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

 

Top 10 Indian films of 2014- by Ram Anand

Haider betters even Maqbool and Omkara as it is a movie in which Vishal expresses his whole range as an auteur and not just a filmmaker. 2014 was filled with some really good movies, but none better than this.

1. HAIDER (Hindi)

Director: Vishal Bharadwaj

Music: Vishal Bharadwaj

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Shradda Kapoor, Irrfan Khan.

A Shakespearean adaptation of epic proportions. Vishal, who so successfully adapted Macbeth and Othello into rough Indian terrains in the backdrop of local conflicts to make two classic movies in the past decade, returns with his third adaptation of a Shakespeare work, in Hamlet.

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Haider is set in Kashmir in 1995, at the height of the insurgency among the Indian army and the pro-independence and separatists movement. People are captured by the army, and taken away without a trace, and Haider (Shahid Kapoor) suffers a similar fate as his father is taken away by the army for giving shelter to a rebel leader.

As Haider searches low and high for his missing father, he is disturbed by the courtship between his uncle Khurram (Kay Kay Menon) and his half-widowed mother Ghazala (Tabu). When he is told that Khurram is the one who betrayed his father, Haider pledges revenge, an intention that would set a cycle of constant destruction in the lives of everyone involved in Haider’s life.

Never before has the bloodshed and the destruction of revenge been brought out in such an emotional, haunting manner. Vishal proves once again that he is a filmmaker of a generation as he plays around with semantics to pay ode to the original Hamlet, and also how he kept Roohdar (Irrfan Khan)’s character mysterious throughout the movie (as in Hamlet, Hamlet is told by a spirit (Roh) that his father was killed by his own uncle).

The scene before the gory final act when three old men dig their graves with a haunting rendition of “Aao Na” indicating how tired they are of life explains Haider’s state of mind brilliantly.

Haider betters even Maqbool and Omkara as it is a movie in which Vishal expresses his whole range as an auteur and not just a filmmaker. 2014 was filled with some really good movies, but none better than this.

2. JIGARTHANDA (Tamil)

Director: Karthik Subburaj

Music: Santosh Narayanan

Cast: Siddharth, Bobby Simha, Lakshmi Menon, Vijay Sethupath

Jigarthanda is probably the coolest gangster movie you would see in 2014. But the movie is not only about gangsters- it is also about filmmakers, filmmaking, and the challenges that comes in making films. In only his second directorial venture (after the hugely impressive low budget horror movie Pizza), Karthik returns to helm Jigarthanda with such finesse that leaves you spellbound for a couple of hours.

Karthik (Siddhartha) is an aspiring filmmaker who has been told by his producer to make a film on gangsters. He decides that his subject of research would be Assault Sethu (Bobby Simha) regarded as the most dangerous man in Madurai.

He first observes the gang from far, but not having enough information means that he tries to reach the gang through a mole. When his cover is blown, all hell breaks loose as Karthik is now forced to make the movie using Sethu himself as the hero.

At times, the movie borders on slapstick comedy, but never without potraying the hardship of a filmmaker and also contrasting it with the growth of a local gangster.

Simha’s performance is easily the best performance of the year, while Siddharth carries his part ably. Santosh Narayanan’s music is also brilliant.

3. PK (Hindi)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Music: Shantanu Moitra

Cast: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Boman Irani, Saurabh Shula

I probably didn’t laugh and thoroughly enjoy a movie as much as this one this year. The only reason PK in this list is because of Vishal and Karthik’s filmmaking geniuses which left me spellbound, beyond merely impressed.

PK came with huge expectations, and fulfilled every one of them and even took it to the next level. Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir teamed up to deliver a movie that was even more thought-provoking, and even funnier, than the timeless 3 Idiots, and this too will go down as a movie of a generation.

Amir was simply wonderful as the alien PK, carrying the entire film on his shoulders. While 3 Idiots was laced with many supporting actors sharing equal weight and even lending to comic timing, 3 Idiots was almost entirely about Aamir’s whole range of bravura. The details that went into his performance means that this easily could be the best performance of his career.

PK chronicles the story of PK (Aamir), an alien stuck on earth, who is told that God will help him retrieve the amulet that he had lost- an amulet that would allow him to return to his planet. His whole range of search for God, and discovering the many religions and cultures in India made this movie an exceptional parody and satire of God and Godmen.

Rajukumar Hirani never fails to deliver a heart-warming story in the most entertaining way possible- and after Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai, and 3 Idiots, he replicates the magic again here. This was well worth waiting until the end of the year.

4. QUEEN (Hindi)

Director: Vikas Bahl

Music: Amit Trivedi

Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Lisa Haydon

No movie in 2014 would have probably put a smile on your face as big as the charming, effervescent, lovely Queen had done. Directed by Vikas Bahl, Queen tells the story of Rani Mehra (Kangana Ranaut), who is dumped by her fiancee on the eve of their wedding day.

Heartbroken and yet clueless, the village Punjabi lass decides to travel to Paris and Amsterdam, her pre-determined honeymoon spots, on her own, without a partner. The movie becomes a journey of self discovery and she makes friends with a whole array of different individuals and becomes accepting of different cultures and grows her own confidence in herself.

Queen was poignantly made, carved out beautifully, and brought to the screen with an exceptional performance by Kangana, who charmed her way into our hearts. The movie had plenty of heart, and plenty of love to offer.

Amit Trivedi’s music was soothing and constantly uplifting, in tune with the mood of the whole movie. Unlike many other Bollywood flicks, Queen actually gets its foreign casting right. Instead of forcing European actors to mouth Hindi dialogues awkwardly, Queen had European characters being completely themselves and contrasting themselves with Rani’s Punjabi jokes and traditions.

5. HIGHWAY (Hindi)

Director: Imtiaz Ali

Music: AR Rahman

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Randeep Hooda.

Highway was heavy, emotional yet absolutely poignant. It portrays the unlikely love bond between a kidnapped rich girl (Alia) and her kidnapper (Randeep). The contrast in their characters is huge, but the way the screenplay was woven to make get gradually drawn closer to each other, and how they found solace in each other from their tormented daily lives.

The musical journey that came with it- in the form of AR Rahman’s most soulful music in recent times, was a magical experience, just like Imtiaz-AR’s previous combo Rockstar.

Alia Bhatt’s performance was easily the best performance by a female actor this year. It was majestic, and Randeep matched her all the way towards the end.

6. MARDAANI (Hindi)

Director: Pradeep Sarkar

Music: Salim-Sulaiman

Cast: Rani Mukherji, Tahir Raj Basin

Rani Mukerji’s performance alone is worth putting Mardaani in this list. The film hardly had any other stars and she carried the weight of the film entirely to ensure it was traveling at a breakneck speed.

The film chronicles a female cop’s foray into the word of child trafficking after a slum kid whom she was guarding goes missing from her home, apparently being abducted by a rigorous child trafficking ring in the city- which pits her against a heartless young man at the centre of it all.

With no help offered by her superiors due to jurisdiction problems, she goes out of her way, at times jeopardising her own husband’s medical practice and her children’s safety, to nab the kidnapper.

Rani was to Mardaani what Liam Neeson was to Taken, and she simply marvelled with her performance.

7. FINDING FANNY (Hindi)

Director: Homi Adajania

Music: Sachin-Jigar

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Naseruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Arjun Kapoor, Pankaj Kapur

It is difficult to describe how important of a film Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny was this year. The movie had a stunning star cast- Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapur, Arjun Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and Naseruddin Shah. But these five characters are not in a thriller. Instead, they are together here in a slowly-paced road movie, set in a remote village in Goa.

Everything about Finding Fanny screamed of the touches of an independent filmmaker, and movies like this are often done in India using a lesser known star cast. But Fanny stands out as five able actors, especially the three veteran ones, provide us with performances of epic proportions to move a still story along until the very end.

For me, Fanny was probably our own Little Miss Sunshine, a movie about dysfunctional people on a journey together and how they try to adjust to each other, in an effort to find Fanny, the long-lost lover of Naseruddin’s character.

Deepika proves in this movie that she can stand tall beside her more celebrated co-stars, and has the makings of a long career herself with her acting skills. Arjun holds his own too in such luminous company, though his character is not given much to impress aside from being grumpy half of the time. Finding Fanny would be a defining movie for Bollywood for years to come. And the fact that so many stars came together to star in a production that they knew was not going to mint money was heartening.

8. DEDH ISHQIYA (Hindi)

Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Music: Vishal Bharadwaj

Cast: Arshad Warsi, Naseruddin Shah, Huma Qureshi, Madhuri Dixit

The rampaging duo of Naseruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi return to play foolish thieves who get conned by a femme fatale for the second time running in Dedh Ishqiya. Vishal Bharadwaj has been one of the best filmmakers of our generation and his touches are just prominent throughout the movie, from the first scene till the last.

Abhishek Chaubey, the director, executes it to the gallery of hallmark Vishal-thrillers, and to replace the voloptous Vidya Balan, Madhuri Dixit plays the femme fatale, that of a Begum, to a tilt. The presence of Hema Qureshi adds another dimension to the characters.

This dark comedy was worth the time and money invested in it, once you manage to wait it out for the final moments of madness where everything comes to a head, and the two heroes end up paying the price for crimes that they had unwittingly participated for the sake of a woman.

9. VAAYAI MOODI PESAVUM (Tamil)

Director: Balaji Mohan

Music: Santosh Narayanan

Cast: Dulquer Salman, Nazriya Nazim, Pandiarajan, Madhoo

This film saw the return of director Balaji, who shot to fame with the 2012 romantic comedy Kadhalil Sodhapavadhu Yeppadi, was pleasant, unique and presented a potpourri of characters that are normally not available in regular Tamil movies.

The various layers of human relationships are brought out beautifully by Balaji with this story about a whole town that is rendered mute due to a disease spreading among its residents. When people resort to gestures to communicate only important things, they find the value of words again.

The film is paced well- at a pedestrian pace as we grow with the characters, with doses of humour generously sprinkled in some parts. The whole setting and the mood of the movie makes you feel good, and it is an amazing feat that Balaji managed to pull off a plot featuring so many characters without a single dialogue for the entirety of the second half.

Dulquer Salman and Nazriya Nazim were both pleasant, but it is the performances of character artistes such as Madhoo which adds flavour to the performances in this film.

This film is all about Balaji’s filmmaking techniques, and despite some flaws that can be attributed to his age, Vaayai Moodi Pesavum was one of the best, most pleasant, yet meaningful efforts at filmmaking in 2014.

10. VELLAI ILLA PATTATHARI (Tamil)

Director: Velraj

Music: Anirudh Ravichander

Cast: Dhanush, Amala Paul, Saranya Ponvannan, Samuthirakani

In my years compiling top ten lists for movies in a calendar year, I probably had never listed a movie regarded as a commercial potboiler in my top 10 list. This year, I’m breaking the convention with this movie, which was known popularly as D25 (Dhanush’s 25th film) or VIP, in abbreviation.

Everything about VIP’s story was not out of the ordinary. Dhanush plays a jobless youth, with a nagging father and loving mother, and a more successful brother to boot. He gets a job, but with it comes a villain who is determined to halt his plans with all his might. The story is the template you’d follow for a commercial movie, but what makes it stand out, however, is the sheer energy of Dhanush’s performances and also the brilliant, relentless screenplay by debutant director Velraj.

I make no apologies for considering D25 as a thoroughly entertaining movie, because it was exactly that. Dhanush’s energy is above par than his usual fares, presenting plenty of emotions, style, and guile that went hand in hand with a youthful, absorbing musical composition by Anirudh Ravichander, Dhanush’s favourite musical ally nowadays.

Both Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponnvanan were exceptional in their role as parents, and brought another layer of emotion to the story instead of appearing like the regular pedestrian “parents” depicted in most Tamil movies.

My biggest disappointment is the fact that Vasanthabalan’s Kaaviyathalaivan did not make it my top 10 list, despite my initial expectations that it would be here. A lack of execution for KT means that VIP stays in this list- probably a travesty for someone like me who loves cinema that is different from the regular commercial fare.

But when something’s good, you have to give due credit.

Ends.

P.K (PK)- Movie Review by Ram Anand

But for those who have appreciated Aamir’s body of work, movies like this happens once in a lifetime. This, very well, could be the biggest feather on his rather colourful hat.

Hollywood often assumes that New York is a favourite landing strip for extraterrestrial beings who are visiting earth. More often than not, aliens do not land here with friendly intentions. But what if one day, the aliens land not in New York or Washington, but in a desert in Rajasthan, India?

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And what if the fundamental difference between the alien race and humans is not the advent of technology or the hunt for Earth’s resources, but instead the very concept of religion itself? How would that alien race perceive a world filled with different customs, religions and rituals?

P.K., as a film and in retrospect the character, asks very pertinent questions about our belief system. There is no need to divulge the plot of the film- in fact it’s a simple, charming idea that is developed into an absolute beauty of 2 hours 30 minutes of running time.

P.K. has everything you would expect from a Rajkumar Hirani film- a social message without being condescending, plenty of good humour, and a colourful portrayal of all its characters. P.K, like all other Hirani films, is full of life, simmering with a potpourri of references that you could relate to in real life.

It is difficult for any combination to try and top the beauty that was 3 Idiots, which, literally, was a movie for an entire generation. Four years on, we have not really swept 3 Idiots and its running jokes off our memories, and here comes PK, with plenty more take-aways that you will enjoy for years to come. PK is different league to 3 Idiots- it gives you the same cinematic satisfaction that the former did, but at the same time satiates more inquisitive minds than 3 Idiots did. PK targets, and parodies, a much larger problem than education- this time, it is the institution of religion, and it does so without ever insulting anyone’s belief system.

You can understand why this film took so long to make and to apply finishing touches. Because every frame is thought out carefully, humour so elegantly added into every facet, and charming you at every nook and cranny. Of course, standing tall in all of this is the inimitable Aamir Khan, who once again gives us a performance to remember. This one, fair to say, carried more weight than the work he put in 3 Idiots or Rang De Basanti for the matter.

If the previous films became cults, it was also thanks to laden supporting cast that played their part, but PK’s charm is all about Aamir here- he carries the film on his shoulders with such impeccable passion for art that you cannot help but to admire and applaud. The way he dances to Rajasthani tunes while maintaining a stoic facial expression is a perfect example of how detailed was his performance as a complete stranger who is learning the good and bad about humanity.

This, easy to say- is probably the best work of his career. And for an actor who has been part of so many memorable films in Indian cinema history- that’s quite a compliment, one that is fully deserved. Any length that PK works for you, whatever the scale is, much of it is down to Aamir’s dedication and effort.

Anushka Sharma is lively as Jagat Janani, full of endeavour and charm. Sanjay Dutt however steals the show in the short cameo he comes in, and even manages to leave a deep emotional impact for the rest of the narrative. Equally good was Saurabh Shukla as the pompous religious guru, while Boman Irani played his part well. Sushant Singh Rajput’s short role was appealing though not outstanding.

Shantanu Moitra’s music is as usual, charming, simple, and sweet to the ears. Songs such as Chaar Kadam and Bhagawan Kaha Rei Tu are memorable without being too outstanding. They all fit seamlessly with the narration.

There’s very few things that needs to be said about Hirani’s work as editor and director. The movie hardly has a boring moment, the pace of it is so exquisite it holds your attention throughout, and every scene is directed with such passion and liveliness that you’d be left clapping at the brilliant dialogues, and laughing hysterically during the others.

All of Hirani’s work has followed the same theme- entertainment without dumbing you down. You don’t have to be dumb in a presentation to make something funny, and you don’t need to employ slapstick to make something funny.

All it takes is plenty of meticulous script revisions, and even an innovative idea can be presented with charm and humour, effortlessly. Every facet of PK exudes charm and certain “feel good” factor that you probably won’t find in another film- Indian or otherwise- this year.

This was an honest attempt at making a good movie that both is inquisitive and humorous in nature. And, this is one of those rare moments, where that attempt is passed with flying colours.

This is first class entertainment. PK is a movie for everyone, and this movie has a little something to offer for everyone, whether you seek pure entertainment or you seek intellect. By the time it ends, you are craving for a second watch.

Movies like these happens once every four years (going by Hirani’s frequency). Treasure it. But for those who have appreciated Aamir’s body of work, movies like this happens once in a lifetime. This, very well, could be the biggest feather on his rather colourful hat.

The wait was worth it. The hype was worth it.

Rating: 9.5/10

Kamal 60- Best eight scenes of Kamal Haasan

“As they wail and cry there, If I chant Rama here, would Rama be happy? I don’t know. Maybe you should ask your Rama and tell me.”

It is difficult to digest the work of someone who had done hundreds of films, acted in hundreds of different roles, and has donned the hat of actor, writer, director, singer, lyricist and what not on screen. It’s not easy to encapsulate Kamal Haasan’s body of work that has spanned over five decades of versatility.

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What I’ve done below is to try and surmise all that into eight defining scenes from my favourite Kamal Haasan movies over the years, dissecting them in my attempt to understand the nuances and body of his work. These scenes didn’t need to be about Kamal’s best performance in terms of acting abilities alone, it also may about how the scene is arranged, and how this genius often plays around with semantics with the scenes in which he is involved.

Most of these movies are either written or directed by Kamal himself, so the semantics of the scenes transcend his acting alone. Probably that is why generally popular movies like Apoorva Sagodhargal (in which he played a midget), and the legendary Nayakan (generally accepted as one of his best performances) is not listed here. Because for these scenes, I’m looking at the Kamal-heavy touch.

Vishwaroopam’s transformation scene (2013)

You can forgive the man if he was doing an ode to himself with this scene. Rightfully, he did because he can. This was an intense fight scene that was conceptualised, choreographed, written, directed and performed immaculately by Kamal himself.

Caught by terrorists who are ready to kill him, Kamal’s character is trembling with apparent fear as he accepts the fact that he is going to die. He begs for an opportunity for one last prayer, asking them to untie his hands. At the smack conclusion of the prayers, he kills everyone within distance (about eight people) within a span of just as many seconds (two slow water drops).

This scene took three days to shot, understandably so, as it was not another fight scene. It was the defining moment of the movie, and every move was immaculately sequenced by none other than Kamal himself.

Again, it is the play with semantics that is the most appealing. The water drops represent the speed with which he commits the killing, underlining the fact that this man is a highly trained, expertly skilled killer. The gore shown the killing- he steps on someone’s face, punctures eyeballs with his index fingers, grabs someone by the crotch, and cuts off someone’s hands, again underlines what he is capable of.

The woman watching the scene unfold in front of her is amazed and horrified at the same time. While she’s amazed at the transformation, she is also horrified at how coldly he executes everyone in the room. Just moments earlier, she had seen her boyfriend shot in the head by the terrorists. A fight scene had never contained so many layers.

Hey Ram’s brotherhood scene (1999)

Maybe you think Shah Rukh Khan can’t really act, and all he does was the regular machoness and bravado that brings in the box office moolah. But there was this scene in Hey Ram where that household name SRK came close to matching Kamal in an intense scene set during the communal riots in India. Again, the genius here is Kamal because he wrote and directed his scene, perfectly if I can add.

This timeless classic has long-lost friends Ram (Kamal) and Amjad (SRK) meeting each other while they are stuck in the midst of communal riots between Hindus and Muslims during India’s partition days. Ram and Amjad were like brothers once upon a time, but now Ram is just hell bent on killing anyone who is Muslim to avenge his Bengali wife’s rape and death.

The anger shows in Kamal’s eyes. And Amjad is trying to reason with him, trying to find a semblance of a man who used to call him a brother. Towards the end of the scene, an angry Kamal who is blaming Gandhi, the one who is telling Amjad to go back to Pakistan, suddenly becomes protective when he knows Hindu extremists are around the corner and that Amjad would be shot if they found him. The brotherhood is suddenly rekindles. Amjad teases him with it, but Ram just wants his best friend safe.

“Gandhi was right after all, we can be brothers.”- Amjad says.

The dialogue was written by Kamal.

Anbe Sivam’s who is God (2003)

No Kamal Haasan list can ever be completed without this scene. This scene is not about what Kamal does, but is about what Kamal does in the background of the scene.

Madhavan had just seen a boy, who survived a train crash and had just been transfused with Maddy’s rare blood group, die in the ambulance en route back to his own family. He is questioning the “design” and the poetic justice in giving the boy renewed hope and then abruptly snatching away. A religious person, he is questioning God’s wisdom.

Kamal, whose jaw is deformed following an accident, who limps while walking, is sitting next to him. Even while Madhavan is there ranting and emotionally raving about the boy’s lost hope, Kamal could be seen twitching his jaw- which is the trait of his facial deformation. He, not for a single second, failed to do this in the entire movie. He literally lived under the skin of the character.

Kamal, then, half sarcastically, half poignantly, explains God to Madhavan.

“The ability to cry for a kid that you never knew, that is God,” he says. Again, this scene was not directed, but it was written completely by Kamal. The dialogues are priceless.

“How do you know (that I am God)?” Madhavan asks.

“Because I am also God.”

“Who told you that?”

“A lady with a tea stall up the hill told me. You don’t understand right? You shouldn’t. That is God,” he says, nonchalantly, with a twitching jaw. Even in that strain of acting, he emanates the wisdom of theological understanding.

To do a scene like this in a country that is so predominantly entrenched in religious rituals even while starting a movie, and at the front credits of a movie, required guts. That’s one thing Kamal’s creativity never lacked. It always came with boldness to venture into new territories.

This was the scene that showed him not only as an actor, but also a thought leader.

Mahanadhi’s where is the justice (1994)

Good actors can act out a scene. Great actors can bring emotions to a scene. Legendary actors can spark a seemingly innocuous scene with just, just, their facial contortions. Kamal’s character is watching his daughter, whom he had just rescued from a brothel, sleep. She starts mumbling in her sleep, and he is watching her heartbroken.

At one point, the daughter mumbles, “viddingeda thevadiya pasangala”, and his facial reaction changes drastically. You get the pang. He can’t bear listen to his daughter speak such language. He breaks down, he wails, he cries, almost like mourning. Her innocence is lost. His sense of injustice is heavy on these shoulders.

His sits on the stairs with his love interest and questions social justice.

“Why does a bad man get all the respect a good man is supposed to get? Why then, did people tell me to be like Gandhi and Rama when I grew up?” he asks.

“What sins did I do that I had to continue suffering like this?” he cries. You could almost feel the pain. You could almost feel injustice. You can definitely feel the defeated soul. His facial contortion had showed how ugly the fabric and laws of society can be.

The scene was written by Kamal.

Unnal Mudiyum Thambi’s I didn’t do anything wrong (1987)

In this K Balachander epic, Gemini Ganesan, a carnatic musician, is fuming mad at his son, Kamal, because the latter could not make it to the father’s temple performance. Kamal was instead busy saving lives after a group of slum huts burned in a raging fire. His father disapproves of Kamal’s proximity with the “lower caste” people.

Kamal comes back home after a long day and apologises to his father. His father insists that Kamal had done wrong by choosing to save lives rather than serving God.

Now, Kamal is angry. He had saved lives and is being derided for it.

“As they wail and cry there, If I chant Rama here, would Rama be happy? I don’t know. Maybe you should ask your Rama and tell me.”

His father chooses to fast for two days to make up for his son’s “sins”. Kamal insists that he deserves a good meal at least, and serves himself a large helping. But slowly, the ego gives way to a son’s yearning. Tears form.

“In other houses, if their son did something like this and came back home, they would give a pat on the back. But he, he wants to fast,” he says, never taking any rice, just feeling defeated.

Thevar Magan’s the seed is mine (1991)

This is where two towering legends did their battle in the courtyard. Who won? I don’t know. Such was the gravitas you can only admire. Sivaji waits at home for his son, Kamal to return from visiting one of their fellow villagers at the hospital. Kamal is disturbed by the communal violence in the village and wants to go back to the city where he had been educated. He wants to become and entrepreneur. He’s about to tell that to his father.

His father is shocked. He tries to reason with his son. The son invites the father to leave the village behind and come with him, but the father refuses. “This body will die here.”

“Go, then, go. You change the villagers here. Try to bring them there. But, they will only come slowly.”

“But father, I might be dead by the time they change.”

“Die, die, everyone has to die someday, right? But before that live a life that is useful to others. Do you expect to eat the fruit right after planting the seed? Today I will plant the seed. Tomorrow your son will eat the seed. I won’t be alive to see all of that. But the seed, is mine!”

The intense argument fritters into both father and son becoming emotional towards the end, but in between a classic, timeless dialogue, written by Kamal himself, had been delivered.

Decades later, Kamal used the same dialogue in a real life situation when he faced the threat of bankruptcy due to attempts to ban Vishwaroopam.

Kurudhi Punal’s let me die with honour (1997)

One of Kamal’s best movies was the underrated 1997 flick Kurudhi Punal, about a bunch of cops attempting to infiltrate a radical terrorist group. In the final scene of the movie, Kamal, the police officer, who had been captured by the terrorists, is being tortured endlessly to get him to reveal the details about his covert operation.

A broken teeth, heavily deformed face, and splitting blood, Kamal tells the terrorist, “Sollamaaten, da!” in an almost childlike manner, as if he is learning to speak again midst of all that blood. When a fighting ensues and his covert agent comes close to being identified, Kamal asks his own subordinate to kill him, as that is the only way the covert agent will continue climbing up the ranks of the organisation.

“Kill me, my man! Let me die with honour!” he exclaims before being gunned to death.

Virumaandi’s dead grandmother (2004)

This scene is all about intensity. Kamal crawls in playfully to his house to sneak up on his grandmother, who appears to be sleeping. But turns out, she is dead. He is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is now orphaned and had lost the only blood relation he had left. He curses her and mourns her at the same time.

“Naaye, thaaye” he cries (calling her both a dog and a mother.)

Virumaandi, written and directed by Kamal, was about the consequences of capital punishment and was a subtle call to abolish death penalty.

 

Why Farhan Akhtar is my idol- Ram Anand

He’s constantly tinkering, that unspectacular, creative kid on the block who’s part of everything good about Indian cinema but is never the superstar of anything.

Indian cinema moulded me to become who I have become today. Especially south indian cinema. No, that does not mean I’m this dude who queues up for first day first show tickets, who shouts “thalaivar” (leader) when the “hero” appears on the screen, and goes for repeated shows to ensure the success of the film in which my “favourite actor” appears.

It moulded my though process, my critical thinking, my passion for India, my passion to contribute to society. Because, we you are moulded by your consumption of Indian cinema, you realise very quickly how cinema is a powerful tool to convey messages, thoughts, and your causes to the society. This space is manipulated, time and again, by politicians of yore and present to peddle their agenda unabashedly, especially down south. But this also exploits a space that help with nation building if used rightly by the right kind of people (i.e. people with actual civic consciousness, who are not looking at self benefits alone).

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Achieving purpose in life is not about threading paths that are beaten to death, but forging paths where there is opportunities but very few examples set before you. Often people ask me, what do I want to become in life? The answer would be a filmmaker and a novelist.

What does that make me? A director? A writer? A lyricist (because I write poems, too)? A philosopher? A thinker? I don’t know, to be honest. I express myself in various forms, but always, I am telling a story. I’m expressing an emotion. I’m delivering myself with every work- bits and pieces of my own parched soul. I’m a creative soul. There isn’t a profession to define me. What I do for a living has very little consequence on who I am, internally. This is who I am- the soul writing this piece, at this materialistic time.

People like to define.

So, what kind of movies will you make?

Erm, any movies I feel is worth making.

What kind of genre, action or romance?

I don’t care, as long as there is a story to tell.

What do you emphasise on?

Purpose. Like life, stories must have purpose. I’m not talking about in-your-face, condescending messages like “we have to eradicate corruption”. Because people who make extravagant movies about eradicating corruption also live extravagant lives due to the money their movies make, but that’s a topic of debate for another day.

I’m talking about relativity, keeping up with social norms, evolving your thought process. It’s about putting forth a question or an idea, radical or not, that is worth exploring.

It’s about having purpose yet being non-judgemental. That’s where you thread the line. That’s where you make your audiences a participant of your story. Not children who are being fed with your holier than thou ideas.

So, who is your idol?

This question comes in very often. Of course, I can throw you a bunch of names at freewill. Maniratnam’s movies made me fall in love with cinema. Kamal Hassan’s nuances made me fall in love with the purpose and exploration of ideas behind cinema- about pushing boundaries. AR Rahman’s music was proof that you can use your talents to attract attention to not only your work, but towards the work of those around you. That you can alleviate your brothers and sisters if you put a work good enough out there for consumption.

I see a bit of myself and my inspirations in all these people. But there is a dude out there who is trailblazing India. Who’s everything I ever wanted to be like. No, I might not make movies like him, I might not sing like he does, I might not write poems in the same vein. I might not have a similar style. It’s not about being better or worse, but merely an expression of self. I have my own identity. He has his own. But this man has forged his various identities to become a “personality” that has found a perfect balance in expressing himself. And he is a man who has a voice, both literally and in context, to voice out on things that concerns him. He’s not here to achieve numbers or fame, he is here to express, for himself and for his country.

His name is Farhan Akhtar. He is 40 years old. He is a director, screenwriter, lyricist, singer, an actor, has a band, guitarist, poet, film producer, talk show host, a husband, a father, founder of Men Against Rape and Discrimination (MARD- Mard means men), where he sings, writes, and constantly makes a noise about need for gender equality in the country.

He is, well, creative. There is no confining him to one space or one description. He acts on instinct, he makes and participates in joyful movies, has a conscience, and uses all channels available to him to express himself. It does not matter if he’s on the radio, television or cinema, he’s talking with passion about things he passionate about.

Overall, I would say he’s pretty good inspiration for me, and pretty good, well, human, on all counts. He’s trying to do what he can. He might not be a Rajinikanth or a Kamal Haasan, or Amitabh Bachchan. He might not be “powerful”, because he is not using his lifelong knowledge of cinema to increase his image alone. He’s constantly tinkering, that unspectacular, creative kid on the block who’s part of everything good about Indian cinema but is never the superstar of anything.

Farhan first came to limelight when wrote and directed Dil Chahta Hai in 2001, at the age of only 27 years old. Of course, being the son of one of India’s most renowned poets and being a stepson for one the country’s most versatile actresses helps. But it takes gumptions, guts and quite frankly, balls, to portray a love affair between a man in his 20s with a widowed woman who is more than a decade older to him, at a time when Indian cinema was just beginning to branch out to wider audiences.

He did not judge his characters. He celebrated the heart and ambiguity of love. He gave passion, needs, and imperfection to his characters. He celebrated them in his own way. It was not the most spectacular effort, but the film has retained cult status and those who have followed his work would know that this man meant business in his own way since he entered the industry.

Over the years, he had branched out. He has made stylish money spinners too, like Shahrukh Khan’s Don series, but also transformed himself as an actor. He acted in movies that had atypical scripts- like his sister’s Luck By Chance and the timeless Zindagi Na Milegi Dorbara, where his voice recites some of the best poems describing the zeal of life.

He produced and acted in Rock On! back in 2008, a movie about friendships won and lost due to egos and chase for fame. The movie was about a band, so as his father wrote, he sang every song, apart from playing the guitars occasionally.

In 2013, he was opted to act as Milkha Singh, the legendary Indian sprinter, in a bopic about the Commonwealth Games gold medalist. Entertainment journalists questioned director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s wisdom, arguing a more physically appealing actor like Hrithik Roshan should have played the role. Farhan was obviously not part of the A-list in the B-town.

But he showed up in cinemas with a body so chiselled even the established actors would have been blown out of water. He sported eight packs on his abdomen, and had even trained to sprint so well, that he literally scorched the screen with his runs. He cried, he laughed, he ran, and he toned like the real Milkha Singh. It was one of the best on-screen performance you would have ever seen in Indian cinema. And I’m not exaggerating, because even the level-headed film critics were blown away by his performance. He had nothing but 2 percent of body fat. That’s not easy to build nor maintain.

Physically and mentally, this man has been in top form. Months after the tremendous success of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, he went out and started voicing out more social causes. He sang in live performances and recited poems promoting equality.

He’s not the most glamorous guy in town. He does not have the most glamorous marriage. His wife, Adhuna, has been married to him for 14 years and they have two kids. She is not the most glamorous star-wife in the industry either. She’s that independent woman with her own ideas loitering around allowing and helping him to express his ideas and his work. Their marriage is not the one the grapevine talks about, but like good wine, Farhan had only gotten better with age.

Farhan Akhtar is now 40 years old, has made a cult film, has acted in a different cult film, has created a movement that he had devotedly promoted and spoken about, and always has the words and the voice to say what he wanted to say in his own creative ways.

Not to forget, as he express himself creatively, he is also at peak physical form, the fittest I had ever seen an actor on screen.

No, Farhan is not the most talented director, poet, actor, or singer. Nor is he the best. But he espouses a form of balance, a harmony, a joy, that eludes so many of us in our lives.

He does not have the best of everything he does, but he does have more everything than his peers. He is not the most spectacular, but he will be remembered in the years gone by.

He’s a manifestation of the power and influence of Indian cinema. There are many ugly truths about Indian cinema, but there’s also few beauties in it.

Farhan Akhtar is one of them. I might not want to do exactly what he does, but I do want to find that balance, that harmony, that he finds. And like him, it does not matter how little or how much movies you directed or acted in. It’s about giving it your all and delivering the best in whatever you do. Farhan does exactly that. He’s not influenced by market demands. Probably driven by his heart, he does according to his “feel”.

This is why Farhan Akhtar is my idol. Not my directorial or acting idol. He’s my life idol.

And, a few days ago, his latest video was released, in which he collaborates and sings Chulein Aasman, a song about female emancipation.

He’s not the best talent, but he is a very rare talent. He’s ambiguous, and still undefined. Being the jack of all trades but master of none might make for a bad businessman and money-making scheme.

But when the money is not your primary aim, and when your success is not determined by balance sheets and pay cheques, being a jack in several trades is not a bad option to be plain, simple, successful yet good human being. It’s about keeping the soul alive.

 

A toast to Farhan.

AR Rahman’s 10 best soundtracks- a compilation by Ram Anand (Part 2)

I rest my case. AR Rahman’s best works were spread throughout his career. Not just 90s. You are musically deaf if you don’t appreciate how he had innovated himself and music for the industry.

Number five-  

Duet (1994)

One of the best use of saxophones in a soundtrack came in Duet, and AR Rahman without an ounce of doubt used this to great effect to present us with what was arguably his his most diverse albums so early in his career. Duet, a tragic love story featuring Prabhu Ganesan and Ramesh Arvind which was directed by K Balachander, featured ARR’s first collaboration with the famed KB. KB’s script and tempo resulted in an amazing, word-class score that feature timeless classics that remains relevant until today, including songs such as Anjali Anjali, Vennilavin Therril,  and En Kadhale, which were great romantic compositions.

There were also quirky numbers such as Kathirikka and Kulicha Kuthalam, and also Mettepodu, a sweetly composed introduction song.

The background score, regardless to say, is a masterclass of its own.

 Number four-

 Dil Se/Uyire (1998)

I mean, I can’t possibly compile a list of ARR’s top ten soundtracks without including in it a movie directed by Maniratnam, ARR’s guru and mentor, right? It is difficult to pick what has been the duo’s best collaboration, but Dil Se/Uyire was definitely a bilingual marvel. The music was such a marvel that it peppered cracks in the movie itself, and shot Shah Rukh Khan into some sort of global fame.

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The original soundtrack was in Hindi for Dil Se, which was Maniratnam’s first attempt at a full on Hindi film, while the music was replicated for the Tamil dubbed version, Uyire.

Chaiyya Chaiyya was the song that won most popularity, and remains extremely famous to date. It has been featured in more than one Hollywood productions, and that image of Shah Rukh dancing atop a moving train became an iconic image that propelled ARR, and by extension Shah Rukh, into global recognition.

Jiya Jale head a beautiful raaga to it set in Kerala, and sung by the inimitable Lata Mageshkar, and has gone one to become another timeless classic of its own. It’s Tamil version, Nenjinile, was sung by another female singing legend, S Janaki, and was good on its own stead.

Dil Se Re, and Sandhosha Kannire, the Hindi and Tamil versions of ARR’s own romantic rendition in the backdrop of bombs and wonderful scenery in war-torn north India, is a majestic composition which was sung with such fervour and passion by the composer himself. The lyrics from Gulzar and Vairamuthu encapsulated one-sided passion in love so well.

Saatrangi Re explained the theme of the entire movie, which is the seven shades of love leading to obsession. Its setting in a dessert and ARR’s rather Arabic influences to the music added to the enigma.

But the best underrated jewel in this album is “Poongatrile”, the Tamil version of the Hindi original “E Ajnabi”. Unni Mennon brings out such pang and such depression in his voice and you can almost “feel” this heartbreaking song of a lover’s yearning. The Hindi version, in my opinion, did not replicate that magical level of emotion because Udit Narayanan’s voice didn’t contain just as much emotions.

Dil Se and Uyire were magical albums that deserve to be one of the best works a music composer had ever produced, world over. It is arguably the best ARR work. Yes, ARGUABLY. It’s bit redundant to say that when I’m compiling a list of his ten best albums and I’ve just place this album at number four. That’s because there are three albums that are more majestic, better, and perhaps more underrated than this. Read below.

Number three- 

Rockstar (2011)

What can be better than Dil Se? One word-ROCKSTAR. This was one album of Rahman’s recent works that completely blew me away and would have jerked any music connoseiuers off their comfortable seats.

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I have already reviewed the album before on this same website here: http://www.ramyuva.com/voice-of-the-winds/378/

But heck, it’s so good I’ll repeat my laurels. Rockstar was ARR’s maiden collaboration with Imtiaz Ali (the second one was Highway, which also featured in part one of this list), but given that the movie was, well, about a troubled “Rockstar” and his troubled love story, the rich variation of emotions that came in this album is stuff legends, no, stuff of folklore even. Mohit Chauhan delivered a singing masterclass, singing almost all of the songs in the album as ARR and Imtiaz uniquely attempted to retain the authenticity of Ranbir Kapoor’s performance.

Phir Se Ud Chala was a brilliant and Jo Bhi Main were soul singing at its best, while Kateya Karun brought forth the quirky Punjabi music elements.

Kun Faya Kun sits right up there with AR Rahman’s best Sufi masterpieces, while Sheher Mein demonstrated Mohit’s singing prowess. Hava Hava had a distinct Eastern European touch to it, while Aur Ho had so much passion and grandeur.

Tum Ko and Tum Ho were two beautiful renditions of slow melody in female and male voices respectively, something ARR is so good at doing regularly.

The best two, however, would be Nadaan Parindey, a legendary composition on which ARR and Mohit combine behind the mic to encapsulate the lead character’s angst, yearning and love with generous use of soulful rock music, and of course, Saadda Haq.

The latter is a one-of-a-kind, brilliant, timeless nerve pumper which is akin to holding the middle finger to capitalism and the system it perpetuates. It’s a song any political revolutionary can sign to the power elites, at any corner in the world. A blood rush can can typify any mass demonstration or major rally in this world.

Rockstar gave ARR the opportunity to delve into rock music and capture the sojourn of a musician’s life. It was an opportunity he did not miss to deliver the third best work of his career, in my view.

Number two-

Iruvar (1997)

Iruvar isn’t about the songs alone. Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman’s best combination to date, both musically, and cinematically, is also about AR Rahman’s best background music work in his career, added to it songs that retained a period era feeling but were highly delectable on its own right.

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The film was peppered with beautiful rendition of poems, recited by Arvind Swamy, and two such examples in the soundtrack, Udal Mannuku and Unnodu Naan Irundha, typifies this. The minimal instruments but the heightened emotion in each poem gave the words of a poet a brilliant platform to shine on. Also check out the background music in the climax scene of the movie, shortly before, and during Prakash Raj’s recital of a heart wrenching poem mourning the loss of a friend in an empty hall while the old friend’s body is being paraded in the streets filled with crowd. If you never lived you to feel how MGR’s funeral might have been, this scene would have given you an idea.

There is also this one scene where Mohanlal’s character is introduced to a huge crowd waiting downstairs of his home by Prakash Raj. The music that accompanies the gesture of slowly raising one’s hand to the crowd and the crowd going berserk is why this was a world-class movie with world class musical work.

The songs were timeless as well. Kannai Kattikolathey and Aayirathil Naan Oruvan is like listening to MGR’s best hits being remastered and rebranded to make them sound contemporary, catchy and periodic at the same time. They remain unique compositions that still fall sweetly on the ears almost 20 years after being produced.

Narumugaiye is high on the ARR’s classical qualities, a combination of two distinct raagas, and a brilliant composition. Vennila Venilla is a jazzy number with a classy treatment, so is Hello Mr Ethirkachi, which is faster and catchier. Pookodiyin Punnagai is another brilliant slow melody reminiscent of movies of old.

 Number one-

 Swades (2004)

Mastery. Legacy. AR Rahman’s had always, in his entire career, been most passionate about patriotism more than anything else. Very few ARR works tops works that he does for movies or albums that carry a patriotic statement. I have no doubts in my mind, in my decades of following his work, Swades is one album whose level of depth, genius of music, and overall feel is almost unmatched. It can give even a person who had never been to India a glimpse of how you will fall in love with India despite its imperfections. The background score, for which ARR won a Filmfare Award, can move you to tears. Shah Rukh Khan delivered was was arguably his most restrained, best performance over the past decade. He felt the script. He felt the music. The emotions showed in his eyes. Ashutosh Gowariker treated the film as carefully, as patiently, as a father would bring up his daughter, or a son would find beauty in an ailing mother.

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This film’s music was all about beauty. In every word that Javed Akhtar penned, in every tabla beat that came with the music, with every scenery of rural India. This was just a complete musical experience, unmatched, unrivalled. The work of a lifetime.

Yeh Tara Woh Taara can make you smile and cry at the same time if you had understood the lyrics and had watched it with the video. Udit Narayanan’s rendition won him a National Award. At over seven minutes long, this song is a marvel that didn’t try to overshadow brilliant lyrics that had so much of depth and message, but at the same time, had great music that can send you to someplace beyond earth. When they say God is in Music, I understand that through many ARR compositions, but this album has many such songs, and this is one of it.

Saanwariya had such sweetness and innocence in it and was very sweet to the ears. Alka Yagnik’s voice was pitch perfect for the song, and it was one song where Gayatri Joshi’s simple beauty was encapsulated.

Yu Hi Chala was a song that had defined my entire life, from the moment I heard it. Javed’s lyrics were a masterpiece. The picturisation by Ashutosh, having Shah Rukh sit in a caravan along with a quirky saadhu who was showing him the path on a gravel road, with the lyrics blaring about how the traveller keeps on travelling in an unknown road were stuff of magic. The song talks about ambiguity of life- appreciating beauty while not knowing your final destination. That’s life. That’s how a journey should be. Sitting atop a caravan and enjoying good music while not knowing where you are heading to. Hariharan’s voice was sweet, Udit gave passion to the song, while Kailash Kher was brilliant as the voice of the saadhu, who through the words of the saadhu, says the wisest things you will ever hear being written in film lyrics. The song of my lifetime.

Aahista Aahista had such pain, longing and nostalgia packed inside it, that it is another brilliant composition. It is one song that you would love to close your eyes to, and enjoy the emotions poring through it. Udit Narayan and Sadhana Sargam combine to great effect here, but the dubbed Tamil version, Thai Sonna Thallatu packs an even better punch- with KJ Yesudas’ voice tugging at your heartstrings. This song might be slow, but you must be missing a lot on life’s finer details if you can’t appreciate the beauty this number entails. This was written soulfully, and composed even more soulfully. By someone who was in touch with the elements around him.

Yeh Jo Des Hera Tera had already become a song for a generation. ARR goes behind the mic and delivers the best rendition he had ever done for a song. There’s so much subtle longing and passion in this song, so much so you can imagine the character’s struggle without having to watch the scene. Lyrics such as “your motherland is calling out to you…” takes patriotism and one’s affection to homeland to a new level. The love of a man to his motherland, and the need his motherland has for him, as never been married so well as it did in this song. This song can move you to tears, no matter which country you are from. Try going away from home for a long time, and when you miss it, listen to this song.

Paal Paal Hi Bhaari was another peach of a beauty from Madushree and Vijay Prakash. It is the sweetest song you can imagine Seetha singing while being kidnapped by Raavanan. The use of the Ramayan analogy to relate to struggles in a rural village was brilliant, and so was ARR’s flute-based composition.

Dekho Na is a slow romantic song that builds up nicely and is extremely sweet to hear to. Not to forget, the album has two magical instrumentals, a flute-only version of Paal Paal performed by Naveen and a shehnai-only version of Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera, performed by Madhukar T Dhumal.

I basically ran out of superlatives praising this album. End of. Nothing more to say.

I rest my case.  AR Rahman’s best works were spread throughout his career. Not just 90s. You are musically deaf if you don’t appreciate how he had innovated himself and music for the industry.

And give us some more albums to make this list seem irrelevant.

 

 

 

 

 

I (Ai) Music Review- by Ram Anand

The music’s depth is more rich here than the typical commercial value and bravura that regularly awaits us in a Shankar-ARR combo.

After a four year hiatus, the combo of Shankar-AR Rahman is returning for the first time in a decade for a non-Rajinikanth film. This Vikram-Amy Jackson starrer has drawn plenty of attention for its captivating teaser that has shown Vikram at his best- taking various avatars, but at the same time, given its romantic theme, much is to be expected of ARR’s music.

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There is no major surprises in the music of I, if you have the last two combinations that Shankar-ARR had produced. Similar to Sivaji and Endhiran, the music is modern, electronic, and is meant for either a dance number or a romantic number to be shot at posh locales.

But one thing that I’s music has that the music of the two previous albums did not, in my opinion, is some added soul. Instead of just a catchy, appealing romantic number, Shankar and ARR had made it a point to tune the romantic numbers with an added dash of soul and emotion, something we rarely see being utilised in Shankar’s film (as he is known for grandeur and toys very minimally with emotions in this movies).

Then again, it is probably the first time in aeons that Shankar is attempting a full-on romantic theme. Though the love attraction was a mainstay in Endhiran, the movie was all about robots fighting humans. All the previous movies he had done had been about a hero with a social cause and the love track is often relegated to one pretty heroine and a couple of glamorously canned songs. As such, the music’s depth is more rich here than the typical commercial value and bravura that regularly awaits us in a Shankar-ARR combo.

Aila Aila (Aditya Rao, Natalie Di Luccio)

Orchestra, opera, Indian beats, you name it. ARR begins the album by once again flaunting his knack for an unconventional mix. Canadian singer Natalie handles the opera bit and even chirps in with some Tamil lines, while Aditya Rao holds his sport regularly. The song changes beats at every stanza, and there are small pleasures to find at every juncture.

At over five minutes long, it provides plenty of room for ARR to innovate and that is exactly what ARR has done. The middle stanzas, in typical ARR style, is magical, and can send you to a zen mode. The beats will sound uncommon first. but give it two additional hearings and this seamless marriage of different bodies of work into one number will absorb you.

There’s even a bit of bhangra bit! Very good!

Ennodu Nee Irundhal (Sid Sriram)

Remember the soulful “Adiye” from “Kadal”? If you ever wished to hear another song like that, we have it here with the same composer and the same singer. And my, if you thought Adiye was good, ARR and Sid combine to deliver a blast even better than that. The choruses, the beats, the haunting music, and Sid’s unmistakable voice makes this one of the standout numbers in the album.

It starts pretty slow, with some good slow music, reminiscing Adiye as the chorus kicks in the a grand manner. But at the second stanza, unassumingly, the song picks up pace and gets even more special. The middle stanzas shows the best of Sid’s voice and the absolute best ARR’s musical genius, and he increases the tempo incredibly while maintaining the soul song.

Sunitha Sarathy chips in with a few lines of her own, and there’s a little rock bits to end the song. But, overall, this is Magic!!

Ennodu Nee Irundhal- Reprise (Chinmayi, Sid Sriram)

Basically, the female version of the earlier song is haunting, peaceful, slower, melodious and brings with a different kind of soul than the previous composition. ARR lets the able voice of Chinmayi to guide this song along, keeps instruments at a minimum.

The middle stanza is extremely sweet to the ears, and Sid then chips in towards the end of the song. It retains similar lyrics that Sid’s version but carries a different, more melodious atmosphere, and is equally good. Thumbs up.

Ladio (Nikita Gandhi)

Immediately, you are taken to a nightclub. This is a full-on western number with electronic beats, something that is quite common in a Shankar film. Nikita’s high energy rendition starts this number like a typical Western number, but then the Tamil lyrics kicked in, and settles into a right balance between electronic beats and a breeze.

If Irumbile Oru Idhayam was such a popular song, Ladio can be twice that song, is utilised properly.

Impressive.

Mersalaayaiiten (Anirudh, Neeti Mohan)

If you don’t know what this album is before listening to the song, the first minute will you give you an impression that you are listening to an Anirduh composition, especially with Anirudh himself behind the mic. But ARR shows his touch by elevating a foot-tapping romantic number to new levels of innovation that is persistent throughout the song. Where most composers play safe after reaching a foot-tapping tunes and tend to repeat it, ARR tweaks with the tunes and beats constantly, and attempts to this song unique in its own way.

This will slowly grow, and when it does, it will top of the charts, and stay there for a long time. Will clearly promoted to be the most commercial and mass-appeal song in the album. And rightly so. A surefire chartbuster.

Naan Mersalaayaiten. In time you will be smitten too.

There’s a remix version of this song that I am not reviewing as it is not much different from the original, just a shorter, faster version.

Pookale Sattru Oyivedungal (Haricharan, Shreya Ghosal)

After combining with ARR to reveal his maximum potential in Kaaviyathalaivan, Haricharan comes in and grabs all the attention with arguably the best song of the album. The best duet of the album, with the inimitable Shreya Ghosal lending the female voice, that will definitely (must) be shot at Shankar’s typical posh, eye-pleasing locations.

In the lines of Ale Ale (Boys), Sahana (Sivaji) and Kadhal Annukal (Endhiran), comes a number that has some added soul but is just purely good music at the end of the day.

Haricharan starts it off with the aid of some electronic beats, but this song very quickly settles into a nice rhythm. It explains the film’s title, hence why the conclusion that the film is romantic-themed. Shreya’s voice adds to the sweetness of this song, as there is no need to elaborate how good both these voices are. The middle stanzas, in best ARR form, is honey to the ears.

Savour this one!

Verdict: An ARR-Shankar combo is all about commercial appeal, and this album has a little bit more than commercial appeal alone. It has some soul, some added spice and innovation. Definitely it will be a very popular album in the long run. Maybe not ARR’s best work, but this is definitely one of ARR’s better body of works for a Shankar film.

In terms of quality, it is better than Sivaji and Endhiran. This is more beautiful.

My picks: Ennodu Nee Irundhal (both versions), Pookale, Merasalayiten

Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

AR Rahman’s 10 best soundtracks- a compilation by Ram Anand (Part 1)

The list is not about the most popular song, or hits, or most successful movie. This is from a purely musical point of view relating to how well the music worked with, or elevated, the film itself, and further inspired the filmmaking process.

Following my high regards for AR Rahman’s latest film album Kaaviyathalaivan, I have decided to finally act on my long-pending intentions to compile a list of AR Rahman’s 10 best albums, in my view of course.

This list is not inundated with album from the 90s, like how people believe his best work from from his first decade as a composer. If anything, this list is a testament that he has grown and matured as a composer in tune with changing times, always staying ahead of the competition.

The list is not about the most popular song, or hits, or most successful movie. This is from a purely musical point of view relating to how well the music worked with, or elevated, the film itself, and further inspired the filmmaking process. This is a carefully put together list, I had to omit plenty of albums which I personally enjoyed- trying to pick on everything from a critical point of view.

Number ten:

Kaaviyathalaivan (2014)

AR Rahman’s first collaboration with director Vasanthabalan, known for his raw, earthly Tamil films was quite a feast to the ears. Vasanthabalan was among the first batch of filmmakers to work with ARR’s nephew GV Prakash through Veyyil several years ago, and it signals, somewhat, a full circle for the director to work with ARR.

A period film set in the 1940s, the film starts Siddharth and Prithviraj among others. ARR said publicly that he had turned down a Hollywood film offer in order to work on KT, and it is easy to understand why. Kaaviyathalaivan provides any composer with that rare opportunity to revisit the era of Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy while retaining their own stamp. There is no better candidate to pull this off than the Academy Award winner, and he had served delectable mix of jazz, and several carnatic ragas with heightened sound that will grow on any listener.

The album has seven songs, the pick obviously being the effervescently melodious Yaarumillai, a minimal, slow-paced love song that can tug at your hearts, and also the highly energising Sandhi Kuthirai, which seems to be a homage to the quasi-jazz numbers of the Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy days.

The 10-minute ballad Alli Arjuna, which comprises of eight short bits performed immaculately by Haricharan and Bela Shende, is where ARR flexes his musical muscles, marrying off eight varying tunes into one ballad that both tells a story and yet manages to maintain the listener’s attention till the end. No mean feat.

Aye Mr Minor brought with it another slow jazz touch last seen in ARR’s other album Iruvar, while Sollividu Sollividu offered its own uniqueness with the highly moving Karnamootcham bit towards the end of the song.

Vaanga Maaka Vaanga is a pleasant hear to welcome listeners to the drama troupe on which the story in centred, while Thirrupugazh sees a rare combination of Vani Jayaram and ARR for a short, pleasant devotional number.

There is no verdict on the yet to released film, but ARR’s music has already increased expectations and will definitely complement the filmmaking process. It is understandable how much effort has been put into this, it shows, and it deserves a place in this list.

Number nine-

Taalam/Taal (1999)

In living memory, there is no film that relied as heavily on ARR’s musical magic as Taal, so much so even the Tamil version of the film, Taalam, found takers despite only being a dubbed work. The music was wondrous across both platforms, encompassing a total of 14 tracks, most of it pictured on then increasingly popular former Miss World Aishwarya Rai. A trilingual love saga in the backdrop of some gorgeous locations, ARR’s music was embedded in every area of the film that centred around a classical dance performer.

Nahin Samne is a personal favourite, especially through its Tamil version, Kaalaimaane. The haunting start to the music followed by the grandeur of orchestra, and Hariharan’s pitching voice is inimitable in so many ways. There is also the absolutely fabulous Beat of Passion, a small dance number sans vocals, in which ARR combines the most innocuous sounds such as water drops and steel plates crashing on each other.

There are also other classic numbers such as Ishq Bina, Taal se Taal, Ramta Jogi, another instrumental number Raaga Dance, Kahin Aag Lahe, and a western version of Taal Se Taal. You are just spoilt for choices here.

This film marked a successful collaboration between ARR and Subash Ghai, which regrettably ended with ARR giving another fabulous musical album for the film Yuvvraaj, which Subash proceeded to botch, clobber, and ruin with an epically bad movie. Yuvvraaj’s music is almost as good as Taal, but still the latter takes the cake and is here on this list.

Number eight-

Highway (2014)

Imtiaz Ali has surely established himself as a filmmaker who knows how to extract the best out of AR Rahman, and Highway is a fine example. A sumptuous album that fits the theme of this being a road movie, and also about a young woman’s inadvertent soul searching while in captivity.

The album has nine tracks, and each one stands out brilliantly on its own. The two versions of Pattakha Guddi, a variant of Punjabi folk music, were music to die for. The Nooran sisters were brilliant with the female version, which was catchy and high on spirit, but the male version, sung by none other but ARR himself, take the mix to another higher level, with a mix of rock, tabla, and folk music. The male version contains more soul and gutso, and is a bold attempt that has come out fantastically well. I dare to say, it sits right up among ARR’s best compositions in an illustrious two-decade career.

Kahaan Hoon Main and Heera are sweet to the ears, slow, but endearing. They capture the essence of the character’s struggle, and sung with such sweetness in the voices of Shweta Pandit and Jonita Gandhi.

Sooha Saha is a lullaby that will grow on you, especially when you watch it with the movie. Tu Kuja is another huge favourite, sung with such soul searching energy, accompanied with classical instruments, by Sunidhi Chauhan.

Maahi Ve, of course, is ARR’s trademark love number that encapsulates the entire movie. A brilliant album for a brilliant movie.

Number seven-

Kandukondein Kandukondein (2000)

Rajiv Menon’s 2000 musical film, which also featured Aishwarya Rai, was an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. It is an iconic romantic movie for people of my generation, more so because of how well we identify and were taken by the authenticity and the class of AR Rahman’s eight tracks.

Enna Solla Pogirai remains a classic to date, a high energy yearning portrayed by Shankar Mahadevan for a man who is pleading for his love. Smayiyai is another number that is high on energy, with a slightly modern treatment, that would make you tap your feet.

Then there are two sumptuous classical music offerings, Kanamoochi Yennada, which is probably among the best bit of Carnatic music you will hear in modern films, and also Konjum Mainakkale, which has some effervescent energy in it.

Yenge Ennathu Kavithai is a brilliant composition that captures the heartbroken state of a woman who had been deceived by her man, sung with such conviction and realism by the legendary Chitra.

Suttum Vizhi Chuddar is a short-lived all time favourite in which Hariharan, in a short span, imaginatively captures a Bharathiyar poem and gives it a romantic pang that is almost unmatched.

This is a musical that truly had a mix of everything, all topped off with the tittle song, Kandukondein Kandukondein, a duet featuring Hariharan and Mahalakshmi Iyer, a duet featuring some great signing and even greater composition.

Number six-

Delhi 6 (2009)

Many might have missed this, because the movie failed to create ripples at the box office. But for those who have taken the effort to listen, D-6 is among ARR’s best musical work.

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The reason? Masakali!

A pretty stunning, unique, energising number sung by Mohit Chauhan remains D-6’s greatest identity. The entire song references to a dove’s flying spirit, and ARR does a brilliant job of employing unorthodox sounds to weave together a catchy, tongue twisting song that has stayed on memories for years.

But beyond Masakali, D-6 is also home to one of the best sufi/spiritual compositions of all time, a song that has lifted my own spirits umpteen times- Arziyan.

A seven-minute long epic that can send you into a special zone with the right environment, Arziyan is soulfully rendered by Javed Ali and Kailash Kher, two unmistakably good singers. The song sings of God as someone who already knows our wishes, and to whom we need not make special requests.

Rehna Tu is a brilliant, slow number sung by AR Rahman, that encapsulates a man’s undying love for his hometown, Delhi, despite its imperfections.

Dilli 6 and Kaala Bandar were more hip, modern numbers to suit the main character who was an American who had just reached Delhi, but Gehnda Phool classically marries off these two cultures by combining hip hop and classical. A two-minute bit that is thoroughly enjoyable and showcases AR Rahman’s genius.

Dil Gira Gaaftan is a slow romantic number along the lines of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s previous combination with ARR, Rang de Basanti, which had the song Tu Bin Bataye.

Thumre Bhaavan Me is a melodious and soul stirring Hindu devotional number that is equally rich in musical content. D-6 is probably one of the most underrated albums in ARR’s career.

 

Kaaviyathalaivan- Music Review by Ram Anand

AR Rahman and Vaali go ballistic, and create something more enriching than Iruvar. Period music has never been better.

Kaaviyathalaivan witnesses the first time collaboration between renowned filmmaker Vasanthabalan and Academy Award winner AR Rahman in the music department. But, perhaps, the most important and notable fact about this soundtrack is the fact this is the last film in which Vaali had worked extensively on as a lyricist before his death.

kaaviya-thalaivan-poster_139367944410

Kaaviyathalaivan is a period drama, centred around drama troops of the yore, so there is no expecting any modern numbers here. KT, in its production norm and its setting, has a lot of similarities with Mani Ratnam’s 1997 epic Iruvar, for which ARR provided an impeccable soundtrack which retained the swing and mood of the era it was set in, yet was  melodious in its own right. A good 17 years later, ARR has the chance to repeat this feat with KT.

And he is not one to let such chances slip. For the umpteenth time in his career, AR Rahman has delivered the goods in a way that they would grow on you and eventually place the music in the timeless shelf.

Kaaviyathalaivan has recreated the Iruvar magic thanks to AR Rahman, the mighty pen of Vaali (Vairamuthu penned Iruvar brilliantly), and those vocals from Haricharan.

Haricharan is to KT as what Mohit Chauhan was to ARR’s another majestic album, Rockstar. He is given the chance to lend vocals to four out of the seven songs, and similar to the Mohit-ARR combo in Rockstar, he is lending the voice to a character who is a stage performer so he ends up singing a stunning variety of compositions.

Aye Mr Minor (Haricharan and Shashaa Tirupati)

The first song itself suddenly throws you back to the image of Aishwarya Rai dancing in front of Mohanlal in the backdrop of the highly catchy but instrumentally classic Hello Mr Ethirkachi from Iruvar. Aye Mr Minor is right out of a similar shelf, though the tempo maintained is like a balance between Ethirkachi and the other song from the Iruvar, Vennila Vennila. Shashaa’s voice is enchanting and a perfect fit for the tempo, mood and swag this song brings along.

Haricharan enters towards the second half and makes this a sweet, innocent, foot-tapping, ala-50s duet. Sometimes, you do not need to go that back far in your records to reminisce. Because AR Rahman is capable of re-inventing that magic even half a decade later, albeit with additions that makes the sound even more all encompassing and the sound of the live instruments heightened. This song has no comparison. It a class of its own in modern Tamil cinema, with its only peer being another composition by this same man, ARR, way back in 1997.

Vaanga Makka Vaanga (Haricharan and Dr Narayan)

You would have heard this at some point last month. This song is all over the KT teaser and the single was already last month by Sony. VMV is an introduction to the drama troop that the tale of KT centres around, and Haricharan lends brilliant vocals in the backdrop of a very rich classic instruments and raagas. (I’m not well versed in raagas so can’t name them). This song is catchy, and again is something you don’t hear in regular modern Tamil cinema. Thee different rhythm and challenging classic raagas are brilliantly negotiated by the vocals of Haricharan helped with ARR’s timing of the music. A smooth sailing introduction to the drama troop. (Bear in mind, KT’s songs has plenty of storytelling in them).

Saandi Kuthirai (Haricharan)

We all would have heard that cracky song from Kadhalikka Neramillai back in 1964, called Maadimele. Exactly half a century later, ARR somehow ends up paying homage to that with al absolute cracker in Sandi Kuthirai. This is a groovy quasi-jazz number that you just can’t get enough of. Haricharan is brilliant behind the mic, from the smalls mentions of “Mohana” that reminds you directly of Kadhalika Neramilai to that brilliant shift in vocals in the middle. This is extremely high on energy and impeccably high touches of genius. The lyrics are timeless as well. AR Rahman, Vaali and Haricharan at their respective bests! Play this in your radios and suddenly you will feel like you are in a 60s-themed party where everyone is dancing to a classic catchy song. Wow.

Yaarumilla (Shweta Mohan)

It just gets better, doesn’t it? Remember Poo Koodiyin Punnagai from Iruvar? Imagine a number that is starts similarly but the overall satisfaction is even double of that. Yaarumilla features Shweta Mohan in top form, after collaborating with ARR in the melody numbers in Maryan. The two stanzas are unique to each other but equally melodious, and only ARR can pull off two different melodies in a single track while making the singer sound gorgeous (yes, she sounds gorgeous, I am consciously using that word) in both stanzas. The best pick of the album (it’s actually a very difficult choice).

Mesmerizing and heavenly!

Sollividu Sollividu (Mukesh)

If you have read Mahabaratha (or known about it), there is no better song to encapsulate what Arjuna sings to Krishna following the Kurukshetra war. Arjuna is emotionally paralysed here. And the Arjuna we have here is, of course, Mukesh. And god, he is flaunting his vocals. There are three stanzas to Sollividu. First stanza is fast paced, the second slightly mellowed, in which he regrets killing Karna, but it is in the final stanza that you get the best piece of magic in the entire album. That is Karnamotcham is the final stanza, the single bit of magical music you have heard when ARR posted it up his SoundCloud account couple of weeks ago. The final stanza is a plea by Arjuna to Krishna to stop the war, a cry to stop the battle, after earlier, higher tempo stanzas appeared to unfazed Krishna. Yes, this is storytelling through music at its best. This is a very moving song once you have understood the lyrics, and as said, probably no number will ever capture so sufficiently, how Arjuna felt after having to kill Karna in the battle.

They don’t call ARR a musical genius for nothing, but equal credit to Mukesh for distinguishing the three stanzas.

Thirupuggazh (Vani Jayaram)

Murugan devotees would love this. Thirupuggazh is a two-minute absolute classical rendition, helped by veteran Vani Jayaram’s timeless voice, dedicated to the Perumal.

The only downside would be the length, but of course in those two minutes you can’t help but to be taken away but the generous use to tablas and classical instruments by ARR. Proof that this man can do a Sufi as impeccably as he can do a pucca Southern devotional song. That is the mark of this composer, the worth of that Academy Award.

Alli Arjuna (Haricharan and Bela Shende)

Go find a raaga expert! I can’t be a critic to this song. Never. This is a composition like none other. Alli Arjuna is reflection of stage performers telling the story of Alli and Arjuna’s marriage, told through music. This song has EIGHT short bits in a lengthy ten-minute, vowen together the way only AR Rahman can do. It takes a master composer to seamless marry off these eight tunes into one continuous composition, but man, ARR can do it. Each different bit seems to tell a different story. The tone of the song is slow-fast-slow-fast. You don’t have two slow stanzas back to back. One slow stanza to make you understand the story, then the tablas and instruments pick up, and it gets catchy. Haricharan and Bela Shende combine to sing a duet that encapsulates the entire Alli Arjuna tale in one song. Alli Vaarugiral is easily the best bit of the lot. There’s plenty of humour in this song too, but more amazing is the fact that Haricharan goes around modifying vocals representing both Arjuna and Krishna.

Masterpiece!

In short, Kaaviyathalaivan is one of AR Rahman’s best works till date. That’s all I have to say. It’s a rich, fascinating understanding of nuances of south indian music and gives us a period album that is as good, if not better, than Iruvar.

And since I saw this somewhere online- either AR Rahman was on dope, or he was absolutely bonkers when he did KT. I mean, you can’t possibly be this much of a legend and just continue surprising people better by time, right?

I thought Highway was the best album for this year. Now I have to reconsider. Shit.

Rating: (I’m not qualified to rate this album. It’s beyond expertise. Get some music expert. I’m just a listener. I’m just smitten. I’m in love with the music KT, every bit of it).

Jigarthanda- Movie Review by Ram Anand

Experience raw, genius fimmaking that will leave you clapping when Karthik Subbaraj’s name appears at the end.

Karthik (Siddharth), presumably a character named after the film’s director Karthik Subburaj, is struggling get his first big break in cinema. His short films attract attention and he is selected by a producer to direct a movie. Karthik wants to do a musical gangster movie, which after all is the very tagline of Jigarthanda itself, but his producer wants bloodshed and violence and rowdies.

Jigarthanda-Movie-First-Look

In an effort to grab his opportunity, he travels to Madurai, where he closely follows the life of Madurai’s most feared underworld kingpin, Assault Sethu (Bobby Simha), albeit from a close distance. Karthik’s idea was to write a script modelled after Sethu’s life, but when Sethu catches him, Karthik is forced, without any choice, to actually employ Sethu as the hero for his movie.

No, this is not a familiar storyline for a Tamil movie. And this is not a movie where there is a climax fight scene between the good guy and the bad guy. In fact, the ending is so badass that you can afford to forget about all the Hollywood gangster flicks and thoroughly enjoy the level of originality that Jigarthanda brings to the table.

In so many ways, Karthik Subburaj, and those who gave him this opportunity deserve applause for showing that Tamil cinema is able to offer opportunities to young talents and a movie like this, which does not follow any convention or formulas. This was a three-hour trailblazer on a path that had no prior foundations.

True, there were a few gangster movies which had shades of what Jigarthanda was offering- the like of Pudhupettai and the masterful Aaranya Kandam comes to mind. But while those two movies were perennially dark in its treatment and its pacing, relegating them to only certain audiences, Jigarthanda packs a punch that is both paisa vasool and intellectual potpourri at the same time. With Jigarthanda, Karthik Subbaraj has proven that you can marry an unique, out of the norm narrative with commercial aspects to deliver both entertainment and also satiate your brain faculties.

Entertainment does not have to come at the expense of logic, and vice versa. This movie is a living proof of that statement.

Karthik’s script is as watertight as it gets, and has the marks of a script that had been refined and had value added to it time and again. There are so many cross references that one could relate to Karthik’s own personality, and also about the life of a budding filmmaker. The film also shows how a talented filmmaker can, if he needs, turn even a compromise into a brilliant movie, which is probably exactly what Karthik had done with Pizza- a supposedly horror movie with an unique treatment.

You don’t see the turns and twists coming in this movie, bar one or two. That is because Karthik changes the direction and the tone of the movie without you even noticing- which is the best thing about Jigarthanda. Unlike Pizza, where one explanatory scene changes your perception, Jigarthanda keeps you on the hooks until the end, you merely enjoy the ride without knowing where or how it was going to end.

It also paints a very neo noir picture of a gangster’s life story. There is absolutely no flaws that I could pick there either, from the red Mercedes to the acting classes, and the general attitude of gangsters, the film has encapsulated the very essence and spirit of the life of a gangster.

Bobby Simha, without a doubt, owns every scene where he is involved, and by extension, owned this movie. This was as good as a performance that you can ask for an artist, he has gotten under the skin of being a gangster, and ups the ante in the second half as a gangster who is attempting to become a movie hero.

Siddharth is brilliant as the budding young filmmaker. He did the best to script’s demands and deserve huge respect for taking up projects like these consistently and providing opportunities for young directors like Karthik Subbaraj and Balaji Mohan. Karunakaran as Oorni is the probably the best sidekick you will get to see in cinemas this year.

Lakshmi Menon does not have much to do in the movie, despite her character causing the turning point in the entire movie. She appears sans make-up and does a decent job.

Santosh Narayanan’s music is an eclectic mix and suits with the tagline of Jigarthanda being a musical gangster story. The songs are from completely different mix, the top of it all being “Pandi Nadu”, which is a catchy folk song that encapsulates the mood and treatment of the film.

In short, you can’t miss Jigarthanda. If you have followed Tamil cinema and loved it, you owe to yourself to watch what will be, inarguably the best Indian film of 2014 due to its sheer creativity.

If you have not watched it and are wondering why is everyone raving about this movie as a trend-setting one, that is simply because it is indeed something unique, unexpected, and thoroughly entertaining. You will never get more value for the money you pay to buy a ticket for this movie. It’s worth the ticket, and even a repeat show. Watch it in cinemas to get the feel, the colour, and the general mood. And experience raw, genius fimmaking that will leave you clapping when Karthik Subbaraj’s name appears at the end.

A tinge of jealousy will always be there from me, as a fellow aspiring filmmaker, to achieve what he has done. Karthik has achieved what every young filmmaker who dream of doing things differently hope to achieve. But, there is also a note of thanks here from me- because Karthik has proved that if you knock on the door hard enough, there will be space aplenty for people like me, and him.

For a comrade (Karthik) who has made it, I say happy Jigarthanda, and Puzhudi Parakum Paaru!