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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Listening 'Passage'

Shekhar Kapur’s Passage (an A.R.Rahman musical in a way, the only moment there is no music behind is when a character says “the music has stopped”) opens with most unlikely sound for a film set in Venice - A Saarangi. Also in Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”, Rahman used the same instrument for the track “Divinity theme”. So, we don’t know whether it really is Rahman’s choice or Shekhar Kapur’s. The melody that is played on Saarangi could have been easily replaced by a cello, while Saarangi is pitched higher, a cello if pitched lower playing the same melody would have yielded the same effect. With a Cello, it would have easily sounded European grounded in the soil where the story takes place.

We may also need to completely understand the intensity of emotions that are on display here – loss, separation, reconciliation - to understand why the loudness is. How big the loss is? How long they have been separated? What this reunion means to them? Only if all these questions are clearly answered and understood, one can understand the loudness of the emotion put on display with the Saarangi. Only a non-Indian who has never heard the sound of ‘Saarangi’ before can say what it did to him while listening to it with the visuals. So, while I am sure that it is great music as a stand-alone track, I am not sure if it is a great score. But I must admit that this piece is such an important narrative tool for Shekhar Kapur without which it wouldn’t have been possible for him to convey what he wanted to in a short time. With just the sound of Saarangi you get that there was something devastating that “happened in the future” of those 3 little girls merrily playing there on the streets.

The very sound of Saarangi has a feel of longingness in it which is much louder and instantly striking than that of a Cello. But adding a universal touch over this very Indian string piece is a layer of melody on Piano which deepens the emotion further and adds a serene touch and eternality to the piece as a whole. The Saarangi and Piano meet and part, fuse and diffuse perfectly creating a sombre mood. The Piano theme is so haunting that it is sure to bring tears when heard in solitude. The Harp that keeps looping behind aptly fits the rhythm of the visuals and the kaleidoscopic visualization of the emotions and not to forget the thin layer of e-sounds carefully picked and mixed creating a dream-like aural ambience.

The next piece ‘Tango’ is not composed by A.R.Rahman, it is a music played in a dancing bar so it need not be an original composition but it is genre of music which A.R.Rahman also could have done convincingly. When all the three sisters finally get together, ‘Saarangi’ is not to be heard anymore in ‘Atmosphere’. Now that they have met, there is no more deep pain and only traces of it still remains maintained by continuing the Piano melody as the three walk to meet someone (parents??).

The piece that follows, in later of part the track ‘Atmosphere’, is not composed by A.R.Rahman (I did not know this, though I doubted that it can’t be A.R.Rahman’s, the end credits in the movie clarifies that); it is from ‘Requiem in D Minor’ composed by Mozart (the unfinished piece he composed on his death bed). I have cried out of overwhelm many times watching the ultimatum of this breath taking climactic sequence in the movie ‘Amadeus’ where he dictates notes for this requiem to Salieri. The choice of this piece in this movie at this precise moment raises a lot of questions. It plays for a brief time when 3 sisters get into the place where they want Abbey to audition or perform or record her song.

And thus comes the finale, the ‘Aria’ composed by A.R.Rahman and sung by Kavitha Balliga. Unlike the music of western classical masters, this piece has got an easily relatable, identifiable, memorable and a not so complex melody that instantly sticks to your mind and heart. The melody is so expressive and emotional though I don’t understand a word of what is sung. Sung exquisitely by Kavitha, the orchestral accompaniment makes the song more operatic towards the end. There is a sense of redemption, relief and heal that one gets as the piece reaches its end with which the movie also comes to a close. This is the song which Abbey was trying to sing as she cries in the beginning of the movie and it seems she was really frustrated that she lost her voice.

With the closing Waltz piece, A.R.Rahman announces yet again that he is fully ready and equipped to take off his international journey and he can easily write a conventional orchestral Hollywood score, showing no signs of where he is from. Let us hope this ‘Passage’ opens more doors in international arena for A.R.Rahman.


Unknown said...

there r many limitations in rahman's bgms..i think yuvan shankar raja is better in bgm.

Unknown said...

s i was also thinking like that but yuvan is photocopying exactly the same from many international albums where arr does not do that,though he is also utilized few beats and rythms from the intl albums not fully like yuvan

Sathya said...

I dont think "Atmosphere" is composed by Mozart. Requiem in D doesnt sound like Atmosphere

Anonymous said...

@bi baiju

limitations to rahman's bgma and yuvan is better at BGM's? really? :) you must not have heard bgms before then. i am so sorry. someone has fooled you. :p