The title song, with 80s psychedelic coolth and a soaring hook, is a great listen. Mila mila is trademark Mickey – rhythmic, repetitively simple hook dominating the song, along with imaginative interludes. Anjana Sowmya infuses as much joy in Jagadeka veera as much as Mickey’s enthusiastic sound, while the friendship anthem, Thanks 2 zindagi is largely templatized. In Sumagandhaala, Mickey lets the tantalizing combination of Karthik’s vocals, a foot-tapping rhythm and a persistent violin to do the trick. Jonita Gandhi completely owns the pensive melody of Ye kadha, with the music being pleasantly engaging. Mickey opens 2015 in good form.

Keywords: Kerintha, Mickey J Meyer

Ori devudaa‘s languorous tune is actually quite engaging, thanks also to Anup’s own involved singing. In Janaki Janaki, Anup makes good use of a bombastic brass sound, while Pyar bina too carries a steady, thumping rhythm that is instantly catchy, over and above Raja Hasan’s vocals. Po po po, oddly enough, only starts exactly like Imman’s Manam Kothi Paravai song, but changes gear completely, though is similar in melancholic feel, with a mild Hindi filmy touch. Bheegi bheegi is a bit all over the place, but Rahul Nambiar delivers the showy tune well. Good, ear-friendly commercial soundtrack from Anup Rubens.

Keywords: Vinavayya Ramayya, Anup Rubens

There is an unhurried, sluggish mood to Oho nenjil that Vishnu builds on well, with his music and his own vocals. Nila veyilil texture is an odd combo of 80s pop and Christian religious music, and with fairly poor singing, this one hardly works. Oh God, the short hymn-like song has Anugraha Raphy’s vocals to thank for, nothing more. Thalarathe starts off on an interesting, world-music’ish note, but after the minute-long prelude, it settles down into a repetitive, but strangely absorbing sound. Mohan Sithara’s son, into his 3rd album now, seems to evolving, one soundtrack at a time, rather slowly.

Keywords: Kumbasaram, Vishnu Mohan Sithara

Edhukku machan would move Imman to tears, if imitation was the sincerest form of flattery – uses Imman’s sound and Raja fixation, given it invokes Poojaiketha poovidhu! Edhuvume‘s tune builds mighty well, Naresh Iyer in great form and the violin and flute interludes sounding wonderful. Kaara karuuna is pedestrian, predictable kuthu and Vandhaaru too is fully jaded and ennui-inducing in every possible way. Oruvaatti unapaathu, across both versions, by Naresh Iyer and Vandana Srinivasan, is a pleasant throwback to Ilayaraja’s immersive folk melodies, with a mod twist. Raghunanthan’s new form, with Imman-sound, seems like a good move for his prospects!

Keywords: Mapla Singam, N.R.Raghunanthan

(I had written this on Milliblog’s Facebook page and realized, by the 30+ mails I got, that they preferred it in the blog too, away from Facebook’s walled garden. Here it is, as a result, though you should perhaps head to the Facebook page post for comments on this piece, including those from Karki Bava).

I see a LOT of dismayed chatter about Ilayaraja asserting his rights over his (his own) songs, and how he sent a legal notice to a radio (FM) station that had a program in his name and played his songs.

A lyricist Karki Bava (not to be confused with Vairamuthu’s son, Madhan Karky) has even penned a much-shared Medium post (It’s in Tamil text) on how he was a life-long devotee of Raja and how he doesn’t respect Raja anymore because of these new actions by him. He alludes to the fact that at 70+ years, Raja should not be money-minded!

I’m not sure where Karki got the sheer entitlement to ask Raja not to be money-minded. If Karki assumed and believed Raja was some ascetic who cares only about sharing his art and not wanting any money for it, or be contented with the money he got for it already, then I’m not sure why he’d want everyone else to think on those lines, let alone assume Raja himself living by Karki’s assumptions.

Karki goes on to explain about how Raja would ask for money from kids who would wear a t-shirt with Raja’s face on it. So? Really? That’s a logic to what end?

Raja is a brand. He has earned his right to be a brand by composing wonderful, timeless music over the years, for 3+ decades. If he has legal rights over his compositions – and this is something entirely between Raja, the record labels that released his music and his film producers – he can assert it in any form he wants. At any age he wants. Without caring about how people would judge him, or not. These things do not change the kind of music he has produced. If it does, then I think the person for whom it changes the music has intricately confused Raja’s personality with his music. Both are different. But again, personality worship is an old trait in Tamil Nadu.

And seriously, how does it matter to anyone how Raja is, in his business dealings? Or, how Raja is, with his assertiveness? That’s his livelihood. He has every right to go about it in a manner that is within legal limits. If that means asking Police to intervene if inter-city buses play Raja’s songs using pirated mp3 CDs, so be it. Is that wrong? Of course not. The music label that owns the songs would anyway assert that right, so if Raja has some of that right, why can’t he assert it? It’s his music, after all.

The most astonishing thing in Karki’s post is a line that invokes Raja’s caste – that he’s a Dalit, and there’s a follow-up insinuation that Raja pandered to a higher caste when he composed a song that goes, ‘Potri paadadi ponne, Thevar kaaladi manne’. THIS IS SO POINTLESS as an argument that I can’t believe someone with a sane mind would even bother using it in a discussion about asserting legal rights.

I see that Karki is responding to certain fans of Raja who call him a ‘social worker’ or a ‘reformist’, like Bob Marley. But why let those comments by certain fans be assumed as Raja’s view? And bring it amidst a discussion about asserting legal rights? I guess Tamil Nadu continues to be wonderfully outdated when it comes to invoking caste, regardless of how educated people are.

There are other issues in that argument – like sympathising with poor people that they cannot ‘freely’ listen to Raja’s music and enjoy their life. As if Raja is out to extract money from poor people for listening to one song or other that they have been listening to freely over the years. The crux is free music, not who is listening to it. If it was free all these years, the systems were poor or inadequate to not let it happen, or not let the rightful owner gain from it (in terms of loyalty). Again, this is between Raja and his labels and producers. If the labels don’t do it, Raja should do it. Why? Because he composed them – simple.

Rahman does it as well. As do other composers like Shankar Ehsaan Loy, who own the rights to their compositions, along with the labels and producers. This is a simple commercial agreement being enforced. If freeloaders were profiting from it and a composer comes out to assert his rights, why bring his age, caste or interest in money to discredit his rightful, legal assertion?

If the basic crux is that Raja does not own rights to these songs, then the debate is vastly different and strictly legal. It still doesn’t need age, caste or other emotional appendages in the argument.

Or, if the crux is that Raja hasn’t been assertive all this while and has woken up suddenly to do this, again, that’s his prerogative. I’m not sure why anyone would even ask him not to assert his right over his own songs using emotional, cringe-worthy points like age, caste and interest in money.

As for the specific charge that it was Raja himself who inaugurated that Radio Mirchi program, and it is again Raja who is asking it to be stopped on counts of them playing his songs (without rights? That sounds bizarre, from a radio station) and without seeking his permission to title it in his name, there are 2 ways to look at it.

1. That Raja was aware of the program’s name during inauguration and assumed that necessary permissions were sought through his manager, perhaps? After all, a person of that stature may not find it appropriate to ask during inauguration if they had sought permission for the title.

2. That he didn’t even bother to consider that they need to seek his permission for having a title that his name and thought it was like a new saloon shop with Ilayaraja name and his face outline as image. Should he go after the saloon shop owner? Technically, and legally, he should, but I don’t think he’ll do that. Should he, after realizing late, go after the radio program (which makes money from advertisers) he himself helped inaugurate? I’d think – why not? Is realizing this late a crime? I don’t think so. Would people blame him using this episode, for being money-minded? Perhaps – but why is it even wrong?

Legally, he isn’t doing anything wrong. A change of mind – or late realization in this case, isn’t even wrong. At best, the argument could be that he was naive earlier and now is better informed.

Bezubaan‘s redux trades the earlier version’s Western sensibilities to desi-rap, powered by Vishal Dadlani’s vocals and ending on a similar high, like the original. The original film’s song, Sun saathiya, that the makers, for some odd reason did not add in that soundtrack, finally makes it to the soundtrack here. And deservedly so! Priya Saraiya is scintillating, expressing her own lyrics in pitch-perfect fashion, set to a gorgeous melody. Chunar‘s sweeping melancholy is predictable Ahir Bhairav, but the composers surprise with an electric guitar and mridangam jugalbandi midway! Happy birthday is a racy hip-hop birthday song, while If You Hold My Hand is competent boyband pop, with Benny Dayal ruling it. Hey Ganaraya, Shambu sutaya’s cousin, is a frenzied, rhythmic Ganesh bhajan making great use of Pantuvarali raaga, while Happy hour sees Mika Singh sing in his lazy drawl really well, with eclectic backgrounds that traverse multiple genres! Naach meri jaan is pulsating latino dance material and Shefali Alvares impressively carries the foot-tapping Tattoo. Vande Mataram, with its dramatic shifts in style and mood, is a painful listen and seems only to serve the final, jingoistic dance sequence. ABCD 2 is a Step Up on the original’s grand, showy music.

Keywords: ABCD 2, Sachin-Jigar, 200, #200

Arijit carries the title song wonderfully – he expresses the desperation in Rashmi Virag’s lyrics beautifully, set to a poignant tune by Jeet. The Jeet-sung version is a great listen as well. Jeet’s other song, Yeh kaisi jagah has better backgrounds than tune, but Deepali Sathe elevates that with her vocals. Papon is expectedly good in Mithoon-composed Hum nava, Sayeed Quadri’s passionate plea for love coming to the fore. Ami Mishra’s Hasi gains more from Kunaal Vermaa’s lyrics than the tune or singing, though Shreya’s version is a decent listen. Thematic soundtrack that aptly puts you in a wistful mood.

Keywords: Hamari Adhuri Kahani, Mithoon, Jeet Ganguly, Ami Mishra

Sunday May 24, 2015

Hitman – May 23, 2015

Originally published in The Hindu.

Athana azhagayum
Inimey Ippadithaan (Tamil)
Music: Santhosh Kumar Dayanidhi

Santhosh, who till recently was programming for A. R. Rahman (including Lingaa), makes his debut with this Santhanam-starrer and does pretty well for himself. The pick of the soundtrack is ‘Athana azhagayum’, which has a trendy pop sound sung confidently by Varun Parandhaman and incorporates a funky rock ‘n roll sound midway, besides a colloquial rap by Sofia Ashraf. The highlight of the song is the lyrics, where, for the first time in the history of films, the hero compares his lady love to a… mosquito, when he passionately pleads, ‘Korukkupettai kosu pola, enna neeyum thorathaadhey’!

Tompkins Square Park
Album: Wilder Mind (English)
Music: Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons’ third studio album is supposedly their evolution, given that their standard banjos and accordion sound has paved way to electric guitar and synth! It’s decidedly more Coldplay-ish, thanks to producers James Ford, known for his work for Arctic Monkeys, and The National’s Aaron Dessner. ‘Tompkins Square Park’, the moody break-up song is among the album’s best, with its expansive synth, bass and drum thump! It sounds great, no doubt, but not without a mild pang of what the band has left behind!

Jaadugadu (Telugu)
Music: Saagar Mahati

Just when you are wondering if Mani Sharma is getting his act together after a brief period of poor form, his son enters the scene! Saagar uses his father’s tried and tested masala format aptly in his debut that includes this catchy duet by Vijay Prakash and Ramya Behara. The track’s sound is consistently engaging and with its thrumming rhythms, young Saagar seems to be on the way to a promising career!

Maanga (Tamil)
Music: Premji Amaren

Premji has scored music for a few Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films and, given his pedigree, is dependably good and inventive across soundtracks, though it is his most ignored talent, with him being more keen on on-screen buffoonery. He seems to be indulging in composing almost with an ‘Evvalavo panrom, idha pannamaattoma?’ attitude. ‘Appankitta’ is what you get when Premji answers a brief from director Mysskin about a situation where a male dancer leads his now-familiar yellow-sari song. Premji sings it with the same quasi off-key-ness of Yuvan, but it is oddly endearing, as is his choice of layering the song with a zingy guitar.

Chinna paya vayasu
Kida Poosari Magudi (Tamil)
Music: Ilaiyaraaja

Ilaiyaraaja, even at his peak, has helped many first-time and unknown directors by composing music for them and by being the most saleable aspect of such films. Nowadays, besides the occasional big budget films like Rudramadevi, the veteran still seems to be helping out lesser-known, smaller films, though the effect isn’t quite like it used to be. One such film is Kida Poosari Magudi and the song, ‘Chinna paya vayasu’ seems to be a pleasant throwback to Oru Kaidhiyin Diary’s ‘Pon Maane Kobam Yaeno’, probably due to a possible Sivaranjani raaga connection. The strings, the interludes all work up a lovely whiff of nostalgia!
Listen to the song here.

She Is So Beautiful is easy on the ears pop; the hook is catchy and Amal Anthony and Kavya Ajith keep things light and frothy. Pularri manjin has an interesting structure and the contrast between Kavya and Ajmal’s parts make it a great listen, as do the disjoint connect that happens eventually and Kavya singing Ajmal’s line! Vijay Yesudas carries Anaadhi yugangallai impeccably – it’s a classic melody, slightly old-style, and Deepak’s treatment makes a big difference. Cherathe is the soundtrack’s weakest, with Siddharth Mahadevan sounding rather labored, though Deepak’s sound works just fine. Dependably good music from Deepak Dev.

Keywords: Lavender, Deepak Dev

Omal kanmani is puncutuated with a lot of pauses and they all considerably add to the song’s charm, beyond the simple, pleasant tune and Sachin Warrier and Sangeetha Sreekanth’s vocals. The rhythm variations in the anupallavi too are interesting. Pathiye novayi rides on Najim Irshad’s singing, with the guitar-led tune traversing through a complex tune. The soundtrack’s best is Thalavara kurippu pusthakam! The minimal, captivating rhythm and Govind Padmasurya’s intentionally casual delivery gives the song big props, even as it moves into techno mode and native rhythms with equal confidence. Bijibal is delivering with alarming consistency in Malayalam these days!

Keywords: Bijibal, 32aam Adhyayam 23aam Vaakyam

PS: The launch posters of this film, back in October 2014 announce the composer as Govind Menon! Wonder what circumstances led to Bijibal replacing him.

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