A. R. Rahman’s Psychedelic Masterpiece: A Song That Took Indian Cinema By Storm!

It was the Diwali day of 1993. As for every kid of the nineties, my day dawned with the excitement of new films and colorful crackers. I still vividly remember the morning, when I entered the hall after the customary fireworks to hear the 26 inch Onida TV, literally exploding with some breathtaking stuff – music that I had hitherto never experienced. Sun TV, that had just started its streaming that April, was airing a special program on a new Diwali release incidentally.

The moment I heard the amazing sounds, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, nor could I move another step, my brains instantly freezing, unable to digest the insane brilliance of what it had been exposed to, without prior warning. Everything about those five minutes hit me so emphatically that, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days together. I was mesmerized for a long, long time. But little did I realize back then that I would end up being so irreversibly smitten, writing about this unbelievable piece of magic, twenty-two years later.

With all due respect to our evolved language comprehension skills let me tell you that there are some cerebral experiences like this one that can’t be caged under the confines of a vocabulary or visual syntax. But still, whats the harm in giving it a shot?

Continue reading “A. R. Rahman’s Psychedelic Masterpiece: A Song That Took Indian Cinema By Storm!”

Most Influential Non-living Props/Elements in Tamil Cinema: A Perspective

Engrossing tales have been woven around special props/elements right from the birth of storytelling. Tamil cinema too has had its share of experimentation with scripts based on unique elements, now and then. The latest movie to portray a non-living element with unmatched style and sensitivity was Ranjith’s Madras. The looming shadows, the eerie feel and the flickering lights made the ‘wall’ as central a character in the film as the protagonist.

Here, we take a look at Tamil films which revolve around a particularly significant or influential non-living prop or element. By that, I mean I have included only those movies which fail to exist, if you take out that element from the plot/script. In other words, the non-living prop/element is central and absolutely essential to the film’s narrative. So, let’s start.Continue reading “Most Influential Non-living Props/Elements in Tamil Cinema: A Perspective”

Thoughts on Mani Ratnam and his films

Mani Ratnam

 

Khalid Mohamed

 

Once upon a time in Mumbai, you’d have to drag me away from the Santa Cruz aiport, literally prevent me from catching another flight to Chennai. The cities were still called Bombay and Madras then. Life was cool, cinema was cooler and conversations with this brand-new boss of mainstream Indian cinema were the coolest. Dhan ta na, that was Mani Ratnam.Continue reading “Thoughts on Mani Ratnam and his films”

Rahman at 20: Rehna Tu Hai Jaisa Tu…

ARRAs A R Rahman completes 20 years of his stupendously imaginative work and creations on 15th August and the only person who I will ever bow down with RESPECT in the field of cinema & music, my memories and experience of the man & his music. 20 songs which I will take to my grave till now and entirely my personal journey from 13 to 33.

The genesis of this post has to go back 20 years but my association with listening to ARR‘s soundtrack and music will be a year late. Somehwere in the month of June’ 93 scratching the audio tapes of Subhash Ghai‘s Khalnayak which was a rage at that time and listening to a lot of Nadeem Shravan, Anand Milind, Laxmikant Pyarelal etc. I landed up at my Uncle’s home for some work and at the background there was a Tamil song being played. Was not able to identify why my ears were having a crystal clear reception of sound (Ok for the record I was a big sucker for sound & great audio equipments because of my dad’s job being based in Gulf and his penchant for the same). The song being played was Kaadhal Rojave but I was instantly hooked to find out how Illaiya Raja scored such music away from his tradional style (For all your information I always associated Tamil music with Illaiya Raja as the flow of information was the lowest during those years). I caught hold of my pattar tambrahm friend, and he introduced me to a world of music and to a man who will remain a very important part of my life and existence.

(1) Roja: So lending that audio cassette from my Uncle’s home I went home at double speed to listen to the songs of a movie which was called Roja. The only thing I knew was that it was directed by Mani Ratnam and I had seen some portions of it in a Prannoy Roy DD special on friday called ‘The World This Week’. But the moment I heard this song on my Pioneer audio equipment(In those days it was called as Deck system) which was a neighbour’s envy and only my pride, Rahman became a talent to look out for. It was so mesmerising, this track that I was feeling ashamed of the music that I listened in those days. Puthu Vellai Mazhai was pure and serene and if you ever want to get transported in a world of dreams this song can do it without fail. For the record even its Hindi dubbed version carries the same imapct.

(2) Pudhiya Mugam: As I was hooked and wanted to know the man and more of his music, there was an audio shop just located outside Thane station by the name of Jai Ganesh Music Centre. This place was a treat to watch in its hey days as there was never a dull moment ever witnessed outside this store. And most importantly it was the only music shop in Thane which sold regional music and so were the sales guys informative too, who at the name of A R Rahman handed me 2 cassettes from Magnasound. One was Pudhiya Mugam & the other being Thiruda Thiruda. ‘Kannaku Mai Azhagu’ has a female version by P Susheela and a hindi disaster by the name of Vishwa Vidhaata. But for me this is pure vintage stuff and remains a personal favourite which is sung by Unni Menon.

(3) Thiruda Thiruda: If you are expecting me to write anything about ‘Thee Thee‘ then you are on the wrong page and the wrong post. I was and will always remain speechless for this compostion.

(4) Karuthamma: During the cable invasion there used to be a channel called Jain TV which was very popular for various reasons. But the one good thing about the channel was that they used to play regular Tamil music and had a Top 10. And one song which consistently featured there was ‘Thenmerku Parvakattre’. Though it was ARR’s second collaboration with Bharati Raja after Keezhaku Cheemayile, but this was more popular among guys like me who had limited knowledge of Tamil. Had travelled a distance till Matunga to obtain the cassette for the same as it was not available anywhere near.

(5) Kaadhalan: In those days I made it a favourite pass time to walk once in a month to Jai Ganesh Music Centre from my residence which was around 5 kms and collect all Rahman cassettes whichever got released or available and proudly walk back home. During such instance I got lucky with a tape which was told to be selling like hot cakes and only a single copy remained. Needless to add any more facts, Kaadhalan was such a huge rage in non Tamil speaking states too that finally all could say that ARR has truly arrived. It had some of the biggest chartbusters of the year but my personal favourite remains this song which fetched its singer P.Unnikrishnan his National award.

(6) Bombay: Rahman & Ratnam went for the kill with the soundtrack of Bombay which changed the way Hindi music was ruling during those times. This soundtrack catapulated ARR to feverish levels where even his lesser known albums where dubbed and films released solely on his name. Though I was personally never a great fan of his dubbed versions but Bombay was perfect with no feel of gibberish words inserted. This theme is a truly outstanding piece of creativeness conveying all pathos and even made it to the Hollywood flick, Lord of War.

(7) Indira: Between all the hype and appreciation for the music of Bombay, therein slipped a film directed by Mani Ratnam’s wife, Suhasini. This song Thoda Thoda is so mellifluous that even S P Balasubrahmanyum ranks it among his personal best with ARR. He even wanted to sing the Hindi dubbed version of the same where Harhiharan was handed over the mike. Listen from 0:42 to 1:15 and one will know why ARR is considered as the best even now.

(8) Indian: Rahman’s first collaboration with Kamal Hassan and one of the most expensive films to come of India at that time, Indian was highly anticipated even outside the Vindhyas and eventually dubbed as Hindustani. There are some songs which are meant to be sung by certain singers and when it comes to Yesudas then it has to be the best. This song is still a delight if you have a great audio system and gives the perfect example of how stereo sound travels in different speakers.

(9) Minasara Kanavu: The audio of this had just released around Dec 1996 and my board exams for the 12th grade were round the corner in March. But nothing could stop me from listening to the soundtrack infuriating my parents to dizzying heights. ‘Vennilave‘ has ARR written all over it and a great listen with some effective choreography.

(10) Dil Se..: During the second year of my college if any individual possessed an audio cassette it was shared among the rest, Dil Se.. remained a sole exception of everyone having their own copy. It has my own personal record of 3 cassettes for the amount of time it was scratched, used and abused extensively. Lata Mangeshkar‘s first song with Rahman had to be great with expectations to match from all and they do deliver in spectacular style. If most of the world population knows few words of Malayalam all the credit goes to this song alone. It’s difficult to pinpoint any particular track from this movie and a serious advise for all who want to judge how good your audio equipment is should mandatorily check out the soundtrack of this film.

(11) Taal: Now the time had come when Compact Disc was the future of music and being in the final year of my graduation did not know how to upgrade purchasing a CD of Rs.299 from a cassette of Rs.40. My pocket money could not afford one and had to manipulate my college fees at home because I was very sure that beg, borrow or steal; the day the music of Taal was supposed to release it will be in my hand. ‘Nahin Samne‘ shows a different side of ARR with minimal orchestration and a surreal feel, that whenever I listen it seems there is rain in the air.

(12) Alaipayuthey: After my graduation there was a phase in my life when I was disconnected from music and was not keen with movies too. As soon as I joined up with my first assignment for work and subsequent salary that was recieved, got my hand on 2 CD’s out of which one was Alaipayuthey. Hariharan and ARR have teamed up for a lot of gems, but this to me remains an absolute favourite for the portions from 3:00 to 3:30. Hariharan is unrecognizable and the melody is unmistakable. And yes you wont find a better picturized song than this.

(13) Zubeida: There is something about this song which never lets me go and seems time comes to a still whenever I listen to it. An under rated track from an equally under rated soundtrack & film, Rahman till now had mastered his stamp in Hindi music with equal gusto and nobody could point a finger that his music had lot of western & South Indian influences.

(14) Lagaan: If Lagaan is considered among the best of Indian & World Cinema a part of the credit also goes to A R Rahman’s soundtrack and all the themes composed for the film. The film has many small pieces and large orchestras to stimulate and blow one’s mind. This is a rousing theme and a great one at it.

(15) Kannathil Muthamittal: Another song that I don’t have enough words to write about and will let the song and its lyrics do the talking.

(16) Swades: Though Rahman is a master at creating Patriotic themes & songs, this song from Swades still gives me goosbumps everytime I hear it. At some point of time one even feels if ARR has really sung it because like the title song of Dil Se.., this one pulls all the right strings and straight goes inside the heart. Had seen Javed Akhtar conveying in some TV show that to sing this song, “Ache Achon ke paseene chhoot gaye the” and maybe thats why ARR must have taken it upon himself to complete his labour of love. A song that has my eyes moist even now as I listen and write about.

(17) Rang De Basanti: A song about a mother & son, to be interesting; should be an achievement in itself. Typically Hindi films have a lot of such melodramatic songs but Rahman goes straight from the heart into our heart with terrific emotions along in the company of Lata Mangeshkar.

(18) Jodha Akbar: No compilation of ARR can go without atleast one religous song in it and Khwaja Mere Khwaja is an electrifying one at that. Rarely does such kind of song feature in personal favourites but this stands tall with even some of them very serious about converting to Islam and the reason being ARR’s soulful & divine approach to such songs.

(19) Delhi 6: This must have been the most personal tune that ARR must have composed in recent times and it shows in the compostion. There is an unhibited laziness about this track but distinctly complex and will always find a place in my top 3. The Continuum at the end is so heavenly and he has learned the art to play it; that even his contemporaries can feel proud to be in his era. The video below does not give any justice to the entire track, so would advise you all to listen to the entire audio track.

(20) Rockstar: After going through a lull phase after the high of Oscars where as usual everyone feels he has the ability to pull down and criticize a person, Rahman gave a kick ass to all his detractors with an album having 16 songs. The impact of the songs has been revealed in detail at my review here, but Nadaan Parindey is what you call as a chartbuster with a soul. “Sau dard badan pe phaile hain…har karam ke kapde maile hain” is still one of the best worded lines in recent years for me.

For a generation who has listened, ate, drank and slept with his music there are some great memories for 20 long glorious years. Have missed on a lot of tracks that deserved attention and am sure everyone will have their own personal choices too. Would be equally thankful to the people who have made his music memorable along with the lyricist and singers whom I have not touched upon here and also to the Yahoo fan club which forms an important part of my life too.

Will continue to get excited about an audio release, anticipate upon the release date, watch it in a movie hall and will continue to be your fan even if the whole world go against you.

Looking forward to such happiness & joy in the coming years and my heartfelt thanks for your wonderful music SIR.

Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) – Fun On The Run

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”

Being rated as one of the best film makers, can be a boon or a bane to lot of people who have either withered away with time or carried the burden of expectation firmly on their shoulders. Fortunately Mani Ratnam falls in the latter category but unfortunately too, he has made movies which though being good had to be weighed in the glory of past.

Thiruda Thiruda released in 1993 is a clear example of being an underrated flick. When internationally renowned and acclaimed directors dabble with different genres and are appreciated for their efforts, we still never fail to seize an opportunity to pull a person down or to dismiss an attempt. India has rarely produced any notable action adventure heist capers, which are entertaining and provides your full value for money in its grandeur and execution. Barring a Shaan or some obscure films , this genre is fairly untapped and not many directors have experimented unlike their Hollywood counterparts

CBI Inspector Laxminarayan(S P Balasubramanium in a role of his lifetime) is assigned the task to track down the heist of fresh printed bank notes amounting to the sum of an absurd 1000 Crores from the Nasik government security press, masterminded by T T Vikram(Salim Ghouse) from London. Tracing the clue to Chandralekha(Anu Agarwal) who escapes with the key card of the container that holds the money, she comes across Kadir(Anand) and Azhagu(Prashant). Both are country side thieves on the run along with Rasathi(Heera Rajgopal) who helps them in getting out of a tricky situation while doing their theft and even she is trying to escape from the clutches of her uncle and his henchmen.

Meanwhile Vikram lands in India in search of Chandralekha as she even disappears with the stolen money of Kadir and Azhagu too. They get hold of her bag where the card key is kept but had secluded Rasathi on their way and later realise the folly of leaving her behind, for she is being forced in a marriage with her own uncle.

The rest of the movie is how all these characters play a cat and mouse game in the quest to obtain that container in an entertaining manner filled with breath taking visuals, path breaking music and background score put to thrillingly orchestrated action pieces.

Ram Gopal Varma seems to have paid back his obligation to Mani Sir who helped him in the script of Gaayam by writing the story here. Partly inspired from his own heist caper Kshana Kshanam, which he later re twisted with disastrous results in Daud(It has a decent following now with people enjoying it on TV).

But the person for whom Thiruda Thiruda will still be remembered and undisputedly so has to be only and only A R Rahman. The second collaboration with Mani Ratnam after making his debut with Roja, he delivers a path breaking soundtrack where words fall short to praise. No adjectives can suffice the greatness of the sound produced here and it still remains the best among hardcore fans who have been following his music from early days.

Be it the grand orchestrated Veerapandi Kottaiyele, the hauntingly beautiful capela Rasaathi, the energetic Kannum Kannum, the enchanting Chandrelekha, the refreshing and ethereal Putham Pudhu Bhoomi Vendum or the terrific fusion Thee Thee, Rahman goes wild and how. It was a never before heard sound in 1993, which broke all creative barriers and made every music album pale around and can compete with any soundtrack many notches higher even now.

The action sequences still remain a highlight replete with chases and thrills and it is to the achievement of Mani Ratnam that he has ensembled it with a lot of energy and adrenaline. The climax where the characters clash together atop a moving train is one of the best I have seen and it’s a difficult task accomplished by the technicians and crew. Though the technique of flashing lights in an action scene was earlier used in Agni Natchathiram during the hospital climax, but it stands apart more here. Watch the video and you wont be disappointed.

P C Sriram is the second hero of the film and it must have been a difficult job to shoot this adventure ride as there are a lot of chaos scenes involving trains, jeep, bikes, horses etc in a wide canvas. It is to the credit of him, that a lot of sequence matches up to the technical effeciency of recently released movies too.

The cast comprises mostly of unknown faces and character artistes like Prashant, Heera Rajgopal, Anand, Salilm Ghouse, Anu Agarwal and everyone does a competent job. Maybe it was a conscious decision by Mani Sir to not opt for any known stars and keep the theme and its entertainment quotient as the highlight without utilising the image of any recognised faces.

Tad unnecesarily lengthy for some parts and not so memorable characters are the only weak aspects and if one is willing to overlook this part, Thiruda Thiruda is Mani Ratnam’s way of breaking away from his more serious relationship and socio-political dramas. Having re-visted it again a few days back, it may not be a classic by any standards if judged to his previous body of work (except Pagal Nilavu & Idhaya Kovil), but is a fun ride nevertheless and makes for solid entertainment. Enjoy.

Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:

1. Pallavi Anupallavi (Kannada) 2. Unaroo (Malayalam) 3. Pagal Nilavu (Tamil) 4. Idaya Kovil (Tamil) 5. Mouna Ragam (Tamil) 6. Nayagan Tamil) 7. Agni Natchathiram (Tamil) 8. Geethanjali (Telugu) 9. Anjali (Tamil) 10. Thalapathi (Tamil) Take 2 Thalapathi (Tamil) 11. Roja (Tamil) 12. Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) 13. Bombay (Tamil) 14. Iruvar (Tamil) Take 2 Iruvar (Tamil) 15. Dil Se…(Hindi) Take 2 Dil Se…(Hindi) 16. Alaipayuthey (Tamil) 17. Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) Take 2 Kannathil Muthamittal(Tamil) 18. Yuva (Hindi) 19. Aayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) 20. Guru (Hindi) 21. Raavanan (Tamil) 22. Raavan (Hindi)