Wednesday, May 31, 2006

embers of jaw-dropping shock [the last time we heard about the nose]

RGV has roped in Himesh "naakaaba.ndii" Reshammiya for the music of his almost-slated-for-Nukedom interpretation of Sholay. And the nose with a scruffy hang-under and a cap to boot will also render the famous mahabuubaa, thus likely to incite the ire of several Pancham fans and Himesh haters alike. But we have RGV's reasons plain as day: I was looking for a voice just like that of R D's and that's when Himesh happened. He is all the over place with a nasal tone, that so ably suits my song. Quite. RGV RDB's adaptation of Say You Love Me by Demis Roussos held its own thanks to his impassioned trademark vocal and some interesting experiments in the arrangements. The video and the place that the film occupies in history, laced with the nostalgia of years, fuel a very strong bias against RGV's decision. But the dude's clear on what he wants. The nose's version of the song might fit in well with the film as he envisions it. I will offer pyaar pyaar pyaar pyaar me.n as evidence. Meanwhile, back to the earplugs. [*pinched nose intonation* ooooo]

Thursday, May 25, 2006

whoa combo! rahman + gulzar + bappi

Bappi's in Travolta mode. His recent revival has comprised the usual song and dance (Mr Prime Minister, Topless, Jaya Prada's venture into hip-hop), the occasional background score (Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara) and, in a rather interesting turn, singing bambaii nagariyaa for Vishal-Shekhar in Taxi No 9211. And now in a rather interesting coup, Bappi has sung a song penned by Gulzar and set to music by A R Rahman for Mani Ratnam's next film Guru (a film that's poised to be more valued for all the casting trivia unless Mani Saar manages a creative coup). The song's supposed to embellish the opening credits. I wonder if it's only a coincidence that Bappi was the music director responsible for delectable howlers like Bad Girl for the Mithun-Sridevi powerhouse flick Guru several years ago. This gives B-mongers (where B, in this case, can also mean Bappi) a reason to await the soundtrack.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

(*pinched nose*)OM [last post in thread]

Prashant Chaddha, the man responsible for encouraging the nose to sing and conjuring the visual spectacle that rocks like a hailstorm, says that Himesh's voice has divinity. Holy crap!

Also included: a comparison to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

some online media (items old and new)

On the Wayback Engine you can find a conversation between Amartya Sen and Salman Rushdie as part of the PEN New York World Voices festival. I've had ID3 issues with the MP3 stream in Winamp, but it played fine in WMP (ugh!). The Ogg Vorbis version offered no issues. Very entertaining and enlightening. [tip courtesy: Prufrock's Page]

Next up, a series of video clips featuring outrageous sequences from the film of Nandamuri Balakrishna aka Balaya. This son of NTR has provided enough aam-aadamii-turns-super-hero material to put the likes of Baba (whose theme song boasted the largest number in the history of Indian cinema, hexadecimally speaking -- B to the A to the B to the A: go figure that one out), Indra (Chiranjeevi doing a Sharon Stone/Basic Instinct act with a ka.nDuaa), and even the most eye-popping stunt in the forthcoming Krrish. Having no understanding of the language really augments the experience.

First, a sequence from Palanati Brahmanaidu featuring a "moving" invocation and gesture.

Perhaps from the same movie is a sequence where the etymological origins of the word "digital" are echoed in a spectacular domestic scene of motion magic tail-ended with some stupendous dialogue delivery building up to the virtues of kalyuga dharma.

Get back up from the floor now for the third clip. This time we're back in the train genre with a simple jump that combines flight and new-age physics to put the likes of Superman to shame.

Which we follow up with another entry in the same space. This time around the clip shatters your foundations in relative motion, impact physics and mechanical efficiency.

We travel from the plains of trains to the promising space of an open airfield. This time it's all about a man, a plane, his blade, some blood and a tribute to Indiana Jones. Not to mention some very very cheap CGI.

We now have a tribute to Ethan Hunt, the theme music of Jurassic Park and an "I Love Rabbits" sentiment rolled into one memorable sequence. This comes from the Great Bong's memorably Mithunian take on Mission Impossible: III.

Our last offering is the longest of all the clips. But your patience will be rewarded by a dazzling display of ideas ranging from Hindu mythology, polymorphic personality disorder, Moses, studio wind machines, state-of-the-art cheap CGI, the yin-yang para-capability of the fist and palm, flying extras, fragile artificial sets, jackassed jingoism and ... you get the idea.

Before we go, we'd like to play fair and give Vijaykanth's Captain his due. Here's a clip that provides a "shocking" display of Captain's Laws of Electricity. [courtesy: JR], a sequence dedicated to a buoyant pair of sunglasses and a clip dedicated to properties of blood we were never told about and the power of the moustache.

mashup of the moment: The teen comedy preview department meets The Ten Commandments to give us ... this??? [warning: contains entertaining profanity]

desii tribute to Pennywise: a print ad for a new McDonald's in Pune. [courtesy: BoingBoing]

omkara: the official site is up

Not much there yet except for a poster. The first words that come to mind: Sergio Leone. That's a good thing. The casting has had me worried , but my hopes and wishes are with the film. Here's hoping Vishal pulls off another flourish after Maqbool.

image courtesy: the official site
aural loop: the songs of ankahee

a short bit about the film: Vikram Bhatt's Ankahee promises to be a revisionist (read: potentially bland, ineffectual) take on a core idea in Mahesh Bhatt's films like Arth and MB's own made-for-TV good-songs-boring-film follow-up Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Ayee. Mahesh Bhatt has always described Arth as a semi-autobiographical film and the theme of a man, his wife and the other woman has surfaced in many flavours across his oeuvre. So one wonders about the Bhatt clan when Vikram Bhatt's "Brutal Love Story" gets a marketing appendage that describes it as semi-autobiographical (being an ode to his relationship with Sushmita Sen -- it's a line that Vikram Bhatt supported initially, before calling it all a marketing thing). Vikram Bhatt even calls the film "the same old sh*t," so you have the maker's word on the film to help your decision as far as taking the pains to view it.

image courtesy:
the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that blocks the camera

and now, Mr. Pritam Chakraborty: I've been looping Pritam's songs for the film for quite a while now -- something I haven't been able to do for the recent Bollywood soundtracks. I have a soft corner for the use of the guitar in Bollywood soundtracks. One has had the simplistic examples in Anu Malik's canon, Prasanna's contributions to the occasional spots in Rahman's work (july madham being a personal favourite), Tushar Parte's work on Vishal Bharadwaj's songs, Vishal-Shekhar's now less frequent forays into non-dance-hall territory. Another contributor to the pool is no-longer-NKOB Pritam Chakraborty, who tasted soaring success with the title track for Dhoom. I've liked his arrangements and he also employs the guitar frequently. On the flip side, he's also been ruling the roost on the plagiarism front, chalking up numbers that would put Sanjeev-Darshan to shame. The variety and esoteric nature of his sources and his flair for good arrangements makes him worthy of being called the "Mighty Rearranger" (with due apologies to Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation). Gangster was a good soundtrack to loop through, but sources have already been nailed down [courtesy: Karthik at I2FS] for all the songs except for mujhe mat roko. There are chances that the songs of Ankahee have sources of their own (the chord progressions and melodies sound addictive and familiar enough); but only time will tell.

Ankahee: the songs: The album kicks off with ek pal ke liye that opens with an impassioned male laa-laa refrain and continues to be peppered with some delicious Jesse Cook-esque guitar, soft electronica and bass. KK, a personal favourite, is inconsistent with his 'r's (some roll -- why o why! --some don't). The electronic percussion doesn't take the song into the annoying dance-with-me space. There's enough nylon guitar here to destroy all semblance of objectivity on the part of YT. The fills certainly can't boast the complexity and flair of a Clapton or Page solo, but they'll have to do. Small mercies are what you get in the marsh of Bollywood mijhik. This song is Amitabh Varma's (My Brother Nikhil, Chhal) contribution to the soundtrack and his words suffice -- despite the lack of any interesting ideas, there's no Sameer-esque attempt at piffle rhyme. The song pops up in two more avataars (same mukha.Daa, different a.ntaraas), each sung by popular singers I have a hard time adjusting to: Sonu "La Femme" Nigam and Shreya "Shatterglass" Ghoshal. Nigam's version boasts a flute piece in the prelude and boasts more consistent backing on the rhythm guitar. The rolling of the 'r' is seldom heard, and is a welcome change. The interludes quote and improvise on the prelude, and there's even a chordal improvisation near the tail of the a.ntaraa. Sadly, the guitar cedes control to the strings and electronica towards the end. Musically, the Shreya Ghoshal version is the Nigam version with a different voice track. Ghoshal rolls the terminating 'r's on occasion, tries to infuse some 'oomph' (which makes you wish beyond hope that Sunidhi Chauhan had done this song), but she can't keep her "thin voice of a little girl" persona in check, which makes this version a tad avoidable.

Ghoshal, sadly, gets another song on this album. Except for the vibe of a swirling descent into nostalgia and heartache, aa paas aa seems like a track from another album. The guitar shows up only for an interlude, leaving the rest of the track as an electronica-assisted venture. There's too much of the heard-this-before and the this-is-beginning-to-drag-a-bit happening here. Sameer's patent-pending rhyme is evident with lines like aa paas aa sanam / sahaa na jaaye duuriyo.n kaa Gam / tujhe hai qasam.

A nice turn comes in the form of a bit of little pop called tumase yuu.N mile.nge. Despite the strange forays of the melody (forcing the presence of chords like G, Ab, E and C# in the key of F), Kunal Ganjawala probably phoned in this performance (along with the multi-tracked harmonies). Lots of guitar -- both acoustic and electric -- including a rocksy solo in the first interlude and an acoustic turn in the second interlude. Thanks to a shift in the chord progression Subrat Sinha's aur ye zi.ndagii mahakegii tumhaarii baaho.n me.n gets gets split at zi.ndagii in the mukha.Daa; consequently the mukha.Daa ends with an incomplete fragment. Nice touch.

Then there's the title track. anakahii opens with the opening melody of the mukha.Daa played out on the acoustic guitar. This one's laden with accidentals too. The chord progression (A – C – G – A) is the same as the one on Love is Strong by The Rolling Stones. Love that C# in the final measure at the turnaround. It's an addictive melody with addictive chords. And lots of acoustic guitar.

For Babul Supriyo's lamhaa Pritam does something interesting. He takes the riff from the title song, transposes it from the key of A to the key of F, moves it into this song as the prelude, and then lets the rest of the song proceed along like tumase yuu.N mile.nge. Supriyo continues to sound like a decaffeinated version of Kumar "the nose who has ceded the throne to Himesh" Sanu adding little to the melody besides hitting all the notes as they come by.

Incidentally, the title also qualifies as a member of the titular abuse list. Does no one remember Amol Palekar's nice little nugget starring Amol Palekar, Deepti Naval, Shreeram Lagoo and Vidhu Vinod Chopra with a stellar classical soundtrack by Jaidev featuring, among others, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi? Such strong credentials make Vikram Bhatt's doppelgänger pale at the starting line itself.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

duh vinci

In 2004, Dan Brown's 2003 bestseller faced a potential ban in India, but moves to this effect were classified as gimmicks and there were people who chose not to exercise any opinion without having read the book (surprising, no?). A few years later, after this two-or-three-session potty page-turner had raked in millions for the author and the associated publishing machinery (not to mention serving as a stellar example of terrible writing), Ron "Eat My Dust" Howard's movie adaptation is tasting the same ire -- except that this time around any controversy would be good; after all, we're not talking intellectually stimulating material here, but a blockbuster aspirant. The reviews so far have been, to say the least, uncomplimentary. The film looks all set to become a clunker, but one never knows.

But on to the objections in meraa bhaarat mahaan. The protests and calls for a ban have been in keeping with the fine tradition of outrageous misguided rants that has plagued films as diverse as The Last Temptation of Christ, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Deepa Mehta's Fire. After its unsuccessful attempts at getting the book banned, The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) tried its luck with the film. They filed a petition at the Bombay High Court seeking action against Sharmila Tagore, the Censor Board chief for clearing the film. The Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi invited a few friends from a particular community to watch the film and provide feedback. Particular community? Who were they? The Opus Duh? Dasmunsi even went on to note: "Whenever there is a film related to the sentiments of a particular community, and requires sensitivity in social matters, the Censor Board invites experts for their opinion. This does not mean the Board has become redundant." . Whatever that means.

If it wasn't bad enough that some "representatives" of the obvious community voiced their protest, the Muslims stepped in in "a show of solidarity." United we stand, united we fall. That's the anthem of the lemmings. And when you read a statement like "The film shows our Prophet Jesus Christ in a bad light. I have not read the book but I am told that the author says Prophet Jesus Christ had a child. This will not be tolerated by any Muslim, you really wonder if any rational mind is at work in this whole business. Hearsay has historically been one of the biggest contributors to the diet of the green-eyed monster, and consequently the cause of ill-will, hatred, strife, violence and death. Such a hullabaloo over a movie that's clearly out to make money, and paradoxically, will benefit from such outrage. Controversy fuels curiosity; curiosity peps up ticket sales.

Finally, and rather soon, the verdict was in. The film was cleared without a cut, and is slated to hit desii theatres with a disclaimer at the beginning (which a lot of people will miss) and at the end (which will probably not get shown thanks to the irritating habit of desii projectionists to turn the projector off as soon anything resembling "The End" transpires).

It will also sport the "A" certificate, which, as we all know, has been a very effective measure in cinema theatres.

It's just as well that there will be no cuts. Especially when one of the scenes on the excision playlist was a scene where the murderer made the sign of the cross before and after the murder. Dear protesting brethren, have you heard of a movie called Jo Bole So Nihaal? It was a movie that offended another community (this time the Sikhs). Strangely enough, you didn't seem to mind the character of Romeo (played by Kamaal Khan), a professional contract killer ( meraa ek hii ##record## hai, ki meraa kahii.n ko_ii ##record## nahii.n hai ), who had a fetish for confession. Every Sunday he'd find a church to confess, and once he was done with the outpouring of sin and vice, he bumped off the priest. As if this wasn't enough, he also indulged in masochism (going topless and asking his hot sidekick Rosie to dress up in black leather and whip him) in the event that he was unable to find a church in time.

While one eagerly awaits Anthony Lane's review, A O Scott's NYTimes review serves up enough feathers for the rib.

And, in closing, may I offer the Language Log's archive of extremely entertaining posts dedicated to Mr. Brown's book and style.

update: [may 20, 2006] In an interesting development, Sony has refused to add the disclaimers saying that the existing standard note (you know the "no resemblance to ..." drill) must suffice. There are reasons why something straightforward like adding disclaimers as bookends is going to pose problems -- this task requires a lot more process and sanction. The studio is reportedly considering moving their disclaimer over from the end credits to the opening credits (I wonder if they realise that this means their disclaimer has a greater chance of being seen -- reasons already mentioned earlier in this post). Meanwhile, Sony has offered Underworld: Evolution for release this week. The second edition in the saga of strife between vampires and werewolves with pervasive strong violence and gore, some sexuality/nudity and language (rated R) should make for a perfect substitute for a murder mystery featuring a symbiologist/sleuth that contains disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material, brief drug references and sexual content (rated: PG-13).

rediff scores an ace

image courtesy: Param Param Param !!! Wakaw !!!!
Rediff has truly outdone itself with an over-the-phone interview with the emunctory chartbusting sensation Himesh "Don't Phunk With My Nose" Reshammiya. The outpourings of this he "low profile guy" who also happens to be shy guarantee spills galore. An extract (that cannot do justice to the whole) follows (PS: click the image on the left to see the larger version):

[...]People ought to know a few things about my singing in the films…

And what would it be?

My father gave me the training in singing, and I have taken my classical singing education seriously. It is not that I became a singer overnight. Though some of songs such as Zarra jhoom jhoom (in Tom Dick & Harry) have become phenomenally successful, I always obey the person who has total control over me as a singer.

And who would that be?

It is Himesh Reshammiya, the composer. I am foremost a composer.

How do you decide on singing a song of your own in a film?

Himesh Reshammiya the composer had to give permission to Himesh Reshammiya, the singer. It is like picking a card from the deck. I think deeply before I let the singer in me get the permission.

Long live the man who, with ek baar aajaa aajaa aajaa aajaa gave the 21st century its impassioned retort to Sanjay Kapoor's aatii nahii.n.

{image courtesy: Param Param Param !!! Wakaw !!!!}

update: Coming soon to a third-rate desii theatre in the US near you, a crowded overpriced multiplex near you, a badly mastered DVD with special features at your favourite Indian grocery store in the US/UK, a heavily reused cheap VHS copy of the said DVD at your favourite Indian grocery store in the US (and the UK?): The nose that has set your ears on fire will be seen in sundry glory and is brought to you by Prashant Chaddha, the man responsible for the vying-for-world-relief-funds look that has besmirched TV screens, billboards, and the like.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

apologies to faithful readers and a tank of compost dedicated to nedstats

Two months ago, YT noticed (thanks to accidentally opening up an instance of MSFT Internuts Exploder and pointing it to this blog's URL) an iLead pop-under! After recovering from the horrifying experience, and after running a bit of online research, YT isolated the cause, but true to YT's procrastinating nature, the offensive block of code has only just been consigned to the bit bucket. The result: no pop-ups. A thousand apologies to you, dear reader. A million Himesh Reshammiya songs to the people at NedStats (now

references: iLead popup removed | 2 tech notes from djchuang
priyadarshan returns to home state for source material [last post in thread]

After having ventured overseas (Waking Ned Devine) for a stillborn serving of unseasoned daal (Malamaal Weekly), Priyadarshan returns to the verdant land of elephants, rubber trees and fish (Punjabi House, a comedy from the filmmaking team of Rafi-Mecartin, responsible for a few mainstream boilerplate hits in God's Own Country) for his forthcoming release Chup Chup Ke. Have to give it to the guy for being very open and clear about his inspirations and sources: I never come up with an idea, he says, among other things:

Does the final product excite you?
I am a filmmaker who makes films for children. I don't make movies for pseudo-intellectuals. I don't want them to watch my films. My intention when I make a film is very clear. I make it for a certain kind of people who have average intelligence -- because I am also like that. I have an average sense of humour and an average brain. So far, people have accepted my films. I have used the same formula that I used in my earlier films, so I think common people will accept it.

Damn! Now I know how his films become hits; they pack the cinema halls and multiplexes with kids! Special screenings and bookings are arranged for schools ... Um, besides he didn't exactly answer the question.

Is there a different technique you have used in this film?
I have shot the entire film in white colour. From the beginning to end I have shot the whole film in a white set -- from a white backdrop to using white light for the shots. That is the only experiment I have done in this film to bring out the innocence of the romance in the film.

Stark raving white I say!

You said you get inspired from a lot of movies. Is it because of a lack of novel ideas?

There are only seven plots in the world. For example, take the Mahabharata. There is no story in the world that was not told in that great epic -- simply because its canvas is huge.

One cannot possibly make a movie outside the basic seven plots of relationships. The only thing that varies in the film is how you treat the screenplay. Everyone today is inspired from something or the other. Even a child who plays cricket is inspired by, say, Sachin's shot and he tries to copy it. So I think inspiration is not a bad thing. It helps one come up in life.

Looks like he's taking Anu Malik's postal course on Responding to Allegations of Plagiarism for Dummies.

Monday, May 15, 2006

the nadir of bollywood plotting

Even Zero's keyed up about the new poll on Rediff. They're asking their loyal readers to Predict Fanaa's climax. Seems like official sanction of the lack of originality in the excerebrose wlatsome oligophrenial mephitic quilian frass that Bollywood continues to dish out. The weak soundtrack's out; a big banner's backing the film. An initial return is guaranteed at the box office (especially the overseas market that thrives on the economic principles of appealing to the multitudinous bourgeoisie. Here're a few contributions to the guess pot (who cares about the premise anyway? We've shamed Eisenstein and Kuleshov with our unmatched ability to splice and dice our sources into a patent-pending incoherent blend of ketchup).

Aamir takes the blind Kajol to watch Amar Akbar Anthony and the divine SFX blast that restores Nirupa Roy's eyesight extends to restore Kajol's eyesight; Stupefied by the power of Bollywood, Aamir renounces terrorism and embraces Kajol; Tabu, in a cameo as a kamikaze projectionist, smiles at the two from the projection booth, before pulling the pin and blowing the whole place up; The word Fanaa rises out of the bad CGI explosion as you hear Lata plaintively wail kabhii Kushii kabhii Gam

Kajol isn't blind at all, but a member of the same mathematically and cryptographically challenged anti-terrorist squad seen in Dus; she confronts Aamir just as he's lumbering up to his target with a body bomb, and after a long emotional scene complete with bullet vision, a nasal riff of anguish on the background by Kumar Sanu (in a special vocal appearance), and some slow motion tricks involving a monkey, a lemon and a pomeranian high on tharraa, they embrace; however, the bomb doesn't go off; Furious, Aamir claws at the packaging, finds a support number, fishes out his cellphone (insert suitable brand here for product placement revenue) and dials the number; it goes all the way around the world and then down to Bangalore; a desii voice identifies itself as Chris and offers assistance; in keeping with official protocol he butchers Aamir's name, sputters in broken English, and drives Aamir into an insane rage; He discovers that his power animal is a 3D parrot named Raja, and then launches Project Mayhem to blow up all the call centres in Bangalore under the name of Dhanraj Tandon. The end credits roll against an original CGI sequence travelling through Aamir's brain.

Aamir and Kajol discover that they're siblings, as revealed by a dying Tabu, who, despite a bad CGI job with the makeup, plays their mother; Shattered and disgusted with what they've been up to during the course of the film, Aamir and Kajol decide to do a tribute to Dil Se, but spontaneously combust milliseconds before the pivotal blast

The climax of the film is presented in 3D and features an item song (not on the soundtrack) by Payal Rohatgi; while the audience gets a lesson in geography and contours, Aamir trips and falls off the edge of a cliff, just as he is preparing a bomb to blow up Kunal Kohli's office; after his death Kajol gets his eyes and begins to develop a strange affection for Juhi Chawla

Aamir has a double role: the good brother is a struggling writer, and the bad brother is an anarchist; the former indulges in familiar arboreal amorous pursuits (transplanted to boats and such in keeping with the location) with the blind Kajol while the latter pursues a hot steamy intellectual relationship with Tabu who knits sweaters by day and fights grime by night (she heads a local mom-and-pop outfit for crop and forest sprays); the former is facing writer's block trying to work out a screenplay for Sanjay Gupta based on the lost rare complete cut of Stroheim's Greed, Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County, Café Flesh and two videos by Vikas Bhalla; the latter is writing a screenplay that looks like the screenplay of Fanaa; before the climax unfolds, every reel in every projection room across the world catches fire and disintegrates; at this point, Aamir wakes up from what has been a bad dream, rides pillion on the way to the defence minister's residence, shoots him dead during his morning walk, etc. etc; he then takes over a radio station and plays Himesh Reshammiya songs while attempting to justify his actions; Kajol, who is listening attentively, cannot stand the aural assault of the mu[sic] and dies of an acoustic neuroma that mutates into a fatal variant of itself. The end credits include acknowledgements to Gems[sic] Joyce and Luis Panvel[sic].

Thanks to a series of unfortunate events, Aamir's last job, before he gives it all up for his blind lady love Kajol, goes horribly wrong at a concert venue and the performer is killed; the accidental death of burgeoning nasal talent Himesh Reshammiya makes Aamir a star and saviour of millions, whose senses have been wrecked asunder; Aamir manages to get Kajol's eyesight restored, and then they go to a multiplex to watch a new film called Fanaa. The end credits do not include any acknowledgements although the uncredited music comes from Howard Shore's score for The Lord of the Rings

Aamir is a super-terrorist who has retired from duty and conducts coaching classes for an outsourced wing of a feared international terrorist group headed by a mysterious figure in the shadows named Colonel X; He works as a tourist guide and watches reruns of Guide for tips; he runs into Kajol (or, to be precise, she walks straight into him, since she's blind) -- and the consequences of the impact inspire the title of the film; Aamir is called back into action to annihilate (another reference to the title) a burgeoning rival terrorist organisation led by Baba Jalandar, who sounds suspiciously like a mix between Om Shivpuri and Shreeram Lagoo; Aamir assembles a crack team comprising an old friend, a transportation expert a background operative (respectively small-to-medium roles for Abhishek Bachchan, Riteish Deshmukh and Lara Dutta) and embarks on a mission (initially named Asambhav, but, fearing a backlash from Rajiv Rai, renamed Impossible) that primarily involves rescuing Kajol from the chu.ngal of Baba Jalandar (who, in a remarkably original tour de force filched from movies like Manmohan Desai's Kismat) is revealed to be Kajol's father (Rishi Kapoor); his vamp, played by Tabu, takes a bullet shortly after revealing, through a flashy CGI-assisted miserable montage of sepia and filters, that Rishi Kapoor was the person responsible for the accident that robbed Kajol of her eyesight; the climactic shootout results in the loss of several pieces of set furniture, 3 graphic artists, several toys from Leo Mattel (subtle product placement), and a poster of Mithun Chakraborty's Sanyasi Mera Naam; in a splendid example of the use of deus ex machina, Shekhar Kapur guest-directs the post-climax wherein a ripple in time suddenly appears and envelopes Aamir and Kajol, whose eyesight has been miraculously restored thanks to a combination of sulphurous fumes and emotional trauma (thanks to the revelation of her father's identity and past deeds); they are whisked to another time and place (that looks like stolen footage from What Dreams May Come) where they resume their adoration and circumlocution of the family of Ficus benghalensis.

TARFU. Time for some floccinaucinihilipilification folks.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

wrong day basanti: scattered thoughts on Rang De Basanti

[april 02, 2006] (Spoilers exist -- in case there's some lucky soul out there who hasn't seen this film yet)

I refuse to evaluate Rang De Basanti by comparing it with other Bollywood releases, recent and not so recent. Such a comparison feels like a device employed to make every Bollywood release look good. Imagine subjecting someone to Sparsh: The Touch, Raat ke Saudagar, No Entry!, Garam Masala and Kisna and then screening this movie. It's a Pavlovian success. This also explains why producers continue to pelt us with trash hoping that we might find a particular relic of rubbish attractive enough.

I have no idea what thesis Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra puuraa naam had for this film. Mehra and Pandey had a wonderfully promising idea of presenting parallels between the militant spirit of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and a similar outburst among a handful of young Indians of today. The results are disappointing. Mehra is over-zealous with his advertising toolbox. The use of film blur and montages of wipes is irritating. Advertising instructs you in the art of brevity. It's all about saying the most in the least of time. Yet, Mehra seems to be revolting against his background. How else does one explain a film this long that could have clearly benefited from a loss of 60 minutes of audio-visual lard? The prevalence of exposition also underscores this film's aspirations to stay in the mainstream for rewards of ringing cash registers without venturing to make a statement of any interest. Did anyone count the number of times you saw "Coca Cola" in the frames?

The biggest crib from a lot of people, who weren't blinded by the "message" of doing something to fix your country, was the killing of the defence minister. I have to cast my vote here too. If ROM hadn't shown the actual killing, he might've snagged a shard of grace. Alternatively, he could've even devoted some more time to this crucial act. Instead he chooses to inundate the film's first half with a soggy assortment of mainstream cinema familiars: nothing really happens as far as the narrative goes, and ROM even tops it with full-length songs. It's a wonder people returned after the intermission. There could be several reasons for this: they didn't want to waste the large sum of money they just dropped at the box office; they were having a good time talking back to the screen and clearly had to go all the way (way to go!); they were watching it at home and skipped through the songs and the silly bits. So much time is devoted to shots and sequences featuring characters that are just slightly better etched than the dramatis personae of Abbas-Mustan flicks.

This can't be about "doing something about all that you see wrong around you"; this can't be a clarion call to the youth of today to bring about radical change. If it is, the film has failed miserably. The confusion in its vision is all over its running time to see: it tries hard to be a commercial mainstream Bollywood entertainer while also trying to juggle issues of corruption, a lost generation lacking purpose and concern for their land, love, friendship, and trying to pepper the mix by drawing a parallel between the present and the turbulent times that fuelled the militant responses of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru.

The movie echoes Ratnam's Yuva and A R Rahman's soundtrack only amplifies the similarities -- Mehra uses most of the songs in the background (either on the soundtrack or as diegetic music) just as Ratnam did in Yuva. Some songs play longer than others, and only one, ruubaruu (in its first insert) manages to augment the tone of the goings-on on screen without making you fidget and wait till its done. That song is the sole creative saving grace of the film. If only Mehra had wound the film up shortly after Prasoon Joshi's apt lyrics in ruubaruu underscore the fulfillment that brings a smile on the faces of DJ, sukhii, siddhaarth and aslam. Instead, just like Shah Rukh Khan took his own damn time to die in Devdas, Mehra unwinds and meanders with a coda that offers nothing to match this priceless moment. On the contrary, he damages his case by piling on even more incredulities after having shocked the core of logic by presenting his version of Bumping off ministers for dummies.

The other merits of Rahman's contribution can only be evaluated outside the confines of this sorry waste of footage. The background score counterpoints events of the past with contemporary rock riffs; there are a lot of interesting melodies and fragments, and on he even scores a coup of sort with the songs. Prasoon Joshi's lyrics manage to make their way through further than most of the other Hindi excursions that Rahman has attempted. The choice of Chitra for the exuberant title song is a big mistake and the duet with Lata smacks more of a need to achieve a personal milestone ("I sang with Lata"). The song that I liked most on the soundtrack (ruubaruu) also became my favourite in the film thanks to the wonderful insert. If only the film had matched the complex highs of Rahman's work.

What I liked in the film were a handful of moments, too short to draw any attention:

* That short moment when DJ's grandfather (a wasted Lekh Tandon) returns home and shares a few words with him

* the sequence at the Golden Temple backed by a wondrously calming rendition of ek Omkaar. That sequence betrayed a confidence that the rest of this enterprise spent an eternity seeking in vain.

* lakshman paa.nDe (Atul Kulkarni) apologising to aslam (Kunal Kapoor)

In his first film Aks (the review: Sucks), Mehra took a competent thriller like Fallen, heaped a can of Hindu mythology onto it, seasoned it with some of the finest ham seen in the late twentieth century pantheon of Bollywood acting, and then assaulted our senses with his gourmet gunk. In this film, Mehra had more to be proud of: he had a script, a premise, an idea that had the potential of burgeoning into an interesting film that drew parallels between "similar" events in the past and the present and presented us with an ambiguity of intent, political climate and retrospective evaluation. What Mehra did with this almost qualifies him for a fate reserved for two corrupt individuals in Rang De Basanti. He ends up being as much to blame in the creative sense as they were in the administrative and moral sense.

A much more effective film was N Chandra's Ankush. That film was not a polished piece of Coca Cola advertising that Mehra's overlong flick tends to be –- it boasted strong heartfelt performances, dialogue that was effective without being clever or specious, and a simple narrative that focussed on the essentials without trying to pack an elephant into its suitcase.

RGV and ROM should've swapped titles. RGV could've called his remake of Ramesh Sippy's classic Rang De Basanti and ROM could've called his flick Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra ke Sholay. It seems to make more sense this way.

"Lose control!" (subtitled almost throughout as "loose") they screamed. ROM did. Sadly. But he's being rewarded in cash and kind. How unfair life is. Make a mediocre movie about people who bump off mediocre politicians and you get acclaim and profit.

Coda: I can see Mithun doing the ei saalaa! bit on ruubaruu, but that would've been too much fun ...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

kashyap interview on naachgaana [last post in thread]

Rohit Karn Batra's Kashyap interview on (thanks a ton to LL for the heads-up that preceded my RSS feed refresh) is a great read. Some of the things covered: Kashyap's early life, Satya, Shool, RGV, Deepa Mehta's Water, Mixed Doubles [early plug], Sriram Raghavan [Ek Hasina Thi], Vishal Bhardwaj, his large DVD collection, Mani Ratnam, Harry Baweja, Sanjay Gupta, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali ... just go read it.
titular abuse [no pun intended]

Although the subtle innuendo of Jigyaasa: Woman on The[sic] Top managed to slip by the censors of both movie titles and content, Majnu Pumping Laila Jumping was the cause of protest and hardship at a Title Registration Committee meeting of the Film Makers' Combine (FMC). Activities included hurling of tumblers, ripping of clothing, propelling violence and (unstated, but obviously) hot words of a family-unfriendly nature.

I leave you with a still that betrays the true nature of Jigyaasa: Woman on The[Sic] Top (of what, you wonder?)

still courtesy:

springtime for laughter

[last related post]

poster: courtesy:
Saawan Kumar Tak, the master of extra-marital entertainment [i.e. the master of films that exploit the extra-marital affair NOT the purveyor of extra-spousal bliss] (Souten, Saajan Bina Suhagan, Saajan ki Saheli) and the pasha of poetic salvos as diverse as terii galiyo.n me.n naa rakhe.nge qadam, songs from Kaho Naa ... Pyar Hai, a.nguur kaa daanaa huu.N su_ii naa chubho denaa continues to write and direct and recently inflicted his latest stinkum opus upon us, lamentably egoistically called Saaawan: The Love Season. The soundtrack's destined for cultified glory thanks to at least two songs. The first's a veritable tribute to the Bappi brand of disco. Vasundhara Das warbles that she's Ready for Love (whether this is an expression of a ruttish lass or the churnings of amore one will never know). All that was left was for her to call out ##jimmy (jimmy ...)## aajaa aajaa (aajaa...). Lines like ##crazy## ho gayii mai.n, kisako ##lover## kahuu.N convey romantic vacillation. Lines like merii ku.Nwaarii ##finger## me.n koI ##diamond ring## pahanaa de evince material avarice. Lines like ##mobile## pe kisii aashiq se ik pyaar kii ##ring## bajavaade showcase a paucity of fresh ideas in the areas of metre and rhyme.

The pièce de résistance comes in the form of a duet between Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan, who have decided to waste their talents on such detritus. Lyrically, the song's a stroke of sheer B-genius. It's the intellectual counterpart of the wordsmithery that sparkles in the Mithun beehives. In an interview appropriately titled Quality Matters composer Aadesh Shrivastava describes the events that led to the creation of this gem:

What was the brief Saawan Kumar gave you for his latest film?
Saawan-ji called me out of the blue and said that he wanted to come and see me. He left behind a song whose mukhda was far from conventional in metre - [lyrics omitted for later perusal]
Two days later when he heard the tune I had made for it, was amazed that such a musically uncongenial mukhda could be composed to such a melodious tune! The music of the film has a light contemporary air about it, but despite the youth, there is no compromise on substance. I would call it sensible young music which is not made with the aim of making transient hits, being trendy and including R & B, hip-hop and whatever.

What were these words that sparked off the creation of a revolutionary song destined to shatter more walls Shekhar Roy? What were these words that fuelled a song that opens with a homage to the countless background refrains of Kumar Sanu and contains interludes filched from the arrangements of the songs of relatives Jatin and Lalit Pandit?

mai.nne pyaar kiyaa tumhe.n ##reason## se
mai.nne pyaar kiyaa tumhe.n ##reason## se
bas ##love## hii hai ##reason##
(higher) saawan
saawan dii ##love season##
[female chorus inspired by countless doo wop records]
saawan dii ##love season##
[female chorus inspired by countless doo wop records]
dii ##love season##

Must we even bother about the pronunciation of the (dii!!) when the following word doesn't begin with a vowel sound?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

new contribution to the song of the fortnight

{previous post in thread}

Another new article of mine has surfaced on the Panchammagic Song of the Fortnight page:

kyaa jaano (dekho ye mere ba.ndhe haath) / film: Bandhe Haath (1974) / lyrics: Majrooh
Bandhe Haath makes the record books as the only film to feature the lead pair of Amitabh Bachchan and Mumtaz as well as featuring Amitabh Bachchan's first double role. The film's box office failure fuelled Mumtaz's reluctance to star alongside Amitabh Bachchan and she opted out of Zanjeer (which broke the jinx of flops that ended with Bandhe Haath). The soundtrack boasted the cabaret boat song o maa.Njhii o maa.Njhii. and also featured Kishore's expository lament about impersonation that is the subject of this article.
Bachchan plays a thief on the run, who takes on the identity of a dead playwright and ends up leading a double life fraught with moral dilemmas and emotional conflicts. Bollywood films have given us numerous instances of the scenario where our protagonist converts a party song into a thinly veiled lament with lines whose meaning is obvious to everyone in the audience but not to most people at the party. I don't remember how kyaa jaano mai.n huu.N kaun is picturised in the film, but it fits this device like a glove, both in words and arrangements. Majrooh's simple words and lines like jalataa huu.N lekin pahaluu badal naa sakuu.N mai.n convey the anguish of repressed emotions and desires, the consequences of impersonation and duplicity.

Musically, the song has an interesting structure. In addition to the free-form humming that opens the song, we have three verses and two interludes. Each verse seems to be a composite of three components. Using the first verse (without the repetitions) as an example, the first two lines comprise the first part (let's call it F1 for convenience), the next two the second (F2) and the last two the third (F3).

क्या जानो मैं हूँ कौन मारा हुआ ज़िन्दगी का
मुझको तो महफ़िल में लाया हैइ प्यार किसी का
लग के गले से फिर भी मचल ना सकूँ मैं
देखो ये मेरे बंधे हाथ
कैसे मिलूँ तुमसे चाहूँ तो मिल ना सकूँ मैं
देखो ये मेरे बंधे हाथ

The structure of the song (repetitions omitted again for convenience) thus becomes:

Intro | {F1 F2 F3} | first interlude | {F1 F2 F3} | second interlude | {F1 F2 F3}

This breakdown proves useful when we consider the genesis of this song: the tune first appeared three years ago as tobu bole keno in R D Burman's first Bengali film venture Rajkumari starring Uttam Kumar and Tanuja. This was reportedly the first time Kishore Kumar sang for Uttam Kumar (who belts out the number at the piano while Tanuja listens with varying looks of affection). While the film didn't do well, all its songs reappeared in subsequent Hindi film assignments. The structure of the Bengali song is slightly different from that of the Hindi version:

F3 | first interlude | {F1 F2 F3} | second interlude | {F1 F2 F3}

The second interlude in the Bengali version became the first interlude in the Hindi version, which gives us a grand total of 3 interludes across the two songs. Despite the similarities, there are notable changes in the meter and the arrangements.

The Hindi recording seems to suffer from the murkiness and tuning shift that plagues a lot of R D Burman records (Kishore's jiinaa to hai is another example). Given the popularity of this song among fans of the composer and the singer, it wouldn't be a bad idea to add this to the next list of remasters. The song begins with an Em strum on the acoustic guitar. On cue, Kishore begins humming a free-form melody in the scale of Em. You can hear faint vibes accompanying him and near the end of this fragment the melody on the vibe features the seventh from the harmonic flavor of the minor scale. It also introduces one of the outlying notes in the song, the diminished 5th (Bb) in tandem with Kishore, who leads into the fifth and ends the fragment. It almost seems as if the vibe melody was providing Kishore his note. Kishore begins fragment F1 without any rhythmic accompaniment but still keeping slow time. Faint bass runs can be heard and the bass leads the rhythm section in to accompany Kishore's repetition of fragment F1. The percussion (a composite of conga and shakers) is minimal and yet bears the Pancham stamp all over. The trustworthy string section can also be heard, although not in the overt form that characterises the bulk of Bollywood songs. Also heard are stabs from the accordion, punctuating the lines Kishore sings. As Kishore begins fragment F2, the percussion changes pattern and you can hear the strings offering complement. A flute piece connects the end of fragment F2 and the beginning of fragment F3.

The outlandish flourish of Pancham is seen in the use of the minor second (F) during fragments F2 and F3. The foreign note appears on the chordal accompaniment at the end of fragment F2 and later marks the end of the melody of fragment F3; this fragment is built on the fifth, sixth, seventh of the natural minor but heavily uses the diminished fifth we heard during the introductory fragment. Fragments F2 and F3 elevate this song musically making it musically interesting and confirming the genius of Pancham at work.

The first interlude is introduced by the flute and then led by the accordion (playing chord stabs) with gentle intermittent vibes; the string section brings the short fragment to a close.

The second and third verses follow the structure of the first, but a few interesting additions appear. As Kishore repeats fragment F1, you can hear a violin providing accompaniment and then there's a pleasant brief piano run as Kishore moves to fragment F2.

A flute piece covers the last measures of the second verse and moves into the second interlude. This time around the accordion plays melodic fragments complemented by the string section. It's interesting to see how both interludes end delicately to introduce the verse that follows.

The song ends neatly on the fifth (B) as Kishore finishes the repetition of fragment F3 in the third verse. You can almost see our protagonist leaving the party at this point with the camera closing in on the one person most likely to have understood what was conveyed in the song.

[PS: The article gets a more permanent archive URL once a new post goes up; I'll update this post when that happens] july 01, 2006: URL updated.

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