Hot Gas

Music,Musings et al

Month: October, 2011

Music Review: Desi Boyz (Pritam)

Pritam’s Desi Boyz, contrary to expectations, is an enjoyable album although it is decidedly a slight work. It hardly offers anything new and in fact regurgitates the same old Punju pop sound one associates with an enterprise of this nature but it does so with some flair. Make Some Noise and Jhak Maar Ke are snazzily packaged club numbers; The former comes laden with all the familiar electronica bells and whistles and a surprisingly soulful zitar(?) interlude. Jhak Maar Ke is mellower and features some lovely guitar work in the beginning and what more it is even a recurrent theme through out the song. Subha Hone Na De is like a Himesh song – irritatingly catchy. The rest is all below average Pritam assembly line, not to say that these songs aren’t but they have the extra zing to entertain. Fun as long as it lasts.

Some Reflections: Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)


Drive is the moody crime drama I’ve been waiting to watch in a long time. It is essentially an anti-thriller although the trailers, for reasons that are not entirely unfathomable, seem to suggest otherwise. With its studied pace and long takes this movie conveys as much through mood as it does through dialogue. In fact Gosling, who is effortlessly terrific, hardly speaks. He just emotes by staying stoic in the face of, what at first seems like, a terribly botched heist but is in fact an insidious double cross. It reminded me of Sriram Raghavan’s Johnny Gaddar in terms of the deliberate pacing and treatment that grows on the viewers, grinds on the nerves and piles on the tension incrementally; something action flicks with fast cuts that are high on adrenaline and low on craft these days fail miserably at. Also the story becomes insignificant after a point of time although you would still want to know how it would end because of the here and now mesmeric unravelling of scenes. Somewhere in between is also a sweet little old world romance (with neighbour played by Carey Mulligan), built on respect and tentative warmth, but which seems destined to not end well.

The character development, of Gosling especially, is simply brilliant. It is established right at the start, through a breathtaking chase & escape, as to what kind of a character the nameless Gosling plays. He is not your regular getaway guy who will arrive in the meanest mean machine, hit the pedal & the nitrous(?), outrace the cops and speed away into the horizon. He arrives in the ubiquitous Chevy Impala, carefully tunes into the Police radio, moves around cautiously till the heat is reduced and makes a clean escape by parking in a stadium as soon as a game gets over & the crowd comes out. It is this intelligence that is usually lacking in the movies of this genre and even the little bit of wit and smartness that usually peeks out of a well planned chase sequence in such movies is quickly smothered by irrepressible machismo as if the former were some undesirable element that unintendedly walked into the script. Hell, in this movie even the gangsters kill each other with forks and surgical knives, that are carefully washed and placed in a jewel box later! It is not to say that there is no anger or angst in the characters. There is a blood curdling scene where Gosling crushes a henchman’s head by lashing at it repeatedly. But this is hardly a reflection of his strength or machismo as it is a reflection of his state of mind. And there are no slo-mo shots to exaggerate Gosling’s heroicness and brawn.   

The movie is populated with colourful characters, who mouth colourful abuses, as if to make up for the lack of exuberance from the main lead. However most of the times the camera is unwaveringly focussed on Gosling (or his car’s dashboard which is a character in itself and gets the second highest screen time)  who is as sensationally restrained and expressionless as Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. Yet his stony face manages to convey different emotions in different contexts – The ephemeral smile sometimes emanating warmth and sometimes riddled with irony.

Special mention needs to be made for the background score by Cliff Martinez and cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel – both very important cogs in a film like this are stunning; where the BGM heightens the tension and mood even in ordinary sequences, the cinematography is in the classic vein with emphasis on story telling than stylistic tropes and zany angles.

I haven’t read the book by James Sallis, so I can’t really say how good an adaptation this is. But purely as a standalone movie it is outstanding. Also Nicholas Winding is a director to watch out for (I have to go watch Valhalla Rising and the Pusher trilogy). It is tough to direct a movie like this that is so dependant on atmosphere and texture as opposed to a movie that tells its story through dialogues. More often than not movies like Drive have the onerous responsibility of creating an impression of being larger than a sum of its parts (or scenes) because the individual scenes don’t really count in the end as they do not stand out or jump at you. There are no look-at-me-I’m-so-thrilling or look-at-me-I’m-so-funny scenes. They are neither remarkable nor memorable. But they infinitesimally add up and lead to the inexorable rush in the end that comes from watching a movie like this. And it is here that the director succeeds, in my opinion.  

So finally all I can say is, Drive is a taut, engrossing, almost meditative crime drama that needs to be savoured and enjoyed.            

Music Review: Rockstar (AR Rahman)

The mellifluous, gradual buildup that almost reaches a frenzy, the sinuous phrases, Mohit’s free spirited singing; all work stunningly in Phir Se Ud Chala. The slightly more metronomic Jo Bhi Main is uplifted by it’s irreverent (gibberish) and  meaningful lyrics. With its bouncy rhythm and playful singing Katiya Karun is a gem of a song. However one of the best songs in the entire soundtrack comes in the form of Kun Faaya Kun with Rahman tapping into a rich vein of sufism with the help of Irshad Kamil’s outstanding lyrics. The melding of Rahman’s and Javed Ali’s fervent vocals is a thing of beauty even as the guitar riffs are overlaid in a splendid fashion midway through the song. The best part for me – The way Javed Ali takes off into the Sadaq allah…Ali line as soon as the jab kahi pe kuch nahi bhi nahi tha refrain becomes moribund. Although it might be forgotten amidst Rahman’s musical largesse, I like Sheher Mein a lot. Tunewise it isn’t great – just the regular catchy hook – but the singers here, Karthik and Mohit Chauhan, make it work beautifully. Mohit especially imbibes a certain Kunal Ganjawala like spirit while singing and the whole theme of rehearsing through a song is great. Hawa Hawa is an addictive song with those staccato beats woven with dramatic violins and trippy guitars or simply Mohit’s rollicking vocals. The middle eastern twang is unmistakable, especially when it comes to the chorus, but what makes this song heady is the constant overhang of the tango riffs. Rahman’s mastery over mixing genres so harmoniously is amazing here. He can also be extremely prodigious when it comes to heartbreak songs and he unleashes Aur Ho to mesmerising effect. The edgy changes of pace, the breathtaking use of Mohit where Rahman himself could have taken the mantle, the elegiac tone and the haunting orchestration make this a brilliant song. Although Nadaan Parinde falls into the same category as perhaps Ghar Aaja Pardesi (DDLJ), Rahman leaves his stylistic stamp all over it and lifts it from that void to where all, so called, situational songs go. It is quite antithetically set to an upbeat and punchy rhythm; a far cry from the familiar dirge like dreariness that usually pervades such songs. Tum Ho is a fabulous song in itself but frankly that memorable hum, reminiscent of Sonu’s lilting opening in Guzaarish (Ghajini), simply makes it unforgettable. It is also the most Rahman’ish song of the lot along with Aur Ho, albeit for different reasons, with its disregard for a rigid tune structure. Tum Ko is like an accompanying piece to Tum Ho although it carries a lesser appeal with its forlorn, wispy vocals. Rahman and Irshad Kamil unleash fury and wrath, anger and angst in the riveting Sadda Haq; a rebellious, impetuous song that seems destined to never go out of fashion in a dysfunctional democracy like ours. Such is its topical feel that it almost feels like a ready made song for a thousand protest marches that are yet to be taken out. The clarion call of Kamil’s lyrics carry weight and significance beyond the cadences of the song and will undoubtedly spill over into the consciousness of the listener and this alone is the greatest triumph of the song, in fact the soundtrack itself. Dichotomy of Fame is a gorgeous melting pot of shehnai and guitar with trademark Rahman soaring motifs. Tango for Taj begins with a Tchaikovsky like trippiness before settling into a more mischievous tango rhythm drawing its inspiration from the extraordinary Hawa Hawa. 

A definite thought seems to be driving this soundtrack in the way vocals have been used and shaped. This is seen, I believe, in the way the humming emanates from the music in songs like Phir Se Ud Chala, Tum Ho and to a large extent in Jo Bhi Main; just like a singer trying out an extension or a variation of some hook. And the beauty is Rahman makes it look like plain on the spot improvisation. Rahman, certainly, is in inspired form and a music driven film seems like the best way to shrug off the indifference of a Jhootha Hi Sahi (with the exception of the seraphic I’ve Been Waiting) or a pensive Raavan. And Mohit Chauhan is an impressive rediscovery, singing with renewed zest and exploring uncharted genres; working outside the comfort zone generally. His singing is expressive and refreshing; a departure from the rut he was getting into. Also Irshad Kamil provides solid support with his evocative and powerful lyrics. If there ever was a musical feast, this is it. A virtuoso effort!

My Picks: Phir Se Ud Chala, Kun Faya Kun, Aur Ho, Tum Ho, Sadda Haq