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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Nandhalala Score is LOUD

It is for a reason why Ilaiyaraaja is the first name to appear in the opening credits of the film. Mysskin has conceived and realized Nandhalala as a musical, in which the music dances to the tunes of emotions in the visual drama. That background score of a film should only be heard in the background and never draw the attention of an audience onto itself is one school of thought. And, in that, I strongly believe.

What is a background score? In a film, at any given moment, we hear three distinct audio layers – ambient sounds, conversations of the characters and background music. Background music is a piece of music, which works along with the ambient soundtrack and the conversations of the characters, to tell a story. To say that a piece of music is in the background, it has to be behind something. In Nandhalala, there is no other sound layer in the foreground for the music to be in the background.

Nandhalala unfolds like one long montage of key moments of a unique journey of a boy and a boy in a Man. There are very few conversations in the film. The ambient soundtrack is also kept very low in volume, with emphasis only on those sounds that are part of the narrative. For instance, in the scene in which Nasser makes a guest appearance, he is driving a truck, but, there is no sound of truck in the soundtrack. We only hear the crashing sound of the other vehicle that wakes Nasser up and the sound of horn that he presses after. Those two are the sounds that are relevant to the story.

In the opening scene of the film, a boy is standing still in the middle of the frame, and at a distance people are moving, but we hear no sound of the crowd behind. Mysskin, in an interview, said that he is not interested in making realistic cinema. In a realistic cinema, these ambient sounds are a must; the film should be shot in sync sound. However, in all the moments, where there is a prominent atmospheric sound or conversation, Ilaiyaraaja either plays no music or plays what we all call “Background music”.

The volume of the score in the final film is not something that a composer decides. The composer does work on the volume of the individual music pieces that he composes as part of the background score. There are very few sounds that are as divine as that of an Oboe hanging on a single note, while gradually fading in, in the beginning of the music piece that plays in the end credits of the film. The effect of fading in, in that oboe piece, is what a composer marks even while writing the music on the score sheet. A composer can work only to that extent on the volume or loudness of various layers of instruments in the score.

The balancing of the volume of various other sound layers of the film happens in the final mixing stage. It is not the job of a composer. Unlike Hollywood, composers in India are not directly involved in this process.

Moreover, even those films of Mysskin for which Ilaiyaraaja was not a composer, the background score has always been loud. Mysskin’s love for background score is evident right from his first film. Mysskin is the reason why the background score pieces of the films Sithiram Pesudhadi and Anjaathey, were released along with the songs on the soundtrack CD.

In Nandhalala, Mysskin has chosen to use the background score as a narrative tool. Mysskin has tried to narrate an obvious story through visuals and not so obvious layers of the story through music. That is that.

The music, per se, in Nandhalala, is minimalistic in orchestration, though very strong in melody. There is definitive melody in every single piece of music in the film. Ilaiyaraaja never restricts to just creating the overall mood and atmosphere. His music never stays at a distance from the characters in the film. Ilaiyaraaja’s score is the film.

The background score in Nandhalala is not a loud background score for the same reason why “Ilangaththu Veesuthey” in Pithamagan is not a loud background score or why “Vaarthai Thavari Vittai Kannamma” in Sethu is not a loud background score. These songs have vocal parts, whereas the music in Nandhalala that is there to serve the same purpose as that of those songs is purely instrumental. If one can accept the loudness of a song with vocals in a film without any complaints, I do not understand why one must scream about loudness, when the music is purely instrumental.

Listen to Nandhalala background score

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nandhalala Score

Nandhalala Detailed Score Analysis.

Nandhalala Score is LOUD.

I loved Nandhalala. Please watch the film in theatre. It is an experience not to be missed. I don't know when I would be able to consolidate and post my thoughts on Ilaiyaraaja's scintillating background score for the film, but for now, enjoy 25 soul stirring background score pieces from the film. Needless to say, here is why Ilaiyaraaja is God.

Download: Part 1 Part 2


1. Agi
2. The Photo
3. Where is your Mother?
4. Escape
5. Cheating
6. And the Journey Begins
7. Mental
8. A Kiss
9. Where are you going?
10. Stranger 1
11. War
12. Journey Continues
13. Never ending Journey
14. Statue of A Mother and a Child
15. Guiding Light
16. Stranger 2
17. Annai Vayal
18. A Plea
19. Journey to Thaaivaasal
20. A Prostitute
21. A Python
22. To Thaaivaasal
23. Where is my Mother?
24. Amma and the Kiss
25. End Credits

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Inaintha Kaigal

This heroic fanfare (Background Score – 75) is from Inaintha Kaigal. Composer – Gyan Varma. Associate Composer – Aabaavaanan. It is heard for the first time in one of the most crucial moment of the film, just before the interval, when Arun Pandian saves Ramki out of a fatal accident. And as the title of the film implies, two heroes join hands. You better watch the video. Words cannot express the awesomeness of that moment.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Background Score - 75

Long before I could spell the name “Ilaiyaraaja” or the words “Background score” I reacted to this piece of music when I heard it in the film. Guess the film.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Keda Kari / Kata Kata

Earlier, I had an opinion that a composer must have been totally uninterested and hasty while scoring, if he did not compose any new musical themes and has used just the instrumental versions of the melodies of the songs, throughout the background score of a film. However, soon I realized that a composer’s decision on whether to compose new melodies or use the melodies of the already composed song for the background score depends on how the film uses the song in its narrative. The usage of Keda Kari / Kata Kata in Raavanan/Raavan is a classic example.

In the opening episode of Raavanan, the Policemen are attacked by different people at different places at the same time. The percussive postlude from the Keda Kari song in its entirety plays as the background score of this episode. Before watching the film, when we heard the song on audio CD, we had assumed Keda Kari to be a song of Celebration and festivities in a typical rural Indian wedding Ceremony. It was slightly incongruous and discomforting to listen to the parts of that song playing loudly in the scenes where there is no trace of Celebration or festivity. The same piece is again heard when Veera and his gang storm into Dev’s camp to steal the arms and create havoc. These are moments with no mood for euphoric rhythms.

However, later, when the song Keda Kari, unfolds in its entirety, we get to see the chaos unleashed by the Policemen in Vennilla’s Marriage Ceremony. The Policemen enter the scene towards the end of the song, precisely when the percussive coda begins to play. All that happens in the opening episode of the film is Veer’s revenge for the chaos created by Policemen in Marriage ceremony and what they eventually did to Vennila - Veera’s sister. The score composer (A.R.Rahman) is linking an action and a reaction, a sequence and its consequence with the same piece of music, though they unfold on screen, in the reverse order.

P.S: Raavanan special Edition CD pack is available in stores now. “Kalingathu Bharani” (The Pain and War), The Lament of the leaves (as I expected, the Theme of lust features in this track), Naan Varuvaen (Easily the song of the year), Restless Mystic (this Oud piece is prominently heard when Ragini tries to escape, just before Yaaro Evalo song) and Yaaro Evalo (Theatrical Version of Kaattu Sirukki) are the 5 additional tracks included in the CD.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Endhiran Score

Cues from Endhiran Score in the order in which they are first heard in the background score of the film. (Endhiran Score Quiz)

Cue 6 – It isn’t Chitti Yet

Cue 4 – Chitti – The Saviour (Superstar Rajini Titles, Action in Train, Fire Accident)

Cue 8 – Simulating Emotions in Chitti

Cue 9 – Child Birth

Cue 2 – Prelude to Sana’s Kiss

Cue 7 – Introducing Chitti 2.0

Cue 3 – Power from Car Battery

Cue 1 – I am an Evidence

Cue 5 – Chitti Returns

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Endhiran Score Quiz

Nine different music cues (voiceless) picked from Endhiran background score are streaming below. Listen to the cues and list them in the order in which they are heard in the background score of the film.

Cue 1

Cue 2

Cue 3

Cue 4

Cue 5

Cue 6

Cue 7

Cue 8

Cue 9

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aah! Finally

The Liner notes in the booklet that comes with Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya Collector's Edition Pack is written by yours truly (ursmusically P.S.Suresh Kumar). Thanks to Kaushik and others from Sony Music, who gave me this opportunity.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Conversation with Matt Dunkley

It is he who first broke the silence and informed the world, that A.R.Rahman is indeed the composer for Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours”. I am talking about the composer, orchestrator and Conductor Matt Dunkley. Matt Dunkley is the orchestrator for all of A.R.Rahman’s symphonic, orchestral scores. The legend of Bhagat Singh, Warriors of Heaven and Earth, Meenaxi: Tale of three cities, Bose – The Forgotten Hero, Mangal Pandey, Elizabeth: The golden Age, Couples Retreat, 127 Hours and Endhiran – The Robot are the films in which Matt Dunkley worked with A.R.Rahman. In this interview, Matt clarifies all the doubts I had about the working relationship between a composer and an orchestrator. Further, he shares in detail his experience of working with A.R.Rahman.

The first time you worked with A.R.Rahman was for an Indian film called “The Legend of Bhagat Singh” and it has been 8 years since then and you have worked for nearly 8 films with him after that. How did he find you? Tell us, in general, about your experience of working with A.R.Rahman.

That’s right Suresh. We met on “Bhagat Singh” in 2002. Maestro A.R.Rahman was in London (where I live and work) writing his show Bombay Dreams, and he needed to record some background score to the film. I was contacted by the orchestral contractor Isobel Griffiths (who books most of the players for movie recording sessions in London) to orchestrate and conduct the sessions at Abbey Road Studios – studio 2 in fact, where the Beatles recorded all of their albums. We had a medium size string section, some woodwinds and 4 French horns. AR had composed some demos, and I took these and fleshed them out a little for orchestra, and then conducted the sessions. The music was great and I got on very well with AR (though I had heard his name, at that stage, I had no idea what a major force he was in Indian film music). Anyway, I think the whole experience whetted AR’s appetite to record some more with western “classical” orchestras – I remember he was particularly excited by the sound of the horns (he still is!)

What is the role of an Orchestrator? Does the composer (A.R.Rahman) write only the main melody of the piece and leave the rest to the Orchestrator? Or does the composer make a digital mock-up with all orchestral layers and you just notate the score and conduct it? Does he play each layer of music in Piano? How significant a contribution of a composer is in the orchestration of the final piece of music that we get to hear?

I get asked this question a lot! In simple terms an orchestrator’s role is to take whatever the composer has written and to notate it for orchestra in such a way that truly represents the musical intentions of the composer. So with AR for instance, he will give me a computer file from his “Logic” sequencer (a sequencer is the software program that enables a composer to play sample instruments via midi alongside audio and synced to picture). This file will contain the music he has played in via a piano keyboard triggering different sounds – I can see the notes – and an audio mix of this music. So he might have played in some string lines, and some brass and woodwind, and some percussion too. My job is to take all this information and notate it into a “full score” which has all the instruments of the orchestra we are using (see below an excerpt of the printed score sheet of a background score cue “Robo Ball” that Matt notated for the film Endhiran – The Robot).

Now AR might have only used a horn sample in his file, but I will then split this horn writing out over the rest of the brass too (if stylistically this feels right), so I would add trumpets and trombones etc. The same goes for the woodwind and strings and percussion, and I might add a harp or a piano etc. Always my aim is to enhance and support the intentions of the composer.

It’s a big trust thing for the composer, because he or she is handing over their work to another musician, so the trick is to be sympathetic to the style of writing and not for me to impose my own voice onto this. That is why film composers tend to stick with the same orchestrator once they have developed this rapport. I have clients that I have worked with on 15 plus movies.

The amount of musical information in the digital mock-up score varies from job to job and from composer to composer. I have been asked to write a large end of movie cue for full orchestra from only a piano guide, though this is pretty rare these days. More often than not, as is the case with AR, I am given a midi mock-up that will give a good indication of the orchestration required, but will still leave room for me to have an artistic input in further enhancing the orchestral textures and add phrasing and dynamics (volume markings).

We know, through various interviews, that A.R.Rahman does not write the score on a paper score sheet. In today’s time, with so much technology around, is it necessary for a composer to pen down a score to the last detail on a sheet? I understand that very few composers, like John Williams, work with a pencil and paper still for a film score.

I started out scoring on pencil and paper, but as the technology came in I embraced it. I well remember the hassle of trying to courier scores and parts to the U.S. for film sessions – and the anxiety when they got caught up in customs or went missing. Now I can finish a score and email it instantly anywhere in the world. John Williams has been doing this since the 50’s so I think he’s entitled to use whatever he likes! But I’ve seen his scores – they are very detailed 8 stave pencil sketches, but they still need an orchestrator to split them out into a full score, and this is done on a computer. The other thing to remember is that individual orchestral parts need to be made from the orchestrator’s full score by the music copyists. With a pencil and paper score every single note has to be re-input, this takes time, and in the movie business time is always at a premium. With a computer notated score, the data is already there, so it’s more a case of data manipulation. My copyists can print out a 4 minute action cue for full 80 piece orchestra within an hour – with a pencil and paper score and hand copied parts that would take the best part of a day.

Though A.R.Rahman’s eclectic scores for Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours are receiving sky high praises, his typical Hollywood style orchestral score for “Couples Retreat” was not appreciated as much as it should have been, critically? Why do you think this is so? Does the appreciation of a score depend also on the merits of the film?

Couples Retreat was a lovely score; we recorded it in L.A. on the same recording stage that all the great MGM musicals were recorded, so it was a special experience. But yes, in answer to your question, I think quite often good scores are overlooked simply because the movie isn’t very good. I’m not saying Couples Retreat was a bad movie, but I think it’s fair to say that AR’s score was better! If you look at the Oscars over the years, so often best score goes with best picture, which was fabulous for AR last time around, but can lead to other notable scores losing out. Slumdog and 127 Hours are both really well crafted movies and the fact that that also shines a light on AR’s beautiful music is good for us all.

Though you are an Orchestrator, you are also a composer. How do you balance your sensibilities and the composer’s, when you orchestrate a melody of another composer?

I do compose and love doing so, but as I said earlier, an orchestrator’s job is all about fulfilling the composers’ creative vision, so I am very careful not to impose my “voice” onto another’s. I’ve been doing this for a while now and I’m just coming up to my 100th movie so I think I’ve learnt how to represent a composers music using my orchestration techniques without crossing the line. They have created the core material that I work from, so as long as I stay true to that the balance is achieved.

Since what stage do you get to be part of the creative process of making the original score for a film? Do you get to know the complete script of the film, watch the entire film and sit in spotting sessions?

This varies from film to film, but generally I’ll come in right at the end of post production. Usually the composer will have been working on the score for 2 or 3 weeks before we start our discussions about orchestration and recording session schedules. I will hear some early demos and receive a cue list and spotting notes so that I can get an overall picture of how much music there is to record and what type of instrumentation we will need to achieve this. I will then suggest an orchestra size (or sizes) and how many recording sessions we will need. I’ll then liaise with the studio, engineer, orchestral contractor and music copyists to make sure we all agree dates etc. Sometimes I’m sent a script, but more importantly I always like to orchestrate to picture if possible, as there is no point me adding loads of brass and percussion on a particular cue only to find out at the recording session that the music for that scene is all under dialogue! Occasionally I will come in earlier on a production, particularly if there is playback music on set that needs to be pre-recorded before the shoot.

Tell us about the Concert in which you conducted orchestral works of A.R.Rahman in Royal Festival hall. On what basis, the scores were picked for performance. Some of A.R.Rahman’s Indian film songs were also performed with the orchestra. How easy or difficult was it to adapt those film songs for a Symphony orchestra? How well was the concert received by the audience?

This was something AR had wanted to do for a long time. We had tried something similar a few years before with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, but because of time pressures and budget we didn’t really crack it on that occasion. So I sat down with AR and firstly, as this was an orchestral concert with a 76 piece orchestra (London Philharmonic Orchestra) and a 32 voice choir (Metro Voices), we went through all the orchestral material that we had worked on together. He chose the pieces that he liked best from this body of work and then suggested other songs and instrumental pieces that he’d like to adapt for orchestra, as well as pieces from his theatre shows. The first challenge was to make orchestral “suites” out of the film music, so that they flowed as concert works, rather than just being individual film cues. We chose songs that didn’t have too electronic a starting point, so that the substitution of an orchestra for a backing track wouldn’t sound too forced. We also went for songs with simple melodies (without too much ornamentation) so that I could divide up the melody amongst the orchestra without it sounding like a pastiche of the original, but rather a re-interpretation. As the concept for the concert developed and evolved, we managed to include 2 wonderful singers (Alma Ferovic and Michael Rouse), an Indian flautist (Naveen Kumar), a sitar player (Asad Khan), an accordion player (Eddie Hession), as well as Gauri Tripathi and her dancers. It was quite an evening, and the sell out audience of 2500 in the Royal Festival Hall really seemed to enjoy hearing another side of A.R.Rahman’s genius.

How different it is working with A.R.Rahman for the score of an Indian film from that of a Hollywood film?

The main difference is how AR approaches the scoring. In a Hollywood movie the tradition is very much to demo an audio mock-up of every musical moment or “cue” in the film. This “cue by cue” approach is the standard way of scoring a movie in Hollywood. Each demo cue is put to picture (usually with the help of a music editor) and then submitted for approval to the director, producer, film editor and anybody else who have a say in the movie. Often each cue can be sent back a number of times for “tweaks” or even full rewrites. I’ve seen “Version 15” on a cue file!! In an Indian film, as only some of the music is background score (the rest being the songs), AR tends to write longer pieces in different moods that can then be cut into the movie to fit various scenes, so it’s a much freer approach to writing really.

You have also worked with some of the great Hollywood composers. How different or same A.R.Rahman is in comparison with Hollywood composers?

I think, like all great movie composers, AR shares that unique ability of both serving the needs of the movie and writing fabulous music. It sounds such an easy thing to do, but so often one hears effective movie music in the theatre that doesn’t work as stand alone music when the picture is taken away. That’s fine, as the music’s primary function is to serve the picture, but AR and only a handful of other Composers seem to be able to write scores that work in both ways. I remember numerous times recording in London and L.A. and Prague when the orchestra have been really moved by the power and beauty of maestro Rahman’s writing. That’s a unique gift, and one I’ve been privileged to be a part of.

Have you heard A.R.Rahman’s non-orchestral works, like songs, in Indian films? What is your favourite A.R.Rahman Indian film song?

I have indeed heard them. In fact I saw him perform many of them when his recent “Jai Ho” tour came to London. As to a favourite…….that’s a tough one! As I get older I seem to be drawn more to simplicity in music – in classical music I’ve started listening to Bach again, and just love the way he expresses so much with so little. So, if I’ve got to pick one song then I’m going to say “Nahi Samne” from Taal. It’s such a gentle, simple, little tune and yet it never fails to move me. I did an arrangement of it for the RFH/LPO concert and it worked beautifully as a peaceful end to the evening.

Which is your favorite orchestral score of A.R.Rahman? And Why?

Another tough one! Like choosing your favourite child! Ok, well, if I’m sticking to my simplicity theme then I’d say Meenaxi for its beautiful simple melodies. But if I’m choosing for the inventiveness of the writing and the sheer variety of orchestral colors it’s got to be Warriors of Heaven & Earth.

The score for “127 Hours” - Do you think it is a serious contender for Oscars this year? (Even Inception score, for which you have worked, seems to be strongly in contention).

Who knows! I never guess the Oscars correctly. I do know that it’s a lovely subtle score that fits the picture beautifully – I saw it the other night at the London Film Festival, and that final song duet between AR and Dido is perfect. At the other end of the spectrum, Hans Zimmer’s Inception score is pretty amazing too.

Thanks to Matt Dunkley for patiently answering all the questions in such stunning detail.

Download (pdf) High quality Image of the Score sheet

Saturday, November 6, 2010

127 Hours Score Review

A solo woodwind rises to announce the entry of a sole soul into the endless beauty of the vast and bare Grand Canyon. The soul is awestruck by the sight. Music plays for the sense of awe whereas the breath taking pauses in between play for the soul that is being struck by it. The melody passes on to a string section for the eyes that open wider, the widest it has ever opened in its life, in an attempt to capture all of the beauty at once. It can not. The eyes realise. The woodwind takes the lead again and together with the accompanying strings, the melody of “If I Rise” rises. A subtle, deep bass beat is hit to hint the reality that is starting to sink in. The strings proceed further for the soul that is wandering to find a serene spot to sit and stare. He finds a place to sit and stare, and the orchestra now comfortably plays the melody with which it started the piece. The loop becomes recursive. The piece with its music and no music can be listened to for a whole day in a loop. Thus, begins the experience of listening to A.R.Rahman’s soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours”.

The main motif of the film begins in “Liberation begins”. The nature that revealed its utmost beauty just a while ago reveals its dark side now by tying his arms down between a rock and a rock. Fate and nature are friends. The arrested body, with the power of its soul has to fight both fate and nature to liberate itself. The melody played on the acoustic guitar is constantly trying to move away and part itself from the bass line that plays the role of nature here. The bass keeps pulling the melody of the acoustic guitar down to play in sync with it. The bass line is too powerful, so much so that all the efforts of acoustic guitar go in vain.

In the “Liberation in a Dream” and final “Liberation”, the battle with fate and nature intensify. The levels of desperation, the force within and the determination to win are far higher this time. He has to liberate himself. The madly rushing strings, roughening electric guitar riffs, roiling percussions add to the theme of liberation which cut itself short after briefly announcing its existence in the track “Liberation begins”. The excruciating pain that he much go through is underlined by the harsh guitar layers. The sympathy that one must have as an audience for him is underlined by layers of soft strings. Each instrument layer is growing in its intensity, force and energy. The synergy of the varied music layers adds to the music as a whole. The piece is exponentially growing dense and tight in every next bar. This Is How You Build Up To A Crescendo. And Ah! When the moment arrives, when he liberates himself, at the peak of the Crescendo, I felt a divine current running from head to toe in my body.

After a deadly cold night, when first rays of sun touch his body, he, for the first time, realises the warmth of his father’s embrace. He becomes nostalgic. The all-guitar melody in “Touch of the Sun” has ample amount of silences thrown in between each of its phrases. When there are so many pauses, it is not easy to determine, where the full stop or a comma is. If Cinema is a sentence in a language, its conjunctions are split between the visuals and the music. A visual may take a “but” of the sentence and leave a “because” for the music to fill in and deliver its complete meaning, which is why it is totally idiotic to try to absorb completely, understand and appreciate a piece of background score before watching the visuals. In “Touch of the Sun”, the music and visuals seem to have exchanged such conjunctions in quick succession. However, it does leave a listener with one emotion, which is the warmth of pure love.

The short phrases of Guitar melody, rises an octave higher, to indicate the shift the camera makes from the tight close-up shots of him and his father to the wider shot of both sitting together on the edge of a rock and staring at the setting Sun. A deep pause follows. The memories of moments he spent with his family are rushing back to him. He is engulfed by Nostlagia. Now that, he is with his family in his memories, the lone Guitar melody reprises with rich musical accompaniments until the eeriness of the e-sounds and the harshness of the place he is stuck in, cuts through his memories.

It is extremely tough to tie A.R.Rahman down to one instrument for entire soundtrack of a film. Guitar works wonderfully for the intimacy that the film maker wants to build between the audience and the lone victim. However, Rahman breaks free, liberates himself and composes a piece titled “Acid Darbari” in a genre that I prefer to call “Rahmanica”. Wonder what it is? Rahmanica is Rahman’s unique way of blending acoustics and electronica. No one does it like him.

Acid Darbari is a psychotherapeutic track. It is transcendental. It is in times of utmost adversity one feels closer to oneself and realises the endless limits of their spirit. I guess this track plays in one such moment of realization in the film. The very sound of the Fingerboard Continuum and the bass that gravitates the whole piece, set a serene, soothing aura. The bells, an aching cello, a distant alaap, an Oboe and strings sneak in and out of the song, without ever intruding the main meditative mood of the track. “Acid Darbari” is bliss at its blissful best.

Harshdeep Kaur’s sympathetic humming begins R.I.P on a gloomy note. There is a sense of despair in the aura. He has tried everything that he could. There is no hope. He is convinced that he is going to die a painful death. No. Wait. Ethnic percussions join in with the alaap to indicate a germ of a thought. He senses a way out. He contemplates the thought. The percussion aggravates with a rhythm. A thought soon becomes a decision. A deep pause with eerie electronic sounds, and then it begins. The lower registers of strings are dramatically bowed in a rush. It is bowed to create a hard, harsh and sharp sound of a thick saw cutting him from his fate. It leads to puke inducing turn in the stomach when we listen to the ultimatum he puts himself through for liberation.

The moment the bass line kicks in and begins to loop, we are hooked to “If I Rise”. The words might boast of optimism, but to me, the song as a whole puts a listener through a passage of nothingness. The song fills the soul with a divine calm. With A.R.Rahman and Dido crooning the lines on the softest of their vocal registers, the eclectic sound scape created by the omnipresent bass loop, the soft thudding beats, the confluence of worldly sounds and instruments in the third act of the song, the track as a whole takes us on a spiritual ride into an ethereal sound scape.

Some of the cues from the film’s background score are missing in the compilation. Energetic rock guitars play when he challenges himself to bike fast and reach a place, which usually takes 4.5 hours to reach, in 45 minutes. This piece is not there. The drums begin with singular strokes and gain a rhythm gradually, when after getting stuck he is shown to be picking out things from his bag, and placing it on the rock. Also, the Liberation theme, when it plays in the rain scene, has a slightly different layering of Strings.

“127 Hours” score is a stunning follow up to Slumdog Millionaire.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Theme of Lust

The Theme of Lust (Background score – 74) is from Raavanan / Raavan. Composer – A.R.Rahman.

The theme is first introduced, when abducted Ragini is shown to be terrified of witnessing Veera’s brother handing over a gun to Veera to kill Ragini. It could also be simply Ragini’s Theme.

However, the theme plays in its entirety with prominence when Veera tries to give a justification to his brother, for not killing Ragini. He elaborates on an intellectual theory about his inability to kill someone who is fearless. We already know he has already fallen in love with her. In the theme, a Kora plays a repetitive phrase of melody and kindles a subtle, sweet storm in the soul and a deep contemplation out of bewilderment in the mind, and all of these and much more happens in Veera’s when he falls for Ragini’s beauty.

Rahman could have introduced this theme at the moment, when Veera sees Ragini, who just fell fearlessly from atop of a waterfall, lying on a branch of a tree. Even the tree could not bear the weight of Ragini’s beauty. The branch breaks along with Veera’s conviction and Ragini falls into the water in a slow-motion shot. The theme would have worked brilliantly for this moment, and they could have started the “Behne De/Usure Pogudhey” song a few seconds later.

Veera and his gang are stealing the arms and creating havoc in SP’s camp. Veera enters SP’s tent and finds Ragini’s torn dress hanging like an antique piece. Veera walks closer to the hanging dress. Rahman begins to play the other Kora theme with the African voice, but shifts to the theme of lust precisely when Veera moves his hands closer to dress and contemplates a touch. It is in here, the main emotion of the theme, becomes evident. Maybe the intention was to have just a character leitmotif for Ragini, but this is how I felt and understood this piece of music, while watching the film for the first time.