What’s Music Doc? Tere Bin

I have been fence sitter when it comes to the song or no song debate, I jump sides often (ya it’s me) . My reasons for this are grounded in the hours and hours of political news coverage by national and regional channels. “Issue based support” being the correct phrase, if you please.

This song from Wazir definitely deserves a WMD post.

tere-bin-story_647_120415045355

I do not know if anything else from Wazir deserves writing about, ok that was quite rude.

You can’t get always what you want, so my dream of ‘seeing’ the songs ONLY along with the film is more than always killed. Technically the songs should ONLY work in the boundaries of the film, yeah the song might be great, composed with a mind that has been aided by the hands of the divine or verses that have been taken right from the surface of a calm lake.

All that is ok, but what is the song doing in the movie, yaar?

Wazir has this genius level intro song, there is no prelude to this introduction(prelude to the introduction a? ennada solre), you have no idea who the characters are and there is no associated speak or visual cues for us to identify with; in other words Bejoy Nambiar was on a ‘wing and a prayer’ (we like to use phrases, kid writers we be) when he begins his film on loss of kids masquerading as a thriller with the absolutely wonderful ‘Tere Bin’

Shot in enjoyable slow motion, which although seems forced at the very beginning comes to its own being towards the end of the song; ever since I heard the song I had wanted to see it and ever since I have seen it, I can now never forget it. Which is success in a way.

But I’ll tell you what real success is, these flash backs are one irksome lot in movies, but the thing is most dramatic films can’t do without them, they lend character to the characters, essentially these are parcels of emotions which make us realize the motivations and why a certain character is behaving in a certain way at present. And this takes up a lot of screen time and when done badly makes you wish you were never born.

In 3 minutes Wazir establishes what most movies take a good part of the ‘first quarter of the post interval’ phase (hehe not that technically, buddy), there are no scenes as to how Daanish (Farhan Akhtar, a disoriented ATS officer) and Ruhana (a very oriented Kathak-ist? played by Aditi Rao Hydari) meet, there are no scenes of their courtship period (this being a Delhi film would have been shot in Humayun’s Tomb etc),there are no scenes to show each doting on the other, how their firstborn was cherished like little Simba and how love was so much part of their family like most Bollywood families tend to be; but all this is there in the song ya. ( director laughs like Blofeld who has plans to take over the world but doesn’t know Bond is lurking somewhere in the shadows)

And all this is very necessary for the audience to feel the weight of child loss when the kid is killed a few minutes later in a rather umm ‘This-is-not-supposed-to-happen-now’ moment (OK I spoiled that for you), so now you see that this is a genius move to open with a song that adds something to your movie and more importantly, doesn’t eat up time. Do not know if it will work every time, but here it did!

While Shreya Ghoshal and Sonu Nigam take you through the lives of the protagonist and family, couldn’t help wondering if these moments are like those carefully selected photos that are seen on facebook, highlighting the happy moments, even more stressing to the general populace that happiness is abound. ALWAYS.

But is it?

That’s for another post. but if only Wazir had been quite as amazing as the song and used judiciously the time created by this number.

 

Yeah, here is the song. 

 

 

Advertisements

IT WAS SHOT HERE

An attempt to view Madras/Chennai through its songs          

 madras1

Who knows what type of day it would have been, but trust the Madras resident to come conclude that it would have been, like every day: a very hot one. The imaginative residents would have even got to the extent of picturing a sun burned and sweating exploring officer of the East India Company, pausing at this small and then insignificant sand bar on the Coramandel coast.

He could have gone further, but then he stopped.

The officer on duty was Francis Day, one of the neglected founding fathers of the city; the city they once called Madras and now we call Chennai. There are many tales as to why Day stopped here, it wasn’t even a natural harbor, so essential for the works of the company; the story of Madras is perhaps the most cinematic one; the one never told or explored by the dream spinners who now work in what widely circulated newspapers call Kollywood, a name which sounds so odd that you would like to say something nice after you mouth it.

But there has always been the beach, the coast that made the travelling Englishman stop has churned the memories of many a Tamil filmmaker. C.V. Sridhar often heralded as the first modern Tamil director shared Day’s enchantment and used to write all his scripts on the Marina and would shoot at least one scene there, his classic comedy Kadhalikka Neramillai (No time for love) was set entirely in the southern mountain retreat of Chinnamalai but that couldn’t prevent Sridhar from shooting this opening song on the sunny beach overlooking the Madras University, it is one of the most happiest openings in Tamil film and Sridhar’s sentiment with the Marina would continue all through, not far away a bridge named after a 19th century city Governor Francis Napier, the distinctly red lighthouse and the Indo-Saracenic architecture of the university buildings has also served countless location managers, the stretch of the Marina would be the most exploited, mostly for songs providing walking space for leading couples to ad lib while the composer’s music played out.

When the Marina is used, can Elliot’s be far behind; the city’s second favorite hangout has an added advantage of having a cenotaph to decorate the panoramic shots.

 

I do agree that there has been repetition in the Madras that appeared in songs; after all there can only be so many places of interest, so we can afford to forgive Mani Ratnam (who incidentally has a company called Madras talkies) for using the Chennai Museum complex for a dance recital and as a court-house. He famously used the college of Engineering for the same, but that is another matter.

 

Repetition too has some beauty, but that lies in the mind of the reciter,  a song which begins with a sombrero wearing Manorama aptly titled Madrasa Sutti Paaka Poren (I am going to see Madras)is your quickest guide to the city, even makes fun of Lord Ripon after whom the Corporation headquarters is named; the same year (1994) also came Shankar’s Kadhalan (Lover)a song which quickened the pulse of a nation and also managed to capture Prabhu Deva taking over Madras from the top of distinctive green buses while people watch, mesmerized from the sides of the High Court and the LIC buildings, which I should take time to mention as Chennai’s Empire state, it is not much, but still it is ours.

Staying on the topic of LIC building as a symbol of the city, for years that umm…modest skyscraper and the Central Railways station has been used to the change in setting of any film, from the village to the big bad city; going to Pattinam(as Madras was called in the villages then) was considered an ill act.

Here in B&W Madras, the villager ponders over skyscrapers and how irresponsible the citizens are, the trend continues to this day; in a time where Tamil Cinema is moving southward to the raw rustic surroundings of Madurai and elsewhere; Chennai is often seen as a city of IT professionals who live fake lives and always speak English to the uneducated.

But the city silently bears all that, waiting for that rare moment where even the immigrants;  these protectors of Tamil culture pause for a moment and realize what a ladder this city has been for them, on the other hand new blood from the city have not been silent as they had to deal with inter-zonal conflicts; eternally dividing the city into one of the haves and the have-nots; after all which city does not have boundaries.

But what many cities do not posses is a tongue of its own, rumored to have borrowed equally from English, Tamil, Sanskrit and Hindi, perhaps even German (who can say) is the Madras Baashai, no Tamil film attains completeness without a Zaam Bazzar Jaggu having his bichua knife ready to slice or singing songs on the banks of the foul-smelling holy Cooum: our ever unclean-able.

But how can I finish with the Cooum, so I return one last time to the cool Marina where it all began. Sivaji Ganesan here walks past innocently in search of a better tomorrow where his majestic statue now stands; a merger of worlds of sorts.

The clips in this document is far from complete, but have been assembled to give a fleeting glimpse of the city, many great songs and sites have been left behind and there are still many corners in the city to be explored and filmed, for who would have thought that the famous banyan tree in the Theosophical Society would have given ample shade to silent lovers or that a gully cricket match between the RA Puram Sharks and the Royapuram Rockers would mete out an amusing tale, if not for cinema. We will wait.

For mine is a laid back coastal city, till only recently sprouting signs of competing with the hustle of its colleagues; but somehow maintaining the warmth and air of welcome, I have never been anywhere else; but I have always been welcome at home. Maybe that is what made Francis Day stop, he probably felt home.

LOVE AND LONGING IN ALWARPET

It is quite evident now that I am quite obsessed with the song; the repeat count alone going into a few hundreds, so I ask you not to trust me on this endeavor. I am probably up to no good.

 Image

Songs in the Tamil film occupies a curious position, having had it all along, it looks colorless without it and having too much of it only hinders the movement of story. For all the talk about having to do away with songs so that we can stand on shoulder with our western counterparts only seem to be the stand of a schoolboy trying to get into a gang.

In a recent discussion on television, a director professed that he is ashamed to show his films abroad because that would involve explaining on why do the characters break into the song and dance, it seemed so bizarre to the audience there.

Most Indians are brought up by film songs, with a near absent independent music scene and when classical music seems too far to touch, it is this goddess of film music which reaches its hands to the fallen Indian, quenching thirst and providing some kind of peace.

Quite unusual for a spy thriller, but quite usual for the Indian film, Vishwaroopam begins with flamboyant song and dance and it is a song that has had my attention ever since I heard Kamal announce it one afternoon on TV, obviously it is a trick.

Trick because you can argue quite well on both sides, whether there is a song because he is a kathak dancer or because there is a song he (Kamal) played the dancer; but the simplest answer is because Kamal loves to sing and dance and if cinema is culmination of all arts, might as well.

But it is to the nearest perfect lyrics that I want to draw attention; Kamal has been much ignored as a lyricist; for who would have imagined that a black-shirt- wearing- Periyar-rational-thought speaker wrote the lyrics for this fantastical devotional song.  Kamal of course chooses to call this just a love song.

Like all moving love songs, this is a song of longing and disappointment; it is the careful use of sadness which brings out the happiness in the song set to tune for dancing legs of course; it is a song that had made me sit in wonder for many nights at stretch and that too without the involvement of Ilayaraaja.

Kamal manages to summon the steadfast waiting of the Alwars, complete with Nayika Bhavam (when the Alwar transforms into the wailing lady in waiting, for Krishna)

In longing, all is not what it seems;

Not even the daily sky is permanent, nor do the warm dreams give me comfort

The Alwars were lyrical madmen(and woman) so immersed in Bhakti, that which gives them their collective name; constantly failing to differentiate between here and there, real and unreal and sometimes rejecting both in favor of disappointment through which they finally hope to get some kind of temporary respite. In effect, it is the longing for the lord which provides them with smallish ecstasy; but the sadness that longing will ever remain as longing plunges them into more sorrow.

It is a brilliant line, something I fail to understand how Kamal’s rational mind penned down; the song uses many such uneven dualities like the Krishna who removed the sleep from the sleepless eyes (!) or the  man who swallowed the world, French kissed me; alluding also to Kamal’s notorious past image of being the original onscreen kisser.

Maybe it is unfair to make comparisons to the Alwars of yore, but he isn’t asking for comparisons; it is an imitation that will make me seek the original canon.  

* People who are interested in stray coincidences will note that Kamal Haasan somehow manages to reside in a Madras locality curiously called Alwarpet.