Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My favorite songs of 2009 : Concluding Part

Previous posts about this list: Intro, Part 1 (24-25), Part 2 (18-23), Part 3 (12-17), Part 4 (6-11)

The top 5. This will probably feel more like a countdown unlike the 6-songs-crowded-on-the-podium feel of previous 3 posts. I still can't separate the top 2 songs (and the next 2), but then there is no reason to! Who says one HAS to choose between songs that bring you equal pleasure.

First, a recap... full list till now...

#24. Aaj Din Chadhheya and Dev-Chanda themes

#18. Dhhol Yaara Dhhol; Himalaya Theme; Rahi Re; Sheher; Tu Jaane Na and Ye Dooriyaan

#16. Chor Bazaari and Fikraana

#12. Aaj Dil Gustaakh Hai; Aisi Sazaa; Bhoola Tujhe and Raat Ke Dhhaai Baje

#6. Delhi 6; Genda Phool; Go Charlie Go; Kaminey; Man Chandre and Pehli Baar Mohabbat

Phew! So.. ladies and gentlemen... I give you... my top 5 hindi songs of 2009

#5. Dhan Te Nan from Kaminey.

Remember that first promo of Kaminey? The one that instantly made Kaminey the most awaited movie of the year for everyone? Well, it worked for a lot of reasons, specially the dialogue - "तीन फ़ाल फ़े... फ़कल भी नहीं देखी मैंने उफ़्की", "अब कहाँ गयी तुम्हारी स.... स.... साइंस! होम साइंस!", "तो क्या rape किया मैंने तुम्हारा?!!", "मैं फ़ को फ़ बोलता हूँ...", "अबे फ़ को फ़ नहीं तो क्या ल बोलेगा?" - but not the least of those reasons was the PulpFictionesque trumpet in the background that explodes at the perfect moment with the song that must surely be a shoo-in for the most popular song of the year!
What an idea it was to take that quintessential bollywood action movie sound "Dhan Te Nan" and turn it into such a wonderful song for the dance floor! And, with Kaminey, it goes without saying (I'll say it nevertheless :P ) that the way it is used in the movie is purrrrfect! High on drugs and anticipation of a gloriously fun-filled life ahead, celebrating the biggest success of their lives on a dance floor, what will the two friends sing BUT "Dhan Te Nan!" :)
Sukhwinder does what he normally does with such songs, but he actually doesn't get into the mood nearly as well as Vishal Dadlani does! As for lyrics, Gulzar does his usual Gulzargiri, of course..

"आजा आजा दिल निचोडें
रात की मटकी तोडें
कोई goodluck निकालें
आज गुल्लक तो फोडें!"

"कोई चाल ऐसी चलो यार अबके,
समंदर भी पुल पे चले
फिर तू चले उसपे, या मैं चलूँ,
शहर हो अपने पैरों तले!
कहीं खबरें हैं, कहीं कबरें हैं,
जो भी सोये हैं कबरों में, उनको जगाना नहीं"

All I can say is that Gulzar only needs to be kept away from Subhash Ghai! He writes some of the most enjoyable lyrics in hindi movies almost effortlessly.

#3. Paayaliya> from Dev.D and Rehna Tu from Delhi-6.

Dev.D isn't an easy album to like on the first hearing. A lot of the songs are just so unlike "movie songs" that one gets a little uneasy listening to the first 4-5 songs of the album. And then comes "Paayaliya". You don't know what to make of it what with all the "अरज अरज करी, करज करजवा को करे हर पल बेचैन", "नींदें बिसर कर दे" etc lyrics and the voice that sings the first line giving it a rustic feeling, yet the instruments and the actual singing voice and style (not to speak of the backing vocals saying "By God" etc) make it sound so modern. And yet, nothing really sounds 'inconsistent'. You might not know what to make of it, but you like it nevertheless. This is one song where lyrics just don't matter to me at all! She could've sung this in aramaic and I'd still have liked it! Amit Trivedi got everyone's attention with Aamir last year and amazed people with the sheer range of music in Dev.D, but it took THIS song to convince me that we really are looking at someone special. The songs starts well, but it is really the tune of the stanzas that make me love this song so much. I mean the tunes for "अरज अरज करी, करज करजवा को करे हर पल बेचैन" and then later for "हो! जिया पे छाये, जिया पे छाये, छाये छाये छाये छाये रे!" The lyrics, as I said, are there just as convenient space-fillers. The might mean something, but honestly, I really never feel like thinking about them when the song is going on. And if I try to think about the lyrics later, I invariably get sucked into listening to the voice in my head that is singing the song and forget all about the lyrics again! What a song! :)

ARR seems to always keep the best (or one of the best) song of the album for himself to sing, doesn't he? :) Or perhaps it is something to do with the combination of his singing AND the genre of songs that he sings that just makes me love them.
It is a sign of a great album that your favorite song of the album keeps changing for a long time before possibly settling in on one (sometimes that stage never arrives. Every time I listen to a song from Dil Se, THAT song suddenly seems to be the best in the album). Delhi-6 is one of ARR's better albums of last 5-6 years, and yet, it took me a long time to look beyond 'Rehna Tu' when I thought about my favorite song of the album. ARR's soothing vocals, SUCH a nice melodious tune and Prasoon Joshi's romantic lyrics, wow! All we needed was a great video to go with it, but Rakesh Mehra let us down. :( I think they were going for the same thing that they did with Rang De Basanti - using the songs in completely unexpected places (no one would've expected Luka Chhupi and Roobaroo to be used the way they were). It sort of worked for a lot of people in RDB (Roobaroo didn't work for me though... I mean the picturization, not the song), but it just didn't work at ALL for Rehna Tu and Dil Gira Dafatan here. Sigh! अब क्या कर सकते हैं? We can keep listening to the song and try to keep the accompanying visuals away from our mind. That isn't all that difficult actually. Specially when the song ends with that long continuum keyboard piece, one doesn't think of any visual at all, and just listens! If I had to choose one piece of instrumental magic for this year, it has got the be the last 1 min of Rehna Tu!

Which brings us to my two songs of 2009!

#1-2. Arziyaan from Delhi-6 and Iktaara from Wake Up Sid.

Last year all year-end reports mentioned Benny Dayal as the newcomer singer of the year, whereas the REAL find was the voice of Javed Ali. Smooth as - pardon the cliché - silk. Had you asked me before I listened to 'Arziyaan' whether a song of qawwali/sufi genre would suit Kailash Kher's voice or Javed Ali's I'd have chosen Kher. Yet, every time I hear any part of this unusually long song in my mind, it is ALWAYS in Javed Ali's voice, not Kailash Kher's. Not to say that Kher doesn't do justice to his lines. Just that Javed Ali absolutely OWNS this song.
Did I say Javed Ali owns this song? That's just in terms of singing, of course. As for the rest, I don't think I even need to talk about ARR here because, after all, we anyway expect him to do wonders in this genre. Forget doing wonders, has anyone else even composed anything in that genre in last 5-10 years? The fast paced, dance floor friendly qawwali songs, yes, but not anything with a slow, soothing, sufi touch.
So, there you go, Rahman did what Rahman does - be a genius. Nothing new there. Actually, it is Prasoon Joshi who REALLY owns the song. This is a long song and the lyrics are good throughout, but seriously speaking he didn't really need to write anything beyond "दरारें दरारें हैं माथे पे मौला, मरम्मत मुकद्दर की कर दो मौला " and I'd have been sold anyway.

"प्यास लेके आया था, दरिया वो भर लाया,
नूर की बारिश में भीगता सा तर आया "

"एक खुशबू आती थी, मैं भटकता जाता था,
रेशमी सी माया थी, और मैं तकता जाता था....
जब तेरी गली आया, सच तभी नज़र आया,
मुझमें ही वो खुशबू थी, जिससे तूने मिलवाया..."

As I mentioned, it was actually 'Rehna Tu' that was my favorite song of the album for the longest time and while that song didn't go down in my estimation over time, Arziyaan went through all the familiar stages of those songs of ARR that stay with you the longest. From "hmm... nice sounding song, but perhaps a bit too generic" to "hmmm.. this is actually pretty nice.. Javed Ali sounds so good!" to "that maula-maula bit is pretty addictive, though perhaps the song goes on for too long" to "WOW! what lyrics! marammat muqaddar ki and all!!" to, finally, "too long? I could listen to this for hours!!! How long have I been continuously singing this for, again? 2 days perhaps!" :) Song of the year, without doubt.

It's that voice. Kavita Seth's voice has something in it that gives Iktaara that extra punch. From the first line of the song "ओ रे मनवा तू तो बांवरा है... तू ही जाने तू क्या सोचता है, बाँवरे" to the way she pronounces बूँद-बूँद and मूँद-मूँद... she just elevates the song so much!
As for the song itself, Amit Trivedi has outdone himself here! He thought of this song for a background piece in the movie?! THIS song?? It carries the whole album! In an year when Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy were particularly lacking in inspiration, I'm sure this song from Amit Trivedi got played more times than all S-E-L songs from this year, let along from this whole album. I think I'll wait for one more album from Amit Trivedi, and if it is nearly as good as Aamir, Dev.D or this song, I'll probably start saying that he is to hindi film music what Vishal Bhardwaj and Raju Hirani are to hindi films! :) Meaning, I'll wait for every album by Amit Trivedi as much as I now wait for Vishal's and Hirani's movies. There is always the danger of a new composer running out of all of the great songs in his mind after the first few albums, but we shall keep hoping.

That concludes this list. Up next, albums and composers of the year. And then the usual list of movies of the year (and maybe decade).

Monday, December 28, 2009

My favorite songs of 2009 : Part 4 (no. 6 to 11)

Previous posts about this list: Intro, Part 1 (24-25), Part 2 (18-23), Part 3 (12-17)

Again, all six of these songs are at 6. Posting here in alphabetical order.

Genda Phool from Delhi-6. Such a nice little song! Everything about this song works, the singing, the "aye hay hay" chorus going in the background, even the call to pigeons at the beginning (that's what it is, isn't it?), the fusion between folk singing and modern-ish instruments/arrangements. AND the video. As I said, Rekha Bhardwaj elevates most songs that she sings. Great song from an album full of great songs.

Go Charlie Go from Kaminey. I didn't realize how good this instrumental track is till I saw it being used in the movie. It adds so much to that perfectly shot "Go Charlie Go" sequence. If you have seen the movie, you know what I mean. Perhaps the memory of Charlie hurtling through the corridors gives me such a rush whenever I hear this track.

Kaminey from Kaminey. "जिसका भी चेहरा छीला, अन्दर से और निकला; मासूम सा कबूतर, नाचा तो मोर निकला". Gulzar in full form. Kaminey wouldn't be half the album it is with anyone else writing the lyrics. Then again, it wouldn't be half the album it is with someone else directing the movie either. While Delhi-6 the movie pulled the album down a notch, Kaminey the movie added a lot to the album. While the lyrics, the soothing composition and the soft vocals of Vishal help the song stand on its own, its use in the movie and that image of Charlie sitting in the boat contemplating his past and perhaps looking at the future with trepidation just lifts the song to another level.

Man Chandre from Connections. I can't think of another recent slow song of ARR, or anyone else for that matter, that is so instantly likeable within one minute of its beginning. The santoor (it IS santoor, I suppose) right at the beginning followed by the amazing voice of Shraddha Pandit rightaway makes you stop whatever you are doing and pay attention. Sukhwinder then hijacks most of the rest of the song, but it sounds great nevertheless. Perhaps a little more of Shraddha wouldn't have been bad. The song probably gets a bit monotonous after a while (mainly due to the repetitive lyrics) but it definitely sounds very different whenever the singer changes (Sukhwinder or Shraddha or the chorus singing the same lines actually make those parts feel SO different to each other). The monotony actually reminds me of "Javeda Zindagi" from Anwar which also had an awesome tune repeated too many times.

Nevertheless, Man Chandre is a must-listen. Specially, as a song to be played in the background when you are doing some work.

Pehli Baar Mohabbat from Kaminey. I am afraid I'll sound too repetitive if I start talking about this. The lyrics, the visuals, and the songs of Kaminey are so in-sync with each other that it is impossible to talk about any of the songs without talking about the other stuff.

"तुझे गुदगुदाना, सताना, यूं ही सोते हुए
गाल पे टीपना, मीचना, बेवजा बेसबब...
याद है... पीपल के, जिसके घने साए थे,
हमने गिलहरी के जूठे मटर खाए थे.."

wow! :)

He used the song for credits, but it worked as a great trailer of the movie, with all those cute moments between Guddu and Sweety. The video below doesn't have the full song. The audio-only version is here.

Delhi 6 from Delhi-6. I remember not liking this song when I heard it for the first time. This is one of those ARR songs that is just so "strange" when you hear it the first time that you don't see youself liking it a lot. and yet.. after a few hearings, you can't imagine what made you think so initially! And I can't imagine that now. It really is such a foot-tappingly hum-alongingly good song, isn't it? :) I remember I got that "wow! why didn't I like this before, this is actually a pretty good song" when I saw it in the trailer.

I was glad this became as popular as it did. I guess it just became the official Delhi song for some time. Perhaps one of the few odes to Delhi in our movies (was there any at all before this?).

And what a nice job Prasoon Joshi has done! "ये शहर नहीं, महफ़िल है"!

Update: Concluding part is here

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My favorite songs of 2009 : Part 3 (no. 12 to 17)

Previous posts about this list: Intro, Part 1 (24-25), Part 2 (18-23)

No. 16-17

Chor Bazaari from Love Aaj Kal. Another song from the inconsistent LAK. Like I said, I am still to like any of his dance-friendly fast paced songs like "Twist", but this is one of the faster songs that I actually have begun to like. Then again, it is the fun lyrics, singing, and picturization that probably should get a lot of the credit (though Pritam does well too). I hadn't really liked this all that much when I had heard the album for the first time, but this was one of those songs that kept playing on the radio a lot of times while I was in India and (unlike "Man Ka Radio") grew on me. Seeing it on screen didn't hurt either, with Deepika Padukone's completely bindaas jumping around on Delhi's streets. :)

Again, the video isn't embeddable. See it here. The audio-only version is embedded below.

The other song at no. 16 is Fikraana from Blue. I was SO annoyed with ARR when I heard that he has signed up for THIS movie. Given that he gets to work in so few projects nowadays, it simply made no sense for him to sign something so obviously inconsequential as Blue (or later Couples Retreat) was. Yet, after listening to Blue, it was obvious that he had a lot of fun composing this. And when ARR has fun, it still means great music! :)

Fikraana is one of the more catcy recent ARR songs. The "jeete hain lad lad ke hum" part always gets me to hum along. I had expected the song to fade away after a few days, but it didn't happen. I still find it quite fun.

No. 12-15

Aaj Dil Gustaakh Hai from Blue. 'Fikraana', as I said above, is catchy, but not nearly as catchy as 'Aaj Dil Gustaakh'. I guess the video and Lara Dutta help a little, but even standing alone the song grabs your attention rightaway with the piano and strings in all those unexpected places. It makes the song sound a little strange, yet really good and foot-tapping even when you listen to it the first time. The starting "O ya sa! Maa ya sa! Saa ya sa! So ya sa!......... Chal Chal shara rara re!" was our apartment anthem for quite some time. :)

Aisi Sazaa from Gulaal. This is actually the odd-one-out song from Gulaal in the sense that it doesn't quite evoke the rural atmosphere that all the other songs do by their lyrics/singing/arrangements. Perhaps that's why this is the most easily likeable song in the album. You don't really have to pay attention to the lyrics to like the singing and the music. While the rest of the album has since grown a lot in my estimation, this is still the song I enjoy the most.

Bhoola Tujhe from Blue. Today is Blue day, evidently. :) The only song in the album that seems to be made for anything less than just 'fun', yet the sound seems to be pretty consistent with the album as a whole. A soothing ditty; a worthy addition to ARR's huge list of slow, romantic, soothing songs. Rashid Ali's voice instantly reminds one of the Jaane Tu... songs, which isn't a bad thing at all!

Raat Ke Dhhaai Baje from Kaminey. Man, what an album! Perhaps not as good as Omkaara (at least not as varied), yet SUCH a great match to the movie. Perhaps only a composer-director can make music that seems to mesh with the movie SO well (er.. maybe not... Slumdog Millionaire seems an obvious recent counter-example... Also, I don't have great expectations with Guzaarish's music.. perhaps Bhansali will surprise me.)

Anyway, in an album full of great songs, this would easily be the most fun song if not for 'Dhan tan nan'. Yet, I didn't quite like this all that much initially, specially as it seemed a climb down from the OTHER 'pehli baar mohabbat' song in the album. And then.. I saw it in the movie! Easily the best wedding song of the year! :) Rekha Bhardwaj seems to elevate every song she sings, really (not that Sunidhi Chauhan is less than good.. they form a great partnership). Full audio version is here.

Update: Part 4 is here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My favorite songs of 2009 : Part 2 (no. 18 to 23)

Previous posts about this list: Intro, Part 1 (24-25)

Again, there is no preference among the songs in a particular post. All six of today's songs are at 18.

Dhhol Yaara Dhhol from Dev.D. Amit Trivedi is easily one of the most versatile composers from the new generation. At least thats how it seems from his work till now. Dev.D itself is such an eclectic album! Will talk more about Trivedi when I post the list of composers of 2009.

What with all the REALLY attention-grabbing songs in the album, this song actually took some time to grab my attention. Now I consider it one of the better songs of the album. The lyrics aren't really all that great here but I think the singing really works. The picturization doesn't hurt either!

Himalaya Theme from Connections. As I have posted before, it is SUCH a pity that this ARR album never saw a proper release. Some of the instrumental music here is really good, not to mention the songs that would've been very popular had this been a movie album etc. Anyway, I find Himalaya to be a really soothing little track (and even considered keeping it as the background score of my wedding site! :P )

Rahi Re from Luck By Chance. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy started the year with LBC, which was a pretty good album actually, but somehow their output through the rest of the year wasn't inspiring. While SEL's work in Luck By Chance is good, what really elevates the album is some good and simple lyrics. I love some of the lines in Rahi Re. While I already loved the song before watching the movie, its visualization has now inextricably attached itself to the song in my mind. The Michael Clayton inspired (copied, actually) end credits use of the song in what actually was a surprisingly good yet simple movie adds to the song's value really. (aside: Zoya did a GREAT job at all the songs actually... they are absolutely non-intrusive.. each song has a different character and comes alive on the screen in a way that really adds to the effect of the song AND the movie.. ). The video here doesn't have the full song, and you might not want to see it if you are planning to see the movie. In that case, the audio-only version is here.

Sheher from Gulaal. The surprise album of the year. One doesn't realize just HOW powerful these songs are unless one starts paying attention to the lyrics properly.And this song specially is nothing BUT powerful lyrics! I haven't yet seen Gulaal, but a friend of mine told me that the songs raise the expectations of raw power and violence etc so much that the movie actually struggles to match that impact. If that's true probably the songs will lose some of their potency once I see the movie, but as of now, I always have goosebumps when I hear some of these songs.

Tu Jaane Na from Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahaani. Pritam composes, Atif Aslam sings, and the song is in my favorites list! I have never had a high opinion of Atif Aslam and even this song sounds better in other singers' versions but then they used Atif's version as the primary version in promos and also in the movie itself. Now, I could post a link to those other versions, but then you won't be able to enjoy watching a delicious looking Katrina Kaif in a splendidly shot music video. The problem was that it was just that, a music video. In the movie it just comes out of nowhere so that you have to switch off the movie part of your brain, switch on the leching-Katrina-Kaif part, and then switch on the movie part again. I was annoyed! Anyway... here you go.. switch on the leching part of your brain now.. :)

Ye Dooriyaan from Love Aaj Kal. Pritam again. He had a really good year. Hopefully it also means that he has stopped lifting songs/tunes from other people and has got enough confidence in his own abilities to just go original from now on. I am still to like his dance-floor friendly songs and LAK is a typical album that way. For all the insipid "And we twist"s in the album, there are also some nice songs like Ye Dooriyaan. Then again, perhaps I have yet to find a song sung by Mohit Chauhan that I didn't like. :) Just like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Aaj Din Chadhheya.

Use of this song in the starting credits was probably very confusing for a lot of people. But I think the payoff later in the movie was well worth it. AND it works so much better the second time you see it (after seeing the movie). couldn't find an embeddable video, so you can see it here. The audio-only version is embedded...

Update: Part 3 is here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

My favorite songs of 2009 : Part 1 (no. 24 and 25)

Introduction to the list is here.

Two songs stand shoulder to shoulder at no. 24. er.. two-ish I should say. since one of them is a combination of tracks.

First is Aaj Din Chadhheya from Love Aaj Kal. I didn't like it all that much when I heard the album for the first time which came as a surprise to me because I have liked probably all Rahat Fateh Ali Khan songs that I have heard. But the song grew on me after I saw it in the movie.

The other tracks on no. 24 are the Dev-Chanda themes from Dev.D . I have always found it difficult to separate them, perhaps because I always tend to hear them consecutively. So, I am treating them as just one track here. I could only find theme 1 on youtube.

Update: Part 2 is here

My favorite songs of 2009 (Intro)

One good thing about not staying in India is that one doesn't get bombarded with every single song that releases, through movie trailers, music videos and nowadays FM. While this certainly means that I need to do some extra work in order to make sure that I don't miss out on any potentially good album/song by reading about things online and listening to anything that seems interesting, it fortunately saves me from a lot of Himesh songs. :P (I realized this while I was in India recently and had to listen to "Man Ka Radio" every time I was travelling in the car :( ). On the flip side, however hard I might try, I always tend to miss at least 1-2 albums/songs in the year that might be getting a lot of attention in India. 'Miss' in the sense that even though I might know about them, perhaps I just didn't find the time to listen to them when they released and then forgot about them. In 2008, Aamir was one such album that I discovered pretty late in the year.

This year, some of the albums that I probably didn't listen to enough times (or even once in some cases) to be able to judge them fairly were Kurbaan, New York, Paa, Tum Mile and perhaps 3 Idiots. That still leaves a LOT of albums and songs that I was able to hear properly to be able to make a long list of my favorite songs of the year. Over next few days I'll post my top 25 songs of the year, followed by a list of some of the songs that almost made it to the list. I tried to make an almost exhaustive list of all the songs released in 2009 that seemed worthy of being in such a list before ordering them according to my preference. The ordered list was then used to make shorter lists of albums and composers of 2009. I'll post these lists after I'm done posting the songs list. So, here we go....

Update: Part 1 is here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On getting married and other such trivial stuff...

Hello all!

I know there isn't anyone who reads this blog and doesn't yet know about this, but it doesn't hurt to write it down for archiving purposes! I got married! (YAY!!!) :) It took me some time, but I got married! I remember that when I was 14 (probably on the day that I turned 14) I once brooded about that fact that I still had 7 years before I could get married! (as Geet says in Jab We Met.. "mujhe na bachpan se shaadi karne ka bada shauk tha!" :) ) I had no idea that it will be 7 years AFTER I turned 21 that I'd finally manage to get someone to marry me. It wasn't for lack of trying, I tell you. Finally.. finally I was able to fool someone into thinking that I am worthy! :)

Everything was decided in a hurry. This meant that I didn't have a lot of time to worry about the wedding itself, yet I managed to worry quite enough about it during last 1-2 months. The actual event came and went so quickly that I am still wondering what all the fuss was about! The days of Nov 19 and Nov 20 merged into each other so seamlessly that I still am not sure which of the two dates I am expected to forget in the years to come. Garima says we can (and I think we should) celebrate our anniversary on both the dates. We shall always consider Nov 19 and 20 to be a single 48 hour long day! :)

I'd have loved to post some of the pictures from the more fun parts of the whole thing (the pre wedding pooja etc.. the post wedding sangeet etc), but for some weird reason I didn't get anyone to take pics of those things. Most of the pics that we have as of now are the ones from the wedding ceremony in Delhi and our honeymoon in Goa and Panchgani/Mahabaleshwar. Posting some chosen ones here.

The wedding venue before the I showed up (more than an hour late, since you ask... Garima was all ready and waiting while I was trying to find my way through Delhi's traffic..)

With Honey (my nephew) on the 'bagghi'

Following the photographer's instructions (except the one about me smiling...)

Clearly not as happy with the situation as she was!

Doing the "round and round"

All excited about the wedding, no? :) bored and tired and looking forward to some sleep...

Back to Meerut (where my parents have recently bought a house!)

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Road Movie" and "Road", the movie

Both look good..

Almodovar strikes again..

With his muse Penelope Cruz. Pedro Almodovar's next... "Broken Embraces". The trailer looks exciting.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What's the point?

What, really. What's the point to try and revive thins thing again. But the fiancee insists that at least SOME people are waiting for me to write something.... so... here... we... go... again..

Monday, April 27, 2009

Another great TED talk

One of the most entertaining/funny and fascinating ones. It is about our current public education system and how schooling stifles creativity. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

An amazing TED talk

Must be good, because it got me out of my exile. :)

Friday, March 06, 2009


Three of my most anticipated movies of 2009 have come up with their final theatrical trailers. Watch them in HD (on full screen). Believe me, the time it might take to buffer is totally worth it!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My final* top movies list for 2008

* - 'final' only in the sense that this is unlikely to change for many weeks/months to come. The only movies that I still need to see that are likely to have any effect on this list are Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and the oscar foreign language nominees (including Waltz With Bashir and The Class). There have been some changes from the 'almost final list' posted earlier.

First, some special mentions. Most of these are pretty good, definitely watchable movies for one reason or another. e.g. Doubt is easily watchable purely for the performances, Benjamin Button is technically awesome in every way and most of the female performers make it worth your while even though things don't quite come together as well as they could've.

Special Mentions

20) The Wrestler

18-19) A Wednesday; Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na

16-17) Doubt; Mumbai Meri Jaan

15) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

12-14) Dasvidaniya; In Bruges; Slumdog Millionaire

11) Vicky Cristina Barcelona

And now, the top 10...

8-10) Milk; The Reader; The Visitor
I have already written about Milk and The Visitor. The Reader is thoroughly elevated by the two leading role performers - David Kross and Kate Winslet (a performance that probably deserved the oscar that it fetched for Kate.. probably, because I rate her higher in Revolutionary Road which wasn't even nominated!). It's also a great story which is really not as much of a holocaust movie as it is being made out to be. The central dilemma of the story is only set up with holocaust being the background, but it is still just Kate's character's extraordinary story. So, if you don't particularly like watching holocaust movies (even the one's that you think might be good), don't decide on passing on this movie for that reason. However, if you have a problem with excess nudity, be warned - there is more of it in this movie than perhaps all the Best Picture nominees of last 30 years combined! :)

6-7) Mithya; Frost/Nixon
Both of these were part of the original list, so I've written about them there.

3-5) Gran Torino; Let The Right One In; Revolutionary Road
I've already written about Let The Right One In. Gran Torino is so good that I still find it hard to believe that the academy didn't acknowledge it with even a nomination, let alone an award! And I'm not even talking about the Best Picture nomination. After all, none of my top 5 got a best picture nod, but at least one could see the reason (however unjustified) for some of them (Comic book movie, animated movie, foreign language 'vampire' movie). Gran Torino, however, is exactly the sort of movie that should've been an academy favorite. AND it did much better at the box office than most of the other nominees. I still can't believe it was snubbed so thoroughly. It is one of Clint Eastwood's best movies as a director, and that IS saying something.
Revolutionary Road was such a gut-wrenching experience for me that later I wasn't surprised to read in a lot of reviews that the movie is a bit "too sad". What DID surprise me, was that the reviewers seemed to think that being too sad is a valid reason to bring the movie's rating down! If a movie can make you sad, it really is doing something right. Kate Winslet is astounding in this movie - I think this might be her best performance ever. Or at least the best I have seen her perform. Leonardo DiCaprio is as good as he usually is, but is comfortably overshadowed by Kate here. I think I might be turning some of this movie's potential audience away by saying that it is 'too sad', but then it really did affect me very deeply at some level. That might be a very subjective thing, as things like this are probably highly dependent on one's own mental make-up, one's experiences in life etc. All I can say is, don't go by Rottentomatoes ratings in this case, specially if once in a while you don't mind a sad movie. A sad movie, but a great one.

already written about this

1) The Dark Knight
this too... :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The post-oscars post

Due to the high demand from the audience (i.e. one out of a total of maybe 5-6 readers of the blog), here is the totally redundant post-oscar post. Brief comments on the oscars (Awards themselves, and the ceremony) 

1) It turned out to be one of the most predictable awards night in recent memory. The biggest surprise was Sean Penn edging ahead of Mickey Rourke, and even that wasn't entirely unexpected. 

2) I'm very happy that Kate Winslet finally received one. She is one of the most consistently great actresses of her generation.

3) I was hoping for an upset win for WALL-E in the original screenplay category and was a little sad when that didn't happen.

4) the little clips of short animated features were quite good. I wish they release them in a theatre around here. 

5) And, of course, the biggest screams of the night were reserved for ARR. I had been telling everyone that day that I was feeling like a proud parent! :D And I truely was. I don't know how many times I have daydreamed about him working in  the sort of movie that will get him an oscar and it is unbelievable how it all transpired. This almost came out of the blue (not on the oscar night, I mean.. that was expected.. but 3 months ago, who'd have expected or even dared hope for this?) 
Doesn't mean I will stop hoping for more national awards (and more oscars) :). If anything, the bigger reason for being happy at his Oscar is because it will make a lot more people sit up and notice his other great works and will hopefully get other great movie-makers to work with him. And that can't be bad, even if it happens at the cost of number of hindi/tamil projects. 

6) I actually liked most of the changes that they made to the ceremony. Hugh Jackman's opening number was quite engaging and getting 5 previous winners to pay tributes to the acting nominees was touching, even if it probably took a lot of time.

7) The musical production just before the best original score was quite boring, though. Perhaps it seemed better to people more aquainted with musicals here. 

8) I have mixed feelings about the original song medley. While the rush of seeing ARR perform right after winning one oscar and just before winning another was enough to make my heart race, some of the alterations that were made to the songs didn't quite work. I can understand why it might've seemed that 3-4 min performances for each song might be overkill, still mixing them and making a little medley really wasn't the best idea IMO. They can completely do away with the best song performances, but then if they are going to include a musical medley of the sort that Jackman/Beyonce etc did, perhaps performing the song nominees isn't all that bad an idea. 

9) Kate has cried so much during this awards season, that I won't be surprised if many people start hoping that she doesn't win another oscar ever! :) I, however, am not one of them. This was her first win after 5 previous nominations. I'm sure she'll be much more dignified from now on. Unless her second win comes after 5 more nominations!! :P

10) I loved to see the slumdog team come out in such a large number. the kids looked quite adorable and Anil Kapoor didn't make a fool of himself! :P ARR was quite dignified during his awards speeches and Resul seemed really sincere in his speech, even though he was clearly overwhelmed by the occasion. Frieda Pinto had a great dress (though I have heard that some people didn't like it!) and Dev Patel just looked like an overexcited kid! :)

11) Ben Stiller's Joaquin Phoenix act was hilarious when it started but went a bit too far when it started taking attention away from the nominee announcement. Perhaps it wasn't rehearsed very well, as Natalie Portman almost didn't expect people to laugh while she was reading the names and seemed not to know how to react. 

12) Jack Black's "collect money from Dreamworks and bet on anything from Pixar" was hilarious! :D

and 13) The "Coming this year" clips at the end is something they should stick with. It was exciting to see actual footage from the movies that we have only been reading about. 

So, that was 2008 for the movies. But, a proper goodbye will come later (with the almost-final list of 'best of 2008')

Songs of the day

I had mentioned in an earlier mail that Luck By Chance has some really good songs (specially lyrics-wise). Here are two songs that bookend the movie. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Song of the Day

Paayaliya from Dev.D. It can't be easy for a non-ARR song to fight its way into my playlist only a month after the release of an album as good as Delhi-6. But Paayaliya hasn't just found a place there but is probably going to stay there for a long time. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Oscar Post

The Oscars never fail to get me out of my hybernation, do they? :) And this year, specially, deserves a post written at some leisure (as opposed to the last minute manic typing that I used to do during previous years!). So, here you go... The predictions, and my own wishlist.

Picture: Prediction - Slumdog Millionaire. I personally liked Frost/Nixon most, among the nominees and I even rate The Reader higher than Slumdog, but honestly speaking none of the movies really screams out loud that it deserves to be the winner. Slumdog will undoubtedly win it. The only thing that I don't want is for Benjamin Button to win this. As good as it was technically, it really failed to move me at all. 

Director: Danny Boyle. Again, only the best among a weak field. How I wish they had nominated Chris Nolan! In this field, I hardly care who wins it. Danny Boyle is overwhelming favorite to win this, but I think there might be a small chance that David Fincher pulls off an upset win.

Actress in a Leading Role: Kate Winslet. Haven't seen three of the performances nominated (Hathaway, Jolie and Leo). But I will be cheering at the top of my voice for Kate. They robbed her off her deserved nomination for Revolutionary Road, but  her work in The Reader is also great. After all these years of being nominated and being recognized as one of the best actresses of her generation, this HAS to be her year. 

Actor in a Leading Role: Mickey Rourke. Though Sean Penn is probably breathing down his neck and might actually win. This is an amazing field actually. Every single performance (except Brad Pitt) deserves to win! Somehow I'll feel pretty happy if an upset happens in this category though. Perhaps because I didn't like The Wrestler as much as the other three movies. Richard Jenkins probably doesn't stand a chance, but I hope either Sean Penn or Frank Langella win this one for their amazing performances. Sean Penn might actually do it too, so I'll keep my fingers crossed for him!

Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger. Haven't seen Tropic Thunder yet. But out of the others, I'd have whole-heartedly supported the great Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt had this been any other year. Agaisnt Ledger's Joker, though, no one stands a chance. And it is NOT because of his death. He was astounding, and was about the only thing that kept coming back to you from a movie that was full of a lot of other great things.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Penelope Cruz. Marisa Tomei stands a reasonable chance to spoil the night for Cruz. I loved Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and wouldn't mind her winning one bit, but I must say that Taraji P. Henson was as good as anyone else on the list and I'll feel really happy for her if she wins it. Its not going to happen, though.

Orginal Screenplay: Milk. Haven't seen Frozen River, but Milk and WALL-E are easily the top 2 nominees here. And as good as Milk really was, I am firmly in the WALL-E team here. Andrew Stanton will be over the moon if WALL-E wins this. Pixar has consistently been nominated for its screenplay but WALL-E's first half takes it to another level entirely. How I wish that people realized that "best screenplay" doesn't necessarily mean writing great lines/dialogue. sigh!

Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire. I think Slumdog is favorite here, but I personally find Frost/Nixon  to be a much better written movie. In fact, I think it is much better than all the other nominees here. Pity it didn't attract many viewers to the theatres and will probably go home without a single win. 

Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog is well shot, but I loved the look of The Dark Knight  and Benjamin Button much more. I hope, and I don't think it is too unlikely, that one of them wins this. Benjamin Button probably stands a better chance than The Dark Knight

Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire. It is amazing that ARR is an overwhelming favorite in this category now, with almost every single award going to his score this season. I think both Benjamin Button and WALL-E  were really good scores though (as was The Dark Knight, which wasn't nominated!.. and I haven't seen Defiance). A month ago, I was really worried that Benjamin Button  might win this one (and perhaps deservedly so), but I think it is becoming increasingly unlikely now. However, there is just enough chance of an upset to make sure that the suspense will stay till the envelope is opened. I'll scream myself hoarse in excitement if it is ARR! :)

Original Song: Jai Ho. Vote splitting playing havoc with the two Slumdog songs aside, I don't see any chance that Jai Ho doesn't win this award (getting Gulzar an oscar for his lyrics that none of the voters understand!!! ). However, I hope for a miracle that somehow leads to O Sayya winning here. Jai Ho is really not nearly as good a track as O Sayya is, IMO. 

Animated Feature: WALL-E. As stupid as this category is, it'll hurt me a LOT if WALL-E doesn't win this. It doesn't matter much, though, because I'm sure it'll also hurt most of the voters if that happens. The horror night at the Annies notwithstanding, I really don't see how more than probably a couple of people can think of voting for Kung Fu Panda or Bolt

Animated Short: Presto. Actually, I don't know if Presto is a favorite to win this. After all, it is the only movie that has been seen by non-voters yet. One of the other 4 nominees might be a great movie, in which case good luck to them. I'll still be hoping for another Pixar win here. 

The rest of the awards either a) I really don't have any way of deciding because I haven't seen any of the nominees (live action short, documentary etc) or b) are technical categories where Benjamin Button  or Dark Knight (or Slumdog  in some categories) are probably going to sweep everything and I really don't have any favorites among them.