Tuesday April 24, 2018

Milliblog Monthlies – Mesmerizing Melodies of M.M.Kreem

Posted by Karthik

Episode 4 of Milliblog Monthlies, featuring 18 20 songs by M.M.Kreem.

His name is incredibly unique! In Hindi, that is. He may be the only music composer in India who has a different name for each language he composes in, at least the 3 major languages he composes/has composed! So, he is M.M.Keeravani in Telugu (Koduri Marakathamani Keeravaani), Maragathamani in Tamil and the oddest of all, M.M.Kreem in Hindi! This multi-moniker trend runs in the family too – his brother, Kalyani Malik, a very, very competent composer himself is known by many other names – Kalyani Malik, Kalyan Malik, Kalyan Koduri and Sri Kalyan Ramana!

This list focuses on M.M.Kreem, the Hindi repertoire of M.M.Keeravani. The man is a well-established and successful composer in Telugu and has also produced some fantastic music in Tamil (he made his Tamil debut with K.Balachander’s Azhagan, one year after his Telugu debut! Here’s a more detailed note on how good the music of Azhagan was.)

Kreem’s Hindi debut was in 1995, 5 years after his Telugu debut, with Mahesh Bhatt’s Criminal (an ironic title since the plot was criminally lifted without credit or royalty from the Harrison Ford starrer The Fugitive. From then on, Kreem has been associated with the Bhatt family across many movies and worked with other directors and producers too in Hindi. His trademark Hindi sound is soft and melodious, and very unique as a body of work.

The composer once wrote on Facebook that he had marked his retirement date as December 8, 2016, on the day he recorded his first song in Telugu (December 9, 1989)!

Thankfully, in 2017 he decided to stay on, through a tweet!

The following playlist has 20 songs from M.M.Kreem. These are my absolute favorites from the composer’s body of work in Hindi.

Playlist on Apple Music | Saavn | YouTube
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01. Raat sari – Zakhm (1998)
I know that Gali mein aaj is the more/most popular song from Zakhm, I love it too, and the fact is Zakhm is Kreem’s best Hindi soundtrack to date. But Raat saari makes my heart flutter, literally. Alka Yagnik was absolutely incredible with her singing, bringing out the longing in the waiting of the song’s lyrics (Anand Bakshi). Kreem himself joins in with a vocal hum in the end and the instruments used are so well thought-out and classy – including santoor, sitar and strings. The prelude sound before santoor kicks in is haunting and memorable!

02. Chup tum raho – Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996)
The film was Kreem’s 2nd Hindi outing. The film was in news back when it released even though it was being seen as an ‘art’ film. Nida Fazli’s lyrics add a beautiful dimension to the soft ghazal-like sound that Kreem plays around with creatively in the antara. Between Chitra and Kreem, the soulful and very serene—perfectly apt for the ‘chup’ of the lyrics—veers in an awkward direction only in the ill-conceived second interlude.

03. Awarapan banjarapan – Jism (2003)
What a wonderfully immersive song! Sayeed Quadri’s lyrics are so evocative of the wayward, aimless feeling that occurs to all of us at various points in life. And KK breathes life into those lyrics so beautifully. Kreem’s music is understated and lets the melody flow through, with a lovely choice of instruments, the oboe being my favorite. This song has been torturing me for a very, very long time for a different reason, though. There’s a particular line in the song that tune of which I’m sure I have heard it in some Tamil song – some old Tamil song is what I can recollect… the M.S.Viswanathan, Sivaji Ganesan period. But I just cannot place the song. The tune in the Hindi song repeats 4 times (only the lines outside the bracket – just the tune for that!!),
“Apne liye toh thik usee pal (roz dhala hai seene mein)”
“Ho na ho uss par kahee koyee (khwab jala hai seene mein)”
“Ishq kee aise rah guzar ko (hamne chuna hai seene mein)”
“Thoda sa dil meraa bura hai (thoda bhala hai seene mein)”
I keep hearing the song in loop for that reason too, in the hope that some day I’ll stumble on the song I’m looking for. 🙂

04. Anjana dil kya jaane – Dhokha (2007)
This is probably more upbeat than most of Kreem’s Hindi songs! KK’s vocals are vibrant and highly enthusiastic and Kreem’s tune has a verve that reminds me of Vishal-Shekhar’s Subah Subah from I See You for some reason. The outlook, of optimism and positivity, seemed similar in sound and lyrics.

05. Tu mile – Criminal (1995)
This is the song that made Kreem a known name in Bollywood! Perhaps picking a thread from Mahesh Bhatt who is usually unabashed in his intent and execution of plagiarism of plots from all possible sources, Kreem used parts of Enigma’s Age of Loneliness in the opening of the song where Chitra hums extensively (it’s her in Hindi too, though Alka Yagnik sings the actual song) modelled on Enigma’s original. Not just that, Kreem also lifted Snow’s Lonely Monday Morning for the song Keemti Keemti! But, on Tu mile, the song now is a cult classic, plagiarism or not. The melody is wonderfully rich and sweeping, and Kumar Sanu and Alka sing it so well, particularly the gorgeous antaras!

06. Gali mein aaj – Zakhm (1998)
This is a heart-breakingly beautiful song. If Raat saari was about hope and longing, Gali mein aaj is wish-fulfillment. It’s where the hope ends in happiness. I still remember an email from Piyush Pandey (Ogilvy) that he sent to all employees (I was one, at that point; not anymore) about how the song’s lyrics came through a brief.

A few days back, I met a doctor friend of mine who shared a wonderful story with me. My friend met Anand Bakshi’s son, who narrated the story. One day, producer-director Mahesh Bhatt met Mr. Anand Bakshi and asked him to write a song for him. His brief of the situation was about a man who visited his wife once in a blue moon. The key words are ‘once in a blue moon’. Here the song and you will know the difference between a brief in English and a response from the heart.

It’s interesting that Anand Bakshi approaches the brief from the woman’s perspective and not the man’s point of view. Her perspective is expressed so beautifully through that idiom, ‘once in a blue moon’ which finds a literal but thoughtful translation of ‘gali mein aaj chaand nikla’. The simple, lilting tune and Alka’s singing are part of the song’s magic.

07. Chalo tumko lekar chale – Jism (2003)
Shreya Ghoshal incredibly sweet vocals literally makes this song work. The rhythm is standard-issue faux-Enigma, but Kreem’s melody is deep and engaging. The song featuring a temptress needed this tempting a tune and lyrics to work and the combo or Kreem and Shreya deliver it really well. The way Kreem approaches the antara is a lovely touch: “Gaati sarsarati in hawaon sang aao” paves way for a lengthy “Paas m-e-r-e A-n-a-a”, while ‘Zarasa’ ‘Lamha’ ‘Chupa tha’ are delivered one line each!

08. O saathiya – Saaya (2003)
I believe this song was composed for originally for Zakhm and the dholak-led sound perhaps makes it very apt for that film too! It’s a classic Hindi film song template that I’m surprised Kreem nails it so well, complete with a qawali style clap sound towards the end of the antara. The main refrain from the song, ‘Dil chura liya… saathiya’ is a very memorable hook!

09. Dil mein jaagi – Sur-The Melody of Life (2002)
This one’s Sunidhi’s show! Kreem gives her a really lengthy and almost-breathless mukhda that she sings with pitch-perfect emotion. You can almost picturise Gauri Karnik breathlessly ending the lengthy mukhda and smiling as you listen to the song! Nida Fazli, in the lyrics add little touches like free-form vocalizing: “Aisa chhaaya mujhpe jaadu, haa haa hee hee hey hey ho ho” that adds to the song’s appeal. The keys in the first interlude are very reminiscent of Azhagan’s music, by the way!

10. Hum yahan – Zakhm (1998)
Doesn’t Hum yahaan sound like a soul-sister of Saaya’s O saathiya (Dil chura liya)? 🙂 The rhythm, though, evoking a much older Hindi-retro style sound is so charming, along with the trademark Kreem-style violin! And Kreen himself takes on the 2nd interlude, much like Rahman’s sweeping ‘Yelelo’ humming interlude from Roja’s Chinna Chinna Aasai! My favorite is the Alka version, more than the Kumar Sanu variant; Alka brings a tenderness to the melody that is so, so involving.

11. Kaun mera – Special 26 (2013)
Kreem’s tune here is breezy, and Papon singing underlines it too. But the song’s inherent pathos comes out so well too, and that works even better in the more pronounced pathos versions of the song, beyond the Papon version.

12. Kab tujhe – Dhokha (2007)
I always assumed that Kreem made this tune for a Telugu song! I could easily picture Mahesh Babu or Pawan Kalyan dancing for this! Plus the female-chorus in the prelude, the violins after ‘kuch pataa na chala’ and the strings in the second interlude are very indicative of Kreem’s Telugu repertoire. In the KK and Shreya Ghoshal’s voices, the song’s happy, full-in-love feeling comes out wonderfully.

13. Aa bhi jaa – Sur-The Melody of Life (2002)
Kreem has worked with Lucky Ali in this film and Kasak. While Kasak is a terrible musical, this song, featuring Lucky Ali’s vocals is a much better bet. The opening violin set to the tune of ‘Aa bhi jaa’, for some reason, reminds me of Himesh Reshammiya! But it gets much, much better as it progresses, particularly the absolutely lovely antara – the antara’s tune is actually more interesting to me than the main hook.

14. Jaadu hai nasha hai – Jism (2003)
Much like Chalo tumko lekar chale, this song too uses a Enigma-style rhythm in the background and lets Shreya lead the temptress-tune again!

15. Dheere jalna – Paheli (2005)
Kreem, I felt, was an unusual choice to score music for a Rajasthan background film, directed by Amol Palekar and starring Shah Rukh Khan no less! I’m not a big fan of the film’s soundtrack, but Dhree jalna is at least one song where Kreem’s inventive mind comes to the fore. He interlaces the softer parts of the melody—the interlude and antara are incredibly soft!—while occasionally exploding it with the Dheere jalna chorus!

16. Musafir – Lahore (2010)
Lahore had a mighty good soundtrack that was completely overlooked due to the film’s limited run. Kreem is a surprising choice for this film too! Musafir is one song he sings himself and for the other version, he ropes in Daler Mehndi who handles the somber melody in a way we haven’t heard him, away from his ebullient musical style.

17. Mujh mein tu – Special 26 (2013)
Kreem’s expansive singing lifts this pathos-laden tune. I was surprised he chose to sing it himself, but the decision works well, given how his unique voice and singing style adds a specific dimension to the song. The sparse and minimal orchestration helps too.

18. Main tujhse pyaar – Baby (2015)
After the Bhatt family, the only other director in Hindi who worked with Kreem twice is Neeraj Pandey (Special 26 and Baby). Both films had music that was understated and plays to Kreem’s strengths in melody. Papon aces this one effortlessly, given the soulful melody Kreem hands him.

19. Jaane kya dhoondhta hai – Sur-The Melody of Life (2002)
This song’s hook is hardly like Kreem’s and could easily fit into Lucky Ali’s album Sunoh! It’s remarkable that Kreem composed a hook that sounds so much like Lucky Ali’s own sound. However, the rest of the song is so very Kreem, and the combination of Kreem and Lucky Ali gels perfectly with each other.

20. Maine Dil Se Kaha – Rog (2005)
This song could work perfectly like a companion piece to Jism’s Awaarapan Banjaarapan! The tone is similar – about sweeping loneliness, and KK’s voice connects both songs too! Like Saeed Qadri in the Jism song, here Nilesh Mishra pens a similar state of mind, and so beautifully at that!

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