Hot Gas

Music,Musings et al

Month: March, 2012

Jannat 2 (Pritam)

The coming together of the Bhatts, Emraan Hashmi and Pritam can only mean good things and Jannat 2 is no different. The sufism in Pritam’s music has progressively increased over time and there seems to be a conscious effort to shun the pop catchiness of his earlier compositions. Tu Hi Mera and Tera Deedar Hua make excellent use of Shafqat and Rahat; Both compositions take familiar shades but with Pritam familiarity breeds contentment. Tujhe Sochta Hoon is the pick of the soundtrack for me – KK’s plaintive vocals and Pritam’s tune conjuring prowess are in complete harmony here. It is stunning how these two manage to churn out so many good songs together. Mohit Chauhan’s downbeat melody, Rab Ka Shukraana, is also a breezy listen. The Anupam Amod version takes even more pensive shades without the softness of Mohit’s vocals. The only sore point is the rehash of Zara Si (Jannatein Kahan) – The sweetness of the composition is supplanted with some perfunctory orchestration and rap portions. The quickening of the pace detracts majorly from the song. Nikhil D’ Souza’s alternate versions seem to falter without orchestral support but they nevertheless carry the goodness of the tunes. Javed Ali’s version of Tera Deedar Hua is quite polished too and worth listening to

Overall, Jannat 2 sees Pritam in cruise control; There is none of the sparkling brilliance of a Tum Mile or even Jannat but it is sparkling nevertheless.

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Agent Vinod (Sriram Raghavan)

Recently, a bunch of self serving critics decided to have a laugh at the bad state of affairs in the Hindi film industry. The next time they give away the awards I would like to see the Indian Critic receive the Bawra Ho Gaya Hai Kya Award. For nobody has truly lost it like the Indian Critic has when it comes to Agent Vinod.The movie got universally panned, flagellated and hammered from all quarters with the lone exception of a trade analyst masquerading as a film critic praising it (Sadly no one takes him seriously). You wouldn’t be blamed if you thought Sriram Raghavan had delivered a turkey or even that proverbial rotten tomato.

I wouldn’t like to go into the details of these reviews but the criticism mostly ranged from calling the movie boring (Do newspapers even need to pay someone to tell us such intellectually fatuous things) and the plot preposterous. Most astonishingly, the same Indian critic who has a geekgasm when he watches Tarantino whip up a conversation around a Big Kahuna Burger has an erectile dysfunction when Raghavan sensationally spikes a fight scene with Rakhamma Kaiya Thattu. It is not altogether clear whether the misdirected criticism was a result of extremely high expectations or incredibly low knowledge of spy movies. We have come to expect a certain brand of cinema from Sriram Raghavan (although he is just two movies old). Fair enough, but shouldn’t this expectation be tempered by the fact that the genre has its own limitations. I mean, look at it this way – When Raghavan started scripting this film he probably had two options; Either to make a spy thriller that focussed on espionage trade craft and the secret lives of the agents and how they do what they do. The precedent for this is, mind you, none. The Bourne movies, with all due respect, were not about espionage in the first place (Bourne is a highly skilled assassin whose cover is blown in an operation and is running around staving off CIA Agents). So the feasible option, and this is also the kind of a script that allows Raghavan his quirks, was to make a homebred spy thriller modelled on the lines of Bond. Raghavan makes it clear at the very outset, even in the trailers themselves, that he is setting the audience up for a cheeky spy agent who is game for action rather than espionage and who at the end of the day unwinds in utterly hilarious fashion (Watch Pyar Ki Pungi,if you haven’t yet).

Raghavan’s spy is thankfully a unique creation who faces the kind of challenges that an emerging Indian nation faces. If Bond worked for a western world which was obsessed with Russia (in a Cold War overhang), Agent Vinod has to function in South Asia’s unique geopolitics (under a nuclear overhang). There is Afghanistan where India and Pakistan are fighting for hegemony. Then there is the decades old distrust between India and Pakistan which refuses to thaw. Then there is also the good, the bad and the ugly ISI (Given a chance Raghavan in his sequel would perhaps bring in the Bangladesh angle too). Vinod operates the kind of espionage that is efficient and functional (Pick up the scent and trace it to the perpetrators with the help of other agents and contacts). There is none of the absurdity of a Bond gadget. The bottom line is that Vinod has a distinct appeal of his own rather being a hotpotch of other iconic spy agents. Vinod, whose tongue is firmly planted in his cheek most of the times, also shows rare flashes of emotion.  In one of the finest moments in the movie, Vinod tells Iram (Played well by Kareena with the right mix of vulnerability and spunkiness) the reason why he became a R&AW Agent. It is almost reminiscent of The Hurt Locker which was a full length exposition on why men like Vinod do what they do.

Like Tarantino, Raghavan is an inveterate pop culture junkie who simply loves the childhood movies he grew up on (His interests seem to range from Zapata Westerns to Charlie Chaplin to Tamil potboilers. Meanwhile, Raghavan’s own style of storytelling seems to be influenced by hardboiled pulp, noir and Hitchcock) but with Agent Vinod he truly creates an identity of his own. There is no attempt to act cool or write something in just to show off. It is all silently infused and realised organically. The technical wizardry, lest we forget, is also there aided magnificently by C.K. Muralidharan’s (Another FTII graduate who has been Raghavan’s accomplice since his graduation film) eye popping camera work.

I have half a mind to just list out the thrill a minute movie references but that would be missing the larger picture. The larger picture is that this movie even shorn of its most amusing references has enough weight to stand on its own and entertain. Yes, the plot needs a suspension of belief (So do most spy movies,no?) but Raghavan (and Arijit Biswas the other screenwriter) do a splendid job when it comes to the detailing. It is pitch perfect . Take the example of the ISI itself. There is no attempt to villify the Pakistani organisation and straightjacket it as the evil enemy. There are men within the organisation (The Chief himself) who are shown as sensible individuals who do not want a nuclear standoff. The villains are smart and come seconds close to pulling off a nuclear holocaust. They are caricatures, what with Raghavan’s B movie influences coming to the fore, but he seldom writes wholly idiotic characters just so that the hero can sidestep them.

This is also a movie that celebrates villainy like only old Bollywood potboilers did. There is even an artificial eyed Shahbaz Khan playing a rogue Pakistani officer! Right from the hideous looking Ram Kapoor (“Sasha make drink”) to the likable goon in Prem Chopra to the wily Gulshan Grover the movie is choc-a-bloc with villains

The screenwriters intersperse the intentional campiness with a kind of hyper realism that is at times too precise for comfort, be it the presence of sleeper terror cells in the heart of Delhi or the global power wielded by influential cliques of businessmen. The implication that a terror attack can carry various other ramifications apart from mere destruction of life and property is the kind of assessment we have to come to terms with, however preposterous the idea might seem. The detailing may be a little toned down to easily feed it to the average movie watcher but I am sure Vir Sanghvi would approve.

The casting is nothing short of a coup. Raghavan fills up the canvass with CID regulars almost as if reminding us of those days when the show actually used to be good (When the other Raghavan, Sridhar Raghavan and others, used to screenwrite). The ultimate tribute however is the casting of B.P. Singh (The creator of CID, no less) as the Chief of R&AW. Saif, as Agent Vinod, is fantastic. He plays it with the right amount of charm, coolness, grit and daredevilry. Anshuman Singh and Adil Hussain, as Jimmy and Colonel respectively, stand out. Dhritiman Chatterjee, as Jagdish Metla, is excellent.

Agent Vinod is a smashingly slick spy movie with fantastic entertainment value. Watch it with a couple of movie loving friends and revel in the nostalgic use of retro music (Daniel B. George’s background score is quite simply the single most eccentric, eclectic and quirky creation since The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and movie references. Don’t go by the critics. This is a cult classic in every sense of the word!

PS: If anything the three minute single tracking shot sequence in Raabta should alone be worth the price of admission.

PPS: Those who liked the movie have reason to rejoice. A sequel is on!

Music Review: Rachcha (Mani Sharma)

The title song is undoubtedly pulsating and invokes mass sensibilities like few other songs do. This is not a bad thing per se except that the hook has been in circulation for a while now. Its there even in Simhadri’s Nuvvu Whistle Este. Like the latter, Rachcha is also a near perfect package of hero aggrandisation, some lines cringe worthy, some novel and some cringe worthily novel. Nevertheless the rhythm’s sway is, despite its hoary quality, understandable – It orchestrates a primal frenzy through the palpitating music and all that catchiness does not harm its prospects. (Unsurprisingly enough, even SS Rajamouli, the biggest masala filmmaker out there, seems to be a big fan of this).

The Vaana Vaana (Remix) is not quite sensational (I am not a big fan of the original itself) but it is a reasonably competent evocation. Dillaku invokes Ram Charan’s recent past (I am not sure if the kotha pelli kodaka reference is an intentional meta moment though) and family association in a not so veiled manner but beyond that it is mediocre. The train of meta-ness seemingly never stops in this soundtrack and continues in Oka Padam and Singareniundhi. Both are absolutely listless songs.

Mani Sharma, arguably the biggest composer in the Telugu Film Industry before the Thaman invasion began, is in lacklustre form. The tunes do not leave a lasting impact and the lyrics seem like they have been phoned in. Disappointing.     

Music Review: Agent Vinod (Pritam)

Pritam whips up some fantastic music for this spy thriller. Pritam takes the hook of Rasputin and builds an entirely different yet enjoyable song in I’ll Do The Talking Tonight. Amitabh does some funky wordplay in Pungi but that’s about it. The techno mujra, Dil Mera Muft Ka, has a lively, punchy hook. Even shorn of its techno trappings in the Malini Awasthi version, it is quite effective. But it is Raabta that is Pritam’s ace.The love ballad comes in as many versions as imaginable with different singers bringing their own to the song. It’s a great experiment and it pays off well because the tune and the complementing orchestration are superb. I like Raabta (Night in Motel) the most because of the leisured pace, Aditi’s soothing vocals and the lingering piano lilt. The classical interlude in Siyaah Raatein by Arijit is not to be missed, however. The Agent Vinod Theme is more than functional; There are strains of a tune but it is wrapped up in a cacophony of effective sounds that are the hallmark for movies of this genre.