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Archive for the ‘Indian Music’ Category

I was re-reading some old posts and was surprised that my initial reaction to Arziyan (from the soundtrack of Delhi 6) wasn’t exactly jumping-off-the-walls enthusiastic. I had forgotten that for some strange reason it took time for me to warm up to it. Perhaps because it feels like I’ve always been enamored with this song, with the depth and beauty of its lyrics, with its lovely melody, with the sense of peace and calm it endows me with each time I listen to it. Arziyan has now firmly become a part of those select songs that I listen to in difficult times, the songs that give me strength and hope, that heal my heart and nurse my troubled mind. Each time I listen to it, its lyrics make a stronger and stronger impact on me, and they transport me to a different place. I’ve posted a particularly favorite stanza on my desk, and a friend who asked about it asked me to translate the song for him. I’m going to do my best, because as always, its not easy to properly translate the feelings behind the lyrics, and also I often stumble on the Urdu. And so, as always, anyone passing by is asked to help! 🙂

Arziyan (Supplications) is written by Prasoon Joshi, rendered by Kailash Kher and Javed Ali, to music set by the maestro A.R. Rahman.

Arziyan saari chehre pe likh ke laaya hoon/Tumse kya mangoon tum khud hi samajh lo

(All my supplications I bring to you written on my face/What shall I ask from You; You know it all)

Ya Maula/Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula (2)

(O God/God, God, God my God)

Ch: Daraare daraare hai maathe pe Maula/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula

(There are creases* on my forehead, God/Help me restore my destiny/fate, God)

*creases: worry or frown lines

Tere dar pe jhuka hoon, mita hoon, bana hoon (2)/Marammat muqaddar ki kardo Maula (2)

(On Your doorstep I have kneeled, been destroyed, been made/Help me mend my destiny (or fate), God)

I: Jo bhi tere dar aaya, jhukne jo sar aaya/Mastiyan piye sabkon jhoomta nazar aaya

(He who came to Your doorstep, he who bowed his head to You/Appears to be intoxicated and dancing with pleasure)

*This is not a great translation! Mastiyan is better translated as something intoxicating. Here, we are told that those who have been given God’s grace appear intoxicated with their love for Him, and they are dancing in pleasure. Dancing and being mesmerized in prayer and devotion is a feature of Sufi practices and beliefs.

Pyaas le ke aaya tha, dariya woh bhar laaya/Noor ki baarish mein bheeghta sa tar aaya 

(He who came with thirst, has a river in front of him/Is drenched in the downpour of Divine Light)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…

Ch.

II: Ek khushboo aati thi (2), main bhatakta jaata tha/Reshmi si maya thi, aur main takta jaata tha

(A perfume would come, and I would go stumbling after it/Wealth (material goods) were like velvet, and I followed greedily)

Jab teri gali aaya, sach tabhi nazar aaya/Mujh mein hi woh khushboo hai, jisse tune milwaya

(When I came Your way, only then did I see the Truth/That the perfume I seeked lies within me, and You helped me recognize it)

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula…

Ch.

III: Toot ke bikharna mujhko zaroor aata hai/Varna ibadatwala saroor aata hai

(I know too well how to break, be shattered/And I am also aware of how to worship)

Sajde mein rehne do, ab kaheen na jaoonga/Ab jo tumne thukhraya tho savar na paoonga)

(Let me be prostrated in Your presence, I will not go anywhere else/Now if You forsake me, then I cannot be saved)

IV: Sar uthake maine tho kitni khwahishen ki thi/Kitne khwaab dekhe the, kitni koshishen ki thi

(I had raised my head and made so many wishes/I had dreamt of so much, had tried so much)

Jab Tu rubaroo aaya nazren na mila paaya/Sar jhukake ek pal mein maine kya nahin paaya

(But when You came near me, I couldn’t raise my eyes to meet Yours/In that one moment when I bowed my head to You, there was nothing I did not gain)

This stanza is my favorite, I am struck by it every time I listen to it, and this is the one I have taped to my desk so I can be reminded of it daily. I don’t know if the translation does it justice. It speaks of Man’s continuous quest, infinite desire, untiring ambition. Man wants more and more, asks for more and more, tries for more and more. This stanza summarizes this quest. I raised my head and I demanded so much from you: that my wishes may come true, that my efforts bear fruit, that my dreams all become reality. But when You appeared before me, God, and I had to bow my head against Your luminosity, in that one moment I realized I had gained everything I ever wanted.

Maula, Maula, Maula mere Maula

Ch.

Mora piya ghar aaya, mora piya ghar aaya (multiple times)

(My beloved has come home, my beloved has come home)

God is the Beloved, and this is a phrase in many Sufi bhajans, celebrating, in my interpretation, God’s entry to your heart, mind, and soul.

Afterthoughts:

Arziyan speaks to me on a deep, spiritual level. It has a special appeal to me because I find that it traverses all religions and faiths; it does not speak of any single faith or denomination or describes any particular flavor of the Holy. It supplicates to a universal God, a God for anyone who chooses to believe in Him/Her. It is a piece about faith in a greater power, and the hope and the strength that faith can bring to you, when you need it most.

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I’ve survived my first semester of med school. Hallelujah.

After a torturous last month, we finally were handed a wimpy two week break, but at that point I would have literally taken anything. One week has already rushed by: how depressing. In this next week I need to get back on the horse or the fall will be really painful and dangerous!

Before coming to terms with that reality, however, I took an evening with the parents to go catch 3 Idiots in the theatre. My hopes were high, but still pretty realistic. I came out of the theatre wanting to run back in for a second show.

My dad said it best…after a long, long time we watched a movie that was thoroughly engaging, hilarious (but clean), touching and kept you guessing. Not to mention visually beautiful, with terrific dialogues (and delivery) and music that really fit it. My dad, mind you, has not LOVED a movie since probably the Hrishikesh Mukherjee period. Its difficult to make him laugh, but he was literally laughing the entire first half. Which, for me, is another reason to love this movie 🙂

3 Idiots is filmy, very filmy. At the same time, its philosophy is real, and everything in the movie clearly works hard to touch you in the audience, and affect you with its simple lessons even while you’re sitting there guffawing along the jokes. That takes me back to the movies I used to love as a child, movies like Golmaal. You have the good, well-meaning boy who has to resort to hilarious tricks to fight the system which is bent on an old-fashioned, robotic method, complete with a mean despot with a mustache. He gets found out, but he succeeds in changing the environment and somehow warming that despot’s cold heart. In essence, the story isn’t that new, but its been dressed up for the times, and it draws on the lives of youth going through the education factories today. The result is something refreshing, and wonderful, and heart warming. Hirani and Abhijit Joshi (screenplay) work wonders in transforming the predictable into something unexpected. Sometimes its the witty dialogue, sometimes the presentation (eg: Raju Rastogi’s family), sometimes its the way the greatly talented actors work with what they’ve been given, sometimes its the way things unfold. Not a single moment passed by when I wasn’t wholly engaged and engrossed by the movie.

I’m glad that the movie is only VERY VERY loosely based on Bhagat’s book, and the creative licenses taken by the makers do good for it. There’s no mistaking that the story overall is fantastical. But at the same time, the world its set in is all too familiar for any kid who has spent any time in the Indian education system (or, perhaps in any system of brutal competition…say, med school?). Every kid from 2 to 110 in the theatres can relate to the world these idiots are in, and if you were educated in India the nostalgia might be enough to make you the loudest one in the hall. You empathize with the idiots from the start, and the actors do a tremendous job in making you a part of their struggle and their story. From the moment Farhan Qureshi walks through the doors of the intimidating university, you’re there, and that kind of involvement does wonders for the experience of watching this movie.

3 Idiots is a platform to talk about the problems of earning a robotic education in a brutally competitive environment, a stage to loudly declare and illustrate that a system based on mindless, rote memorization which suppresses creativity, individuality, self-learning and motivation is toxic. We’ve heard those statements before…its an echo from every rebel movie you ever saw, and the idiots are another set of new-age rebels. But in Hirani and Joshi’s talented hands, you don’t get endless monologues and didactic speeches, and with Aamir Khan and Boman Irani you don’t get painfully over-dramatic and endlessly long standoffs. You get simple, condensed, straight bits of philosophy which make their impact and stay with you long after the movie has ended. You get appropriate drama that stays light. The movie isn’t afraid to discuss the pressure on the average youth today, or the student suicides that result from the exhausting environment, yet it doesn’t give you a self-righteous lecture about it. Hirani maintains this quality from his Munnabhai movies, and for me at least, that is one of the most endearing aspects of a Hirani film. Its still a Bollywood movie, its still filmi, but it makes a statement, yet it doesn’t tire you in the process.

I have loved Shantanu Moitra from the time I got hooked on Shubha Mudgal’s Ab Ke Sawan, but I have to admit I wasn’t too crazy about the music till I saw it in the movie. It fits perfectly, and I now own the OST (its available on ITunes, fyi). Swanand Kirkire is one of my favorite lyricists who is heard from too little, and he does a fab job, keeping it light where it needs to be and deep where it needs to be. Its a sensible, suitable soundtrack, and it fits the setting completely. When its mixed with the fantastic photography…whoa, what an effect! Behti Hawa Sa Tha is a great example…the hills of Shimla look simply astounding! And my desire to travel to Ladakh intensified about a zillion times, making me more envious of this prolific traveler (he’d probably judge better if the shots were true to life, but they looked amazing to me). Shaan is at a personal best in this same song, and I thought he was a great choice for this song, and so was Suraj Jagan for Give me some Sunshine. Sonu Nigam is good, but he didn’t really blow me away as he can, except maybe in Jaane Nahin (which probably has more to do with the sequence itself).

Aamir Khan is changing Indian cinema with every film he does, and he’s doing that while looking freakishly young. I couldn’t fathom how he’d play half his age, but he does it, and I bought it. Dude has to be on something. I’m hugely biased towards R. Madhavan, so I can only say good things for him. Sharman Joshi I always knew was talented, but I think this is the first time I sat up and noticed him carefully. All three had amazing chemistry as friends, and they embraced their characters with such enthusiasm that you felt like embracing them all. You can’t leave the theatre without a tinge of envy that you weren’t in their gang. I endured Kareena and she didn’t disturb the flow (for which I’m thankful), but girlfriend looked older than Aamir. Omi, who played Chatur, I’ve seen for the first time, and he had the power to steal the scene in many scenes. My mom loved him! I’m impressed by the accent he maintained throughout. Boman Irani is no doubt an artist, and I think this role will be my favorite for him. His lisp and the way he carried himself was just too good. And the kid who played Millimetre was hilarious and a skinny bag of endearing spunk!

Despite all my praise, the movie is definitely not without its faults. It could have been shorter and could have been tightened, it could have easily been a little less filmi, and it could have done without some sequences completely. And I’m sure plenty more…but on the whole, it leaves you happy and satisfied, and right now I’m really choosing to look over the faults!

I write long reviews, and they become longer when I haven’t written in ages. Watching this movie was uplifting, and I came out feeling happier than I have in a long time, and aching to get back to writing. I’m easily affected by art, and this film affected me in the best way possible, and it came at just the right time. It was nice to be reminded that at the end of the day, not all of us are made for the rat race, and running the fastest won’t bring you peace. Success isn’t defined by your rank in the race but your willingness to follow your heart and work hard for your dreams. Free thinking isn’t a crime, and to think for yourself is courageous and necessary. There will always be someone taunting you and always someone trying to push you down, but they can only have that power if you give it to them. And at the end of the day, love and friendship will be the best measures of your wealth. As long as you have those two, aal izz and will be well.

All cliches? Perhaps. All things I (and perhaps we all) need to be reminded of? Definitely.

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I know there are a lot of negative reviews on Delhi 6 already, so I’ll try not to just add on those. Most of what those reviews say are fairly true. At the same time, my taste in movies tends to be very different from the mainstream and I look for different things, so I don’t really trust these reviews. Let me tell you instead what worked and didn’t work for me in Delhi 6.

*I loved the character development. That has received much criticism…the first half does seem extremely draggy because of how long it takes to develop each character. I also don’t like the pace at which this was done, but I do like the characters and the fact that Mehra made the effort to give us a peek into each of their lives. And the city comes to life with that. I’ve lived in Delhi, but never been to these alleys and walled parts of the city, so it was like a whole new world to me. It was especially interesting to me the way they developed the connections between the religious groups prior to the insanity.

*I hated the way Mehra uses Rahman’s music. I mean, seriously, WTH. You have an amazing soundtrack but Mehra messes it up big time. The background score stops randomly. The songs come at the strangest time and stop suddenly. They come at inappropriate times (except maybe the Ramleela and Arziyan). The songs could have really added to the story and if used well could have made a huge impact. But , just like Rang De Basanti, I felt like the songs were grossly misused. And he just puts pieces of music wherever he feels. A scene that should be serious suddenly gets a funny tune to it (and I get it, he wanted the music to seem sarcastic, but why don’t you let the audience decide if its ironic/stupid or not? We don’t need music to tell us ‘hey, the proceedings in this scene are kind of ridiculous in a subtle way, so make sure you get it’), and a good scene with the right music flowing through it will suddenly change its mind. He could have also made much better use of the natural sounds of Delhi.

*The cinematography I can find no fault with, really. It was gorgeous. It really captured Old Delhi. It captured its alleys and the close houses and just the hustle and the bustle of daily life. Loved it.

*Now to the story. I actually think the script was great. It was innovative and really creative. I felt the same with RDB…I didn’t like RDB because of its eventual message (freedom fighters against the British and youth protesting against their own government: NOT THE SAME THING. The solution shown to fight the power: DRAMATIC AND USELESS!). But the story was very neat because of the way it intertwined real events and real people with fiction and added twists and turns to the whole mix to fit Bollywood.

That said, I think Mehra made some mistakes. First, he went really, really slow in the first half. Secondly, he could have really made use of some plot twists in an excellent way, but he never did. For example, the fact that Roshan is a product of two religions…I would have liked to see how that was able to happen with his religious grandma and how that impacted him, but let alone that this wasn’t even used well till much later in the movie (and then, too, in a bad way). Or the untouchable storyline…its like Mehra introduced it, dangled it, and then took it back in a rush. Thirdly, he gets so abstract that its a real impediment to the pace of the stroy. I mean, I know this sequence wasn’t important, but the Dil Gira Dafatan scene is really a great example of how Mehra took his abstractness too far and unnecessarily, and it just harmed the movie.

*Characters. I’ve already said the small characters were really unique in themselves and I appreciated that. But the main actors: um…big mistake? Abhishek Bachchan is not a bad actor, I respect him and I’ve really appreciated certain roles he’s been in. But dude, he did not fit the bill. He was too cool, too suave, too relaxed to fit in. I don’t have an issue with his attempts to pull of being American (which he was fine with, with his past, he may as well be!), but just the fact that he seemed terribly miscast as Roshan, from a to z. RDB was a success because each of the actors had an intensity…even Aamir despite his established screen presence managed to have a rawness/freshness to him. Abhishek was very Abhishek. He seemed to work up his intensity as Roshan to a point…and then suddenly, he caught himself, as if a voice inside him said, okay dude, that’s enough, lets back off. The ‘parvachan’  part is a great example: it just didn’t work because Abhishek couldn’t make it work. On the other hand, a similar kind of didactic message by Atul Kulkarni in the end: WOW. That was immensely powerful. Abhishek couldn’t convey the pain, confusion, anxiety, anger that his character should be feeling at any point. A great contrast is the very powerful scene with Deepak Dobriyal (Mandu) in the second half, where Deepak does such an amazing job in conveying Mandu’s emotions and angst…and Abhishek fails. Part of that blame goes to the the script and the direction. Mehra only let Roshan’s character go so far, and then reigned him back in. That wasn’t fair. You get a sense that this is a guy who grew up abroad but is trying to balance his traditional values with his upbringing, and he has this strong sense of justice and what’s sensible and what’s not. But then, right when that was put to the test, he backed off. Right when he was about to say “this achoot business is nonsense,” he just huffed and walked away. Right when he was should have said “let’s stop this religious nonsense” he played billiards. Even when he eventually does find his balls, it just seems off. I feel like the script writer’s Roshan and the Roshan we saw were completely different…

Sonam Kapoor didn’t really get much meat except looking pretty and spunky, which she did fine. I don’t really have much to say for her, which also means that she didn’t really leave an impact. Divya Dutta left a stronger impact, but then the woman is naturally a finer actress anyway. I wish she was cast more…

*Another problem with the direction is the choppiness. I felt the same way with RDB. This is like several times worse. Scenes are separate entities glued together with Fevicol. They jump and only rarely flow into each other. Thus, some scenes are awesome and you’re totally into it, and then you get this crappy, poorly acted/directed scene and its all huh again. I thought the Ramleela interspersion was a great idea: POORLY used. I mean, he could have done so much with that, and it was really brilliant, but I almost feel like he felt exhausted after just coming up with the idea and just let it be fit in willy nilly.

*The dialogue’s okay, and some does stay with me so I guess those must be good 😉 The main scenes were lacking in strong dialogue, and I found myself thinking back to some great films that deal with a similar issue with such amazing acting/lines (Nana Patekar: yeh dekh uska khoon, yeh dekh mera khoon, rang ek hai ke nahin? bol?)

*The ending: I won’t give a spoiler, but I’ll just say, it didn’t bother me that much. Its been generally disliked, but since the story was already so zany I guess at that point I just wanted them to wrap it up, and I didn’t care how. It was pretty Bollywood-ish though, after all the abstractness Mehra tried to throw around. And um, not okay how you just tried to squeeze Big B in. That bit was GRATING. Slash that out and the movie redeems itself 10%. Part of that is my dislike of Amitabh speaking.

*I didn’t know much about the Monkey Man when it happened, and I’d read up on it when trying to decipher Hey Kala Bandar (side note: who else thinks its hilarious that Abhishek actually resembles this creature? I don’t mean it in a bad way, but you have to admit it! Was that purposeful? ;)) I thought the use of this recent, very famous news item was really neat. I liked how Mehra took this real life item, and then took other issues that are very real and true in present day India, and fit everything in. Really, that was impressive, and hats off to Prasoon and Mehra. To bring in issues of religion, caste, superstition, and middle class structure/beliefs all in one story…wow, what an undertaking, and it was too difficult to be done well. Everything was brought up, and it made me think, and then it wasn’t followed through well enough, leaving me wanting more. It was unsatisfactory.

And two more points. Firstly, I appreciated that the movie made a very real point about India that while things have changed for the better in many areas, in other areas they’ve really remained stuck in a time capsule. And, at fault to a large degree are the people, who are holding on to idiotic superstitions, who are stupid to swallow any thing the media and the politicians tell them, and who are generally apathetic but rush blindly to pick up their bats and axes as soon as there’s a good ol’ riot in the makin! At the same time, it also captured the qualities that make India beautiful…the sense of family in the community, the culture, the nuances of daily life, the sights, the smells, the relationships, all of which Indians abroad always miss and ache for. For me, the fact that Waheeda wanted to stay and die in her home land and in her house makes perfect sense. Theoretically, it should also make sense to me why Abhishek would fall in love with this place…except, I didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy his argument (or lack thereof), and especially when he said “its the people who make it work” at some point in the movie (hasn’t someone said this before? somewhere?), I was extremely irritated. Um, the same people who are rioting and just [SPOILER] tore down a friendly neighborhood sweet shop that they had frequented for decades over a completely farcical/nonsensical issue [/SPOILER]? I could have bought this with better dialogue, acting, and argument, but as it stands it just made me all annoyed. Especially because I view this movie as someone living abroad who has similar experiences when I return home, and I feel the same anger/frustration and also time, the same nostalgia/happiness/the same pull. Fighting for sanity and justice should be a reason to stay back, not ‘because, like, generally, these people are pretty cool, and like, they make it work.’ And the romantic thread/reason, also sucks because it was SO NOT working.

Secondly, I appreciate that Mehra makes an effort to make me really think, and he pushes the envelope in trying to expose for all to see the farce that is being played out at various levels in the country. The political games and the cunning, shrewd and selfish politicians behind them, the naive, superstitious and downright idiotic public and the simple ways in which of them can be swayed, the sad truth that for all our growth, we still sell our daughters and purify our bodies if they touch an untouchable.  He really does do that, and for that Mehra deserves his accolades. But maybe its because its too many things in one show, or that he hasn’t really figured out how to string everything together, or he hasn’t been able to get the actors to give their best, or perhaps he’s a little arrogant and thinks it’ll be easier to pull it off than it is…but it doesn’t stir up any emotions in me as the audience. I mean, with RDB, maybe it did do that with some people, but I felt more stirred up and passionate and had my eyes wide open after Ratnam’s  Yuva. He doesn’t make me feel empowered, or involves me in the movie to a degree that makes me want to just start shaking things up and learning more and changing the world because of what I’ve seen/felt. Is that too much to ask from a movie? Maybe, but its an important art form, and good art should move you. Movies like Mr and Mrs Iyer, Bombay, Zakhm…have all moved me and have actually affected my perception of the world. Mehra brings up issues that should do that, but somehow his finished work doesn’t manage to actually do that. As an example, Zakhm also does the job of exposing politicians for feeding on public furor, on incensing the public for their own gain and revealing how we all fall for it…and in the movie Ashutosh Rana and Ajay Devgan and everyone else do an amazing job of carrying that through, and the story and the direction flows so well that you really buy it and feel wronged along with the characters. That’s what I wanted from Delhi 6.

Whoa what a long review. I must feel like writing after all that movie watchin’! Despite the negative elements, I still recommend it: its not a heavy movie, in case anyone fears that, and its definitely watchable if only for the storyline behind it all.

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I loved the Oscars. I love the new structure…with previous winners congratulating each nominee and announcing the winner. I think that’s such a nice touch and it clearly means a lot to everyone nominated. I’m a devout Oscar-watcher but it was getting really tiring last year so it was good to mix it up. Hugh Jackman was great, but I’d have liked more funny bits. Some things I didn’t love this year was the shorter original songs (and wtf with the mix with John Legend and Rahman?) and also the absence of clips. Overall, this was the first year where I really agreed with almost all the wins. I though Lance Black’s speech was beautiful and the highlight, next to Sean Penn’s. Loved Rahman’s grace and eloquence, and everyone knows that Pookutty’s speech was great too. I jumped up and down when Rahman won! For me, SM is far from his best work, but just to see him recognized on an international stage and something that clearly means a lot to him was great. I was glad that the whole team came up on stage for the Best Picture win: the kids looked adorable! Overall, it was definitely India night and I felt proud. I don’t care what people will say about SM: you can have all kinds of arguments against it, but you can’t deny that this movie has made waves unparalleled to anything else on an international scale. Its very impressive, and you must laud them for at least the swear, toil and dedication it took to make this movie.

And as for “its a foreign movie, so why is India celebrating so much?” and all the arguments being made by certain bitchy, envious populations : that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Firstly, isn’t the fact that one of the best music directors in India and the world is being recognized very important and worth celebrating? Or the deserving Pookutty? Or the lyricist Gulzar? You know why people are whining? Because the people who’ve dominated the industry are not associated with it. Big B is completely comfortable in roles centering around the underworld (because, of course, that isn’t the underbelly at all is it? Underworld must be a misnomer!), but suddenly a movie comes out which has Anil Kapoor reprising him on Kaun Banega Crorepati and its creating international waves and he’s not associated with it? Well, something has to be freaking wrong with it! Mukesh Bhatt isn’t giving the music for a movie that has the spirit of Bollywood? Oh no! It can’t be good! We can’t celebrate an Oscar for that now can we?! Disgusting. Secondly, dude, this country for once is celebrating instead of rioting against a movie which involves a Muslim boy falling in love and eventually getting a Hindu girl. That alone is a whole new cause for celebration. Even if its a shallow reason, people aren’t burning down theatres and screaming murder, and to me that’s a miracle. And, lastly, um, why bitch at a celebration at all? In times like the ones we live in, does it matter why you’re happy as long as you’re happy? Just quit whining already.

I thought it might be fun to make a post highlighting my favorite Rahman songs through the 16 years that I have followed him loyally. I haven’t had time yet but hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to sift through my giant Rahman library and make some difficult choices 🙂

On a completely different note, here’s a great reason to love a whole different celebrity who is thankfully the true King of Bollywood and who supported SM (or at least didn’t go around criticizing anything about it, and presented at Golden Globes), and who despite having a lot and being proud of it (some say arrogant, I say self-assured) never forgets who he owes it all to. The great Shah Rukh Khan. The reason I’m driven to post this video: this man just flew in into Mumbai Int’l Airport to the usual crowds. He’s due for major surgery in a few hours and hasn’t seen his family yet. He’s probably in great pain from his numerous problems and especially the shoulder injury he’s getting surgery for. Lest you forget, he is the biggest star in the country with a devoted (understatement), humongous (understatement) fan following. And the dude stands their answering dumb questions from reporters, genially and with good humor and patience, for a several minutes till he finally gently says he should get going for his surgery. And he asks for blessings and prayers and thanks them all, and even says that he takes his bodily breakdown as a payment for all the love he recieves for his work. I mean, how awesome is that. Few celebrities bother to stand for the paparazzi even for a few pictures, and he makes an effort to actually NOT be rude and give them time, and give eloquent answers. I remember him saying once that he doesn’t mind the media because they’re doing their job just like he does his, and the media makes him or breaks him, just like his fans. Clearly, he meant that.

http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/broadband/video/Special-Features/au2L9R78/3/SRK-On-Top.html

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Rahman does it yet again.

Delhi 6 is a movie I have been awaiting with some excitement because of the interesting storyline (well, I have said that about so many movies this year and never got around to actually watching them…thus is life) and acting credits, but now the music is out and it has officially made my day. I mean, it has literally cheered me up, which I very much needed, simply because yet again I am baffled that Rahman’s genius just keeps stretching out. The maestro had just won some very well deserved awards internationally, including the Golden Globe, for his music of Slumdog Millionaire, and that is followed by yet another proof of how great he is. I really won’t be surprised if he wins the Oscar this year. To be honest I don’t care what he wins, but this whole process brings him into the light and visible to the world, and I think that’s the best part. He deserves the accolades, but the recognition means much more I think. He deserves to go down in international history, not just Indian history. I still remember my excitement when the Theme of Bombay started playing in a pivotal scene in Lord of War…or more recently, as a background to a nightly show in Singapore’s Night Safari. I’m proud of him like no other artist from the motherland. Kudos!

Back to the subject: Delhi 6 is now available for listening on Bollywood Hungama (www.indiafm.com) and his latest offering brings to you both awe-inspiring tracks and tracks that are not so easy to take in. For those who’ve been uncomfortable with his newer work, Delhi 6 is not as eccentric and experimental. For those who like his mixtures and innovation, there is plenty of that too, which might or might not be unpleasant to you. It has a slew of new singers like Sujata Majumdar and Kishori Gowariker, and some of those voices which I said I would love to hear more (Javed Ali, Benny Dayal, Rekha Bharadwaj, Mohit Chauhan!). The lyrics are actually pretty great (thank God, because lately I was worrying about the kinds of lyrics Rahman had been composing to), by Prasoon Joshi, and based on what I know of the story I think they’re aptly powerful and, in true Rahman-style, sometimes complex to explicate.

A word of warning…at times the album brings out the unexpected with a flair, and that might not gel with everyone. For example, if you expected Mohit Chauhan to sing the kind of lovely smooth ballad that he has been singing in the last year…well, Masakali is nothing like that at all. If you’re willing to take the risk, you’ll be amazed at how sleazy and rebellious and bold he manages to sound in this number. Similarly, the title track is a little wild, not in the least because of the singers and the free use of digitalization, but its also very characteristic of Rahman (think Paathshaala). The religious tracks are, as expected, melodious and wonderful, but they lack the power of Khwaja, Piya Haji Ali, or even Al Maddath Maula. Those are a bit of a disappointment, to be honest, because I always look forward to the Rahman touch on this genre, because he does magic with both Hindi and Muslim tracks (this album has both an Aarti and Arziyan, which is reminiscent to Piya Haji Ali).

Let’s start with Aarti. Very solemn, sober, but it immediately reminded me of Ishwar Allah from 1947 Earth and its too similar (apart from the lyrics) to stand out. Its like Rahman didn’t feel like making the effort to differentiate this aarti. Possibly the weakest song in the album.

Arziyan. Javed Ali is divine and holds his own with Kailash Kher, who usually succeeds with songs of this type. Apart from that, like I said already, it is very reminiscent of past efforts in this genre, and it doesn’t particularly stand out, apart from the different singers. The lyrics are quite good, however, and understandable, which will be appreciated by those who thought Khwaja was too pretentious in its language.

Bhor Bhaye. Tracks are being blended in this…and very obviously…one an old, old track of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali and one of Shreya Ghosal singing the same raag. Initially it is disconcerting, but it won me over soon after, because Ghosal’s voice is simply amazing. Her classical training (of which she is so proud) shines out and you can tell this is her area (once Kavita Krishnamurthy used to stand grandly where classical in movies was concerned…but I’m not sure whats been going on with her choices). I’m still unsure, though, about how I feel about Bade Ghulam Ali’s recording being used such, but I think this is a situational song that will have to be seen to justified.

Delhi 6. Delhi 6 is an ode to Delhi, and its quite a celebration. I can’t pinpoint which singer it is, I believe its Vivienne Pocha, whose voice can only be well utilized by Rahman. For anything else she would be too raw, too sharp, too coarse, but in songs like this (and Shano from Yuvvraaj), she really pulls an effect. Overall this is not my type of track but I enjoyed it.

Dil Gira Dafatan. Ash King is new (I think?) and he does all sorts of things with his voice here, and I like it. He goes high, he goes soft, his breath comes in deep and goes out…The melody is inconsistent on purpose (like he’s just singing and not really following any music) and there’s a constant tone running in the background…the effect is something that builds up and builds up in anticipation…Chinmayee comes in and adds her own sweet effect. Rahman mixes a lot in this song…at times it sounds Western, at times Asian, at times it sounds like something European…but for some reason it works (for me). Its a risky song because there is a lot going on, and I don’t think everyone will fall for it. Its also very dreamy and flows like something…not quite real.

Genda Phool. For some reason there’s very little wedding/marriage songs being made nowadays, and I miss them. I miss the Main To Chod Chali Saajan Ka Desh kind of songs! Genda Phool brings back that genre with a twist, and for that reason may be one of my favorite songs here. The lyrics and the voice of Rekha Bharadwaj and the use of the sangeet chorus makes it very earthy, very shaadi and mehndi suitable, teasing and playing with the relationships to come…but the music defies that. The rhythm and beats fused in are very modern (with only a jhanak of payal in the background) and the whole effect is very fusion. I like it.

Hey Kaala Bandar. Three singers I really dig–Karthik, Naresh, Srinivas–and Bony Chakravarthy do new things with their voices. Its hip hop but not, its British-Indo rap but not really. Its lyrics are confused, going deep but then stepping out. Its youthful. It tries to be Khalbali in its spirit but doesn’t really get to that level. Its music doesn’t hit the spot, but you feel your head start bobbing. Its going through a serious identity crisis. Yeah, that’s all I can say right now.

Masakali. Remember my post on the music of 2008 where I gave Mohit Chauhan my best playback award and I said I’d love to hear more variety in his portfolio (and I also mentioned the singers I’d love to hear more of)?? Well, I should have also wished for Himesh Reshammiya to stop acting/singing in that post because apparently my wishes are all coming true. Chauhan OWNS this song, and its like nothing I’ve heard from him before. At times he’s bold and almost sleazy in his rebelliousness…he inserts laughter and wildness and youth into his voice with ease, and in the parts where his voice freely yodels he reminds you how smooth and dynamic his voice really is. I can’t really describe it well, so just listen.

Noor. Amitabh Bachchan speaks. I’m not a fan. So I have nothing to say. Words are okayish.

Rehna Tu. The songs which Rahman chooses to grace with his voice will always be the best of the album. I remember my mom once was shocked that Khwaja and Ay Hairathe Tere Bina (I’m sorry, I got the names all mixed up…which is stupid…thanks Ashish for pointing it out…Ay Hairathe was sung beautifully by Hariharan) were both sung by him, because he sounds so different in each. His voice doesn’t change, but his emotion does, his persona does…something happens as a result of which he does not sound the same on any two songs. It can go without saying that Rehna Tu will come to be my favorite song from this album 🙂 I love what Rahman does with it. I love its almost-R&B beat that switches into something more eclectic as the song progresses. I love what he does with his voice to really add passion and emotion and longing to the song. And I really like the lyrics. Just like I loved the strange but simple associations of Meherbaan, I love the lyrics of this love song which seem steeped in desire and not entirely conventional.

“Rehna Tu/Hai Jaisa Tu/Dheema Dheema Jhokha/Ya Junoon”

(Stay/The way you are/A soft slow breeze/Or a passion)

“Tujhe Badalna Na Chahoon/Radhi Bhar Bhi Sanam/Bina Sajawat, Milawat/Na Zyada Na Kum”

(I don’t want to change you/Even a little bit/[you are] Without decoration, without any impurity/Not too much nor little)

This is the slightly weird but sort of sweet stanza:

“Haath Thaam Chalna Ho/To Dono Ke Daayen Haath Sang Kaise?

Ek Daayan Hoga/Ek Baayan Hoga/Thaam Le…Haath Yeh Thaam Le…/Chalna Hai Sang Thaam Le”

(If we want to walk holding hands, how can both our left hands be together? One will be left, one will be right, lets hold, hold my hand, we have to walk together)*

(Um, I have forever been handicapped in being able to differentiate rightly between daayen and baayen in Hindi (i.e., which is left and which is right). So quite possibly I have them the wrong way, in which case, please point out kindly :))

The song ends with a flute-like piece that is very traditional…a very nice touch.

That’s my thoughts! Heavily biased, but atleast I didn’t go out right crazy saying the album had no faults! It does, but it is still magnificent and stands glorious evidence that Rahman’s genius will continue on and on and on and on and on…

And on.

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Happy New Year y’all!

happy 2009

Wow…another year takes its bow and leaves. Good riddance, I say. Though on a personal level this year has been a mixture of both good and bad, it definitely hasn’t been a good one for the world in general. I’m looking forward to a new year that will hopefully bring it with it brighter days, more clarity, more strength, greater hope…that will just be better than the year that has gone. Wishing you all joy, peace, and health in the new year!

I’ve just seen my parents off at the airport and it has sunk in that the holidays are truly over…always a difficult pill to swallow. This is my favorite season (the most wonderful time of they year!). I hate to see it go. I have a lot to look forward to this year, but currently my body and my mind are loathe to show much activity and movement. We just wants to lies arounds and do nada. Ennui sets in. I’m in danger of simply becoming a zombie, so I thought that some writing would kind of push my body and brain into circulating some thought and action. Or, yunno, I’m just procrastinating more.

Anyway, I present to you my list of favorites in music and some other miscellaneous categories :)) These opinions are just passing thoughts and just personal opinions, and probably valid to change hour by hour. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know my love of adjectives is never ending, so please to keep in mind the use of hyperbole, kthx.

🙂

Best Bollywood Soundtrack: I think that in comparison to 2007, 2008 showed more innovation and experimentation, but still came short of impressive work. There weren’t that many albums that stood out to me this year, and I barely added any to my library. But even if I didn’t exactly love them, I will say that there was definitely a greater variety in the music out there…more directors, more singers, more styles being played around with. That’s a big step up, and it makes me look forward to the future of Bollywood music.

That said, for me the best album of the year was Yuvvraaj. Apart from my obvious bias towards Rahman as a long term loyal fan, I pick Yuvvraaj because it was so amazingly refreshing for me. And it was a very experimental album for him, this third one this year. I haven’t seen the movie and will never see it (eww to what I’ve heard about it), but that isn’t necessary with Rahman, and especially with Yuvvraaj. From Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, to Ada, to Yuvvraaj, Rahman has taken impressive steps to revolutionize his music and change the flavor each time, and do it with the same magnificence. His music is alive, pulsating with life and rhythm and personality and character. And so, yes, it takes time to get used to each new album, but once you do, you absorb it completely and just revel in it (or atleast, I do). Tu Meri Dost was simply lovely…with its high peaks and its low softness, its fantasy-like quality…Mastam Mastam had a quality of freedom, of rebellion, of carnivals and of tolis set out to celebrate…Shano Shano was downright club music with twists and turns that baffled initially but drew you in soon enough…Zindagi was rich in emotion and ached with pain and angst. New voices appeared throughout, and familiar voices showed new talents and capability. Each time I listen to the album, I discover new nuances, new feelings, new emotions, and understand new aspects of the lyrics that actually makes it an experience each time. That’s a golden album for me.

Best Non-Bollywood Album: If you’ve been to this blog even two times you can guess it. Avengi Ja Nahin was miles ahead of anything else this year, anywhere. In fact, I feel it could be miles ahead of its time and its generation. I don’t know how much it was appreciated in India, but Rabbi is an undisputed genius. I’m literally left breathless by how amazing this album is, and how I discover new things in it each time. Read in depth reviews here and here.

(And don’t take just my word for it…see Deepak Iyer’s list for the year gone by here for further corroboration)

Best Filmi Song (Lyrically and Melodically): This was a tie for me between Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Ek Lau. Amit Trivedi’s lyrics for Ek Lau are undoubtedly amazing: they are simple, beautiful, touching. In a few lines, he says so much of such great importance. He conveys the dilemma of the human being, the pain and angst of our world as it stands today, and the confusion of the normal human caught up in all this conflict. Shilpa Rao’s voice is delicate, soft, trembling with emotion, and adds as much to the song as the lyrics and the music do. It is a masterpiece.

Khwaja Mere Khwaja is complex, not easy to grasp, but from start to end it is seeped in devotion, faith, in deep emotion and religious love that is quite powerful to listen to. The Sufi touch envelops you and the lyrics, once understood, mesmerize you. The call touches you, the desire of the devotee to reach his Khwaja is touching, and it involves you, it raises you. If you close your eyes, you may find yourself at Ajmer Sharif… (but please, with none of the terrible actors in the scene from the movie: I almost walked out in frustration at those expressionless zombies).

Best Non-Filmi Song (Lyrically and Melodically): Without hesitation: Ballo, from Rabbi’s Avengi Ja Nahin. Possibly the best song written and composed in recent times. The best song all year in any category. It has made my list of life time favorites, and I think it is a rare gem, as is Rabbi. I possibly don’t need to say more than I’ve already said here.

Most Melodious Song with Disappointing Lyrics: This is a unique category, but I find some gems every year where the music is just outstanding but the lyrics fall far behind. It is my belief that a great song is made up by just the right combination of lyrics and melody and the right voices (I don’t mean lyrics must always be super meaningful or symbolic, but they should hold substance of some sort, even if its mushy substance). But, I must admit, a large part of my library is made up of songs that sound oh-so-good but mean so little if actually thought about. Of course, the trick is not to think about them. 😉 In this category, the prize goes to Hawa Sun Hawa, in Rahman’s Ada (lyrics and translation here). I can’t bother myself to look up who wrote them, but homeboy sure lives on cliches and over used mushy lines. Seriously, hasn’t the woh kaun hai bit been done to death? Raaz, yaad, uske bina, aaja re aaja…aiyiya, seriously, how can a song be so cliched and overly lovey? Haven’t we moved past that by this point? Not to mention the many lines where the song simply goes to into random words to fill in space (aaja re aaja re aare…!!), and I don’t know if Rahman isn’t a little bit involved there. Lyrically, the songs he’s been choosing haven’t all been very good in recent times, which is slightly disappointing to me (Shantanu Moitra, for instance, always seems to give music to songs with substance, such as the recent Sajjanpur and the older Ab Ke Sawan). Also, don’t tell me you can’t have a love song without 100% cliches…Ek Meetha Marz De is a fine example. I love romance as much as the next woman, but, seriously, lets have less of this and more of that. But the music of the song…aah…SPELLBINDING. That’s how I still manage to listen to it.

My Favorite Male Playback Singer in 2008: Mohit Chauhan. I used to love Silk Route when I was a child, and when he came back as a playback singer, I was delighted. It means I get to hear his voice more. Tum Se Hi in 2007 from Jab We Met was arguably a pop gem (if only I didn’t harbor deep suspicions about where Pritam got that tune from, I would love it even more)…so was Guncha a few years ago, and this year he sang Kahin Na Laage (from Kismat Konnection…another Pritam…aiyah), and then the beautiful Moitra song, Ek Meetha Marz, which sealed it for me. Sure, I’d love to see him add some more variety to his portfolio in the year to come, but I can’t deny that I love those songs mostly because he sings them so well. Sonu Nigam in Hawa Sun Hawa almost took this spot, but then I had had too much of the drawing out of words…

My Favorite Female Playback Singer in 2008: Shreya Ghosal. I’m generally someone who doesn’t really love super sweet voices (honestly, they grate on my nerves at times), but Ghosal is different. From her debut a few years ago, girlfriend has grown and grown and just become better and better. On one of the music competition shows for children, Pritam or some other idiot told one of the little girls she sang better than Ghosal had for a particular song…I think I gaped for about a minute and then said something unladylike, before switching channels. Ghosal is one of the most promising singers of my generation, not just because her voice is so lovely and melodious, but because she makes an effort to expand her styles and pick up varied songs, and because it really seems like she works hard. She packs feeling and emotion into her work, and that is what a great singer maketh. From the most recent Kaise Mujhe from Ghajini, to her bit in Tu Meri Dost Hain, to her small but memorable part in Khabar Nahin…this has been a Ghosal year, and she deserves to be lauded for her work.

Singers I’d like to Hear More From: Vishal Dadlani makes great music with Shekhar, and they both sure do sing well. So please to sing more! Dostana was a fun, light album, but definitely exposed how much potential Vishal has as a singer. Benny Dayal is a new discovery…by Rahman…and I don’t know who this dude is but I would definitely like to hear him more. His voice on Yuvvraaj is full of promise: please don’t disappear! We don’t get to hear Shilpa Rao enough, and the same goes for Srinivas.

**That ends the Hindi music side. I can’t comment much on movies, actors, actresses etc because honestly nothing really caught my eye this year. I will say that Bollywood is finally growing up and I’m very proud of it for doing so. Provocative, mature, sensible and slick cinema is now being produced, which is excellent. I didn’t catch enough of this yet to really name any ones that stood out, but I do have great hope now for the film industry.

And now onto the other half of my music library…my favorite Korean pieces this year. My handicap here is that I don’t always understand all the lyrics (a lot of other times, I’m not that bad in getting the gist, or I look em up :)). But that just means the music has to prove itself more. There was some great music this year, but definitely not at par with the year before in my opinion. Going through my library I realized I really haven’t added much to it since 2007, at least not to the same level. Hoping 2009 will bring more great music from an industry, especially from the Indie and Rock scene…

Best Drama Soundtrack: If there weren’t that many great dramas this year, there also weren’t that many great OSTs. Unlike past years, from which I have quite a few favorites added to my collection, 2008 was seriously lacking. Who Are You wins simply because I enjoyed it so much while the drama was going on, and that had to do a lot with the placement of the songs/instrumentals and the way they fit into the story. Thinking deeper, I think Gourmet has greater quality, and more substance, and some very impressive pieces (especially Gyung Hab, with its Arabic twists…wow, what an instrumental).

Best Album: Alex’s My Vintage Romance. Yep, even I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I do like Clazziquai and have always loved Alex’s voice, but I didn’t have humongous expectations when I started listening to it. But many of the tracks have become favorites and his voice just has this quality…it can really fit into the mood of the song, it can smile, it can express pain, it can be flirty, it can be romantic, it can be calm and sober. He really plays with many different styles in this album, and does quite well. Highlights are Lets Clasp Our Hands Together (깍지껴요 ft Gaeko) and Love (사랑하오), and Daisy.

Favorite Song: Umbrella, by Epik High, and ft. Younha. I’ll tell you a secret. This year, I had to loosen up on my Epik High fanaticism. My respect and admiration for them is still as great as ever, but neither of their two albums really did much for me this year, except for bright spots here and there. I’m not sure why. All of their other work has spoken to me, so I’m not sure what happened here. Maybe I should go back and re-listen and re-absorb. However, Umbrella was still impressive…dark, gloomy, full of angst and lyrics that made you ache…in other words, completely Epik High.

Song I Didn’t Expect to Like: But did. Mirotic. Definitely not a DBSK fan, and probably never will be, but this song was very…mirotic. Also, their dancing in the MV and on their on-stage performances is excellent and always supremely polished (with many “how the…what the…huh?” complex steps), and that makes the song even more attractive. But, seriously, are these boys actually real or programmed, too good looking robots? (Shuts up and won’t tag for fear of fan wrath ;))

Disappointed in…: Clazziquai’s most recent album, Metrotronix. I mean, it is just too much techno and electro for me. And it just doesn’t have…the it quality that their other work has had. Of course, I have the one song featuring Yi Sung Yol. That’s a given, ain’t it?

Year End Bang: My Aunt Mary’s Circle. I haven’t given it too many listens yet but what I have heard, I’ve loved. And how good to have them back on the scene. Thomas Cook’s voice never gets old, I tell ya.

My Wish for 2009: 이승열 (Yi Sung Yol), won’t you please release another album? We’ve been waiting patiently! Hearing you twice a year on OSTs or featured on other singer’s albums is simply not enough. I’ve worn out volume 1 and volume 2, and a new volume would be the perfect present this year. Nothing in the world quite like his voice…

****

Its midnight and time for me to turn into a pumpkin! Or maybe just time to eat a guava. Don’t ask me why. Go grab your own midnight snack.

Happy 2009!

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Ek Meetha Marz De Ke, from Welcome to Sajjanpur. Sung by Mohit Chauhan and Madhushree. Music by Shantanu Moitra.

The HK Magazine gave me a horoscope that I thought was pretty funny and cheerful, and made me feel good:

For many people, 10:30am is the single best time of day to come up with fresh insights and new ideas. But that won’t exactly be true for you in the coming week. I mean, 10:30 will be a time when you’re likely to be really smart, but then so will 11:30, 1:05, 2:37, 3:46, and 4:20. For that matter, 6:35 may also bring a gush of high intelligence, as well as 7:27, 8:19 and the last ten minutes before bedtime. What I’m trying to tell you, Virgo, is that you’re in a phase when being brilliant should come pretty naturally.

Me likes. Maybe a sign that I may not embarrass myself completely for Nanowrimo? (not sure about that, though ;)). I also like it because I’m only completely awake past 11am usually, so it makes sense 😉

Thanks to Shivya for the music recommendation…Welcome to Sajjanpur is great! One of the reasons is Shantanu Moitra, the music director, who is one of my favorites, but someone whose work always sneaks up quietly. I always hear about it too late (except Parineeta). He’s so underrated. My favorite tracks are the one above and Bheeni Bheeni with the lovely Shreya Ghosal and KK. I still have a crush on KK’s voice. I also realized that Sajjanpur sounds really interesting, must watch it! Shyam Benegal, after all, and the storyline sounds sweet and simple and funny, like the movies of yesteryear I love (Golmaal…Khatti Meethi…*sighs*). Anyway, it sounds like a good, meaningful watch.

Yesterday I gave in to an urge to watch a Bollywood movie after ages and gave Dostana a try. I cannot tell a lie: it did have me in splits, and overall it was good timepass. It was less offensive than I thought it would be, i.e., it didn’t have my irritated/annoyed self glaring at the screen (for the most part) at ignorant gay jokes. I don’t agree with the way they did it, but I think talking about homosexuality is atleast a start. Even the fact that the community is beginning to accept it in humor is a start, and we’ve also moved past the stereotype overly-effeminate playing of a ‘gay’ role. That’s growth of some sort, right? Basically, for a subject like this, any talk is good, at least to bring the subject out of the big closets where its hidden. Like, Coffee Prince for instance. I adore CP for many reasons, but I remember thinking at the time that it was a good way to push a conservative society into broadening their minds without even realizing it. Anyway, Dostana was quite funny because of Abhishek Bachan and Kiron Kher. John Abraham just looked good and pretended to be doing more than just being there. Priyanka Chopra is quite pretty, so she didn’t have to try as hard. Kiron Kher’s few scenes stole the show. Love her. Abhishek pulled off his role quite well, and he can be quite natural. I thought the ending was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen (well, I shoudn’t say that with Bollywood ;)), seriously, it pretty much ruined everything else, but I still had a good laugh for a Friday night.

On the subject, I’m way too excited about Ghajini. Have only heard one track yet (Guzarish) but the combination of Rahman and Aamir Khan has to equal magic!!

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