When Uthama Villain was first announced, it was termed as a dark comedy about an ageing superstar, which gave the impression to a lot of film buffs (like me) that Kamal Haasan is doing one of those mandatory stopover comedies before releasing the much anticipated Vishwaroopam 2. Kamal had directed and wrote Vishwaroopam 2 himself, so that obviously is a more serious project compared to Uthama Villain, which was written by Kamal but nevertheless directed by Kamal’s close friend Ramesh Aravind.
But the first look of the film and the subsequent trailer had begun giving us a glimpse about Uthama Villain, and the glimpse isn’t as straightforward as many had expected it to be. The film doesn’t feel like your regular jaunt of Kamal Haasan comedy. This was packing much more depth than just mere humour, and M Ghibran’s album for Uthama Villain is a testament to that. In fact, this album packs so much quality you would run out of words to pour on the soundtrack.
It’s difficult to say whether it is Ghibran’s talent that makes Uthama Villain music soar, or whether it is the factor of having Kamal, whose musical knwoledge is also par excellence, in the recording studio. Kamal had crooned for most of the songs, and the soprano range of his voice is absolutely top shelf.His lyrics (he wrote most of the songs) are pure Tamil literature, a class of its own.
One of the best soundtracks in a Kamal Haasan movie in recent times, and one of the best BGMs found in a Kamal offering, and here’s why:
Love Aa (Kamal Haasan, Sharanya Gopinath)
The album starts with a foot tapping romantic number in Love Aa. Ghibran uses quirky touches to make this song standout in a highly diverse album. Kamal and Sharanya’s voice are enigmatic, and they compliment each other greatly and with absolutely uniqueness. Ghibran’s constant tweaking with instruments works extremely well and the creativity he shows in composing this number is comparable to the celebrated music directors in the industry. This number is likely to be accompanied by the only modern dance number of the film, and this will definitely stay in the charts for some time to come.
Kadhalaa Kadavul (Padmalatha)
If you don’t remember Ghibran’s previous albums, read Vaagai Sooda Vaa and the completeness of that stunning album, which was filled with extremely melodious numbers. And then you come to Kadhalaa and you are simply blown away. Padmalatha’s voice is a thing of beauty, and what’s more beautiful is Ghibran’s musical arrangements. The small interludes of a male voice, and the brilliant use of flute in the middle stanzas is the work of a musical genius. This song runs through effortlessly, like a perfect lullaby. And you are hoping that all the emotions that this track evokes is reflected in the film. Absolutely gorgeous and captivating.
Uthama Introduction (Kamal Haasan, Subhu Arumugam)
Now we enter the territory of Uthama Villain, the title of the movie, telling the story of a man can Uttaman. From here on, the album takes a storytelling turn, with plenty of Theyyam and Carnatic influences. Kamal’s knowledge in classical music and his soprano range means that he brings a wealth of talent to the musical table and Ghibran elevates it further with fantastic arrangements. Uthama introduction runs at just under three-minutes long, and the moment you are able to appreciate the classical notes in this number, you’ll be captivated. Subhu’s lyrics are brilliant, and Subhu Arumugam’s vocals compliment the style of the song. While this number does tell a story, it is by no means a boring composition. Ghibran ensures there are plenty of turns which excited the listener, and you end up tapping your foot at the high tempo of the beats. Addictive.
Saagavaram (Kamal Haasan)
Saagavaram is paced a little more quietly, telling the story of Uttaman pleading for immortality from his King. At just under three minutes, this is another masterful beauty. Kamal’s range of voice is captivating- he underplays the baritone of his voice and sets out on the pleading tone. There is a slight pang, something very poetic about the feel number. Kamal’s lyrics bring with it so much depth to the overall number. In a way, this song reminds one of the Dasavatharam number, but this packs so much more class, and rightly so.
Iraniyan Naadagam (Kamal Haasan, Rukmini Ashok Kumar)
Stunning! This is not so much about the composition, but that man- Kamal Haasan behind the mic. This is the tale of a King who is incensed that his own child is not praying to Him as the God. Kamal is voicing an agitated, bashful, and angry King. With plenty of Theyyam influences in the instruments, Kamal simply owns this number- more so after listening to Saagavaram. In the previous number, Kamal refrains the high pitch of his voice, and he goes all out here, at times reciting like an energetic poet. He is breathless, full of expression, and brings out the full soprano of voice. This about Kamal Haasan, the voice. How people never discuss Kamal’s talent behind the mic is beyond belief for me.
Also there was this brilliant bit of lyric in the middle where he says- “If anyone becomes God, everyone will start praying everywhere, even rubbish will end up in heaven, and thus the world will be destroyed.”
Mutharasa Kadhai (Yazin Nazir, Ranjith Iyappan)
This tells the story of another king in another kingdom (separate from Uttaman), and the music is once again majestic. Sofia’s Symphony orchestra accompanies the grandness of the carnatic beats brilliantly. Kamal again in his storytelling mode, while Yazin Nazir, Ranjith Iyappan, and Padmalatha lends vocals for a number that is filled with chants resembling the villagers and a slow progression of story telling. Would go extremely well with the movie.
The orchestra bits are a winner though.
Uthama Kadhai (Yazin Nizar, Ranjith Iyappan, M.S. Bhaskar)
Undoubtedly the best number of the album. Yes it tells a story but the symphony is used generously in this number, to a captivating effect. M.S. Bhaskar’s vocals at the beginning makes you wonder why he had not been behind the mic more often that he has. The percussion, arrangement, and slow haunting symphony builds up as we are narrated the story of how villagers considered Uttaman a ghost after he returned from death. The vocals and the different pitches throw is pleasant surprises for the first three minutes. Kamal starts storytelling in the middle stanza onwards- but yet again the symphony is so magical that you could continue listening to the number that stretches over seven minutes long. This song displays Ghibran’s talent at its best, and what a talent it is. And of course, it closes with the haunting Uthama Villain theme.
Take a bow, Ghibran.
While I am not going to review all the instrumental numbers one by one, I have picked the two best instrumental numbers for mention.
One, of course, is the Uthama Villain theme, which is haunting, and again displays an absolute genius at work- look at the orchestra use in the build up. Probably the best theme music you would get to hear in a long time.
The second, is the Letter to Yamini, an instrumental love ballad, which Gibran builds up with some of the brilliant mix of piano and sitar touches. When the orchestra kicks in, the instrumental takes a life of its own- its epic, its haunting, and it tells so much without as much as a single word. I rarely pick up on instrumentals, and I’m not going to compare Ghibran’s work here with anyone else. That would be an insult.
This man is a genius on his own.
And it’s a pity he had not composed for more movies.
This is the work of a genius and an epic album.
Picks: Love Aa, Kadhalaa, Uttama Intro, Uttama Kadhai, Uthama Theme, Letter to Yamini, Iraniyam Naadagam (basically most of the album).