Bezubaan is an easily likeable, evocative tune that goes a wee bit more than the standard-issue Hindi song where the leads are mooning over the good times. Journey Song is charming too, with Shreya singing in Bengali mid-way and the tune remaining engaging all through. Anupam sings Manoj Yadav’s poignant verses in Lamhe guzar gaye convincingly, keeping the soft-rock tune consistently pleasant, much like the Richard Marx’ish Teri meri baatein, another sing-along’ish pop-rock song with markedly interesting tabla base. Sunidhi is in her elements in the title song, with a nice accompanying vocal chorus. Anupam makes a commendable Hindi debut!

Keywords: Piku, Anupam Roy

Arijit sounds oddly labored in Chirantan Bhatt-composed Teri meri kahani, with a predictable Pakistani-pop sound. Chirantan’s other song, Coffee peetey peetey does sound like something composed over the music playing in the coffee store, while drinking coffee! Yo Yo Honey Singh’s Aao raja is his usual stuff that he composes, seemingly under the influence of stuff, with a hypnotic sound that escalates at select points. Manj Musik’s Warna Gabbar aa jayega is more of Honey Singh-style hiphop – Gabbar dialogs fused with a few repetitive notes. Gabbar may not appreciate what’s being passed off as a soundtrack behind his back.

Keywords: Chirantan Bhatt, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Manj Musik, Gabbar Is Back

Mani does what he knows best in One And Only Lion – true-blue Telugu masala track that’s meant for a hero and two ladies prancing around him. Pilla, even more so – the kind of song and dance you’d indulge in, after biting into smoking hot gongura. Aisa ambani pilla‘s playful tone is a good listen; that consistent thavil backdrop is funky! Akasam is the ambient melody Mani excels in – odd Punjabi lyrics, catchy chorus and a pleasant tune to boot! Anaganaga closes the soundtrack on a resonant, pop-bhajan’ish note! Mani Sharma back in form after a long time!

Keywords: Mani Sharma, Lion, Balakrishna

It all started with Suhasini Maniratnam’s ‘ask’ to the media present in O Kadhal Kanmani’s music success event. She urged the media, ‘Let Qualified people Alone Review OK Kanmani’. The video:

I found this rather naive. And said so, on a Deccan Chronicle piece too.

Naive because the communication spectrum has changed forever with social media. It’s not just for movies – everything you decide to buy, you do a Google first and stumble on 2 kinds of opinions – one, controlled by the brand itself and second, by people. This second one was a closed loop earlier, didn’t have the power to travel beyond immediate word of mouth. With social media, this travels faster and completely topples controlled opinions from a few.

This is for everyone who makes a hotel decision based on tripadvisor, an eating out decision based on Zomato and a movie watching decision based on IMDb, their friends’ comments on Twitter and Facebook and everyone who buys a book based on user reviews from Amazon or Goodreads. Yes, this is about people having the right to say, what they want, when they want (a few hours of a music’s release?) and how they want it.

The line between an opinion and review does not exist anymore either. Every review too is an opinion; it just happened to be in a medium that came readily with a large reach. Now reach isn’t that big an issue and anybody with internet connection can air an opinion on anything – earlier it was reach that accorded some respectability to opinions to crossover to become ‘reviews’.

Now that reach is within anyone’s reach (pun intended), does that make them only opinions and not reviews? Of course not – check Amazon, for book reviews from people like you and me. Check Tripadvisor for reviews on places, hotels from people like you and me. Check Zomato for reviews of restaurants from people like you and me. These are reviews too! Just like film reviews in IMDb, in mainstream publications like The Hindu and 140 character reviews on Twitter.

In context, someone sent me a link to Tamil Talkies’ movie reviews and asked me if these kind of ‘stupid reviewers’ (emphasis not mine) needed and isn’t that what Suhasini is trying to fight?

The point again – my or your person opinion about Tamil Talkies’ reviews is immaterial to this debate. The basic premise is Tamil Talkies is a consumer and they have every right to talk about any movie they see, in whatever way they deem fit. You, as a viewer, have the right to see it, reject it, tell them they suck, or whatever. That’s the way it should work.

Film makers cannot ‘wish’ that such reviewers don’t review just because they don’t like it or they believe it affects a film’s collections. This is how internet works, and this is how social media works.

Next, Bangalore Mirror poses the question about Suhasini’s statement to Mani Ratnam too and he offers a rather grounded response – typically him.

mani

But, I need to add a point of view. Mani says, “every film-goer will have something to say about a film. But criticism shouldn’t provoke a reaction and that kind of culture is prevalent online.” Elsewhere, in the same paragraph, he says, “Cinema is public art”.

Now, let me connect the two. Why should only cinema (and music performances, theater etc.) be public art? Why can’t a tweet be considered a public art, put forth to provoke a reaction? Why can’t a blog post be public art shared to evoke a reaction? A Facebook post?

You can argue, ‘C’mon, where’s a film and where’s a piddly Facebook post?’. But are you arguing that it is infinitely more complex to produce a film than a Facebook post that they shouldn’t be considered ‘public art’? I’ll reverse the argument – because it is so easy to ‘create’ (anything, from a film to a pithy tweet), social media/internet has democratized the power to create and put on public things that evoke and provoke a reaction.

Else, why would someone want to conjure a sentence with a lot of thought, on Twitter (character constraints aside)? It is because they feel good when someone else appreciates the thought that has gone into constructing that sentence. I read Baradwaj Rangan’s reviews as much for sentence construction as it is for views and the points he picks to elaborate. A provocative online opinion on a movie is the other end of this spectrum – you and I may not like its provocative intent, but if there’s an audience for it, who are we to ask that to be stopped?

Pic courtesy: Medcitynews

Related reads:
“Where is the audience?”, asks leading Indian film maker!
Shutting up RJ Balaji – a shameful precedent from Tamil film industry
Resetting the reviewer-reader equation using internet
Will social media be Raavan’s Raavan?

Saturday April 18, 2015

Hitman – April 11, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Parandhu Sellava
O Kadhal Kanmani (Tamil)
Music: A. R. Rahman

A standout song from the soundtrack. This is the kind of free-flowing goodness one expects from the Mani-ARR duo. The ‘Putham pudhu’ phrases sound like the funky, 2.0 version of a classic 50s MGR song and the background chorus too keeps the song mighty lively. Karthik is his usual dependable self, but it is his co-singer Shashaa Tirupati who rules over the song.

Vaaya Veera
Kanchana-2 (Tamil)
Music: Leon James

By now Shakthisree Gopalan has built a reputation for wonderfully immersive melodies, no matter who the composer. She lands herself one such number for 23-year-old debutant Leon James’ Kanchana-2 (which is also Muni 3… oh well!). Leon’s music seems very similar and new-agey like his schoolmate Anirudh’s — the sound is fresh, and purposefully cluttered. You remember Shakthisree’s ‘Vaaya veera’ hook as much as the ‘aaaah’ that appears every few seconds.

Pori Masala Pori
Jil (Telugu)
Music: Ghibran

This is Ghibran’s second film in Telugu and while the overall album is decidedly more commercial (a.k.a predictable), the man has a few aces up his sleeve. The most oddly named song, ‘Pori Masala Pori’, starts off with cringe-inducing ‘Kudi Kudiye Soniye’, but gets the main hook perfectly right (despite, ‘Pori masala pori, main hoon tera Ferrari!’). When the hook is repeated after the anupallavi, Ghibran layers the catchy rhythm with a string section that defines the kind of imaginative work he conjures up often these days!

Yeh Dil
Chitrafit 3.0 megapixel (Marathi)
Music: Yug Bhusal

There’s something very, very (once more!), very Ilaiyaraajaish about this song; in fact, at one point, you’d perhaps be humming Ilaiyaraaja’s (and M.S. Viswanathan’s) ‘Kaalayil Kettadhu Kovil Mani’, from Senthamizh Paattu! It could also be the way Yug handles the jazzy elements or it could be the way the tune has a swagger that Raja used to reserve for the classic 1980s Kamal Haasan potboiler. Vijay Prakash runs amok in the song and delivers a knockout. Just one warning — if you search for this song, you’ll end up with a video that is termed NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

Ummarathe
Ivan Maryadaraman (Malayalam)
Music: Gopi Sunder

This remake of Our Hospitality (Buster Keaton, 1923) travelled through Andhra Pradesh (Maryada Ramanna), North India (Son of Sardaar), Tamil Nadu (Vallavanukku Pullum Aayudham) and has finally reached God’s own country. Oddly, Gopi recreates two songs from the Telugu version (music by M.M. Keeravani), but thankfully the best is completely his own. ‘Ummarathe’ holds lovely violin phrases and a whispery tune alluding to Gowrimanohari raaga and is fabulously sung by Devanand and Divya S. Menon.

Saturday April 11, 2015

Hitman – April 4, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Calcutta Kiss
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (Hindi)
Music: Madboy/Mink

The oddly named Madboy/Mink comprises Imaad Shah (Naseruddin Shah’s son!) and Saba Azad, and they categorize their music under ‘electro cabaret’ and ‘nu disco’. The electro-swing Calcutta Kiss is insanely catchy, fabulously adapted from their own Taste The Kiss (from the 2014 album All Ball). It’s a frenetically paced song, with unique sounds and phrases that perhaps need a second listen to fully comprehend and make sense of. That a song like this made it to a mainstream Bollywood movie is a minor miracle, courtesy Dibakar Banerjee.

Idarkuthaane aasaippattaai
Romeo Juliet (Tamil)
Music: D. Imman

The first thing that hits you is Madhan Karky playing with the conventional opening line and bringing about gender equality. The next thing is how versatile Vaikom Vijaylakshmi is – she seems to be having a lot of fun singing this song, with all the little nuances. Composer Imman leaves his unique stamp too, particularly a lovely chorus that plays mid-way and beautifully segues into the anupallavi.

Malarvaga kombathu
Ennum Eppozhum (Malayalam)
Music: Vidyasagar

Yes, Vidyasagar has lost the race in Tamil (and Telugu), but he continues to produce excellent music in Malayalam. He recently broke the Sathyan Anthikad-Ilayaraja partnership (with Oru Indhiyan Pranayakatha) and given this 2nd outing it looks like Mr.Anthikad likes working with Vidyasagar! Malarvaga kombathu is very easy on the ears – rendered impeccably by Jayachandran and Rajalakshmy, amidst ambient, intriguing synth music that borders a bit on Rahman’s Thenmerku paruvakatru (Karuthamma).

Punnami puvai
Rudramadevi (Telugu)
Music: Ilayaraja

The stand-out song from Rudramadevi is also the one that you may most associate with Ilayaraja – almost his template, featuring Shreya Ghoshal doing what she does best and a tune that is almost like a Raja version of a Tamil ghazal. The synth is kept minimal (thankfully) and the composer almost goes about delivering clinically what is expected out of him.

Ethanai kavignen
Savaale Samaali (Tamil)
Music: Thaman S

You could say that Thaman, by now, can compose such songs in his sleep. It carries all his trademarks- a thrumming rhythm, Karthik singing a catchy tune, cheeky lyrics that bring a smile instantly and easy hooks to keep singing along.

Nacchite ye panaina has a curiously intriguing disco-techno mix that’s easy on the ears. Okkariki okkaram and Aanati devadasu have simple, catchy hooks and the addictive musical phrases, besides Shalmali’s fantastic vocals. Raanaa goes overboard in a clumsy soundscape and the title song is an odd mess. Arijit salvages Hayi hayi‘s tune, but the backgrounds reek of Sunny’s past work, while What is this bossu manages to actually sound obnoxiuous! He is Mr.Mosagadu‘s breathless retro sound is appealing and Villain, with its Dikshidhar’s nottuswara sahitya celtic sound, is enormously interesting! Sunny seems out of sorts in his first big-budget outing!

Keywords: Dohchay, Sunny M.R.

Foreign balamwa is an un-Mikey’ish item song, worsened by Sonu Kakkar’s exaggerated vocals. Prasoon’s lyrics and Rachel Varghese’s diva-style vocals hold the Clapton-style Choone chali together. In Meri aadat, Mikey’s ode to R.E.M’s Losing My Religion, Anushka delivers like only she can. Mikey comes into his own in the English tracks – the jazzy I need a man that Vivienne totally owns, and the jingle-style Don’t go. Aai’s aalaap and Laila’s theme offer lounge’ish sounds. The soundtrack however belongs to Joi Barua’s effervescent Dusokute, that first featured as Dusoku melute in his fantastic debut album. Mocktail Margarita With A Straw.

Keywords: Margarita With A Straw, Mikey McCleary, Joi Barua

MC Vickey grunts his way through the predictable hip-hop/rap template of High voltage. Udit Narayan continues his Tamil-spitting routine in the painfully dated Machi machi that desperately tries to sound cool with Na.Muthukumar’s lyrics, and fails. Suttrum boomi is incredibly routine, in every conceivable way, while A walk to remember theme is non-descript background material. Harini’s Irukkiraai, with its Rahman styled backgrounds is a fairly engaging melody, but the soundtrack’s best is Iravaaga nee, a GVP-Saindhavi duet that is blissfully minimal in orchestration, letting a beautifully soft, rainy tune take over. That’s the lone maayam in this otherwise blah soundtrack.

Keywords: Idhu Enna Maayam, G V Prakash Kumar

If Dil kookay is standard-issue pop ballad, Janiya fares better, thanks to Shafqat’s now-familiar vocal nuances, and engaging music. Ratiyaan goes a notch up – pensive and beautifully orchestrated modern-day ghazal, while Sun lo and Tere liye are quintessentially Fuzon’ish. Shafqat does wonders to Khusro’s verses in Rang, keeping it simple and earthy, while the very-Punjabi title song is equally authentic, and poignant too! Tum nahi aaye experimentally mixes waltz with ghazal pretty well. Ustad Amanat Ali Khan-composed Dil dharhaknay showcases Shafqat’s impressive vocal prowess amidst the piano base! A competent follow-up to Shafqat’s superlative albums, Tabeer and Kyun Dooriyan.

Keywords: Muh Dikhai, Shafqat Amanat Ali

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