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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Subramaniyapuram – Scoring Moments

‘Subramaniyapuram’ is the one of the most engaging Tamil film of this year (first one being Anjathey obviously). The songs of Subramaniyapuram are good and they already are big hits but I respect James Vasanthan more for his background score. The effort taken is instantly noticeable when the main theme of the movie starts to play in the title credits as the camera zooms into the streets of Subramaniyapuram. Though the mystery in the theme is initially puzzling, it sets up the tone of the dark drama that is going to unfold later in the movie.

Title Credits -

The initial few scenes where all the characters in the movie are introduced, doesn’t really have any background score. All we hear is the vivid sound design of A.S.Lakshminarayanan, painstakingly reproducing every ambient sound as Kasi walks into the streets of Subramaniyapuram. The first music score appears when Azhagar takes Paraman to a bus stop to prove that Thulasi sees him. The flute version of the ‘Kangal Irandal’ plays quite pleasantly and takes us into a fantasy musical world from the realistic tone maintained until that point. The hesitation of Thulasi to look straight into the eyes of Azhagar is suggested musically with pauses in between the phrases of melody.

And James suddenly stops his music for the 80’s Illayaraja to take over. Nothing else could have better conveyed the exhilaration of a budding romance than an 80’s Illayaraja song. The song is cleverly put to use as a part of the ambient sound. The scene is shot and cut according to the song but it shows up as if it all happens naturally. The prelude of the song runs mildly in the background as Azhagar and Paraman reaches the sound service shop and the ‘Siru Pon Mani’ starts perfectly in synch with that slow motion shot of Thulasi walking with her heads down hesitantly looking sideways to see if Azhagar is waiting for her in the shop. And the male vocal starts as Azhagar, who was deliberately hiding, comes out to show up before Thulasi and then the first interlude plays on as they exchange words with their eyes and smiles. Sasi cleverly mutes other ambient sounds here leaving Illayaraja to dominate and establish the innocence of the romance. Illayaraja’s music is one of the most important features among other set properties and costumes that connect the audience with the period of the movie.

Azhaghar and Tulasi -

The theme that plays in the title credits aptly appears when the first big turning point happens in the screenplay. The mysterious and flute-dominant version of the dark theme appears as Azhagar and team collect weapons, plan their first murder and execute it. That is when we realize that this is indeed the main theme of the movie. And the theme again plays aptly in the final revelation scene where it discloses the true colour of one of the most important characters of the movie. The music slowly builds up as he walks out of the place of action with nervousness, anxiety, doubt, guilt and fear - all showing up in his face. The beauty here is that the momentum in the music slowly builds up as the shocking revelation and the hard truth slowly starts to sink-in in us. And when we know for what reason he betrayed his friend, the music bursts out with a grand crescendo and it is in moments like this that inspite of being loud, music just fits in and lifts up the impact of the drama. The same theme appears on a solo trumpet as someone walks victoriously out of sight after he takes revenge on one who betrayed his friends. And a huge chorus takes over the main theme and sings a mourning hymn to the relieved soul.

First Murder -

The betrayal -

Death and the End Credits -

I immensely liked the silence in the scene where Kasi struggles for his last breath but I would have liked the same silence in the scene where Azhagar faces his fate. When the visuals itself had such a lump-in-your-throat impact on the audience, there is no need for such a dramatic score.

Azhaghar’s Fate -

Chase -

It is hard to see a film director and composer concentrating on background score, getting into details, understanding the purpose of music in a scene, and all in their very first project. Sasikumar and James Vasanthan handle the background score with much confidence in ‘Subramaniyapuram’.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Answer for Background Score - 44

This piece is from the hilarious Indru Poi Naalai Vaa. Composer – Illayaraja. It is very difficult to think of that movie without this theme piece. Even whenever we discuss comedy scenes from this movie with our friends, this piece instantly plays in our mind. Such an ultra cool romantic yet comic theme it is. The main melody is indeed romantic but the zing in the guitar accompaniment, rhythm and the instrument used for playing the main melody give it a comic punch.

Thursday, October 2, 2008