



Telugu film industry is known for racy masala entertainers. Rarely offbeat movies are made. None of the Telugu films got the “Best Regional film” national award in one of the past years. The jury said that there were no deserving movies made in Telugu in that year. Such is/was the condition of Telugu film industry that is the next to bollywood in Indian cinema in terms of revenue and also no of movies made. I haven’t seen and liked many of Telugu movies in recent past except for “Andhapuram” directed by Krishnavamsi. And here is another movie, which I saw recently which took me by storm by its freshness in every aspect. The movie is Anand directed by national award winner Sekar Kammula.

Anand has got one of the most appropriate tag lines that go like “Manchi coffee lanti cinema” which means “a movie like a nice refreshing coffee”. We drink coffee everyday, the content is always the same but yet we feel refreshing to have it in the morning. Similarly, though the content of the movie is what we have seen many a times before, it is told in a refreshing way.

Plot in brief. Roopa (Kamilinee Mukherjee) is an independent girl. She loses her family in an accident at a very young age. She gets engaged to Rahul, her boss. But after knowing about her Hitler like future mother-in-law and unsupportive Rahul in a small problem on the day of marriage, she decides to stop the marriage. Meanwhile, Anand (Raja) who is son of one of the richest corporate in AP decides to stay as neighborhood of Roopa to win her heart and then marry her. Why Anand chooses her, and whether they get united is what this movie is all about.

As the title implies, the movie captures the happy moments of Roopa’s life. Roopa’s characterization is done with care. She lives alone with the help of her neighbors and friends. But she is as normal as any other girl of her age with all little desires and expectation without any self-sympathy for her situation and on the whole doesn’t behave like an ideal woman as we see in most of K. Balachander movies. Even all the other characters are true to life. Say, the character of Anita (best friend of Roopa) she is so real. The director has used the kids well (like Maniratnam). They make most part of the movie very lively. They add more charm and fun. For those who watch Tamil movies, this movie is similar to Azhaghiya Theeyae in its freshness and by the feel a viewer gets while watching the movie. A little smile will embrace your face for the entire 2.5 hours.

The dialogues are natural and filled with humor. The screenplay (positively) narrates the story straightly without any twists and turns. But the movie didn’t drag at any point. The best thing about the movie is that the director has stuck to reality within the commercial format. They become friends initially and eventually fall in love after knowing each other well. It is not a love at first sight as we see in all other movies. It is fun to watch them fight for silly problems in second half.

All the actors have performed well. Kamilinee Mukherjee is apt for the role of Roopa. It is hard to believe that she is a Bengali girl. I found no err with her lip movements in Telugu. She has got expressive eyes. Even before watching this movie, she impressed me with her performance in “Phir Milenge” as Shilpa’s sister. Raja also does a convincing job. All others, especially the kids have done well.

Music is another big asset for the film. Most of the songs are shot as montages and gels well with the movie. I feel montage making is an art in itself. Sekar does a fine job in the song picturisation too. But he could have avoided routine dance numbers. K.M. Radhakrishan has given beautiful carnatic based melodies. “Nuvvena” and “Yamunatheeram” songs still lingers. The background score is also done pretty well in synch with the mood of the film. Most of the time, the music enhances the pleasant mood of the scene.

I felt the Roopa’s house set could have been done much better. It was too artificial and gave a dramatic look to the movie as most part of the movie happens here. Anyway, the director wanted it that way because most of the time, he takes help from the setting of the house to take the story further.

Try out this freshly brewed coffee. You won’t be disappointed for sure.

11.24.2005

Making of Thiruvasakam


Welgate Company didn’t release the “Making of Thiruvasakam” DVD officially in the market. I now know the reason for it. Recently another IR album called “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” got released which is also marketed by Welgate audio company. In each audio CD pack of this album, they give a VCD free. You have many choices like “Talking with Maestro” VCD which is a programme shown in SS music about Thiruvasakam, Vaiko’s speech during the audio release function, Rajini and Kamal’s speech during audio release function and Making of Thiruvasakam. If you buy one CD of “TTLS” album, you may find any one of the VCD in the pack. To know what is inside, they have mentioned the name of the VCD that is kept inside on the front cover of the CD pack. I bought two copies of the CD, mainly for the free VCD. There is nothing much to say about music of “TTLS” as of now. One with "Talking with Maestro" and the other with "Making of Thiruvasakam".

I am happy that finally I got hold of the making of Thiruvasakam VCD with some additional clips from the release function. It is edited and produced by Tamil Mayyam. Infact Father Jegath Gespar himself has carried the mike and camera to interview various musicians from Hungary. The CD starts with Illayaraja’s press meet held in Chennai in which he first informed about the release of Thiruvasakam. Intermittently, the clips of the recording sessions in Hungary are shown. We can have a look into the orchestra rehearsing some of the interlude pieces from “Poovar Senni mannan” song. IR sings a piece to correct a Solo violin in the orchestra.

The best part of the VCD comes at the end. IR, Ray Harcourt and the symphony orchestra performs the “Polla Vinayaen” song together. It was great to watch the way the final crescendo of the song is recorded. As the song proceeds, the Tamil choir’s parts are aptly edited with the recording videos of male and female chorus singing in the Prasad studios, Chennai. I now know where the kids’ chorus is used. There are also brief interviews with Hungary musicians showering praise on IR’s genius in music. I think they might have got a much lengthier video of the recording sessions. They could have included everything in the VCD. So that it will be great watch for hardcore IR fans. It is a must buy CD for all fans though it doesn’t live up to our expectations.

Behind Every Man's Success there is a ........


Kamal and Gowthami in the Shooting spot of "Vettaiyadu Vilayadu" in New York.

11.23.2005

11.22.2005

One Night @ Call Center


It is only after reading the prologue of this book, I chose “five point someone” to read. But “One night @ Call Center” is highly disappointing. Though it has got all that is positive in FPS, it didn’t work well this time. First of all, the plot has nothing to do with the call center people. The problems that these people face are common to every other youngster in India. This book is just a long chat of six friends working in a call center. Except for Shyam and Vroom, no character is complete. Everyone discussing about everyone else’s problem and thankfully everyone (to stretch the book) has got some problems. The book drags a lot at many places. Especially I didn’t like “my date with priyanka” diversion. It is another trick Chetan has played to stretch the book further. It serves no purpose to the main storyline. The happenings in those 8 hours are too unrealistic and unconvincing. It was written like a screenplay for a movie. There are lots of cinematic moments in the movie, sorry the book. Though there is a trade mark Chetan humor in conversations, it doesn’t serve to keep up the interest. The most interesting thing about the prologue was the call from the God but when we come to know what it is all about, we get cheated. One of the six members is there just for giving a logical reason to that “Call from God” thing. Chetan has got stuck in between fantasy and realistic fiction. Though he has something useful to say at the end by that call from God, it is not convincing enough to drive the point home. Better book next time Chetan.

11.21.2005

Nayagan - All Time Best ???


At last, I watched Nayagan this weekend. No one will believe if I say I haven’t seen this movie but it is the fact in the sense that I haven’t seen the complete movie at a stretch but have seen bits and pieces on TV channels in programmes like Super Scenes etc., while watching the movie, first thought that came to my mind is “Nayagan” doesn’t deserve to be in the list of 100 all time best movies. Agreed that it is a masterpiece by the standards of Indian cinema when it got released but it has got its own (logically and technically) flaws.

Almost no creation is perfect but to get a tag like all-time best, it has to be minimum. As like any other common viewer I am in all praise for the bravo performance by Kamal Haasan, dialogues by Balakumaran, Cinematography by P.C.Sreeram, Background score by Illayaraja and above all for Maniratnam.

The second half is little dragging with lot of melodramatic stuff in it. Melodrama is no sin but it is deliberately added to gain more sympathy for Velunayakar character. For instance, Charu’s sudden decision to leave her father after her brother’s death is quite agreeable but I felt she was too harsh and especially her dialogues while leaving her father is too much. She knows what her father has been doing all these days then why this sudden explosive decision.

In the climax on the doorsteps of court, conversation between Velunayakar and his grandson can be said as the most touching moments of the movie but yet I thought the kid could have uttered those lines with some expression. I mean he was literally vomiting what he was taught with a plain face. Yet, the cute voice plays the trick.

The technique Velu uses to safely smuggle the goods from the sea is too simple. This idea may strike to anyone who is doing the same business for years together. Velu says, “Naan 10 vayasulayae sethirukka vendiyavan” and so I am not afraid of the judgement, then why did he play the hide and seek game with the police? Actually it gives space for the scenes to show (which has already been told very clearly before) how great and powerful person Velu nayakar is? May be the intention is to make Nasser (AC) understand how great a person he is, but a small conversation with Charu will do that.
It reaches an extreme level too much when an old lady sacrifices her life for saving Velu Nayakar. I mention this because; those portions are little dragging in the second half.

You may wonder why did I mention there is technical flaw in the movie. It is with the make-up. When people get older, only difference shown is just their white hairs and half baldheads. Physically they are as strong as ever. They couldn’t have done a make-up like that in Indian but a few wrinkles like make-up on the face would have made it. I wonder how a man of perfection forgot this.

I do have a small complaint on music in the sense that it doesn’t synch with the period of the movie except for “Naan sirithaal deepavali” song. “Thenpandi seemayile” is timeless; I have got no complaints about it but what about other songs. Come on, just by using T.R. Mahalingam and Susheela for “Anthi mazhai megam” doesn’t make it sound like an old song. I think IR was too adamant to come out of his style in spite of the script’s demand. In this sense I feel ARR stroke a balance between the period sound and Rahman sound in the songs of Iruvar.

In spite of all these flaws, the movie works big time because of one man called Maniratnam. Here I am going to repeat the same that I said when I wrote about Thalapathi. Maniratnam knows mass mesmerism and he knows well how to make the audience forget all these flaws with his tricky screenplay, shot composition and other technicalities. For instance, I just said about the kid’s plain expression in one of the most touching moments of the movie but that flaw is well balanced by Kamal’s performance and haunting score by Illayaraja. Actually when to compared to the flaws in Thalapathi, these are very minor. Don’t forget that I too like this movie but just wanted to share what I felt about the not so commonly discussed aspects of this movie.

11.20.2005

Shrek, F 9/11


It is one of the most commercially successful documentaries ever. Collected around $119 in US Box office. It also won the best film award in Cannes Film festival that is usually given to a feature film. Well, it is not a documentary actually though has got some real life clippings. The way Moore shows the ‘9/11’ incident itself is laudable. You just hear the sound of flights dashing on the wall of WTC and the following clips shows just the people running, screaming and praying for the people falling from the skyscraper building in the fog of dust. You don’t get to watch the actual incident yet he is able to moist everyone’s eyes. Also the way he has used the 7-minute clip of Bush sitting idle after being informed about the incident is funny and acts as a thread to all branching episodes of Bush’s link with Saudis, Talibans and various companies in which Bush’s relatives are a part of. The clippings from Iraq war, interviews with civilians and army people are the most moving parts of the documentary. The Lila Lipscomb part was little dramatic though. Though on the whole, the documentary is one sided, one cannot forgive Bush for what he did to Iraq in the name of War president. Wonder, people elected Bush even after success of this movie.

I haven’t seen many full-length animated movies before “Shrek” except for “The Incredibles” and “Ants”. I was not an ardent fan of cartoons in childhood days except for Popeye- the sailor show. Though I have heard a lot about this movie, I was little hesitant to watch it. One day I saw a movie called “Ants”. I really liked it and later came to know that the same team who did “Ants” has created “Shrek”. I went ahead to watch it this weekend and now I know the reason for its massive success. First of all, it had a solid story to tell that appeals to both kids and adults. Obviously, the greatness of the movie lies in the fact that they have tried to get human like expressions in all creatures/ characters as perfectly as possible, especially that of Shrek is well done. The donkey character has got good one-liners. The other highlight of the movie is the background score and the catchy songs placed at right places. I like the Fiona theme very much. Going to watch Shrek-2. Heard that it is funnier than Shrek. Performance of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy (Donkey), and Cameroon Diaz gives life to animated creatures.

11.18.2005

Tajmahal - Eternal Love Story


I haven't seen the movie yet but from what i have read so far, it seems the 100 Crore magnum opus turns out to be another Kisna/Devdas, a lesson for directors how one should not make a movie. How many more pennnies they are going to waste to learn that mere extravanagant sets and costumes will never make a classic film. Let us not be too harsh the movie for now. Well, i am going to watch this movie just for the songs. I love Naushad's compositions in this movie. Here is my music review of the same

"The movie is more ornamental than Emotional" - Hindu Review

11.17.2005

Pather Panchali - A RAY of Light to Indian Cinema


A lot had been written about this movie for past fifty years. There are no new words left behind to praise the movie. This movie gave a Ray of light to Indian cinema, through which the whole world can take a look at the real condition of people in Indian villages and this man named Satyajit Ray became the sole representative of Indian cinema in international arena. You all know, which movie I am talking, the most popular Indian movie of all time, “Pather Panchali”.

It is as simple and as realistic as a movie can get. It is about the struggles of a poor family to survive with a hopeless man as head of the family, who dreams to become a writer but ends up getting some temporary jobs. Even after nearly 50 years of its release, the movie looked very contemporary in all aspects. I never got the feeling that I am watching an old movie, may be because the interior villages in India are in the same conditions even now as it was then. I heard that Ray used to sketch all the scenes in the movie before shooting and while shooting he will follow the sketches and visualize accordingly and may be that was the reason for those stunning visuals with brilliant and beautiful cinematography even by the technical standards of today. The black and white picture has got a classy tone of it’s own and enhances the impact of this (subtly) emotional drama.

The controlled and down to earth performance of each and every actor (are they?) is another factor for the impact that the movie leaves. The other technical aspects like sound design, art direction is great considering the period it was made. Like say, when Hari and his wife is speaking inside the house, we get to hear the voice of their aunt singing from outside. Hope those days, movies were not shot with synch-sound. I mean the sound design is carefully done. The movie is first in the Apu trilogy but this movie hardly focuses on Apu but the climax definitely ends with a hope on Apu to uplift his family. The first part focuses basically on Durga and her little desires and emotions.

The ending is really haunting. The way that panic situation is picturised is brilliant with the doors dashing to open due to heavy wind blowing outside, the idol of Vinayak shaking on a stand inside the house and Durga lying in the bed shivering in fever and cold with her mother hugging by her side, the most touching scene in the movie and we could anticipate what is going to happen but again the movie stands out by the way Ray handles this tragic situation with utmost subtlety in the very next scene.

I liked the background score by Pandit Ravishankar of the movie a lot. Those days, I don’t think most moviemakers or even the composers concentrated on this department much. The haunting flute and sitar pieces sprinkled all through the movie enhance the visuals and are pleasant to listen to it along with the poetic visuals. Actually I am searching for this music CD, can anyone tell me where can I find it. What else to say, this movie is a masterpiece for sure (sorry I can’t close without using this).

Life is Beautiful, Pather Panchali, Fahrenheit 9/11, Shrek

I had a great weekend last week by watching the movies viz., Life is Beautiful, Pather Panchali, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Shrek. Each one is best in its own genre.

Life is Beautiful

Well, it won 3 Oscars out of 7 nominations. Best Dramatic Score, Best Actor and Best Foreign language film and it deserves all the three. Jury may intentionally nominate and give Oscars to foreign language films even in main categories to prove that it is the most prestigious recognition in the world. But in the process, we people get to know some of the rare gems that may have gone unnoticed otherwise. Really, if it was not nominated for Oscars, I might have not known about this beautiful Italian movie called “Life is Beautiful”. The image of Roberto Begnini (actor, producer and director of the movie) madly running around in the auditorium on the announcement of him winning the Oscar is still fresh in my mind.

It is about an Italian family (Guido, Dora and Joshua) that lived happily until Second World War started in Italy but it is after which the movie starts to take its unique path. The first half is usual boy-meets-girl, fell in love and get married stuff but it is pure fun. The fantasy filled tricky screenplay makes this otherwise ordinary plot in the first half of the movie very entertaining.

When you take up war as a backdrop in a movie, it is likely to be an emotional drama packed with sufferings and pain of the victims. This movie has got that too but the treatment is very different. I think the major plus point of the movie is that it is able to arouse a kind of mixed emotions in the audience (you cry and laugh) all at the same time. Well, as far as I remember, I haven’t had such an experience with any of the other movies that I have seen so far. There is a sequence that creates very high impact with such mixed emotions.

When Guido was working as a bearer in a hotel, he makes friendship with a doctor who is obsessed with riddles. Many a times, Guido helps the doctor to solve the riddles. Now, when Guido is in the concentration camp, this doctor who is a Nazi comes to check the health condition of the prisoners. Though initially he pretends like he doesn’t know Guido, later he says Guido that he wants to speak to him in secret. Guido is on high expectation that the doctor would help him and his family to escape from the prison. When they finally meet, doctor asks him another riddle “duck-quack-woof’ kind of stuff and this is for what doctor said Guido to meet him in secret. In this scene, you realize on one side how funny the situation is especially by the way the doctor tells the riddle and how tragic the situation when you see the face expression of Guido loaded with disappointment after the only hope turned hopeless. A classy situation and performance to say the least.

The struggle of Guido to protect his kid and also to hide the real situation from his kid Joshua is what that drives the whole plot. Though it is highly fictious, it is convincingly presented. It does give lot of opportunities for twists in the second half. The climax is really touching with the kid feeling happy for winning the tank without knowing the sacrifice that his dad has made for him to have this feeling all his life. But I don’t understand whether Dora knows what happened to Guido. Dora’s expression in the climax is quite ambiguous.

The performances are top notch. Roberto Begnini as Guido steals the show by his energetic performance. The female lead (don’t know her name) has nothing much to do except stare with surprise and sob a little bit in the second half. The kid who did the role Joshua is impressive with his cute expressions.

The movie is technically at par. The production design and costumes gives an authentic period look to the movie. Background score really elevates the proceedings. The main love theme is very pleasant and soothing to listen.

Life is beautiful is beautiful in all aspects.

Will write my thoughts on other movies later.

11.08.2005

Thalapathi - The King

Yesterday I watched Thalapathi in DVD. Thalapathi is definitely a bible for Indian directors (especially for Shankar now) those who think of using an actor in a star without compromising his image or star status in their movie. In this movie, there is no big logical reason for Surya and Deva to form such a close bondage except for the fact that Deva saved Surya from life-long imprisonment. Also there is no convincing reason or even enough scenes for Subbu to fall in love with Surya. But yet in spite of all these major loop holes, Maniratnam was able to narrate a gripping tale and make the audience to empathize with the characters. This is for what I admire Maniratnam the most. His screenplay knows mass mesmerism. The highlights of the movie are perfect casting, cinematography, performances and above all background score and music by Illayaraja. I can write a long post on background score alone. For me this is the most captivating performance of Rajinikanth after Netri Kann where in which you really like and enjoy the character he plays more than his screen presence. Well, lets not get into the debate between Thalapathi and Guna. True, Guna is a masterpiece but Thalapathi will ever remain as king of commercial entertainers.

11.07.2005

Black, The Last Samurai and Manichitrathazhu

After buying a Sony TV and DVD Player, it was this weekend that I had a chance to make use of the both completely as it was continuously raining in Chennai and hence stopping me from going out. I rented three movie DVDs and watched them twice each. Black, The Last Samurai and Manichitrathazhu.

Black: Well, all the debates for rejecting Black as India’s official entry for Oscars are settling down and there are many reasons discussed why it is not selected. Who cares? This movie is definitely one of the finest Indian melodramas made in an internationally acceptable way. It is a movie for our soul and not for the mind. I have written a lot about this movie here. Now after watching it in DVD, I just fell in love with it now than before. I am thinking of owning a DVD of this movie. The special features in the DVD are not good enough though. It would have been better if they had included Director’s commentary on the movie. There are very less movie making footages. But the audio and video quality is at par.

The Last Samurai: It is a beautiful movie which I thought didn’t get enough recognition (you know what I mean, the Oscars). The Oscar jury was greatly interested in rewarding the LOTR trilogy and so even with 5 nominations; this movie couldn’t fetch even one. I don’t know how much the plot is historically correct but I love this movie for what Nathan Algren loves Samurai’s. It is a well crafted movie. All the performances are top notch especially that of Ken Wantanabe (Katsumoto). I can say this movie has got the best performance of Tom Cruise. If there is a flaw in the movie, it could be a little confusing characterization of Katsumoto. I was blown away by the background score by Hans Zimmer. The love theme is beautiful and so are the thundering scores for the action sequences. The conversations as Kastumoto often says is good and touching. On the whole, it is a yet another unforgettable movie.

Manichitrathazhu: At last, I saw the original of “Chandramukhi” which has created a unimaginable record in Indian box -office. No doubt, the original is a classic. This is the first ever Malayalam movie that I am watching. I am so impressed by the way they visualize stories. The down to earth tone, subtle humor, controlled acting, soothing music are all assets for Malayalam cinema then. For sure, P. Vasu has done lot of damages to the original plot but at the same time, we should accept that he has Rajinified the plot well.

Finally, after watching all such great movie, I went to Sivakasi on compulsion. Though it seems that Vijay has arrived as a poor man’s rajini, there is a limit for everything. I have taken a pledge that I would never watch a vijay movie in future unless it is made by some worthy director.

11.05.2005

Rang De Basanti Music Preview


I got the opportunity to listen to a short clip of "Rang De Basanti" music here (Music is by A.R.Rahman). I think the clip has two songs. One is the title track with foot tapping b hangra beats. It is sure to rock the charts after release. And there is a melody at the end which is also beautiful especially the female humming is soothing. I think these clips were recorded in Rahman's studio during final mixing. Anyway, i am eagerly waiting for the release of this album.

11.04.2005

Thavamai Thavamirundhu Music Review


There are some factors I consider before buying movie soundtracks. One of the most important factors apart from the composer is the director of the movie. A director of the movie should definitely have a good ear to music otherwise he can’t extract the best even from the greatest of the composers. I would blindly buy the soundtrack of the movie if it is directed by people like Maniratnam, Balumahendra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Subash Ghai, Vasanth, K.Vishwanath, Bharathiraja etc., no matter who the composer is. They really extract the best. After listening to the album Thavamai Thavamirundhu, I think I can append Cheran’s name in that list. Before getting into reviewing the album, let me recollect some of the ever green songs from Cheran’s movies and about Cheran’s collaboration with various composers.

Deva has worked with Cheran for “Bharathi Kannamma”, “Vetri Kodikattu” and “Porkaalam”. Among these films I could remember only “Thanjavoor Mannu eduthu” and “Karuvelam Kaatukullae” songs from “Porkaalam”. All the songs in this movie were a hit then but these are the two that still lingers. Cheran – Illayaraja combo worked for “Desiay Geetham”. Though the main reason for going to Illayaraja is for background score, IR did deliver a good melody in “Vakkapattu poga pora” song and the orchestration was great in “En kanavinai kelamma” song. But obviously Cheran can’t take credit for any of these songs as we know the working style of IR. And the Cheran – Baradwaj combination in both “Pandavar Bhoomi” and “Autograph” seems to be the most successful of all. “Avaravar Vazhkayil” and most of the songs in “Autograph” turned to be immortal. Cheran also gives lot of importance to meaningful lyrics by which the life of these songs is stretched. Finally now, Cheran has gone to the most unlikely composers, Sabesh – Murali (Assistants of Deva).

Sabesh – Murali did the background score for “Autograph”. They did a pretty good job in that movie. I think that gave the confidence to Cheran that these guys can deliver when given an opportunity.

The album works mainly because of the following factors

1) Freshness in melody
2) All being situational tracks, lyrics are meaningful
3) Orchestration with just enough instruments
4) Catchy tunes and rhythms
5) Variety of songs and moods.

It has got totally 7 songs.

Ore Oru Oorukkullae

This song is the equivalent of “Nyabagam varuthey” from Autograph in its meaning. In this song, a father sings about his childhood days to his son. The earthy flute piece and the folk rhythm along with Sabesh’s rustic vocals provide perfect nativity sound to the song. Sabesh has a better voice than Deva. As this song has more emphasis on expression than rendition, Sabesh fits in well. Snehan’s lyrics are earthy with less word play. Jaykumar performs a street drama in between. I think the song will appeal more with the visuals. The song has got an easy tune which will sit in our mind on very first listening.

Unnai Charanadainthenm

If I would have heard this number without knowing the composer and the movie, I would have definitely thought it as an A.R.Rahman composition. Everything in the song from the melody, rhythm, and free flowing bass in the background, guitar and piano pieces are Rahmanish. It is a beautiful romantic number all the way. The new singers Kalyani and Pranna have done a great job in this song.

Oru Muraithaan

It is a slow, sober, situational number. This song sounds like “Ninaivugal” song from Autograph which may be because of the rendition Unni menon. The beautiful prelude promises a lot, but the vocal tune is not so great, yet the song soothes with its beautiful orchestration. The soothing mild flute in the background enhances the sober mood of the song. Unni menon is expressive enough. Lyric by Thenmozhi gels well with the mood and the situation of the song.

Enna parkirai

How it would be if a whole song is sung in a way Shalini spells the ending words in “Kiru Kiru” song from Kathal? This song is the answer. It is a sensuous number with all right ingredients. Cheran’s lyrics are good. For a change mirchi Suchitra sings a melody and she has done full justice to the song and so is Yugendran. The song starts like a dialogue and slowly gets into a melody and rhythm. The ending with vocals going high with a grand orchestra is just perfect for the mood of the song. There are actually two themes in this song apart from the main tune, one played in flute and other in piano. Both sounds great and are put to use at right places. Beautiful Flute piece is similar to that of “Yaro yaravan” song from “Alaudin” movie.

Aakatti

It is an emotional folk number. Though I didn’t understand meaning of many words in this song, I got a rough idea about what they are trying to say. This is a song of meaningful lyrics and emotions than music. Yet the percussions at the end have a great impact. The singer Jayakumar has done a great job in expressive singing. I am eagerly waiting to watch this song on the screen.

Theme Music

We have heard similar song done by Deva in the movie “Aha” and also M.S.Viswanathan did a duet song with just hummings and lalala’s without any lyrics in “Ninaithalae innikum”. This song is full of classical swaras and jathis. I don’t know whom to give the credit for this song, singers or the composer. Madhubalakrisha, Sarath and Sudha Raghunathan have done a brilliant job in the song. The fast streaming swaras along with catchy beats make a stunning fusion. Also the song is well programmed.

Avaram poovae

Sabesh-Murali has tried to make a song like “Thenpaadi Seemayilae”. Though they haven’t really touched us emotionally with this song, it is a nice composition. It will definitely gel well with the movie. The vibraphone theme is beautiful. Madhubalakrishna is at his emotive best in this song.

Sabesh – Murali has tried hard to meet the class of Illayaraja in folk rhythms and melodies and that of A.R.Rahman in romantic numbers. Though they didn’t reach that level of class, they have succeeded in getting somewhat close to it. This is the second (first one being “Kanda Naal Muthal”) album in this year, in which I love all the songs equally.