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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


Ramki said...

I don't know what it means to be a realistic cinema . If you have lightman , editing , sound mixing , acting - what is realism ? Only candid camera is realistic !

As far as the opening scene is considered , absence of sounds has nothing to do with being realistic or not realistic even. It is the loneliness that Mysskin wants to potray ( Akil perceives that ) and the music thats played towards the end of the scene enhances and underlines that emotion .

WOnder ful write up , dude . I wish IR gets a Background score award for this . After a long time, i saw a movie just for the BGM !

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Ramki - Even I don't know what realistic cinema is. As you said, these sync sound, shaking visuals, slow pace are technical apsects of a film that makes it look and sound realistic, thougt most of the times only superficially.

The Opening scene - You have put it much better. The prominence of music in that scene and also in all other such scenes have a reason behind.

Ganapathy Ram said...

Excellent write up once again suresh

I hope u will come up with the interpretations on hidden meanings for the score , when DVD is out as u did for Kadhalauku mariyadhai .

As u said , i felt myshkin let Ilayaraja narrate the story in this film . Especially the interval sequence . i don't if dialouges there could have made such an impact

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Ganapathy Ram - Thank you.

I am surely writing one on Nandhalala. I will try to decipher Raaja's score to the best of my abilities. Let me see how deep I can go.

Dilip said...

So final message is it's loud but its not loud ?

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Dilip - Hmm. I am trying to say that whatever it may be, musically Raaja has given what the visuals in the film demand

Anonymous said...

Deciphering raja's score is a himalayan task,which of course cant be written up it can be only felt. atlast suresh now you undertand that a composer has no business in deciding ,with how much loudness a background score can be heard.its da job of the sound recordist..thats why resul pookutty got the award for SDM.sound editor to composer is like an editor to the director.background score analysis is just analysing the quality of the score,like an opera it should narrate the film in musical sense.for example a film called naan kadavul,it is the sound editor and the director who decides the volume of the score,if resul pookutty can underplay raja's score in pazhassi raja why cant a sound recordist can do it in naan kadavul? because itz the director's choice to decide with how much volume the background score has to sound.if you take schindler's list,john williams score was underplayed throughout the movie.even very important holocaust scenes,there was no music coz steven believed that the scene themselves are capable of delivering the horror but still he got the best origninal score cause the score was musically too good,still it can be heard as you say a stand alone score.In nandhalala in the beginning shot while the roll the titles there was no BG score coz the director and sound recordist decided that there was no emotion involved and everything is as calm as the running stream after that all the drama starts and finally everything comes back to normal.as long as drama involved in movies,movies cant be real.and background score need not be original.in the movie " knowing " beethoeven 7th symphony second movement is played during the apocalypse.did beethoeven compose that according to the visual?similarly with the movie " The fall".I believe naan kadavul score is still the best in this decade especially the self realisation Aham brahmasmi'theme.you didnt write up anything about naan kadavul nor pazhassi raja becasause it is very complex,forget about the usage,you could have atleast given a write p about the musical nuances about the score.anyway raja got the national award which explains all

Anonymous said...

thanks for uploading nandhalala score..nandhalala is not a mysskin movie coz its plagiarised because he didnt gave proper credits to takeshi kitano.now he started telling everyone that it happened in his own life..i never expected mysskin to do like.The only think that carried the film through out is raja's score.thats why he is so arrogant because he can completely carry a movie to a new level.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

//you could have atleast given a write p about the musical nuances about the score//

Anon - I didn't write about the score in Naan Kadavul and Pazhassi Raaja, because I saw these two films only once. Whatever little I wrote about them are my opinions about the score I formed in that one-time viewing. I may be totally wrong in my assessment. If I watch these films again, I will try to understand the score better.

Meanwhile, if you have written something about them, please share.

Ganapathy Ram said...

now he started telling everyone that it happened in his own life.////

n the same inerview he had also said that , Kikujiro stimulated me to take Nandhalala , and nadhalal is not completely kikujiro

and he also expressed his view that he would like to watch the movie with Kitano and ask his opinion

And kikujiro and nandhalala has many differecnces

Myshkin just said , he had taken cue from kikuhiro and mixed his real life incidents in it

there are many new characters myshkin had created for the movie

And he himself had accepted in a TV interview that , he had kept ceratin scenes in the movie as the same as kikujiro as a tribute to kitano

And out of all The only photograph available at Myshkin's office is that of takeshi kitano

Anonymous said...

i agree with you this movie is not 100 % kikujiro..it does not mean that mysskin is not talented..because it is inspired and most of the things are taken from kikujiro it wont be accepted when it goes for awards and accoldes world wide and because the movie is plagiarised there will be a thought that the score is plagiarised too.now itself bloggers are saying that these musical pieces are taken from south korean movies..i believe the tracks have a heavy influence on bach and john pachelbel(canon in d major)... as for im writing something.
suresh,im not an established blogger..i dont even have a blog of myself.since more people visit and read your blogs ,i thought it would reach many if you write up. i personaly feel that most of them totally ignored naan kadavul score and pazhassi raja score..what if somebody ignored vinnaithandi varuvaaya score or SDM score for instance.i felt its a great injustice not acknowledging something so great.

Anonymous said...

saying in an interview does not matter..he has to put in the credits of the film that it has been inspired by kikujiro,other wise it is still considered has plagiarism

Anonymous said...

kindly download and see kikujiro no natsu then you can say whether mysskin has taken a cue or whether he has created any new characters and then you can comment on whether it is plagiarised or not.i have seen the movie kikujiro.

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

My interest in a score also depends upon the interest I have in the film. Naan Kadavul is good, but it isn't as intriguing as, say a Pithamagan, to a lay person like me.

And Pazhassiraaja is just okay. When I saw it for the first time, I slept in the middle. To understand and write about the nuances in the score, I should love the film immensely. Only then, I will be able to watch them over and over again.

Ganapathy Ram said...

ANONymous :

I haven't seen kikujiro yet , i'll watch and tell

but my arguments are based on my friends' view who had seen both movies

and about film festivals and all, As far as i know the movie had already won an award in Norwegian film festival , if i'm not mistaken

Anonymous said...

thats okay suresh, have you seen harichandra factory?i think you already did an analysis of that film's background score. what i personally feel is that ,to analyze a particular film score,we should be able to analyze the film also.are u sayng that kadalukku mariyadhai is more intriguing that naan kadavul or pazhassi raja?
have you watched the movie in a cinema hall?i dunno why vasudevan nair's script made you to sleep in between?you missed something.you should have seen the movie in cinema hall.in kerala this movie made a box office collection..

Anonymous said...

ganapathy ram..

norwegian film festival was conducted by some local tamil mandram which screened some short films as well.i have heard about venice film festival,toronto,sundance,chicago,cannes etc..but norwegian film festival souns odd isnt it?its done by Mr.manickam narayanan of 7th channel.you know what tamil movies were screened there

nadodigal,poo,subramaniyapuram,pokkisham and nandhalala.even if they take it to national awards commitee they will reject it completely...you know the film poovizhi vasalilae,its an absolute rip off from the movie witness.that too witness came in 1985 and poovizhi vasalilae came in 1986.they cant submit this movie to national awards committee coz its a rip off.suppose there is a real opportunity to present a tamil movie to some other film festival other than this.wont people laugh at us?

P.S. Suresh Kumar said...

Anon - Yes. I have Harishchandrachi Factory atleast 10 times. I own a DVD. I love that film and the score and that is why I wrote about it.

And I saw Pazhassiraaja also on DVD at home. As you said, I should have seen the film in a cinema hall.

I am just saying that I have seen Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai atleast 30 times, but Naan Kadavul or pazhassiraaja only once so far.

Ganapathy Ram said...


Oh i didn't knew that much details :)

Rakhi..... said...

Hi Suresh,

This review is truly amazing...completely swayed away while going through the review....keep on the good work nd yeah I posted your nandalala music link on my FB profile.

Anonymous said...

Nice review. Love to see bollywood movies.