Archive for A.R. Rahman

Qalandar Reviews O KADHAL KANMANI (Tamil; 2015)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2015 by Qalandar


EXCERPT: “And yet, by the end of O Kadhal Kanmani, I realized that I might have been missing the point of the film: Bombay, beautiful Bombay, in its real and cinematic avatars, appears to be the raison d’être of this film, and perhaps the most plausible kanmani on offer. Not for nothing does the film begin with Dulquer’s Aditya Varadarajan disembarking at CST/Victoria Terminus, and catching sight of Nithya Menon’s Tara, her image framed, de-stabilized, and finally obscured by passing trains in possibly the best train shots of even Ratnam’s long career. Indeed, over the course of the film the couple seems to meet more often in BEST buses and local trains than seems plausible for the iPad and iPhone wielding yuppies these two seem to be, and the reason is surely that O Kadhal Kanmani is Ratnam’s paean to a city that he loves, in the manner one loves a city one has discovered later in life, too late, that is, to take for granted. As with so many films from decades ago, the city’s lodestars are (apart from CST) the Gateway of India, the Worli sea-face, and the public transport system, each of these sites charged with years of not just social but cinematic meaning that made the experience of watching them on-screen moving in a way quite independent of the unfolding love story. The romance, in short, serves as backdrop to Ratnam’s representation of a city he clearly loves.”
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Music Review: MARYAN (Tamil; 2013)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2013 by Qalandar


In retrospect, albums like Delhi-6 seem to have inaugurated a mellow phase in A.R. Rahman’s career. The last few years have given us a number of albums (Kadal and Raanjhana the most recent of these) to confirm the impression that the master has, where the subject gives him rein, shifted gears: the qawwalis have become more reflective (contrast “Arziyan” (Delhi-6) with “Noor-un-Alaa” (Meenaxi) from a few years earlier); the love songs increasingly suffused with a murmuring longing (“Moongil Thottam” (Kadal)), and even a jazz bent (“Aaromale” (Vinaithaandi Varuvaaya)); the sounds a bit less ornate, but just as rich. Maryan is in this vein. It is leaner than Raanjhana (Rahman’s most recent Hindi composition), and if two of the lighter tracks are far more trivial than anything in the latter, at its best (which is to say in its four slower songs) Maryan is more reflective, almost unsettlingly so: you really miss it when the music stops playing. This is, quite simply, Rahman’s best Tamil album in years for any director not named Mani Rathnam. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews RAANJHANA (Hindi; 2013)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2013 by Qalandar


Over the last few years, my interest in contemporary Hindi films has plummeted; perhaps my move to Bombay has played a part in my diminished engagement, as no longing for home, no desperation for a whiff of its scent clouds my vision. Largely, though, it is a function of the increasing soullessness of the industry’s “mainstream” products (and the films are increasingly products rather than embodiments of a living tradition), and also because the “off-beat” films themselves are often formulaic, intellectually timid and irredeemably – there’s no other word for it – bourgeois once one gets past the edgy attitude. Old habits die hard, however, and I still end up watching many – I just don’t enjoy the experience as much as I used to, even if the thrill of anticipation as I find my seat in the hall and wait for the film to begin, hoping for trailers to delay the moment of gratification, and my willingness to give myself over to the experience (until the film itself jars me out of attentiveness first), remain the same. Through it all, very few films surprise me – and not in the sense of plot twists (I hardly ever guess those, being much more likely to live in the present of the scene before my eyes, as it were), but in the sense of taking me somewhere I hadn’t expected to go, or showing me a glimpse of something I hadn’t expected to see. That I expect these from cinema at all reminds me that I’m not yet jaded, merely disappointed.

Raanjhana surprised me. Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews ROCKSTAR (Hindi; 2011)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2011 by Qalandar

[Minor spoiler warning].


Early on in Rockstar, Khatana (Kumud Mishra), the resident sage of Delhi University’s Hindu College’s canteen, pooh poohs the musical ambitions of Janardhan Jakhar (Ranbir Kapoor): for Khatana, art is borne of suffering, and sorrow in turn of love and a broken heart. The callow Janardhan (who will in time be re-christened “Jordan”) promptly decides to fall in love with the next pretty girl he sees, with an artificiality the film knows better than to take seriously. I found myself chuckling at these scenes, reading in them director Imtiaz Ali’s send-up of a bourgeois misreading of Romanticism in the arts.

I was wrong: Imtiaz Ali was dead serious. His Jordan really can become, not only a musical success but even a genuine musical talent, only once he has loved and lost Heer (Nargis Fakhri). Not a trace of irony may be discerned here, and the result — a “rockstar” who might see “Free Tibet” signs at his concerts, but whose military fatigues and lyrics about “Sadda Haq” cannot hide the fact that there is no cause, no politics, nor even any social awareness here but a highly personal loss. Continue reading

Qalandar on RAAVANAN (Tamil; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by Qalandar


A post-script to my review of Raavan, in light of last night’s trip to New Jersey to watch Raavanan (the Tamil half of this bi-lingual):

The dialogues in the Tamil version are the biggest surprise — and offer the most intriguing glimpse into director Mani Rathnam’s vision. Several dialogues offering glimpses of the “backstory” are absent in the Hindi version, ranging from Continue reading

Qalandar Reviews RAAVAN (Hindi; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2010 by Qalandar


It doesn’t begin at the beginning, but, like a Greek epic, in the thick of things, by way of a jumble of images, from a serene Beera (Abhishek Bachchan) atop a cliff to policemen facing a road-block, to lust and ambush at a village fair, leading to a shocking image of men being burned alive, to, of course, to Ragini (Aishwariya Rai) in a boat, under threat from a larger vessel manned by Beera — framed against the sun, more silhouette than man. The cycle begins with Beera, and ends with him, and involves his contact with three of the traditional elements: earth, air, and water. As for the fourth — fire — that is Beera himself, as he himself suggests later on in the film when he is consumed and confused by his desire for Ragini. The succession of images, colors, and characters is determinedly non-linear: we all know the Ramayana, and so we know what must happen here, but the order (or lack thereof) unsettles our expectations. After five or more minutes of ravishment, its compression unequalled by any other sequence in director Mani Rathnam’s illustrious career (just about every principal theme is introduced in this overture, that must surely rank among Hindi cinema’s most memorable), the camera finds itself below the surface of the water, gazing up at the two boats nearing each other. At the moment of collision, debris (or is it blood?) drips onto the now black screen, as backdrop to the word “Raavan”, even as A.R. Rahman’s addictive “Beera” song navigates the darkness, illuminated only by print-like images of the title character.
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Qalandar Reviews VINNAITHAANDI VARUVAAYA (Tamil; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2010 by Qalandar


Gautham Menon isn’t my favorite director. Although I hugely enjoyed his Minnale (2001), that film didn’t have much of what later became recognizable as his style, a post-Mukull Anand, post-Agni Natchitharam chic marked by neo-Hollywood technical slickness and crisp lighting, whether in the service of police procedurals that began better than they ended (Kaakha…Kaakha (2003) or Vettiayadu Vilaiyaadu (2006)), or more domestic genres (Pachaikili Muthucharam (2007); Vaaranam Aayiram (2008). So I was hardly enthused when I heard Gautham was making a love story with Trisha Krishnan and Silambarasan in the lead (if there’s a hero I like less in Tamil cinema, I haven’t seen him). Until I heard Gautham had jettisioned long-time musical collaborator Harris Jayaraj in favor of working with A.R. Rahman. And saw stills from the film, featuring a hero I was assured was “Simbu”, but who looked nothing like him. Clearly, Gautham was returning to the love story genre of his first film from 2001, but didn’t want to tread old ground.
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Qalandar’s Music Review: RAAVAN (Hindi; 2010)

Posted in the good with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by Qalandar

The music of “Raavan” — supposedly a modern day re-telling of The Ramayana — wasn’t what I was expecting. Instead of a self-contained album confining itself to the world of the film like several other collaborations between composer A.R. Rahman and director Mani Rathnam (such as “Alai Payuthey”, “Yuva”, or “Kannathil Muthamittal”), this album hearkens to the music of the greatest Rathnam film of all, “Iruvar”, in its anthologizing of almost an entire film music tradition. But whereas Rehman’s mode in “Iruvar” was history, with each song representing a different Tamil film era (Rehman’s genius ensuring that none of the songs seemed derivative or stale, as merely nostalgic numbers would have), the “Raavan” album cannot imagine such continuity: the Hindi film musical tradition is here, but in shards as it were. Continue reading

Qalandar’s Music Review: BLUE (Hindi; 2009)

Posted in the good with tags , , on September 12, 2009 by Qalandar

Outright fun, not to mention silliness, has long been a casualty of A.R. Rahman’s recent Hindi oeuvre. Unlike in Tamil, Rahman simply hasn’t done very many soundtracks for “ordinary” Hindi films of late. That is, the typical Rahman Hindi album this decade has been a Swades or a Jodha-Akbar, or a Delhi-6 — not a Rangeela or a Daud. The last year might well be the beginning of a shift, with Ghajini, and now Blue. No song in either album will ever make a list of Rahman’s best, but equally, no-one can doubt that at their best, these albums feature a more playful Rahman, the sort of souffle-lover one missed in the likes of Jodha-Akbar. On the down-side, at its worst, the likes of Blue do give the impression of a composer who hasn’t lavished much care on his work. Luckily for us, the balance comes down on the side of buying the album.

Read the complete review HERE.