31 May 2012

The Hindi Film Soundtrack 2012: January - May Review (Part II)

Aunty Ji
[Ek Main Aur Ek Tu / S –Ash King; M – Amit Trivedi; L - Amitabh Bhattacharya]

Year 2012 has been an indifferent year for melody so far. At the same time, a new wave of composers and lyricists are making their presence felt.

Post Shankar-Ehsan-Loy’s disappointing 2011-end release Don 2, in contrast to their work in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, they have had no major impact in 2012 as yet.

Amit Trivedi has impressed with his creative zing on Ek Main Aur Ek Tu and Ishqzaade this year.  It was also a pleasant surprise to see Pakistani singer-actor-composer-lyricist Ali Zafar take some fresh love-dewy steps with his songs for London Paris New York. 

Pritam has had a decent year with his work for Agent Vinod and Jannat 2. But the stars have been the composer duo Sajid-Wajid with their wacky, Hindi film template adherence, creating cool grooves and catchy refrains. OK, so Housefull 2 was not so great. Sample Rowdy Rathore, with a nineties sound and lyrics that border on the raunchy, yet provide an addictive street disco beat.

Voh Dekhnay Mein
[London Paris New York / S - Ali Zafar; M & L – Ali Zafar]

28 May 2012

The Hindi Film Soundtrack 2012: January - May Review (Part I)

A notable Hindi film soundtrack of January-May 2012

We have been listening these five months, most of what has hit the screens, along with the songs that continue to feature as compulsory companions in Hindi feature films. The onscreen lip synching repeats itself still with stubbornness, seldom but, with any purpose or design to its representation.

The stand out soundtrack so far has been Ajay-Atul’s Agneepath. The folksy and Maharashtrian strains are no wannabe; it is very much in the duo’s veins as we see it engaged to best effect in Gungunguna Re. Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya is at his element here, so is Sunidhi Chauhan. Udit Narayan gets a song after a long hiatus and he fits apt to the very nineties proceedings. The star clearly are the beats, the lazim drill inspired sounds are all gusto and life of the song.

Despite the Shreya Ghoshal surprise and the lively intermediate music, Chikni Chameli is a bow to formula, and that the composers just rehashed their Marathi number for this one, doesn’t add up here. Shah ka Rutba has strong vocals in Sukwinder Singh (We are yet to catch up with his latest spelling change of the name) and Anand Raaj Anand. The song loses melodic steam in its pacy culmination, a déjà vu of how Shankar-Ehsan-Loy almost killed Kajra Re (Bunty aur Babli, 2005). 

Deva Sri Ganesha is very much the devotional heart of the Ajay-Atul oeuvre. Though not as radiant as the duo had got Shankar Mahadevan in Sri Ganeshaya Deemayi (Viruddh, 2005), the familiar robust chorus provides able support to Ajay’s variant vocal texture. Then there are the trademark festival beats.

The criminally underused Roopkumar Rathod gets to render O Saiyyan, again the chorus is heavy, soft guitar strains a good addition. The main vocals are effectively toned down; the lyrics don’t touch as much. The similarly toned Abhi Mujh Mein Kahi has Sonu Nigam doing the honours, the violins are a breeze, again the toned downed vocals, the mukhda* strains does have a high-pitched variant as its saving grace. A soundtrack with meaning and enthusiasm, certainly not classic - but hitting the right notes.

Subsequent posts shall talk about other notable soundtracks that have made a mark this year like London Paris New York, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, Kahaani and Ishqzaade.  

*mukhda - The opening lines of a song, often a refrain in the entire song.  

Music Director Duo Ajay-Atul

27 May 2012

Movie review: Arjun - The Warrior Prince: Almost There...

Even as the storyteller and the listener walk back from the battlefield, and the end credits roll, there is a sense of something unfinished in what is an impressive and occasionally awe-inspiring animation movie.

Engaging Moments
Since most of the Indian population is supposed to know the story, the screenplay is certainly clever in not making this a checklist of events. The young prince of the Kuru dynasty can’t sleep without hearing a story from the maid servant, hence the lady commences to tell him the story of Arjun.
Despite the skipping over story chunks there are seat-grabbing moments. One factor is the detailed, decorous set pieces of each scene. Indian animation (with a little help from Disney) hasn’t looked so right in each scene. The expressive faces and great voice modulation by the dubbing artists takes us right into the action. The dialogues are right in there, humourous, insightful at times, and timely. The festival sounds and innovations of Vishal-Shekhar’s soundtrack are heartening too. Sample the Sukwinder Singh vocals on Karam ki talwar at the end - rocking. So where does it all feel lacking?

Considering that it has been six years since I first saw the rocking trailer of the movie which showcased the stunning Draupadi Swayamyar* scene, there should have been so much more. OK, they wanted to focus on Arjun, yet the grouse remains, especially the partial treatment of other characters. The languishing, lone side of Karan has no outlet, or that of the fatherly grand old Bheeshm; Bhim and Yudishtir come across as caricatures. As for Krishna, who should have been the most enigmatic, is only a scratch in the storyline. All you get is the conflict between Duryodhan and Arjun.

So Much Not Told 
There are sporadic sights of violence, severed torsos, also in contrast, like did they want an adult audience? Draupadi is not depicted as the wife of five husbands, several dark aspects are not shown, so then was the target audience scale tilted to the under-18 audience? The pendulum uncertain swing of the audience certainly shows in the base story, if less in the storytelling. Like, what about Mahabharat, the whole war? Despite the tag line ‘The Amazing Story of India’s Greatest Hero’, there is so much not told, this one is screaming for a sequel.

In summation, thumbs up for the attempt, Arjun - The Warrior Prince is brave and inspired stuff, and that sheen shows, certainly worth a watch. Hope that the director Arnab Chaudhari walks his road now. 

The Best Scene 
A man dives backwards into a pool; falls almost endlessly, meets the water in a whooshing collision and then, reaching the pool bed, watches the shadow of a fish intently, even as a bubble escapes him, releases an arrow from the bow...

*Swawamyar - An ancient Indian ceremony where many men vouch to win the hand of a woman for marriage. The groom was usually decided through a contest.   

26 May 2012

Hollywood Movie Update: Gaga over Steve Jobs

Photo source: geek.com

It is not like there was no attempt to make a movie on the 'Apple Man' Steve Jobs. There was one made in 1999 called Pirates of Silicon Valley. The 95-minute made-for-TV film was an adaptation of the Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine book Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer. 

Directed by Martyn Burke, the movie starring Noah Wyle (As Steve Jobs) and Anthony Michael Hall (As Bill Gates) in set in the period between the 1970's and ends in 1997 with Jobs and Gates agreeing to a partnership following the former's return to Apple.   

Cut to 2012 and we have confirmed news that there are at least two full-length Hollywood movie on Jobs on the cards. The first one titled Jobs, has Ashton Kutcher playing the lead. While we moan at the choice of Kutcher as Jobs, the positive side is - here is the time for him to prove he can act.  Inferno Entertainment is ready to sell the movie, so we hear.

The real heartening news is that the second film Steve Jobs has Aaron Sorkin, screen writer of  the similarly toned quirky film The Social Network as part of the project. The movie will be reportedly based on Walter Isaacson authored biography of the same name. Sony is producing this movie. 

23 May 2012

Hindi Film Music: Three Himesh Reshammiya Compositions

We all know just how much crap the one and only Himesh Reshammiya has got for embarking on an overtly ambitious acting career. We can only agree, he is pretty bad in that department. Last heard, he is yet to give up on the acting bug. Alas?

Looking at the bright side of things, we still do think that Reshammiya is the coolest when he tags as music director for Hindi films. There again he wouldn’t stop singing in a ‘nasal twang’, as it has been called, again and again and again... 

Where did the whole Himesh bouquet and brickbat trade start? It was, once upon a time in 2005, when Himesh went ‘Oooooooooooooooooooooh’ for the title song Aashiq Banaya Apne. Notice the muffled percussion here, the short tabla sprinkle and near-creaky violins. The novelty of the Himesh voice was something unique back then; it was a composition that one couldn’t ignore. There was originality in it, the pacing and comparatively high-pitched Shreya Ghoshal was a good cameo. Let us look at three Himesh compositions that this blog writer has enjoyed. 

Lut Jaaon Lut Jaaaon 
 Karzzzz (2008)
Lyrics: Sameer / Singers: Himesh & Harshdeep Kaur

This is easily the most pleasing to the ears rendition by Himesh; Harshdeep gives a great dreamy contrast to the robust male vocals. The percussion and the flute riff give the song an unusual lounge canvas on which the Himesh vocals punch in at the right places. This is that one rare song where we thought no other male vocalist would have fit in. Even the wayward lyrics can’t kill it.  

 Aawan Akhiyan Jawan Akhiyan  
Ahista Ahista (2006)
Lyrics: Irshad Kamil / Singers: Himesh, Jayesh Gandhi, Mashim & Aftab

An early Irshad Kamil work that has its filmy qawwali clichés and some sparkling lines, it is the multi-singer execution that nails this one right. The Himesh stretches ring true in this format, and the co-singers fit right in to make this a repeat listen.

Teri Yaad Saath Hai  
Namaste London (2007)
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar / Singers: Rahat Fateh Ali Khan & Krishna Beura

Thankfully, the vocals are Himesh free or are they? Anyway there was talk of creative discussions and arguments between the music director and lyricist. Whatever rumoured friction there was worked wonders for the whole soundtrack and this particular track plays beautifully to vintage visuals of the Taj Mahal and other Indian heritage sites. A homecoming song that is also an ode to loneliness and alienation.