Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Listening Kadhal Konden
It is one of those few Tamil movies and the first one, the complete background score of which, was released after the movie's release. I don’t really know if Yuvan Shankar Raja’s background score was seriously noticed before "Kadhal Konden", at least I didn't. It also has got something to do with the director Selvaraghavan who with his subsequent movies proved that he is one of the few directors who understands the importance of music and especially the background score in movies. I picked to write on the background score of 'Kadhal Konden' because I was able to put this together without even watching the movie again. When I listen to the OST CD (which doesn't have a descriptive title given to each track) the scenes start to play out to its minutest details and emotions in my mind. Creating such an impact on the audience with the background score is difficult. Considering the track record of Yuvan’s 'inspirations', I am not sure whether the background score pieces used in this movie are genuine and original compositions of Yuvan but what is more important is that they fit every single frame of the movie to T.
“Kadhal Konden” is about the life of Vinoth who goes through a varied range of emotions. It demands a wide variety of sound in the background score to create a sound scape of Vinoth's varied moods and emotions. No single theme can bring in all these mixed feelings of a character. Yuvan has gone in for a variety of motifs, and it is good that no single theme is derived from the melodies of the songs in the movie. Furthermore, these background score pieces are also enjoyable as standalone tracks. But I want to emphasize that music, even if catchy, if not relevant to the scene and if it doesn't add that extra something to the emotions in the scene is of no help as background score material. In Kadhal Konden, each music piece has achieved its purpose by being such an inherent part of the movie experience and it goes far beyond from sounding just catchy. In his father’s style, Yuvan Shankar Raja has gone for a live orchestra with dominant usage of strings section, flute and piano to orchestrate these themes and this orchestral richness helps in enhancing the involvement of a viewer in the movie. Let us go on a sympathetic journey into Vinoth's life through Yuvan's score.
Vinoth’s happiness – This theme got released along with the songs - as “Kaadhal Konden theme” - even before the release of the movie. I thought Yuvan was going to use the same theme with different orchestration throughout the movie but fortunately, he didn't. As I told, every single scene or emotion of Vinoth has its own theme and its own pattern of development as the movie progresses. This theme is such a vibrant and enthusiastic piece with a peppy rhythm and tune that is perfectly in synch with how Vinoth feels after kidnapping Divya. He dances with so much joy and adding a thumping energy to this joyous moment is this theme's addictive rhythm. The real master stroke is the usage of this theme in the clash between Vinoth and Aadi in the climax. It goes on to prove how far Selvaraghavan has gone in conceiving the scenes in the scripting stage with music in mind. It is one of the movie’s highlights. It perfectly suits the climax action sequence and the reason being Vinoth's passion and undying hope for a happily ever after life with Divya, as he kicks Aadi with mad wild enthusiasm.
Vinoth’s Excitement and Mystery – It is heard when Vinoth enters Divya’s room for the first time. He is so excited to see the luxury and richness of the room. Vinoth rolls over her bed and does all crazy things like a kid. Yuvan bursts out with a grand orchestral burst piece at the start as if some grand palace is being shown (in the eyes of Vinoth, even this small room is a palace). The strings playing a theme in high tempo to punctuate the high speed actions of Vinoth and flute piece playing a pleasant melody to add an innocent flavour together conveys everything sp that what is conveyed to our ears is exactly in synch with what is conveyed to our eyes. The mystery part comes when suddenly Vinoth starts to behave strangely. This music cue with serious notes on strings implies the mystery behind Vinoth. I like the way the mystery part played slowly on strings gradually moves to a solo flute piece that sounds Divya’s sympathy towards Vinoth. This kind of seamless transition and blending in synch with the cuts and emotions on the visuals is very important for an effective background score.
Vinoth - An alien - The uneasy look of the other students, the mix of feelings like nostalgia, fear and embarrassment of Vinoth are well brought out in this theme. The slow beats in the background sounds the hesitance in every step of Vinoth as he walks into the classroom and finally it ends with a very unique mandolin sound playing some Arabic notes, as Vinoth opens a window of the classroom. I don’t know who decided to go for music in the background for this scene, because it would have worked even without music or with just few chords on strings, but such a complete theme linking every single happening in the visual takes it to next level.
Vinoth uncomfortable with Urban life - This piece appears when Vinoth's impatience and intolerance with the way people live in cities is emphasized. The mysterious piano start, a strange err… sound (quite terrifying) and the fast running strings when Vinoth runs away from the ugly city people, are all put together nicely for implying Vinoth’s discomfort.
Divya speaks to Vinoth – Yuvan gradually raises the pitch of the theme in every next phrase of melody that is playing on a huge string section to sound how Vinoth’s excitement level and emotions are rising from inside. It is one of the most emotional pieces of the movie that perfectly adds a waltz-like rhythm to the emotional beats of Vinoth's heart at that moment. One may complain that the music is so loud in this scene, and it overlaps with what Divya is speaking to Vinoth. But I think this is deliberate. Divya talking to Vinoth is more important than what she talks to him. When Divya approaches Vinoth, we already know that she has accepted him as a friend and she is going to repeat what Vinoth was talking alone. So it is not the words of Divya that is important in the scene, instead it is the emotions of Vinoth. But when director makes Vinoth dumb and shows just his eyes with the images in his spectacles silently speaking for him, it is the composer who has to add a voice and sound to Vinoth’s emotions. And Yuvan has done it so perfectly in this scene. You can listen to the same cue in one more place in the movie when Vinoth does some tricks to bring all the necessary things for Divya to make her feel comfortable in the forest. Now, it is Vinoth’s turn to surprise Divya. This time, the theme is for Divya’s surprise.
Vinoth and Divya in canteen – This is one of the beautiful and difficult scenes in the movie where there are no dialogues but just the minds of Vinoth and Divya silently speaking a strange language. The music plays a vital role here with flute, piano, guitar, mild strings and vocals alternatively performing beautiful melodies matching the cuts in the scene. Every single look and variation in the actions of Vinoth in the scene is perfectly punctuated by switching the beautiful romantic theme on various instruments. The flute and female vocals bring in all sympathetic sound needed. This theme can be termed as the love theme of Vinoth as this is where he first gets acquainted with Divya and also the variations of this theme are used for many other scenes in the movie.
Vinoth in the symposium – This piece starts mildly and hesitantly with the strings sounding Vinoth's hesitation to speak before a huge audience in the symposium. Slowly the strings come forward to play the notes more boldly, when we come to know that Vinoth has started to speak confidently, leaving all the inhibitions behind. The oboe piece is beautiful in this theme, and gives a sort of a victorious sound and the highpoint is when slowly the strings paves way to the haunting flute piece (the canteen theme) for Vinoth hugging Divya, as Vinoth shares the moment of pride and joy with her.
Vinoth’s Disappointment – This piece is heard just before the intermission when Vinoth comes to know that Divya is in love with Aadi. It starts with a sad solo violin version of the love theme (Canteen theme) which slowly moves to a more emotional flute piece with strings providing ample emotional support from behind. Also percussions are added aptly at right places like thunder in the already storming heart. The percussion beats synch with the shots of shutting doors of the shops around Vinoth as though the whole world is again closing down putting him in the same old lonely zone.
Vinoth’s Childhood – This piece is a story told in music. I am just going to list the images crossing my mind when I listen to this music (please note, last time I saw the movie was almost 2 years back). The piece starts with sad strings playing for Vinoth being sent as a child labor to a factory by his mother. Then follows a sad melody played on a vibraphone, the very sound of vibraphone brings in the image of kids and the sad melody suggests that they are being tortured. Slowly the flute takes over (which could be easily mistaken as an Illayaraja composition), the haunting flute sounds the sweet acquaintance of Vinoth with another girl working in the same place and the following female vocal suggests the longing of kids to live a free life, (as they watch kids playing happily with their parents outside), then suddenly after a brief mysterious piece suggesting that something wrong has happened to that girl, a sad chorus bursts out for her painful death and more than her death the music is for Vinoth, who has become all alone again. Then the sudden transformation to somewhat relaxed mood happens with the sound of the very first note of the flute suggesting the freedom of kids, the percussions that follow are for Kids escaping and the flute theme along with strings playing a very pleasant melody suggesting that the kids are finally free and flying away like butterflies. Do I need to say anything more about this piece? Just experience it for yourself.
Very rarely does surprise small songs which were not previously released in the soundtrack makes so much impact on very first listening. And the due credit should go to the lyricist Na.Muthukumar, because in all the four songs, it is not just the music but also the beautiful lines aptly written for the situation that helps to elevate the scene. Like the music, the lyrics also instantly stick to our mind. I feel no music could have registered the dilemma in Vinoth’s mind as convincingly as the words “Unnai Thozhi enbadha, en Paadhi enbadhaa, Unnai Kaadhal Enbadha, En thedal enbadha”. So are the lines for “Natpinilae”song. Adding beauty to the lines is Yuvan’s piano. “Thathi Thathi” is a very peppy tune. I felt the music really added a lot to this long funny scene without which the scene wouldn’t have had the same impact. The instrumental version of this song appears again when Divya falls in love with Aadi. Vidamalae is heavily inspired by Rahman’s Salaam Bombay, but as I said before, what is important is that the music is apt for what Vinoth goes through at the moment and hence it works. The heavy rhythms are a perfect choice to sound the fire inside Vinoth.
Vinoth’s destiny – So much happens in the climax and this music is a summary of it. The musical moment is when Yuvan brings in the canteen theme sung by an innocent female vocal when Vinoth understands that Divya has a soft corner for him and decides to let his life go. The chorus that follows is a mass for Vinoth’s death. It is a perfect closing piece for the romantic musical thriller. The music in these final moments makes the impact of the movie's ending to linger for a longer time.