‘Uttama Villain(UV)’ as a film has been wrapped in a bit of intrigue for sometime now. The initial assumption was that it would be a typical Kamal A-class comedy quickie. But as more and more promotional material is being revealed, it is looking like a much more involving and intriguing enterprise. Also Ulaganayagan’s decision to sign Ghibran for a 3 film deal has left all film buffs puzzled. Granted Ghibran is immensely talented and along with Santhosh Narayanan is one of the few bright hopes for the future of tamil film music. But still, a maniacally perfection obsessed Kamal with immediate access to the IRs, ARRs and SELs of the world signing a young composer upfront for 3 projects tells something. I was personally licking my lips, as Ghibran was coming on the back of a very good Thirumanam Enum Nikaah(TEN) and a great Amara Kaaviyam(AK). I was eager to see how Kamal’s amazing script sense, music sense and knowledge of the language marry Ghibran’s new age instrumentation, novel approach to melody and heavy layering work.
The album starts with what you could call a loosen-er in cricketing terms. Considering the serious and topical tracks to follow,’Loveaa Loveaa’ is totally playful in nature. But it still stays true to Ghibran’s heavy layering talent. There is so much depth to savour and please never use substandard audio equipment while listening to any Ghibran track. The surprise factors are Kamal’s match for the track’s mood, Sharanya Gopinath and co’s amazing voice flexibility (especially in later variations), lyricist Viveka’s ode to Kamal’s playboy image and some top notch percussion. The arrangements have few similarities to past Ghibran’s tracks like ‘Rayile ra’(TEN) and ‘Aruva Kara’(Kuttipuli) but the above factors comfortably ensure the track is unique and slowly addictive. Cheeky lyrical highlight – ‘Muthathin Aasane mudivirai seithayo lovea lovea’ and our man replies ‘Peridhana velaikku pillayar suzhi thaan mutham vadi loveaa loveaa’. Nuff said.
Lilting is back with ‘Kadhalam kadavul mun’. The beat takes off from ‘Chillendra’(TEN) and the melody has a clear Ghibran stamp on it, especially the use of distinct sangadhis or variations upfront itself. There is a clear vasantha ragam stamp all along the song which lends a lot of purity to the track. And all along our big man fits in very sensual lyrics. And there is so much going on in parallel that you will keep discovering things with every hearing, provided you are patient. Be it the ups and downs of the sensous moods reflected in the varying octaves of the pallavi or the mildly orgasmic male sounds interspersed in the interludes, this is just sheer genius working in tandem. Congrats also to Padmalatha for an amazing vocal job J
Now we move on to the real meaty section of the album. The real Dravid in Perth kind of deal. Sheer skill. Don’t even venture here if you are not pure and serious about your musical pursuits. The opening knock is the best ever villupattu track in tamil film history (atleast to my limited knowledge).
Morsing + ‘Subbu Arumugam and team’ villupattu opening + Kamal with outstanding acting (I won’t reduce his contribution to mere singing) + percussion googlies all along + amazing chorus and super lyrics = Musical orgasm. This track seems to be UV’s version of ‘Kadha Kelu Kadha Kelu’(Michael Madana…) . Only thing is it is 10 times musically richer and 100 times lyrically loaded compared to the simpler Kadha Kelu. There is enough to write a post each on this and the other narration tracks to come, but to quickly summarize, it equates Uttama Villain’s quest to Arjuna’s struggles to get the Pasupathastra from Lord Shiva. It uses Arjuna as a motif for the protagonist’s immense skill and Shiva or rather Shivam as a symbol of the penance or struggle he goes through. Rich, skillful and amazingly compiled broadwayesque track which takes the fast fading Villupattu art form and elevates it with state of the art arrangements. Salutations to Subbu Arumugam ayya, salute to Kamal Sir and am also salivating in expectation for Ghibran’s future contributions to tamil film music.
A brief break from the performance tracks of the album is ‘Saagaavaram’. Rustic and folksy in beat , this song is a grammar in voice modulation. That Kamal Hassan is much more than a competent singer we know. But where he is country miles ahead of competition is that he is also the actor, lyricist and script writer here so he is in control of each and every word he emotes over the mike. In this song in which he explains the futility of immortality to the King (Mutharasan???) . He educates (‘Kaniyar kanitha..’), counsels ( ‘vatta pandham…’), stresses (‘pogum mande..’), begs (‘maala oliyum..’ ) effortlessly switching emotions in each line to drive home the message that everything including our astronomically sized up planet and its peers including the never fading sun have an expiry date on them. And then he thunders that it is natural that this cycle of destruction and birth will continue. All that is needed to oil the lifeline of lineage and purposefulness of daily duties is a poetic love in one’s lifetime. Kamal genius all the way shoulders this track.
It is tough to imagine a much more compact and effective narration of the Hiranyakashipu-Prahladan story than the ‘Iraniyan naadagam’ track in this album. Kamal thunders ‘En udhirathin vidhai….’ you are bowled. And then they keep beating you and beating you hollow. This track could give any international stage composition a run for its money. With the aid of grand arrangements from Sofia Orchestra (Bulgaria), Kamal’s amazing writing and acting and Rukmini’s melodious vocals for Prahladan sheer magic is weaved. This has to be experienced to be truly believed as no amount of words can express the experience. It keeps switching between Hiraniyan’s cruel arrogance and Prahladan’s bhakti before ending in lasting peace brought by the vadham of Hiraniyan. Bull’s eye track.
Next up is another truly international quality drama track of ‘Mutharasan Kadhai’. It tells the story of Mutharasan who conspired and usurped the throne of Sadayavarma Pandiyan. We understand that Mutharasan kills his brother-in-law Sadayavarman and later his sister too. He then lusts for his niece Karpagam who bites him badly in self-defense and ends up becoming insane. A guilty Mutharasan, sensing bad times and general discontent over his rule approaches astrologers to find that he will very soon die a gory death. He then orders that Uttaman be brought in front of him. Uttaman is someone in his kingdom who has cheated death 5 times. This track fuses multiple styles seamlessly. It starts in Villuppattu fashion, goes into a more typical international orchestration arrangement aided with Kamal’s narration and keeps switching moods and elements effortlessly. It starts with the glory of Sadayavarman, goes into Mutharasan’s dark days and hope with his downfall all with a seasoned Hollywood composer’s ease. Big Kudos to Ghibran and the Sofia Symphony Orchestra on this one.
The last vocal track on the album is ‘Uttaman Kadhai’. Similar in orchestration quality to the previous one, this too should be a great experience in the theatre. Beginning with a small section by actor M.S.Bhaskar, this narrates 2 of the 5 incidents where Uttaman manages to cheat death. The first one being a time when a snake bites 5 people in a row and by the time it bites him it is bereft of any poison so he miraculously escapes. The second case being a flood situation during which he barely manages to stay alive by holding to a log. This one has relatively (only relatively) lesser presence of Kamal in the narration but has great chorus and mixing to convey the story effectively.
After this we go to the instrumental section of the album. First up is the ‘Uttama Villain Theme’. This is the track we have been hearing from the time the first teaser came out. It starts with the vocals section with Kamal leading the ‘mrutyunjaya…. ‘ part and goes on to a nice string section , before moving on to add more and more layers till they all come to a grand finale. Crisp, taut and intriguing.
‘Guru and Sishya’ is a simple instrumental track which is a pleasant departure from all the heavy tracks so far. It has a cute wind section in the middle. Pleasant.
‘Father and daughter’ is much more melancholic and it showcases Ghibran’s sheer diversity with the fact that this a much more string dominated piece. It has a clear mayamalavagowlai(ragam) tint to it, especially in the beginning and end.
‘Uttaman and Karpagavalli’ surely is rich in Hollywood inspirations. It has a fable feel to it. The initial portions have some influences from Lord of the Rings -3 while the rest of the track shows influences from lot of soundtracks from animation movies. Should add a good dimension on screen.
‘Father and son’ starts with a very simple keyboard section. Post the first minute more and more layers of chords, humming and backing vocals are added on a pretty rich note. This track again brings in the Mrutyunjaya or immortality theme.
‘Letter from and to Yamini’ starts of from where ‘Kaadhalam Kadavul Mun’ left and goes on to heavier proceedings with a lot of strings and humming on the way along
‘Dr.Arpana’ is a pretty standard instrumental track, but again richly assembled. Should make more sense on screen.
Karaoke versions for 3 of the 7 vocal songs round off the mammoth 17 track album. Colossal, monumental and epic sound very small when one looks at the efforts which have gone behind this album. There is not one false note or jarring piece or even subsection in the entire venture. It is clear Kamal has an all pervading hand in the proceedings, be it lyrics, expressions or singing, but it is a clear initiation of Ghibran into the big boys club. He has just announced himself in the big stage and how. I have not seen any of his peers (of course not including IR and ARR as peers) do anything nearly as complex in my living memory. It goes many notches up over a ‘Kaaviya Thalaivan’ with which I had lot of issues with lack of nativity and total disconnect with its exact time period of setting.
There are some people in social media asking why Kamal comes up in almost each track. Given the heavy amount of acting and narration involved in most of them I don’t see any other alternative to that. You could also complain the lack of simple and hum-able melodies. Can’t help it. This album is unfortunately not for you.
4.5 on 5 for me. No less. Heard nothing like this all my life. Already Santhosh Narayanan has some recent albums to his credit where music plays a much larger role than song and dance. Uttama Villain is surely a giant step of Ghibran’s in that direction, aided in no less terms by the topical nature of the master’s script. Here’s to more and more of the next gen musical excellence in our movies.