Saturday, April 24, 2010

Raavan Day 1 - disappointing

Ok, let me be clear. Disappointing only because this is Mani/Rahman/Gulzar. Disappointing in the same sense as Guru's music was a disappointment. After all, a Mani/Rahman album has no business having "Ek lo ek muft" and "Baazi laga" in it. Then again, every other song except those two were thoroughly deserving of being there. It is somewhat similar with Raavan too. I must say, though, that this is just the first day impressions. Chances are that a week from now I'll be posting "what was I thinking? Raavan! disappointing?"

Anyway, here is a mini-review.. just some thoughts on the songs...

1) Beera Beera : Fabulous song! The shortest song in the album, but carries the maximum punch. They thought of putting an "african" song for a maoist's introduction! well, maybe the "jungle" connection is there. The reason I call it "african" is because if I filter the lyrics and pretend that I am not listening to something in Hindi I can clearly hear something from one of the south african countries. :) The vocals by Mustafa Kutoane add so much to the song. Can't wait to hear this in ARR's voice in Tamil.

2) Behne De : Starts with a background of music that feels just heavenly. And then Karthik starts singing. wow! pretty good soft, slowish romantic song. The only drawback, if you can call it  that, is that it seems to follow pretty much standard ARR soft song script. Makes me think of Bhoola Tujhe .But then that's not a bad thing. Also, I have absolutely no doubt that when I listen to it with more attention, I'll find little instrumental/melodic gems throughout that will be completely uniquely of this song. This IS the sort of song that ARR seems to "polish" a lot to satiate his thirst for innovation.

3) Thok De Killi : This is the "Ek lo ek muft" of this album. perhaps better than that, but still doesn't work for me at all. At least not till now. I noticed some instrumental turns etc that were engaging but overall this is what the cliche "situational song, will work in the movie" is used for. The song talks about this group (maoists) talking about "Dilli" thinking them as "pichhda huaa" etc. I don't see how something like this will work in the form of a song. Then again, perhaps a better song would've made it work. After all, "Chale Chalo" is such an anachronism for the time in which it is set in, yet it works beautifully because it is such a great song. This is just disappointing. I don't see it improving even in Tamil, but I hope it surprises me.

4) Ranjha Ranjha : Do I like this so much because it comes right after Thok De Killi? :) I don't know why, but I find it really seductive. Not that it is terribly original, just like Behne De. Reminds me of Taal's songs. Something in between "Ramta jogi" and "Kahin aag lage". And from recent songs, very reminiscent of Blue's "Yaar mila tha". It has something to do with the structure (female and male voices alternating... conversing in the song), but it's not just. There is something to do with the way rhythm seems just that bit off-expected lines and the way words seem to seem to follow the contours of the rhythm. Needless to say, Rekha Bhardwaj gives the song her own unique flavor. And it is always a pleasure to hear Javed Ali's silk-smooth vocals. As for my 'not terribly original' comment, that doesn't apply to the instrumentals going on here. ARR seems to be having a lot of fun playing around with things in this song. Then again, even THAT isn't unexpected. He can't help it. :D Good for us, I say! :)

5) Khili Re : Remember what ARR did to Ghazals in Tehzeeb? The singer is singing a perfectly "Ghazalish" Ghazal and ARR just adds modern instruments in the background that seemed so awkward in the first hearing.  It definitely grew on me later and I actually liked what he had tried to do there. I think this is exactly the case here. Try to filter the instruments, and this seems another of his devotional melodious numbers that I have a weakness for. "Man mohana" didn't engage a lot of people but I thought it was really amazing. I could never resist its charm even though it is really such a simple bhajan. That is also true for "O paalanhaare". Trouble is, the instruments are doing something completely different here. This is ARR's Tehzeeb moment in this album, though much more subtle than that album. What  that does is it makes the song seem ok, but there seems something awkward about it, something amiss. That's why what I think as of now is that it is 'sweet, but  not nice enough'. However, I think there is a very good chance that this one is going to grow on me later. As of right now, the rating is..

6) Kata Kata : The start is absolutely wow! It is almost as catchy as Beera Beera! I have caught myself singing the first line of this song almost as much as Beera Beera since I heard the samples for the first time 3-4 days ago. But then, it sort of derails. And I suspect it has a lot to do with the lyrics here. Not the meaning of the words, per se, but the flow. Something tells me that this one was composed with Tamil lyrics first and they just couldn't do a good enough job of writing lyrics in Hindi that'd have gelled well with the flow of the song. If that's the case, this will gain a lot from a hearing in Tamil. in any case, i have noticed that I don't particularly care for hindi songs with "aunty ji chorus" :D Basically all the wedding type songs where some women are teasing the bride/groom. There is something about it that I don't like. But this only happens in hindi. I can think of a lot of tamil songs that haven't been dubbed in hindi which have similar chorus but I don't mind that at all. I am really hopeful that this song will gain a lot in its Tamil version. Like I said, overall, the rhythm is really, really good/catchy. It might catch on with junta. then again, it seems that this will be picturized like Ek lo ek muft, with the whole village dancing around (Mani seems to like this a lot). I don't see that being particularly junta-entrancing. Hopefully I'm wrong.

So, that's the first-day impressions. The reason i said it is disappointing is because one of the songs is just a complete let-down and two others are, as of now, not Mani/Rahman level. While the other three are really good, I think the sum of Barso re megha, Tere Bina, Ae Hairate, Jaage Hain and Mayya Mayya has to be higher than these. AND Guru wasn't even close to being one of ARR/Mani's best albums. So....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tamil ARR songs for a non-Tamil.

A friend of GG asked her to get me to send her some Tamil songs that she might like. She hasn't heard many Tamil songs before and GG tells me that she tends to like Slow/Soothing/melodious kind of songs in general (not that she doesn't like any fast paced ones.. just  that if I have to make a small list, I'd do well to choose slowish songs).

So, I spent half an hour browsing through my ARR tamil albums and making a list of about 25 songs. That sounded too many, specially for someone who might not have heard many songs in a language she doesn't understand. So, Pesc suggested pruning it down to about 10, and sending the list in a mail with some comments about them. I had to take some gems out because of various reasons. I didn't wish to include any song that has already been dubbed in Hindi as there'd be a high chance she'd already have heard them. (Still, one of them is in the list... ). Also, there are some songs that I find it difficult to decide whether the movie/picturization etc add a lot to my love for them. If I suspected that, I struck them out too.

So, here are the 10.... well, 11 actually, since I added one right at the end probably because my media player decided to play that one right when i was about to send the mail and I just could not get myself to ignore it!! :) The resulting mail follows..

Nice... Soft.. Soothing... Melodious...  
well.. almost all.. some of these are fast/non-soothing. But ab list mein daal diya to daal diya.. :P

So, here is the list, roughly in the decreasing order of priority.. i.e. listen to the top one first.

1) Vellai Pookal from Kannathil Mutthamittal: very soothing. Awesome song from a great movie. one of the best songs sung by ARR himself, and that's saying a LOT. 
2) New York from Jillonu Oru Kaadhal: very melodious. "All time favorite Rahman song" of my roommate. Again, ARR keeps an awesome song with his own voice. :)
3) Elay from Sakkarakatti: not slow/soft/soothing. reasonably fast, but great fun.
4) Ithuthan Kadhal Inbada (female) from Pudhiya Mugham: you might have heard this already in hindi. But even if you have, well worth a revisit in its original form. A beeyouuuutiful song.
5) Ennuyir Thozhiye from Kangalal Kaithu Sei: absolutely heavenly piano in the interludes. That part itself makes this a great song.
6) Sonnalum from Kaadhal Virus: I think I especially like songs with slight Carnatic classical touch. and ARR obliges with a lot of melodious songs that have just that tiny classical touch to them yet seem so far away from classical finally. And the chorus here is to die for.
7) Enna Solla Pogirai from Kandukondain Kandukondain: Not slow/soothing but one of the most popular songs from one of his greatest albums. Shankar Mahadevan got a national award for singing this song. I could've blindly chosen almost any song from this album actually. went for the most catchy/popular.
8) Udhaya Udhaya from Udhaya: In many aspects it is like Sonnalum. a soft soothing duet.
9) En Veetu Thotatil from Gentleman: They lifted 3 songs from Gentleman without crediting Rahman, and left this gem. Perhaps because they thought it has too much of a "southie touch". They didn't know, of course, that soon that "southie touch" will take the nation by storm in Bombay/Hum Se Hai Muqabla etc... :)
10) Evano Oruvan from Alaipayuthey: Alaipayuthey was remade into Saathiya and they kept all the songs except two. One of them is this. I was aghast when I heard that they have composed a new song for this situation because, again, this is too "southie". Didn't mind in the end, because that new song was "Mera Yaar Mila De... Banjar hai sab banjar hai... ". Doesn't hurt to get another good new song, does it? :) But this one is definitely as good, if not slightly better. the female voice just melts me.. and the flute!! wow!!
11) Theekuruvil from Kangalal Kaithu Sei: Bonus song. not slow. not soothing at all. very fast actually. and perhaps a little difficult to like initially. But just keep an ear for the female singer's vocal acrobatics. What singing!!! very fun song, but really, it's the singer that makes this a must-listen. 

I can see that I have written more about the songs that are actually lower in the list. :) Doesn't mean that the top ones weren't worth talking about. Just that I got into the flow of discussing in depth later in the list. :) sorry.

By the way, standard conditions apply. You are not allowed to hear any of these songs unless you are able (i.e. have the time) and willing (i.e. have the enthu) to give it 3 hearings. continuously. i.e. hear 1, then again hear 1, then AGAIN hear 1, before moving on to 2. Take as much time as you need before this condition can be met, but don't break it. Please. 

And, no laptop speakers, of course. not even external speakers. good earphones/headphones are a must. :D

The youtube links are posted below, if anyone is interested but too lazy to find them him/herself. :)

Close your eyes for this next one. that is probably a good idea for all of these if you just want to enjoy the song without being distracted (positively, or negatively) by the video, but this one is actually not even the real video of the song. Someone took a song video of Anniyan and added the ARR song with it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Raavan Tracklist is here... Yay!!!!

Yay!!!! :) Though I wish this is incomplete. I want more songs!!!! :( Though, perhaps it is expected, I think most recent Mani movies have only 5-6 tracks, except Alaipayuthey/Saathiya. Still, hoping for some more tracks, if only instrumental themes.

Here is the list as given on

Behene De - Karthik
Beera Beera - Vijay Prakash
Kata Kata - Ila Arun, Sapna Awasthi & Kunal Ganjawala
Khilli Re - Reena Bhardwaj
Ranjha Ranjha - Rekha Bhardwaj & Javed Ali
Thok De Killi - Sukhwinder Singh

Hmmm... Reena AND Rekha Bhardwaj. Rekha is Palash and Vasudha's "Rekha bhabhi" of course (they consider Vishal Bhardwaj their spiritual brother). Reena must be the "Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlaata Hai" (Meenaxi) and "Main Vaari Vaari" (1857 - The Rising) woman. 

Sapna "Chhaiyya Chhaiyya" Awasthi AND Ila Arun together!! Has THAT ever happened before? :D

Can never hurt to have Javed Ali sing one. And solos for Karthik and Sukhwinder sound promising too. 

So, people, ARR season is here again. Yay!!!!

PS: just to be clear, the list is out, not the music!! Patience junta, patience! 

Monday, April 12, 2010

(3) movies of summer

Last week, in one of those free moments when I think about movies that I am waiting to watch, I began thinking of, well, the movies that I am waiting to watch. Specifically the movies that come out this summer. More specifically, the BIG movies that come out this summer (i.e., excluding all those smaller, independent/foreign language movies that I am more likely to see and like than most summer blockbusters). There are some like Iron Man-2, Robin Hood, Shrek- Forever After, Despicable Me etc that might turn out to be good, but I'm not really anticipating them nearly as much as the three listed below.

Toy Story - 3: Pixar. Probably no need to say more. :) Still, for some reason I'm not nearly as excited about this as I have been for every Pixar movie over last decade. Perhaps some part of me thinks that Pixar might compromise with their high standards in order to just continue the franchise. Then again, it's Pixar.. how bad can it be? :)

Raavan: Mani Ratnam. He hasn't really touched his erstwhile heights after Kannathil Mutthamittal, but Yuva/Ayitha Ezhuthu and Guru definitely had enough Mani moments to make them very good movies nevertheless. And, if nothing else, the music can't be anything less than phenomenal, can it? :)

No trailers yet. I heard that the first look promo will release this week (and the music within 2 weeks from now). If so, you'll find it here as soon as possible. :D

Inception: "What's the most resilient parasite? An idea". Christopher Nolan. two of his movies were part of my top 10 of the last decade. and Memento made it to the "just missed the top 10" list. His last movie is perhaps one of my all time favorites. The fact that it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page and Michael Caine is merely delicious icing on what is without doubt a Christopher Nolan cake. Can't Wait!

PS: the title of this post refers to this, in case someone was wondering.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Brangan says it best...

I completely relate with this sentiment on Brangan's blog today..

"I wonder ... if it’s a mere accident of profession that I’m able to easily endure — and be enlightened by–  difficult movies, but fall into impatience with embarrassing quickness in the case of not-so-easy books. Would book critics feel the reverse, embracing arty books over art movies?"

For those who don't know who Brangan is - Baradwaj Rangan is easily my favorite movie critic from India. He is a writes reviews more as just a member of audience who is writing down his thoughts/feelings rather than an expert handing down movie-enlightenment to readers. This is exactly how it should be, IMO. But, more importantly, he is a superb writer.. so, it hardly ever matters whether you agree with his opinion of a particular movie or scene etc. It actually doesn't even matter whether you are interested in the movie at all, because the these reviews are pretty good pieces of writing in themselves. Again, that is exactly how it should be with any review IMO. So, to those who don't know rangan, and might be interested in movies etc, I introduce his blog Blogical Conclusion

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A tiny platform above the abyss.

Clive Wearing contracted a virus in 1985, a virus that is pretty innocuous in most people (one of the many that give you sore throats for a few days) but changed his life forever. The virus infected his brain resulting in his getting one of the most severe cases of anterograde "Memento" amnesia known. He hasn't formed a new memory in last 25 years. Moreover, the virus also caused severe retrograde amnesia, meaning that a lot of his memories prior to 1985 also went away. A lot of times he seems to be living in 1960s, if you can call chunks of 7-30 seconds of life "living". That is the extent of his short term memory. Think about it. 7 seconds. What would it be like if everything in your mind gets erased in 7 seconds? It is not just a matter of not remembering what happened in his life at any time during last 25 years. As tragic as that is, one could still sort of imagine living the same day again and again if one has, say, half an hour window of memory... something like Memento. You wake up, you don't know where you are, you see your tattoos, you remember your wife was killed, you make notes, you make a plan that you might forget later but at least you can MAKE it. What can you do with 7 seconds? 

He lives at a country residence with other similar "patients" with some caretakers. The caretakers encouraged him to write journals. Perhaps they thought it will give him something to do. Perhaps it would help in objectively following his progress. So, here is what you do with a 7-30 second memory. This is how his journal looks -

9:00 am - woke up after a long sleep.
9:15 am - just woke up
9:30 am - Really, overwhelmingly awake now
10:00am - just waking up, despite my other claims

That is about the extent of his thoughts most of the time. Seriously, how do you even complete a thought in 7 seconds? And if you can't, what does ANYTHING mean anymore? What does even "being you" mean?

Still, he has some memories of 40 years ago. Its not as if he has forgotten what the world around him means. And his procedural memory is intact. Which means that things that are part of a "habit" or "muscle memory", things that have become "ingrained" are accessible even if no "event memory" exists of anything since 1985. So, he talks. And he talks about the same things again and again. Because these are the only things that are accessible to him through his procedural memory. He'll talk about astronomy, Queen Victoria, electricity, etymology of words. But perhaps not a lot other than that. He'll throw in a joke. The same joke after every few minutes.It helps him to see that people around him can get the joke. It reassures him that he still has a connection with the world. He keeps talking from the same ingrained "scripts" to make a tiny platform of reality around his present because beyond that platform there is an abyss... nothingness stretching away... Thats what his wife calls it - "A tiny platform above the abyss". 

And he plays music. He hasn't forgotten how to do that. Procedural memory. He even improvises while playing. He just doesn't remember that he had just played some music after he finishes. Or that he has made the same "improvisation" again and again perhaps. 

And, he remembers, and still deeply loves, his wife Deborah. He remembers her even though the retrograde amnesia has taken almost all other memories from  much before the time when he first met her. Oliver Sacks writes in his book "Musicophilia", where I found about Clive's case - 

"... somehow he always recognized Deborah as his wife when she visited and felt moored by her presence, lost without her. He would rush to the door when he heard her voice, and embrace her with passionate, desperate fervor. Having no idea how long she had been away - since anything not in his immediate field of perception and attention would be lost, forgotten, within seconds - he seemed to feel that she, too, had been lost in the abyss of time, and so her "return" from the abyss seemed nothing short of miraculous." 

Deborah writes, "Clive was constantly surrounded by strangers in a strange place, with no knowledge of where he was or what had happened to him. To catch sight of me was always a massive relief - to know that he was not alone, that I still cared, that I loved him, that I was there. Clive was terrified all the time. But I was his life, I was his lifeline. Every time he saw me, he would run to me, fall on me, sobbing, clinging."

How would it feel to be embraces with passionate, desperate fervor many times a day by someone who is honestly, sincerely, deeply in love with you. How would it feel to see in someone eyes that you were missed by with the intensity of a decades long separation.. how would it feel to see that every day.. every hour... every time he sees you. You are the only person on his tiny platform. You ARE his tiny platform. For 25 years.