Sunday, October 02, 2011

Curious Mix - 1

I am starting this series that might recur in future, whenever I have an eclectic mix of various interesting songs I’d like to talk about. In this post, I’d like to talk about some of the songs that impressed me in recent times.

1. Kaise Kahen (Film: Yeh Saali Zindagi): This exquisite melody from Sudhir Mishra’s film “Yeh Saali Zindagi” is such a beautiful throwback to the times of Mohd. Rafi. Composed by Nishat Khan, a sitarist (I think), the song is one of the most endearing melodies I have heard in recent times. Sung by Javed Ali, who redeems himself, this song has lyrics by Swanand Kirkire. I felt Javed Ali really put his soul into this song, given the extremely melodious tune and beautiful lyrics. I would rate this as his best song ever. The expansive string orchestra work, mild guitar strums and piano in the first interlude take us back to the vintage era compositions. The 2nd interlude has some fine pieces in violin and string section. I particularly love the 2nd stanza. absolutely well written.

“raatein.. woh seher.. woh sukoon ke peher..

bhool jaayenge hum… bhoolein kyon hum magar?

jee jaao jo tum… jee jaayenge hum

yaadon ke zakhm par… zindagi marhum”

Usually, someone with a flair for poetry would probably prefer to write that ‘memories are the only balm on the wounds of life…’ but here is someone writing that ‘Life is a balm, on the wounds of memories…’  Masterstroke! Quite brilliant!

This is one song that deserved more – for its top class composition, impressive rendition and nice poetry.

2. Haal-E-Dil (Film: Buddaah Hoga Tera Baap): Sung by Amitabh Bacchan, this is a good Yaman based composition, although it falls short in terms of improvisation. The melody and the single stanza are quite appealing, both, in terms of the tune and the rendition, but the could have been elaborated and improvised more. The song does have traces of “Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo” stanzas. Yet, composers Vishal-Sekhar must be commended for trying something different, in a very commercial potboiler film, with Amitabh Bacchan. Bacchan does a fine job.

3. Khwaabon Ke Parindey, Senorita, Dil Dhadakne do (Film: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara): I feel composers Shankar-Ehsan-Loy have become repetitive and predictable, with their choice of films (themes) and the style of music they have been making in the last 2 years. Yet, repetitiveness is just a personal feeling, that makes no sense in the long run, if a song is good. I liked few songs in this album, although they completely reek Shankar-Ehsan-Loy. Khwaabon Ke Parindey is a lovely ballad, executed with the lilt of country music. Much before I even saw the film, I imagined the song on long highways between woods, passing by some lakes and farms. The song carries such images within itself, which makes it instantly likeable. Loy Mendonsa’s daughter Alyssa Mendonsa charms with a very light-y rendition.

Senorita is the song crooned by the lead actors Farhan Akhtar, Abhay Deol and Hritik Roshan. While Farhan is not new to singing and hence manages quite well, it is surprising to see Hritik Roshan emoting wonderully. I felt Abhay deol was really awful but it is Hritik Roshan who actually leads the pack. He doesn’t sound like a novice at all and adds suitable zing to the composition. Hritik Roshan should try singing – atleast fun songs like these. Dil Dhadkne Do is the typical Shankar-Ehsan-Loy song and sounds like a leftover from Rock On. Yet, I loved the way the tune progress into the anthemic tone.

4. Poraney Poraney & Sara sara Saara (Film: Vaagai Sooda vaa): Who is this composer called Ghibran? These two compositions from this film are as polished and mature as any experienced good composer. Poraney Poraney, a beautiful ballad whose arrangements aptly add to the anthemic feel is one of the most interesting compositions in recent times, that doesn’t carry influences of another composer. And Chinmayi’s Sara Sara Saara is, by any stretch, one of the most imaginative compositions. If this is the debut of this composition, then this debut is a remarkable one. Those western classical brushes to Sara Sara, in tandem with the thavil usage and the undercurrent synth fabric still keep the playfulness of the composition alive. By tune, execution and rendition, this song is a Beauty!

5. Idhazhil, Kaathalane (Film: Naanga): Composer Bala Bharathi is a recent discovery for me. These two songs from this film have left a strong impression upon me that he is a staunch follower of Ilaiyaraaja’s music. Idhazhil, set in Hamsanadam raaga, is one brilliant composition where the stanzas gradually pursue an ascent in the scale, punctuated by guitar notes. Karthik and Chinmayi, both deliver absolutely impressive renditions – complete with intricate pronunciations where an extra sangathi gives a kick. And that 2nd interlude on flute – was it a direct tribute to ilaiyaraaja. If that wasn’t enough, the song Kaadhalane faithfully obeys the DNA of Ilaiyaraaja’s 80s songs. While the tune, set in Kalyani raaga, follows Ilaiyaraaja’s phrases on the tune, without any deviation, the selection of the singer camouflages the whole song itself, making the listener believe that the song could by raaja. Shailaja sounds every bit Uma Ramanan, a voice that crooned many ilaiyaraaja songs back in 80s through mid 90s. These songs are probably the closest clones of Ilaiyaraaja’s songs, I have ever seen in my life.

More songs that can make into to the “Curious Mix”… as and when I find out…

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Kashmakash – Sanjoy-Raja

Kashmakash, a bengali film dubbed into Hindi, is a Rituparno Ghosh film. The music is by Sanjoy-Raja and I have no clue about their repertoire. I got curious about this album because the lyrics of the Hindi version were written by Gulzar. I listened to this album once and I knew that was enough, for me to rank it among the best albums of this year. The album is filled with melodies, whose melodic quotient reminds us of the yesteryear great compositions and masters and also Rabindra Sangeet. My take on them:

1. Mannwaa Aage bhaage re: Shreya Ghoshal sings this exquisite melody that delicately tiptoes on string orchestra, bells, flute and choral work. Rabindra Sangeet oozes out of the tune and the tune takes a beautiful flight with the lines “Saari raat apne sapnon mein…” while descending back into a surprise sub-melody of “din gaya jaise rootha rootha shaam hai ajnaanee… puraanee pal jee raha hai aankhen paani paani…”. Gulzar is in top form and why not, for he himself idolizes Rabindranath Tagore. Shreya Ghoshal inserts befitting expressions that add the effect and you would just want to listen to this again.

2. Khoya Kya: This album is one of those albums where Hariharan sings in low scale and it adds a certain depth to the emotions conveyed in the song. This song is a fine example where Hariharan’s rendition is very controlled. A pathos laden composition, the song makes effective use of Piano, Pakhawaj, a poignant flute and string orchestra. It is intriguing that the string orchestra plays a high note when hariharan is on a lower note. In short, this song is a mood composition.

3. Teri Seemaayen: Another Shreya Ghoshal melody. This song has a tune that almost embraces us in a warmth. It is interesting that the composers decided to do away with interludes in this song. In a way, this song is like singing out a beautiful piece of poetry. There is only a small flute piece in the middle, that punctuates between two eloquently written stanzas. The mild piano strokes, the string orchestra counter melodies charm the song all through. Gulzar’s words just elevate the composition. I love the lines..

Main aadhi adhoori baithi kinaare…

nadiya nadiya aansoo aansoo rona…

baaton pe rona… nainon ki zubaani..

raat din kehte rehna hai…

aag andhar ki koyi na dekhe…

palak jhapakthe tum jo dekho…

Tujhko paana.. Tujhko Choonaa..

Mukti ka paana hai…

Only Gulzar can construct such beautiful imageries. The composers did a wonderful job in handling the melody of this composition.

4. Nau Meri: Another pathos melody. Hariharan at his low-scale voice again. The song attains a poignant depth right from the 1st line. The composition, set in raag Sindhu Bhairavi, reminds us of many old melodies. The arrangements in this song are extremely brilliant. Some subtle baselines, string orchestra and a soaring flute. Halfway through the song, Madhushree joins in, again at a very low scale. The unhurried elaboration of the raaga almost indicates that the singers themselves are experiencing the song, instead of plainly singing it. I love the way the charanams are brought back to the pallavi. The bansuri, underplayed during the 1st half, almost becomes another singer towards the end taking the song to its perfect crescendo.

5. Anandloke: This is a bengali song and sounds like a traditional Rabindra Sangeet song. The choral work and minimalistic arrangements leave the listener to understand the melody in Rabindra Sangeet. Many familiar phrases, but it is a short song.

Summary: Teri Seemaayen, Manwaa and Nau Meri are my picks of the album. Brilliant compositions that are handled with extreme care and maturity. Ratuparno Ghosh must be commended for his choice of music and the composers deserve an applause for blending the beautiful melodies with crisp and adequate instrumentation without letting one dominate the other. And Gulzar ofcourse, for his wonderful lyrics. We don’t get albums like these often. Grab it for a mood experience, on some lonely moonlit night. Worth it.

Sri Rama Rajyam - Ilaiyaraaja

When veteran film-maker Bapu chooses Ilaiyaraaja, to score music for a mythological film, it indeed sets the expectations. Their last collaboration was back in 80s, when Bapu made Manthri gaari Viyyankudu. This time around, the collaboration has 2 more tags to deal with, apart from their own celebrated names - “mythology” and “2011”. How can they strike the balance of tackling the mythology-film requirements with contemporary audience taste, yet sticking out their individual style? Lets see…


1. Jagadaanandakaaraka – Lush vioins, wind instruments and harp initiate the celebratory proceedings. S.P.balasubramanyam and Shreya Ghoshal sing is beautiful composition set in Suddha Dhanyasi raaga. The song has generous usage of saarangi while guitar-strums Tabla-Dholak like percussions laced with guitar strums form the basic layers on which the song is constructed. Synth usage is ornamental and never overpowering. The charanams obey the “Ilaiyaraaja’s Suddha Dhanyasi” syntax so perfectly that one cannot help recollecting the sweet “Ghallu Ghallu” from Swarna Kamalam. Base lines, through on synth, carry the usual Ilaiyaraaja intricate patterns. When the charanam ends, the listener concedes to the composer with the thought - “but ofcourse, there is no other way we can conclude this”. Jonnavitthula’s lyrics are good. Raaja shines. (9/10)


2. Evadunnaadu – This is more of a song-padhyam that the mythological films of 50s-60s used to have. Very simple and straight, nothing much can be written about it since it is very short.


3. Sitarama Charitham – This is a song that reminds us of songs from old mythological films such as Lava-Kusa. The is not a typical song with a pallavi & charanam, but the structure is set to a story-telling form. The music changes according to the situation depicted in the story (Ramayana) that is being sung. Even the percussion patterns change accordingly.  This song might have required complete attention because it is constantly changing its course and never returning to the previous phrases. No hooklines, no repeating phrases. And yet, the listener is absorbed in the song because of the turns it takes. Not an easy task. The raagas change a lot. Few portions tread along Chakravakam while few lines almost touch lalitha raagam too. Ilaiyaraaja must be commended for deftly composing the song in unconventional pattern. Jonnavitthula provides non-complex lyrics. (8/10)


4. Sri Rama Lera – Easily the best composition of the album. The song begins on Amrithavarshini scale and the transforms into panthuvaraali/vasantha type raaga. Ilaiyaraaja majestically descends from one raaga to another. Shreya Ghoshal and Sriram Parthasarthy exude lot of maturity in this composition. The first interlude is classic Ilaiyaraaja 80s stuff – veena, string orchestra, flute and synth violins. The piece is effective because of the way it shows the contours of the raaga, with his style. Shreya Ghoshal’s aalaaps at the end of 1st interlude is a surprise (he used to do it in 80s only). The 1st charanam sounds more Panthuvaraali and faithfully builds up to a crescendo, much in his style (complete, with the violins counter-melodies). The 2nd interlude is again a throwback at his 80s wizardy. Meditative. The 2nd charanam, surprisingly, has a different tune from the 1st one. Imaginatively done up. Lyrics are wonderful too. This song, is a classic. (10/10)


5. Devullu Mecchina – Chitra & Shreya Ghoshal sing this composition, that sounds very much tailored for common man, who doesnt care/know about raagas and applications. The duk-duk kind of rhythm and the tune obey the same dictum. While previous compositions appear slightly elevated, because of the complexities woven, this song sounds lighter. Intentionally kept so may be. Simple lyrics again. (6/10)


6. Gaali Ningi Neeru – A pathos laden composition, this Keeravani based song is sung by S.P.Balasubramanyam. The song oozes melodramatic pathos. No subtleties but typically played out pathos. Nice interludes. The percussions are synth. At times, I felt SPB went overboard with his vocal expressions. Yet, given that this is a situational song, Ilaiyaraaja hits the right notes in the tune, to compensate for the melodrama. (7/10)


7. Ramayanamu – Chitra & Shreya Ghoshal team up again for this sindhu bhairavi raaga based composition. The song has typical Bhairavi phrases (as in some bhajans) to begin with, rendering the melody while Ilaiyaraaja experiments with the structure, much like the “Sitharama charitham” composition. And over the course, the turns given to the song are surprising – although the raaga doesnt change much. Both Chitra & Shreya sing with aplomb. There is nothing that can be called as “Typical ilaiyaraaja” and therein lies his genius. He has surrendered to the director’s vision so perfectly and yet left his marks in the way the song is handled. (8/10)


8. Dhandakam – A very small song, this one sounds like maaya Maalavagowla to me. Too short but.


9. Seeta Seemantham – Ilaiyaraaja’s experimental streak again. This Hindolam based composition has a qawwali style tabla percussion. The mridangams, flute, veena, bass-lines and claps – all evoke the celebrative mood in the 1st half. Surprisingly, the 2nd half of the song has lesser number of instruments and as the song approaches its end, the percussions completely vanish (only synth pads appear briefly later). Although the melody remains the same, ilaiyaraaja transforms the mood of the song with the arrangements. absolutely interesting. (8/10)


10. Rama Rama Ane – A folk delight this is. The song has less of Ilaiyaraaja signatures and more of Bapu’s signatures. It is amazing how ilaiyaraaja could weave something that caters exactly to the director’s taste. Bapu has used songs like these in his 70s & 80s films. This playful song about a playful Rama, has a lilting rhythm intermittently stopping before starting again. Ilaiyaraaja’s choice of instruments speak volumes about his understanding about what is needed to project folk music within the film music idiom. The singers – Swetha and Anitha – do a fine job. Definitely an unusual song, in a very good way. (9/10)


11. Kalaya Nijama – Tippu, one of those singers who never impressed me till now, surprised me completely. A beautiful composition that has shades of Hindustani raaga (Pathdeep?), this song has Tippu is fine(est) form. Ilaiyaraaja’s composition is extremely moving and just when the song has begun to take over you, Ilaiyaraaja cheats you by ending it. Unfair, for the quality of the melody instilled in it. (10/10)


12. Idhi Pattabhi – A usual rustic village folk song. Ilaiyaraaja might have done 100s of such kind and this one is no different. While Rama Rama Ane song treads the fine line between folk & Bapu’s class, this one sticks to the former alone. The interludes are typical 80s Ilaiyaraaja. This is probably the weakest song of the albums. Has to be, given that the other songs are more engaging. (4/10)


13. Sapthaswarathamarudham – A small song set in Naata raagam. SPB sounds good, thus reminding that he is the only go-to-singer, when it comes to singers like these, if ever made, by any composer.


14. Mangalam – Too short to write about.


Summary –

A word about the lyricist. Jonnavitthula provides adequate, and at times wonderful, lyrical content that suit the tunes and the premise. The lyrics are not complex but very simple. I dont know if it is intentional or if he couldn’t deliver more intellectually loaded content – but given the director’s preferences in this era, I assume it is the former and his lyrics are just right. He has good a decent job or should I say, a wonderful job, if we compare with kind of lyrics we get to hear these days.

Ilaiyaraaja does a great job in understanding the director’s vision/taste and he catered exactly to that, still retaining the strengths and characteristics of his music. And melding them together isn’t just the job done. Combining the elements that appeal to a larger audience (public) is another task and ilaiyaraaja achieves it perfectly. Rich orchestration, great balance between classy tunes and simple-light-music kind of tunes, a brilliant balance between acoustic instruments and synth usage, good choice of singers, heavy experimentation within the allowed structures – these are some of the enablers that raaja has used to succeed in this endeavour. And that he certainly does, with panache. Ilaiyaraaja’s collaboration with Bapu exceeds expectations. Brilliant!