Sunday, February 11, 2007

The songs of I See You

You find love in the strangest places is the tagline for I See You, a copy of Hollywood chick flick Just Like Heaven that Arjun Rampal decided to produce along with his wife and star in to boot. It's worth paraphrasing to describe my reaction to the Vishal-Shekhar soundtrack accompanying the film: you find goodies in the saddest places. The duo dig deep into their box of genres and dish out a wonderful aural mix.

There's the trance, dancefloor-friendly beat-heavy pop acorn kahanaa hai jo from Shekhar Ravjiani. The arrangements toss in enough echo and reverb for his voice to feed a nation as his voice bounces off into decay across each earpiece.

The other shake-it track haalo haalo[1] opens with frenzied quotes from latin and beach rhythms before a trance riff and a swirling male echo take over; a buoyant cry (dhumakaa?) later, the quotes continue with some funk guitar riffs before the rhythm and percussion return. Sunidhi Chauhan and Sukhwinder Singh lend their throaty best as they trade vocal histrionics with the rhythm, percussion and a cheeky bass line. Vishal Dadlani adds another texture with some vocalizing in the lower register. All this gets mixed without either the vocals or the music yielding to the other.

A host of electronic samples and percussion drenched in romantic echo embellish Sunidhi Chauhan's multi-tracked deliciously nuanced vocal on sach huii. This is the kind of song Sunidhi's done before for the duo[2]. There's a lot of mix-and-match on this track: a riff that mixes an electronic bass cascade and some acoustic guitar; a travelling male vocal accompanied by sympathetic strings in unison and complement. There's more than Tangerine Dream in the box that all this came from.

My pick, however, is the opening track of the album, subah subah, which has a lot of all this and more going for it. There's the balance between instruments and voice; there's the mix of genres (Jamaican music will find some strong fans in this duo -- they've done dancehall several times before[3]). The song opens with a 2-chord sequence strummed out vigorously on an acoustic guitar, before the composer duo pitch in a vocal onomatopoeaic refrain straight out of those old doo wop songs; the dancehall rhythm sets in and a light falsetto voice belting out lines before the immensely talented Zubeen Garg wraps his voice around the melodic alleys of the song. The electronic samples are at a minimum: a bouncing bass riff, the doo wop refrain and the dancehall rhythm dominate the backing sound mix. The tricks of echo and reverb splash his voice about the earphones. Garg indulges in vocal histrionics similar to those on yaa alii from Gangster, before the next musical layer pops in: a melody carried out on a whistle and backed by a nice chord progression on the acoustic guitar. The last third of the song sees the chord progression cross over to accompany the refrain and the rhythm. Fragments bounce back and forth until the song draws to a close on an electronic fade. It's a nice tight little nugget that begs replay.

In true Bollywood tradition, the song gets smashed on screen. Not just to smithereens but to sub-atomic grist. It adorns the opening credits[4], which would lead you to think that the filmmakers would've exploited as a good opportunity to let their imagination run wild and think of something interesting. You'd lose your house betting on that. The first nail comes from the fact that they've sped up the song. It's not chipmunk-fast, but it might as well get there instead of hanging in this limbo like the middle class. The camera tracks in to a figure standing against one of the pillars of the building that our hero is about to emerge from. If you've followed the gossip, you know who this figure is. But if you didn't there are several clues for you: the figure's too well-dressed to be in character; the figure's playing the wrong chords. Given that the camera's giving him so much attention, you can deduce that this is a star making a cameo. The camera tracks past to the glass door without rising up to catch his face. In a rather inspired little take, the camera turns about, as Rampal comes out and follows him as he passes the guitarist. We now see that it's our favourite Narcissus SRK himself. Now all this would've been a nice set-up (you have to excuse the bad chords; it's part of the Bollywood tradition[5]), if SRK hadn't decided to give you that silly aggravating smirk of his right near the end of this bit. The other nail comes when the filmmakers, in their joy at having achieved some glee with the cameo, decide to make sure that you don't forget whom you saw and keep returning to SRK. The cameo now becomes as rich as skimmed milk. As if to make up for the absence of narcissism once the cameo is done, Rampal seems to have issued a directive that subsequent footage focus on his presence. This turns out to be a really devastating experience, not in the least because the song gets promoted from its comfortable faux-diegetic role to the irritating suspension-of-disbelief avataar that has plagued our senses for years. Now every frigging foreigner on location is lip-synching to the damn song. To add to our misery, they decide to use variable film speeds and rhythm-assisted editing to augment our discombobulation. We also get more evidence that our filmmakers were trying to get drunk at a dry well when we see the common device of using shots to match lyrics: check out how the crowd gathers to follow Rampal's walk in the set of shots that ends with jahaan ke saath mai.n chal rahaa huu.N (translation: I'm walking with the world). Which brings us to star cameo #2. This one's a lot better: The camera switches its attention from Arjun Rampal to Hrithik Roshan, who walks by. He's whistling along with the song, of course. And he sets up to break into what might've been an interesting set of dance moves, but instead walks away after a teensy-weensy step. You wring your hands in grief at wasted opportunity. The song ends with the Crown of Narcissus passing from Rampal to the writer (read: filcher) and director Vivek Agarwal as his credit appears on the plasma TV screen at Rampal's home. This is when you throw in the towel and pray that you never ever have to watch this sorry-derriered flick.

Incidentally, eye candy in the film (the raison d'être for most Bollywood films) is provided by debutante Vipasha Agarwal.

[1] was the Filipino dessert a muse for this?

[2] consider wo kaun hai in Shaadi ka Laddoo

[3] the title track for Golmaal: Fun Unlimited, right here right now from BluffMaster!

[4] The video on YouTube

[5] Vishal Bhardwaj broke this tradition recently when Vivek Oberoi took the time to get the chords right for a sequence in Omkara; Bhardwaj paid for his transgression: the film was declared a flop and turned out to be more of a hit with the critics than with the masses.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.