9.26.2007

Sivi soundtrack

Finally after a lot of search, I grabbed a copy of ‘Sivi’ soundtrack with music by Dharan. I couldn’t find Sivi audio CD for past two weeks and finally found it almost in a dustbin from a small CD shop. Infact, CD has with songs from one another movie it costs only Rs.19. Who should we blame on for this situation? Why there is such poor marketing for even good products. If we ask them, they would blame us for downloading the songs online, piracy etc. What else are we supposed to do if the audio CD is not available in the stores for such a long time? First of all, why don’t the audio companies realize the potential of a good music. Are really deaf people working there? Mistake is on both sides, we the listeners should feel the importance of buying originals and the also audio companies should care for marketing the music in a better way to reach everyone. Anyway let me stop complaining and get back to the routine…

P.S.Dharan
had quite a debut with ‘Parijaatham’ though, I don’t think it was a complete soundtrack. I had problems even with the most popular song ‘Unnai Kandenae’. But ‘Parijaatham’ music definitely helped us to notice a spark in this young composer. ‘Sivi’ is a completely enjoyable soundtrack. We speak about catchy music and the songs of ‘Sivi’ are perfect examples of that. Dharan doesn’t compromise the freshness and quality of music for being catchy and that is a notable quality for a newcomer.

‘Oh Nenje’ is a beautiful hip-hop melody with nice rap portions sandwiched within. I am not a big fan of rap music, but I liked this Dr.Burn’s rap because it is in chaste Tamil with some meaningful words (unlike say a Blaaze or Premgi ones). ‘Maayavi Neeyae’ is one of the best songs of the year with an unusual format, beautiful bass lines and lot of rhythm variations. Apart from the main melody, the two motifs, the female humming and the violin piece are beautiful and adequately placed at appropriate places.

Sivi theme has a dark feel written over it with usage of lot of e-sounds. Dharan gets heavily inspired by the background score of ‘Requiem for a Dream’ for this theme but somehow makes it up by mixing these eerie sounds with the vocals of Sunitha Sarathy (funny that CD outer cover which I bought credits Na.Muthukumar for writing the lyrics of this song). Neruppum is full of Arabic arrangements and nonetheless catchy. I hope Dharan gets some worthy projects in future.

9.22.2007

Saawariya Soundtrack

After Black, Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB) is back to his comfort zone in ‘Saawariya’, a romantic musical and that is what it sounds to be, when we listen to its beautiful soundtrack. We don’t often get to listen to such soundtracks in Indian cinema though we have heard this kind of music a plenty in SLB’s own previous films (of course Black is an exception).The reason for it sounding so beautiful and refreshing each time is that he makes movies only once in two years and it is in Devdas that we last heard this kind of music. ‘Saawariya’ has music composed by Monty and words written by Sameer.

The exquisite singing by all lead singers no matter how little space they get, the importance given to vocal harmonies (sometimes they get more space than even the lead singers), usage of dhols, exhaustive yet appropriate usage of the sound of wind chimes, usage of Chal-Chal sound, unconventional structure of the songs, innovative melodies and rhythm patterns, usage of every possible classical Indian instruments like Harmonium, Santoor, sitar, Veena, Shehnai, unique and appropriate mix of all these carefully chosen instruments which makes up for fresh orchestration and arrangements, the synth patterns and e-sounds hidden deep inside the multiple layers of otherwise pure classical songs, unexpected orchestral outbursts, sudden twists and turns to various genres of music, after a sudden pause a male vocal breaking out with an alaap accompanied by banging percussions, romanticism in every single note of the melody, the blend of western classical and Indian classical music, ‘Allah’, ‘Chand jaisi ladki’, Shreya Ghosal, Richa Sharma, and finally the seamless fusion of all the above elements making each song a gem is what you can expect out of SLB’s movie soundtrack. ‘Saawariya’ is no different.

All guitars galore ‘Saawariya’ title track and its reprise version are instantly catchy. It is also the only song of the soundtrack without much of Indian classical music influences. The new singer Shail Hada is a great find who has finely rendered this song with quite a bit of yoodling. He is able to traverse between any of the western octaves effortlessly.

‘Jab Se Tere Naina’ is a beautiful melody with Shaan giving his best. I don’t know how to express it but there is this great feeling that pulls you straight into the song, in every precise moment, when the song shuttles smoothly between lines without any percussion and that with catchy rhythm on heavy percussion.

‘Masha-Allah’ is a clam and soulful track with more emphasis on emotions than an immediately identifiable melody. It takes time to sink in but it does for sure after two or three listening. Kunal Ganjwala has done a brilliant job in this song with his emotive husky vocals and western touches. In beautifully placed ‘Masha-allah’ motif, the tabla mukhda, a distant sounding Shreya’s Allah, an emotive vocal harmony, guitar strains, a mild piano melody and Kunal’s husky rendering of Masha-Allah run together to give us a scintillating musical experience and to make what I called the quintessential SLB mix of everything.

By this time you must have noticed that so far I have not mentioned anything about Monty, the composer of the soundtrack. Of course, due credit should go to Monty for the beautiful music. But I think SLB interferes too much into a composer’s business to an extent of stopping a composer from doing what he feels right and this could be one of the reasons why all SLB soundtracks sound the same. I am rambling about this because the next song ‘Thode Badmaash’ is composed by SLB himself. Great job SLB. It is a short and sweet melody elevated to Himalayan heights by Shreya’s rendition. Monty has given a beautiful ornamentation to SLB’s tune.

I always like songs that break the conventional structure with surprise twists and turns. ‘Yoon Shabnami’ is one such song. It starts like a conventional romantic melody, turns into a qawwali, symphonic strings follows, comes back to the melody again and ends with soulful strings playing the main melody of the song. The damn catchy main percussive rhythm we heard in the trailer is from this song which kind of binds all these variations well.

‘Daras Bina nahin chain’ is a delight because of Monty’s impeccable orchestration. The whole song just wanders through various alaaps, jathis, percussions, vocal harmonies and brief instrumental motifs without any main melody except that of Richa Sharma’s ‘Saawariya’ alaap which is quite soul stirring.

‘Sawar Gayi’ is an out and out Shreya show but could be best enjoyed with the visuals because the song takes quite sometime to just come to its main melody. The main melody is good though. ‘Jaan-E-Jaan’ is one of those pathos songs which have a melody that blows you when played on an instrument but sounds clich├ęd when vocals sing with words in it. It may be because of the conventional orchestration, full of strings in the background. The piano version, violin version and the operatic version of the main melody of the song that appears in this song itself sounds damn good. Even Kunal and Shreya’s expressive singing couldn’t create much impact like they did in other songs. I am not saying it is a bad song but when compared to the other songs of this soundtrack; it sure stands out for wrong reasons. We have to wait and watch it on screen to better feel the music of this song.

Kunal excels again in ‘Pari’ which has got a very unconventional melody that takes strange turns in the beginning itself. There is an unsettling feel in the music which is brought out well by an intricate orchestration. The ending is dramatic, grand and great with a full blown orchestra playing the main melody. ‘Chaabeela’ is a typical bollywood festive song and mood is brought out quite well but not as catchy as the other festive songs in SLB’s previous films.

‘Saawariya’ music is great for the most part. If you have passion and patience for good music, ‘Saawariya’ is a delight. If you are die-hard fan of Himesh’s kiddish rhymes, stay miles from this soundtrack.

9.20.2007

Om Shanthi Om soundtrack

In the soundtrack of ‘Om Shanti Om’, Farah Khan’s music sensibilities are on display more than that of Vishal-Shekar’s. The feel and the kind of music is exactly how ‘Main Hoon Na’ was, with full of predictable masala but nevertheless enjoyable. As the script travels through different periods of Hindi cinema, there are heavy influences of R.D.Burman, Lakshmikanth-Pyarelal and Jatin-Lalit kind of music in most of the songs; in fact one of the songs is arranged by Pyarelal. Lyrics penned by Javed Akthar and Shekar.

>‘Ajab Si’ is obviously the best song of the soundtrack in all aspects. It has a very simple melody oozing with romanticism. The minimal orchestration with mild beats, strings and flute add up to give a feel of floating in the air out of ecstasy. KK is brilliant in the song giving right emotional touches all through.

‘Dard-E-Disco’ is that typical catchy bollywood number which goes totally Arabic in its orchestration and arrangements and to add to the euphoria, we have energetic vocals of Sukhwinder singh.

‘Deewangi’ sounds like a poor Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s composition. The format of the song, instrumentation, the build up to the English parts and the English lines are all like how it would be in a SEL’s dance number. But it doesn’t work because of the lack of good melody. The synth motif is good though.

‘Main Agar kahoon’ is a sweet romantic ballad with Sonu and Shreya giving their usual romantic touches. The melody takes time to sink in. The pleasant strings and the breezy orchestration evokes nostalgic. The song is likeable mainly because it comes in between other average numbers heavy on beats.

The melody of first few lines of ‘Jag soona soona lage’ is actually good and especially that synth motif in the background has the necessary feel. The song soon becomes very painful and boring as it proceeds further with lines lacking an emotive melody.

‘Dhoom Taana’ is very enjoyable because it faithfully replicates the sound of early 90’s festive songs. The dholaks, drums, Shehnai, motif like ‘Dhoom taana’, sudden shift from dholaks to rock and roll beats and the final percussive crescendo are all quintessential elements of a festive song in early 90’s Hindi cinema and everything is there in this song.

‘Daastan’ starts promisingly with an orchestral piece and the problem arises when a flat vocal melody begins. The Bollywoodish vocal melody and the intermittent operatic outbursts don’t gel well and what we get at the end is a totally confused mesh. Even the vocal version of the main theme melody of the movie is spoiled by change in tempo and amateur beats. Just skip this track.

‘Om Shanti Om Theme’ is a pleasant piano melody which is used in almost all the songs of the soundtrack.

Except for two songs, I enjoy listening to this just-okay soundtrack because I didn’t expect much from it. Vishal-Shekar didn’t strive hard to strike any balance between their influences and their own style of music which makes the songs so predictable. But Farah khan would make these songs enjoyable on screen with her dazzling choreography. Let us wait and watch.

9.13.2007

"Chale Chalo - The lunacy of Filmmaking" A Must Watch


Much before the release of ‘Chale Chalo – The Lunacy of Filmmaking’ DVD, Satyajit Bhatkal wrote and released a book on making of Lagaan titled ‘Spirit of Lagaan’. Even if you have already read that book, you should definitely watch this movie for it brings all those magical moments behind the making of a masterpiece right in front of you. The book though is an interesting read and has more trivia about the making than the documentary; visual impact of the documentary is beyond anything that the book offers. I am surprised with the quality of the documentary considering that it is shot and edited by someone who neither has handled a camera before nor does know anything about movie making. Satyajit Bhatkal is an advocate by profession.

A documentary is a reverse movie making process. Usually, a movie is shot after a script is written but for a documentary the script is written after the movie is shot. It is an art in itself as tough as movie making. The only advantage is that you need not make anyone to act; you just have to capture the reality and make drama out of it. And toughest part is editing and sequencing the available video material to tell a gripping story. Satyajit Bhatkal has recorded every single moment of the making of the movie from which he has edited and sequenced the most interesting and vital moments into a 120 minute documentary, which runs at a pace faster than the actual movie.

The documentary may definitely be boring for those who don’t like the movie (are there any?) and for those who haven’t realized it magic and impact. It is for hardest core fans of Lagaan. The documentary has no footages about the creative process of the movie making. It doesn’t show how the story was written or how such a tight, streamlined screenplay was achieved. It is all about the cumbersome process of transforming Ashutosh’s creative genius from paper to screen and the practical problems they faced for it. It tells a real story that is more gripping and fascinating than the actual movie. The documentary takes us in a long journey right from the moment when the seed of Lagaan was sowed in the minds of Ashutosh till the movie getting an Oscar nomination.

Satyajit has given more emphasis on the problems they faced while shooting than the joyous moments. He records everything from thorns in Champaner plains that pained 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 remote village. In between he adds as many interesting trivia about the movie as possible.

There is one episode in this documentary which is amazingly edited and put together and is a classic example of how a documentary should be made. The purpose of this episode of the documentary is to show the problems faced by Ashutosh while shooting the Arjun’s batting scenes (the actor playing Arjun’s role didn’t know how to bat). It also tells how Ashutosh overcame the difficulties and how he made the actor look convincing as a good batsman in the movie.

Though the script of Lagaan may be one of the most well-bound ever written in Bollywood before starting the shoot, such challenges pops up once in a while where the director has to take immediate decision within the given time frame and yet without compromising the quality. Though well planned, sometimes there is nothing that can help you like spontaneity. This is a classic example of it.

To make this episode simple and straight, Satyajit would have easily conveyed it by making Ashutosh or Aamir khan explain it in words. They could have said the entire thing in just 2 lines.

‘Arjun is supposed to be the best batsman in Champaner team but actually while shooting, the actor who played Arjun’s role didn’t know even the A..B..C.. of cricket. He was eating up lot of shots and we were running out of time. So in order to show him convincingly as a good batsman on screen, we took close-ups of Arjun’s face with a reaction that looked as if he is hitting a ball with ultimate force’.

Less than one minute and they would have covered it and we would have got the point and this is how it would be written if you read the book. Now see how this gets transformed or dramatized in the documentary that reaps in maximum effects.

Satyajit inter-cuts the interviews of Aamir and Ashutosh explaining about this situation with the actual video footage taken while this scene was shot. It shows Arjun missing every single ball and we could see frustrated Ashutosh looking at the monitor. Also see how Satyajit adds comedy in between by showing a video footage of the interview of the guy who played Arjun’s role saying that ‘I am the best batsman of Champaner 11’, immediately after the shots of him continuously missing the balls while shooting. At the end, Satyajit beautifully connects the shots of Ashutosh, Apoorva Lakhia (First A.D of the movie) and Aamir smiling shots, when they get the required feel in the shot and he doesn’t stop with that, he again inter-cuts the smiling shots with actual footage from the movie where Arjun continuously hit sixers and boundaries.

What amplified the whole impact was the brilliant way in which Rahman’s background score from the movie in used for this part of the documentary. Satyajit has used the background music scored for the scene where Aamir tries to hit a ball in front of the villagers in which he will miss the first two balls but hit a sixer in the third. Of course the scenario is almost the same while shooting the Arjun batting scenes.

The most fascinating aspect of the documentary is that it draws a parallel between the actual story of movie and the real story of its making. Ashutosh plays the role of Bhuvan in this documentary. Everyone in Bollywood (including Aamir) seems to have advised Ashutosh not to take up the risk and challenge of making this movie. It is exactly like how all the villagers are against Bhuvan for risking the villager’s life by accepting the Paul’s challenge. Ismail and Bhuvan’s injury and pain is equivalent to A.K.Hangal’s injury and Ashutosh’s slip disc problem. Inspite of such heavy body pain they continued with their shoot like how Ismail and Bhuvan continued with their game. Like how Bhuvan selects people according to their inborn skills, Ashutosh carefully picks the cast through audition and screen tests. Like how Bhuvan’s dream soon becomes the dream of all the villagers and players, Ashutosh’s dream also becomes the dream of every other cast and crew involved in the project. The climax of the documentary is as uplifting as the movie’s climax. Watching this documentary is like reliving the whole experience of watching Lagaan in theatres. After all, both the movie and the making of the movie is a triumph of hard work, determination, courage, sacrifice, team spirit and synergy.

If you are a fan of Lagaan, this documentary is a must watch.

9.12.2007

Waqt Par Bolna - Hariharan

It is no exaggeration if I say that Hariharan is one of the pioneers of Indian pop and fusion music. I still admire the work he did along with Leslie Lewis in ‘Colonial Cousins’ the music that was much ahead of its time. They came up with two other albums ‘Aatma’ and ‘The way we do it’, which were good enough but it couldn’t succeed as much as their debut album did. The problem with the other two albums was that it tried to follow the same kind of music they created in their debut album. The format and structure of the songs were already so familiar for the listeners and the surprise element was totally missing.

It is one of those rare cases where the makers and their product became a victim of the success and impact of their own previous work. The big impact and success of ‘Colonial Cousins’ was not just because of its brilliant and innovative music but also because it was for the first time, the world was hearing something like that. They didn’t just make music; they created a new idiom of music. But once it has been done, they should have tried something totally different, which they didn’t do then and hence the subsequent failures.

With the recent ‘Waqt Par Bolna’, Hariharan seems to have realized it, without Leslie though. Hariharan himself has composed and sung all the 10 songs. Hariharan says that the songs of this album belong to ‘Ghazal blues’, a new name for the genre of music he has created for this album. I don’t know the grammar of either Ghazal or blues music to comment anything technically about it but what is important is that this fusion takes us on a pleasant journey.

The problem with this kind of strange fusions is that sometimes composers would forget the big picture of music, that it should emotionally move the listeners. It just would sound like a theoretically perfect score about which scholars of music can write an analysis note by note. They would appreciate it for the brilliance of the composer to have made a grammatically correct mix of both forms of music. What is all the fuss about if the mere sound of it doesn’t touch the senses of a listener? I have listened to mostly filmy Ghazals, but never heard any real blues songs. Thankfully my lack of knowledge helped me to go beyond the technicalities and enjoy the emotional essence of the songs.

With two forms of music, a composer has four elements to play on, the rhythm pattern and the structure of the vocal melody of two forms of music. Here it is even tougher because both forms of music (Ghazal and blues) sound to be progressive in nature. It has a standard fixture and yet gives freedom to improvise to any extent within its boundaries. In this album, Hariharan has restricted the vocal melody mostly to that of Ghazal with typical vibrations, expressions and wavering of notes and the rhythm part mostly avoids tabla and sticks to that of jazz blues.

Fortunately in both blues and Ghazal, there is this trend of repeating a single line more than once with all the repetitions sounding slightly different from the other. This narrows down the line between the two forms of music and hence the fusion in the melodies are not so complex. The orchestration and arrangements for the most part are somewhat filmy or popish and when in some songs it restricts to the authentic jazz blues arrangement, listening to it is a unique experience.

The blues style of free flowing piano, bass and beats backing Hariharan’s exquisite rendition of Ghazals in its purest form, gives us some of the most exhilarating parts of the album. Each and every song has got a haunting melody which sometimes is so easy on ears and sometimes requires our utmost concentration and attention to consume the complete beauty it offers. For casual listeners, such songs could bring some yawn but if you are patient enough, Hariharan’s voice and passionate singing in these songs will definitely mesmerize you.

‘Mujhko chuke’ is a stunning masterpiece which blends everything so beautifully, you cannot figure out where blues and Ghazal meet and part in the vocal melody of this song. I get goose bumps whenever I listen to the melody in the line ‘Itni kushiyaan’ from the song ‘Jab bhi milti’. The violin postlude of this song which introduces a whole new melody at the end is one of the most beautiful soul searching combinations of notes I heard in recent times.

The simple title track is the catchiest one in the album and no wonder they chose this song for the promotional video. Hariharan’s interpretation of traditional ‘Kesariya Baalamva’ is initially very strange to listen to but it grows on you when you begin to wither off your associations with the original version. Stephen Devassy has done a neat job in arranging this song which is a very toll task considering the wandering nature of the main vocal melody. Jolly mukherjee, the music arranger for all the other songs, should be lauded for the beautiful music arrangements, which is innovative, emotive, ambient and harmonic.

You don’t need to have any knowledge in music to listen and enjoy this music; instead you just need to have passion and interest in listening to good music. If you are one of that kind, Grab you copy now.

9.10.2007

Kannamoochi Yenada Soundtrack

V.Priya + Yuvan’s ‘Kanda Naal Muthal’ was one of those rare soundtracks with all melody, all situational and all enjoyable songs to which I still go back. The soundtrack of ‘Kannamoochi Yenada’ is also breezy though not as instantly hooky as ‘KNM’. Yuvan somehow manages to bring in a variety of genres in the songs of all his soundtracks. KMY is no different.

It has got a typical romantic duet in ‘Megam Megam’, an east-west jam fusion in title track (less interesting than KNM title track), an innovative e-sound patterned rhythm in ‘Sanjaram’, all jazzy ‘Andru vandhadhum’ and hip-hopish here and folksy there mix in ‘Putham pudhu kathudhaan’. I am sure V.Priya would make interesting visuals for these songs which will definitely make us like the songs more, because right now, I am not too much into either the title track or ‘Putham puthu kaathudhan’ song. But other songs are on loop for sure. And a special mention to Thaamari for her no-nonsense, tune friendly lyrics though there isn't any out-of-the-box thoughts.

Inspite of being conventional, there are some interesting places in the songs. The strange way in which the first few lines of charanam end, an interesting vocal harmony at the end all make ‘Megam’ song an aural delight. The suppressed tabla beats (like the one we heard recently in Adnan’s Kisidin) in ‘Sanjaram’, rhythm with just water splashing sound and the constant variations in the rhythm pattern pep up the otherwise ordinary middle portions of ‘Sanjaram’. The jazzy interpretation and reworking of ‘andru vandhadhum’ song is refreshing. I want Yuvan to do more of such remakes than mindless remixes he has been churning out often. I like the way the song reaches ‘iruvar kannilum ore nila’ with a bridging ‘anaal’ or 'illai' in a definitive jazz fashion. Finally, someone has to seriously stop composers from using Madhusree for Tamil songs.