Sunday, October 07, 2007

My Favorite Film Song Videos

Admittedly, the idea for the post is borrowed from an old Naachgaana poll, and also from one of Qalandar's recent posts, the main difference here being that I am not sticking to Hindi movies, except for the exceptional ones. Here they are, some of my favorite film song videos, in no particular order.

Ek Ladki ko.. from 1942: A Love Story

RD Burman's swansong, and a great video befitting the sheer magic of the song. Manisha looked almost ethereal here; in fact, let me go out on a limb, and say that there's never been a song where a heroine has looked as beautiful. Moreover, Kumar Sanu, thankfully, has curbed his nasal instincts here. The fact that R.D.Burman had been out of sorts for a long while, and that he seemed to have conjured up a score on par with his best (and that's saying a lot) just before his demise contributes to the legend of this song too. Its an instant classic.

Narumugaye... from 'Iruvar'

Mani Ratnam was one of the first Indian directors who made the filming of songs a work of art. Prior to Ratnam, picturizing a song simply meant a dozen costume changes for the hero & heroine, a dozen skimpily clad women in the backdrop shaking their asses, and more often than not, a passing shower to conveniently drench the heroine. The advent of Ratnam and like-minded directors changed all that to a large extent. 'Iruvar' (The Duo), although a cropper at the B.O, is generally acknowledged as Ratnam's best work till date, and a milestone in Mohanlal's career - and considering the body of work both these thespians have built up, that's a truly remarkable. This song shows how serene, indeed how tranquil, B&W songs can be if done the right way. The song also builds up the relationship between Anandan (Mohanlal) and Pushpa (Aishwarya Rai, in her debut vehicle, and also probably her best performance till date), at the same time establishing the era of film-making using the shooting of the film-song.

Kanneer Poovinte... from 'Kireedom'

If ever there was a heartrending movie, then this is it. Narrating the tale of a son whose life goes astray after he is forced to take cudgels on his father's behalf, 'Kireedom' (Crown) brings a lump to the throat of anyone who has seen the movie, for its characters are so endearing, indeed so ordinary, that one cannot but help commiserate with them when theirs lives unravel. Remade in Hindi as 'Gardish' and in Tamil by the same name, a single telling glance by Mohanlal in this song (when his fiancee is being married off to another) easily outclasses entire performances by the other actors.

Sundari Neeyum... from 'MMKR'

MMKR, undoubtedly one of the best products of the Singeetham-Kamal-Crazy combination, is also one of the strongest contenders for the funnest Indian movies of all-time. It features the awesome track Sundari Neeyum... composed by Ilaiyaraja and sung by Kamal himself (in another language- Malayalam, to boot), with astounding vocal control. Contrary to public perception, this (and not Farah Khan's Pehla Nasha...) is the first song to be filmed entirely in slow-motion. Kamal's and Urvasi's characters here (Kameswaran and Tirupu Sundari, respectively) are incredibly endearing, and the whole song captures their simple dreams so well.

Devasabhathalam... from 'His Highness Abdullah'

'His Highness Abdullah' marked Mohanlal's entry into film production. It was a light-hearted movie that is still fondly remembered for its music, and a wonderful performance by Nedumudi Venu. The music, which is still fondly remembered, was by the brilliant music director Raveendran, fondly and reverentially refered as Raveendran-maashu. Each song in this movie is special, not least for the ease with which Mohanlal enacted them on screen. Not many actors can perform Carnatic / Hindustani songs convincingly on screen, and among the ones who can, Mohanlal easily rules the roost (for 'Morning Raaga', Shabana Azmi used to see this movie and 'Bharatham' as references). In fact, I am pretty sure that Priyadarsan has not copied this movie only because there are not many actors who can carry off songs like these. In this particular song, Mohanlal unwillingly clashes against a musical maestro (played by lyricist Kaithapram) in an awesome raagamalika.

Pachai Niramae... from 'Alaipayuthey'

A Mani Ratnam video again. Here, the picturization mimics the colorful lyrics in what is a virtual explosion of colors. Shaad Ali's 'Saathiya' mimicked the dance steps and the tune alright, but not the seamless union of lyrics and camera work that this video so effortlessly managed.

Maanam Thelinje Ninnal... from 'Thenmavin Kombathu'

This video is probably Priyadarsan's 'tribute' to some obscure Rajasthani folk song, but it works, and how! The catchy song (which owes its remixed existence to an old Ilaiyaraja tune), the sets and the awesome cinematography all contribute to this song being one of the best-shot Malayalam film songs.

Eeran Megham... from 'Chithram'

was probably the picture that catapulted Mohanlal to superstardom. This romantic tragedy directed by Priyadarsan ran for more than a year in Kerala, and made Mohanlal, who was until then merely popular, the heartthrob of thousands of women in Kerala. I know - looking at him today, it seems a little far-fetched to associate 'heartthrob' and Mohanlal in the same sentence. But take a look at him prancing around like the best of them in this song, and you'd know why. The girl in this song is Priyadarshan's wife today.

Chaiyya Chaiyya... from 'Dil Se'

Looking at it analytically, this is quite a dumb video - I mean, you have bunch of dancers dressed in what looks like Gujju attire grooving to a Punjabi song on a train that is going to Ooty. But then, the brains behind this song - Mani Ratnam, A.R Rahman, Gulzar , Sukhwinder Singh, Farah Khan and SRK - were at a crescendo of sorts, and their confidence / energy / adrenaline somehow seeps through into the song. Truly, even after listening / viewing the song umpteen times, even today, it gets your feet tapping. That is the magic of cinema for you.

Theme from 'Punnagai Mannan'

An outstanding BGM composed by maestro Ilaiyaraja, played on the keyboard by none other than A.R Rahman, and featuring the muti-faceted Kamal Hasan on screen, its no wonder that this 2-minute bit of music still lives on thru ringtones and mobile phones. Kamal Hasan, a trained classical dancer, apparently had a hard time getting the Western dance moves here, and had to undergo a lot of training and practice. Well, the results show!

Sundari... from 'Dalapathi'

This song features one of the best war sequences Indian cinema has ever seen, albeit in a setting reminiscent of the Japanese Samurai. Likening Surya's code of honor to that of the Samurai might be Mani's way of glorifying superstar Rajni in a movie that is remarkably short of Rajni's usual mannerisms. The evergreen tale of the king at war, and his beautiful queen who waits for him is the theme here, and Mani handles it beautifully. Moreover, the whole song is shot in the golden hues of sunrise or sunset, befitting a re-telling of the legend of Karna, son of the sun-god.

On a lighter note, poor Rajni's various hairstyles in this song must have contributed in no small vein to his current bald condition!

Kanmani... from 'Guna'

The tale of the deranged Guna who kidnaps his Abhirami could not make a dent at the the box-office. However, a decade later, the movie and its music is hailed as a classic. The other awesome BGM piece from the same movie almost edged out another entry in this list. The almost maniacal love that Guna exhibits toward his prisoner, and his claims that his love is so pure that is almost holy are all accentuated by the lyrics, Ilaiyaraja's tune and BGM, and of course, Kamal's acting. The entire song is about the girl setting tune to Kamal's verse, a concept that has been done before, but never to such spectacular effect.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Arabikatha: Review

It was not that long ago that I lamented the apparent demise of Sreenivasan's talent. To the discerning viewer, his steady descent into mediocrity has been not only been alarming, but also more than a little sad. But with Arabikatha, Sreenivasan proves that there are still avenues that he has not explored as an actor.

It has been a long time since Malayalam cinema has seen a good political movie. By 'good', I mean sensible movies that attempt to address real issues with a semblance of sense, not the ones where the so-called superstars spout pages of dialogue, often laced with expletives in multiple languages. To Venu Nagavalli's splendid 'Lal Salaam' and the Sathyan-Sreeni combo's delightful 'Sandesham', we can now add Lal Jose's 'Arabikatha' too.

'Cuba' Mukundan (Sreenivasan) is an earnest Communist party-worker , whose life is completely in tune with the ideologies preached by the party. His earnestness, however, ruffles the feathers of industrial bigwig Kunjunni (Jagathy, in yet another 'avatar') and upcoming part leader Karunan. Mukundan's naiveness makes him an easy target, and against his misgivings, he is forced to leave for Dubai. Arabikatha traces the journey of Mukundan from here on.

Dubai tests Mukundan in a way nothing in his hitherto life has prepared him for. Bourgeois CEOs call the shots here, and working / living conditions are pathetic. There is not much scope for protests either, as Mukundan finds out the hard way. Misled by friends, and cheated by the ones he comes to depend on, Mukundan learns the lessons of life the hard way. Three years later, the premature grey in Mukundan's moustache hints at the kind of hardships he has had to endure. A rather botched-up climax later, all's well that ends well, as they say.

Sreenivasan is the life and soul of this movie. There are the trademark digs at the Malayali's psyche, and a couple at the outdated ideologies of the Communist movement, yes. But what sets this performance apart from his latest ventures is that there is no attempt at buffoonery of any kind. Sreenivasan plays Mukundan straight, shorn of all his usual mannerisms, and comes out with what probably is a career-best performance. Toward the end, the amount of weariness and worldly wisdom he conveys is just right, and one can't help but root for the protagonist.

Lal Jose, along with Blessy, is one of the few filmmakers who's name carries with it the assurance of good cinema ('Rasikan' and 'Pattalam' were but minor aberrations, hopefully). He doesn't let one down here either. Great placement of scenes, a complete avoidance of slapstick comedy (though I wish he'd avoided Salim Kumar too, he's a misfit in the proceedings here), and most of all, the brilliance of casting Sreenivasan in the title role when a 'safe' choice like Jayaram / Dileep would have worked at the B.O too - all these aspects deserve praise of the highest order. Lal Jose is one of the few directors who's been successful in creating successfull and good commercial cinema without resorting to the 2 Ms, and he succeeds on all fronts here too. 'Arabikatha' is another feather in his cap.

Verdict: Eminently watchable.