Saturday, June 14, 2003

desi writing and some discount music

Since I last picked up a couple of books by "lady writers of South Asian origin", I also added Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Arranged Marriage to my list. While Bharati Mukherjee came off as a tad too cynical, with prose that hit you in short bursts, her canvas is broad, and there is an interesting look at the immigrant community in general. For me, however, the Indian immigrant experience is something more familiar. This augments my positive reaction to both Arranged Marriage and Interpreter of Maladies. The other names that come to mind as I read the nuggets contained in these two compilations are Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan. There is no high-concept twist, or a 30-second storyline. Like Bond and Narayan, Lahiri and Divakaruni examine or present slices of the human condition: little incidents that mean a lot but lose out in the quest of the big payoff (because a lot of short story writers want to have Dhaa.Nsuu endings like O Henry, but miss out on the fact that his narrative had humanity).

Grabbed 5 CDs for $10 (a good deal, especially, based on a baseline of prices back home in India!) at Taj last weekend, and although they were a mix of the good, the bad, and the "why bother getting it", I found a lot of effort and talent that just seemed to lose out when the song made it to the silver screen.

* Company: Chowta did not have as much to do with the background score as he did in Satya, but since he was also responsible for the songs he created a set of numbers that fit the narrative of the film (mostly playing in the background), and work wonderfully as post-modern satire than at face value. Asha Bhosle oscillates between admirable and horrifying in Khallas. The tracks of choice are Ga.ndaa hai, A shot of company and Malik's soul. The Music Magazine has a more comprehensive review.

* Aks: Anu Malik deserves some credit for the collage of sounds and strains on this album. Around the time this album was released, he also seemed to be going through a "mai.n bhii Rahman" phase, and this soundtrack is no exception. He even outdoes Rahman in drowning out Gulzar's lyrics, making a waste of a lot of precious creative time. Rediff has a more comprehensive review. The album misses crediting voices on a couple of tracks, and surely Shubha Mudgal's raat aatii hai is nothing but Pancham's Sharm aatii hai...

* Hey Ram: Kamal Hasan's ego interefered with his well-intentioned exploration of the events before and after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, on both socio-political and artistic fronts. Some of that rubbed off on the album too. What must make Ilayaraja's wonderful compositions even more outstanding is the fact that he had to step in and compose songs already picturised, after the previous composer L Subramaniam had a fallout with Hasan.

* Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar: After acquiring the tape cheaply not long ago, I was more than happy to grab a CD. Yes, I like Vishal. Yes, I like Sanjeev Abhyankar. Yes, I liked the movie. And yes, anyone who can compose a song that starts off as "dil kii koTharii me.n jo ruu_ii kaa puli.ndaa hai dhiimii aa.Nch sulagii hai us me.n" definitely deserves some points.

* Drohi: R D Burman's sole score for RGV. Along with two songs by M M Kreem/Kirvani/Maragatamani (uncredited), this is a nice little album that was doomed thanks to RDB's status as box-office poison. The intentional references to Sholay exemplify a rarity in today's times: a collaboration between director and music director on ideas explored in the film (Raghav, Nagarjuna's character, plays the famous Sholay theme at a couple of points in the film; and what better tribute to the quote than to rope in the original composer again, and what better tip_of_the_hat from the original composer than to acknowledge this by quoting his own composition in a song for DROHI?). The bonus songs from Roop ki Rani Choron ka Raja and Hasti are worth skipping, and I already have a copy of the Amit Kumar rendition of Majrooh's salacious and mischievous lyric for Gurudev. Of note: In Aise hame.n dekho nahii.n, RDB gets away with reusing not one but two of his compositions: the core of the song is jaane jigar from Pukar, and sun cha.mpaa sun taaraa from Apna Desh. What better way to cap a handful of five CDs with a CD from Pancham?

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