Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What an Album!

Ever since Himesh started singing full time, I started dreading a new album release. In a way I am actually delighted he's started acting. I can live with a 'Mashaaa allaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan' once in 8 months.
The good thing is that for all those Himesh, Anu Malik and other mere mortals, we have one Rahman.

I do not usually write full posts about music albums. Not for bollywood film music at least. 
But in the last few days, I have gotten so absorbed by this gem of an album, by one gem of a musician, that I had to write about it.
I have been listening to 'Delhi 6' since last weekend and I've got to say this is some of the best music I've heard in years. It is interesting how lyricists seem to up their game for a Rahman album. Prasoon Joshi is emerging as a class act of late, and here he creates some amazingly meaningful yet non-cliched poetry.

And there's Rahman. He weaves magic around those words, transcending genres effortlessly in the process. I dare you to show me another contemporary album with such variety, and quality.
I'm actually compelled to put a listing. So here goes:

Masakali: Oh, the song you'll fall in love with. Fresh, Unusual and Earthy. Mohit Chauhan sings it with flair and energy. The lyrics compare Sonam Kapoor to a carefree pigeon. You can't help being smitten by it.

Arziyan: While I'm not the right guy to analyze the subtleties of a genre like this, I can still recognize a good composition. The words are honest and so are the singers.

Dilli 6: The title track is one giddy mix of guitar, funk, rap and attitude. The rhythm is so infectious, you can't help but keep tapping your foot, which is okay unless you're foot is on the brake of your car, which may result in you get honked for braking pointlessly. (This was totally hypothetical, by the way.)

Rehna Tu: Beautiful Beautiful song. Its funny how Rahman ends up singing the best songs in all his albums. The beat is just perfect, lyrics eternally romantic, reminding you of your loved one every time you play it. My guess is this song is played as background to some intimate scenes between the lead pair, which could be an interesting watch. I can easily see this one being a hot favorite at Valentine's day dedications.

Dil Gira Dafatan: Best song of the album for me. It has got this mysterious otherworldy feel to it. Every time I play it, I feel transported to another universe where everything moves in slow motion. At the heart of it, I think it is a song about one way love. There's something hauntingly poetic about one way love; a sensation that every guy or girl has felt at least once in a lifetime. The words are just dreamy. And the vocals. God, I wonder where Rahman finds all this talent. Have you heard of Ash King and Tanmayee? Well, hear them here and you'll wonder where they were all these days. I just love this song when I'm on the road. I stop caring for traffic or anything else for that matter. Did I mention that there's not a single beat of percussion in the entire track?

Genda Phool: Most interesting track. A simple folksy tune about marriage is raised to far higher levels of interestingness by adding some groovy percussion in the mix. You can't teach this stuff in music schools. It is just magic.

Bhor Bhaye: An out and out classical number. I keep telling myself that I haven't attained the levels of maturity required to enjoy Indian classical music. But I loved this one. It is intense, sometimes bordering on fusion, but you can just close your eyes and enjoy it.

Aarti: Customary spiritual ditty. Its become a standard for Rahman albums. I didn't mind it.

At the end of it, you realize Rahman is just so far ahead of anybody else in India (maybe even in the world with all the oscar noms) that it is almost laughable.
Is it not?
Okay, close your eyes and  just picture Himesh in his new Karzzz wig singing (and dancing) 'Harri Yomm Harri Yomm Harri Yooouuuuuum' for 30 seconds.

See, that did the trick.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Realization

My eyes open. Its five past 7 in the morning. I turn to see that she's still sound asleep. I move her hair away from her eyes and gently kiss her forehead. That's how I usually wake her up.
She twitches a little, moans a little and turns away to sleep again. That's how she usually responds.
"Honey, I'll be late. Again. Wake up", I whisper.
She twitches again, half opens her eyes and pulls my shoulder towards her.
"Five more minutes", she mumbles "Pleeeez". It is too much for me to resist. And she knows it.
I lie down again for two minutes and then grumpily pull myself out of the bed.
"Honeyyyyyyyy", I let out another wake up call as I'm putting toothpaste on my brush, but hear nothing. 
After a couple of minutes, I come out to see her finally up, sitting on the bed, still under the sheets. She is stretching her arms slowly, like a bollywood heroine. With still half open eyes, she gives me a 'come hither' look. When I reach her, she pulls me next to her, pulls up the sheets on me and snuggles up next to me. 
Two more minutes of sweet gibberish follow ending with "Don't go to office today.. Pleeeeeease". It is accompanied with those sad kitten eyes for extra impact. Even though I hear it every day, I still consider it every day. 
With great difficulty, I get her out of bed and push her into the bathroom. I then proceed for my morning combo of online news and Sportscenter. Ten minutes pass. I feel her arms wrap around me from behind the couch and she plants a big kiss on my cheek. Before I even turn around, she's off to the kitchen. Now that she's fully awake, she's realized that its getting late for me.
"Will you drink milk?" She asks.
"No" I reply, as always.
She hands me a glass of Bournvita anyway, followed by two minutes of explanation on how milk is good for my recently healed broken arm.
"Yucckkk, there's all sort of things floating in it. I don't want it"
"That's just kene (cream). Shut up and drink it"
I take five full minutes to carefully avoid all the kenes and finish the milk.
"Gawd, what a baby!", she smacks the back of my head before taking the glass away from me.

Halfway through reading the day's Bill Simmons' column, I hear her voice, "Aren't you getting late?"
Yes, I am. I rush to the bathroom. 10 minutes later, as I am getting dressed, she walks in with breakfast. Its my favorite: Khaara Avalakki (A Poha Dish). She knows that I'm already running late, so she spoon-feeds me half the food. Finally, I'm dressed and I take the plate from her and start eating while returning to the Bill Simmons column.
"God! Can't you read that after you reach office?"
"Okay, Okay". I gobble up the last 2 spoons together, place the plate in the sink and proceed towards the glass of orange juice.
".. I know. I'll pack your laptop"
"Don't forget my SecureID Token"
"Ayyoo gotthappa, neenu ninn SecureID (Ohh, I know, you and you're SecureID)"

I wash up and come back to the living room to see my bag packed.
"Will you come early today?"
"Yes, I'll definitely try!"
"That's what you say every day"
"No, today I will definitely be home before 5:30".
"5:30?? That's early??"
"Then what? You want me to come back at 4?
(Giggling) "Hmmm"
"I'll stay home instead, why bother."
"I'll make up some bahaana to my boss and try to sneak out early, Okay na?"
"Tell your boss that you have a wife who's waiting at home all day thinking about her husband"
"Why don't you tell him that?"
"Sure. Give me your phone", and she plucks the phone away from my hand.
"You're crazy!! Give me my phone back"
"Only if you promise to come at least half an hour earlier than usual"
"Okayppa, I promise"
"Okay, take it. Now give me a ummwaa"
"That's it?? I want more" (giggles).
Some more ummaas later, I wave goodbye (and some flying ummaas) and head out towards the car. As I'm warming my hands inside the car, I see her on the balcony. It is freezing cold, but she's there, just like every other day, waving goodbye and watching me till I'm out of sight.
While driving, I keep smiling at the thought of her trying to call my boss & getting him to send me home early and suddenly, I realize that I forgot to tell her how great the Avalakki was.
I feel that a phone call isn't good enough and decide to turn back home...

"kikikikik... kikikikik.... kikikikik .... kikikikik ... kikikikik" 

My eyes open. 
Its 7:15.
I turn, hoping that she's there, but I am alone.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I watched Slumdog Millionaire this weekend and I have to say I'm a little confused about how I feel about the film.
First of all, unless you're from another planet, it is impossible to walk into the cinema hall to watch this film without any expectations. It has been lauded with superlatives by critics across the globe and it has won 4 major awards at the Golden Globes this year. It is expected to repeat that performance at the Oscars next month.

With all these expectations, I walked in hoping to be 'wow'ed, I mean absolutely 'holy-smoke-that-was amazing' wowed. But to be honest, I was only just impressed.
Firstly, being an Indian, I felt the urge to dissect the film a lot more than others. There were plenty of moments in the film when I went "whoa! that was a little exaggerated". Would I have done the same if the same film was based in, lets say 'Mexico'? Probably Not.

Secondly, its the hype. This is a very good film, no doubt about it. But the hype surrounding it makes it look like a path-breaking must-see film, which it is not. It is a 100% filmi film, with all the right masala in it. The only difference is the way it is served.
Danny Boyle is one crafty filmmaker. He takes a good story (Vikas Swarup's Q&A) based in an exotic foreign land (Mumbai Slums), adds the right dose of shocking images, gets a great soundtrack by Rahman and infuses some symbolism at the right places, and voila!.. you have a potential Oscar winner.
Oscars and the like always seem a little weird for me. A little overrated, perhaps. Why should one lobby furiously for his film to win this award? Doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose of the best film winning? I've never really understood the intricacies involved there. But I digress.

Coming back to the film, there are bits which are clearly stretched from reality for the sake of the film's narrative. I am pretty sure nobody would ever jump into a pile of sh*t just to get AB's autograph. Would News Channels be sitting idle if they found out that the game show contestant who's become a national phenomenon has been arrested without a shred of evidence? Which TV channel would allow its game show host to treat a participant in the same insulting way Anil Kapoor treats Dev Patel?
Which brings me to the actors. I was actually disappointed with Anil Kapoor. I like his range as an actor and the fact that he's willing to take on unconventional roles. But he overdoes it here. Also, I felt that the Host-Participant chemistry could have been given a little more depth and intrigue.
On the other hand, the 2 young leads Dev Patel and Freida Pinto have acted very well indeed.
Dev Patel shows great restraint & control in some difficult scenes. Earnestness, that's what his performance projects. Freida Pinto is disarmingly beautiful. She has a very expressive face, especially those eyes. And a smile which matches Madhuri Dixit's in wattage.
Irrfan Khan is great as usual. Mahesh Manjrekar is his usual annoying self. The real stars of the film are the kids who play the younger versions of the 3 protagonists. Their performances are ashtonishingly real and it is they who give the film the much needed emotional connection with the audience.
Great cinematography and a superb background score elevate the film to something more than just good.
(I thought the song 'n dance at the end was a cute touch too!)

At the end of the day, it is a really good work of fiction, aimed and marketed perfectly to its target audience.
A chaiwalla who doesn't know about the Indian Flag goes on to win 2 Crores after answering all of 15 increasingly difficult questions based on just his life experiences, which were mostly horrific.
Sounds intriguing? You bet. But does it sound plausible? Hmmm.. not so much.

(P.S. : I apologize to everyone who checked my blog in these last 3 weeks only to be disappointed with no new posts. Yes, to all 3 of you :))

(P.S.2: I've gotten hooked to Masakali song from Dilli 6. God bless Rahman!)