Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cash: the music: it's a gas

[cross-posted on the Passion For Cinema blog]
After the catchy, layered and eminently entertaining Dus Vishal-Shekhar return to toss in tunes for Anubhav Sinha's crime caper Cash. With a mission statement for catchy dance-floor ditties, the duo gleefully turn to their experimental side that gave us adventures like right here right now from BluffMaster!, the title track for Golmaal: Fun Unlimited and the songs of I See You (especially subah subah).

Golmaal's Anushka Manchanda returns to the playful layered Naughty Naughty, a song that seems to take off where that last song ended into a changing palette of moods and rhythms. Although she's the only one credited on the track, the composer duo toss in vocal refrains and bandy questions and responses all over the track. The straight-faced lyrical nonsense mixes trance samples and a strong Dhol beat, tossing in the occasional Dholak for good measure.

The trio return in zaraa bach ke jii and this time everyone gets a singing credit. Thematically this might very well qualify as an alternative title song. The song contains several rapping breaks of various speeds boasting influences from DnB, dancehall and ragamuffin. As far as samples, there are loops and runs on the rabaab, bass loops, synthesized swirls and Dhol-taashe (heck! The song even ends with what sounds like a riff played on the edakka). The melodic fragments use Punjabi lyrics (and Shekhar gets to belt out these sane portions of the song). Vishal and Anuskha handle the rap segments with Vishal indulging in the fast rapping that even embellishes the title track.

Dus lyricist Panchhi Jalonvi's sole contribution to this album raham kare is one of the four songs that Sunidhi Chauhan gets to exercise her vocal prowess on. The music combines a disco vibe and trance with dancehall; Vishal's scatting peppers the breaks in a song that, like zaraa bach ke jii moves away from the familiar mukha.Daa-a.ntaraa song structure.

Mind-blowing maahiyaa deserves an award simply for the most precarious Hinglish blend in a long time (you're my mind-blowing maahiyaa, to be precise). Bellyaches aside, this one and raham kare share common ground with I See You's haalo haalo, although raham kare operates deeper within the soundscape than Mind-blowing maahiyaa does. Sunidhi lends the song the gusto seen in sajanaajii waarii waarii from Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. to a song that is, at some level of intent, a cousin of mummy se naa kahanaa from Chocolate. With a whistle riff (à la subah subah in I See You) and a swirling bass riff, this is the only song without Vishal's toasting.

After having imported hip-hop and dancehall into Hindi film music, Vishal-Shekhar tackle reggaeton with naa puuchh. Atop the riddim comes an Indian-sounding melodic motif and the synthesized bass riff somehow echoes the bass riff in Qurbani's har kisii ko. Into the mix of a familiar mukha.Daa-a.ntaraa structure comes Vishal's manic fast rapping run through overdubs and a vocal break taking off on a boatman's call.

Ironically, as with I See You, my favourite track happens to be the first cut on the album, which, in this case, is also the track that seems destined to run with the opening credits. In addition to suspected substance abuse, Vishal-Shekhar had Misirlou and Dick Dale and perhaps even Dame Un Kiss by Franco "El Gorilla" on their minds while swimming in the sea of their usual dancehall and hip-hop influences. The track's brass lead-in gives way via an alveolar trill to a fast circular staccato electric guitar lick. Vishal starts off first, followed by the versatile Sunidhi backed by samples of car horns and a descending surf guitar riff sends the microphone to Shekhar to deliver the first melodically regular segment of the song. The alveolar trill becomes a motif of rendition, showing up prominently in Sunidhi's a.ntaraa. In the punchbowl of percussion, car horns, the guitar riff and vocal exhortations (including invocations of the film's title) comes a sample "Visual 8128.78; This should be played at high volume ... preferably in a residential area": The second part is a sample from the introduction to Lyrical Gangbang on Dr. Dre's influential album The Chronic. The first is most likely a reference to the name of a track by Physical Motion (Coincidentally, that's also the stardate, according to ST3, when a dying Spock asks if the ship is out of danger). There's another sound sample that Vishal trades vocals, but I'm not sure where that comes from. If you're listening to this track on heaphones, there's even (unless I'm hearing things) what sounds like a child humming along as Sunidhi reprises the lines of the first a.ntaraa near the 3:22 mark.

An extended mix of the title track closes the album: in this version the overall volume goes up, the surf guitar lick gets phased and multi-tracked, the trills are enhanced and the soundscape is peppered with more breaks and slower arrangements; all this makes the cut less immediate than the original.

Lyrics are included in the CD sleeve in case you want to decipher all that spitting on the album, but zaraa bach ke jii ... they don't get them quite right (all wrapped around the finger becomes the egregious all wrapped around there[sic] fingers).

As with Dus, the soundtrack might be the best part of the package; with a cast roster that includes the likes of Suniel Shetty, Zayed Khan and Esha Deol, would it be an act of unfathomable optimism to expect a coherent entertaining film?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

black friday, devdas, onir and a palanquin for a bad song

last post in this thread

There's an interesting thread over at the PFC portal with second thoughts about Black Friday. Now that the film has finally made it to the marquee (sans requisite fanfare, one might add) and even to DVD (as quietly as could be), the hype's had time to die.

Mr. Kashyap, meanwhile, is all set to take Abhay Deol's idea of a contemporary version of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's Devdas with Dev.D. His post on PFC offers a sample of the usual interesting unease he was greeted with as he bounced the idea off various people in the industry. Some more information about the film may be found here and here.

Onir (My Brother Nikhil, Bas Ek Pal) inaugurates his space on PFC.

And finally, in order to prevent this post from being a PFC springboard, let me direct your attention to a fine discovery of a bellyache-inducing compositional flourish called when hiir sat in the Dolii. It's from a 1993 film called Raunaq (has anyone seen a DVD anywhere?). It's a familiar Punjabi ditty on a surreal linguistic romp. [link courtesy: TDQ]

[july 13, 2007]: Holy Double Feature! Santosh Sivan opens his space on PFC with an extended introductory flashback.

Friday, July 06, 2007

ghutan: breathe easy or die laughing

[cross-posted on the Passion For Cinema blog]

tum dono.n ne use zi.ndaa kabr me.n dafanaakar ek ghuTan-bharii maut dii hai; aur ab tum log is khulii hawaa kii har saa.Ns me.n har pal ghuTan mahasuus karoge
(father james/ amit shankar)

Before they clashed at the boundary of life and undeath in this Ramsay flick, Aryan Vaid and Heena Rehman already had Fun - Can Be Dangerous Sometime in common. Since Payal Rohatgi featured in the cast of that film, it is safe to assume that it wasn't a complex layered film that intelligently explored the shifting dynamic of human relationships.

you devilish devil to the blood
(father james / amit shankar)

Heena Rehman having learnt from her dismal début in I Proud To Be Indian was quite happy swapping her husband, played by Aryan Vaid, with Siddharth Koirala. Acting as a pouting, piano-pumping spouse who gets bumped off by her husband and returns to haunt him and the audience was a natural step forward.

it's loud and clear in the pages of Holy Bible ... ki marane ke baad ruuh jism me.n daakhil nahii.n ho sakatii; it's anti-Christ
(father james / amit shankar)

Aryan Vaid's oeuvre sports an element of confusion. Mixed with movies like the husband-swapping excursion just noted, Chaahat: Ek Nasha and Market are endeavours like Makrand Deshpande's Danav. There's still a conflict of desire: to be an actor or a buffed toned B-movie staple. But the singular quality that might prove useful for Mr. Vaid in years to come is his resemblance to Arun "VikRam" Govil. The day will come when a biopic is dedicated to the life and career of the man who could play Lord Rama, King Vikram, ill-fated police inspectors (like Inspector Deodhar in Dhaal) or elder brothers and even a mute (Himmatwala). Until then Mr. Vaid can thrive on the loyal following for movies like the suffocating subject of this post.

wo ghuT-ghuT ke marii hai; wo hame.n ghuTan-bharii maut degii
(priyaa / pooja bharti)

While Keshu and Tulsi have moved out to production, Shyam Ramsay continues to take the Ramsay horror train forward. His latest scripted/directed effort Ghutan offers enough chortles from its comfortable opening to the final credit, its[sic] RAMSAY entertainment, which fades to black as a church bell tolls. Fans of Bollywood's First Family of horror will be disappointed by the low coefficient of skin (just some bareback work from Heena Rehman and Pooja Bharti) and the almost complete absence of the incongruous song-n-dance breaks. There are other things that persist, however: The lack of anything remotely scary, the absence of any attempt to invest money in sets that look realistic and the insistence on reusing familiar elements (sudden visitations, a lass in a bathtub being dragged under, an exploding bed) in a most unimaginative fashion.

you're a blind man; your eyes are open; but you see nothing
(father james / amit shankar)

Shyam Ramsay wastes no time by opening the film with a minivan approaching the gates of a cemetery. Womaniser Ravi Kapoor and his like-minded friend Jaggi are here to bury Ravi's wife Catherine. After some drama and exposition, it is evident that she ain't quite dead yet. The solution: coerce her into the coffin, strangle her close to death and drop in a torch for company (mai.n chaahataa huu.N tum apanii maut roshanii me.n dekho). Despite all the ghoulish looks and shoddy mise-en-scène, the scariest moment comes when you hear a background female vocal that sounds suspiciously like Anuradha Paudwal.

Ravi and Catherine spend most of their screen time together tossing abuses at each other. He calls her a bitch (even refers to her as such in her absence) and she calls him a bastard. The smart subtitling department, known for raising the ante of obscenity for innocuous dialogue, decides to pay tribute to Thomas Bowdler here. After all, they figured, only the hearing impaired were going to watch this film. So bitch becomes fool, idiot or woman, while bastard becomes scoundrel.

tum hii ho na? jo ravii ko roz (beat) roz ek nayii la.Dakii supply karataa hai? ... you bloody supplier!
(Catherine / heena rehman)

Mr. Ramsay is not interested in exploring the dynamics of inter-faith marriages. He is, however, keen on exploiting the rich Goan/Christian stereotype. He does this using the supporting cast: there's Catherine's faithful maid Nancy, who gets to scream, witness a murder, walk around drenched in shadow and gloom, get possessed and, as the flying leaping lunging screaming clawing launching Nancy, participate in some of the worst wire stunts in recent times; she even gets to pound her legs furiously against the ground accompanied by the electronic sound sample used for punches in video games. Then there's Catherine's uncle Tom NoLastName (played by Gufi Paintal), who doesn't have too much to do except insist that he always compared Ravi to a rotten apple and fake the clichéd Goan/Christian talk spouting axioms like are tum jaanataa hai na ki jab inasaan God ko pyaaraa ho jaataa hai tabiich candle jalataa hai?.

The film's leading lady Heena Rehman has a lot to do: she has to dress in seductive black, look sad and lonely, play Anu Malik's favourite chord progressions on the piano using actions that would lead you to believe she was doing push-ups, lie on her back quoting poetry by Mirza Zaafar Ali 'Hasrat' ( tumhe.n Gairo.n se kab furasat / ham apane Gam se kab Kaalii / chalo ab ho chukaa milanaa / na ham Kaalii na tum Kaalii) and in the next shot vent her frustrations to the calm Father James. After being buried alive during the opening credits, she appears to break free just like Beatrix Kiddo did in Kill Bill 2's The Lonely Grave of Paula Schultz, only to discover that she's merely experiencing a post-death out-of-body experience. The conversation between her and Father James on the subject of her reuniting with her body features some sparkles of dialogue (including some of that old first-English-then-Hindi business) and ghastly grammar:

Father James: Galatii se bhii ye Galatii mat karanaa waranaa tabaahii aa jaayegii
Catherine : why father why? why can't I enter my body?
Father James: because it's against nature; ye kudrat ke Kilaaf hai; ek baar ruuh ne jism kaa saath chho.D diyaa to jism miTTii ho jaataa hai aur aatmaa parawaaz; agar tuune apane jism me.n dobaaraa daakhil hone kii koshish kii to teraa jism zi.ndaa to ho jaayegaa par tuu inasaan nahii.n shaitaan ban jaayegii; an evil; a living dead

Shortly after this, Catherine's spirit heads to the cemetery screaming "I want my body! I want my body!", echoing the thoughts of the few drooling dudes in the nearly empty theatre that may have dared to screen this film.

Although Amit Shankar imbues Father James with a quiet calm reading and manages a good imitation of Sanjeev Kumar with the angry dilated eyes look, he still can't help sticking to that silly "an evil" bit throughout the film. "An evil what/who?" remains unanswered. He also lends the character's authenticity a much-needed kick in the rump by taking the Lord's name in vain. The other bit player who lends his role some gravitas is Shahbaaz Khan who plays the investigating officer Inspector Shaukat Khan. Most other players are limited to ephemeral appearances: Himani Shivpuri as Priya's mother, a well-dressed widow spouting the usual "your father left behind only debt for us" nonsense) and the randomly introduced Professor Siddarth Nath Bhattacharya, who vanishes after delivering one of the film's most promising lines.

is ulajhan ko sulajhaane ke liye ek gaharii concentration kii zaruurat hai
(Professor Siddharth Nath Bhattacharya)

As the film draws to a close with our lead pair back in the cemetery, you realise that you haven't seen a single song-n-dance sequence. As if to make amends, music director Vishwanath Dixit unleashes one of his creations upon us. The plaintive female voice (Alka Yagnik) belting out what proves to the title song offers a howlarious complement to Aryan Vaid racing to Catherine's grave in slow motion. It's not as funny as what Steven Soderbergh did with Berlin's Take My Breath Away in Ocean's Eleven, but it will have to do. If you manage to sit through all this, don't miss the end credits, which give the title song a chance to breathe again. It's part of that rare breed of film songs that drop crucial plot hints (in this case, the ending) and make for a poor listening experience, if you haven't watched the movie:

ye merii kabr me.n mujhako dafanaa diyaa
dekh phir bhii tujhe mai.nne apanaa liyaa

jo thii merii ghuTan ab hai terii ghuTan
(ghuTan hii ghuTan hai ghuTan hii ghuTan) * 3
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