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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Listening Iruvar

Iruvar is quite a complicated movie to write background score for. Quite a lot of discussions might have happened on how the movie should sound, whether to go for a period sound with restrictions on usage of instruments and the type of music or to go for a more contemporary sound. But unlike the songs in which Rahman did a perfect balance of period and Rahman sound, the background score is mostly contemporary. Iruvar has one of the most innovative scores by A.R.Rahman. Though it is set in different times, the contemporariness of the score doesn’t sound odd or distracting when seen and heard with the visuals in the movie. A.R.Rahman has concentrated on the moods and the emotions in various stages of the lives of the two heroes and also the uniqueness of the characters that comes and goes into the lives of these heroes, and has created the main themes for the characters. And of course, A.R.Rahman cleverly identified the silent moments, where any little sound might have distracted the beauty of the visuals. Like that initial montage where there are random moments and shots showing how Aanandhan is trying hard to become a hero. The usage of silence in these moments is very effective. And the music appears first when

Aanandhan becomes a Hero – This is one of the defining moments of the movie which cleverly and beautifully hints what Aanandhan (Mohanlal) is going to become in future, the king of masses. As Aanandhan enters into the palace set, Rahman underscores the moment with a thematic piece played on some kind of horn or trumpet which has got the right sound of period in it and when he sits on the King’s chair, chords are introduced and slowly it gets Rahmanish with percussions and surprise twist of notes played on strings as Aanandhan plays with the big Sword. It is again played at the end when Aanandhan takes pledge as he officially takes the position of the chief minister of Tamilnadu. The theme which sounds so heroic in this happiest moment of Aanandhan is used exactly as it is, in another contrasting and tragic moment where Aanandhan’s first movie under production is stopped in the middle. The beauty of the theme is that it sounds very sad in this place; without any major change in the melody or tempo.

Iruvar Theme – Aanandhan and Tamizh Selvan (Prakash Raj) are given two different themes based on their characteristics. A soft guitar piece that is played, when Aanandhan cries for doing small police constable roles could be termed as the Aanandhan’s theme. It matches well with the persona of his character and also with his mood in some of the tragic moments of his life. On the contrary, for Tamizh Selvan, a revolutionist, there is no melody but a rhythm pattern on traditional drums that sound like turbulence or agitation inside fire. This piece is the most used one through out the movie. It appears first when Aanandhan asks Tamizh Selvan about what he would do to the country if his party wins. It is also used in a much lesser tempo, almost suppressing the whirl in the theme like how slowly Aanandhan suppresses Tamizh Selvan’s ego in a scene after the death of Ayya where Aanandhan asks the ministers to submit the details of their assets to the public to prove their purity.

Aanandhan - Pushpa marriage theme is a very pleasant melody with a mallu flavour. Both the flute and strings version sounds perfect for the marriage. The marriage of Aanandhan and Tamizh Selvan and the contrast in the way it happens is well conceived in the background without using any music for Tamizh Selvan’s marriage whereas there is a pleasant melody flowing in the background for Aanandhan’s marriage.

Ramani pleads – This is the only piece in the entire movie where Rahman uses the melody of the song for the background score. It starts with a cello and a sad solo violin piece which slowly transforms to the melody of “Poongodiyin Punnagai” song. It is a beautifully orchestrated piece and gels well with the scene where Ramani asks for shelter.

Kalpana Theme is pure rock stuff with notes on electric guitar sounding very mischievous, playful, modern and vibrant like that of Kalpana. This piece is used right at introduction scene of Kalpana and is more effective in the scene where Kalpana draws a mole on her hand.

Aanandhan – Kalpana Love theme – In Maniratnam movies, A.R.Rahman surprises by adding cute little songs in the background score and in this film it is this song which is very jazzy and sexy to listen to. Harini’s husky voice matches so well with longing and passion. It appears when Aanandhan first falls for her beauty on the top of a hill while talking about the difference between Kalpana and Pushpa and when she asks, “Athey kannu, athey mooku, athey Kaadhal varala?” and is more effective in the scene after Kalpana falls from the jeep, when Aanandhan and Kalpana are alone in a forest, unable to hide their feelings for each other.

Death Theme - The major theme of the movie is this death theme. It is kind of a semi classical alaap (I think it is Sriram’s voice) which is very emotional. Ironically, this going to be a sad theme is first used for a totally different situation in the movie. It is when Tamizh Selvan makes Aanandhan to realize his power and the control he has over the masses. When camera slowly moves along with Aanandhan from the top revealing the massive crowd, this alaap slowly appears and it is one of those rare moments in cinema where everything falls in place and the symphony of which moves you to tears. The alaap slowly transforms to the Aanandhan theme, the rhythmic drums sounding the unison of the duo with their hands rising together. It is also used for Velu Thambi Ayya’s (Naaser) death. The same theme is played on strings effectively for the hospital scenes after Aanandhan is shot with a gun and also in Aanandhan’s final procession.

Growing Animosity – This is a short piece with strings playing four repetitive notes in high tempo sounding the drift between Iruvar. This appears whenever their animosity is revealed directly to us. It appears in the scene when Aanandhan asks Tamizh Selvan to give him the Health Minister Seat, in the scene when Thamarai (Tabu) argues with Tamizh Selvan about his jealousy and fear and in almost every scene where the battle intensifies between the Iruvar in the final act of the movie.

An Ode to an Old friend – The final poetry of Tamizh Selvan for Aanandhan must be the most difficult part to write the score. Because, the emotions of Tamizh Selvan slowly builds and reaches a crescendo and so is the music. Though it is not brilliant, it is good and Rahman has pulled it off quite efficiently by joining the bits and pieces from various other themes and making it like a one piece of garland for Aanandhan’s final death procession. It starts with a mild female harmony, (this bit is actually used initially when Aanandhan effectively delivers a lengthy emotional dialogue for his first movie shooting), then it moves to a synth bass piece giving a tensed sound (that was used when injured Aanandhan was carried fast into a hospital in a stretcher) and then finally the strings take over to play the death theme along with the vocals singing the alaap.

There are some more music cues which I felt not at par. In the attempt of trying something very different Rahman falters at some places. The bit with percussion beats when Aanandhan first sees Kalpana closely in person and forgets his dialogues in the shoot. It sounds so odd, weird and it doesn’t match with Aanandhan’s emotion. Also the private moments of Tamizh Selvan with his wives don’t sound to give any meaning to the visuals or even as a stand alone track. It has got some mild female humming like an opera singer singing with less wavering in her voice. The female humming when Aanandhan yells to see the face of Pushpa in front of her grave is also not so effective. But as these pieces don’t make any damage to the visuals, it’s okay.

And, the correct Matches are 1-D, 2-A, 3-B, 4-E, 5-C