Saturday August 29, 2015

Hitman – August 29, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Khuda mere – Shukriya (Hindi – Shraddha Shree, featuring music by Gulraj Singh)
Shraddha Shree (and Shivam Ahuja) are winners of a young stars singing contest conducted by an Insurance company and the smartest thing—insurance, if you will—that the organizers equip the kids with is by the choice of music composer for their debut album. That happens to be the severely underrated Gulraj Singh, and his regular partner for lyrics, Manoj Yadav. Together, the duo hand the kids a fantastic set of tunes that treat them as adults in a competitive world, not just as children. Khuda Mere is a great example of this – a wonderfully flamboyant tune that the young Shraddha devours gleefully. It compares with any catchy and multi-layered film song, and the song’s reprise version goes one up on the original too!
Listen to the song on Gaana.

Aana oona – Andhra Mess (Tamil – Prashant Pillai)
Prashant Pillai—at least technically—made his Tamil debut with Bejoy Nambiar’s David in 2013, though it was a multi-composer album. Now, he makes a solo Tamil debut in Andhra Mess, and while the overall soundtrack is rather tepid, he has a standout song at least in Aana oona. It’s sung with super verve by another composer Amrit Rao, of the band, Live Banned fame, and the one composing for Gitanjali Selvaraghavan’s debut, Maalai Naerathu Mayakkam. Prashant, in his inimitable style, loads the song with a funky, racy sound that centers on an addictive Na na na chorus and generally escapes genre-classification, while remaining intriguingly catchy.

Chiryan Da Chamba – Suraiya Khanum & Anwar Maqsood – Coke Studio Pakistan, (Season 8, Episode 2)
Chiryan Da Chamba is a classic Punjabi bidai song (that’s a song that’s sung when the bride leaves her home and heads towards the groom’s home – cue for a very sad father and loads of women crying, in 80s films) that has been sung by the who’s who of the subcontinent, including Noor Jehan, Arif Lohar, Runa Laila, Musarrat Nazeer and Shazia Manzoor, among others. The new season of Coka Studio has Suraiya Khanum attempting her version and she is mesmerizing in her rendition of the pathos-laden tune. The highlight of the song is however Anwar Maqsood—Bilal Maqsood’s, of Strings-fame; Coke Studio’s producers this season, father—and his incredibly heartfelt recitation of a girl’s letter to her father on how she misses her home. This is emotionally touching folk music at its best!

Endaro – Bhale Bhale Magadivoy (Telugu – Gopi Sundar)
Now, many composers have attempted fusion variants of classical Carnatic kritis and traditional songs in films, with or without playing with the source’s tune. A R Rahman’s Alai paayuthey (from Mani Ratnam’s film of the same name) is a good, recent example. Some composers took generous liberties and brought their unique stamp on their recreations, like Vidyasagar’s Entharo, in the Malayalam film Devadoothan and Sandeep Chowta’s Bhagyada Laxmi Baramma, from the pop album Mitti. Gopi’s recreation is less ambitious and sticks faithfully to Thyagaraja’s iconic Sri Ragam based kriti, but his nuances and choice of singer—Renuka Arun—elevates the song to a new level. He treats it like a classic rock song, with the drums and violin dominating impressively, even as Renuka is in scintillating form bringing classical chops to what is treated as a complex, contemporary pop song!

Vasoottan – Jamna Pyari (Malayalam – Gopi Sundar)
Gopi Sundar is the man of the moment, moving across Andhra Pradesh and Kerala with consummate ease. His Vasoottan is an instantly catchy song featuring Franco’s thoroughly enjoyable vocals and featuring Thrissur dialect, as the lyrics remind us many times. It does start with a musical phrase that’s seems to echo A R Rahman’s Rangeela number, Yayi re, but Gopi owns the charming tune eventually.

Devi Sri Prasad faithfully recreates his Telugu hit for Daddy Mummy, with the Tamil version’s lyrics. It remains absurdly catchy. Yo Yo Honey Singh’s Aankhon aankhon is right up there with Daddy Mummy for its thumpy catchiness and marginally better lyrics. Arko’s recreation of Sajid-Wajid’s original for Sonu Nigam’s Deewana, Iss qadar pyar works easily thanks to Ankit Tiwari’s fantastic vocals. Mithoon gets back to his Maula mere form in Kinna sona, aided by superb singing by Sunil Kamath – excellent pop-Sufi. His other song, Meri zindagi, is in his current, Bhatt-family form. Kinna sona tops this surprisingly good soundtrack.

Keywords: Bhaag Johnny, Mithoon, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Devi Sri Prasad, Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Sajid, Wajid

Listen to the songs on Saavn.

Athala pithala overdoses on falsetto singing and what stays is the captivaing mandolin phrases. Its reprise is at least sung better. With a more-than-obvious nod to The Champs’ Tequila and despite a lovely smattering of surf guitar, Om hare doesn’t really realize its potential, beyond a glitzy sound. Kadala varuthu, Selfie, Shakeela and Bum attam are, at best, bizarre, and at worst, weird. Mohabbat is interesting, for its retro tune juxtaposed with world music, while Gilles’ Amour amour is completely out of place. Double Barrel is Prashant Pillai’s eccentric best, perhaps inspired by Lijo Jose Pellissery. That’s not a compliment.

Keywords: Double Barrel, Prashant Pillai

Listen to the songs on Saavn.

Lip to lip is a breezy faux-Punjabi number that sees Ritu Pathak in great form, ably supported by Nikhil D’Souza and some cool sax interludes. Sarfira‘s largely predictable techno sound gets better only by Neeti Mohan and Siddharth Mahadevan’s vocals, much like Sau aasoon‘s familiar pathos made listenable by Shankar’s searing singing. Jaago mohan pyaare‘s new-age, rock party bhajan seems more forced than really lively. The soundtrack’s best, Ove janiya, an immersively mellow Punjabi track is treated beautifully to a minimal sound and is sung well in 2 versions, by Mohan Kannan and Sayani Palit. A soundtrack worth katti-battying with.

Keywords: Katti Batti, Shankar Ehsaan Loy

Listen to the songs:

Maya O Maya has a catchy, but very filmy sound. The composer in Karthik keeps it simple, with a spring-in-the-step sound, while the singer in him delivers it in his breezy style. Bangaramma too is extremely easy-on-the-ears – a sing-along’ish frothy tune that he leads once again with his vocals. It’s in Mandu mandu that Karthik explores with the composition’s structure, layered on cool techno sounds and uses Baba Sehgal in an unconventional way. Anup Rubens’ lone song, Vaalu kalla pilla, in his usual style, rides cleverly on one catchy, repetitive hook. Short, ear-friendly soundtrack from Karthik and Anup Rubens.

Keywords: Karthik, Singer Karthik, Anup Rubens, Courier Boy Kalyan

Listen online on Saavn.

The title song gains from Rahul Nambiar’s full-throated singing and Mickey’s punchy 80s-style pop sound, with a particularly catchy horns layer. Starting with faux-East Asian sounds, I’m in love builds on to become a fairly standard, but foot-tapping masala duet. Aakasam is rather un-Mickey, using a stock Andhra folk rhythm, but he gets the repetitive hook right. Mickey’s remake of Raj-Koti’s evergreen Khaidi No.786 number, Guvva Gorinka, tampers mildly with the original and remains captivating as ever. Shankar Mahadevan’s Telugante ends the soundtrack on a generic note. Mickey is decidedly out of his comfort zone here and it mostly works.

Keywords: Mickey J Meyer, Subramanyam For Sale

Listen online:

Purwaiyaa builds itself into a delightful track, with the minute-long serene intro segueing beautifully into the joyous ourburst. Shivam’s age shows in his singing, but Shraddha’s voice is mature beyond her years. That manifests even better in her first solo, Shukriya, with Gulraj’s music remaining consistently engaging. The song’s reprise is even better, with a more pronounced piano sound. Shraddha’s voice gets more assertive in Khuda mere, with Gulraj giving her a pulsating tune, alaaps and a flamboyant antara. Gulraj also sneaks in a retro-style Indipop sound, something missing in the song’s reprise, and adding a new dimension. Shivam’s first solo, Bairi bairaagi is very Iktara’ish (Amit Trivedi, Wake Up Sid), and the boy handles Manoj Yadav’s philosophical verses admirably. Gulraj’s trademark piano-loaded reprise goes one up on the original. Shivam’s second, Malanga is rather filmy and comes out richer in the reprise, both ending on a pleasantly surprising and short Western chorus. The real insurance for the kids—given that I-genius Young Singing Stars is by Max Life Insurance—is roping in Gulraj Singh for music. He brings the best of the two winners, in a package that treats them as adults, in a competitive world, and not merely as children.

Keywords: Shraddha Shree, Shivam Ahuja, Gulraj Singh, Manoj Yadav, 200, #200

Listen to the songs: Shraddha Shree, Shivam Ahuja
Buy the songs: Shraddha Shree, Shivam Ahuja

Sunday August 23, 2015

Hitman – August 22, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Bhale bhale magadivoy – Bhale bhale magadivoy (Telugu – Gopi Sundar)
The phrase ‘Bhale bhale magadivoy’ goes all the way to 1978 when K.Balachander got M.S.Viswanathan to compose a song around it, for Maro Charitra. Mickey J Meyer used it in the 2010 remake of the film, and now a Malayalee composer, Gopi Sundar, gets to use it in his 2nd Telugu film. Gopi ups the ante for the phrase’s use with a super bouncy tune, going one up on Mickey J Meyer’s African-style remake of the original. Karthik and Mohana Bhogaraju are in lively form singing this one!

Jeene laga – Jaathre (Kannada – Manikanth Kadri)
Manikanth Kadri, Kadri ‘Sax’ Gopalnath’s son has been making steady strides with highly listenable music in Kannada and he does pretty well in Jaathre too, with Jeene laga, a Hindi-Kannada mix. The tune is easy-on-the-ears, with Bollywood’ish Hindi phrases and a whiff of Latino too strewn around. This is the kind of song that singer Karthik can sing incredibly well… in his sleep, and he lifts the song to new heights with his vocals.

Afghan jalebi – Phantom (Hindi – Pritam)
To be fair, Afghan jalebi’s tune is common-place Central Asian, but Pritam makes it his own with a superbly captivating sound. Getting Akhtar Channal to croon it (in the film version of the song) is a masterstroke since he sounds completely authentic with the exotic tune, much like Sholay’s Mehbooba and Hassan Jahangir’s Hawa Hawa, that created ripples in India back in the 70s and 80s, respectively (though both were plagiarized tunes, unlike Afghan jalebi!). Pritam builds up the orchestration to reach a punchy crescendo, complete with a captivating ‘Ya baba’ chorus!

Bewajaah – Nabeel Shaukat Ali (Coke Studio Pakistan)
The latest season (season 8) of Coke Studio Pakistan starts with a bang, thanks to four fantastic songs. The top of the heap is Bewajaah, a soulful pop-ghazal sung by Nabeel Shaukat Ali. The tune is incredibly engaging, like a classic ghazal, and the lyrics by Babar Shakeel Hashmi, again, like a classic ghazal, are aptly moving. So you have couplets like, ‘Naam lene ka iraadaa bhi na tha… chal pada zikr tera be-wajah’ to go so well with the tune! The clear hero of the song is of course Nabeel Shaukat Ali, who completely rules the ghazal with his phenomenal singing.

Khoya khoya – Hero (Hindi – Sachin-Jigar)
Khoya khoya is one of the two songs composed by the duo Sachin-Jigar for the 2015 reboot of Subhash Ghai’s Hero, by Nikhil Advani. The song has a frothy ‘pahadi’ feel akin to Piya Basanti Re, that iconic album by Sandesh Shandilya, but again the tune is very Pritam’ish in its repetitive use of the ‘Khoya khoya’ phrase. Mohit Chauhan is usually a fantastic choice for songs like this and he breezes through it in his inimitable style, aided wonderfully by Priya Panchal’s ethereal humming.

Sittham is very, very Prashant Pillai – ambient, haunting and a simple, ethereal tune sung by Preeti Pillai. The song’s remix adds more intriguing electronica in the background, and for some reason, there’s also an awkwardly-sung Hindi version called Shiddath! Orey Oor sounds like a less euphoric song by Indipop band Euphoria, and KS Krishnan’s throaty singing doesn’t help either. Aana oona is curiously catchy, with a thumping sound, lively hooks and Amrit’s enthusiastic vocals. The 3 instrumentals, Loot plan, Loot ride and Two liberated souls are really well put-together. Prashant Pillai’s solo Tamil debut is a relatively tepid affair.

Keywords: Prashant Pillai, Andhra Mess

Sunday August 16, 2015

Hitman – August 15, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Thumba poove sundari – Kunjiramayanam (Malayalam – Justin Prabhakaran)
Vineeth Srinivasan is usually associated with Shaan Rahman as a composer for most of his films. But Kunjiramayanam sees Tamil composer Justin Prabhakaran make his Malayalam debut (after just 2 Tamil films – Pannaiyarum Padminiyum and Orange Mittai). Thumba poove sundari is a high-energy song that Justin aptly hands over to Shankar Mahadevan. The tune and sound is spoofy and Justin layers it perfectly with an assortment of sounds that are mighty diverse, but somehow play harmoniously together!

Parapara – Yatchan (Tamil – Yuvan Shankar Raja)
Yuvan’s last release – Masss – was a disappointing piece of work, but his tuning and track record with director Vishnuvardhan is far better… and it shows in his output in Yatchan’s soundtrack. That the song is sung by 2 male singers indicates that this is the double-hero intro song. The vocal interplay between Vijay Yesudas and Ranjith is fantastic, but the real star is Yuvan’s funky tune that is a cornucopia of interesting sounds including a quirky shenai (or nadhaswaram!) layer.

Kya pataa – Drishyam (Hindi – Vishal Bhardwaj)
This is the kind of song that Vishal used to rope in Suresh Wadkar to sing. Then, he started singing these whispery tunes himself, to middling results. Now, in Drishyam, he offers such a tune to the ruling favorite Arijit Singh and the results are pretty impressive. There is haunting jazz and there’s also an Ilayaraja’ish quality to the sound Vishal conjures. Gulzar’s lyrics, as always, continue to engage and intrigue.

Ninnale – Rudrasimhasanam (Malayalam – Viswajith)
Viswajith is one of those composers in Malayalam who seems to be enormously talented but always ends up with films that are either poorly promoted, never released or completely ignored. It last happened with a wonderful song like ‘Ee mazhayithalilente’ from a film called Teens. And now, his 2 lovely songs from Rudrasimhasanam are heading for the same fate. Ninnale, in particular, deserves a listen given how beautifully Chithra has sung the Mohanam raaga layered song with Viswajith’s ghatam, flute and strings backgrounds in perfect sync.

Marudakkaari – Paayum Puli (Tamil – D.Imman)
In Marudakkaari, Imman employs a very Shankar Mahadevan’ish Diwakar, of Super Singer fame! Diwakar sings with the right swagger, for a really captivating tune that most probably straddles raagas like Valaji and Malayamarudham (both are related, in any case, rather closely). Imman, in his quintessential style, has many surprises up his sleeves for the orchestration that goes from pulsating electric guitar to ektara like strings, all set to a foot-tapping rhythm! This is Imman at his best, channeling his inner Ilayaraja.

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