Originally published in The Hindu.
Chil chinchilamai – Thoppil Joppan (Malayalam – Vidyasagar)
It would be massively unfair to refer to Vidyasagar as someone who apes Ilayaraja really well, more because the man is so talented without that reference, and less so because there are others like Imman who have imbibed that quality so beautifully as well. But Vidyasagar, given his limited work these days, does manage to evoke the Raja-flavour really well in songs like rain-soaked sound of Chil chinchilamai – this could have easily been a Chithra and Arunmozhi-sung song from a Tamil Nadhiya starrer; Swetha Mohan and Madhu Balakrishnan handle the song mighty well, but.
Pesu pesu – Uchathula Shiva (Tamil – Vidyasagar)
This week, as the much-parodied TV announcement goes, “Vidyasagar vaaram!”. Pesu pesu is as good as it comes, from Vidyasagar. With a whiff of what sounds like Charukesi raaga, the melody gains immensely from Balram’s (another forgotten, seriously under-rated singer) fantastic vocals, and Indulekha Warrier. The veena backdrop, the ghazal-like anupallavi (albeit with Doordarshan level impoverished strings in the background) prop the song well, while the and the super smooth anupallavi-to-charanam bridge (“idhazh pesaa kalaigalai pesu rathiye, unai marandhu…”) is particularly inventive.
Listen to Pesu pesu on DooPaaDoo.
Udja re – Rock On 2 (Hindi – Shankar Ehsaan Loy)
While Farhan Akhtar’s vocal prowess (or the lack of it) continues to be a point of debate, his co-star from Rock On 2 seems far more adept at the acting-to-singing transition. That quality comes out incredibly well in Udja re, where Shraddha Kapoor puts her voice to fantastic use. The song’s U2-style rock melody makes it a great listen, with Shraddha admirably handling the rock shenanigans.
Listen to the song on Saavn.
Aayava kanom – Kadalai (Tamil – Sam C.S.)
If Kadalai had music by Imman, one can be reasonably sure that the phrase ‘Aayava kanom’ would have been introduced with some context and backgrounder, and a making-of the song would have preceded the actual song. But the music is by the relatively less known Sam C.S – so, no such promotional tactics. In what is bound to be a new ‘mass’ catchphrase in Tamil Nadu (dependent entirely on the film’s success, of course), the lilting kuthu Aayava kanom rocks the Koyambedu tar-road dance floor. Sam’s lyrics are total thara-local level and perfect for the danc’y tune rendered admirably (with a lot of digital correction) by the film’s hero, Ma Ka Pa Anandh.
Ala baali (Singers: Nirmal Roy and Jabar Abbas. Composed by Shiraz Uppal)
The mandatory Middle Eastern/Arabic addition to Coke Studio (Season 9, Pakistan) doesn’t disappoint at all. The ‘Ala baali’ hook—which, in Arabic, means, “You’re on my mind”—is delivered with incredible sweetness by Nirmal Roy. Nirmal lingers on the words, ‘ala baali anta habibi’ and ‘ala baali anta qalbi’ so beautifully, while Jabar Abbas swoops in, Sukhwinder Singh-style, and picks up the thread perfectly. The song traverses Punjabi, Urdu and Arabic effortlessly to deliver a foot-tapping global concoction!