Anthony Daasan notwithstanding, Baby baby is underwhelming. Hey Umayaal is a lilting melody that’s packaged beautifully with Vijay Yesudas’s vocals. The Unplugged version is a good listen too, with Achu and Kavya Ajit’s singing. In Siru nadai, Achu ups the ante, roping in Karthik to sing the gossamer-light melody. The Reprise sees Roshni Suresh doing an equally great job! Achu tunes Kanian Poongundran’s Puranaanooru verse, Yaadhum oore impressively in grunge rock, but messes up the flow, including stopping the extended pallavi with ‘Kaatchiyin thelinthanam’, to start the anupallavi with ‘Aagalin…’! Barring this ignorant sacrilege, Urumeen is decent work by Achu.

Keywords: Urumeen, Achu

Vijay Sethupathi seeks inspiration from Dhanush for writing Straight ah poyee. Justin Prabhakaran tries his best to fit the nutty lyrics in some form, but fails miserably, thanks also to Vijay’s horrendous singing. Orae oru oorla is another example of Justin totally giving up and tearing up his hair in exasperation. Karthik is in his usual scintillating form in the breezy Theeraadhae, with a lovely smattering of guitar! Payanangal thodarudhae is a poignant, immersive melody beautifully sung by Naresh Iyer and Padmalatha. Justin hits it out of the park for the two songs not polluted by Vijay Sethupathi’s musical aspirations!

Keywords: Orange Mittai, Justin Prabhakaran

Thevaiya almost seems to be asking itself if this stylish noise is necessary to prop MC Vickey’s throaty outburst in the name of singing. Kamal Haasan’s Kaarirule, a rather simplistic and faithful rock track – only, with Tamil lyrics – and includes inventive use of violin, at places. Shweta Mohan is the highlight of the pleasant melody, Yaen yennai, while Madhan Karky’s bouncy, inspiring verses get a breezy tune in Sana sana. The soundtrack’s best, interestingly, is the The Theme that marries the veena and guitar into a heady package! Barring the theme, Sundaramurthy KS’s musical debut is strictly average.

Keywords: Avam, Sundaramurthy KS

Sunday June 28, 2015

Hitman – June 27, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Yennamma Ippadi Panreengalema
Rajini Murugan (Tamil)
Music: D. Imman

In the much-loved tradition of Tamil film songs that offer harried men a post-alcohol expression of musical outrage, aimed at women who dither in reciprocating the feelings of the (above) said men, joins yet another song. This one is powered by the patron saints of this genre — D. Imman and Sivakarthikeyan (the 3rd patron saint, Gaana Bala is missing, however), and by now, they have mastered this activity to the hilt. It is instantly sing-along’ish, given that it uses a now-mega-meme’d expression first uttered in all seriousness by TV anchor and director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan in her TV show Solvathellam Unmai. And Imman sings it with a certain mocking twang that makes it endearing.

Guddu Rangeela (Hindi)
Music: Amit Trivedi

Sooiyan is a typical Amit Trivedi ear-worm. It has Arijit Singh and Chinmayi sing out a simple, lilting tune, mouthing Irshad Kamil’s Gulzar’ish verses. Amit has so much going in the background of such a simple tune — Rashid Khan’s banjo, a beautiful strings set that kicks in at the end of the antara and delightfully nuanced backing vocals that accompany the ‘Sooiyan sooiyan’ line.

Yeya En Kottikkaaraa
Papanasam (Tamil)
Music: Ghibran

Given Ghibran’s ‘setting’ (more like settling!) with Kamal Haasan (this is Ghibran’s second film with Kamal after Uttama Villain), it is interesting that the soundtrack has just two full songs and the rest are background themes. It is also comforting, oddly, since the script doesn’t really need songs to break the flow of the tense thriller (a smart decision in the Malayalam original Drishyam, by director Jeethu Joseph). ‘Yeya En Kottikkaaraa’ is the soundtrack’s pick, with its easily appealing tune harking back to the sound from Ghibran’s own ‘Aruvaakkaara’, from Kutti Puli. Ghibran’s musical layering is, as always, impeccable, and so is Sundar Narayana Rao and Malavika Anilkumar’s vocals.

Talk About You
Album: No Place in Heaven
Music: Mika

Lebanese-British singer, songwriter Mika is back with a new album, a follow-up to his 2012 The Origin of Love. While Mika doesn’t stray away from trademark sound of stomping, uplifting pop riffs, sweeping piano motifs and ebullient harmonies, it all feels a bit disappointingly derivative, almost as if this was the B-side compilation to one of his earlier albums. Still, stoking pleasant memories of smashing past albums isn’t such a bad thing, as ‘Talk About You’ proves and it gladly regurgitates a lot of backgrounds from Mika’s global hit ‘Love Today’ (from his debut, Life in Cartoon Motion; not to be confused with a middling, late 90s Vijay starrer).

Ora Oppi Bokka
Dhand (Tulu)
Music: Abhishek S. N

Software engineer-turned-music composer Abhishek SN has two Tulu film soundtracks to his credit, including this one. Dhand (means ‘army’ in Tulu) has a fairly conventional soundtrack in that if you replace the lyrics with say Kannada or Tamil, it’d work perfectly fine, given the kind of music it comes with. That doesn’t take anything away from the album, particularly this lively wedding song, with an addictive rhythm. Of course, what makes the song endearing is the sheer ‘sound’ of it — to ears that haven’t heard Tulu, the words and pronunciation can be mighty interesting, with half-sounds for almost all e and a ending words.

Yeya en kottikkaaraa has an easily appealing tune harking back to Kutti Puli’s Aruvaakkaara. Ghibran’s musical layering is impeccable, and Sundar Narayana Rao seems to be vocalizing Kamal Haasan’s voice mannerisms! Hariharan breezes through the deeply contemplative, possibly-Charukesi’ish Vinaa, even as Ghibran loads it with flourishing, ominous orchestration. Of the instrumental pieces by Sofia Session Orchestra, the theme is mighty Uttama Villain’ish. Kill For Life, Police Investigation and Sinking Car offer a sense of foreboding, The Bond of Family picks cues from Kottikkaaraa, and This Is Me (Suyambulingam) is more uplifting and optimistic in sound. Short, thematic work by Ghibran.

Keywords: Papanasam, Ghibran

Saturday June 20, 2015

Hitman – June 20, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Baahubali (Telugu)
Music: M. M. Keeravani

Baahubali’s soundtrack is expectedly opulent, with veteran Keeravani bringing in a cornucopia of interesting sounds to showcase the grand scale of the film. But as always, the composer’s tunes are soaked in nativity, even as he seeks out modern orchestration to keep them contemporary. The best demonstration of this may be ‘Manohari’, where Keeravani loads an instantly captivating rhythm to go with the beautiful melody sung fabulously by Mohana Bhogaraju and Revanth. There are absorbing phrases such as the one Revanth does a couple of times, a tantalisingly extended ‘Manohari’ call.

Buguri (Kannada)
Music: Mickey J. Meyer

Mickey has had a good year in Telugu so far, and Buguri happens to be his third film in Kannada. He dips into his Telugu repertoire — literally, given the reuse of two songs from Chakkiliginthey — and delivers something totally within his comfort level. ‘Kannalle’, headlined by Karthik, is the pick of the soundtrack with its zingy rhythm and street-smart lyrics that rhyme with what-u and hot-u; Dhanush doesn’t own the u-suffix though— Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have happily indulged-u in this for ages-u.

Premam (Malayalam)
Music: Rajesh Murugesan

Now that Premam is a certified super-hit, the one question people were asking as they came out of the theatres (or, tweeting, while in the theater) is, ‘Dei, that ‘Malare’ song was not in the soundtrack, alle?’. It wasn’t. The makers did the complete reverse of what they did with their debut – Neram — where they had a viral hit of a song (‘Pistah’) long before the film or its soundtrack hit the market. This time, they held on to the release of a song, confident that the song, and the situation it appears in, will make people crave for it. And it did! Vijay Yesudas breezes through this gorgeous tune, with a mesmerising profusion of violins.

Romeo Juliet (Tamil)
Music: D. Imman

Vishal Dadlani (of Vishal-Shekhar fame from Bollywood, and Pentagram) has already sung in Tamil — most notably, songs like ‘Oh Penne’, from Vanakkam Chennai, for Anirudh. Imman ropes him in for a similar sweeping melody in Thoovaanam and what stands out, beyond the immersive tune, is the effort from Vishal in pronunciation. Thamarai’s lyrics get such a pitch-perfect representation from Vishal that the days of ‘Udit Narayananisation’ of Tamil verses seem only like a distant, torturous memory.

Right Here, Right Now
Album: Déjà Vu
Music: Giorgio Moroder

This is Giorgio Moroder’s first solo album in 30 years and as if to drill it down deeper, he’s even got a song titled, ‘74 is the new 24’. His new albums comes at a time when a band like Daft Punk honoured him with a song called ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ (from the album Random Access Memories, 2013) and nearly every EDM producer cites him as an inspiration. True to his style, the album is a wonderful throwback to his heydays, with new tricks up the sleeve. It’s all consistently disco, synthesised vocals and funk textures. ‘Right Here, Right Now’, his collaboration with Kylie Minogue, produces the album’s best. Kylie’s vocals fit perfectly in the synth groove, amidst pulsating handclaps and punchy chorus that you do look up at the ceiling to see if there’s a glitter ball spinning somewhere.

The title song, with its bordering-on-Middle-Eastern Vakulabharanam raaga base is made more interesting with the prominent brass sound. Sivakarthikeyan delivers it pretty well. Un mela oru kannu, despite breezy vocals by Jithin Raj and Mahalakshmi Iyer and that cool rhythm, is a let-down, tune-wise. Aavi parakkum too suffers from the same impediment – poor tune, propped by impressive sound. Jigiru jigiru is perfunctory Raja-sound catchiness that, barring good orchestration, is rather plain. The soundtrack’s showstopper is Yennamma ippadi, which, despite some overwrought vocals by Imman, has enough street-smart oomph to make it work! Imman’s formula is less effective in Rajinimurugan.

Keywords: D.Imman, Rajinimurugan

The title song starts off with Amit’s predictable scheme of things… till that second interlude and the subsequent, dramatic change in sound that puts the song in another gear! Its remix, however, is more annoyingly gimmicky. Sooiyan is an easy winner – a wonderfully pleasant melody that gains so much from the choice of singers – Arijit and Chinmayi. Sahebaan is equally winsome, creating an excellent combo of Chinmayi’s mod sounding part and Shahid Mallya’s soaked-in-folk part. Subhash Kapoor-composed Mata ka email is the soundtrack’s worst, playing off Bhojpuri-style stage tunes, with ridiculous lyrics. Ultra-short, but effective work by Amit.

Keywords: Guddu Rangeela, Amit Trivedi, Subhash Kapoor

Sunday June 14, 2015

Hitman – June 13, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Oru vidha aasai – Maari (Tamil – Anirudh)
The Anirudh-Dhanush combo is hot, particularly after Velayilla Pattathaari. And in Maari, they try to extend another composer’s sound – Harris Jeyaraj’s chartbuster from Dhanush’s Anegan, Danga Maari. While that extension is middling at best, where Anirudh does score is in Oru vidha aasai! He ropes in Vineeth Srinivasan, after a string of successful songs in Malayalam, to sing the song that articulates the 80s swagger wonderfully well.

Old School Girl (Haryanvi) – Tanu Weds Manu Returns (Hindi – Krsna)
More than the heavily stylised version of the same song by Anmol Malik, it’s the ‘Haryanvi’ version sung by Kalpana Gandharv that remains in your memory long after seeing a superbly in-form Kangana Ranaut as Datto. It’s the season of jazz in Bollywood, what with scores like Bombay Velvet, but this song stands out with its unique attempt to layer bizarrely accented lyrics over the quintessential jazz sound.

Mutham kodutha – Trisha Illana Nayanthara (Tamil – G.V.Prakash Kumar)
G.V.Prakash Kumar, fresh from a spate of my-mojo-is-back soundtracks like Kakka Muttai and Kaaval, gets Yuvan Shankar Raja – thus bridging the famous Ilayaraja-Rahman factions – for the soundtrack’s best, Mutham Kodutha. Prakash layers the thavil consistently well in the street-smart tune that seems tailor-made for Yuvan’s trademark off-key singing style.

Flight IC-408 – State of Bengal (Album: Visual Audio)
State of Bengal was Bangladeshi born DJ Sam Zaman. ‘Was’ because he died late last month. Sam was one of the prominent voices of the Asian Underground sound from UK and his songs from his pathbreaking 2001 album Visual Audio has found a place in many globally popular compilations. Flight IC-408 starts with the typical in-flight announcement of the Indian Airlines flight to Kolkata and moves on to a frenetic mix of beat box and sitar loops. You’d be completely on target if you recall a smattering of A R Rahman’s Mudhalvan number, Shakalaka Baby, in this song! R.I.P. Sam!

Nenjamae nenjamae – 54321 (Tamil – Joshua Sridhar)
The under-rated Joshua Sridhar, after a knockout debut in Kaadhal, hasn’t found much success in Tamil and in fact had a better run in Kannada! He tries again in Tamil in the curiously titled film 54321. Nenjamae Nenjamae is very typical of Joshua’s sound – an immersive melody that he hands over the Haricharan to embellish even as he loads the faux semi-classical interludes to add charm. Easily likeable tune!

Mamatala thalli opens on a soft note, evolving to a grander sound at two places, around the 1st and 2nd minutes. Sivuni aana‘s beautifully rolling lyrics and hymnal sound is captivating, while Pacha bottasi‘s tune, while pleasant, is standard issue material from the veteran. Nippulaa swasa and the short Jeevanadi are background’ish at best. The soundtrack’s best are Dheevara (and it’s English version!), a highly imaginative track that marries very filmy Telugu melody with pulsating Western pop, and Manohari, a brilliantly rhythmic number with fantastic singing by Mohana Bhogaraju and Revanth. Two standout tracks in an opulent soundtrack by Keeravani.

Keywords: Baahubali, Bahubali, MM Keeravani, M.M.Keeravani

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