பிராப்தம் – Destiny

Here’s my attempt at translating the powerful song ‘Praaptham’ from Chekka Chivantha Vaanam:

The raindrops wonder unknowingly,
As they gravitate uncontrollably,
‘Which piece of life shall I touch?’
On a seed falls a drop bringing new life,
On a burnt pyre the other ending another life,
Destiny it is, no control as such!

Here, there, everywhere,
The crimson red liquid flows,
This bloody time waits nowhere,
Drowning every path, delivering blows.

The fiery desires forging life on earth,
Reddening the sky and the shattering earth,
Seeping into the waters on earth,
Only to pour red and again kiss the earth.

Here, there, everywhere,
The crimson red liquid leaves nowhere.

Every victorious glow,
Every fatal blow,
Every bloody ending,
It’s destiny singing.

The earth incessantly going around the sun,
Darkening half the day – it’s no fun,
Giving this blessed life of a curse,
Where every joy of a verse,
Is not really an epiphany,
But simply destiny.



Chekka Chivantha Vaanam

Minor spoilers ahead…

The Prelude

Twenty four hours to go before I would get to see ‘A Mani Ratnam Film’. The latest Mani Ratnam film. The excitement. The anticipation of smiling to myself (it would have been turning and smiling at my sister or father if I was watching the movie with them!) when he does his magic. The curiosity to discover the new element he has tried to incorporate in his latest work. The level of excitement that is proportional to my current distance from Madras, at which every little feeling about home gets magnified. And to me, Madras is synonymous not just with family and friends and school and college, but with Mani Ratnam, A R Rahman, Sanjay Subrahmanyan and so much more. As I begin this next phase of life that brings with it its own challenges and things to look forward to, I feel grateful that I get a chance to see Mani’s magic again, thanks to his continuing passion to create and to the Sri Lankan Tamil community in Europe who help release Tamil movies in this cold cold land far far away from home. The first trailer, the songs and my countless re-watchings of all his old and new interviews have all provided enough buildup. I didn’t even watch the second trailer. I simply can’t wait to watch the film now. It’s going to be a challenging twenty-four hours trying to do stuff other than dreaming of watching the film!

I finally set out to watch the movie alone with the anticipation of smiling to myself. And then I happened to come across a classmate from school whom I had last met 15 years ago. And destiny it was that we had the seats next to each other and his wife proved to be as Mani Ratnam-crazy as me (which is probably the reason that they had also booked tickets as soon as the bookings opened and asked for the best seats in the theatre – the last row middle ones). So I did not smile to myself, but kept smiling at her!

The Film

Gangster movies keep coming out regularly from film industries across the world. There is just so much scope for action, which Mani Ratnam thinks is tailor-made for movies on the big screen. The last gangster movie that I enjoyed watching was Vikram Vedha. We had Mani Ratnam doing Nayagan years ago, but after watching Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, that one now feels more like a movie about a Varadaraja Mudaliar-like character and what that character thinks and why he acts and emotes the way he does rather than a ‘gangster film’. In Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, Mani takes every gangster plot tried and tested and turns it upside down. Just when you think you are getting a hang of the characters or what the film is about, he surprises you. Again and again. The first half was so so gripping that it flew by like a breeze. Or like a bullet. Every character spoke in a way that was not expected. In the initial few scenes, it seemed to have been laid out what the motive of every character was. Yet, the suspense would not die until the very end.

The casting was simply perfect and what a set of great performances irrespective of the screen time (which was very well-balanced as was said during the audio launch – one of the very few things anybody involved with the movie was willing to say. The buildup and PR for the film has been simply amazing, building the intrigue to the right level). Though I generally find STR difficult to watch, his dialogue delivery style and mannerisms actually fitted this particular role. Arvind Swami that we are used to in Mani Ratnam films is quite different here. An intense performance from him and Jyothika. Vijay Sethupathi is growing on me. His casual dialogue delivery takes the cake and when he launches on his ‘story’ towards the end, it was reminiscent of Vikram Vedha. It was good to have some fresh faces in the form of Aishwarya (I haven’t watched any of her films) and Dayana. Jyothika does a great job playing the strong yet vulnerable character. Jayasudha is a veteran and that one scene where the bandage on her head is being removed is enough. Prakash Raj is such a convincing actor in any role. One of the few bits of the Mani Ratnam-esque human relationship scenes that we see are between Jayasudha and Prakash Raj after they are back from the hospital. Didn’t know what to expect from Arun Vijay, but he did well in the weakest character of all. Aditi Rao’s ‘fussing around’ when STR is in her house is quite funny and looked very ‘natural’ on Aditi. One character I couldn’t buy into was Siva Ananth playing the uncle role. I simply couldn’t get out of my mind him playing Adi’s brother in OKK and the Telugu officer in Kaatru Veliyidai. The makeup wasn’t convincing enough to fit him in this role maybe.

Mani Ratnam checklist. Classy cinematography (is the climax location really Cudappah? That place was breathtaking, with the ‘semmaN’ enhancing the Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. Couple of brilliant long shots – with mirrors in the beginning and Ethi in search of Varadan in Rasool’s house). Check. Music interweaved into the film. Check. Great performances. Check. Trademark subtle humour. Check.

What I missed and something that is so synonymous with Mani Ratnam’s movies is his handling of human relationships. There’s so much emotional investment that usually happens into his characters that they stay with you long after the film. That opportunity is not there in this film and the stars of this film are really the plot and the action. Just when you start to think that in the second half where it threatens to get slightly emotional, which would have been out of place in this film, there is more action and some more. In this respect, this movie is more like a Thiruda Thiruda, where it’s not so much the human relationships but the plot and the action which are key. After predominantly making relationship films recently, it was a surprise to see Mani making this kind of an action-oriented movie again. And what a pleasant surprise it was.

Mani Ratnam wanted to make Aayitha Ezhuthu without songs but succumbed to having songs when Rahman gave him such outstanding music. This movie is the closest it can get to a Mani Ratnam movie without songs. All songs could be heard only in bits and pieces as background score throughout the movie (with a couple of extra pieces that have not been released). Yet, I didn’t feel the lack of songs and every bit of music enhanced the movie. Who would have thought that Bhoomi Bhoomi would have been first used during that moment in the film before the intermission. Sevanthu Pochu Nenje keeps ringing now in my ears long after the titles finished rolling. It now feels like the theme of the film, along with Bhoomi Bhoomi.

This is an almost-perfect film in this genre where the unpredictable plot twists and misleading hints keep one guessing and a rewatching is required to follow the full sequence after getting to know the ending. Add to it the slick editing that Mani and Sreekar have perfected over the last few films. It was such a tight film. There was almost no extra emotion, extra dialogues, extra music or extra dwelling on anything. There was indeed much violence and, therefore, it’s not a ‘pleasant’ film to watch.

Right now, I am simply in awe of Mani Ratnam creating yet another masterpiece. If his screenwriting and filmmaking abilities can give us this new benchmark for a gangster film, I just wonder what the result would be if he dabbles in other genres as well. Moreover, it looks like this movie may appeal to more people than most of his recent films. That’s a happy feeling and worth celebrating!

On Life

On Motivation
Doing a PhD, as many people have experienced and recorded, requires a lot of self-motivation which may seem elusive very often. Throughout the course of this period, I have been trying various tips and tricks, like the Tomato Timer, 30-day challenges, watching TED videos, and reading various stuff on the internet. The thing is you don’t know what will help at which point and you can’t but help become a little philosophical and a little distressed when things don’t go your way. The latest quote which I found very practically useful is the following: ‘The secret of work: Let the end and means be joined into one.’ That’s yet another representation of the golden mantra of ‘Living in the moment’ or ‘Carpe Diem’! The search to find motivation everyday shall continue. Thankfully, when the deadlines appear closer, finding the motivation also seems a little easier. The hardest challenge sometimes is to relish and do efficiently the apparently mundane things, but if one doesn’t have the determination to do that, it’s very hard to become a good researcher.

On ‘Transport’ of things
How much time do we spend in transporting things? Most of the mundane activities in everyday life involve transport. Moving things from the supermarket to home. Moving things from outside to within the body. Moving things from home to work. From work to home. From here to there all the time. Apart from basic necessity, we do this transport to maintain a sense of order as well. Does so much movement outside restore some order to the rush that’s happening within us as well? Shouldn’t we act in the same spirit when we move these objects in the external world as we would do when we want to move those parts within us and rewire those neurons as well?

On Music
Moving those parts within brings us to music. That inexplicable thing that effortlessly helps move those parts within. No matter what emotion the mind creates, it is also capable of creating the perfect piece of music that reflects that emotion. Is music something beyond exciting the intellect and moving the heart? It certainly gives more than it takes. It is not a mere permutation of the basic notes. Between those notes, there is so much to discover. Music feels divine.

On God
What is divinity? Godliness? Another secret of work is to feel like it is a form of worship. In religious rituals, whenever we offer something to God, it is supposed to be made with the best of ingredients, intentions, and purity. In that way, if every apparently mundane thing and every important thing is done with the feeling that we are doing it in order to worship God, it can give a little more meaning to life. As humans, if we can think of God as another being, then somehow we feel this emotional connect, but otherwise, in verifiable terms in the present, what is the notion of God that we have? When I try to do something, the purpose of doing that I think is God. For instance, with washing clothes, cleanliness is I guess Godliness. In this context, Dharma also appears. Dharma also seems like another notion of God.

On Dharma
What is Dharma? The question that Mahabharat tries to answer through various incidents. It seems to depend on so many things like place, time, the person concerned and the person in relation to whom it concerns. Invariably, with Dharma comes Dharmasankat where there appear to be multiple Dharmic ways ahead. Let us assume we sort out this problem and find out what the Dharmic way is. With that ends all confusion and there is no more the question of one’s desire. Coming back to how to find the Dharmic way, it seems like one should define one’s own Dharma and stay true to it. In other words, stay true to your own conscience. According to Sri Sarada Devi, ‘The mind is everything. It is in the mind alone that one feels pure and impure. A man, first of all, makes his own mind guilty and then alone he sees another man’s guilt.’ In other words, only when you impose your Dharma on someone else do you find that person to be guilty. Also, if, as individuals, we are clear on what our Dharma is, then no external thing can ever touch us.

On Desire
Desire is the ultimate killer. The cause for disappointments, sadness, and all such emotions when it is not fulfilled and temporary thrills and joys when it is fulfilled. Again, it is the mind that creates those desires and it is not impossible to rewire those neurons and remove those unwanted desires. Despite life denying us time and time again so many things that we desire, the desire itself continues to flourish. Some desires do seem desirable, in the sense that without a basic desire to live and accomplish things, life can seem meaningless. Is real freedom then removing these desires that dissipate our emotional energy and only allowing our mindspace for the Dharmic desires? In other words, can we let our ego die every moment and give life to the things that truly matter?

On Beauty
Beauty is like a breath of fresh air whenever we encounter it, leaving us wonderstruck, emptying our minds of all other emotions and making us sit up and notice and focus on only that. What is beauty really? Beauty to me seems to be Focus. Why do certain scenes look so beautiful? Why do certain actions look beautiful, like Federer hitting that perfect forehand? When all matter is the same set of fundamental particles rearranged in myriad ways, why do only certain things appear beautiful? At the same time, why do photographs of even mundane things that choose to use the focus in a different way look so beautiful? The key seems to be focus. Beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. Is it then maybe possible to focus deeply or widely enough on every single thing and feel its beauty? Furthermore, can we look beyond everything and focus on the One?

On Oneness
There is verifiable oneness in matter, as we see that all forms of matter are made of the same set of fundamental particles – already discovered or still in contention. There is oneness in the emotions that we go through as humans too. It is possible to connect with another person’s emotions expressed as words or music or when interacting with that person in other ways. When we connect with any form of Oneness, when we connect the parts and that becomes more than its sum, that leaves us with an extreme satisfaction – almost a desireless state. Is that then the goal of life? To connect those dots every moment? To find the motivation to work, irrespective of its nature, through divine music, or conforming to Dharma, or fighting one’s dissipating desires, and find the beauty that connects everything that is conceivable and is experienced by the mind? Is it only an intellectual exercise or something more that gives peace?

On Karuna
Are you searching for a reason to be kind? asks Rahman. Putting it a little differently, how do we so easily find a reason to be unkind? With the feeling of Oneness comes the feeling of kindness (apparently what makes us human) too. Dharma, which can become an intellectual exercise if we only analyse situations ‘rationally’, gains meaning only if it is guided by Karuna. And always thinking of others. Again, being aware of that Oneness every moment, can we discover more kindness in ourselves, Dharma that is guided by Karuna, and our capability to love infinitely?

P.S. What a combination of reading Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore, listening to Swami Chinmayananda, watching Mahabharat, watching tennis, listening endlessly to A R Rahman and Sanjay, and doing a PhD can do is this.

The ARR Top 20 Project

As soon as I saw this new topic in the ARR fan club about making your list of Top 20 ARR songs, I was curious to try it out and find out which songs would end up in my list. I did it a bit differently. Firstly, I decided not to listen to ANY music while making the list to ensure I was unbiased. I tried to think of the first thing that came to my mind for each song. I thought of the ‘impact’ it has on me – every time I listen to it. I thought of whether the song has the same impact on me now as it did a few years ago – the ‘timeless’ factor. This was quite hard to judge for the recent songs, especially those from Rockstar. In that case, I tried to see what the song meant to me beyond the musical notes, the lyrics, the voice – if there was something that I connected with at a deeper level. This last fact is true for all the songs that finally made it to my top 20. These are the songs whose ‘souls’ I have been able to connect to, every time I listen to them. I did not think of any technical aspects while making this list. These are songs I have played on loop endlessly, songs which I waited to hear during the cassette days or impatiently rewound innumerable times to loop them and songs which leave me with an awe every time.

As a first step, I wrote down my favourite songs from each album. I also included the non-film albums. There were 166 songs. Then I decided to cross out the songs which I felt were not right there at the top. After a lot of attempts at weighing the relative merits of the songs, I came up with a list which had 84 songs! Then, I decided to do a selection instead of elimination – that is, I chose all the songs that I wanted in the top 20. I came up with 40 for the top 20 spots 🙂 Then came the toughest part of the whole exercise. To make it easier, I decided not to include the non-film songs. After eliminating a few more, there were still 29. I had almost given up at this point. After a lot of heartbreaks, this is what I came up with (listed in no particular order):

(I am listening to each song as I am writing about it now. It is proving to be extremely difficult to switch to the next song)

1. Chinna Chinna Aasai – Roja

The first Rahman song I listened to. Happy, light-hearted, carefree. Beautiful lyrics. Minmini’s voice. ‘Elelo’ in Rahman’s voice. Beautiful visuals. The variation in the beats. The freshness.

2. Pudhu Vellai Mazhai – Roja

The first thing you notice about this song is the unique ‘snowfall’ beat. The theatrical effect that Rahman brings sounds grand, even today. I knew which song to play during my first experience of snowfall about two years back 🙂 The pause before every time ‘Pudhu Vellai Mazhai’ starts after the charanam allows for a moment of solitude, which only adds to the romance beautifully brought out in this song.

3. Thee Thee – Thiruda Thiruda

I listened to this much later than the time of the movie’s release. Veerapandi Kottaiyile was the more popular song at that time. This is a ‘love at first hearing’ song. This is one of Rahman’s most energetic songs. Both interludes are par excellence – the first one mainly with konnakkol and Rahman’s swarams and the second one with Naveen’s flute. I still struggle to understand the lyrics completely, thanks to Carolene’s singing, but I am not complaining. On the whole, this is how fusion with Carnatic base should sound like!

4. Narumugaiye – Iruvar

The salangai chimes moving from one speaker to the other. Poetic Tamil lyrics, which I don’t entirely understand. A Nattai-based song (Never knew Nattai could sound romantic!). Unnikrishnan’s and Bombay Jayashri’s voice. The blend of Ghatam (by Vikku Vinayakram) and salangai. The second interlude on the Sarangi(?). The variation in beats for almost every line (The variation for the first line in the charanam can easily be missed. I discovered it only recently.).

5. Mangta Hai Kya – Rangeela

Rahman sounds funky! I don’t know if he has sounded this way in any other song. The closest is probably Humma Humma. The beats that run throughout this song are like heartbeats, giving life to every moment. The second interlude on the piano is simply magical. Rahman springs a pleasant surprise at the end with the short alaap and swarams. He really is a master in introducing elements of Indian classical music in ANY kind of song. A charming mood-lifter, this song is.

6. Sandosha Kanneere – Uyire (Dil Se Re – Dil Se)

I happened to listen to the Tamil version of this song first and that has stuck with me. There is a slight variation in the tune in the first line of the charanam, which I like better in the Tamil version. Lyrics are good in Tamil too and not a mere translation of the Hindi lyrics. My favourites: ‘kallonRu thadai seidha pOdhum, pullonRu pudhu vErgaL pOdum, nam kAdhal adhu pOla mIrum kannE’, ‘unnOdu nAn kaNda bandham, maNNOdu mazhai konda sondham, kAindhAlum adi Iram enjum kaNNE’. The chorus plays an important role in this song. The jathis/swarams in the interludes and the lag with which they sing (almost whisper) towards the end bring in a mystic sense, as if it is the air that is whispering these lines/carrying voices from far away. I can almost feel the fog in the atmosphere through the muffled beats. A beautifully picturised song too.

7. Jiya Jale – Dil Se

The Malayalam lyrics and the beats add a festive spirit to this song. What an eclectic combination of flute, percussion and santoor in that first interlude! Sindhubhairavi never sounded so buoyant!

8. Theendai – En Swaasa Kaatre

A classical beauty. I think the entire song is based on Shri Ragam. The entire beauty of this ragam is brought out in this passionate song! The beauty of every line lingers on, thanks to the extra karvais or prolonged notes at the end of every single line in the song. This song is worth watching too, just for the beautiful landscapes of Hampi and that pond with amazingly-stacked steps.

9. Pachchai Nirame – Alaipayuthey (Saathiya – Saathiya)

This is my most special song. Perfect in every way. And it manages to manifest itself equally beautifully in every language too! I love this song equally in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. I was a bit apprehensive before listening to this in Hindi with Sonu Nigam’s voice, but he does complete justice to the song. The lyrics – the beautiful concept of describing the different shades of love. Hariharan sings this extremely gracefully, as if whispering into the ears of his girl. This, in my opinion, is THE best picturised song of ARR. Madhavan and Shalini only add to the beauty of the already breathtaking locations. This song has got to be experienced – no more words to describe it.

10. Do Kadam – Sonu Nigam  Meenaxi

A very contemplative, soulful, mysterious song. The song of hope – to find a better place (heaven?), which we are just two steps short of. This song reminds me of the time I used to listen to this sometimes (the rare times when I was not listening to Aayitha Ezhuthu) while solving Physics problems while preparing for JEE (maybe it gave me the hope that I would be able to handle Physics, which I found to be the toughest of the three subjects). A simply structured song, but conveys much more.

11. Hey Goodbye Nanba (Short Version) – Aayitha Ezhuthu (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0s7aERlI1s)

This is the piece that appears when Siddharth and Trisha do never-ending round trips on the bus on their last evening together before her wedding. It is just one-and-a-half minutes long and the melody is the same as that of the full version of the song, but the lyrics are different and very apt for the situation. I like this even better than the full song – the opening notes on the piano and the guitar are magical.

12. Yakkai Thiri (Fanaa) – Aayitha Ezhuthu

I have already written about this here. To add to that, this song is mostly based on Suddha Dhanyasi.  The series of metaphors in the lyrics and the concept of One love has more meaning than it first appears. This song, if I remember right, was composed for the lyrics which Vairamuthu had written earlier. A slightly modified version was used for the final version of the song. Rahman carries the entire song, with his voice too.

(It was extremely difficult to leave out the other songs from Aayitha Ezhuthu. They were all there in the 40 I wanted in the top 20. It was especially difficult to give up Nenjam Ellam and Sanda Kozhi, but at some point, the songs from other movies took over)

13. Spiderman – New

A unique song for the mood it creates. The repeated melody (on the guitar?) creates the mood of the song from the beginning. Kunal Ganjawala’s (he even manages to pronounce the ‘zha’ properly) and Sadhana Sargam’s voices fit in perfectly for this passionate, intimate, mystic song.

14. Porkalam – Thenali

The best part of this song – 1:51 to 2:09, which also appears during the second interlude. This is a slow, beautifully flowing song – almost like a conversation between the two. Gopika Poornima’s voice sounds very good. This is one song just for listening – not at all to watch. A soothing melody.

15. Mausam & Escape – Slumdog Millionaire

One of the best instrumental pieces of Rahman. The sitar-guitar combination is deadly. Grand, epic sound. Full of energy.

16. Sahara – Sivaji

This is the most underrated song in this album. Its more popular version ‘Sahana’ sung by Udit and Chinmayee doesn’t quite create an impact for me. Vijay Yesudas sings and hums very soulfully (I am glad we got to hear him again (in a Rahman song) in ‘I’ve Been Waiting’). The Thiruppavai lines ‘Maale Manivanna..’ are set in a moving Suddha Dhanyasi accompanied by the rhythms of the guitar. That is the highlight of this song. This could also be thought of as a melancholic interpretation and an instrumental/humming version of ‘Sahana’.

17. Aaromale – Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya

That’s the song that has always been on my playlist ever since the music of Vinnnaithaandi Varuvaaya released. Infact, I fell in love with this song from the first time I heard it. It’s magical to say the least and it’s one of those rare songs which I can listen to any time in any mood. Infact, it creates my mood everytime – of joy, of awe, of magic. Just like the first time. There’s something about the song which is indescribably blissful. Be it the opening guitar, the voice of Alphons Joseph, the beats, the ‘Swasti Swasti Sumuhurtham..’ chorus or Ganesh Rajagopalan’s violin. There’s something unique in how it all comes together and makes the song what it is. The song is based on the ragam Bhageshri, one of my most favourites. I don’t know why but everytime I walk along St. Pieter’s Church (the structure looks beautiful from every angle) in the centre of Leuven, I feel like listening to this song. I don’t know if it is because they show a church in the movie too. When every face of the church appears before me as I walk around it, the sound of the opening strings of guitar play in my mind. Epic song.

18. Jaa Re Ud Jaa Re – Raavan

The surprise song in Raavan. I like the version rendered by Rahman during the music launch of ‘Raavan’ the best (it is slightly different from how it appears in the movie). A song which instantly connects with the soul. It sounds like a conversation with oneself – introspective, ruminating over the past and spiritual. Rahman brings out the magic with his voice.

19. Acid Darbari – 127 Hours

How can a piece of music be so touching, so moving and convey a whole spectrum of feelings without uttering a single word? Is this what is Rahman’s touch? I don’t know, but I know for sure that it is something divine. It brings tears to my eyes, yet comforts me. The cry (of Aron?) reveals the pain, but the continuously flowing sounds of the continuum soothe. The romantic Darbari mostly used in film songs puts on a mournful face here. Yet, there is an indescribably beauty in every note. [I wrote this down on the day I first listened to this piece. I feel exactly the same even today.]

20. Jo Bhi Main – Rockstar

I really connected with this song after reading about Jordan’s character as described by Imtiaz Ali – that Jordan can only connect with other people’s music, which cannot lie unlike their words and that he can express himself only through his music. Earlier, it was the sound of the opening guitar, ‘ya ya ya’ and the lyrics, which I appreciated, only superficially. After reading that, I could sense something beneath all this – probably the true emotions that the song tries to convey. When I hear the same ‘ya ya ya’, I can feel that those words are trying to convey something deeper, something which can’t be expressed by any other meaningful words. This has also become my most favourite song in Rockstar. There is much more that I am yet to discover in this song, but I know it is going to be in my playlist forever! My favourite line: ‘jO bhI main kehna chAhoon, barbAd karEn alfAz mErE’. I hope you could hear some of the music behind all these words I have written here, which otherwise probably quite didn’t convey what I wanted to say!

P.S.: After coming up with the list, I made a short analysis and saw that 10 of the 20 are from Mani Ratnam’s movies! Also, 10 of them are from films released in 1992-2000 and10 from 2001-2011. I certainly didn’t expect that!

Raavan – The Music

Raavan is yet another delightful journey into Rahman’s world of music. It has all the ingredients of his music – the vintage stuff, the new sounds, beautiful classical interludes and freshness. Rahman sets himself apart from his last work Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya and how!

The opening of the Beera Beera song is probably the best I have heard in recent years. The buildup before ‘Beera’ is sung first time, mainly using different voices (including Rahman’s) and some percussion is something you could have never imagined from what was shown on the trailer earlier. I was, at one point, listening only to the first 30 seconds of this song repeatedly.  The stereophonic effect with Rahman’s voice sounds so good!  From the first Beera, it’s all about Beera. I wonder if the word Beera has been used so many times in so many different ways simply to bring out his ten heads and ten minds and hundred voices. My favourite parts in this song are the energetic beats accompanying Dhama Dham Dham Dham and Rahman’s voice of course. I have been looking forward to hearing this song right from the moment I saw the first trailer of Raavan with those stunning visuals of Abhishek kicking the stone into the river before himself taking a dive. This song is instantly catchy and is sure to be a hit. I only wish it lasted longer than 3:16!

The mystic sounds that Behne De opens with, which also plays in the background of Raavan website, I guess, will serve as the theme of the movie and is likely to be heard a lot in the movie. The song slowly builds up from these sounds to Karthik starting to sing ‘Are Aankh Se…’. Then it flows on to ‘Behne De Mujhe Behne De’ to the final climax of ‘Beh Gaya Beh Gaya’, where Irfan does a very good job (He sang very well at the music launch too) and the whole saga repeats. There are some beautiful interludes building up with the flow and mood of this sombre song.

Thok de Khilli is another song with catchy beats and fast paced which ends on an even faster note. We now have an idea of how this song is picturised from Abhishek’s performance at the music launch – Raavan with his gang bellowing out his ideologies with the support of Hey Hey’s from his gang. The interlude from 1:28 to 1:44 is typical Rahman stuff, which too changes its tone after this point, paving way for Sukhwinder to continue with the earlier tone of the song. The song sounds stylish with its beats and the interlude from 0:08 to 0:12, which is also heard later on. In the first listening, atleast the beats and the chorus parts are instantly likeable if not the whole song itself.

The opening sound of the wind (in a desert?) and Anuradha’s modified voice (sounds exotic) give the Arabic feel, but is not retained once Ranjha Ranjha starts off. I started noticing this song more when there was a variation in the way Rekha sings Ranjha Ranjha from 2:03 to 2:12. I really like the song only after the first charanam starts, with ‘Waqt Katta Bhi Nahin..’ and we also get to hear more of Anuradha. Rekha’s voice suits the song well.

Khili Re was my instant favourite in the first listening. The anklet sounds, the frilly classical interludes, the romantic lyrics, Reena’s voice and Naveen’s flute blend in beautifully in this song. This is the kind of song that Rahman always does full justice to. This reminds me of songs like Saanwariya, In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein, Yeh Rishta kya and many such beautiful melodies of Rahman. This song too is shorter than I would have wanted it to be.

With bang-on drums, Shehnai interludes, Ila Arun’s voice and cheesy lyrics comes across the folk wedding song Kata Kata. The grand drums remind me of Azeem-Oh-Shaan and from the CD covers, I hope this song will be equally colourful. This song took a few times to get a hang of. It seemed to be so full of beats in the first listening but then, with each listening you discover layers and layers of music packed into this high-energy song. I especially loved the short shehnai interlude from 1:38 which follows into the ‘Ho Raaa..’ and later melts into the background. Another nice interlude is the one from 2:36 to 2:46. This song too closes with high tempo of ‘Ek aur gaya’. I enjoy each and every moment of this song now. This could be a great mood-lifter!

The surprise package in the form of ‘Jaa Re Ud Jaa Re’ is currently my most favourite in this album. Rahman rendered this so soothingly at the music launch of Raavan. I was definitely disappointed with the absence of any song in Rahman’s voice in the album but this one really made up for it. As all fans are wishing for, I too wish this is officially released. The strong rhythm in this song appealed to me the most the first time. The piano notes are extremely beautiful and also the way Rahman sings it, joined by the other person in the chorus. When he goes ‘Oh Beera..’ (it sounds like that to me), the effect is simply amazing. This too is a short song lasting only around 4 minutes but so very satisfying!

As all Mani Ratnam-ARR combos, this one too is magical and is sure to stay in my playlists forever!

What a day and What a night!

The Day

4.30 AM February 23rd 2009 – The alarm goes off. Waking up with the same excitement as if it was Deepavali, I got ready quickly and switched on Star Movies first, only to find some football movie going on. Soon, I flipped the channels and came to our very own 24*7 news channels and found that only NDTV was covering the Red Carpet live. The excitement started building up. It was a long wait before we actually caught a glimpse of ARR with his wife on the Red Carpet 🙂 The Slumdog team walked in smiling, the whole team including the child stars, who just stole the show away. NDTV gave quite a good coverage of the Red Carpet except the ARR part 🙂 It was a long wait till 6.30, before the show would start on Star Movies. In the meanwhile, the buzzwords Slumdog and ARR were echoing everywhere. At that moment, I don’t know what I was feeling about the prospect of ARR winning. Infact, I wasn’t thinking so much about it as I was about seeing ARR performing at the Oscars. The show started on Star Movies at 6.30 with the Red Carpet! So, again, it was back to flipping channels till 7 AM, when the show finally started! From the time Hugh Jackman started off with his antics, the excitement started growing more and more. Resul Pookutty started off the dream run of the Indians at the Oscars. It was a heart-warming moment seeing him give his acceptance speech. It was 9.15 or so. Without any warning, the nominations for Best Original Score were announced 🙂 My heart was beating so fast and I was just elated hearing that ‘The Oscar goes to.. A R Rahman’ 🙂 It was totally unbelievable. What a speech he gave! Speaking in English, Hindi and Tamizh, he was just amazing. Again, without giving us any time for it to sink in, ARR started performing O.. Saya and Jai Ho. He performed pretty well and I liked the way he and the other singer finished off together in the end. Yes, finally, the Americans were ready to see Indian film music in the same standing as theirs. Again, this time more unbelievable, ARR’s name was announced. ARR had made history! The words he chose to accept his award this time were even more touching. He chose love over hate all through his life and he was there! ARR would always remain such an inspiration – be it through his magical music or just from the kind of human being he is! In just 15 minutes, ARR had created history; something that is going to have an everlasting effect on the fate of Indian music, his career and his fans, of course. ARR always sees the hand of God in all of his creations. This feeling is translated to us too when we hear his music; yes, it’s God’s own. It leaves us with a feeling for which bliss is too small a word! It makes us wonder if it’s some divine music. It makes us lose ourselves. We become one with the music. I feel it’s something like resonance. The frequency of our soul matches that of his music and there’s resonance. We have found our natural frequency. We have found the ultimate state. And we see God.

The Night

Yes, I did see God last night. But this time, in a more gross form. It was Sivaraatri last night and what better way to celebrate it than going around Siva temples all around Chennai.
9 PM, 23rd February, 2009 – I started temple-hopping with my family. It was a non-stop journey. Chandramouleeswarar temple @ R A Puram. Sringeri Saaradambal Temple @ R A Puram. Tiruvottiyur Vadivudaiyamman temple. Komaleeswarar temple @ Pudupet. The Mylapore temples: Vaaleeswarar. Viroopaaksheeswarar. Malleeswarar. Kaaraneeswarar. Teerthapaaleeswarar. Apparswamy temple. Kapaaleeswarar. Velleeswarar. Mahaalingapuram temple. Siva-Vishnu temple @ T Nagar. Kasi Viswanathar temple @ West Mambalam. Sankara Mutt @ West Mambalam. Sringeri Saaradaambal Temple @ West Mambalam. Agasthiyar kovil @ T Nagar. Sringeri Saaradambal Temple @ T Nagar. Marundeeswarar temple @ Tiruvanmiyur. Jalakanteswarar @ IITM. Came back to IIT at 4.30 AM in the morning.

The 24 hrs turned out to be such a wonderful time. Whenever I was at home, it was ARR all around. Every channel wanted to show something or the other. For once, I was not irritated with the way news channels kept harping on the same thing 🙂 Just didn’t want to miss a single thing about ARR that was being said or shown. The Sivaraatri experience was equally enjoyable. Though I started feeling sleepy by around 2 AM itself, it still was worth it. The only two places where we couldn’t see the main God because of unimaginable crowd was Marundeeswarar and Kapaaleeswarar. Other places were pretty peaceful. It was interesting to see how everybody had their own way of spending the night. Temple-hopping was one option, of course. You could see a lot of vans taking around people to various temples. The other option was to spend the night in one temple – either awake chanting slokas or even sleeping in the temple! This last option found so many takers that in many temples, we had to find a path with great difficulty to do a pradakshinam.
The non-stop 24 hours had made me tired I guess. I fell asleep at 4.30 and got up only after 5 hours, with phone calls and alarms failing to wake me up from my slumber. Hence, the punyam I had acquired by staying up for Sivaraatri is lost 😦 Nevertheless, what a day it was! and what a night!

Azhagiya Thamizh Magan

It’s been more than two weeks since the audio of this movie released and finally I got the time to sit down and listen to this, last weekend. The album is pretty good on the whole and no song is bad, as is always the case with all ARR albums 🙂

EllAppugazhum – ARR

Catchy song. Though not very impressive in the first listening, I am hooked to this song now. The feel of this song is like the ‘Ah Aah’ title song. From ‘Eh Thozha..’ to ‘Azhagiya Thamizh Magan nee dhAne’, the way the music builds up is awesome. It doesn’t make you lose interest in the song. The interludes are magnificent and when the line ‘Naalai Naalai..” starts, the way the music combines with ARR’s voice is too good. And again, from Eh Thozha, ARR’s voice and chorus dominate the background music. ARR has changed the pitch at 4.12. This is something we don’t see often in his songs nowadays but very common in the older days. Very good use of chorus in this song. The last one line could have been avoided. On the whole, I like this song a lot.

PonmagaL vandhaaL – Aslam

A very good remix, with the right mix of everything 😉 – the voices, the rap, the beats, retaining the voice for two lines from the original song. The CD says Krishna Chetan has remixed this song. He has also done additional programming for the album. I listened to the original song once 🙂 The extra frills and nuances of the original song have been perfectly cut off to suit the mood of the remix. As in the cases of other remixes, the pace of the song has been stepped up in this too. I see people talking about the ‘remix’ of Thottaal poo malarum in some blogs. Thottaal poo malarum is in no way a remix. ONLY the lyrics was used. The tune is in no way related to the original song.

Nee Marilyn Monroe – Benny Dayal, Ujjayinee

Undoubtedly the best song of the album and the longest too. Though I find the kind of female voices used for the line ‘ Hey Saturday night partykku…’ irritating generally, especially since it is quite often heard in Hindi film songs being unnecessarily used, it perfectly suits this song and it has been used at the right dosage. The pace of the song is just right. The first time I heard it, I thought it could have been a bit faster but not anymore. The interlude at 2.48 and the line ‘ullAsamAi urchagamai..’ are very pleasing to the ears. The various kinds of sounds used in this song adds a great flavour to the song. This song is sure to be high on my list of songs I repeatedly listen to.

VaLayapatti – Naresh Iyer, Ujjayinee, Madhumita

This should have been the best song, had it been a little more structured. Maybe it would be better on seeing the picturisation, but I don’t think I would be seeing the videos of these songs, with Vijay in it 😉 Anyway, the highlights of this song – the swarams in different ragams, Naresh Iyer’s voice :), the very first interlude in the song and almost all the interludes. Things that made me decide this wasn’t the best song in the album 😉 – the similarity of the tune ‘vaLayapatti thavile thavile’ to the line ‘Avalukkenna ambA samudhira Iyer hotel’ from the song ‘Kummi adi’ in the movie Sillunu Oru Kadhal, the abrupt change in the music after the first two lines. This song has a folk touch, for instance after ‘Un sirippo sindhubhairavi and those other lines sung by the male voice, and a classical touch to it in the lines immediately following in the female voice. But I feel that the blend of these two flavours could have been much better. The tune as such is not extraordinary. But, a very enjoyable song on the whole.

KelAmal – Saindhavi, Sriram Parthasarathy

A very soothing song. Saindhavi’s voice has been masked by the background music in many places, which could have been avoided. But the background music running throughout the song is what adds beauty to this song. The use of violin is excellent and builds up the pace of the song. Sriram’s voice is quite deep and suits the song very well. The tune of the charanams is quite ordinary again. A good song, which again could have been made to sound much better.

Maduraikku pOgAdhadi – Benny Dayal, Archith, Darshanaa

A typical folk song with all the elements in the right proportion. Though it’s not my kind of song, it’s a very good song of this genre. The beats, the lyrics, the use of so many voices and the catchy tune makes this a perfect folk song. Lyrics are quite funny, especially the lines quoting the specialities of the places in TN. Looks like this song would suit KaragAttam very well 🙂 Good song.

ARR rocks yet again 🙂