30 Nov 2011

Leaving Home: The Indian Ocean Story

 On April 2nd 2010, the Indian documentary world saw a first in a rare theatrical release of  LEAVING HOME: The Life and Music of Indian Ocean. The film stayed for a week at select screens, and it was a treat to view it on 70mm. Asheem Chakraborty, one of the four members of the original line up had passed away by the time of the film's release. The film is dedicated to his memory.

Also, the film traces with simple, endearing detail the band members, the ones who left the band midway and regretted it, the woman who left soon, the coming of Amit Kilam, and of Kandisa, the album that turned things around. Here is the link of the review written then: LEAVING HOME  

27 Nov 2011

Music Review: THE DIRTY PICTURE: Breezy Filmy Music of the Flesh

Music - Vishal-Shekhar / Lyrics - Rajat Aroraa
The impressive Vishal-Shekhar soundtrack in an early Milan Luthria film Taxi No. 9211 (2006) also had a rocking Bappi Lahiri solo Mumbai nagariya. Five years later, the evergreen Bappi gets a very 80’s filled duet with an appropriately naughty and spunky Shreya Ghoshal. Ooh la la is a treat for its provocative noises and sparsely (well) used Bappi inspired disco riffs. The audio-visual Himmatwala (1983) reference is also not overdone.

Ishq sufiana is another addition to the Sufi fever; thankfully it is a likable clean solo, in two versions here. Kamal Khan and Sunidhi Chauhan do the honours, the male vocals suit the content more, considering the lyrics are duplicated. Though Chauhan does get a tune twist in the antaras, the repetition somewhat dilutes it.
Back to the provocative, skin-show world, Twinkle twinkle has a ‘silky tumka’, references to ‘Jack & Jill’, ‘Humpty ghayal huva, Dumty pagal huva’ and other nursery rhymes. Rajat Aroraa’s cheeky lyrics are apt stuff. Rana Mazumdar mimicking R.D. Burman to precision (almost) is charmingly, calculated retro. The accordion conveys the restlessness to good effect; the three minute take saves it. Shreya Ghoshal impresses again.
The Disco 82 referenced Honeymoon ki raat is again a toned-down provocative piece. Obviously these are songs for the ‘films within the film’ to showcase the flesh show. Though you may not hum along, there is breeziness here. Sunidhi Chauhan fits right in. 
No flinching stuff,  deliberate sultry lyrics and skilful use of the eighties ‘soundscape’ make for a leisurely, fun listen in something that is plesantly kinky. Tickling myself -Ishq Sufiana stands out like Nirupa Roy* among a horde of vamps. 
* For those who came in late, Nirupa Roy played the Hero’s ideal, pure mother in countless Hindi movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

24 Nov 2011

Music Review: DESI BOYZ: Pritam Returns to Familiar Territory

Music: Pritam / Lyrics : Irshad Kamil, Amitabh Bhattacharya & Kumaar
We go song by song, Make some noise has a groovy Punjabi rhythm, watch out singularly for the  guitar licks that stand out here. The lyrics by Kumaar hovers between passable and average, sample kainde hai Lady Gaga hai fan hamari, usse kaho katte mil ja zara. As for the Humko kehte superman, ON karlo handy cam start, we are wondering what's that about.

The album's pick is Subah hone na de, a beautiful tune that fits in to the DJ groove, except for the some good, some really bad lyrics. The obscene boom, boom, shot, shot, marage saari raat fadeout almost kills it (Kumaar again). Mika is all attitude and Shefali Alvaris has that rare soft, seductive dance floor tone.  

Jhak maar ke returns to the Punjabi 'balle balle' circle, Pritam frequenter Neeraj Shridhar is computer treated to effects, while Hashdeep Kaur sounds fresh. Again, the main theme guitar stands out in the dhol-filled number. Catchy if not deep. Irshad Kamil's lyrics are OK here.

Allah maaf kare stings back to the pseudo-filmy Sufi space, Sonu Niigaam and Shilpa Rao are spot on here. The effects mitigate the definite catch that the song has, so we are left without any saving grace, again Kamil has compromised words to be filmy. 

Its pleasant to hear Shaan again, flowing and neat, in Let it be, a soft 'persuading the girl back' stuff. Still the most simplistic song of the soundtrack, Amitabh Bhattacharya's sole lyric contribution for the album is effective. The remixes, as usual we miss. 

Post the clean, melodic Mausam soundtrack, Pritam returns to give some catchy tunes for Rohit Dhawan's debut Desi Boyz, but the over all effect is been there, done that territory.  

23 Nov 2011

NH7 2011 Day 3: Indian Ocean & Some Farewell Confetti

20th November 2011, Sunday
Arrive to catch the tail ends of the jumpy Swarathma act, as they spruce up the darkening evening. Then sample the Dub Station stage where a reggae punk band is insanely loud, for some reason. As for getting used to Bhayanak Maut’s heavy metal, loud snarl act at the Bacardi stage - that would be for the time when we go a little deaf from their continued ear hammering. If that is music, it must be strictly for those looking for alternatives for the punching bag or for those seeking catharsis in one prolonged spell.   
So we are back at the Dewarists stage, which is, by the way, a whisky brand (Dewar’s), the Dewarists definition on the TV series is more of a brand creation then. We return midway Zero, a very jazz inspired act that had a reunion routine in NH7 2010, when they were supposed to be officially disbanded. They are good. This is followed by Papon and the East India Company, who apart from their Assame folk-electro, get through a pro-drug song Banao Banao, the same that featured in this year’s Hindi film Soundtrack.
“India’s biggest band,” may be an apt title for Indian Ocean, ‘sublime’ suits them better. Getting used to Himanshu Joshi’s vocals on Bandeh and Kandisa is an adjustment, so used as we are to the late Asheem Chakraborty’s baritone in the same spaces. If comparisons are unfair, Joshi does dazzle in the work done with the new set up (Now included in the double CD album - 16/330 Khajoor Road). Tuheen Chakravarty on the tabla is a confident, assured artist as Ma Rewa and an instrumental piece is spectacularly played out.
As for the farewell, at the All Stars stage, English pop covers are blended well with Indian sounds. The end more frenzy than music, but that much deviation is forgiven, when NH7 is probably the only large scale festival for alternate music in a Hindi film music doused world.

It was a well arranged festival minus hassles, some expensive food, tattoos, merchandise, mostly guitar-lead acts, some rare soft soothing stuff, and speakers - sans a sensible volume control.  It also had us, a crowd that knew their bands, and a section among them who were eager to dance to everything.   

20 Nov 2011

NH7 2011 Day 2: Postive Signs....

The evening of 19th November, 2011 

The second edition of NH7 is here. Bacardi and Weekender going with the tag. Koregaon Park was a more friendly venue in 2010. Venues at different places added to the exclusivity at KP. They do distance the different stages at the sole open spaces at Laxmi Lawns, Magarpatta. It has the ambiance of a village fair, with the proceedings on one stage, trickling to another venue, betwixt the music breaks. Drinks flow here, the food coupon system is such that you are compelled to buy a minimum one of Rs 100. 

Among the many guitar and drum heavy bands, the evening belonged to Advaita's classical fusion, Soulmate's rock-heavy guitar licks and vocals (All the way from Shillong, worth it), The Raghu Dixit Project's brief but impressive crowd-hopping act and lastly a glimpse in to Imogen Heap's genius, even if her act was decent, cut short, the 10 pm deadline been the dampener. 

15 Nov 2011

Movie Review: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN: Tintin in all its Herge spirit!


All previous TV adaptations have failed to capture the essence of Herge’s classic Tintin comics. Beneath the exaggerated nature of adventure, danger, humour and a disbelief that so comfortably fits to the comic series, it’s the sheer drawing, vivid colours and expressions in still art that Tintin readers are magnet-attracted to.
Happily, Steven Spielberg’s inventiveness and the integration of the performance capture technology makes for an unforgettable 3D experience that I would like to return to again and again. Three books are skilfully merged here for a racy screenplay. The incredulity of the comic action sequences comes alive in animation,  the story an able prop to Tintin’s (Jamie Bell) relentless search for the truth, Snowy’s smart hero act (only animation could make it work) and Captain Haddock’s (Andy Serkis, a riot) drunken stupor. From the main thread, it is the several deft moments that stand out. The seaplane sequence, Bianca Castafore’s glass shattering tone, Haddock’s mad storytelling and the eye-popping scroll chase, among many others are just sheer joy and entertainment.
The adventures of Tintin: The secret of the unicorn is recommended for all movie lovers, and Tintin fans – you just can’t miss this 3D candy. Rejoice! They finally got it right. Bring on the next one soon please Mr. Spielberg.

Movie Review: ROCKSTAR: Disjointed and Contrived


All movies directed by Imtiaz Ali  so far have emitted - a love for travel, endearing girl-boy chit chat and love stories with adventures. These entertaining tales have always ended with the two main protagonists realizing that they are meant for each other. As much as we have known the inevitable conclusion, the journey to the end credits has been the punch in Ali’s movies. Such is certainly not the case with Rockstar.

Janardhan Jakad (Ranbir Kapoor, excellent) is a wannabe rock star; he stares at Jim Morrison posters and munches samosas at the college canteen wondering why he isn’t a star yet. A buffoon with talent, ridiculed by his mates, his only sincere friend is the college professor who proclaims, “To be a singer, first get a broken heart.” Thus JJ proposes to the college siren Heer (Nargis Fakhri, rusty debut), backtracks, and then is befriended by the girl. Why? Heer is to be marry in two months and move to Prague. She needs a friend to have some daring adventures before that. Like this year’s My Brother Ki Dulhan, in the process, the bride falls for JJ. Finding him blissfully unaware of any passion, she follows the norms. These opening parts are well-etched. 

The main spoilsport here are the inexplicable back and forth edit cuts, which stem the flow all through, we see JJ making it big in the music world. In yet another manufactured part, he finds himself in Prague, deep in love with Heer, who frolics about with the star, with her husband nowhere to be seen. They kiss and he comes back for more. JJ can’t resist her, obsessed, he stalks her no end, and the girl wants him out of her safe marriage. For no reason now, the singer, returns home, lashes out at scampering TV journalists, gets angry and angrier. The rest of the story descends to unbelievable mode.  A déjà vu of this year’s nerve-wracking Mausam hovers. Only Ranbir’s performance and the soundtrack keeps us till the end credits roll.

To be fair, there is promise in the cut pieces, in the love story, but the amalgamation of a rockstar's musical journey to the usual Ali fare has no plot to support it. Rahman’s sometimes magical, sometimes decent soundtrack suffers in the process ending up as music video props. Watchable for Ranbir’s inspired, energetic act, some of the director's passing flair and the stand out song - Kun faya kun. This journey took some getting through.