Thursday, June 14, 2007

Music Review- Awarapan (2007)

Cross border friendship between India and Pakistan is something we have all been yearning for. I would say in no other field has it been as successful as in the music industry. From Junoon to The Call we have been mesmerized by their style of music which is a delightful blend of Sufi, Qawwali and good old Rock. The music of Awarapan stands as a tribute to their contribution; lets hold our breath here; as ALL the songs are Pakistani originals which are rearranged by our very own Pritam.

First up on the list, we have Toh Phir Aao sung by newcomer Mustafa Zahid. Newcomer is a rather false title to be given to this talented lad, as he is the lead singer of the Pakistani rock band called Roxen. Toh Phir Aao, visits the album in three avatars. The Toh Phir Aao (Original) is a beautiful masterpiece of the band Roxen. Sung magnificently by Mustafa Zahid, he takes us through a ride of high voltage mushy romance with good aid from lyricist Sayeed Quadri. Toh Phir Aao (Lounge Version) bags total credits to Pritam to show what a music arranger can actually do. He takes the same tune and lifts it into a very ambient realm with some amazing synth sounds and accompaniments.

The next song in the album is again by Mustafa Zahid, and this time he comes up with Tera Mera Rishta. In first listen it is a very ordinary kind of tune with some very Chinese instrumentals backing it up. But give it a second or a third and you can sense the singing of Mustafa taking you over. The way he sings the title part of the song itself is worth every second of the song transformed into solid gold. Guys, do try singing this song and you can see why the rendition is especially difficult. Two down and the album is already worth your greens. But wait, we have more.

Playback singers sometimes go rather unappreciated. They need to have more than just a good voice and faultless pitch. This is evident in the song Mahiya which is sung by Suzanne and another version (which is also a DJ Suketu Remix) sung by Annie. Annie is the original artiste of this song and it goes to show how much of infectious charm and energy she has put into it. I personally find most of the Hindi and Tamil songs which has English lyrics interspersed to be rather annoying. But this one is a welcome break, as it is cute. It is strawberry candy cute. It has a very catchy and fast paced tune, with lyrics singing about a girl who’s waiting for her Prince Charming (yes, Emraan Hashmi with a horse’s mane). The lyrics effortlessly move from English to Hindi. Arrangement-wise there is not much difference between the original and the remixed version, but I would go for the remixed version any day so that Annie’s rendition brings a smile to your face.

Maula Maula is a very traditional Qawwali song which has some very bare minimum accompaniments. Its rendered in the usual full throated Qawwali style by Rafaquat Ali Khan. A very situational number, Maula is a break from the power packed track list found in the album till then. Nevertheless it is a must listen for the Qawwali lovers amongst us.

Like all hindi movie albums, this one also has its set of remixed versions. The remix of Toh Phir Aao is easily the best in the pack with DJ Suketu packing in the beats for this otherwise very emotional number. The remix is a decent one, but thanks to the innate energy packed in the original number, this is one song that will be seen moving to the top of the charts soon. The slickly shot promo video for this song which features the band Roxen, Emraan Hashmi and DJ Suketu, ensures that this song will become a rage pretty soon, if not already. The other remix we have in the album is that of Tera Mera Rishta. With some offbeat English vocals, this remix really cannot do justice as a floor burner. It sticks more or less to the original tempo of the song and really cannot drive you to dance. Again, it’s the beauty of the original that holds it on for this particular remix as well.

To summarise it all, Pakistani music is what Himesh’s should have been. The tone, construction and ambience of almost all the Pakistani artistes are remarkably similar. But somewhere in there lies a very pure musical form which never makes us really tired of it. We had Junoon doing it for us in 1998s, Strings in the 2000s and with Awarapan, it definitely looks like Pakistani artistes have established their foothold in Indian Music Industry, and that too for the good of all of us.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Blind Man's Wall

There is this movie in Malayalam called Guru. It stars regional superstars Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi in some of their different bests. The movie is a very personal favourite of mine as it shows the problems faced by mankind in a very offbeat kind of visual analogy.

The movie is all about how human beings have lost its inner being to external influences like religion and end up killing each other. They don’t realize the existence of the inner being and refuses to believe in it. This might be a rather complex idea to convey through a movie. But what the movie does is to send the protagonist, Raghu, into a fantasy land where everyone is blind from birth.

Raghu knows the reality, that there is another sense called sight, and that everything around you has a colour and a visual shape that you have to see.

But how will anyone ever get convinced about something which’s existence they are oblivious to from birth. They see Raghu as a threat to their existence but decide to give him a test to prove if he actually has sight. All he has to do is to identify a person in front of him without touching him. Simple you might think, but it wasn’t so; and this is the philosophy from the movie that had the most profound effect.

The man who Raghu has to identify is behind a wall. Raghu being chained to a post has no way of identifying the man, but what is even worse; he cannot explain anyone his failure. What is obstruction of vision to someone who doesn’t know what vision is? How do you explain it to them? Imagine how much sense it would make to you if someone says there are things you cannot see through, when you actually don’t have a clue about what seeing is.

This is not the essence of the movie but forms a very hard hitting part of the movie. The same philosophy can be used for many a subject in our world.

We are sometimes so used to mediocre things in our life that we become oblivious to good taste. Many a money minded businessman takes our lack of good choice to shove things down our throat or through our brain which we might not actually need.

Our lack of a drastic change of perception is taken for granted. We get so used to mediocrity in our daily life, we cannot just tolerate it when someone comes to us and says what you are having is no good. There are better things, it is totally different, it is this! You look at it and you think, its different, but is it better? Your judgement becomes totally controlled by the fact that a change, that too major one in your fundamentals and choices, doesn’t really account to something better.

I have to wash my hands clean before going further with the discussion to say that, opinions are very subjective. What is good or bad is totally upto the person. But what we should not do, is to NOT try seeing the other side of the picture. When you say something is good, just see how it can be bad as well. Whatever outweighs the other will emerge the clear winner.

The above statement is true for all the art forms. I agree, art is very difficult to be judged, because it depends on one’s taste. But mediocrity in art forms are there for everyone to see. When we don’t expect too much, the world takes advantage of it and shoves mediocrity into you through popular art.

Take music for instance, we are treated to the Himesh Reshamiyya for ages now. I know I have gotten tired of his sound. And I know many others have as well. But the people who pay him for his songs think that we will take it. And somewhere, it seems, his music is taken by people. I try to judge his music from the other side. I try my best to like it.

In the end I come up with the conclusion that the music is mediocre, his sound is irritating and overall everything is just so repetitive.

This is just an example. For us to like or not like Himesh’s music is a simple choice. But what when it comes to your making a choice as to what is good or otherwise, on something you have believed to be a part of you for a long time; for such a long time that you really cannot think outside of it. That’s where I feel the real effort should come into play.

Why don’t we open our perception on anything and everything so as to see both sides of it. I am writing this blog thinking that writing down my thoughts help me identify with myself. Lets try to say for sure that it is bad. Writing is bad! I know it sounds drastic and probably is not true. But there can be places where the other side which you have so seldom seen might prove to better in the long run of things.

I didn’t have the novel ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand in my head when I started writing this. But once I finished, it seems, that’s all what Ayn Rand had tried to convey through her book. Struggle for believing in something and facing the odds of the world to show that what you take for granted right now need not be the best, there can be better things out there. THERE ARE BETTER THINGS OUT THERE. Why don’t we just open ourselves are try to see everything.

Every single vision have multiple perceptions. Every object can be viewed from an infinite number of angles. Every problem have many different solutions. There is nothing linear in this world, except for maybe the linearity of life. But never is there anything called linearity of choices. Choose, choose different. Choose the unthinkable. You really wouldn’t know where the correct choice might be. Let us break the wall that hides us all from a truth which is out there; a truth which might be blurred or hidden, but a truth that nevertheless, is there.