Panthuvarali raaga meets Yakshagana chande in Adhara madhura to create pulsating fusion. The Yakshagana mix comes across beautifully in the interludes too. Teenu Treasa’s lush vocals and Manoj’s splendid violin phrases rule over the brooding melody. That Yakshgana style conversational singing appears in Kelu ranga kelu, but Manoj removes the chande to layer in a significantly more modern percussion layer, though everything else remains similar, including the harmonium! The profusion of singers includes Shwetha Pandit, Bhavani Prakash, Navya and Rama Rama Re composer, Vasuki Vaibhav! The short Urvi Theme song alludes to Adhara briefly, though is largely a pulsating Yanni-style orchestral track with Sylvester Pradeep’s Raghu Dixit’ish rendition. Thili prema sounds like something Charan Raj—who sings in it, along with Madhushree—would have composed! It’s wonderfully breezy, with fantastic interludes! Madhushree is even better in her solo version of the song, with only guitars for support. Kanna hani is Manoj’s trademark – a spartan melody adorned almost only with violin, with Chithra in impeccable form holding the quivering pathos in the melody. Ajaneesh Loknath, Judah Sandhy, Charan Raj, Vasuki Vaibhav, Dheerendra Doss, and now, the return of Manoj George (after Athmiya)! Kannada film music is going through a long overdue transformation!

Keywords: Manoj George, Urvi, 200, #200

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Ammadu Let’s Do Kummudu has a lazy rhythm and a joke of a tune that seems only to exist to fit the hook. Ratthalu is equally bad, loading absurd rhyming words on a stock Devi package. Sundari is standard-issue DSP material where he is keen on using the sitar. You & Me offers minor respite, thanks to Hariharan and Shreya’s singing, though the tune devolves into a droning sound eventually. Neeru neeru is the mandatory ‘serious’ song; Shankar Mahadevan and the charukesi raaga base help. It’s baffling why Anirudh’s original, significantly cooler and largely nifty score for Kaththi wasn’t reused.

Keywords: Chiranjeevi, Khaidi No 150, Devi Sri Prasad

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Justin constructs the somber Engeyo pogum almost like a bridge to Ilayaraja’s anupallavi from Aval Appadithaan’s Uravugal thodarkadhai. Kanna katti is delightful – spiffy tune and jaunty rhythm, and wonderful vocals by Haricharan! Latha Krishna joins him eventually and the nostalgic Raja flavor in anupallavi adds to the song’s charm. Kannukulla, a simple, 80s style pleasant melody harks back to Justin’s Pannaiyarum Padminiyum number Enakkaga poranthaye. The short Jeevan indha sounds like Kannukulla’s soul sister. Netri kungumam and Alli kodiye, despite fantastic vocals, and imaginatively moody orchestration seem more contrived and less interesting. Justin’s music remains highly listenable, and enjoyable.

Keywords: Justin Prabhakaran, Kaalakkoothu

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Sunday January 8, 2017

Happy birthday, Harris Jayaraj!

As much as I rip off some of the more banal recent songs of Harri Jayaraj in this blog, there’s no doubt that the man produced some fantastic music across his career. Here’s a playlist of my favorites from Harris Jayaraj, on his birthday today.

Sunday January 8, 2017

Hitman – January 8, 2017

Originally published in The Hindu.

Irulu neelum raave – Ezra (Malayalam – Sushin Shyam)
Sushin Shyam, the keyboardist of the band The Down Troddence, made an inspired composing debut last year with Kismath’s Kisa paathiyil, that Charukesi-loaded whopper of a melody. He follows that song with an equally haunting—this time, quite literally, given the film’s eerie theme—Irulu neelum raave. While Sachin Balu’s singing is top notch, Sushin really has an engaging and indulgent melody going for him, punctuating the melody with a fantastic orchestration, including that consistently ominous and surreal twang that rises in crescendo in an unsettling manner.

Azhagiya soodaana poove – Bairavaa (Tamil – Santhosh Narayanan)
Santhosh had a great run in 2016, scoring for a Rajinikanth film and achieving an Ilayaraja’ish feat of having 2 films for a Diwali (Kodi and Kaashmora). He adds another feather to his cap – a Vijay film! But the man who balanced his sound with Rajini-needs in Kabali so well, seems unsure in Bairavaa. The soundtrack’s best though is Azhagiya soodana poovey. It is wonderfully sung by Vijaynarain and Dharshana, and Santhosh adds an unpredictable and cool Jackson’ish—or, rather Bruno Mars’ish—retro-pop sound that is instantly likeable.

Mellaga tellarindoi – Shatamanam Bhavati (Telugu – Mickey J Meyer)
Mellaga tellarindoi is so typically Mickey! The song’s ambient prelude and the consistently pleasant lilt is brilliant, and there is that Mickey-style infusion of world music too, in that catchy, almost African chorus featuring Ramya Behara and Mohana Bhogaraju. The build-up is lovely, helping Anurag Kulkarni leading the vocals very well. Mickey has been averaging three soundtracks per year in the last 3 years and this is a good start for 2017.

Kaabil – Kaabil (Hindi – Rajesh Roshan)
It is useful to remember that Rajesh Roshan made his debut back in 1974 with Kunwara Baap. He is perhaps one of the oldest composers still in business, though it is easy to counter that with the fact that he is the in-house composer of films produced by his brother, Rakesh Roshan, mostly featuring Hrithik Roshan. What works in Rajesh’s favour is songs like Kaabil’s title song – there is something charmingly old-world in the simple, hummable melody and the familiar comfort of the dholak-based rhythm.

You Have Been Loved – Older (George Michael)
Amidst the non-stop tributes to George Michael since his untimely death on December 26, 2016, the world remembered his most famous and obvious songs like Careless Whisper, Wake Me Up and Last Christmas. Dig deeper and you’d find absolute gems like You Have Been Loved, from his 1996 album, Older. His searing lyrics question the existence of God, after the death of his lover Anselmo Feleppa, and writes on behalf of Anselmo’s mother who wonders about her crime, in the eyes of God, that he punished her with the death of her son. It’s a beautiful contrast to the recent dialogue from Westworld where a grieving father says, ‘The pain is all I have left’, after the death of his son, since the only thing worse than grieving, is forgetting.

Friday January 6, 2017


Hard to believe the man is 50 today!

Just seems like yesterday when, in Salem, I forced a cassette shop owner to cut short his lunch break, call the supplier and sell me the cassette tape of Kadhalan that was released the day before. And reading in Dinamani Kadhir, Dinamani’s supplement, that Mani Ratnam had signed a ‘new boy’ named Dilip Kumar to compose music for his next film after Thalapathi!

Related reads:
1. 20 years of A R Rahman – what does it mean to me? 
2. 15 years of A.R.Rahman’s music – 1992 to 2007 and continuing!
3. What’s your Rahman Realization Point?  

Here are 2 playlists I put together, one on Saavn and another on YouTube (originally for The Hindu).

On Saavn, a 50 song playlist that has some of my personal favorites from Rahman’s repertoire.

On YouTube, a 50 song playlist of songs that I believe were relatively lesser heard and deserve a re-listen.

Kaara fankaara‘s promising start devolves into droning nama nama nei. Enna sonna is adequately pleasant; more Arko than Rahman. Jaanu is jubilantly uptempo and instantly catchy. Saajan aayo re is a pleasant surprise, Jonita’s vocal dexterity and Darbari Kanada raag flowing infinitely better in Hindi. Jee lein is Yuva leftover, while Ameen’s Maula wa salim is aptly pious. Humma humma‘s meh-creation* to replace O Kadhal Kanmani’s best, Parandhu sella vaa, is utterly pointless. The soundtrack’s best is Malargal kaettaen-equivalent, Sunn bhavara! Set to raag Bihag, Shashaa Tirupati aces the lush semi-classical melody, beautifully supported by the tabla. Jaanu trumps Kanmani.

Keywords: OK Jaanu, O Kadhal Kanmani (music review), OK Kanmani, A R Rahman, Badshah, Tanishk Bagchi

*By Badshah and Tanishk Bagchi

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Ondroduthan ondroga, the friendship anthem, has joyful sound, and Anirudh, handling it perfectly, gets splendid support from Chennai Boys Choir. Mannenna vepenna is the friendship anthem’s anti-thesis, showing utter disdain for certain types of friends in a get-down-to-the-ground kuthu format. Kannadi poovukku is gorgeous! Haricharan and Jonita Gandhi are in splendid form, as always, while Santhosh’s tune moves beautifully from the opening melody to the persistent instrumental hook, only to have a chorus on those lines towards the end of the anupallavi – excellent strings in the background all along! Santhosh Dayanidhi has a neat minimum-guarantee appeal about his music.

Keywords: Enakku Vaaitha Adimaigal, Santhosh Dayanidhi

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Kaalittare yudhane plays out like a fervent, pulsating devotional song. Hemanth Kumar, Shashank Sheshagiri and Chintan Vikas are convincing in delivering the prayer to the hero. Shiva Shiva Maharaja, the song’s offspring does it less convincingly. Ondondsari is a perfectly breezy and filmy duet that gains tremendously from the sweeping Middle-eastern feel and excellent vocals by Shilpa Srikanth and Karthik. In Kannane kannane, Ajaneesh manages to perfectly even out Shivrajkumar’s perfunctory vocals, and with Bobby, the melody is a catchy listen. Ditto with Antharangada asse, with an instantly likeable rhythm and engaging vocals by Shashank. Listenable commercial fluff from Ajaneesh.

Keywords: Srikanta, Ajaneesh Loknath

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Yaaro ucchikilai meley is vintage Yuvan; lilting rhythm and a pleasant melody. Unn badhil vendi‘s tune seems retrofitted on Na.Muthukumar’s poetry, and Unnai‘s verses seem even more melody-agnostic, going ‘Nee sirithu mayakkum muganool padangalukku, en aanmaavilirundhu araivari eduthu ezhudhinaal podhum, nee Like seivaai‘, resulting in an uncomfortably perfunctory tune. Kaadhal oru kattukkadhai rides largely on a catchy musical hook, while Andrea’s diva-act helps Oru koappai‘s intoxicating tune, with a corny public service message inserted mid-way! In Paavangalai, Mukesh, Senthildass and Yuvan deliver an old-worldly Muslim devotional song with adequate piety. Taramani’s lighter tracks work better than the moody, serious ones.

Keywords: Taramani, Yuvan Shankar Raja

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

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