Suryudne chusoddhama has that languorous sound that Sunny pioneered, and along with the captivating guitar strumming it sounds so good, in Arijit, Sunny and Harshika’s cool vocals! Aditya and Harshika carry Pade pade‘s racy mandolin and violin-loaded sound wonderfully, while the title song offers more of the catchy bluegrass’y goodness of Sunny. Arijit’s evocative voice rules over the melancholic Nuvvu todu, but with Adigo idigo, it seems like Sunny has pushed his trademark sound a bit too much as it blurs within what came earlier. Sunny’s return to his intimate and likeable sound after Dohchay is comforting, and mildly disconcerting.

Keywords: Sunny M.R., Tanu Nenu

Listen to the songs:

Sunday November 22, 2015

Hitman – November 21, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Paatta podunga ji – Oru Naal Koothu (Tamil – Justin Prabhakaran)
As if Justin Prabhakaran’s Ilayaraja invocation isn’t enough—when the violins play in the first interlude of Enakkaaga porandhaaye, from his debut, Pannayaarum Padminiyum, one can almost picture Rajinikanth in white and white, with his hands in the pocket walking amidst greenery in his usual style, like in Malaayala Karayoram, from Raajadhi Raja—he composes almost a homage of sorts in Paatta podunga ji. With its chorus’ish vocals, mix of strings and rhythm, the song is a lovely throwback to Raja’s 90s music. Justin layers it further with nadaswaram, funny dialogs from radio and lyrics (by Veera), a fantastic second interlude and a amazingly harmonious tune that Karthik leads in his inimitable style.

Padded cell – Seal (Album: 7)
Much has been made out of the fact that this is Henry Samuel a.k.a Seal’s 9th album, while being titled 7. And that this is the British singer’s first full-length album since splitting from ex-wife Heidi Klum (there are signs of that split in the album, though. Like the song, ‘Half A Heart’ which starts with, ‘You took a piece of me when you left…’!). The album itself is a throwback to the times when Seal was in heavy rotation across TV and radio—the 90s—moreso because he is working with his debut producer Trevor Horn again. Songs like Padded Cell, with its gently throbbing Europop synth mix raises above the album’s familiarity and ennui.

Meghaalu lekunna – Kumari 21F (Telugu – Devi Sri Prasad)
Meghaalu lekunna sounds at best like the Telugu version of a song by the Hindi pop band Euphoria. The tune is similarly lush and folk’ish. Devi does some interesting things in the interludes – the use of violins and solo-violin in the first and second interludes, to be specific. Yasin Nizar sings it mighty well, and one should thank Devi Sri Prasad for not singing it himself.

Keep On Dancing – Ellie Goulding (Album: Delirium)
English singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding’s 3rd studio album, Delirium, is decidedly more straight forward pop than her earlier album. And she works with today’s heavyweight pop producers like Max Martin. It’s an easy-on-the-ears album with the whistle-laden hooks in a song like Keep On Dancing smoothly ensuring repeated plays.

Ottathoval – Rajamma@Yahoo (Malayalam – Bijibal)
No, the film is not about Rajamma (Michael Rajamma) joining the internet giant and getting his Yahoo email ID. Yahoo is just the nickname for Rajamma’s brother, Vishnu Yohannan. That @ cleared, Bijibal does what one usually expects from an Ilayaraja or a Vidyasagar – treat a raaga with reverence. In Ottathoval, it is raaga Panthuvarali, that gets a clean, deeply melodious treatment, in Ganesh Sundaram and Roopa Revathi’s vocals!

Reena mecareena‘s Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson) origins are really hard to ignore, and a bit strange, given this is by Ilayaraja! Still, it’s a catchy, easily likeable song, sung with the right enthusiasm by Piyush Kapur. Vibhavari holds the lovely, bordering-on-melancholy melody of Edhuru choosthunna beautifully together and the composer’s legendary sound is in full display in the interludes. Tholi paruvam picks up steam only when the violins kick in, at the end of pallavi, while Maatallo cheppaleni is Karthik’s show all the way; he breathes life into the incredibly pleasant possibly Kalyani raaga based tune and elevates it! Kanulu kalanu piliche is vintage Raja – a wonderfully involving and waltz’y melody that the composer adorns with the choicest of interludes, even as Haricharan and Chinmayi are fantastic with their singing. Okasari O vayyari, despite the interesting rhythm and cool guitaring, has a was-hep-back-in-the-days tune, but Saradale gets four girls, Manasi, Ramya, Rita and Reena for a thrumming tune that they rock together. The short title song, both versions, is odd, to put it mildly. After starting the year with a bang (Shamitabh), the veteran composer closes the year with a bang too, with an inimitable showcase of great tunes!

Keywords: Abbayitho Ammayi, Ilayaraja, 200, #200

Listen to the songs:

Deva brings his usual style of delivery for the Tea anthem, Tea podu, that is otherwise sans anything special. Nakkalu maama is a multiple-personality folk and kuthu number that frequently changes rhythm to interesting effect. Kanjaadai is the soundtrack’s best – a scintillating folk’ish melody that gets the best out of V.V.Prasanna and Vandana Srinivasan and employs a lot of unusual tune turns! Ayyankuli, despite the resonant orchestration and tune, seems to be trying too hard. Gangai Amaren headlines Yaarai ketpadhu, Gopi’s enigmatic violin layer stands out. Gopi Sundar is in superb form in Malayalam and Telugu, but average here!

Keywords: Anjala, Gopi Sundar, Gopi Sunder

Listen to the songs on Saavn.

Bijibal gets both the Mappila paattu style songs wonderfully—and rhythmically, obviously—right. Alphons Joseph’s vocals add a distinctive touch to Maanaanivalude, while Meghamani, though sounding rather familiar and templatized, is foot-tapping nonetheless, with fantastic singing by Najeem Arshad. Vineeth Sreenivasan and Sangeetha Sreekanth make the Malayali-Punjabi sound of Ullathu chonnaal a lot more tolerable. Olivile kalikal sounds like a song from another soundtrack and makes an uncomfortable medley of non-descript pop forms and half-hearted theyyam sound. The soundtrack’s easy highlight is Ottathoval, where Ganesh Sundaram and Roopa Revathi breathe life into the possibly Panthuvarali raaga based haunting melody! Prolific@Bijibal, in Rajamma@Yahoo!

Keywords: Bijibal, Rajamma@Yahoo

Listen to the songs:

Sunday November 15, 2015

Hitman – November 14, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Oru makara nilavaay – Rani Padmini (Malayalam – Bijibal)
The melody seems simple enough, but Bijibal ropes in Chithra Arun to provide the song’s beautiful vocals and pays off wonderfully. Her evocative singing, combined with fantastic use of sitar and saarangi at two different places, and the overall light and dreamy sound, adds tremendous value to the song. Bijibal is really onto something in Malayalam, this year, while also being incredibly prolific.

Khulne lagi zindagi – The Perfect Girl (Hindi – Soumil, Siddharth)
When singer Raman Mahadevan goes ‘Zindagi ajnabee-eee-eee’ early into the song, you know the song has something to do with Shankar Ehsaan Loy. It has – Soumil and Siddharth are Shankar Mahadevan’s nephew and son, respectively. And Raman Mahadevan—not related to Shankar—is a regular with the trio too. Soumil and Siddharth have already composed in Marathi, but this is their Hindi debut, and the duo do a great job here, living up to the pedigree!

Kaattumel anjaru – Salt Mango Tree (Malayalam – Hesham Abdul Wahab)
Debutant composer Hesham Abdul Wahab is already popular in Kerala thanks to his 2007 stint in Asianet’s Idea Star Singer. The singer, who debuts as composer in Salt Mango Tree (the title, obviously, inspired by that iconic comedy scene featuring Mohanlal and Sreenivasan in Doore Oru Koodu Koottaam), does a phenomenal job in both departments in the song Kaattumel anjaru, a delightful tune that seems to be a mix of Neelambari and Shankarabharanam raagas. Hesham also employs mridangam and nadaswaram to great effect, to add native Kerala’ness to the song.

Annapoorne – Anil Srinivasan (Album: Touch)
Back in 2007, when Mandolin U.Rajesh released the album Into The Light, his collaborator in the fusion effort was pianist Anil Srinivasan. That album had a stellar fusion version of Muthuswamy Dikshithar’s Sama raaga based Annapoorne that had the mandolin as the more pronounced instrument. It looks like Anil and Rajesh really love this composition, given that they have chosen to redo the tune in Anil Srinivasan’s solo debut album Touch. Here, Anil offers a minute-long piano prelude before Rajesh joins. The mandolin is slower and more meditative in this version and Anil’s piano is even more prominent—understandably—and imaginative in its exposition of the beautiful raaga.
Listen to Annapoorne on Saavn.

Tummeda jummani pinchaku raa – Columbus (Telugu – Jithin Roshan)
Jithin Roshan, after trying his luck in Tamil, in films like Theekkulikkum Pachaimaram and Thiruttu VCD (without much success), debuts in Telugu, with Columbus and he seems to have done much better than his Tamil repertoire. Sashaa Tirupati’s voice is the highlight of the pleasant and sing-along’ish tune of Tummeda, where Jithin keeps the proceedings frothy and easily likeable.

Wednesday November 11, 2015

Touch (Music review) – Anil Srinivasan

Waltz for Sharik, composed originally by jazz pianist as Waltz for Peach, has a lovely bass by Naveen Napier and adds a more meditative touch to what was originally a spritely tune. Rakesh Chaurasia’s reimagination of Vaishna janato (a 15th century composition by Narsinh Mehta that became popular as Gandhi’s favorite bhajan) gains enormously from Anil’s piano backdrop. In Reflections, Anil skillfully combines bossa nova with a tune that wonderfully alludes to cult Mexican tunes like Besame mucho and Sway with me. Randy Bernsen’s guitar’y Dhanasri Thillana neatly segues into Anil’s piano in Travancore Blues that explores a lot more within that tune and beyond. Anil’s solo, Morning mist, shines with him exploiting Sarasangi raaga in all its glory. Streets of Madras, a mighty innovative filmy kuthu in piano, comes alive in the way Anil innovates within his scope. The album’s highlight is Annapoorne, a Muthuswami Dikshithar composition that Anil and Mandolin Rajesh first collaborated on, back in 2007, for Rajesh’s album, Into The Light. Here, the mandolin is contemplative, while Anil’s piano is more imaginative in its exposition of the beautiful Sama raaga. Long overdue solo debut by Anil that continues his inventive take on piano and diverse collaborations.

Keywords: Anil Srinivasan, Touch, 200, #200

Listen to the album on Saavn.
Listen to Sharik Hasan’s Waltz for Peach, on SoundCloud.
Listen to Annapoorne, from Mandolin Rajesh’s album Into The Light, on Raaga.


Woh toh yahin hai lekin & Ya rabba – Main Aur Charles (Vipin Patwa and Bally Grunge, Saugat Upadhaya & Subhradeep Das, respectively)
Jonita Gandhi lights up the sweeping melody of Woh toh, that’s straight out of Pritam’s material for early Mohit Suri. Ya rabba is interesting – 3 composers—Bally Grunge, Saugat Upadhaya, Subhradeep Das—get togethe to produce a Pakipop style ditty that’s competently sung by Saugat Upadhaya. Decent enough music that deserved better.

Wajah tum ho – Hate Story 3 (Baman)
Predictable tune, on expected lines from any Mohit Suri’ish film (like the one above!), but Armaan Malik’s vocals make a reasonable enough difference. Baman keeps the tune and sound simple and neat.

Khulne lagi zindagi – The Perfect Girl (Soumil, Siddharth)
The composing duo is Shankar Mahadevan’s nephew and song, respectively. They have already debuted in Marathi, and the pedigree doesn’t show in this film’s other song (Dheeme se), but this one’s very Shankar Ehsaan Loy’ish. Raman Mahadevan (not related to Shankar Mahadevan!), another SEL regular, delivers the song in his usual panache!

Jalte diye – Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (Himesh Reshammiya)

Matargasthi, Tum saath ho, Safarnama & Wat wat wat – Tamasha (A R Rahman)


The full soundtrack: Adiye azhagae, Maangalyamae, Paatta podunga ji, Yaeli yaeli & Eppo varuvaaro – Oru Naal Koothu (Justin Prabhakaran)

Vellai kanavu, Lola, Parakkiren naan & Mazhaikkulle – Mellisai (Sam C.S.)

Kalakkattu kannaala – Kathukutty (Aruldev)
Beyond the simple lilt Aruldev loads in the song, and even beside the Raja’ish flute he employs, the song works for one very simple reason – Hamir Kalyani raaga (or Kedar, in Hindustani)! As a result, invoking everything from Hum ko mann ki shakti dena, to Viswanathan-Ramamurthy’s Karnan classic, En uyir thozhi, to MSV’s Chandradhayam oru pennaanadho… to Rahman’s Malargale malargale, the raaga comes alive yet again, in another package. That’s also the function of the raaga anyway, to be used again and again in newer variants. And Aruldev, first by selection of the raaga and eventually by packaging it in a simple and elegant way, has a clear winner here.

Tham tham, Kaattukulla & Pookkalai killi vandhu – Pasanga 2 (Arrol Corelli)

Aaluma doluma, Veera Vinayaka & Uyir nadhi – Vedalam (Anirudh)

Kannaalam – Inji Iduppazhagi (M.M.Keeravani)

Poove pooviname & Aagaa – 144 (Sean Roldan)

Aala saachuputta, Kurum padame & Neeyum adi naanum – Vil Ambu (Navin)


Crazy & Maskesko – Lacchimdeviki O Lekkundi (M.M.Keeravani)

Meghaalu lekunna – Kumari 21F (Devi Sri Prasad)

Tummeda jummanipinchaku raa & Manchu keratam – Columbus (Jithin Roshan)
Jithin Roshan, after trying his luck in Tamil, in films like Theekkulikkum Pachaimaram and Thiruttu VCD (without much success), debuts in Telugu, with Columbus and he seems to have done far better than his Tamil repertoire. Sashaa Tirupati’s voice is the highlight of the pleasant and sing-along’ish tune of Tummeda, while Haricharan rocks Manchu keratam, a soaring tune with Middle Eastern shades, orchestrated really well by Jithin.

Thoorupey – Sankarabharanam (Praveen Lakkaraju)
Lovely, lilting melody by Praveen, roping in Karthik and Ramya Behara. Very unhurried and indulgent tune!


Ee thanutha, Sahibaa & Vaanam – Anarkali (Vidyasagar)

Oru makaranilavay – Rani Padmini (Bijibal)
The best of an otherwise average album, by the super busy and prolific Bijibal. Chithra Arun handles the gorgeous melody beautifully, and Bijibal’s nuanced sound, including excellent use of sitar, adds generous value too.

Kayamboo niramayi – Su Su Sudhi Vathmeekam (Bijibal)
Swetha Mohan delivers this absoutely wonderful Abhogi raaga based melody effortlessly. The raaga’s signature is mighty obvious and Bijibal’s use of flute to establish the raaga is a bit too conventional and familiar.

Kaattummel – Salt Mango Tree (Hesham Abdul Wahab)
Debutant composer Hesham Abdul Wahab’s own voice is a terrific choice for the fantastic tune. He employs the vocally created (most probably) sound in place of an instrument and that sounds pretty unique. The song, possibly based on Neelambari raaga, has a lovely lilt.


Neenu banda mele – Ramleela (Anup Rubens)
If it’s Kannada, it has to be Sonu Nigam… at least for one song that the composer cherishes. So, for this Darbari Kaanada’ish song, Anup gets Sonu, along with Shravani. Predictably nice melody!

The full soundtrack: Dheem dheem, Thunta thatakiye, Tagar putti & Ee gulaalu – Boxer (V.Harikrishna)


Sur niragas ho, Sur se saji, Man mandira, Dil ki tapish, Ghei chand (Rahul Deshpande version) & Surat piya ki – Katyar Kaljat Ghusli (Shankar Ehsaan Loy)


Title song, Shiva, One, Urumbu & Khwaab – Navarasam (Thaikkudam Bridge)
Listen to the songs online, on Hungama.


Suns have gone – Album: Electronica 1 – Time Machine (Jean-Michel Jarre, featuring Moby)
Much like Giorgio Moroder’s recent comeback, featuring contemporary stars as collaborators, French electronic music pioneer from the 70s, Jean-Michel Jarre gets back into the scene after 8 years with some high-profile collaborators like Tangerine Dream, Armin van Buuren, Pete Townshend, Moby, Massive Attack, Air, Vince Clarke and John Carpenter. The sound is easily accessible, almost as if re-introducing Jarre to a new, younger audience. Suns Have Gone, featuring Moby is the pick of the album, with its bouncy sound recalling the No More Brothers Mix of Freddie Mercury’s Living on my own.

Saturday November 7, 2015

Hitman – November 7, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Sahibaa – Anarkali (Malayalam – Vidyasagar)
Composer Vidyasagar, who continues to produce excellent music in Malayalam, seems to have lost the race in Tamil, unfortunately. In Sahibaa, he conjures a ghazal’ish tune and even gets Hariharan to sing it. Interestingly, the tune is not very different from the kind of ghazal tunes Hariharan himself composes and sings, more specifically a ghazal like Lafzon Ki Tarha, from the album Paighaam. The song even has an intriguing interlude in Lalitha raaga that brings a strong whiff of Ilayaraja’s classic Lalitha raaga compositions like Idhazhil kadhai ezhudhum (Unnaal Mudiyum Thambi) and Vana kuyile (Priyanka) instantly.

Aagaa – 144 (Tamil – Sean Roldan)
Sean Roldan is back after more than a year, given his last album was in September 2014 – Aadaama Jeichomada. His musical form seems to be stuck in that album’s middling state, though are minor solaces like Aagaa and Poove pooviname. In Aagaa, the Darbuka gives it a pronounced, exotic Middle Eastern twist and the tune too is engaging, thanks also to lyricist Vivek’s nuanced lines like, ‘Kaasukku vaayundu kaadhilla da, kathi pesum kettukka’. Hariharasudhan sings the song mighty well, and even invokes Nambiar’s diction, at places, to humorous effect!

Maskesko – Lacchimdeviki O Lekkundi (Telugu – M.M.Keeravani)
Maskesko could be a great companion piece to Devi Sri Prasad’s Aakalesthe annam pedatha, from Shankar Dada Zindabad (that song eventually morphed into a bae’s call to her boyfriend because ‘Daddy mummy veettil illa’, in Tamil and Hindi). The rhythm is heady and instantly catchy. The song’s tone is also raucous and wears its item-number ambition obviously. For a composer who has already announced his retirement date (December 8, 2016!), he seems to be going pretty strong!

Agar tum saath ho – Tamasha (Hindi – A R Rahman)
The overall orchestration and that seemingly lazy rhythm are all perfunctory, but boy… that tune! Wonderfully melodious and complex enough to let you sink into it without realizing the flow the first time, and then, again, with a better grip on the path it traverses upon which the hooks make better sense. And getting Alka Yagnik back from wherever she vanished, just for this song, is a masterstroke by Rahman, as also picking Arijit Singh to croon the impactful ‘Teri nazron mein hai’ part!

Urumbu – Thaikkudam Bridge (Malayalam)
Thaikkudam Bridge is undoubtedly one of the most promising Indian bands. Not just that, they also hold the distinction of being the most crowded band in terms of band members, that, sometimes, during live shows, it’s difficult to say where the band ends and where the audience begins. On a more serious note, the band has managed admirably the transition from a ‘covers’ band, to original songs, with a distinct sound. One of the softer songs from the album, Urumbu (Ants), where band-founder Govind Menon’s sister Dhanya Suresh, as lyricist, compares the lives of humans and ants to find common points, has a beautiful folk lilt that is so very Kerala!


Yes, for the last time. In the last 30 days, I have heard and argued with at least 3 different people (who do not know each other) about how the Garden Vareli TVC jingle was not composed by A.R.Rahman. They were 100% sure it was by Rahman! A simple Google search (See this, and this!) too seems to indicate that this has become something of an urban legend!

I pointed them out to my own retrospective, tribute review of A.R.Rahman’s Roja, in 2011, where I had mentioned about my misunderstanding that it was composed by Louis Banks. It wasn’t.

So, let me state it here unambiguously, to ensure that people credit the right composers.

The original Garden Vareli TV advertisement, by the agency Rediffusion, had a jingle that was very Indian. It was based on Desh raaga and was composed by Vanraj Bhatia. This is the one.

Then, there was a second version of the jingle in a new advertisment featuring Lisa Ray. This one was very popular in the period just before Roja (1992) and hence was commonly assumed to be by A.R.Rahman since the most notable vocal humming seems very similar to the opening humming of Kaadhal Rojave (Roja Jaaneman). The jingle was NOT composed by A.R.Rahman. It was by Ranjit Barot.

There was another variant of the advertisment, featuring Madhu Sapre, and the jingle was midly modified too, again, by Ranjit Barot.

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