Kadal- A Mani Ratnam legacy

Ratnam has actually elevated his intellectual level of filmmaking to a new league that only requires understanding, not judgement.

Disclaimer: This is not a movie review, because as someone whose formative years were defined by moments inspired from Mani Ratnam films, I do not feel I have the right to judge a good or a bad film. Honestly, I don’t think any of us have any right to criticise Mani after what he had contributed to Tamil cinema over the past two decades.

I am sorry, Mani Ratnam. I am sorry because I allowed myself, for even a moment, to doubt that you have actually made a bad movie, judging by all the reviews and the critics’ verdict in the first few days since Kadal’s release. I remember walking into Raavanan as one of the first viewers and being mesmerised by the film, though the entire world seemed to think otherwise when the verdicts started coming out.

When a young Thomas starred at Chetty with contempt at the latter’s house, and the screen froze to give way to title credits, I knew that Kadal has so much to offer- only question whether the viewer is able to discern Kadal’s offerings and cherish them.

To begin with, Kadal is obviously an indirect sequel to Mani’s previous offering, Raavanan, which I considered to be a wonderfully made movie and will hold true to that no matter what some smart critics think about it.

As Bharadwaj Rangan had aptly put in his review, Mani Ratnam is already a legend- he has nothing left to prove. What he is doing now is building legacy, and that means finally making films that matters to him on a personal level, probably in a way probing his own faith in the grey shades of humanity, and in the process, making movies that are way ahead of their times.

I have said during my Raavanan review itself that the film will probably be celebrated 10 years from now (like how Iruvar became a cult classic a decade after its release), and the same holds true for Kadal- in fact, Kadal’s offerings are much more complex than Raavanan.

Understandably though, pulling off something like Kadal with reasonable entertainment quotas is no mean feat- the film is obviously inspired by the Biblical stories, and unlike Ramayana (Raavanan) or Mahabaratha (Thalapathi), the Bible’s parables are a combination of different stories, and Ratnam has tried to incorporate all of that into one movie.

This is where the problem comes with Ratnam’s new filmmaking avatar, people who watched Raavanan and Kadal think he should retire and that he has run out of ideas for a movie plot, but the reality remains that Kadal is made for a niche group of viewers, and that Ratnam has actually elevated his intellectual level of filmmaking to a new league that only requires understanding, not judgement.

Kadal’s plot incorporates so many elements and explores so many different shades of faith that even the critics who commented that the movie was an extremely predictable good vs bad story, in my view, were badly mistaken. In fact, Kadal’s trump card appears in its much criticised climax, which many felt was a letdown.

Here are the things that I took away from Kadal:

1. Being a priest does not define goodness and being someone who commits murder does not define Satan. In the climax scene, Father Sam overridingly loses his faith in his own kin and God, to finally decide to commit a murder by killing Bergmans, but the man who comes out of that entire climax with his heart in the right place is actually the young Thomas. Mind, Thomas is no angel. He is someone who had walked with both the angel and the demon. Human are a bit of both. And in the tussle between angels and demons, it is human’s capability to forgive which shines through the gloom of the situation.

2. The problem with religion and mankind is that men tend to become subjected to blindly follow religious texts without ever exercising their discretion to love a fellow human being or show compassion. While Father Sam’s character was impeccable, he was the one who created the Satan in Bergmans that he ends up battling in the entire movie. Bergmans is a reflection of Father Sam’s inability to merely forgive a fellow man’s indiscretions- and an insistence to follow the book of religious principles- an insistence that leads to him raging and being prepared to kill Bergmas at the end of the movie. Like Bergmas so validly points out- ‘God doesn’t say you cannot have fun’.

3. The definition of ‘sins’ is extensively questioned in the movie. The act of sex, extramarital affairs, prostitution, and even murder are shows and later described as sins. But an ingenious Beatrice smiles at this list despite being a Convent, and in a childlike manner cleans the slate and merely warns: “Don’t do it again.” This is the movie’s most pivotal scene. The burden of sins is created my men, and it is entirely up to us to be able to forgive and levy that burden to pave way for a more harmonious life.

Humans are indeed capable of very bad things and very good things at the same time. But humanity is about being both an angel and a demon yet being able to find that little ray of light at the end of the day, whether you define that as Hope or God, whichever that suits you. Kadal is all about that- it is raw, it is life. Life, like sea, is not scripted. It’s out there, in the open. It’s vast, it has plenty of stories to say, but only if you are prepared to listen. It is full of stories of normal people’s indiscretions and mistakes and also normal people’s great acts. But the only depth that we are left savouring is humanity.

There’s something very subtle about humanity- the triumph of humanity is not in a good or bad context alone- it’s uniqueness is in the ability to err and then to forgive. The emotions of letting go. In so many ways, that’s how we surmise the emotions we experience in life.

Kadal, for me, is a classic, and there is no judgement call on who acted well and who did not. It is a story about how humans are capable of offering hope. That’s all there is to it.

If you do not understand it, you are the one missing out. If you hate it, then I feel sorry for it. If you are one who says the movie, along with Raavanan, will ‘flop’, I’m pretty sure Mani Ratnam lives a far more comfortable life and is much better off than those who actually think movie making is all about hits and flops.

If you don’t like Kadal, kindly bugger off and respect the maker and those who actually like it. If you don’t understand it, you are nobody to pass a judgement on the film.

Thank you to the Kadal team for this small marvellous piece of work. It may not be appreciated today, but like Kamal Haasan so famously said in his emotional press conference two weeks ago, ‘If I fall, I will fall like a seed. I may not experience the benefits but the seed, is mine.’

The seed is yours Mani Ratnam. The seed is yours. Thank you for everything. I hope you never fear being ahead of us, ever again.

Kadal music review- Soft like the sea itself

ARR’s sounds and music have been as vast, ambiguous and serene as the sounds of waves that crush against rocks and sweep through sandy beaches.

THE title may sound ever so simple- ‘Kadal’, which means the sea, but I don’t think one word could ever sum up the career of AR Rahman better than ‘Kadal’, and who better to give this project to ARR than the unimitable Maniratnam, the pearl who unearthed Rahman, and has collaborated with ARR for every film he has made over the past two decades. ARR’s sounds and music have been as vast, ambiguous and serene as the sounds of waves that crush against rocks and sweep through sandy beaches. Combined with the fact that this movie represents a fisherman’s relationship with the sea off the coasts of Rameshwaram, where Mani had briefly portrayed the situation there with refugees from Sri Lanka in his 2002 classic Kannathil Muthamittal (also composed by Rahman), expectations for Kadal runs high for people like me (read: people who literally melt at Rahman’s creation and have grown up with it).

Nenjukulle- Sakthishree Gopalan

Of course, this song had been heard numerous times ever since Sakthisree crooned it with amazingly honest emotions in a MTV Unplugged clip under the watchful eyes of Rahman- a video that was released over a month ago. While the live version was bare with its emotions with limited orchestration, the studio version polishes with soft touches of the piano and violins that accompany the song throughout. I often run comparisons for Rahman’s compositions with his past numbers, but Nenjukulle seems to somehow stand out on its own compared to all his previous composition- thanks in a large part to the fact that very few movies have actually documented the lives of those in Rameshwaram, where the language flavour has an added Eelam influence to it. Nenjukulle is full of soul, and Sakthishree gets every stanza and every word right in expressing a village woman’s romantic feelings. This is as beautiful as a romantic song gets, something that you can listen to time and again if you are watching the rain and just feel like indulging in your thoughts. Soon enough, you’ll realise that you can’t quite get the tune or Sakthisree’s infectious voice off your head. Too bad there isn’t a male version to this one.

Chithirai Nela- Vijay Yesudas

There’s an unwritten rule for Indian albums, regardless of language, that the best songs often have to be the romantic ones, because of their potential to be infectious and melodious- probably a composer’s boon. But AR Rahman is probably one of the first ones to have redefined this rule- beauty in his composition is all encompassing- you can find it even in a song preaching about patriotism, or a quirky meaningless number. Chithirai Nela celebrates the birth of a baby, and by the end of the number, you will probably feel that the baby sobs had grown into a confident man- because the number improvises itself and surprises you with every stanza. Vijay Yesudas handles this transition just like an expert can- it takes two legends to tango- and this song demonstrates just that. This song will be underrated for some time, but some time in the future, it will go in the annals of Tamil music as one of the most genuine, genius compositions to have graced this music scene. If I were to find a word to describe this- then it’s simply majestic.

Adiye- Sid Sriram

This song says ‘adiye enge nee kutti porre?’ (where art thou bringing me). That’s probably the same question we can ask ARR as this number goes on. You will never, ever find a more unconventional romantic song in Tamil, because it has such such strong Gospel singing influences! But that doesn’t mean it makes for an awkward number- this works like a charm if you have an ear for beautiful music. This is as full of soul as anything ARR has ever come up with it- and mark my words- only AR Rahman can do something like this. Sid Sriram deserves special mention for doing such an impeccable job behind the mic, and the chrorus no less sensational themselves. It’s as though you are sitting in the middle of a Western concert- only with an eccentric and original Indian touch to it. If you listen to it often enough, maybe you’ll find it difficult to stop yourself from clapping along when the chorus comes.

Anbin Vasale- Haricharan

The church plays a big role in the plot of Kadal, and nothing gives that fact away more than this song- which is a true celebration of Jesus Christ. In the past, we have seen ARR compose beautifully for Islamic spiritual songs- (Khwaja Mere Khwaja, Kyun Faaya Kun), and also Hindu ones (Pal Pal Har Bhari)- and this song probably makes that CV of Rahman’s so complete. Christians probably now have an ARR composition that helps them keep in touch with their spirituality. ARR very rarely gets his choice of singers wrong, and Haricharan handles this song with a touch of finnesse- while the chorus compliments him perfectly. It might take some time to get hooked to this- but for those who have enjoyed church singing in the past- they will celebrate this one peach of a beauty.

Magudi Magudi- Aaryan Dinesh Kanagaratnam

It is quite ironic that I am listening to this number one day after I heard Dinesh Kanagaratnam perform at a concert here in Malaysia, in which he was introduced as the guy who sang a song for ARR in Kadal. That was probably the endorsement any singer needs on his CV- that he or she has sang for ARR. Magudi will surprise you if you were in a melancholic and soulful mood thanks to all the previous numbers in this album- because this is a hardcore techno number, one that infuses energy and makes you tap your feet. ARR’s innovativeness even for a techno song shows as the sound arrangements makes sure the tempo is maintained throughout. But the only downside for this song would probably be the fact that it doesn’t have much going for it in terms of lyrics and the word Magudi was repeated a tad far too often.

Moongil Thoottam- Abhay Jodhpurkar, Harini

A throwback almost to the Rahman of the 90s. He uses minimal instruments and allows Abhay and Harini to strike a crooning chemistry is rendering this slow-paced melody duet. It’s the first real number in the album that is a duet (and the only one actually)- and it turns to be a textbook ARR melody with the minimal usage of electronic instruments. In many ways, it resembles songs like Dil Gira Gaaftan and Tum Ho. The suckers for such slow romance would love it, and expect this song’s significance to be heightened with its visuals during the movie.

Elay Keechan- AR Rahman

Save the best for the last, shall we? Once you hear AR Rahman’s ‘Aye’ in the background, you just know you are going to croon to this for a long, long time to come. Again, this is something that only ARR can do. This is a song about fishermen and their lives, but its just so catchy that the fishermen would probably be celebrating this song for a long time. AR Rahman sings the way only he can do- and the song in some ways reminds you of Veera from Raavanan, only that the more subtle touches in the composition and ARR’s voice makes sure than this is both catchy but also breezy at the same time. And expect Mani Ratnam to do full justice to this special number. This will the life and soul of ‘Kadal’ and will run through as the thematic number for the whole number. The Eelam touches in the song also brings resonance of the Senore song from Kannathil Muthamittal, which was one of the most underrated numbers in the past decade.

All in all, just say ‘ithu pothume’ and listen. Because it’s not everyday that you get AR Rahman coming up with a authentic, heavily southern flavoured album. And when there’s Maniratnam involved, expect pure magic.

Rating: 8.5/10

Ek Deewana Tha- Music Review by Ram Anand

The album has 12 tracks, including some famous, sought-after BGM scores that were missing in VTV and also one additional song to existing copyblock album of VTV.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya (Will You Cross the Skies For Me) was one of the biggest hits in the Tamil cinema arena in recent years and it has gone on to attain a cult status among Tamil film followers- prompting Gautham Menon to finally make his long-awaited second attempt at directing a Hindi film. His first, a remake of his debut hit film with Madhavan, ‘Minnale’ didn’t turn out to be that much of a sweet affair. Probably keeping that in mind, Gautham produced ‘Ek Deewana Tha’ (There was a Crazy Guy), VTV’s Hindi remake, himself- to avoid the complications he faced with ‘Rehna To Teri Dil Mein’ producers.

VTV’s music, which represented Gautham’s first collaboration with AR Rahman, also attained a cult status and thus anticipations run high for the Hindi version of its music. The album has 12 tracks, including some famous, sought-after BGM scores that were missing in VTV and also one additional song to existing copyblock album of VTV.

Kya Hai Mohabbat (AR Rahman)

The album begins with an additional song that did not feature in the Tamil or Telugu albums of the same film. With delectable lyrics from Javed Akhtar, AR Rahman takes the mic to render a song that described the ambiguity of love itself. This song definitely will not have a picturization bestowed upon it- it sounds more or less like a song that would run on the background, or title credits. The song has a breezy jazzy touch upon it, similar to the composition of ‘Tu Bole Main Boloon’ from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. This will probably not become a hit on its own, but for those who have a good ear for slow music with excellent lyrics- this will be a gem. A good candidate for those slow mornings in which you would feel appreciating ambiguity itself.

Dost Hai (Naresh Iyer, Jaspreet Jasz)

As a reviewer, first I would need to take the standpoint of a neutral when reviewing this song. ‘Dost Hai’ is meant to portray the angst and frustration of a man who’s advances are constantly pushed away by a girl who shows her interest in him in spurts. Naresh Iyer’s vocals are good, the lyrics flow well, the music puts the emotions right at the forefront, and there is a generous dose of English strewn in the middle. This a good number. But sadly it could have been way better. ‘Kannukul Kannai’ the Tamil version of this song, was by mile a better composition, mainly due to the fact that the song was not interfered by any unnecessary rapping and mainly involved only its Tamil lyrics. What prompted ARR and Gautham to come up with a version that sounds like a club mix of the original composition, I would never know. Hindi listeners might still enjoy it, but those who have heard the Tamil version are in for a letdown here. There are also some techno sounds so generously added into the song.

Aromale (Alphonse Joseph)

‘Aromalae’ is a classic. There probably was not a single composition similar to it in the past decade or so in Tamil cinema. Aromale was about a man’s trance while writing a script and was fully sung using Malayalam verses- representing the heroine’s character. My understanding is that Amy Jackson also plays a Nasrani, similar to Samantha and Trisha’s protrayals in the movie’s Tamil and Telugu versions. Keeping that in mind, Aromalae could have been left untouched, but probably not wanting to repeat themselves, ARR and Gautham went for a twist for having Javed Akhtar write Hindi lyrics and make it a ‘Hindi’ song. The interludes in the middle also uses different Sanskrit versions compared to the ones used in the original ‘Aromalae’. This is a composition that will hopefully be appreciated in Bollywood as well, but for obvious reasons, the Malayali lyrics, though not understood, provided more feel to the song rather than Hindi lyrics. Not to take anything away from it though, Aromale is just as good as other Aromalaes. It’s just that, in my opinion, Alphonse’s voice did not have the same passion that it had in the Malayali version.

Hosanna (Leon D’Souza, Suzzane, Blaaze)

Ah. The delight of thousands of music lovers down south in 2010. Probably one of the most romantic songs in recent times, it succeeded immensely in both Tamil and Telugu. Now the Hindi version has arrived. And as if making up for the disappointment of Dost Hai, Hosanna seemed to have upped an inch in this Hindi version. The new addition here is the singer Leon D’Souza- who gives a very delectable twist to the listening experience of this Hosanna. The English interlude in the middle sees Leon chipping in as well, and the pronunciation is clearer and slower to Blaaze’s quickfix in Tamil and Telugu. In this Hosanna, you can almost hear every word that is being sung in the song- making it more melodious to the other versions- which I don’t think is an easy task. Javed’s lyrics fit the tone perfectly, in fact they sound more in tune with ARR’s musical notes rather than Thamarai’s lyrics in Tamil. Brilliant.

Pholoon Jaisi (Clinton Cerejo, Kalyani Menon)

Another beautiful romantic composition that was already made extremely famous down South. But again, ARR seems to notch it up a little with this Hindi version by bringing in a different singer- Clinton Cerejo. I did have a small problem with the Tamil version of Omanna Penne, where I felt Benny Dayal’s voice did not fit the song completely. But the popularity of the music video and the movie almost made the whole thing seem natural, but Pholoon Jaisi sounds natural as a composition itself thanks to Clinton’s voice. His pronunciation is clearer, as was the case with Hosanna, and this adds value to the song. Excellent.

Sharminda Hoon (AR Rahman, Madushree)

To be honest, ‘Manipaaya’ sounded a little awakward when I first heard it. There were some great moments of singing by Shreya Ghosal but the overall feel was a little awkward due to, as I said, the first time combination between Thamarai and ARR. But with Javed, ARR seems more comfortable in this Hindi version. His voice has more clarity, and doesn’t seem to struggle with jumping notes. The flow of the lyrics suit well with the composition, which again makes it more ‘natural’. I would natural prefer Shreya to have kept her place and not replace her with Madushree, by the effect is not much judging by the overall feel of the song. A slow romantic ballad that made Kerala look so beautiful (Allepey to be precise). Very Good.

Sunlo Zara (Rashid Ali, Shreya Ghosal)

Anbil Avan found its takers as a happy wedding song celebrating the union of a couple. The song is given a slight melodious twist in Hindi thanks to Shreya Ghosal’s female voice and also Rashid Ali’s soothing involvement. The choice of singers is spot on for this song, recreating the same affect the original created in its own breezy way. The traditional marriage instruments at the interlude have also been tweaked with, in a good way.

Zohra-Jabeen (Javed Ali)

I have mentioned in my music review of VTV itself that this song is a gem. It is the title track in its Tamil version, and the same magic exists here as well with Javed Ali crooning (the original was Karthik). Slow, melodious, and full of soul- this a brilliant song and here’s hoping it doesn’t become as underrated as the Tamil version became.


There are three instrumentals included in the album. The first one is ‘Broken Promises’, where you hear the voice of Shreya Ghosal humming a sadder version of Aromalae. This is as good as a BGM gets. Shreya’s Cranatic influenced singing shows her vocalistic slyllables without as much as uttering a word apart from ‘Aromalae’. The music is slow, simple, and similar to Aromalae. VTV had one of the best BGM I had heard in a Tamil film, and one of those that will linger on after credits is the ‘Moments in Kerala’, a great BGM that appears when the Sachien visits Jessie in Allepey and they share some special moments together. This is followed by the composition that was ringtone for sometime, ‘Jessie’s Land’. I took pains to get hold of this number after watching VTV, but thankfully it was made available through the album itself in Hindi. This will appear at the title credits in all probability, and will set the tone for the rest of the album. ‘Jessie’s Been Driving Me Crazy’ will drive you crazy after you have watched the movie. It is a rather a full blown composition in Hindi, so it’s just simply awesome.

All in all, this is a great album- if you can stop comparing, and even if you want to compare, it still has improvised tracks- which makes it still a very good album.

With that said, Wait for Jessie!

Rating: 9/10

Rockstar (Hindi)- Music Review by Ram Anand

Orianthi, Michale Jackson’s ex guitarist, has teamed up with AR Rahman for the year’s greatest anthem song. This song will be on everybody’s lips for eons to come, like how Rang de Basanti was. This is a generation’s song, a hot-blooded composition and will make your veins pump.

It is here. After months of teasing an entire legion of supporters that swear by the ‘Rahmanism’, AR Rahman has returned as a music composer for an Indian film for the first in time in almost a year.

2010 was a glorious year for ARR fans in a sense. For a man who averaged one or two films a year ever since the turn of the millennium, a practice that saw him reach the peak of international recognition, ARR delivered four albums last year. But with the exception of Endhiran, which was a typical commercial mix that did not explore ARR’s ability to deliver soulful compositions, none of the other films succeeded. Both Raavan and Jhootha Hi Sahi had excellent musical score, but they got drowned along with the films’ unconvincing run in the box office.

It was a case of delivering a lot only to have a part of it widely recognized. Grapevine has it that Imitaz Ali (Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kaal) wanted to make Rockstar a long time ago and had always wanted ARR to be part of the team, and vice versa. It is easy to understand why. Though we pride ourselves as a musical industry, it is not often that a pure musical is made here. Rockstar is one of that select few- a project that would allow ARR to fully express the musical versatility he normally brings to a table. I have always encouraged Rehman to go ahead and make films with young director (Gautham, Imitaz, Abbas to name a few) instead of sticking to some veterans who have passed their sell-by date and hardly do justice to his music (read Subash Ghai).

So without much ado, it is time to review the year’s most anticipated album, for which the demand was accentuated by the fact that T-Series took an awfully long time in releasing the music. (A full week from the originally planned date).

The specialty of this album, note, is ARR’s decision to use only Mohit Chauhan as Ranbir Kapoor’s singing voice. This is in itself a refreshing, logical decision miles away from the image of having one actor mouthing songs sung by so many different singers even while playing a musician- and this soundtrack has a whopping 14 tracks- I’m reviewing the 11 tracks, leaving out the instrumental numbers.

Phir Se Ud Chala (Mohit Chauhan)

The album begins with ‘Phir Se Ud Chala’, which starts with a very traditional chorus, and slowly slips into a catchy tune, with Mohit Chauhan, trying to do the Masakali thing again here, made famous two years ago through Delhi 6. It is unconventional, but tell me the last time ARR did something that followed this conservational rulebook? The song is a romantic ballad about flying away with love, has few keyboard mixes thrown into it. Simple in length and with a heavy North Indian flavor to it, Phir Se Ud Chala gives you a breezy feeling. I would say this is a very good one, if only the others that followed weren’t so mind-blowing.

Rating: 3/5

Jo Bhi Mein (Mohit Chauhan)

“Whatever that is I have got to say..” that’s how this song starts (translated, of course). That tells you everything you’ve got to know about it. With a small ‘yaya’ at the start and the sound of the crowd singing along with the singer, it reminds of you of Bob Marley. ARR uses instruments that almost reminds me of ‘No Woman No Cry’, but makes sure there are modern undertones. The lyrics are wonderful, a form of self-expression. This song is about Jordan and everything he has got to say as a musician. This is rock, but not the adrenaline type that we often tend to assume as rock. This is soulful rock. Mohit flexes his vocal muscles magnificently and you’ve got to love it when he soulfully goes high pitch. Just listen what this composition has got to deliver. With a little patience, you will feel utterly connected, an effect only the brand AR Rahman can give.

Rating: 4.5/5

Kateya Karun (Harshdeep Kaur, Sapna Awasthi)

It’s a bit like Rang de Basanti, a Punjabi folk rhythm starting the song off with consistent interludes. This is the rhythm you heard when you saw the first trailer of Rockstar. But the cuteness in full length is almost unlimited. With brilliant interludes in between that make the song a great blend of folk and blues, this one works big time, and will have you tapping your feet big time. Harshdeep Kaur is brilliant big time. Let’s just ‘ding-a-ling-ding-a-ling’.

Rating: 4.5/5

Kun Faya Kun (AR Rahman, Javed Ali, Mohit Chauhan)

Oh, oh, oh. Take a bow. Every time AR Rahman composes a devotional song, it sounds so soulful that you’d think if God were listening, He himself would have a smile on his face. After a typical slow, warm-up start, the moment the song goes ‘Kun Faya Kun’, you are already witnessing one the best Sufi compositions ever dished on screen. Having loved both ‘Khwaja’ from Jodhaa Akbar and ‘Arziyan’ from Delhi 6, this is another wonderful addition to that legendary list. I may be a Hindu, but this kind of compositions breaks all religious barriers and makes you clap along with them. It’s a solid seven minutes of one of the most pure, soulful compositions you’ll ever hear this year and beyond.

Rating: 5/5

Sheher Mein (Mohit Chauhan, Karthik)

Speechless. Not everyone will appreciate this composition. But anyone who knows music will know how difficult it is to compose something like this. This song is a personification of Jordan’s talent. It begins with Karthik crooning to certain lyrics, which Mohit (Ranbir) will later so uniquely improvise up till the end of the song. This is a conversational song that has its own purpose and tells a story on its own. It’s not often you get to hear something like this, don’t you? Mohit, by the way, is just awesome.

Rating: 4/5

Haawa Haawa (Mohit Chauhan, Tanvi, Vivianne)

Suddenly out of nowhere a composition that is very Arabic in nature. The way Mohit croons immediately gives you the Mediterranian feel, which is maintained throughout the track. Against, in a Masakali way, ARR experiments, makes it conversational, allowing Mohit full freedom to go high and low pitches alternatively. The song also has hints of European setting, and is very carefree in nature. Good listen.

Rating: 3/5

Aur Ho (Mohit Chauhan, Alma Ferovic)

A dramatic rock composition, it starts with Alma Ferovic’s soulful chorus. Mohit goes incredibly high pitch and proves what he can do as a dramatic singer. Mohit simply has to be one of the best singers in his generation, and this song, helped ARR’s orchestra backed composition re-affirms this fact. A soul-searching, epic-sounding number.

Rating: 3.5/5

Tum Ko (Kavita Subramaniam)

The opening lines reminds me of ‘Waiting for You’ from Jhootha Hi Sahi, a song that I initially didn’t rate too highly but later went on to grow immensely on me. This song wouldn’t need to wait so long on me though, thanks to the infusion of tabla, making it a fusion of Western and Indian sounds. A romantic ballad, this was sung with controlled refrain by Kavita Subramaniam. The arrangements outshine her vocals, but if you wanted a romantic groove from AR Rahman, there, you have got it. It however is very similar to ‘Tu Muskura’ from Yuvvraaj as well.

Rating: 4/5

Nadaan Parindey (Mohit Chauhan, AR Rahman)

‘Nadaan Parindey Gar Aaja’. This is a homecoming rock composition. If you request ARR compose a homecoming song, he never fails to infuse such rich emotions to it. Within seconds you are tapping your feet to it. Even within a rock realm, ARR has this incredible ability to suck you into his music. A simply amazing composition. Mohit’s interludes brilliantly compliments ARR’s vocals at the beginning. This is AR Rahman ki Jaadhu.

Rating: 5/5

Tum Ho (Mohit Chauhan)

Tum Ho is basically the male version of Tum Ko. But this is not a direct rehash of the same tune. It reminds me of the male and female versions of ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ in JTYJN. One carried a sadder anthem while the other was catchy, simple, and more romantic. Here, Tum Ho, which has some magical piano usage, is the romantic one while Tum Ko had a pang of sadness in it. A slow ballad that’s reminiscent ‘Oh Venilla’ AR Rahman.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sadda Haq (Mohit Chauhan)

By this time, you must have been wondering where is Rockstar’s anthem song, Sadda Haq. First of all, here’s some news for those who do not know. Orianthi, Michale Jackson’s ex guitarist, has teamed up with AR Rahman for the year’s greatest anthem song. This song will be on everybody’s lips for eons to come, like how Rang de Basanti was. This is a generation’s song, a hot-blooded composition and will make your veins pump. At least once while listening you’ll get this urge to smash something in front of you. The lyrics ‘why are you preaching truth when you can’t stomach the truth’ will linger with you for a long time. AR Rahman has left the best for the last. A maximum marking doesn’t do justice to this number. Full of anger, frustration, and hardcore rock arranged so beautifully, all I can say is ARR knows how to even make angst sound so catchy.

Oh eco friendly, nature ki rakshak, mein bhi hun nature.

All I could say is- ‘Chamak Challo’ what? Rockstar is the big deal. The biggest deal of the year. Just keep saying ‘Sadda Haq’, because AR Rahman is grooving again. This is one of his best albums in an illustrious career.

Salut! Magnifique!

From Jessie to Priyas- Yearning for liberation

I have in the past championed the cause of more matured female portrayals in the film, and apart from VTV, no other film had the capacity of portraying a very real, next-door female character. But yet while Gautham was consciously trying to break those grounds in this film, he also seems to consciously have some convenient aspects of characterization.

Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya has been showered with praises aplenty since the movie hit screens almost one year ago. The film particularly had a personal impact on me, just like how it did on thousands of other Indians who have watched this film the world over.

So I was pretty much unable to pass any in-depth comments when I first watched the film last year when it was fresh in theatres. It wasn’t until a television rerun recently that I chanced upon the movie and managed to watch it fully for a second time, and this time in a more detached manner.

But there was one thing that I agreed with a friend of mine (who is also a cinema connoisseur) when the film was fresh off the oven, and that is VTV (the abbreviation it goes by) is not a better film than Gautham’s previous film Vaaranam Aayiram.

It seemed though that for being more politically correct, VTV earned more approval from elite critics rather than Vaaranam. My friend somewhat unfavorably pointed out that the Indian audiences are so used to larger than life sentiments that they basically never find it appealing when a film tries to glorifies the subdued contribution of a father towards a son’s life. Both Abhiyum Naanum (though this film has a great problem of its own that I’m very critical of) and Vaaranam shared a similar fate in terms of its response from the audiences.

Believe it or not, many people’s grudge with Varanam is one major loophole in the film’s narration, whereby Surya travels to United States to meet his love even though it was well-documented prior that his family is struggling for complete financial liberty.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya is, in its own right, a well-intentioned, perfectly suave, elegant movie that celebrated the beauty of love, even if the relationship couldn’t have a happy ending. In an industry where our audiences are so used either the fairytale triumph against all odds and barriers, or a rather morbid, blood shed, heartache ending, VTV treads in between both, it’s simply en ending that resonates life’s natural law and beauty.

It’s the kind of attempt that would please any Tamil cinema lover and critic like me, and be embraced with both hands by the same. The film also related greatly to many of the lovers outside there, and thus attained a cult film status.

This is probably owing to the fact that the film is a true story (according to some sources, it is the true story of one of Gautham’s assistants). It related greatly to real life situations, and it beautifully narrated how life sometimes doesn’t let two lovers unite. It is also arguable that Gautham drew inspiration from the cult Hollywood flick 500 days of Summer, which had a similar undertone and capacity of looking at life’s bad endings in beautiful way.

The film’s positives have been waxed lyrical about in the past, so I would not go there for a first. VTV has many positives, but also has its shares of shortcomings.

I have in the past championed the cause of more matured female portrayals in the film, and apart from VTV, no other film had the capacity of portraying a very real, next-door female character.  But yet while Gautham was consciously trying to break those grounds in this film, he also seems to consciously have some convenient aspects of characterization.

In 500 days of Summer for example, the female character isn’t your conventional one. She is deeply flawed, uncertain to a certain extent, very independent, and has been with men before prior to our hero here. In VTV, Trisha is yet another in the long line of heroines in the ‘naan entha ambalai kudayum palaganatha ille’ stereotype. We had had this kind of characterization countless of times in Tamil films, so much that it tires me.

We need to note that most ‘good’ films in this industry are set in rural backdrops, so it’s not often we get gems like VTV. In fact, like some point out, it’s probably the first film since Alaipayuthey to genuinely act as a story about two people. When some films charter the urban territory, filmmakers seem somewhat afraid of portraying the complexity of urban women and the history comes with it.

You have to admit that in the current urbane climate, even in Chennai, the ‘entha ambalai kudayum palaganatha ille’ types are hard to come by. Mani Ratnam’s Meera character from Aayitha Ezhuttu is probably the most in-depth female character in Tamil cinema, and yet it was short-lived.

And of course there is the whole love at first sight aspect. While the film presents itself as being so realistic, the way the two characters fall in love looks a tad out of place, though it can be forgiven thanks to a great song (Hosanna) and subsequent tempo.

Real love hardly happens in a similar way, and there is an element of disconnectedness about the movie there.

Probably I’m setting the bar too high, but it has been some ten years since Alaipayuthey hit the theatres, and we are somewhat at crossroads in terms of developing maturity in our films, and thus it is also a crucial time when our filmmakers can attempt to be a tad more bold. It’s time to push envelopes and test waters. If such hesitancy remains, it might take ten more years before we can take one more step forward, and thus wait ten more years for another genuine love story.

One of the best illustrations of female portrayal in regular Tamil films can be viewed through the films of one of the industry’s most recognized hit directors- Hari.

I had the chance of watching both Vel and Aaru in recent days and it dawned on me pretty quickly that the director’s perception of the female gender and his interpretation of ‘good’ to be as shallow as any.

In both films, one can witness countless of innuendos towards ‘skimpy dresses’ and interpretations that only girls who cover up as considered as ‘good’.

Vel flaunts most of this shallowness, where Surya’s character will charade with ‘pass marks’ for well-clad women while doing his supposedly ‘detective’ job. If that is the requirement in order to evaluate a girl’s ‘goodness’, one doesn’t need to be a detective in order to diagnose that fact. This mentality has already consumed our Indian culture like a vulture and any man with a half-baked brain would tend to make similar judgements when judging which is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ girl.

It certainly doesn’t help that our film condone rather than trying to clamp down on this dangerously consuming mentality.

I don’t need to go very far aback in order to name two films that best epitomize the mentality that clearly exists within the film industry itself when it comes to the male-female dynamism.

As recent as last year, we saw Vishal play a Casanova in Theeratha Vilayattu Pillai. Only in our industry will we witness films desperately trying to glorify a Casanova act as being forgivable, and at the same time the heroine who gets the guy at the end of the film will be well-clad, well-covered homely girl who will forgive and accept because of the genuineness of the Casanova.

If this bias doesn’t convince you, then Manmadhan will. The 2004 film was a runaway hit. The film tries so hard to justify a man’s Casanova murder acts because the girls whom he beds and subsequently kills are ‘bad’ girls who ‘cheat’ on guys.

Let me ask this question- what about the very lead character? He too beds multiple women in order to murder them, what makes his supposed goal and ambition more ‘pure’ than the woman who cheats?

What then about the countless amount of guys (and obviously larger amount) who cheat on their women?

Could a female Casanova a-la Sharon Stone’s Basic Instinct come on the screen, strip, bed, kiss them and later kill this men. Would she be celebrated a-la a hero and have a guy genuinely love her because she is contributing to a pure cause?

Would our audiences make such a film as big a hit a Manmadhan-, which is an immature, shallow, one-sided film, made by a 21-year-old young adult (Simbhu’s age back in 2004) who is probably just bitter about one past failed relationship?

Unless a day comes when we have the maturity to reject an entertaining film because of its blatant chauvinistic attitude, our industry will linger with the same biasness that has haunted us for years.

Jhootha Hi Sahi- Movie Review

I know, it’s not the earliest of reviews. The super-smart bloke Taran Ardash beat me to it, and so did all of those self-consciously smart critics who are abundant in the Bollywood-land. But to have come back from the movie and go through the horrendous trashing the movie subsequently received, I decided to lay back on the lazy chair a while and come back with a review nearly a week after I actually watched the movie.

Jhootha Hi Sahi, in my opinion, didn’t feel like a bad movie- so I quite frankly can’t understand some critics’ verdict that Jhootha Hi Sahi ‘is so bad that it is good’. And I can’t help but to think that John Abraham’s exerted acting in most of his prior movies has become his own biggest enemy as the critics find it savory to bash him no matter what he does.

And oh yah, how could I forget, one reviewer even though it’s ‘cool’ to rate AR Rahman’s music as 1 out of 5 while rating the movie. Well, these folks would definitely rate ‘I Hate Luv Storys’ album as being 3 out of 5, at least.

Here are some straight facts- if you really want to see John Abraham looking comfortable and at home in a character that he is enacting, then watch Jhootha Hi Sahi. And when you walk into the movie, you get laughs, not because they are slapstick, but because they seem realistic, brings a group of people together, and is mostly drawn from dumbfounded reactions that the characters give when they are at their wits’ ends.

Why, I guess the lot who are bashing it would find Akshay Kumar haggling down the street extremely funny but would find a group of friends on a silent London street and their daily comedic travails as extremely unfunny.

For one, Jhootha Hi Sahi’s plot is believable. Of course, don’t tell me John jumping over the Tower Bridge during the climax is a scene that you expected to be realistic- but the events and the plot unfolds logically and the individuals fall in love gradually rather than just springing into love all of a sudden. Don’t complaint to me that the characters don’t fall in love instantly- because- do you fall in love as instant as that? If you think life is just like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, then you are in a different league altogether.

JHS is a film that is baked in the foundation of reality and has a bit of fairytale sprinkled on top, so that you get what you ask for all the time- entertainment. At least I got my entertainment.

John Abraham, for once, performed very well- and his stammering was very believable indeed and not laughable like how some people suggest. Pakhi Tyrewala is decent, but I can’t help but to notice her glowing smile is a bit over-used at times that doesn’t fit the scene too well. But apart from that, it was still a solid performance and there’s not too many things wrong about it- unless you are obsessed with aneroxic Kareenas and Katrinas and Priyankas shaking their toned hips and looking too perfect on the screen. For once, you have a heroine who looks very much like a girl you could find in your life- with all her complications and delay in decision-making- and for me that’s a darn good thing.

Everyone else who performed as the friends did well, even though the track between the unwed pregnant mother Aliya and her Japanese-British boyfriend does leave a bit clueless at the end, something like, that’s all? But hey, we can overlook that on the larger scale.

ARR’s music is as fresh as they come. The beauty of London runs in tandem with his minimal BGM, and his fresh music composition, which have similar connotations to the previous Abbas- ARR flick Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.

Though extremely convincing as a jealousy-infused jerk, Madhavan can stay out of such roles, because it just doesn’t sit well why he needs to take the effort to make a special appearance just to play the role of a complete jerk.

The script has its loopholes, but people could give Pakhi Tyrewala a break- it’s her first attempt at a script and definitely she wasn’t going to get everything right at the first go. But at least with Abbas’ direction, JHS is quite a decent flick to go for. So for me, I’d say it was still worth my tickets. Believe at you own expense those who say it’s not worth a ticket. If you watch it with your family, or better yet, a group of friends, you’ll find the relevance and have your laughs.

All in all, JHS is an imperfect yet enjoyable film. Period.

Rating: 7/10

Jhootha Hi Sahi- Call me dill and sing

AR Rahman is back. The kind of variety that his albums have provided this year has been very diverse to say the least. This is Rahman’s fourth album of the year, after Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya, Raavan, and the recent Endhiran. Probably Jhootha Hi Sahin’s album release was somewhat blighted by Endhiran’s release and the tremendous hype surrounding India’s most expensive film in recent times. So I took my music reviewer cap for this one and wore it for a short bit to asses this new album from ARR.

First of all, this is ARR’s second film with young director Abbas Tyrewala, with whom he combined to great effect for the 2008 romantic comedy Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na under Aamir Khan’s production. This time, Abbas has teamed up with John Abraham, and will also debut his own wife Pakhi Tyrewala in the film’s lead role. So you know what to expect. The trailer already hit the theatres last week and was commonly featured prior to Endhiran’s shows. It’s yet another breezy romantic comedy written by Abbas, and this would be the first simple, light, romantic album that ARR would produce this year after diversely heavy films such as Raavan and Endhiran. VTV falls in the romantic category as well, but the film pretty much is a little heavier than Jhootha Hi Sahin is. And the director himself has written the lyrics for this one.

The album begins with a song called Cry Cry. It pretty much hears more like ‘Kai Kai’, but that’s where it catches you. Cry Cry is Abbas and ARR doing the Kabhi Kabhi Aditi thing all over again. It has a similar type of music, and a song that has a similar theme- why do we have to be sad. All the more in familiar territory is Rashid Ali, who sung Kabhi Kabhi Aditi as well, and he sings this with consummate ease. He doesn’t seem to find any trouble and fits into the song seamlessly. Shreya Ghosal enters towards the end to provide that extra bit of support, and I’d say, whenever she sings, there is an extra bit of ‘spark’ as well. The song is laced with a couple of dialogues as it seems to be more situational, but overall the beats, the mood, and the singing are just simple, and connects well with the listener (unless you are deaf for music). It pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Then there comes Maiya Yasodha. How long has it been since we have such a song from ARR? It seems like it has been quite some time. Maiya Yasodha is one of those fun, festival-like song with heavy desi flavor, but with a special ARR twist to it to make it sound quite a standout from the rest of the album. His choice of singers is impeccable  here, given that such songs require a good selection of singers to make them tick. Sitars and other Indian instruments are heavily used, showing once again ARR’s love for our native Indian beats in his songs. And do I have to talk about Chinmayi? What a singer she has become under ARR. There was the funky crooning of Kilimanjaro in Endhiran that caught all our attention, and once again she joins hands with Javed Ali, and sings almost flawlessly in a song that has a variety of pace in it. Maiya Yasodha is fresh and delights.

Hello Hello is presumably the film’s theme song. Since the film’s given plot centers around a random a phone call, this song talks mainly about such a phone call, and how it can change one’s life. ARR simply hands the baton to Karthik here, and the able singer that Karthik is, he takes care of the rest. Karthik gives the song the right amount of breezy feel, and it keep in tune with the tempo of the album, light, simple, straight to the point, with some melodious touches in the middle. This one will grow on you the more you listen to it.

Do Nishaniyaan. No elaboration. No words. There are times when ARR leaves you speechless. You can’t write, just listen and allow yourself to be taken away by his music. People are already raving about how this is one of the best songs ever, and easily the best combination between ARR and Sonu Nigam. I’m not sure whether I will adhere to such superlatives, but this definitely is one heck of a passionate, melodious song, that absolutely gives you the loving it feel. Sonu Nigam fits this song brilliantly and steals all the glory with his fantastic crooning. Welcome to the Rahmania effect.

After such a melody, then you are given Pam Pa Ra. This two songs are enough to demonstrate ARR’s diversity. Even Sonu Nigam steals the show there, here my favorite female Shreya Ghosal takes over and proves that she doesn’t only fit melody, but she is equally able to sing fast-paced song. This number mainly comprises of jazz beats, and Shreya shines from the word go, and she seems to have stupendously enjoyed singing this to the tilt. The pace doesn’t deter for a bit. One word- brilliant and fresh.

I’ve been waiting is one of those rare ballroom dance songs that you will see in Bollywood. And Vijay Yesudas is one off-beat choice for a song that is so essentially American in its tune, but ARR adds a strong Indian flavor to it, and Vijay shows his capacities of singing different songs with this number.

Then there is a slow version of Do Nishaniyaan. This is a sad version of the above romantic number, though the tempo is pretty much the same, the lyrics protrude a different mood altogether.

What a way to end the album with Call Me Dill. Rashid Ali croons a sure-fire breezy, cool, leg-tapping hit. The lyrics by Abbas is absolutely top-notch, why this song easily the most romantic, connecting number that has come out for a long time. The heavy use of guitars and simple instruments adds to the light-hearted feel this gives you.

Pick of the album : Do Nishaniyaan, Call Me Dill, Param Pa Ra, Maiya Yasodha

Album rating: 8/10

Call me Dill, Call me Baby, Call me jo naam Tu me vahi. 😀