Sunday November 29, 2015

Hitman – November 28, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Kanjaadai – Anjala (Tamil – Gopi Sundar)
Gopi Sundar started with Malayalam, aced it and is now producing fantastic music in Telugu as well, with soundtracks like Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju and Bhale Bhale Magadivoy. His Tamil soundtrack and repertoire continue to stutter, though, for some reason. But the man does produce sparkling music even if the overall soundtrack is not up to the mark at times, and Kanjaadai is a fantastic example. There’s an easy-going charm in the catchy tune, marked by V.V.Prasanna’s exaggerated ‘O o o’ and a flow that throws a surprise at almost every turn, complete with a beautiful spot in the anupallavi where Gopi overlays Vandana’s vocals over Prasanna’s as the latter is just ending his lines.

Akkare ikkare – Thilothama (Malayalam – Deepak Dev)
Deepak uses the oft-attempted fisherman-song sound to great effect to deliver a rhythmic folk’ish song in Akkare ikkare. The repetitive nature of the tune works in its favor easily, steadily building from a spartan sound to eventually add layer by layer the song’s full rhythmic beauty that wears its Malayalee identity beautifully. Sannidhanandan’s rustic vocals is perfectly complemented by Roopa’s singing.

Kanulu kalanu piliche – Abbayitho Ammayi (Telugu – Ilayaraja)
The man is 72, for heaven’s sake! So yes, age is just a number. The song is an extremely soothing, simple waltz’y melody that Ilayaraja has explored a lot of times in his long career. It’s 2015 now and what this bring forth in a listener depends on your age. If you grew up in the 70s, 80s, the song should be a massive nostalgic trip into the best of Raja. If you are growing up now, it should be a lovely melody soaked in love, with mesmerizing interludes.

Suryudne chusoddhama – Tanu Nenu (Telugu – Sunny M.R.)
Sunny M.R., who made an outstanding debut in 2013 with Swamy Ra Ra, followed it up with great soundtracks that had a dramatically different musical sensibility than the one prevailing in Telugu films currently. With Dohchay, earlier this year, he tried going mildly ‘mass’, but that didn’t work all that well. In Tanu Nenu, he’s back to doing what he does really well – produce intimate, likeable tunes! Suryudne chusoddhama has that languorous sound that Sunny pioneered, and sounds like something Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy would produce! Along with the captivating guitar strumming it sounds so good, in Arijit, Sunny and Harshika’s vocals!

Chenthengin – Two Countries (Malayalam – Gopi Sundar)
With its easy-on-the-ears catchy lilt, the song could easily be mistaken for something by Vidyasagar. But get to the interludes and Gopi’s familiar and identifiable quasi-Middle Eastern sound makes its presence felt. Najeem Arshad, sounding a lot like Karthik, does a commendable job in handling the tune. The small nuances add tremendous value too, like that ‘Oho’ chorus that Gopi employs – it is exactly the same piece, but seems apt at the end of two very different lines, across the pallavi and anupallavi!

Anirudh channels his inner Yuvan Shankar Raja in Jodi nilave, even as Dhanush sings as off-key as Yuvan, though it is Shweta Mohan who owns the song with her vocals, as much as lyricist Dhanush for his lines that shimmer with hope, amidst melancholy. Dhanush does a Yuvan again, along with Nikita, in Oh oh, a frothy melody, though, for the many Adiye’s, he sounds awkwardly different. Tak bak sparkles with Broadway’ish jazz goodness and is an addictively fun package. Enna solla‘s highlights are Shweta Mohan’s vocals and the lilting kanjira-based rhythm. Thangamagan’s soundtrack is Anirudh in minimum guarantee mode.

Keywords: Thangamagan, Thanga Magan, Anirudh

Listen to the songs on Saavn.

Sunny composes and sings the title song confidently, a catchy Bepop jazz’ish tune. In Ningi needera, the retro-styled scratchy sound moves to something modern with a neat sitar hook, while in Mila mila, which Shashwat Singh delivers with gusto, it’s the mandolin hook and addictive chorus. Chalti ka naam gaadi stylishly doffs a hat to the Greek Misirlou, made famous by Dick Dale. Vareva, despite interesting singers, is gimmicky. Amit Trivedi-sung Dol dolre, beyond the inventive sound, is familiar, tune-wise. The soundtrack’s best, Evari roopo, is Arijit’s victory, along with the layered, gently lilting orchestration. Predictably Sunny, this soundtrack, again.

Keywords: Sunny M.R., Bhale Manchi Roju

Listen to the songs:

Shreya Ghoshal holds fort with her sweet rendition in Deewani mastani, with Sanjay layering it between Marathi folk prelude and a quasi-sufi ending. Shreya is again fantastic in Mohe rang do laal—possibly using raag Purvi (or Puriya Dhanashri) and evoking Pt. Ravi Shankar’s Karuna suno shyam mori from Meera—brilliantly supported by Pt. Birju Maharaj. Pinga, Shreya’s next, with Vaishali Mhade, is Sanjay’s irreverent melange of Marathi folk, and a foot-tapping dance value optimization for the film’s leading ladies. Vaishali also aces Fitoori, with Sanjay handing her a haunting tune, mixing it with captivating Marathi folk. Javed Bashir seems perfect for the Sufi’ish Aaj ibaadat that Sanjay beautifully segues from its Muslim sound to Hindu chants, amidst a profusion of sitar. That sitar, and a brilliant chorus, is so apt for a more spritely interpretation Albela sajan. Aayat is curiously interesting – the beautiful verses are very Ghazal’ish and so is Arijit’s singing, but the soaked-in-love tune is rather semi-classical, layered with a dollop of qawali. Payal Dev’s singing lifts the pensive, tuneful Ab tohe jane na doongi. Vishal Dadlani-sung Malhari and Sukhwinder Singh-sung Gajanana are clearly from the Ram-Leela stock. In his third film as solo composer, Sanjay finally gets it wonderfully right.

Keywords: Bajirao Mastani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 200, #200

Listen to the songs:

Suryudne chusoddhama has that languorous sound that Sunny pioneered, and along with the captivating guitar strumming it sounds so good, in Arijit, Sunny and Harshika’s cool vocals! Aditya and Harshika carry Pade pade‘s racy mandolin and violin-loaded sound wonderfully, while the title song offers more of the catchy bluegrass’y goodness of Sunny. Arijit’s evocative voice rules over the melancholic Nuvvu todu, but with Adigo idigo, it seems like Sunny has pushed his trademark sound a bit too much as it blurs within what came earlier. Sunny’s return to his intimate and likeable sound after Dohchay is comforting, and mildly disconcerting.

Keywords: Sunny M.R., Tanu Nenu

Listen to the songs:

Sunday November 22, 2015

Hitman – November 21, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Paatta podunga ji – Oru Naal Koothu (Tamil – Justin Prabhakaran)
As if Justin Prabhakaran’s Ilayaraja invocation isn’t enough—when the violins play in the first interlude of Enakkaaga porandhaaye, from his debut, Pannayaarum Padminiyum, one can almost picture Rajinikanth in white and white, with his hands in the pocket walking amidst greenery in his usual style, like in Malaayala Karayoram, from Raajadhi Raja—he composes almost a homage of sorts in Paatta podunga ji. With its chorus’ish vocals, mix of strings and rhythm, the song is a lovely throwback to Raja’s 90s music. Justin layers it further with nadaswaram, funny dialogs from radio and lyrics (by Veera), a fantastic second interlude and a amazingly harmonious tune that Karthik leads in his inimitable style.

Padded cell – Seal (Album: 7)
Much has been made out of the fact that this is Henry Samuel a.k.a Seal’s 9th album, while being titled 7. And that this is the British singer’s first full-length album since splitting from ex-wife Heidi Klum (there are signs of that split in the album, though. Like the song, ‘Half A Heart’ which starts with, ‘You took a piece of me when you left…’!). The album itself is a throwback to the times when Seal was in heavy rotation across TV and radio—the 90s—moreso because he is working with his debut producer Trevor Horn again. Songs like Padded Cell, with its gently throbbing Europop synth mix raises above the album’s familiarity and ennui.

Meghaalu lekunna – Kumari 21F (Telugu – Devi Sri Prasad)
Meghaalu lekunna sounds at best like the Telugu version of a song by the Hindi pop band Euphoria. The tune is similarly lush and folk’ish. Devi does some interesting things in the interludes – the use of violins and solo-violin in the first and second interludes, to be specific. Yasin Nizar sings it mighty well, and one should thank Devi Sri Prasad for not singing it himself.

Keep On Dancing – Ellie Goulding (Album: Delirium)
English singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding’s 3rd studio album, Delirium, is decidedly more straight forward pop than her earlier album. And she works with today’s heavyweight pop producers like Max Martin. It’s an easy-on-the-ears album with the whistle-laden hooks in a song like Keep On Dancing smoothly ensuring repeated plays.

Ottathoval – Rajamma@Yahoo (Malayalam – Bijibal)
No, the film is not about Rajamma (Michael Rajamma) joining the internet giant and getting his Yahoo email ID. Yahoo is just the nickname for Rajamma’s brother, Vishnu Yohannan. That @ cleared, Bijibal does what one usually expects from an Ilayaraja or a Vidyasagar – treat a raaga with reverence. In Ottathoval, it is raaga Panthuvarali, that gets a clean, deeply melodious treatment, in Ganesh Sundaram and Roopa Revathi’s vocals!

Reena mecareena‘s Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson) origins are really hard to ignore, and a bit strange, given this is by Ilayaraja! Still, it’s a catchy, easily likeable song, sung with the right enthusiasm by Piyush Kapur. Vibhavari holds the lovely, bordering-on-melancholy melody of Edhuru choosthunna beautifully together and the composer’s legendary sound is in full display in the interludes. Tholi paruvam picks up steam only when the violins kick in, at the end of pallavi, while Maatallo cheppaleni is Karthik’s show all the way; he breathes life into the incredibly pleasant possibly Kalyani raaga based tune and elevates it! Kanulu kalanu piliche is vintage Raja – a wonderfully involving and waltz’y melody that the composer adorns with the choicest of interludes, even as Haricharan and Chinmayi are fantastic with their singing. Okasari O vayyari, despite the interesting rhythm and cool guitaring, has a was-hep-back-in-the-days tune, but Saradale gets four girls, Manasi, Ramya, Rita and Reena for a thrumming tune that they rock together. The short title song, both versions, is odd, to put it mildly. After starting the year with a bang (Shamitabh), the veteran composer closes the year with a bang too, with an inimitable showcase of great tunes!

Keywords: Abbayitho Ammayi, Ilayaraja, 200, #200

Listen to the songs:

Deva brings his usual style of delivery for the Tea anthem, Tea podu, that is otherwise sans anything special. Nakkalu maama is a multiple-personality folk and kuthu number that frequently changes rhythm to interesting effect. Kanjaadai is the soundtrack’s best – a scintillating folk’ish melody that gets the best out of V.V.Prasanna and Vandana Srinivasan and employs a lot of unusual tune turns! Ayyankuli, despite the resonant orchestration and tune, seems to be trying too hard. Gangai Amaren headlines Yaarai ketpadhu, Gopi’s enigmatic violin layer stands out. Gopi Sundar is in superb form in Malayalam and Telugu, but average here!

Keywords: Anjala, Gopi Sundar, Gopi Sunder

Listen to the songs on Saavn.

Bijibal gets both the Mappila paattu style songs wonderfully—and rhythmically, obviously—right. Alphons Joseph’s vocals add a distinctive touch to Maanaanivalude, while Meghamani, though sounding rather familiar and templatized, is foot-tapping nonetheless, with fantastic singing by Najeem Arshad. Vineeth Sreenivasan and Sangeetha Sreekanth make the Malayali-Punjabi sound of Ullathu chonnaal a lot more tolerable. Olivile kalikal sounds like a song from another soundtrack and makes an uncomfortable medley of non-descript pop forms and half-hearted theyyam sound. The soundtrack’s easy highlight is Ottathoval, where Ganesh Sundaram and Roopa Revathi breathe life into the possibly Panthuvarali raaga based haunting melody! Prolific@Bijibal, in Rajamma@Yahoo!

Keywords: Bijibal, Rajamma@Yahoo

Listen to the songs:

Sunday November 15, 2015

Hitman – November 14, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Oru makara nilavaay – Rani Padmini (Malayalam – Bijibal)
The melody seems simple enough, but Bijibal ropes in Chithra Arun to provide the song’s beautiful vocals and pays off wonderfully. Her evocative singing, combined with fantastic use of sitar and saarangi at two different places, and the overall light and dreamy sound, adds tremendous value to the song. Bijibal is really onto something in Malayalam, this year, while also being incredibly prolific.

Khulne lagi zindagi – The Perfect Girl (Hindi – Soumil, Siddharth)
When singer Raman Mahadevan goes ‘Zindagi ajnabee-eee-eee’ early into the song, you know the song has something to do with Shankar Ehsaan Loy. It has – Soumil and Siddharth are Shankar Mahadevan’s nephew and son, respectively. And Raman Mahadevan—not related to Shankar—is a regular with the trio too. Soumil and Siddharth have already composed in Marathi, but this is their Hindi debut, and the duo do a great job here, living up to the pedigree!

Kaattumel anjaru – Salt Mango Tree (Malayalam – Hesham Abdul Wahab)
Debutant composer Hesham Abdul Wahab is already popular in Kerala thanks to his 2007 stint in Asianet’s Idea Star Singer. The singer, who debuts as composer in Salt Mango Tree (the title, obviously, inspired by that iconic comedy scene featuring Mohanlal and Sreenivasan in Doore Oru Koodu Koottaam), does a phenomenal job in both departments in the song Kaattumel anjaru, a delightful tune that seems to be a mix of Neelambari and Shankarabharanam raagas. Hesham also employs mridangam and nadaswaram to great effect, to add native Kerala’ness to the song.

Annapoorne – Anil Srinivasan (Album: Touch)
Back in 2007, when Mandolin U.Rajesh released the album Into The Light, his collaborator in the fusion effort was pianist Anil Srinivasan. That album had a stellar fusion version of Muthuswamy Dikshithar’s Sama raaga based Annapoorne that had the mandolin as the more pronounced instrument. It looks like Anil and Rajesh really love this composition, given that they have chosen to redo the tune in Anil Srinivasan’s solo debut album Touch. Here, Anil offers a minute-long piano prelude before Rajesh joins. The mandolin is slower and more meditative in this version and Anil’s piano is even more prominent—understandably—and imaginative in its exposition of the beautiful raaga.
Listen to Annapoorne on Saavn.

Tummeda jummani pinchaku raa – Columbus (Telugu – Jithin Roshan)
Jithin Roshan, after trying his luck in Tamil, in films like Theekkulikkum Pachaimaram and Thiruttu VCD (without much success), debuts in Telugu, with Columbus and he seems to have done much better than his Tamil repertoire. Sashaa Tirupati’s voice is the highlight of the pleasant and sing-along’ish tune of Tummeda, where Jithin keeps the proceedings frothy and easily likeable.

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