Hot Gas

Music,Musings et al

Laura (Otto Preminger)

This is a brilliant movie. Gene Tierney is so luminous and irresistible as the eponymous character that Preminger’s attempts to pitch her as a vulnerable object of desire can’t but succeed. The storytelling is economical and sparse but the writing is excellent. Perfect noir.

Preminger takes a subject that is laden with inexorable noir movie themes like passion and crime and weaves it with some symbolism and poise. Even for a relatively short runtime (Around 88 minutes) it never feels hurried because it is not so much the unfolding that Preminger is bothered about but the exploration of human desire and longing.

Heroine (Salim Sulaiman)

Halkat Jawani is catchy but I am tired of this stuff man. They should leave the item songs for the Telugu movies and DSP! Saaiyaan builds on a thousand other Rahat songs to even register. Main Heroine Hoon is better; an edgy, pulsating mix; Madhur will probably have Kareena slash her wrists to this or will it be a montage showing her success? Anyway, the Benny Dayal sung Tujh Pe Fida breezes by and we are left with Khwaishein; a little oddly constructed Shreya Ghoshal ditty that is nevertheless enjoyable. 

Barfi! (Pritam)

Unlike Pritam’s other creations that thrive on a certain muscular, brassy energy – even ones like Tumhi Ho Bandhu with their techno heavy backgrounds or the ones he conjures for the Bhatts with wailing electric guitars conveying the mood of a depressed heart – Barfi! (Lest I sound needlessly excited, the exclamation is something the makers added and not me. Although an album like this does warrant much excitement and attention) has a smooth, feminine grace. The sound is decidedly acoustic and soft on the ears; pleasant bars of music layered with guitars, pianos and harmonicas. Take the title song; Initially I couldn’t believe Pritam had composed it. It signifies a clean break from whatever he has composed so far (The composition duties for such a soundtrack usually go to Shankar Ehsaan Loy. But Pritam’s successful association with Basu must have done the made him a shoo in for this. Who can forget Life in a Metro where Pritam’s ballads burst forth like a Greek chorus?). That said, it is not my favourite from the album; it has a playful charm and the lyrics are a lark (Swanand Kirkire) but tune wise it fails to rise above its own limitations. The same can be said about Aashiyan; the sing along’ish quality enjoyable and amateurish at the same time. The lightness of the tune not helping the lightness of lyrics too well. Main Kya Karoon is breezy; the rhythms mildly reminiscent of SEL’s wonderful Khabon Ke Parindey. The talky structure works well and the Kya Karoon refrain is deliciously overwrought.

The apotheosis of Pritam’s innovation comes, early, in the form of Kyon. Set to a serene and trippy early Kishore Kumar’ish tune, this is a song doused in magical whimsy – at once evoking some dying, etiolated time and tradition in Papon’s timeless, wondrous vocals, a quaint poignancy in the verse – Hai Kya Khayal Bawre or Kya Tera Haal Bawre – and the way it turns. This is also that rare song where the exalted tune smiting standards are matched by a similar genius in song writing. Sayeed Quadri saab, that wonderful lyricist who has mostly been consigned to the fringes of the industry despite writing the saddest heartbreak song you have possibly listened to, writes so beautifully that it hurts. Every line is a gem. My fandom knows no bounds!

Arijit Singh’s ghazal’ish turn in Phir Le Aaya Dil, a song drunk on Vishal Bharadwaj’s musical flavour and fervour, right from the time his voice filters in as if it were wafting from an old gramophone player, is gorgeous. The inventiveness of the tune however means that it turns into an ode and not an imitation and how fitting that another version of the same is adorned with Rekha Bharadwaj’s vocals. Quadri saab shows his pristine touch here too.

Swanand Kirkire (“Khwabon Ki Razai Mein, Raat Ho Teri Meri”) is at his lyrical best in Saawali Si Raat; a quiet, sinuous ditty that is not so much as sung, by Arijit, but whispered.  

Barfi! is a delightful soundtrack; an album to be savoured and cherished; a saturation of warmth, charm and pathos. Halfway through a gorgeous song, I was wondering if this is what happens when all the musical gods are aligned; the synergy of a mad bunch of musicians performing at their peak. Pritam shows a clean break from his past sound and composes a thematic score that almost amounts to a revival and reinvention of a hoary, lost genre. As much as this transformation is astonishing it is doubtful he or anyone will persist with it given that very few films warrant such music which makes this more memorable. Further, Barfi! doesn’t seem to be a period piece like Khoya Khoya Chand; so I am very curious as to how Basu uses this music. Nevertheless, the status of this album is cemented – Instant classic.            

Kill List (Ben Wheatley)

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Holy mother of god! Ben Wheatley is a certified auteur who is in total control of the medium mixing elements of family drama and hit man movies and then turning it into a bizarre cult horror movie. I say Wheatley is an auteur because of the mastery he shows in building this movie up; it is moodily shot, purposefully edited and smartly written (a lot of gallows humour). There is a confidence in the way things are staged and shots are framed; none of the roughness and wannabe-ness associated with some indie movies. There is a lot of gore; gore that is disturbing and not necessarily cathartic unless one is into sadistic stuff (where most movies cut away from violence to imply it, Wheatley has his camera firmly focused on the action while a man gets his head smashed or his stomach ripped). I did not know what to make of the ironical ending; it is not exactly a thought provoking movie but it is definitely an immersive, enigmatic experience.

I think what Wheatley was trying to show was the horrors of everyday life without any adulteration from genre tropes before, paradoxically, the movie does break into genre tropes. It is a brilliant movie; I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Cocktail (Pritam)

Those who watch TV may, by now, have realised the sheer inescapability of Tumhi Ho Bandhu. Its a little sad that music channels bombarded it so much because by the time I had my hands on the soundtrack I was already full of it; so much so that I had to skip it while I traversed across the OST. Nevertheless it is a wonderful song; Kavita Seth is a fabulous pick; interestingly, I can’t think of anyone who could have suited the song better (Shilpa Rao maybe?). Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are as soulful as they can get in a pop-dance track framework (Jab yaar kare parwa meri….Main hoon hi nahi iss duniya ki). Daaru Desi is infectious and has some nifty guitar work and sprightly singing (by Shalmali and Benny) going for it.

Luttna (Saif Ul Malook) seems straight out of Mausam territory, but, apart from this ostensible incongruity in tone, the edgy techno mash up makes it interesting. The one by Bunty Rajput plays it straight. Tera Naam Japdi Phiran (based on a traditional melody?) is catchy but forgettable. Second Hand Jawani is a competent item song but, again, fades quickly. The soundtrack also throws in Arif Lohar’s Jugni for good measure.

The song of the soundtrack, for me, is Mohan’s Yaariyan. This is one terrific song; admirably Coldplay’ish be it the mesmerising guitar work or the anthemic, hopeful choruses. It helps that Irshad Kamil is also in inspired form (The Marz bhi hai deti part is masterful). The Reprise is a complete study in contrast; the song is shorn of its punchy percussion and is driven by simple, intuitive piano notes and has Sunidhi alternating between the understated and the operatic. It is less appealing on the whole but is still a close second.

Lets be clear, Cocktail is no Love Aaj Kal. There is a lot to like here and Pritam’s overall sound design is superb but there are at least two tunes which don’t work. In the end, Cocktail is essentially three brilliant songs and a lot of likeable bits and pieces. Good enough.

Julayi (Devi Sri Prasad)

For a Trivikram movie, Julayi has a shockingly shoddy score. Also I was hoping this synergy would produce a more than passable soundtrack considering their last collaboration resulted in Jalsa, arguably Devi Sri’s last great score. There is absolutely no redemptive quality in this soundtrack except for the breezy harmonium bits in O Madhu; another mediocre DSP tune that even Adnan Sami can’t salvage. There is some promise in the title track too but Devi Sri’s same old hackneyed orchestration grates. The others are too bad to even comment about.

A well made DSP track can be wonderful but the average one – there are too many of them it seems – is characterised by humdrum, repetitive orchestration and exasperatingly bad singing. It doesn’t help that they are unnecessarily loud; even the supposed melodies. Such a disappointment this one.     

Andala Rakshasi (Radhan)

Andala Rakshasi has a refreshingly good soundtrack more so because it follows the ear numbing mass numbers of Rachcha, Dammu and Gabbar Singh. I liked Yemito and Ye Mantramo the most. The former is a dulcet melody that begins with a small dialogue reminiscent of Geetanjali. Everything is likeable about this song be it the start-stop, swinging rhythm or Haricharan’s superb singing. The writing is excellent. Ye Mantramo is terrific and has a riveting anthemic feel to it. Too bad it doesn’t last long. Radhan makes Manasa Marchipo unbearably downbeat. It is evocative nevertheless because of the whispery recitation style of singing set to minimal orchestration. Something similar happens in Manasu Palike although Radhan gives the tune more flesh and imbues it with melody. Ne Ninnu Chera and Vennante are playful, enjoyable numbers that will no doubt gain from good picturisation. The former especially takes time to get used to because of its lovely off kilter tune and Veena Ghantasala’s dreamy, girly rendition.

Radhan is a talent to watch out for. Andamaina soundtrack.       

Ms Sunita, Please brush up your English

This post is essentially a rant against a review of Gabbar Singh posted by Y Sunita Chowdary on Cinegoer. So read the review here for the context –http://www.cinegoer.com/telugu-cinema/sunitas-reviews/gabbar-singh-movie-review-110512.html It is meant to be an assessment of the English language skills that Ms Sunita possesses. Mostly, I have done this by picking out offensive sentences from the review. The process is merely indicative as there is more incredibly bad grammar lurking in that review which I did not bother about. Also, the piece is supposed to be a general reflection on the horrible state of affairs in the field of Telugu Film critiquing.

I suggest that Sunita Chowdary be sent to school first so that her grammar and sentence construction skills can set right. This review is an unending string of horrendous grammatical errors. However, you would be mistaken if you thought the problem was only restricted to that. Her descriptions are simply pathetic with no tonal consistency whatsoever. I am sorry but if this review was meant to be sarcastic, I wonder who the joke is on right now. Also pray tell me, who in their right mind writes a movie review in past tense? Take the second sentence in the first paragraph itself.  “It is neither a popular story nor a timeless one but what acquires..which is quite an achievement.” Ms Sunita, you cannot just keep adding connectors and extend sentences as much as you want to. There is something known as a full stop which should be used as much as possible to make sentences intelligible. “…the rest the entire credit goes to Harish” Seriously? First decide for yourself how much credit you want to give to Harish? The rest. Or the entire credit. “The director remains close and faithful to Dabangg…without too many risks or going overboard.” So is it a good thing or a bad thing that there are not too many vulgar pelvic thrusts and over the top moments? I think its a good thing. Why do you make it sound bad? And what are these “risks” that you wanted the director to take in an out and out commercial movie? ” ….the two numbers that follow successively does get a notice.” “Do” get a notice, you mean? But even that is incorrect English madam. After all how can songs get a notice? For non payment of electricity bills or what? After some more shocking sentences you suddenly decide to analyse a dialogue from the movie to suggest that it did not have the requisite impact. Any particular reason you chose only that dialogue? Because for me there are many dialogues that work and many that don’t. So what is the point of picking out one dialogue and saying that it did not work. “…panegyric goes utter waste.” It should be – panegyric goes “in” utter waste. “….his jerseys show that he is trapped in youth though the spring in his walk is a delight to watch.” I am quite sure that, in fourth or fifth standard, when your teacher taught you how to use the word “though” she must have told you that it must be used to qualify what has been said before. Therefore your use of it is simply befuddling. Next comes one of the best lines ever – “Ajay is vulnerable.” Vulnerable to whom? The goons, the hero or cancer? Or is it viral cold? Also decide for yourself whether you want to praise a performance or describe it. You should not ideally do one for an actor and another for another. “Abhimanyu Singh has matured as an actor.” This is the only time I’m tempted to make a qualitative assessment. I am sorry but after superlatives performances in Gulaal and I Am, Gabbar Singh can only be a regression. Or do you think it is better than those performances? In which case I not only doubt your English language skills but also your ability to critically appreciate a performance.

I was obligated to write this because these are the film critics that are widely venerated and feted. Writing in proper grammar is the first sign of credibility and unfortunately we have critics who can’t even string a sentence together.

Dammu (Boyapati Seenu)

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For all the good taste in cinema I profess to have, I am still a major fan of commercial cinema and by commercial cinema I mean epic mass movies like Indra, Aadi, Chatrapathi etc; not soft romances and quasi gangster movies . Dammu is a worthy addition to that list. It is essentially a retread of the faction movies of the past, especially Aadi and Indra, when it comes to the storyline. The major reason why movies like Dammu still get made is because a major bloodshed is always good. Revenge feels good. It is cleansing, cathartic and is the best payoff possible in movies.  

Boyapati Seenu, like Rajamouli, chooses his payoffs wisely and milks them fantastically. He knows that the best form of catharsis comes when the hero has to go to war with family pride and honour at stake. It helps if there is a history of violence and the backs are to the wall. Makes it all the more stirring. It is the reason why Gladiator is epic. It is one man taking on an empire to avenge his personal loss. It is the reason why Eden Gardens 2001 was epic. It is two me defying odds and staging an incredible comeback. Fighting for an ideal or ideology can be rousing but a fight for personal reasons almost always surpasses that. Remember Chak De India? It is not so much about the underdogs winning but about Kabir Khan’s redemption; the evisceration of past injustices.

Coming back to Dammu, Boyapati is a canny director. He knows that the first half could be filled with establishing the feud and the characters. The second half is where the action usually is and it is here that all the setup could fizzle out if it is not handled well. So what does he do? He manufactures, what I call, epic mass moments. These are usually the payoff moments where uninhibited heroism crushes down with vengeance and inevitability upon villainy. And the success of the movie is directly proportional to how many genuine epic mass moments the director manages to pack in. All of us like fights but nobody likes a meaningless fight. The stronger the justification the better the fight looks. So, just when you are thinking that the movie is meandering to the obligatory final showdown, Seenu bumps off the hero’s baava (Venu) after spending some time establishing his good natured character.

The best faction movies always horrify through an unexpected tragedy and make the loss feel personal. And then the cathartic hack-a-thon begins.

Dammu has a lot of epic mass moments. Boyapati is the next Rajamouli what with the latter dabbling with offbeat subjects off late. He has the skill to gradually build scenes and deliver the payoffs well. NTR is perfect in the role. If you are a fan of the genre and get thrills like I do from watching solid bloodshed then Dammu is for you. 

Endukante Premanta (GV Prakash Kumar)

Nee Choopule is a wonderful start to the album. Prakash weaves a simple yet spellbinding tune and fills it with lithe, gorgeous orchestration. Haricharan, as always, seems to get the best songs and deservedly so. Hemachandra and Chinmayee prop up Egire Pove whose cheery tone more than makes up for its indifferent tune. Chill Out and Kicko Gicko are snazzily but unimaginatively put together numbers. Cindrella is better and has the typical GV Prakash-Karunakaran breezily romantic flavour going for it, although the disconnect between the lyrical content and the tune is slightly jarring. The minute long extended classical finale must have been cathartic for Prakash, whose penchance for tucking away an operatic interlude or two, in the lulls of songs, finally finds full favour.

In his third album for Karunakaran, GV Prakash manages to hit the same thematic consistency witnessed in the earlier works and it works for most of the time.