Kaathaga‘s dual identity is interesting; intersperses melody and heavy kuthu competently, sung by a severely digitized Silambarasan. That digitization goes haywire in King Kong, a Zoo song, invoking all kinds of animals, in a reasonably likeable techno sound. Kanne un kadhal is so very Yuvan’ish, in tune too, besides his vocals. Maaman waiting is catchy ‘erangi kuthu’ variety, headlined by T.Rajjjhhhhenderrrrr and Suchitra. Simbu mopes around hopelessly in Oru thalai raagam, making it apparent he bunked Tamil classes as a child, and Sriram Parthasarathy sounds like Simbu’s Tamil teacher in the other version. Interesting tunes, but amateur packaging by debutant Kuralarasan.

Keywords: Idhu Namma Aalu, T.R.Kuralarasan

Listen to the songs:

Sunday February 7, 2016

Hitman – February 6, 2016

Originally published in The Hindu.

Red road-u – Jil Jung Juk (Tamil, Vishal Chandrasekhar)
Vishal Chandrasekhar has been around for some time and it is only with Jil Jung Juk (and the Telugu soundtrack, Krishna Gadi Veera Prema Gaadha), he seems to have picked up a unique sound of his own. In the soundtrack’s best song, the curiously named, ‘Red road-u’ (amongst other curiously named songs such as Shoot The Kuruvi, Domer-u Lord-u and Shoot The Kili), Vishal produces a crackling electro swing number that comes alive with Santhosh Narayanan and Sean Roldan’s vocals. The lyrics, by the film’s director Deeraj Vaidy, are completely zany and it goes wonderfully well with the tune’s catchy, manic energy!

Kaantha – Uriyadi (Tamil, Masala Coffee)
Kaantha is Masala Coffee band’s best known song, with over a million views on YouTube, in its original Malayalam version on Kappa TV. It’s an instantly likeable, captivating tune that the band builds brilliantly in an inspired mix of kazoo (by lead singer Sooraj Santhosh himself), Esraj (by Arshad Khan) and Joe Jacob’s scintillating drums. Now, the band transforms this essentially pooram song into a fantastic thathuvam song, on life and its many meanings and happenings. Regardless of what Kaantha meant in the Malayalam original, the Tamil invocation—a pop-culture inside joke of sorts—is very clear… M.R.Radha’s cult dialog from Ratha Kanneer!

Idukki – Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Malayalam, Bijibal)
Idukki is the kind of song that should ideally be adopted by Kerala Tourism. It actually mandates a music video with English subtitles! Rafeeq Ahammed’s lines and Bijibal’s serene, ambient music brings forth Idukki region’s beauty lyrically and musically, with a laid back pace mirroring life in the region, far away from the manic bustle of a metro. The composer sings his own tune and does it so well, enjoying the nuanced lines, with fantastic backing vocals from Sangeetha Prabhu, Soumya Ramakrishnan and Shanthi.

Rara ravera – Krishna Gadi Veera Prema Gaadha (Telugu, Vishal Chandrasekhar)
Vishal ropes in Hemachandra to sing Rara ravera, as he embellishes it with a lilting, tune and heady, folksy orchestration that is high on rhythm. What sticks eventually is the instantly catchy hook that Vishal uses to great effect, repetitively, amidst an outburst of music. The folk sound comes it even better in the anupallavi and charanam that bridges back to pallavi really well.

Yappa chappa – Kanithan (Tamil, Sivamani)
Given Sivamani’s speciality, Yappa chappa is a fantastic cornucopia of percussion sounds. The tune, that seems to be picking off catchy calypso style music, has a repetitive hook that sounds generic, but helps in making the song addictive. Composer Anirudh, who seems to be singing more for other composers these days, does a competent job, along with Kalpana. There’s also a lovely ghatam piece mid-way, in the second interlude, that layers wonderfully with a violin! The song’s lyrics, courtesy Madhan Karky, touch technology too, invoking the now-defunct Google Glass too!

Hindi

Title song, Hatt mullah and Dugg duggi dugg – Jugni (Clinton Cerejo)

Title song, Jhalli pataka, Dil ye ladaku and Dhuaan – Saala Khadoos (Santhosh Narayanan)

Title song – Sanam Re (Mithoon)

Tera chehra – Sanam Teri Kasam (Himesh Reshammiya)

The full album – Fitoor (Amit Trivedi)

Mar jaayen – Loveshhuda (Mithoon)
This is the standard-issue Mithoon song where the lead singer (usually Mithoon himself or Atif Aslam; in this case, it is the latter) is moping around in melancholy. Checks every box and manages to sound tuneful.

Tamil

Poda poda, Vaa machaney, Ei sandakkaaraa and Usuru narambula nee – Irudhi Sutru (Santhosh Narayanan)

Kuchi mittai – Aranmanai 2 (Hiphop Tamizha)

MunnaaL kaadhali and Mirutha mirutha – Miruthan (D.Imman)

Hey mama – Sethupathi (Nivas K.Prasanna)

Vaanmazhai – Moondraam Ulaga Por (Ved Shanker)

Naan maatti konden – Bangalore Naatkal (Gopi Sundar)

Thendral varum – Oyee (Ilayaraja)

Yappa chappa, Maiyal maiyal and I viralgal – Kanithan (Sivamani)

Maane maane and Kaantha – Uriyadi (Masala Coffee and Anthony Daasan)

Original Maane Maane:

Original Kaantha, in Malayalam:

Pothi vacha – Kodai Mazhai (Tamil – Sambasivam)
There are two Ilayaraja connections with this song from Kodai Mazhai. One is the obvious – the 1986 film, which had music by Ilayaraja. The second is even more obvious – the other ‘Pothi vacha’ song from Manvaasanai. Composer Sambasivam’s tune too seems like Hindolam, the raaga used by Ilayaraja in the Manvaasanai number! Sambasivam adorns his tune with lovely violins that almost seem to be cooing alongside Karthik and Parvathi’s excellent vocals, even as Vairamuthu uses a series of wishes to build the song.

Shoot the kuruvi, Domer-u lord-u, Red road-u and Casanova – Jil Jung Juk (Vishal Chandrasekhar)

Title song – Sadhuram 2 (Girishh Gopalakrishnan)
Anish Krishnan’s baritone kind of sounds like a younger Kamal Haasan and he handles Girishh’s pulsating tune very well. The sound Girishh assembles is mighty impressive.

Telugu

Dikka dikka dum dum, Nee navve and Addhira banna – Soggade Chinni Nayana (Anup Rubens)

The full album: Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu (Gopi Sundar)

Rara ravera, Nuvvante and Ulikipadaku – Krishnagadi Veera Prema Gaadha (Vishal Chandrasekhar)

Nuvvila nuvvila and Itu rava – Padesave (Anup Rubens)

Varnam varnam and Kalalanni pandy – Kathanam (Sabu Varghese)
Varnam is simple and lilting, and rides on Anajana Sowmya’s sweet rendition. Kalalanni pandy is the more interesting song in the soundtrack. The tune, that starts with Revanth’s fantastic singing—with a casual edge—goes on to add some of the upper notes in Sivaranjani raaga to add an intriguing layer! The kids chorus too is an interesting touch.
Listen to the songs on Raaga.

Malayalam

Mangoes and Rosie – Monsoon Mangoes (Jakes Bejoy)

Neeyen sayahna swapnathil – Ma Chu Ka (Gopi Sundar)

Idukki – Maheshinte Prathikaaram (Bijibal)

Raavumaayave – Vettah (Shaan Rahman)
Of the 2 song soundtrack of Vettah, this is clearly the pick! The sound is very Aye hairathe from Guru – similar quasi-sufi, quasi-ghazal sound that Shaan tunes to perfection. Rinu Razak sings is darn well.

Kannada

Sa ri ga ma – Mareyalaare (Arjun Janya)
It’s a bit disconcerting to see Arjun falling into a rut. His recent soundtracks are generally very, very average, including this one. The one reasonably listenable song is Sa ri ga ma, but even this, I’d assume is Harikrishna territory.

Maathella marathe hoithu and Munjaane suriva manjali – Viraat (V.Harikrishna)
An almost Arjun Janya’ish melody, in an Harikrishna soundtrack. Generic template, to be fair, but sounds very, very pleasant and sung well by Karthik and Anuradha. Munjaane is conceived as a seduction-song, I can see that, but Hari does something very unique with the tune, and lets it flow in unusual ways… not too much, but the right amount of waywardness to evoke a lot of interest!

Heartige kanna and Nalle enutha – Bhujanga (Poornachandra Tejaswi)
Vijay Prakash carries Heartige like only he can. The tune is simple enough and Poornachandra cleverly underplays the sound to a minimal level to bring Vijay’s singing rule over everything else. Nalle enutha is the other song in the album where the composer does the opposite – layers it with fantastic music—starting with strings—to prop the tune to a new level. Sonu Nigam seldom goes wrong in Kannada and along with Sridevi Kulenur, he does really well.

Non-film

Ababeel – Muhammad: The Messenger of God (OST – A R Rahman)
Ababeel is sort of the signature melody A R Rahman conjures for the epic film, Muhammad: The Messenger of God. It is an easily goosebumps inducing, grand melody that goes so well with the scale, ambition and scope of a film like this, and, understandably, was made a prominent part of the film’s promos. Rahman articulates the melody again in a slower, poignant form in And He Was Named Mohammad, and it is beautiful all over again. Both the songs end on a splendid, orchestral high!

Shoot the kuruvi makes up for its bewilderingly bizarre lyrics—including a corny leave letter read out by Radha Ravi—by being mighty catchy. Vishal’s tune sounds like something the song’s singer, Anirudh, would have composed! Domer-u lord-u continues the vibrant lyrical absurdity and throws in everything from the kitchen sink to Muthiah Bhagavathar’s English Notes from Thillana Mohanambal, to create a heady mix, headlined by Anthony Daasan and Maria Kavitha Thomas. Red road-u, the soundtrack’s best, is scintillating Tamil electro swing, and gets Santhosh Narayanan and Sean Roldan to deliver it in style. The lyrics, by director Deeraj Vaidy, are again, consistently nutty and funny. Casanova is perhaps the soundtrack’s most inventive – it not only mixes jazz and dubstep into a Bond theme-style tune led beautifully by Andrea, but lyricist Vivek goes hyper imaginative with his Tamil usage, literally oozing—pun intended—sex. On the back of this clever Tamil wordplay, Shoot the kuruvi‘s other version with another bird—sparrow replaced with the parrot— Shoot the kili assumes a different meaning, for the Tamil-aware. The sound is completely spruced up in punchy rock, sung well by Siddharth. With its impressive range, Jil Jung Juk seems like Vishal’s ticket to the big league.

Keywords: Jil Jung Juk, Vishal Chandrashekhar, 200, #200

Listen to the songs:

Idukki should ideally be adopted by Kerala Tourism and actually mandates a music video with English subtitles! Rafeeq Ahammed’s lines and Bijibal’s serene music brings forth Idukki region’s beauty lyrically and musically. Theliveyil is a pleasant, and fairly inventive combination of waltz and ghazal, sung well by Sudeep Kumar and Sangeetha. Bijibal punctuates Mounangal‘s likeable, retro’ish melody with sax and sitar, among others, and it works well Vijay Yesudas and Aparna Balamurali’s singing. Cherupunjiri‘s tune demands attention with its immersive structure and Nikhil Mathew’s vocals, besides Bijibal’s thoughtful orchestration. In true Bijibal style, Maheshinte Prathikaaram’s soundtrack is high on melody.

Keywords: Maheshinte Prathikaaram, Bijibal

Listen to the songs:

Sunday January 31, 2016

Hitman – January 30, 2016

Originally published in The Hindu.

Pothi vacha – Kodai Mazhai (Tamil – Sambasivam)
There are two Ilayaraja connections with this song from Kodai Mazhai. One is the obvious – the 1986 film, which had music by Ilayaraja. The second is even more obvious – the other ‘Pothi vacha’ song from Manvaasanai. Composer Sambasivam’s tune too seems like Hindolam, the raaga used by Ilayaraja in the Manvaasanai number! Sambasivam adorns his tune with lovely violins that almost seem to be cooing alongside Karthik and Parvathi’s excellent vocals, even as Vairamuthu uses a series of wishes to build the song.

Neeyen sayahna swapnathil – Ma Chu Ka (Malayalam – Gopi Sundar)
This is an almost ghazal-style melody that Gopi sings himself, with a rough edge that somehow seems apt for the tune. The melody is feather-light and immersive, thanks also the guitar and strings that the composer employs so well. There’s a short chorus-style piece that Gopi uses to bridge back to the pallavi that is short and captivating.

Sakhi re kahe (Kaanha mose) – Hariharan and Akshay Hariharan, for MTV Unplugged
This thumri, from MTV Unplugged Season 5 has a lovely jazz coating. The song was originally composed by Hariharan’s son, Akshay Hariharan for a film titled Black Home (called Kaanha mose, earlier). Atul Raninga’s piano has a consistently Ilayaraja’ish touch – almost like the kind of piano usage by Ilayaraja in Hindi songs, to be specific. Hariharan is—expectedly—stellar in his singing! Dilshad Khan on Sarangi and Atur Soni, on drums offer incredibly support, even as D.Rao’s timely flute and sax interventions add great value.

Hone do batiya – Fitoor (Hindi – Amit Trivedi)
Director Abhishek Kapoor earlier worked with Amit Trivedi to bring a distinct Gujarati flavour the music in Kai Po Che. In his Indian adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations, set in Kashmir, he gets Amit to infuse an authentic dose of Kashmiri music, thanks largely to Tapas Roy handling instruments like Saz, Rabab, Santoor and Bouzouki. In the soundtrack’s best, Hone do batiya, Zeb Bangash and Nandini Srikar play off each other’s parts, handling and handing back the lines beautifully, for the lilting melody Amit gives them. The tune has an almost retro’ish feel, sounding like something out of the 60s Hindi film milieu, but with a significantly upgraded sound.

Hey mama – Sethupathi (Tamil – Nivas K Prasanna)
Nivas debuted with a fantastic soundtrack in Thegidi. But in the Vijay Sethupathi starring cop story, his music seems like a copout! He does get Hey mama right, though. Anirudh gets the tune’s Madras swagger perfectly, amidst the punchy rock sound, punctuated by rap phrases and sax. While the lyrics offer standard hero worship tropes, one does wonder if the Tamil (!) word ‘goyyala’ is appropriate enough for regular usage, and when it was unshackled from its supposedly less respectable origin (it is currently assumed to mean ‘duffer’, in a coarse way) when Vadivel’s utterances in films used to be beeped out. Anirudh also seems be becoming a ‘goyyala’ loyalist given that he sang, ‘Kaanaama poyitten goyyala’ in the song from Vil Ambu, Aala saachuputta kannala!

Masala Coffee’s metal version of Bharathiyar’s iconic verses in Agnikunjondru is pulsating and sweeping. Sooraj Santhosh delivers it in his flawless style. Anthony Daasan composed Maane maane gets a fresh treatment, particularly more filmy, shorter interludes, though the folk soul of the song remains intact in Masala Coffee’s production. The soundtrack’s undeniable highlight is the Tamil version of the band’s cult song, Kaantha. It’s heady fun, with an addictive tune, and a cocktail of sounds from Arshad Khan’s Esraj, Sooraj’s Kazoo to fantastic drums, besides fantastic vocals by Sooraj and Varun Sunil. Short, but captivating Tamil debut by Masala Coffee.

Keywords: Masala Coffee, Uriyadi

Listen to the songs on Saavn.

Original Maane Maane:

Original Kaantha, in Malayalam:

Yappa chappa, is percussion-heavy, employing a soft-kuthu sound besides horns and ghatam, and rides on the hook to propel a generically pleasant tune. Maiyal maiyal too makes fantastic use of a more-than-pronounced percussion base particularly for a melody, a likeable one, at that. I viralgal is punchy rap, sung with the perfect verve by MC AK, Adhiraja, Ishan and Yasin, amidst a catchy fusion-kuthu sound. Modern ponnathan‘s tune is random mish-mash, held together only by Sivamani’s captivating sound. Sivamani’s orchestration is impressive in Che Guevara, but the tune is terribly outdated. Sivamani’s second, after Arima Nambi, is comparatively less interesting.

Keywords: Sivamani, Drums Sivamani, Kanithan

Listen to the songs:

It’s difficult to decide what is more cringe-worthy in Eden Garden – Raja’s music or the bizarre lyrics that perhaps wanted to refer to Garden of Eden, but ends up talking about Kolkata’s cricket stadium. Mannin magane is far worse – massively outdated synth cringe fest. Mudinja oru kai paru is equally weird, invoking lyrical and musical style of films of a different era. Entha ooru, thankfully, has Raja in his home turf, with Ekadhasi’s lyrics and earthy music coming together well. Thendral varum is vintage Raja – dulcet melody, albeit with a Karthikraja’ish, now-too-familiar sound. Awkward soundtrack from Raja.

Keywords: Oyee, Ilayaraja

Listen to the songs:

Sunday January 24, 2016

Hitman – January 23, 2016

Originally published in The Hindu.

MunnaaL kaadhali – Miruthan (Tamil – D.Imman)
Tamil cinema’s patron saint of love failure is—no, not Santhanam, he is merely the patron saint’s sidekick—T.R.Silambarasan, who, as per last reports, goes by the acronym, STR. STR has been spearheading a movement to create angry, upset and invectives-laden songs to add to the rich love-failure genre. So it is heartwarming to see Madhan Karky and D.Imman collaborate to undo the damage done by STR, and create a graceful, catchy and imaginative ode to love-failure! Vishal Dadlani delivers the power love-failure song with his usual punch!

Okko nakshatram – Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu (Telugu – Gopi Sundar)
That Gopi Sundar is in blistering form in Telugu and Malayalam is not news anymore. He is perhaps just one A-lister film away in Telugu to go to the next level. For Seethamma Andalu Ramayya Sitralu, he produces a superb soundtrack with instantly likeable and pleasant songs. The highlight is Okko nakshatram that sees Karthik and Divya Menon sing a sweet melody. In the anupallavi, Gopi does something that he hasn’t done so often in his career yet – he cleverly weaves in the anupallavi from his own song, Chengethin, from Two Countries (Malayalam) and it all fits in so well!

Ababeel – Muhammad: The Messenger of God (OST – A R Rahman)
Ababeel is sort of the signature melody A R Rahman conjures for the epic film, Muhammad: The Messenger of God. It is an easily goosebumps inducing, grand melody that goes so well with the scale, ambition and scope of a film like this, and, understandably, was made a prominent part of the film’s promos. Rahman articulates the melody again in a slower, poignant form in And He Was Named Mohammad, and it is beautiful all over again. Both the songs end on a splendid, orchestral high!

Tera chehra – Sanam Teri Kasam (Hindi – Himesh Reshammiya)
Tera chehra is one of those songs where Himesh does something genuinely different! He has a ghazal-like melody at its core, but he layers it with an intriguing and addictive—and repetitive, in true Himesh style—stringed background that lifts the song significantly. This, besides Arijit Singh’s engaging vocals! It works quite well as a package, like a new-age ghazal!

Dikka dikka dum dum – Soggade Chinni Nayana (Telugu – Anup Rubens)
The song that opens with some frothy liquid—presumably spirited—being poured gleefully, and Nagarjuna’s own voice opening it with off-key singing and dialogues, moves on to the a heady, raucous and very rhythmic tune. The title hook, Dikka dikka dum dum, is the catchiest part and sounds familiar at first, but without specifically bringing any song to mind. When the hook arrives for the second time, as Mohana Bhogaraju sings it, to Dhanunjay’s lead, one can’t help but go, ‘Thulli varum kaatre, thulli varun kaatre, thaaimozhi pesu’! Yes, A R Rahman’s Kaatre en vaasal, from Rhythm!

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