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Rahman Rises

Sunday, July 24, 2005 by Blogpur

WOW! Rahman is absolutely terrific in the period epic The Rising - Ballad of Mangal Pandey, throwing aside all cliches, stereotypes he creates an absolutely wonderful album that isn't commercialised at all. This is definitely one of Rahman's most serious efforts. The ensemble which he uses, the tunes, the rhythms and the abundant rustic flavour just oozes out of the CD.

Starting out with "Mangal Mangal" Rahman makes his intents clear: this is no Lagaan, this is far more serious, powerful and affecting as the album progresses, this fact becomes ostensibly clear. "Mangal Mangal" is comprised of three versions, normal, "Aatma" and "Agni"; each one conveys a different mood and likewise each one has different lyrics and even different style of singing. This song seems to be heavily influenced by south Indian flavour - a wonderful culmination. These 3 songs are lively, rustic and make you think of the Azaadi they were fighting for

Next up is "Rasiya", undoubtedly the track of the album, track of the season, track of the year. The song hovers like a bee and deals with pride, prejudice, pleasure and providence. The love/hate relationship which the singer seems to be expressing is wonderful; sentimental without being sappy, enigmatic without being indulgent. Rahman at his absolute best in this one.

"Al Maddath Maula" is a devotional song based on Muslim practises. The song reminds you of "Zikr" in Bose: The Forgotten Hero, but has a number of major differences. The song is powerful, more uplifting and ultimately more rounded than the former. Rahman's high pitched cries are joyous to listen to; he possesses great versatility in singing.

"Takey Takey" is the closest your going to get to pop infused rap in the 19th Century and moves along at a lively pace - it seems to have a lot of Punjabi influences. It's a good song but is hardly a masterpiece. There is a mandatory "Holi" song and it is rather redudant. Nothing wrong with the song - just heard 1 too many.

The other absolutely scintillating song in the album comes in the form of "Main Vari Vari". It cleverly is awash with emotions. It deals with us at a philosophical level and along with "Rasiya" represents the best 2005 has to offer. There is a certain curiousity the song will make you feel; I don't know what it is, but it something.

Rahman has stated that this film is his last "period epic" for a while, he needs the change but one can't help but wonder what else he could achieve if he did something like Kamal Haasan's stalled Marudanayagam. As it stands, The Rising is THE album of 2005.

Return of the King

by Blogpur

A R Rahman has returned is good form to Tamil films in the form of "Ah Aah" - a new S J Suryah picture. The standout song is "Anbe Aariyure" - a ripper rock song with plenty of techno beats - listend to it! "Thazavadu" showcases SPB's versatility and is a nice song to listen to aswell...

Saif Ali Khant

Sunday, July 17, 2005 by Blogpur

National Awards got announced the other day. Quite stunning really. On one hand we have Surya in Ayutha Ezhuthu, we have Shah Rukh in Swades then on the other hand we have Saif Ali Khan in Hum Tum. Now don't get me wrong - Saif is an enjoyable actor and often brightens up the screen BUT a national award for that?

Hum Tum in enjoyable yet has none of the gravitas of either Swades or Ayutha Ezhuthu - in fact its probably the best masala flick to come in 2004. When Surya became Michael Vasant the student revolutionare and SRK wonderfully portrayed the returning Mohan Bhargava we see two stand out perfomances - 2 movies that are also incredibly well made. Hum Tum deals with no moral issues, has a generic story and half the movie is about Saif parading around with his "Tom Cruise look". A dubious decision - totally ignorant of Surya in Ayutha Ezhuthu who literally slammed the competition this year.

Page 3 - yeh its a good movie - but NOT a great one. Deals with some taboo issues so they gave it an award. Ayutha Ezhuthu dealt with taboo issues, dealt with important issues and didn't commercialise itself heavily - definitely a better film. Swades is another challenging the NRI mentality - how many movies do that?

Tara - I don't know anything about her so I won't comment.

Veer Zaara and Autograph both won it for best enjoyable movie... Justifiable choices I guess but this is where Hum Tum should have won. Veer Zaara was mediocre at best and Autograph is not really enjoyable its more a serious movie taken with a serious angle - what the adjudicators were thinking when they awarded these prizes God only knows.

At least next year 0ne can hope for rational choices. As of today the National Awards have a new name: The Irrational Awards!

Anniyan - Psychotic Frenzy

Friday, July 15, 2005 by Blogpur

Media with thanks from Nowrunning.com

S. Shankar's career as a director has been one of profiligate interchangability. The trend continues in his new film Anniyan. Playing on the sentimentalities of the audience Shankar has always carved up interesting stories about a vigilante alone on the "mean streets" through his movies Mudhalvan and Indian. Boys was a change for the director but sensing the commercial failure has come back to terrority he firmly knows. Anniyan in many ways is a reflection of both Indian and Mudhalvan but it simply can't stand up to the towering presence of the septuagenarian in the Kamal Haasan starrer.

More or less, Anniyan is a high tech extravaganza on the lines of Aalavandan (Abhay in Hindi) but it fails to form a piece of hallucinogenic art either, in trying to blend the best of the both worlds Anniyan turns out to be an enjoyable, entertaining film that has flashes of brilliance but lacks the heart of Indian.

Known for his lavishness in directing a film it can now be said that Anniyan (disregarding the god awful graphics for the website) is the single most technically advanced film produced in India - yes Aalavandan has finally been overshadowed in this respect. Shankar pulls out all the stops including Time Slicing mechanism, Matrix style stunts (indeed some seem to be heavily influenced) and some rather georgeous camera ramping. However no film can work just on technical merits alone - it needs a strong screenplay backed with powerful acting from all concerned. It is in the last two criteri that Anniyan stumbles.

The story is very similar to Indian or any of Shankar's other patriotic films but the screenplay goes haywire this time around. 3 Characters to compliment the Anniyan name yet there are only 2 real characters, poignant moments are there in plentiful - yet none of them are poignant. A denoumont is present yet it solves nothing. An example of a sentimental yet ultimately powerless scene is the Nehru stadium sequences where Anniyan lashes out at the country - this is scene is so similar to Kamal shouting "lanjam" 5000 times in the QTV station yet has none of the effect. Loopholes are in abundance - how does Ambi contact with Anniyan so many times without the presence of a computer?

Ultimately it seems, we have no compelling reason to support Anniyan, who is just a killing machine. He has no pathos, no ethos and no qualitative compulsion to be on his side - he seems like a mad man hell bent upon destruction and nothing else. Garudapuram style punishments lend a mythological side to the film and just as it seems its going to get interesting the screenplay again shifts focus - no explanation of these purana's are given and no plausible reason as to why they are being used. Childhood trauma (another Aalavandan parallel) is blamed for Ambi's MPD - so how does that explain the Remo character? Too many loose ends and no logical conclusions.

Acting wise Vikram pulls in another memorable outing. After his undertaker role he fits snuggly into the role of another undertaker! As Ambi Vikram really shines bringing out the timid yet steadfast nature of his character, keeping his voice ostensibly higher and looking spic and span - Ambi is terrific to watch. At age 45, Vikram must be commended for his role as Remo which he pulls off with panache. He must also be commended for his wonderful turn during the stunt sequences as Anniyan. Hard work has gone into the physical manifestations he goes through. Vikram however isn't good enough to make us support him as Anniyan - he displays his vengeful nature with perfect poise but doesn't back it up with reasons. Just moving his eyes around and wearing plenty of facial make up isnt enough for me to support him. He displays no plausibility in his actions - just that - action.

The supporting cast bar Vivek is absolutely pathetic. Sada as the heroine is glamorous but cannot act. In such a film she lends a great deal of artificiality and ultimately these touches discredit the film. Prakash Raj turns out to be good in his role - its just his role is so cliched, so irritating and ultimately undermining that its impossible to like his performance. As the psychiatric doctor, Nasser does an adequate job. Vivek, however takes the crown he rightfull owns for best comedian straight back from Vadivelu. He brings a wonderful charm in the comical sections and displays genuine seriousness in the latter stages of the movie.

Dialogues by Sujatha fit the film very well - especially the comparisons to the Indian cricket team and the "anju paise" lines. Music by Harris Jeyaraj is pitiful. Barring the Kadhal Yannai song, his music is irritating and his background music even more so. Every cliche from the timpani role to the shreiking violins is in position and one can wonder what a great job A R Rahman would have done to elevate this movie.

Ultimately Anniyan is a generally mediocre film which has shades of brilliance and conversely shades of amateurism in the mix. Its message is strong and fitting the social climate of India at the present stage, by the success of the film its timing is impeccable - unfortunately the film is not.

A Symphonic Epic

Sunday, July 10, 2005 by Blogpur

For all of you who don't know, Maestro Illayaraja has released Thiruvaasagam in Symphony on June 30. It's a chance to hear the well known religious songs in a totally different light - an Illayaraja doesn't dissapoint. He has assembled a major orchestral group, including Oscar winning composers, the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra as well as his own prowess. I know there are plenty of sites offering downloads - please don't. Its a mutli crore project which is also going to charity - so do the right thing and buy the CD which is less that Rs.100.

The music is fantastic - a real epic.