Thursday, July 3, 2008

Listening Guru


A.R.Rahman has won all possible Bollywood awards for his background score in Guru. Other movies of 2007 which had competent background scores are Cheeni Kum (Illayaraja), No Smoking (Hitesh Sonik and Clinton Cerejo), Blue Umbrella (Vishal Bharadwaj), Johnny Gaddar (Daniel B.George), Saawariya (Monty) and Taare Zameen Par (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy). Being aware of the way these bollywood awards work, it is quite obvious and understandable why none of the other competent scores won in this category.

When accepting the Filmfare award for Best Background Score in Guru, Rahman said that background score is like an ornament which enhances the beauty of a film and he thanked Maniratnam for making such a beautiful film. And that is true in a sense that what made Guru to win over all other movies in this category is the visual material in Guru that provides ample space for the background music. Background score in Guru fills a deliberate void created by Maniratnam for Rahman to fill in wherever required. It is very evident from the very first scene of the movie, which opens with the older Gurukanth Desai talking about dreams and in which every line of his monologue is punctuated with the music of Rahman and poetry of Gulzar.

The preludes, interludes and the melody of the songs from the movie soundtrack are used in bits and pieces as a part of the background score. The coda of the song ‘mayya mayya’ is cleverly put as the background score of opening credits. The romance and union of Guru and Sujatha is aided with beautiful phrases of melody from the song ‘Ai hairathey yashiqi’ and slower version of ‘dham dhara’. A beautiful Shehnai piece that leads to this ‘dham dhara’ theme underlines the excitement of Sujatha when Guru agrees to take her along with him to Bombay. And the melody of ‘Barso re’ played so subtly with soft guitar strains, sounds so effective for the longing of Sujatha, when in the railway station, she requests Guru to take her to Bombay along with him.

The high decibel choir version of ‘Jaage hain’ is used when Guru goes to Turkey but I thought it should have been used when he returns to India, because that is when he actually starts dreaming big. Yet, cinematically, the spirited choir piece matches so well with the sudden relief, the freedom, and the liberty that young Guru feels at that moment and injects a fresh life into the visuals that makes a sudden shift from deep interior Indian village to Turkey. After the Turkey episode, ‘Jaage hain’ turns into a sort of a personal and emotional theme of Guru and aids to gain the audience’s sympathy for Guru. Jaage Hain (Flute), Jaage Hain (Piano), Jaage Hain (Kids).

Guru’s rebellious spirit, his business moves, his victories and confrontations with his enemies are enhanced by the energetic groove of ‘Gurubhai Gurubhai’ theme. The best usage of the theme is when Guru replies as ‘tha nahi, hey, aur rahegha, Gurukanth Desai’, when the contractor asks his name. The starting of the piece is precisely timed and so it immediately heightens the stature of Guru’s character in audience’s mind. Another scene where it is used in quite effectively is when Guru asks the people from justice department to come prepared for the inquiry. Lying in the bed, Guru slowly lifts his hand like saying a goodbye and the ‘Gurubhai gurubhai’ theme starts. Quite a formulaic timing but works big time in this scene.

Guru’s raise as a business tycoon has got a heroic trumpet theme. Though it appears first in the scene where Guru announces about opening a textile factory, it is played in its entirety when that shot zooms out to show Guru standing and looking at the building plan of his new factory in the middle of a vast landscape and it continues for the quick shots and photo shoots that follow to establish his enormous growth.

Meenu’s theme is cute, playful and beautiful. I am not talking about the additional song ‘Shaku hai’ here, which doesn’t work for me as Shyam and Meenu subplot itself didn’t gel quite well with the rest of the movie. By Meenu’s theme, I mean the staccato strings theme used to establish the relationship between Guru and Meenu. It appears first when Guru presents a saree to little Meenu. It is also used much later when Guru visits Meenu’s house and gets surprised by seeing Shyam in there as Meenu’s husband.
The Thapar commission inquiry scenes have synth and electronic sounds that matches with the urgency of Rajiv Menon’s camera. One thing I don’t like in Rahman’s background score is the use of Gregorian chants. It is used in the pre-interval scene where Shyam confronts and challenges Guru. While the concept and idea of starting with utmost subtlety and gradually increasing the volume level is good to underline the slowly tension between the two, the actual sound sounds alien.

Also there is one scene where Rahman misses timing, it isn’t big fault and most of us wouldn’t even notice it. It is in the scene in which the Contractor asks Guru to play golf. The funny part of the scene starts only when Guru picks the ball, walks and puts the ball in the hole, but the music starts even while Guru starts to think about how to put the ball in the hole. So it would have been much better if the music was put exactly when Guru picks the ball and starts to walk.

Though ‘Guru’ is not the best of Maniratnam-A.R.Rahman duo, Rahman has done enough justice to Maniratnam’s visual material with his background score.


8 comments:

maduraiveeran said...

This is a fantastic review for a great BGM. I reached your blog from "In a deep trance" blog. You have a fantastic blog here, keep up the good job. I have always wondered why film producers do not sell background scores as soundtracks like how Hollywood does. I think they should start doing that. I love the Background scores, but have no way of acquiring those pieces alone.

Aakarsh said...

Nice review..would like to see Cheeni Kum's review as well.

Suresh Kumar said...

Maduraiveeran - Thanks. And the trend is catching up now... though we still don't whether anyone will be interested in releasing bGm's of old movies

Suresh Kumar said...

Aakarsh - Thanks. Cheeni kum has great BGM, I will definitely have to do it...

Muthuvel said...

About Shauk Hai, I thought that was the best track of 'Guru'. Opinion differs.

Offtopic: The Singaaravelan title music discussed in this blog sometime before, I discovered is a re-use of Raja's 'Song of Soul' track from his album 'Nothing But Wind', flute performed by Hariprasad Chaurasia.

Muthuvel said...

BTW... have sent you a mail to ur ursmusically id.

teja boppana said...

nice analysis...

Prabhath said...

You could have mentioned about the track that plays when the contractor offers a blank cheque to Gurubhai in the scene just after the intermission. This one deserves a mention too....