Tamasha- Movie Review by Ram Anand

Why do they always end the fun part? But of course, the younger Ved constantly asked that question to his banyan tree ‘storyteller’ in this non-linear narrative. But that’s life. Fun ends. Insecurities start.

Sitting at a cafe library in Delhi, Tara (Deepika Padukone) is reading a book called Catch 22, eagerly hoping she would somehow bump into Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), the man whom she knew as Don from her short holiday in Corsica, France.

We all know what is eventually going to happen- there is no unpredictability here. This scene has been played a hundred times over, in a hundred movies over. The fun at Corsica just had to end, and they just had to make life difficult for themselves. But don’t we all?
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Then she catches a glimpse of him. The background music, which was silent, gives way to the final beats of “Heer to Badi Sad Hai”. We are treated with the grinning faces of Punjabi folks music performers, singing about Heer’s state of mind, as she runs down the stairs, runs back back up, and struggles to make up her mind on whether she should make herself visible to Ved. When she finally walks over and he says hi to her, overcome with excitement, she sits at a coffee table and does a small fist pump to herself. Now, this, you don’t see in a hundred movies over. It’s called treatment and characterisation. And in Tamasha, it’s as gorgeous as Deepika’s heart melting reactions- especially when she hesitates and says “Oh okay” when Ved tells her she has no boyfriend.
Of course, the mass populace will moan and gripe about the “boringness” of this second half, especially after a rollicking first hour in Corsica. Why do they always end the fun part? But of course, the younger Ved constantly asked that question to his banyan tree ‘storyteller’ in this non-linear narrative. But that’s life. Fun ends. Insecurities start.
But then, Ranbir Kapoor’s bravura performance takes over. The way he converses to the mirror, somewhat creepily, shows, the alter ego, the dual personality, that he has been hiding. And in more than one way, hints at how that common 9am-5pm man on the street, who does exactly the same things everyday, might have hidden a Don inside himself.
Ved and Don fight each other quintessentially in the second half- and Don can no longer take it. He is yearning to come out, and the more Ved restraints, the more damage Don causes to Ved’s sanity. This is not something new for an Imtiaz Ali movie, he started this paradigm of exploring the psychology of his protagonists intently with Rockstar. He followed that up a notch higher with Alia Bhatt fighting the demons of sexual abuse and Stockholm syndrome in Highway. In Tamasha, the canvas is larger, and the performance a masterpiece.
There will plenty of reviews to tell you how good the Corsica part was, but Tamasha can be best epitomised in that intense scene at a pub when Ved and Tara wrestle each other.
Ved is telling Tara he might hurt her as he is unsure of his own behaviour, while Tara, looking totally shattered, asks herself “what have I done?”- she had touched a raw nerve that had triggered his other personality.
As Ved finally succumbs to crying and admitting that Tara’s words had totally changed him, he turns away from her and lays his face on the table. She imitates him, and pats on him on the head. AR Rahman works his magic here with the best number of a sumptuous album- Tum Saath Ho.
And there is this line from Irshad Kamil, the lyricist- “There are dreams in your eyes, your dreams are full of disappointment, I feel whatever you may say- they are full of lies. What difference does it make- if you are with me or not? Life is cruel, and always be cruel”.
Fine poetry, legendary musical, aesthetic direction, and two wonderful talents competing with each other on their acting chops.
Yes, I will tell you Tamasha is entirely predictable- as predictable as the high you will get if you drink a bottle of wine all on your own.
The question is- do you enjoy the taste of fine wine? Does it make a difference whether it’s wine bottled in 2010 or one bottled 100 years ago?
If you have proper, delectable taste, Tamasha will bowl you over, and leave you moved.
And just think, how many of us are struggling to get out of the box liked Ved?
A beautiful movie made on a canvas of great emotions, this will linger on me for sometime, I can tell you that much.
Rating: 9/10

Tamasha- Music Review by Ram Anand

Nah, I’m kidding. This song is more than seven minutes long. Discovery? Fuck that. I’m getting lost in this number. I’ll lose myself. I’ll rediscover myself some other day. I’ve been taken over by the music.

There are two things that I look forward the most when it comes to Indian cinema- a Mani Ratnam film and an AR Rahman musical. With “Tamasha” (Show), the legendary Rahman teams up with filmmaker Imtiaz Ali for the third time, and their previous two collaborations is enough to cause pangs of excitement.

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First, there was the timeless album Rockstar (2011), in which the range that was brought out by Rahman made it one of his best albums in a career spanning over two decades- while Highway (2014), was a hidden gem that contained some of the most carefully composed tunes you’ll ever hear, if you are bothered to listen carefully.
Hence why, the first thing I did this morning was to get my hands on a Tamasha album, and quickly ensured I had listened to each tracks at least three times before I posted this review.
And there is not gonna be a review more apt for me to end my hibernation from Thou Art So Beautiful, as I had not written much here this calendar year.
Here goes.
Matargasthi (Mohit Chauhan)
Now, the promo video making rounds since last week had already captured the imagination of millions. Ranbir Kapoor’s quirky dance moves, with Deepika Padukone’s energy, had already promised a great musical number with a mix of unconventional sound mixing. If anyone remembers what Mohit Chauhan did for ARR in Rockstar, this is right up that classic alley. Once again, Rahman brings out a new range in Mohit’s vocals, and both of them combine to deliver an absolutely mental, breathless, and soothing number.
Where Rahman stands out in the deluge of Bollywood hit numbers is the fact that he does not relegate his dance numbers to all of high pitch noise and blasting music. Keeping in mind that the song is shot in the outdoors of Corsica (a gorgeous island), Matargasthi tells a story of its own with the flow of its music. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics flow seamlessly with the music- resembling “Hawa Hawa” from Rockstar, which was shot in Prague.
The highlight, apart from Mohit’s vocals and that cute “ding a ding” and that minute pistol sounds (all part of the storytelling elements)- is of course the rather melodious second half of the song- where Mohit switches his vocals- and the violins come in to allow Ranbir to do his effervescent impersonation of Dev Anand. An absolutely Tamasha way to start an album to begin an album that Rahman fans had been craving for months now.
And man, he did not disappoint.
Rating: 10/10
Heer To Badi Sad Hai (Mika Singh, Nakash Aziz)
Mix that Punjabi folklore tune with Mika Singh’s voice, you’d normally expect a high pitched dance number- but again this is AR Rahman’s touch. With Irshad’s lyrics, this song describes the female protagonist (Heer)’s sad emotions and frustration. There is a journey element in this number (Imtiaz’s films always have an element of travel interconnected with personal emotional growth).
The beats are absolutely catchy- for a song that has the word “Sad” in it, this song is far from a sad hearing. Mika gorgeously goes high pitch at the middle stanzas, and this must have been one of the best numbers he had sung in a long, long time.
Then, comes the final one minute in which ARR takes it to another level with a gorgeous beats that have become the theme of the film’s trailer. Captures your imagination- and your musical senses. Sumptuous..
Rating: 9.5/10
Tum Saath Ho (Alka Yagnik and Arjit Singh)
Look who’s returned! Aka Yagnik is behind the mic for ARR after a long time, and my, the results are as sweet as her voice. An out and out, soulful, romantic number- ARR kills it with his use of flute and two different tempos for Alka and Arjit’s portions.
This stands right up there with the likes of Tum Ho (Rockstar), and Heer (Highway)- songs that takes you to a different plain altogether.
The soul of AR Rahman’s songs in this album is captured in this extremely delectable number. “Teri Nazrein Me Sapne, Tere Sapne Mein Narazi”.
This is beautiful poetry mixed with beautiful sound mixing, with the voice of one of the best female singers of the recent generations. And it has everything- tablas, flute, you name it.
Not to forget, Arjit does an exemplary work with his parts as well. You do not expect anything less from an AR Rahman album do you?
Rating: 10/10
Wat Wat Wat (Arjit Singh and Sashwat Singh)
This is another song that has Punjabi folklore elements- and elements of a personal journey. This tells a story of a man who, literally, got “done over” by a woman he loved- hence the “Wat”.
The percussions are absolutely quirky but it all settles nicely in a soulful rhythm. Arjit does an excellent job and seems to be having fun behind the mic.
On another day, this could have been a situational song- but as situational the lyrics sound, this song comes out as catchy as Heer To Badi Sad Hai.
Rating: 9/10
Chali Kahani (Sukhwinder Singh, Haricharan, and Haripriya)
Begins with a slow flute, and suddenly you have a grand orchestra coming in. Probably the richest composition in the album, Chali Kahani is the central song of the album- the one that befits the theme “Why always the same story?”
Fittingly, this composition never settles in a monotony. The tune changes orchestra to carnatic effortlessly. Sukhwinder Singh, needless to say, does what a veteran like him does so best- anchor the different tunes so well, before Haricharan flexes his sweet vocals for a brief time- along with Haripriya.
This song is an important backstory to the film- and befitting to an album like Tamasha, is so bloody high in musical quality. Three or four listens, and you’ll be taken in by ARR’s stunning background musical mix.
Now, it’s time to wait for the story.
Rating: 9/10
Safarnama (Lucky Ali)
Who would have thought Lucky Ali will get one of the best songs in the album? Soulful, rich, and spiritual. “Shuru tumse, khatam tumse”.
ARR uses minimal instruments for this song, but the effect is almost magical. It’s deeply emotional too at the same time. You really don’t get compositions like these often, even in an ARR album.
This packs so much soul and depth that even if you don’t understand the language, the heaviness won’t be lost on you. A man’s search for his love encapsulated so well in its music and BGM work.
You can only take your hats off.
Rating: 9.5/10
Parade De La Bastille (Instrumental)
Now- imagine a track named Parade De La Bastille, starting with some Sufi humming, following Mediterranean touches, and then flute, and then a rehash of Matargasthi.
Nothing left to say- it’s just pure creativity- AR Rahman way. Listen.
Rating: 9.5/10
Tu Koi Aur Hai (AR Rahman, Alma Ferovic, and Arjun Chandy)
There, finally, with the final track, ARR goes behind the mic- and how. Such rich orchestra, and such soulful lyrics. A song about self discovery, Tu Koi Aur Hai is something you should listen on a quiet morning overlooking the sea- because the richness is so vast and can move you places and also invoke so much emotions.
Alma Ferovic returns to the mic after Rockstar and again provides ample support for ARR with the orchestra parts.
And there is also the use of opera vocals, which goes along with this beauty of a composition. Discover yourself. Discover the music.
Nah, I’m kidding. This song is more than seven minutes long. Discovery? Fuck that. I’m getting lost in this number. I’ll lose myself.
I’ll rediscover myself some other day. I’ve been taken over by the music.
Rating: 10/10
There’s nothing left to say. Some albums leave you speechless, and this has done exactly that. Beauty. Perfection.
Thank you Imtiaz, for providing a script that has clearly enabled ARR to weave his magic again. Apart from Mani Ratnam, it seems only Imtiaz brings out such richness in ARR compositions. This is a hat trick of stunning albums.
Never stop collaborating.
Now, Phir Tamasha Dekh!
Whole a album rating: Sumptuous. Delicious.

Uttama Villain- An immortal work by a mortal

Uttama Villain is Kamal Haasan cementing his intellect and his love for the medium that made a man out of a six-year-old boy.

Uttama Villain starts in a very unconventional way for a vehicle carrying one of the biggest stars in Tamil cinema in a supposedly comedy caper. We are immediately introduced to a middle-aged superstar Manoranjan (Kamal Haasan), not in his fame alone, but also behind his fame.

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He is an alcoholic trying to stave off consistent headaches.

He owes much of his financial success to his father-in-law, who is a film producer.

His teenage son is busy trying to make out with his girlfriend during his father’s film screening.

He himself has an extramarital affair with his family doctor Aparna (Andrea Jeremiah).

He has fathered another child with a woman named Yamini and has just discovered about this.

All this is revealed within the first 30 minutes or so of the movie.

Doesn’t make for a very pretty picture about the man behind the stardom. But that was what the title implies- Uttama Villain. There is no grand introduction here for Kamal Haasan, because this is a story about a man, not a hero. A man with all his flaws, who realises that he is dying and wants to make one last film with mentor-director (K Balachander) to immortalise himself beyond the limited time he has left on earth.

There is no judgement of bad or good. It’s a humble, at times too honest a portrayal of a movie star who tries for one last hurrah, to do justice to his own existence. And as expected, while exploring a topic as deep as life and death, Kamal Haasan, the ever renowned atheist, does not try to justify it with religion, but leaves the justifications, vague, almost open to interpretation.

In the final scenes of the movie, Manoranjan will be wheeled to the hospital as his illness finally gets the better of him. But even in his final moments, he would be begging KB to allow him to take one more shot of a song they were shooting. KB acknowledges that Mano would never be happy until the final edit, but tells him, “listen to me this one time.” There was no retake. The superstar did not get to see the final edit, of what, poignantly, is the montage of his best performance to date.

As his family, from his long lost daughter, to his estranged wife, all gathered to cheer at his performance in a hospital, he breathes his last under surgery. He has done his part.

Then there is the recurring theme of the movie- “There is nothing sadder than immortality. There would be no listeners to an endless story.”

This was not a Ramesh Aaravind-Kamal Haasan comedy gala. Yes, the final movie Manoranjan ends up making is a comedy caper involving a folklore story involving a 8th century street artiste. Here, we are treated to generous dosage of laughter fits while admiring Kamal’s stunning eye movements and graceful Theyyam performances.

But the mainframe story, which runs parallel with the comedy film being shot, is as serious as it gets. While the comedy film tells of king who wishes immortality, in the mainframe, we have superstar who is trying to face his own mortality the best way he can. The way he interacts with his son, his wife, his love, his long-lost daughter, is not upscaled drama alone- it’s real, it’s imperfect, it’s full of human interactions. If you wear your heart of your sleeve, it would be difficult to keep your eyes dry in any one of these moments.

Kamal Haasan displays five dimensions here- first as the raging superstar, almost being a self-critical parody of his own self, which takes plenty of guts, as the comedic street artiste, as the Theyyam performer with an amount of grace so unreal for a 60-year-old (the finale Iraniyan Nadagam was epic), as the poet-singer (he wrote and sang most of the songs and you’d be hard pressed to find better theatre modulation and lyrics in any other album), and finally, as the man who wrote a parallel screenplay with such finesse.

Adding another dimension to the two dimensions existing in the movie, this is Kamal Haasan in an indirect way trying cement his own immortality while facing his own mortality at the age of 60. He’s not trying to appear young anymore, he’s trying to accept that he is middle aged.

Pooja Kumar at times looks out of place in the folklore setting, but it’s difficult to find chinks in a film with such heavy emotional performances. This movies does not have a cameo from K Balachander, in fact, it has the most extensive supporting role KB has ever played in a movie. And he is brilliant in every single frame he appears alongside his most prised disciple.

Andrea as Aparna shines in a grey role, who unconditionally loves Mano despite being unable to be formally recognised to the public as the wife. Urvashi is also brilliant as Mano’s wife who suffers from her own mid-life crisis. MS Bhaskar steals the show, however, as his manager, and it’s such a great pleasure an actor of his known calibre was given such a central pivot to the story.

Then there is the prodigous Ghibran with his stunning array of musical compositions. Uttama Villain is high on quality in the music department, though it must take a keen ear and an understanding of the folklore history to comprehend the amount of genius that flowed through the music department here.

But as the final montage says- “Love and intellect” are the immortal elements, one with which you cement your own immortality (said while juxtaposing with a legion of stars on the sky).

Uttama Villain is Kamal Haasan cementing his intellect and his love for the medium that made a man out of a six-year-old boy.

But it is an immortal body of work- not made for today alone, or tomorrow’s entertainment, but maybe for decades to come, for the times when there will be no Kamal Haasan peering over with his own genius smile and his impeccable love and experimentation of the medium.

The only question is if this depth resonates with the audience of today. But if there is anyone questioning their own mortality without any religious twist to it, UV is as inspirational, real, and close to heart as it gets.

There are movies and then there are movies. This is the latter.

I’m glad to be part of the crowd who resonated with the love and intellect of this particular galaxy of stars. The thing is, this legion of stars forms one personality- Kamal Haasan, in his many hats.

Multitasking didn’t always work well for Kamal, but when you make a honest movie, it all falls into place. It did.

UV is a movie for the shelves. It will come again handy someday. It celebrates death. It celebrates going away with a bang. It resonates with a man who had lost his guru

KB sir must be beaming from wherever he is. In Kamal Haasan, KB’s intellect has been immortalised.

Thank you Kamal, for being on the dais, for daring to write this.

OK Kanmani- A Mani Ratnam love letter

OK Kanmani was Mani Ratnam’s love letter to the wind. The pleasure is ours that it has been translated scene by scene, and immortalised through a camera for generations to come.

In OK Kanmani’s second half, there is a scene where the young, carefree, commitment phobic, living-in couple Adiyta Varadarajan (Dulquer Salman) and Tara Kalingarayar (Nithya Menen) bring back their landlord’s wife Mrs Bhavani (Leela Sampson), who suffers from second stage Alzheimer’s and had forgotten her way home.

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The landlord, Ganapathy (Prakash Raj) is tending to Bhavani, who’s curious to know what is wrong with her and does not want to hear Ganapathy gloss over her health problems. He finally relents and admits that her Alzheimer’s has gotten worse, after she says “I am losing my memory, not my mind.”

The door to the room in which the middle age couple are having this subtle conversation is slightly ajar, and the younger couple who stay in the same house are witnessing it from the small opening from the hallway. As that conversation progresses, Tara and Adi, who made a pact to just live together until they go their separate ways to pursue their ambitions, move closer to each other while eavesdropping.

At last, Bhavani asks Ganapathy the most packed one-liner question- “will I forget you one day too, Ganapathy?”. At this point, Tara, close to tears, is leaning on Adi’s chest.

That’s Maniratnam- his composition of a shot, his composition of minimalistic dialogues, and his composition of his characters’ body language. More often than not, his characters convey more through body language rather than dialogues.

This is the man who revolutionised Tamil cinema in the late 80s- the man who showed that its possible to make movies with minimalistic dialogues in an industry where lengthy dialogues and over the top drama ruled the roost. This is the man who could shoot songs in a single room by playing around with lighting and plethora of aesthetics. This is the man who perfected even the most simple scenes. Decades later, spanning three decades, Mani Ratnam had never shot a song abroad despite the fervour among many filmmakers to fly their crew to exotic locations for a song and dance sequence. He only broke the rule once to shoot a song in Turkey, that’s because a portion of the story in “Guru” took place in Turkey.

In his 1986 classic Mouna Raagam, Mani Ratnam told the story of a couple in arranged marriage who tries to come to terms with the fact that one of them had been in love with someone else before and could not change their minds just for the sake of marriage. It was an exploration of a changing social landscape. In 2000, Alaipayuthey explored couples who eloped and married without their parents’ consent and how learnt to deal with their issues later on. OK Kamani, in keeping up with the times, he explores live-in relationships and the dilemma many young couples face- the need to sacrifice their careers for the sake of a relationship or otherwise.

Tara, Mani’s effervescent firefly, an absolute beauty who ranks at among the most loveable female characters he had carved out in a glorious career, sums this up when her landlord asks her if she would choose between Adi and her career.

“If you asked me six months ago, I would say Paris for sure. Now, I have become a little too greedy. I want both,” she says.

Can we have both? Do relationships always have to mean compromising goals? As goals grow bigger in today’s world, can an institution like marriage evolve itself to be a supplement rather than a hindrance to youth ambitions?

These are the motifs of this new Mani Ratnam celluloid artwork, accompanied by his trademark appreciation of emotions without ever being judgemental towards the choices his characters make. I would run out of space if the scene highlights of this movie needs to be listed down- frame by frame, this is one of the most beautifully crafted, yet simple, straight-from-the-heart movies you will ever see. And the most important part is that you will see yourself, your wife, your husbands, your boyfriend/girlfriend/ex-partners in at least several scenes.

OK Kanmani epitomises stunning teamwork. Dulquer Salman enters the long list of the overtly charming, middle class, carefree, NRI-ambition laden Tamil youth archetype that Mani often creates in his movies. Compared to his Tamil debut Vaaya Moodi Pesavum, this is a massive upgrade on all levels. Prakash Raj as Ganapathy is endearing, and inspires the narration just as crucially as his appearance in Kannathil Muthamittal (2002) did.

But it is the women who own this film. Nithya Menen soars as Tara. Her eyes speak volumes, his mischief is unparalleled, and her dialogue delivery makes you feel like reaching out your hands and hugging her if Tara had existed in real life. An actress could have not asked for a better character to cement her standing and boost her career.

Leela Samson as Bhavani too has some of the best dialogues in the movie, and owns the scenes in which she is involved. This was one hell of a casting masterstroke by Mani.

PC Sreeram showed once again why he is the brilliant cinematographer that he is. His collaborations with Mani had always produced gems, dating back to the 80s, and the way the two of them set up aesthetics to shoot the best song in the movie, Parandhu Sella Vaa, within the confines of a simplistic lodge room is stamp two legends at their very best. There is also a gorgeous scene in Ahmedabad when Adi, from a high floor, converses with Tara, who sits on the ground floor at the edges of a cascading body of water, shimmering under the sunlight.

He also captures the pigeons of Mumbai with such beauty, in a scene where the huge flock of birds original to the coast metropolitan fly above the gorgeous Tara and Adi rides his Royal Enfield into the frame while she is feeding the birds.

Then, of course, there is AR Rahman’s music. Parandhu Sella Vaa, the recurring Naane Varugiren, and the sumptuous Hey Sinamika are all done justice to the way only Mani Ratnam can do, while the background music is faultless.

Even the voodoo game- Mumbai 2.0, is created with such great perfection that it did not seem like haphazard work.

The dialogues are like a long-list of collectibles that can be used and re-used in romantic situations in your life, and that is an amazing feat for a director who turns 59 this calendar year and had survived two heart attacks resulting from the high pressure environment he creates on the sets of his own movies.

There’s a long list of celebrated filmmakers across the world who make great movies well into their later years- Martin Scorcese, Clint Eastwood to name just a few.

But Mani Ratnam is not only the director who explores the juxtaposition between right and wrong atop a cranky bridge in a dense forest, as he did in Raavanan (2010)- n0 matter how old he gets, he hasn’t lost that ability to be young again and to be able to understand how the current generation negotiates love and relationships in a social and cultural context.

This understanding from a filmmaker of his age and calibre is astounding. Mani Ratnam did not direct OK Kamani, he packaged it straight from his heart. That’s a rarity very few can emulate.

OK Kanmani was Mani Ratnam’s love letter to the wind. The pleasure is ours that it has been translated scene by scene, and immortalised through a camera for generations to come.

Hence, that’s why Mani Sir is the legend that he is. Hence why he is a trendsetter. Now, anyone cares to call for his retirement again? (I just had to do that).

Rating: 10/10 (C’mon, I can’t give it any lesser).

O Kaadhal Kanmani- Music Review by Ram Anand

OK Kanmani’s music has nothing on Alaipayuthey’s music, it instead has something completely different, unique, and inventively mesmerising on its own.

It is difficult to be generous with my words on a keyboard when you only have one and a half hands to function with. But I guess that is how much I owe my will to persist to my inspirations- Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman, that I have to review their latest offering, OK Kanmani.

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Many comparisons have been made between OK Kanmani and Mani’s 2000 film Alaipayuthey, owing to the fact that the film retains the same youthful romantic spirit last seen in a Mani film 15 years ago. But knowing Mani and AR Rahman well enough and having followed their careers together over the past 23 years, these two never offer a repeat dish on a platter. OK Kanmani’s music has nothing on Alaipayuthey’s music, it instead has something completely different, unique, and inventively mesmerising on its own.

Kaara Attakara (Dinesh Kanagaratnam, Saasha Thirupathi, Darshana)

The theme song that had accompanied the trailer for the film, the album starts as refreshing and breezy as we had expected, with a full-on whacky rap number interluded with melodious breezy renditions in the middle.

Dinesh is in top form, while Darshana gives him great company. Shashaa Tirupati comes in with dialogue based whispers in the middle. This is like the Endrendrum Punnagai of Alaipayuthey, breezy, and trend setting.

And of course, it looks like it will go with the image of a young man in love riding a Royal Enfield in the middle of a massive city. (rings a bell?) This song will definitely run through the movie.

Ya man!

Aye Sinamika (Karthik)

Bring in those light touches of guitars strumming, Karthik behind the mic, and AR Rahman orchestrating the whole arrangement to lyrics penned by Vairamuthu, then well, you have- a gem.

With minimal use of instruments, Aye Sinamika is an unique expression of love just like the masterful Usure Pogudhey from Raavanan. Though not the same intensity, it is another demonstration of Karthik’s talent of owning and handling an entire number like this with perfection and restrained intensity in his voice.

This song might take some time to grow on you-but once you get used to its irregular qualities, you won’t stop being hooked to it. A perfect song to be imagined along with Mumbai’s coastline. Redefining and full of soul, and what other combo can bring such an effect?

Nee ennai neengadhe.

Mental Manadhil (AR Rahman Male Version, Jonita Gandhi Female Version)

Like-a-like my Laila!

The most groovy, youthful number of our times, of course, has been doing rounds for sometime now since it was released as a single. AR Rahman is in top form as both singer and composer in the the energetic male version of the song. A definite chartbuster!

The female version by Jonita Gandhi is sung using Jonita’s own talents and unique voice modulation. This is Jonita having fun with a stripped down version of the instrument heavy male version. Equally catchy, equally appealing, and added with with some class too. Equally, and uniquely, good.

Parandhu Sella Vaa (Karthik, Shashaa Tirupati)

Just like that- what a composition. Masterpiece in simplicity. Paced ever so subtly, sung with such clarity, almost seductive voices, Parade Sella Vaa is the diamond of the OK Kanmani album. The minimalistic vocals at the background are accompanied with stunning variety in the modulation for both Shashaa and Karthik. We knew how good Karthik was for over a decade now, but to see the quality Shashaa offers on the vocal range is nothing short of pure magic.

Karthik brings the song to another level by enlivening it with a second half ballad accompanied ARR’s genius touches that brings you to a zen mode.

An absolutely stunning piece of work. The Pudhu Vellai Mazhai reinvented with a modern touch, 23 years later.

Naane Varugiren (Shashaa Tirupati, Sathya Prakash)

Again, Shasta’s voice immediately grips you with its class and she owns this number throughout. Laced with contemporary touches based on very classical raagas, Naane Varugiren is AR Rahman at his inventive, fusion best. The song takes its own sweet time to pick up, but two minutes in, the quality is splattered all over it, before Sathya Prakash comes in with beautiful classical notes in the interludes.

Naane Varugiren reminds one of Snekithane from Alaipaayuthey on so many levels- only that they don’t sound the same, at all.

But the effect and the quality of it is pretty much at the same level. This is musical beauty in its purest form.

Threera Ula (AR Rahman, Nikita Gandhi)

Probably the only song in the album that is filled up with mostly electronic touches, but even in that Nikita Gandhi comes in with classical interludes making this another fantastic fusion number. This song sounds more like a situational number than one with lengthy picturisation, but it is very good nevertheless.

Malargal Keatten (Chitra, AR Rahman)

Remember the Alaipayuthey Kanna number from Alaipayuthey? Just like that, this sumptuous number starts with complete classical notes before ARR weaves in his magic with his brand of fusion. It is refreshing to hear Chitra sing a song for an ARR composition after a long gap. The touches of the flute in the middle is the work of a genius.

Vairamuthu’s lyrics are also brilliant for this song. AR Rahman has a small bit at the end, and at times, this number also reminds one of Enge Enathu Kavithai from Kandukondein Kandukondein.

Truly classical.

OK Kanmani is another inventive, ground breaking offering from Mani and ARR as they attempt to define modern day romance set in a metropolitan city in 2015.

AR Rahman is in top form, as he always is for a Mani Ratnam flick, while the lyrics are sumptuous. There some gorgeous vocals from Karthik and Shashaa Tirupati especially, not to be missed.

I would pick the whole album for a complete experience, but my personal favourites are- Parandhu Sella Vaa, Naane Varugiren, Mental Manadhil (Male), Malargal Kaetten, Aye Sinamika, and Kaara Attakara.

Er, that’s pretty much the whole album, isn’t it?

Rating: 9.5/10

Uthama Villain- Music Review by Ram Anand

In fact, this album packs so much quality you would run out of words to pour on the soundtrack.

When Uthama Villain was first announced, it was termed as a dark comedy about an ageing superstar, which gave the impression to a lot of film buffs (like me) that Kamal Haasan is doing one of those mandatory stopover comedies before releasing the much anticipated Vishwaroopam 2. Kamal had directed and wrote Vishwaroopam 2 himself, so that obviously is a more serious project compared to Uthama Villain, which was written by Kamal but nevertheless directed by Kamal’s close friend Ramesh Aravind.

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But the first look of the film and the subsequent trailer had begun giving us a glimpse about Uthama Villain, and the glimpse isn’t as straightforward as many had expected it to be. The film doesn’t feel like your regular jaunt of Kamal Haasan comedy. This was packing much more depth than just mere humour, and M Ghibran’s album for Uthama Villain is a testament to that. In fact, this album packs so much quality you would run out of words to pour on the soundtrack.

It’s difficult to say whether it is Ghibran’s talent that makes Uthama Villain music soar, or whether it is the factor of having Kamal, whose musical knwoledge is also par excellence, in the recording studio. Kamal had crooned for most of the songs, and the soprano range of his voice is absolutely top shelf.His lyrics (he wrote most of the songs) are pure Tamil literature, a class of its own.

One of the best soundtracks in a Kamal Haasan movie in recent times, and one of the best BGMs found in a Kamal offering, and here’s why:

Love Aa (Kamal Haasan, Sharanya Gopinath)

The album starts with a foot tapping romantic number in Love Aa. Ghibran uses quirky touches to make this song standout in a highly diverse album. Kamal and Sharanya’s voice are enigmatic, and they compliment each other greatly and with absolutely uniqueness. Ghibran’s constant tweaking with instruments works extremely well and the creativity he shows in composing this number is comparable to the celebrated music directors in the industry. This number is likely to be accompanied by the only modern dance number of the film, and this will definitely stay in the charts for some time to come.

Kadhalaa Kadavul (Padmalatha)

If you don’t remember Ghibran’s previous albums, read Vaagai Sooda Vaa and the completeness of that stunning album, which was filled with extremely melodious numbers. And then you come to Kadhalaa and you are simply blown away. Padmalatha’s voice is a thing of beauty, and what’s more beautiful is Ghibran’s musical arrangements. The small interludes of a male voice, and the brilliant use of flute in the middle stanzas is the work of a musical genius. This song runs through effortlessly, like a perfect lullaby. And you are hoping that all the emotions that this track evokes is reflected in the film. Absolutely gorgeous and captivating.

Uthama Introduction (Kamal Haasan, Subhu Arumugam)

Now we enter the territory of Uthama Villain, the title of the movie, telling the story of a man can Uttaman. From here on, the album takes a storytelling turn, with plenty of Theyyam and Carnatic influences. Kamal’s knowledge in classical music and his soprano range means that he brings a wealth of talent to the musical table and Ghibran elevates it further with fantastic arrangements. Uthama introduction runs at just under three-minutes long, and the moment you are able to appreciate the classical notes in this number, you’ll be captivated. Subhu’s lyrics are brilliant, and Subhu Arumugam’s vocals compliment the style of the song. While this number does tell a story, it is by no means a boring composition. Ghibran ensures there are plenty of turns which excited the listener, and you end up tapping your foot at the high tempo of the beats. Addictive.

Saagavaram (Kamal Haasan)

Saagavaram is paced a little more quietly, telling the story of Uttaman pleading for immortality from his King. At just under three minutes, this is another masterful beauty. Kamal’s range of voice is captivating- he underplays the baritone of his voice and sets out on the pleading tone. There is a slight pang, something very poetic about the feel number. Kamal’s lyrics bring with it so much depth to the overall number. In a way, this song reminds one of the Dasavatharam number, but this packs so much more class, and rightly so.

Iraniyan Naadagam (Kamal Haasan, Rukmini Ashok Kumar)

Stunning! This is not so much about the composition, but that man- Kamal Haasan behind the mic. This is the tale of a King who is incensed that his own child is not praying to Him as the God. Kamal is voicing an agitated, bashful, and angry King. With plenty of Theyyam influences in the instruments, Kamal simply owns this number- more so after listening to Saagavaram. In the previous number, Kamal refrains the high pitch of his voice, and he goes all out here, at times reciting like an energetic poet. He is breathless, full of expression, and brings out the full soprano of voice. This about Kamal Haasan, the voice. How people never discuss Kamal’s talent behind the mic is beyond belief for me.

Also there was this brilliant bit of lyric in the middle where he says- “If anyone becomes God, everyone will start praying everywhere, even rubbish will end up in heaven, and thus the world will be destroyed.”

Mutharasa Kadhai (Yazin Nazir, Ranjith Iyappan)

This tells the story of another king in another kingdom (separate from Uttaman), and the music is once again majestic. Sofia’s Symphony orchestra accompanies the grandness of the carnatic beats brilliantly. Kamal again in his storytelling mode, while Yazin Nazir, Ranjith Iyappan, and Padmalatha lends vocals for a number that is filled with chants resembling the villagers and a slow progression of story telling. Would go extremely well with the movie.

The orchestra bits are a winner though.

Uthama Kadhai (Yazin Nizar, Ranjith Iyappan, M.S. Bhaskar)

Undoubtedly the best number of the album. Yes it tells a story but the symphony is used generously in this number, to a captivating effect. M.S. Bhaskar’s vocals at the beginning makes you wonder why he had not been behind the mic more often that he has. The percussion, arrangement, and slow haunting symphony builds up as we are narrated the story of how villagers considered Uttaman a ghost after he returned from death. The vocals and the different pitches throw is pleasant surprises for the first three minutes. Kamal starts storytelling in the middle stanza onwards- but yet again the symphony is so magical that you could continue listening to the number that stretches over seven minutes long. This song displays Ghibran’s talent at its best, and what a talent it is. And of course, it closes with the haunting Uthama Villain theme.

Take a bow, Ghibran.

While I am not going to review all the instrumental numbers one by one, I have picked the two best instrumental numbers for mention.

One, of course, is the Uthama Villain theme, which is haunting, and again displays an absolute genius at work- look at the orchestra use in the build up. Probably the best theme music you would get to hear in a long time.

The second, is the Letter to Yamini, an instrumental love ballad, which Gibran builds up with some of the brilliant mix of piano and sitar touches. When the orchestra kicks in, the instrumental takes a life of its own- its epic, its haunting, and it tells so much without as much as a single word. I rarely pick up on instrumentals, and I’m not going to compare Ghibran’s work here with anyone else. That would be an insult.

This man is a genius on his own.

And it’s a pity he had not composed for more movies.

This is the work of a genius and an epic album. 

Rating: 10/10

Picks: Love Aa, Kadhalaa, Uttama Intro, Uttama Kadhai, Uthama Theme, Letter to Yamini, Iraniyam Naadagam (basically most of the album).

 

 

Badlapur- Movie Review by Ram Anand

As an excited film watcher, you tend to use words like brilliant or wonderful to describe the performances in a film. I choose not to use such words here, because almost every performance was flawless.

Sriram Raghavan is a good filmmaker, there is no doubt in it. His movies had always been worth a trip to the cinemas, to say the least. But whilst many have categorised him as being as among the better filmmakers in the current crop in Bollywood, none would have seen Badlapur coming, including me.

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Badlapur starts like a normal edge-of-your seat thriller. It starts with a bang, almost instantly, and the story is thrown into the deep end. You are expecting a relentlessly paced movie towards the end. And just when you are thinking this story will move at breakneck speed, Sriram changes tracks, quite drastically. Nothing prepares you for the 15-year time lapse.

You start watching the movie thinking this is an epic revenge drama (just as the title suggests) revolving around Raghu (Varun Dhawan), who is seeking to avenge the tragic death of his wife Misha (Yami Gautam) and son Robin at the hands of a couple of bank robbers. But halfway through the movie, Sriram is not basing his movie on Raghu alone, but also the man Raghu is seeking to avenge- Laik (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).

Badlapur is not about one man, but about two men- who start off squaring each other with a fine line of bad and good separating each other, but over the course of the movie, have their roles ever so subtly reversed. By the end of the movie, as you see how the animalistic instinct for revenge had transformed Raghu, you begin to cringe, you begin to feel disgust. You are no longer rooting for him- in fact, it is Laik’s story that leaves the most poignance and reflection as you leave the cinema halls.

Probably, the story isn’t about revenge alone- it’s about transformation. Badla means revenge, but the wording can also mean change. People change- some for the better, some for the worse. And the fact that the protagonist of the film, Raghu, wanders off alone and goes to stay in a place called Badlapur all by himself to spend a whopping 15 years alone is a brilliant play of semantics to indicate the depths of human transformation that the film is exploring.

As an excited film watcher, you tend to use words like brilliant or wonderful to describe the performances in a film. I choose not to use such words here, because almost every performance was flawless.

Who knew Varun Dhawan, who is only a few films old and is known to flaunt his muscles and not so much for his dramatic scope, could bring that amount of dramatic depth to a character that is literally a walking corpse after having lost his wife and only son?

But then, Badlapur works in a larger part due to Nawazuddin Siddqui, who, once again, delivers a masterful performance. His timing, his dialogue delivery, and his body language is impeccable. There is no doubt about Siddiqui’s talent and acting ability, and he proves that once again here.

Pratima Kazmi, as Liak’s mother, and Ashwini Kalsekar, in a brief appearance as a private detective, were the standout female performances in the film. Radhika Apte had a better share of dramatic moments compared to two other leading ladies of the film- Huma Qureshi and Yami Gautam.

Yami’s role is pedestrian, the one you would have seen in many other movies before this, and Huma plays a prostitute with some finesse.

Vinay Pathak is absolutely engrossing in his brief moments as Liak’s partner in crime, and for once, he wasn’t even attempting to be funny.

Kumud Mishra is the surprise package, the way his character was so pedestrian the whole movie, and explodes in complete angst and disbelief in the penultimate scene after having tracked the case for 15 gruelling years as a cop.

Sachin Jigar’s music was good, but the background music was where their contribution was invaluable to the mood of the movie.

But this is Sriram Raghavan’s movie, make no mistake about it. The casting was right, the setting was fabulous, the mood was dark, and he made us root for the hero and then cringe at him at the latter stages. It was like giving a bitter pill to the audiences to digest as the movie wore on.

No one would have seen this coming- Sriram was good, but very few would have predicted him to be as good an auteur as he had shown himself to be with Badlapur.

This is without doubt Sriram’s best movie to date- and the fact that this movie is also a financial success, is a signal that the being dark and moody is not necessarily unprofitable in this huge industry.

I could only compare Badlapur with three other highly rated movies of my choice- Imitiaz Ali’s Highway, Vishal Bharadwaj’s Haider, and Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly. And that’s something.

Welcome to the league of geniuses, Sriram.

Rating: 9.5/10

Baby- Movie Review by Ram Anand

Here, with Baby, he notches his screenwriting panache with great locations, fantastic casting, and relentless pace. This is one movie they can create a series from and get away with it.

Post the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, India had embraced the theme of terrorism and nationalism to a new level- especially reflected in its cinema. For decades, we have watched CIA, the FBI, the Mossad and countless other Western counter terrorism intelligence and covert operations portrayed in Hollywood movies.

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In India, it was a fairly new trend that initially started by using terrorists as easy villains to create a story where heroes can act as superheroes, that later morphed into more serious undertones post the terrorist attacks.

Make no mistake, many of these movies, be it in India or in Hollywood, tries to portray the underground reality we often miss when it comes to terrorist cells, and sort of gives an assurance to its own people that its government is doing some things that are never officially on record. In short, if you read about one bomb blast, there are dozens working their asses off to prevent 12 other possible bomb blasts from happening. These agents are not plucking flowers from the tulip garden, they are running around all over the world.

Directors such as Kabir Khan and AR Murugadoss had ventured into this territory before, on a hit-and-miss basis. But then you give such a topic and decent budget to go with it to Neeraj Pandey, who is the master of this trade, and you can only expect one result- a fantastic movie. Baby was exactly that.

Pandey is not new to this genre, in fact, it may be his cup of tea. He started with A Wednesay, which was an impossible act to emulate. But he surprised many with the ingenuity and the scripting of Special 26, which was another brilliant movie. Here, with Baby, he notches his screenwriting panache with great locations, fantastic casting, and relentless pace. This is one movie they can create a series from and get away with it.

Baby is paces within a space of only a few days, when one of India’s covert agency (Baby) members turns rogue and reveals that there are several terrorist attacks planned in India over the course of the year even though its chief officer Ajay (Akshay Kumar) had just managed to prevent a bomb blast in the Promenade Mall in Delhi.

The team then trace through the breadcrumbs left by terrorists to travel to Nepal and Saudi Aarabia, among others, to pick up more targets before aiming for the head of the entire terrorist cell.

Baby is ably assisted by Akshay Kumar’s most stellar performance to date. He was brilliant in Special 26 too, but in this movie, Akshay remains in almost every other frame while his co-stars only make episodic appearances- and he owns the scenes in which he participates. His body language and his general demeanour is brilliant for an actor who built up a reputation for his comic timing and not so much as an sleek, covert agent, action hero.

It’s difficult to point out who’s second best among the cast, everyone else were brilliant. Danny Dengzongpa delivered his most majestic performance in recent times, and reminds us how good he can be. His palpable nervousness in the finale of the movie was pulsating.

Anupam Kher delivered few immaculate laughs throughout the Saudi episode, while Rana Dagubatti does little apart from vow with his physique, as there not much scope for him to emote.

Tapsee Pannu, however, steals the show in the mere 30 minutes she’s on screen, absolutely vowing as the female agent that travels to Nepal with Akki’s character. That she had her own solo fight scene, so immaculately choreographed, says a lot, about the weight of the character and the way she had pulled it off.

Kay Kay Menon, as usual, is menacing as the terrorist, but it is Pakistani actor Rasheed Naz who absolutely lives up to the billing as the mastermind behind the terrorist cell.

Sanjay Chowdhury’s background music is fantastic, and keeps you on the edge of your seats.

Baby doesn’t have twists and turns like Special 26 did, but with a fairly linear narration, Pandey still excites you with the treatment of the story- there’s barely any space for you to breath- the scenes are engrossing even at times when the story tends to giveaway when it is possibly leading to.

Stellar performances, a great script, fantastic direction, and commendable locations and camera work means that there is very little fault lines with Baby. It is set out as an espionage thriller and does exactly that, with relentless pace. And doing that at an average Indian film length of 150 minutes is not easy. Pandey deserves applause for that achievement.

The only downside of Baby is one needless song, and the sound of heartbeat in some of the scenes indicating tension. The overplay of drama is the only time one can tend to look away from this film. Genres like these were not often made in India until recently. Hollwyood had always offered the template when it came to “action thrillers”.

Indian cinema is now beginning to chart its own path, and it has makers like Pandey, with able minds to take original content from India itself to weave it into a story.

It it does away with the remaining chinks in the armour (songs do not work with genres like these), Indian thrillers could well be on the way capturing even wider attention.

Arguably the best film of 2015 (at the time of writing, of course).

Rating: 9.5/10

Yennai Arindhaal- Movie Review by Ram Anand

But, while YA is something we can savour- Gautham might need to thread carefully. Falling back into his regular trappings worked with YA, but it doesn’t always work that way.

THERE IS a certain familiarity about Yennai Arindhaal. In fact, the degree of familiarity is quite high. You’ve seen this before. It’s not original. The only difference is, this is not a remake of any Hollywood flick. This is, in fact, a remake of Gautham Vasudev Menon’s own previous movies, all rolled into one.

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YA is all about the “missing” factors. Vaaranam Aayiram is seven years old. Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu, the last good cop-caper Gautham came up with, is ten years old now. While YA brings us to familiar territories, it’s like watching a familiar play that we have not watched for a long time. It’s like going back to watch one of your favourite movies of the past- only that this time, it’s in the theatres, freshly repackaged instead of being relegated to your old DVD copy.

It has also been more than a decade since Ajith Kumar last showed a full range of emotions in his performance. We probably need to turn time around all the way back to Mugavari, back when he was a skinny, boy next door, romantic hero, to have seen him perform with this range and depth. Everything that had come after that, almost everything, was a celebration of his deep, gruff voice, coupled with his machismo factor and his salt and pepper look.

This is all familiar territory- but yet, YA stays with you and wins you over, simply because, Gautham Vasudev Menon is pretty unique. His flair, his style, and his signature is unlike a host of other filmmakers out there. It’s so distinct that one single frame can tell you that you are watching a Gautham film. Because it is only in Gautham’s films that you find this cross-breeder middle class Tamil hero.

Gautham’s heroes are never the lunghi-donning, brash, machete swinging, village ruffian. They are also not the exclusively romantic, I’d do anything for you kind of heroes. His heroes are a marriage of that antiquated Tamil machismo, added with some urban, middle-class treatment, people who are good at what they do- and almost always, grow up through their emotional scars rather than climbing up some corporate ladder.

His heroes never become the most successful people. They are perfectly middle class- like you, me and the person who sits next to us in that cinema. Instead, they strife for the simplicities, to keep a woman happy, to keep a child happy. All that machismo and guns add flavour to the viewing, but it is the distinct handling of human emotions- from the advice of a father to his son to the affection of a father to his daughter, where Gautham thrives.

Because probably there is no other filmmaker who understands the pulse and the emotions of the 70s and 80s babies, many who belong to the urban middle class category. He does it perfectly as he puts a parchment of himself in all those movies he makes. Sometimes, it sounds and feels repetitive. Sometimes, it comes across as a fresh breath of air. On rare occasions like this, it is repetitive but not one to be complained about. It’s that last hurrah for a highly engaging cop trilogy.

Having started with a police story about an officer’s efforts to redeem his kidnapped wife (Kaaka Kaaka), and then having gone to Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu, about an officer who hunts down a serial killer, it is only fitting that Gautham ends his police trilogy with a cop caper that has the narrative of Vaaranam Aayiram, which, in my opinion, was his best piece of work to date.

Telling the life story of a man in an engaging way is a challenge, and here Gautham passes with flying colours. The lack of hangover from his previous films, despite the familiarity, is all down to the leading man- Ajith Kumar. Here, Ajith brings a new level of machismo hitherto unseen of many of Gautham’s previous movies. Probably the only one who matched that level of machismo was Kamal Haasan in VV, but then again the range of Ajith’s performance and the ample space the script provides means that Ajith’s Sathyadev is arguably one of the most well-written singular character in Gautham’s films to date.

The film allows us to see Ajith the cop, Ajith the lover, Ajith the father, Ajith the criminal, and Ajith the man trying to overcome grief. All of them are compelling, and relatable. And like most of Gautham’s heroes, he too lives in a modest crib in an urban setting, trying to make his own sanctuary with the small space available.

And in this day and age when Tamil cinema is riddled with unending chauvinistic portrayal of women in its movies, a GVM movie at any point of time will always bring that freshness- the treatment of the female characters.

And for that to happen merely weeks after Amy Jackson’s body was objectified by every inch for Shankar to make I work, is a refreshing sight. Because, yet again, GVM didn’t need his heroines to don the sexiest of attires or flaunt their assets to make them look attractive.

The fact that Trisha could look so beautiful in just an elaborate saree and a distinctly Tamil look is a testament of how GVM sees his women and how he treats them. While watching all the other “sexy” actresses of South Indian cinema can make the men excited, it is in GVM’s movies that you find female characters that you can fall in love with. There always is an understanding, a reasoning, that you could so relate as to why the male characters in his movies fall in love with the female characters. In the character’s shoes, you’d probably have done the same.

YA’s biggest winning factor is probably its scorching dialogues. Immaculately timed, the dialogues are memorable for both the action sequences and also for the emotional sequences. The way Gautham’s characters always break the ice when it comes to emotions, is a classic expression of an auteur who has made it almost his trademark.

I normally do not rate Harris Jeyaraj highly as a music composer, but his reunion with GVM after seven years is something to savour. Because it is only through GVM’s movies that you see Harris bring his best range to the table- and I have to concede very few compositions this year can top “Unakkena Vennum Sollu”, one of the most poignant songs in recent times.

But, while YA is something we can savour- Gautham might need to thread carefully. Falling back into his regular trappings worked with YA, but it doesn’t always work that way.

When he tried to recreate the Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya effect with Neethane En Ponvasantham within two years of the first film’s release, the hangover was quite bad that a pretty well made film sounded and felt repetitive and didn’t induce a repeat viewing.

Gautham has an admirable touch as a filmmaker. Very few filmmakers are gifted with such touch. A distinct flavour of storytelling, a distinct colour, a distinct shade.

But sticking to the same story formula could also turn people away from the cinemas in the future. Maybe now, Gautham needs to re-discover himself. To keep his midas touch while taking bold risks to venture out and tell a wider range of stories.

GVM’s signature, in recent times, is probably second only to Maniratnam, but while Mani ventured out to experiment with films like Anjali, Kannathil Muthamittal, and Raavan, with one of them becoming a timeless masterpiece (Iruvar), Gautham risks sinking within his own comfort zone and not fulfilling his potential.

Rating: 8.5/10

Shamitabh- Music Review by Ram Anand

Shamitabh is one of Raja’s best albums, a truly international one, and without a doubt the best combination that Balki, Big B and him have offered thus far.

After two sumptuous albums in “Cheeni Kum” (2007) and “Paa” (2009), R Balki and Illayaraja have returned to complete with their hat trick with their biggest collaboration yet, Shamitabh. The expectations for Shamitabh can’t possibly be higher, with the film bringing increasingly popular southern star Dhanush, who, against all odds, captured Bollywood audience’s attention with Ranjhanaa in 2013, along with the inimitable Amitabh Bachchan.

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This is also the third time Amitabh is featuring in a Balki film after the two films stated above. Apart from Dhanush and Amitabh, (the movie is titled after their respective real life names), the film will mark the acting debut of Akshara Haasan, Kamal Haasan’s younger daughter. So, needless to say, Shamitabh has been marketed as a real coming together of giants. What more with Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan jointly launching the music of the movie, composed by the southern legend Illaiyaraja.

In 2007, the King and Balki combined to deliver one of the most sweet romantic melodies in modern Hindi cinema, through Cheeni Kum. Raja reinvented some of his most popular songs from the 80s to while maintaining the melodious base, making it an unforgettable album.

If Cheeni Kum was unforgettable, the burden of expectation on Shamitabh required the maestro to debunk all the critics who say he had failed to reinvent himself to keep up with times. He did manage to prove them wrong, and how:

Ishq-E-Phillum (Suraj Jagan)

The album begins with Suraj Jagan’s Ishq-E-Phillum. The tune for this song actually featured as a background music in Paa. Blake was captivated by the composition that he requested that a full song be fleshed out from that tune and this was the result. IEP combines the best elements of Raja’s trademark music, while combining unmistakably with an energy, mainly helped by Suraj Jagan’s delivery.

The song revolves around a character’s obsession with the cinema, and how cinema occupies every facet of the life. IEP may sound ordinary in the first hearing, but get that headphones on, and after three or four hearings, you would appreciate the effortless nature behind this composition. Even in a high energy number like this, Illaiyaraja settles the middle stanzas into his trademark groove and carves out a smile when heard without any prejudice. Very good.

Sha Sha Sha Mi Mi Mi (Caralisa Monteiro)

To be honest, when I heard this in the trailer, I didn’t think much of the title song. I can’t describe how wrong I was about this song. I was so wrong that I could be slapped on my face for assuming that the maestro probably did not pull off modern, glamorous tunes as well as expected.

It starts slowly, but settles into a nice tempo with absolute finesse. Caralisa Monteiro is phenomenal in this number, maintaining the groove throughout. The middle stanzas are again an absolute winner. You immediately get that majestic image of Dhanush and Amitabh Bachchan trying to outdo each other for stardom. The use of orchestra is the second stanza was also legendary stuff. You think the maestro can’t strut his instrument range? Listen to this song.

By the way, Illaiyaraja is 71 years old. Absolutely brilliant number.

Piddly (Amitabh Bachchan)

Ah, here we are. The song that Big B, Balki, and Raja teased us with two weeks ago. And my, from the offset, the stamp mark is very clear- this is, without a shred of doubt, the BEST song that Amitabh had ever crooned in his career. And I can gush all I want about this song, but everything I say will be an understatement.

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If you understood Raja’s best music of the 80s, you would understand the value of Piddly. It’s almost a celebration of the best of melodies that Raja can come up with- and mind, the fact that he brings that melody and that peacefulness from Amitabh’s rather gruffy voice is a testament to his genius. Piddly is not a song that just exists because Big B will say some verses in it- like in most cases. Piddly cases because Amitabh actually sings his lungs out in this one. In no time, you would be singing along, and taken along by the magic. Nostalgia all over. This is a timeless number.

You don’t rate the work of absolute legends. It’s beyond my level to offer any criticism. I’m just in awe.

Stereophonic Sunnata (Shruthi Haasan)

The trademark thing about this album is that every song only seems to have one singer each and that singer is given all the scope to own the song. And no one owns a song in Shamitabh like Kamal’s elder daughter, Shruthi Haasan, does with Sunnata.

Sunnata is a remake of Raja’s classic composition from the early 80s, Aasayil Kaathula Thoothu Vittu, form the movie Johnny featuring Rajinikanth. Raja is almost paying an ode to himself by reinventing a composition that is more than 30 years old, and making it sound like it can  just throw all the songs in a club off a shelf even today.

Shruthi brings in her vocals to elevate the English lyrics of Sunnata to another level, while the middle stanzas is interluded with guitars and heavy stereophonic beats, at the same time maintaining the original beauty of the original song. Only Raja can do that. And how he went about it. Electric stuff.

Thappad (Suraj Jagan)

If you are yet to be convinced that Raja can totally surprise you by delivering a modern number, Thappad will literally slap you (thappad, after all, means slap). Thappad is likely to be the most underrated number in the album, but probably the most ingenious composition.

Sure Jagan is again in absolutely blistering form, and Raja brings in heavy metal and an array of other instruments to bring the angst behind a song that is basically about a slap, presumably in portraying a film’s scene.

There are instruments that you would normally NOT associate with Illaiyaraja in this song, but he pulls it off as though he just didn’t want to try this before, not because he is not used to it.

Get that Thappad right. Like a boss.

Lifebuoy (Suraj Jagan)

I don’t know what this short two-minute bit was about but it definitely strutted more of Illaiyaraja’s range of creativity. This funky composition definitely is making a satiric reference to a film scene or an ad scene. There even a club dance bit thrown in, but the amount creativity in the sound mixing here is just orgasmic.

Salut.

If you have been waiting, or wishing to have the best of Illaiyaraja’s melody combined with modern creativity- your prayers have been answered. Shamitabh is one of Raja’s best albums, a truly international one, and without a doubt the best combination that Balki, Big B and him have offered thus far.

The movie maybe Shamitabh. But the album is All Raja. Nuff said. 

Rating: 10/10