Saturday, January 24, 2009

Flashback: A.R. Rahman

Not as much as I would have thought. May have taken his greatness somewhat for granted.

Sat, 22 Jun 2002

The English lyrics in the A.R. Rahman song score for Bombay Dreams produce an odd effect. Not quite as off-putting as the "I'm in love" chorus in Lagaan, but almost. If Hindi was our first language, would the lyrics in most Bollywood film songs seem this ungainly? I tend to think not. Both of the core languages of Bollywood, Hindi and Urdu, are famously well suited to poetry, and by long tradition the leading writers of film song lyrics (from Sahir Ludhianvi to Javed Ahktar) have been published poets of some renown. Hard to imagine Don Black's lyrics appearing in book form; it's sub-Rod McKuen doggerel at best. The great danger here is that Rahman (whose music is as wonderful as ever) will now be booted out of the cool group by the world music gatekeepers. Nothing like working with Andrew Lloyd Webber to make a person uncool by association.

Sun, 23 Jun 2002

[Tulkinghorn] has pointed out an additional problem with Bombay Dreams. A.R. Rahman's music characteristically has a gliding, sensuous flow, into which vocalists in the subtly modulated Indian tradition (which I don't even really know how to describe) blend effortlessly. This can be confirmed by listening to either of Rahman's most recent soundtrack releases, for Mani Rathnam's Kannathil Muthamittal (A Peck on the Cheek) or Rajkumar Santoshi's The Legend of Bhagat Singh (both Tips, 2002). The full-throated belting favored by musical theater performers like those in Bombay Dreams cuts through the beautifully woven shawl of sound like a knife. It could be that the problem with this show is that the two performance styles, the Western and the Eastern, have simply been plunked down side by side on the stage, without the adjustments or compromises being made on either side that might have produced a coherant hybrid.

Bollywood in Naperville
Mon, 28 Feb 2005

I was interviewed recently by a suburban Chicago newspaper for this story about the proliferation of neigborhood Bollywood video outlets. The enthusiastic writer, Josh Larson, suggests that as the Indian diaspora continues to disperse, Hindi cinema will be an increasingly familiar feature of the American landscape. In the Los Angeles area, Artesias's Little India is no longer the whole story. There are now smaller NRI enclaves in Culver City, Koreatown, and Faircrest Heights, and throughout the San Fernando Valley. Bollywood movies are crowd pleasers to their fingertips and will always be able win over a solid percentage of the people who are exposed to them. If you can respond to a "discovery" article like Logan's by stepping around the corner to rent a subtitled DVD of Swades, a favorable outcome is inevitable.

A.R. Rahman’s anthemic theme for Swades, “Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera,” is my single favorite Bollywood film song in something like five years, edging out even Shankar-Eshan-Loy's bhangra-til-you-drop number Maahi Ve in Kal Ho Naa Ho. The song, like the movie it represents in microcosm, is something surprisingly big and moving assembled patiently, piece by piece and with great skill, from simple materials. If there is an Indian Sweets & Spices shop now in your neighborhood, both the DVD and soundtrack CD for Swades are only minutes away.

For the record, this was the very first HG blog post:
Wed, 19 Jun 2002

A pretty decent new horror film by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) is getting the straight-to-video bum's rush from Lion's Gate. Dagon is another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, in which a hideous race of inbred mutant amphibians has been smoothly relocated from New England to a fishing village in Spain. Even though Gordon settled (or was forced to settle) for an R rating this time out, his leading lady, Raquel Meroño, is a worthy successor to the unrated Barbara Crampton. I love this phrase I came across on a Spanish fan site devoted to Meroño: "esta chica de curvas vertiginosas."


c said...

I remember when I met you for the first time,in 2003/4 at the IFFLA giving you a mp3 cd-r with about 27 AR Rahman albums(I still have a copy lying around somewhere).

Later in your car the same day you played(showed off) your Mohd Rafi/ Shammi kapoor cd.

You were always a mohd rafi kind of a guy.

GoJoe said...

Gordon, if you ask me, has been on a roll since DAGON. If direct-to-video is the drive-in of today, then he is one of the few making exploitation movies worth paying attention to. His collaboration with Mamet deserved better than a token one-screen, one-week release but I guess that's how the cookie crumbles in today's marketplace.