30 Sep 2011

Music Review: Damadamm: Some Himesh Spark, Redundancies Abound

Music: Himesh Reshammiya / Lyrics: Sameer and Shabbir Ahmed
Should we be running for cover, now that the latest Himesh Reshammiya-starring soundtrack is out? We are referring to the string of movies since Aap Kaa Suroor – The Moviee (2007) that have had Himesh in dual roles of screen hero and music composer. He also insists to stubbornly sing the male vocals all through, and some really insipid lyric-writing have made mockery of many a song.
Ta...ta...ta...ta…Tandoori nights, tandoori nights…from Karzzzz (2008), anyone?
Failure has, as music history is witness, attracted ample criticism and Himesh has got the brickbats. We say Himesh is gifted, if misdirected by ambition, as a composer. We will do the best Himesh compositions sometime soon here. Until then, let’s sample the Damadamm soundtrack. 
The title song Damadamm takes its mukhda reference from the traditional Sufi song and twists it well for a competent take. The additional singers - Punnu Brar, Palak Muchhal, Shabab Sabri, Alam Gir Khan, Sabina Shaikh, Vineet Singh and Rubina Shaikh, apart from Himesh add colour to the track. Certainly an above average song, a little slowing down of the pace could have added punch.
Hum Tum is surprisingly soft soothing stuff minus the Himesh histrionics; still would Mohit Chauhan have rendered it better, or a Sonu Nigam or Shaan? Himesh does well though; there is soul there, alright. Soft effective guitar riffs, melancholic and nostalgic. The lyrics are a lift – Zindagi hai badi ajnabi / jaan sakhe isko na hum kabhi / unkahi, unsuni, unbhuji…The stand out song of the soundtrack.    
Aaja Ve is standard Himesh fare with the Aap Ka Suroor hangover and in the Hum Tum space,  a redundancy in both feel, concept and template-stamped Punjabi lyrics – going lutiyave, janiya, jiya naiyo lagtave, dil lutiyave…etc. Been there, done that thing.      
Bhool Jaun uncomfortably changes its mood of the lyrics which ranges from forgetting a person to remembering her, to unfinished desires, with shutters in its flow. Sachin Gupta aids Himesh in the vocals; the effect in totality is haphazard.  
I need my space is an off-putter despite the ‘live life’ lyrics and Queen ‘I want to break free’ reference. Himesh’s vocals are the culprit here, appropriate modulation is lacking and again we are making a list of who could have rendered it better. Dil jo kahe vahi karna hai bondishon mein nahi marna hai maine socha hai, he goes in one breath, followed by jeena hai har mausam…/ I need my space, I want my freedom. Done in by misguided execution. Add it to the mock list please. Madhushala is another off-putter in composition and rendering, both. Himesh is all irritatingly nasal, he still can make intermediate catchy stuff, the retro female scatter is perky, but the song falls flat.  
Mango starts promisingly as a female voice over goes - ‘philosophical research on mangoes, incorporating in it romance, humour and fun.’ Out of the box? Missing someone like mangoes? The female vocals going ‘Mangoes, tarara…parara, I am your Mango (!!?)’ kills it and so does – Tere intezar mein …my time goes…mangoes. A misplaced experiment. Needed a lyrical elevation, which is nowhere to be seen. Mock list grows.
Tere Bina sticks to the nostalgia mood, yet again, there is no denying the punch,. .Par ke bina parinda jaise/ sur ke bina sazinda jaise / ghar ke bina, bashinda jaise/ main yahan, tere bagair… is cool stuff of which we already have sufficient dose of in the soundtrack. It still has the Himesh-vocal soft zing. A word for the intelligent slow drum percussion. A saving grace.
Umrao Jaan is familiar territory with Himesh going nasal with a vengeance. The croaky female refrain of ‘No touching, only seeing’ could have been subdued in this catchy song. Why doesn’t Himesh get another male vocalist, there are so many out there. Understandably, he lip-synchs the same in the film, still why not try alternatives?
Sadhna Sargam is good company to Himesh in the hummable, brief, under three-minute Yuh toh Mera Dil. Some wonderful interplay of guitar at the blooming of love. Impressive soft touch, proving Himesh does well with minimum add-on's than the bang bang Punjabi dhol beats. Remixes, we elude again. Overall, a lot of ‘would have been better moments’ in a soundtrack largely average with some pleasant soft streaks.
Rewind Potentials: 1.Hum Tum, 2.Yuh to mera dil and 3.Umrao Jaan.

27 Sep 2011

Movie Review: MAUSAM: No Smoke, No Fire

Sometime in 1992, Harry (Shahid Kapoor) or Harinder is awaiting a life-changing letter in his remote Punjab village. Apart from idling with his village friends, borrowing cars to race with trains, and having an empty purse, Harry falls for the new Kashmiri girl Aayat (Sonam Kapoor) at the bakery at first sight. Soon, his bicycle chain starts slipping off near the girl's abode. Hand-written notes are exchanged quietly, dipped in water as evidence disposal, and finally, caught in a downpour, the girl promises to tell him," Tomorrow." Only, the girl has left the village in haste with her family, as Harry hauntingly looks at a disappearing train. These initial parts of the movie are all charm and simplicity.

Cut to, suddenly, 1999, Scotland. Huh? Aayat at the Royal Academy of Dance. Harry is a moustached pilot visiting on a pilot exchange program. The lovers meet and just can't act like lovers. In one jarring scene, in which, we are subjected to a telepathic conversation, to another where a cigarrate lighter is excuse for a forced retro take on the classic Hum Dono song Abhi na jao... In rising exasperation of the story's disregard for time lines and redundancies, Harry misses a marriage-possible meeting because he is summoned for the Kargil war. He doesn't inform Aayat for dramatic effect rather than logic. Thus is the period until INTERMISSION survived.

Part two. Harry calls up Aayat, but the forced turn of circumstances, wouldn't let the lovers communicate. Aayat is a travel freak now, moving from Scotland to Punjab to Ahmedabad to Scotland and back again to Ahmedabad with a sore face. The air force objected bombing scene is a sitting duck. Like the hand video games of the nineties. By the time Harry's left arm is paralysed, I have to leave the theatre. I never thought I would walk out of a cinema theatre midway, ever. It is easier if you are at Westend. Not so, when you are sinking in thousand-buck tickets, 100-buck pop corns, and 50-buck coffee. Of course, you don't get a movie as flawed each time. Only a bad movie made with confidence, nowadays, and an occasional gem.

Mausam is slayed by a first-time director's ambition, that the story had to cover so many geographical settings and event references. That every historical event from 1992 to present had to adversely affect the lovers' lives is just too sad to be true. That James Cameron kept it spectacularly simple in Titanic (1997) - A ship, two lovers and an iceberg. Also the absence, of any hint of fire and passion between Shahid and Sonam only adds to the misery.

If all the venom is well-deserved, Pankaj Kapur (An amazing actor, no doubt, Director? Ahhh?), ironically, does have the promise of telling a good, simple tale. He shows his stuff especially in the village scenes. We say, try again. Something simpler please.

Music stays
Pritam's music and Irshad Kamil's lyrics are a saving grace, an odd contrast to the cracked proceedings. Some arresting moments when the Hans Raj Hans rendered Ik tu hi tu hi tu hits the screen.     

17 Sep 2011

Music Review: RA.ONE:Most Good, Little Bad

Music: Vishal-Shekhar / Lyrics: Panchi Jalonvi,Vishal, Nirangen Iyengar and Kumaar
The much-awaited Vishal-Shekhar soundtrack is here and already we are rocking to the priceless pop-irrelevancy of the Akon-Hansika Iyer Chammak Chalo rendition. While Akon is clearly enjoying himself with the Hinglish parts and additional harmonies, the Tamil part is at most a strange addition before Hansika packs a punch with a classical antara-ending touch. Cool fresh stuff. The Akon solo of the same, credited as an ‘international’ version is good, if not as enjoyable as the duet. In contrast, the other Akon song Criminal is a meandering beat song with Shruti Pathak and Vishal tagging along, the lyrics have little meaning here. You may like its pacing on repeated listens. 

The singer’s dream song in the album is Dildaara as Shafqat Amanat Ali’s lead vocals weave magic in to a demanding loop all through. The chorus parts, very English boy band inspired work, gels well here - a standout. The VS favourite Sukwinder Singh gets, as a welcome change, an experimented lounge number, Jiya Mora Ghabraaye. It may not be instantly catchy, well, we may need a dance floor to swing to this one. A new road taken here, thumbs up for that.

The RD Burman influence is all spread over the Vishal mimic-retro take in Raftaarien, the reference been the 1977 RD-Gulzar Dhanno ki aankhon mein from Kitaab. Again, the boy band tinge returns to Right by your side, this one’s separate Hindi-English stuff works well with the lyrics blending much better than Criminal. The modern Krishna-Radha version finds spunk in the Nandini Shrikar execution of Bhare Naina. Another potential gem.

The remixes? Please, we take them as redundancies for the weekend disco. At least three potential rewind-materials. A sturdy album that could have been a classic in the absence of the techno-noise, but a satisfying effort considering the limitations of the popular Hindi cinema framework.

Music Review: MAUSAM: A Touch of Soul

Music: Pritam / Lyrics: Irshad Kamil 
We would like to start with applause for two separate mesmerizing takes by Shahid Mallya and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan on Rabba main to mar gaya oy. The prolific and plagiarism-tagged Pritam last composed something as soft and original in the 2007 films Jab We Met (Tum se hi, tum se hi) and Life in a Metro (In dino dil mera). The flavour is largely Punjabi, except for a sole whirling Karsan Sagathia Gujarat-garba composition Aag lage us aag ko. A glowing addition to the album.

The other dual version, the sufi-soul Ik tu hi tu hi tu hi has maximum effect in the Wadali Brothers version, the male chorus of the refrain dilute the beautiful Hans Raj Hans version a little. Some rare moments of depth in this Hindi soundtrack decade are embedded in this one song.

The Mika attitude is again at its guttural peak with Sajh dajh ke, the Nagada (Jab We Met)  déjà vu is fleeting, the story-telling of Kamil shines through here, where an NRI groom is teasingly accused of discarding everything of his rural life, except the colourful attire and style. The vocal selection is spot on to the demands, as we see Rashid Khan go full stretch on the part-ghazal Poore se zara sa kam hai, (filled with calculated percussion add-ons) and pull it off with ease. The Tochi Raina rendered Mallo Malli is a surprise, a dance number with a medium pace, the lyrical ode to love again. Stud of the pack. The remixes are passe for us. 

While Ram Sampath’s Delhi Belly stood out for variety, daredevilry and cheeky stuff, Pritam’s Mausam is a good foil to end up as one of the best soundtracks in the calendar year.        

16 Sep 2011

Movie Review: BOL: Heart-rending despite hiccups

Even as a woman is condemned to be hanged in Pakistan, her last wish is to be allowed to tell her story to the world from the gallows. Even as newspaper reporters and the TV media collect below her, a tale is told.

Somewhere in bustling Lahore, a Hakim (Manzar Sehbai) in want of a son forces his wife to give birth to seven daughters. After the eighth-born boy is discovered to be a hermaphrodite, the eldest daughter Zainub (Humaima Malik) decides that enough is enough, and has a vasectomy done on the mother. The tyrannical father, feeding the family on a dwindling income, is enraged at the turn of events. The fiery venom from the father’s mouth finds its answers in only Zainub, even as the Hakim interprets religion to suit his interests. The women are not allowed to leave the house, nor are they allowed to study. The neighbours try to secretly help, with the son allowed to venture out to earn from his passion for drawing, and tragedy follows. Repression has never done anyone any good.

Pakistani Director Shoaib Mansoor’s last release, the sincere Khuda Ke Liye (2007) had a genuine issue, and more so, does Bol. The proceedings could have had a tighter screenplay at instances, and there a few over-the-top moments, the effect in totality is devastating to a degree. The consequences of suppressing human freedom, the caged lives of woman, and the dreariness of a compromise-filled life is all brought to the surface. A must watch.

Clean Slate
Note has to be made of the performances, all up to the mark, with the famous singer Atif Aslam making it to the supporting cast. Again, as in Khuda Ke Liye, the soundtrack is clean and heart-felt, Indian composers can certainly learn the importance of not mashing in western elements for the sake of sounding cool. The standouts and these are not the only ones – two Atif-Hadiqa duets Hona tha pyar and Kaho aaj bol do.

15 Sep 2011

Movie Review: Mere Brother ki Dulhan: Bearable Humour

The commercial Hindi film romcom (romantic comedy) in the last two years, by default, has wealthy characters, thus sweeping aside with any monetary hurdles in the screenplay. London-based Luv (Ali Zafar) calls off a five-year relationship with his girlfriend, following an altercation. Fifteen minutes in to ‘singledom’ he calls up his younger sibling Kush (Imran Khan) in India, asking him to look for a suitable bride for an impromptu marriage.

Post the mildly amusing reference-filled title song, and rushing through an predictable unsuitable band of prospective brides (stupid, foolish and crazy in typical Hindi film treatment), the right match is finally found in Delhi. Only, the London-born Dimple (Katrina Kaif) is a former college mate of Kush, and as he remembers - rebellious, a beedi-smoker and alcohol 'binger'. None of this is revealed to the parents, as after a ten minute provocative (the movie’s best, original moments) video chat, Luv and Dimple assent to the wedding.

Even as both parties collect at Delhi for the engagement, Kush accompanies Dimple to fulfill her desire to live life to the fullest before the D-day. Even as the engagement takes place, Kush realizes that he is in love with Dimple. Inevitably, he declares his love to Dimple who, after a thundering slap, assents. The plot that Kush, his friends and Dimple hatch to turn the tables on the marriage forms the rest of the movie.

All sugar candy in the location, attire and scenery, the film picks up after a tepid laugh-miserly half-hour, but only just. The promised jokes come in a trickle; all the tribute paid to various Hindi films is sadly devoid of any wickedness. Thankfully, the story follows a linear path that keeps us interested. Imran Khan puts in a sincere performance. Katrina shows that if she is given a breezy, cheerful role minus complications, with an excuse to use her accented Hindi, she can act too. The screenplay overshadows Ali Zafar’s fresh performance, we like it whenever he makes it to the screen. The supporting cast are all good, especially Kush’s friend. Dimple’s mentally challenged brother is a stereotype best avoided. A bearable one-time watch.

Sohail Sen’s soundtrack is standard Yashraj fare, all seen and done, from Sufi-wannabe songs like Dhunki (Neha Bhasin rocks, Katrina doesn’t emote as well) and Isq risk ( featuring the indefatigable Rahat Fateh Ali Khan again) , to the passables – Do dhaari talwar, Choomantar and Madhubala. We expected more after Sen’s sincere stuff for last year’s Khelien hum jee jaan se.