Tag Archives: # ARRahman

Film poster for 99 Songs.

99 Songs: An Oscar & Grammy-Winner Launches His Latest Bollywood Endeavor

Is it an ode to the global music community or the life story of the Mozart of Madras: Allarakha Rahman?

A.R. Rahman is an Indian film composer, record producer, singer, and songwriter who works predominantly in Tamil and Hindi films. In 2010, he was awarded the  Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award. He has won an Oscar, six National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, fifteen Filmfare Awards, and seventeen Filmfare Awards South. His first soundtrack, for Roja, was listed on Time’s all-time “10 Best Soundtracks” in 2005.  He is hailed as one of the world’s great living composers in any medium.

I can understand that such a musical genius with a wide global network would like to share his story with his fans and other actors. When I hear his songs: Jai Ho, Chhaiya Chhaiya, Dil hai Chhota Sa, Tu Hi Rai, Ae Ajnabi, O Ri Chhori, and more…my heart skips a beat.

Vande Mataram, an album of original compositions released for India’s 50th anniversary of its independence in 1997 brings me back to our motherland. A.R. Rahman’s amazing repertoire of Carnatic Music, Western, Folk, Hindustani Classical Music, and Qawwali is incomparable. He is very cosmic in his outreach, incorporating birdsongs, a gurgling brook, a child’s laughter and fusing them with traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology. Rahman has worked as a pianist in Ilaiyaraaja‘s troupe for hundreds of movies, which may be seen in 99 songs. The soundtrack is awe-inspiring and holds a torch to Rahman’s love of experimentation with orchestra and Indian pop music.

In August 2013, A.R. Rahman announced that he will be producing a one-of-a-kind musical love story. He originally wanted to launch it under EROS  but it became his maiden stint as a scriptwriter, producer apart from composing the original score and songs. This film is Co-Produced by Ideal Entertainment, Directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, who is best known for the Mumbai band Scribe, and distributed by Jio Studios. The movie, 99 Songs, was finally released on April 16, 2021.

I think I perceive it to be the magnum opus of a young prodigy who has a burning desire to be a successful music composer.  The hero (Ehan Bhat) has a wager to make 99 songs before he can marry his beloved debutante played by Edilsy Vargas. Veteran actors Aditya Seal, Lisa Ray, and Manisha Koirala add depth to the narrative. 

 The film features 14 tracks including the musical talents Shaswat Singh and Bela Shende. Each song creates a different mood. Every frame has a different meaning. The film is in three languages – Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

A.R. Rahman said, “If I knew earlier that we’d do three languages, I would have only made five songs and not 14!” But I don’t believe him. He has unstoppable energy beyond human comprehension!

Songs ‘Teri Nazar and The Oracle and “Jwalamukhihave received an incredible amount of love and support. The music is the soul of the film. It is a musical but not in the genre of Broadway which supports the narrative. Here the music overpowers the story! 

One song can change the world! These words are prophetic. The maestro wants us to experience the film with high aspirations.

Rahman on the film: “At a period where we are all unaware of the future, I think this movie will definitely bring hope into your lives. It talks about dreams;  It talks about the internal struggles of a creative person. Music is the last magic left in the world.”

He goes on to talk about his experiences leading up to the film: “I’ve been working since ‘81. I worked with so many different composers doing almost two sessions a day. Though I wasn’t intending to continue as a film composer at that time, love is a magnetic force. The more you get from people, the more you want their love.”

His journey has been magical and let’s just revel in his magic. I have added the soundtrack to my playlist and I can’t wait to watch it. I am completely in awe of his extraordinary musical gift. Wishing 99 songs a grand success!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

A Holidays Must Watch: Brand New Dawn

Putham Pudhu Kaalai (PPK), the Tamilian short story anthology, is the sine qua non of the 2020 emotional roller coaster.

“Memories of a brand new dawn” are five short films completed during the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown in March, in India.Five short stories by five accomplished filmmakers take us into the homes of people locked in the early days of the COVID pandemic in India. It was released on October 16, 2020, on Amazon Prime.

The stories are a lyrical peek into love, family, despair, and friendly shenanigans. To me, they bring back tender memories of Malgudi Days.

In my zoom interview with Rajiv Menon for India Currents (find it at the end of the article), I was hesitant to say the name out loud for the fear of mispronouncing it but ever since then, I have been happily recommending Putham Pudhu Kaalai to everyone! I love the “skirted” Tamil script, the dialogues, and the music!

Rajiv Menon said it reminded him of “film institute” days. All of them brought their inherent creative talent and expertise to stories of new beginnings, bruised relationships, and dreams with a buoyant playfulness.  

#1. Ilamai Idho Idho: Directed by Sudha Kongara with Jayaram as Rajiv Padmanabhan and Urvashi as Lakshmi Krishnan, is an effervescent champagne cocktail! How two quinquagenarians are transported to their teenage years with the chime of a doorbell is endearing! Like their squabbles over domestic chores over “spoons, dishes, and wet towels.” I wonder if Kalidas is developing Parkinson’s because he drops cups and saucers while offering tea to his girlfriend! Composer GV Prakash’s music of this short inspired by a Kamal Hasaan song is lilting! Will their kids approve of their rendezvous after the lockdown is the question.

#2. Avarum Naanum / Avalum Naanum: Directed by Gautham Menon with MS Bhaskar as“tatta” grandfather and Ritu Varma as “Kanna ” granddaughter. Kanna visits her estranged tatta, a nuclear physicist but is pleasantly surprised by him. I cried with the octogenarian in a checked shirt who can dice mangoes, fix routers, berate rude managers, and pine for his daughter’s melody! Art deco mirror, gramophone, family photos, and the Bodhi tree tie into the narrative. The flashback of two girls in their silk skirts holding sweets reincarnated childhood. I think of this and singBachpan ke Babuji the, acche acche babuji the..

#3. Coffee, Anyone?: Directed by Suhasini Mani Ratnam. On the eve of their mother’s seventy-fifth birthday, two daughters come home to a mother with a pontine stroke and a father is treating her at home!  Suhasini has opened a Pandora’s box of family dynamics, aging parents, fertility, and dyslexia. The mother reminds me of my mother with a “butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth”  but stronger in her resolve as a cup of potent filter coffee! The home with a mango tree, a wrought iron gate, and swarming feminine energy is familiar too! Squabbles, selfies, kumkum, birthday wishes at midnight will make us all sing Tu kitni acchi hai, tu kitni pyari, hai, bholi bhali hai. O ma, o ma…”

#4. Reunion: Written and directed by Rajiv Menon with a cast of Andrea Jeremiah, Leela Samson, and Sikkil Gurucharan is wonderful! Rajiv Menon was surprised that I had not watched the anthology but once he knew I was a physician, he shared the backstory that prompted him to write the script. Carnatic musician Sikkil Gurucharan is a doctor who after being exposed to a COVID-19 patient is quarantined with his mother, an elegant Leela Samson, and an old school friend Sadhana (Andrea). He discovers that she is a drug addict! The feng shui of the sloping red-tiled Kerala style home with black and white photographs of palm trees, temples, and fishing nets is beguiling. There is an echo of a popular song “Ooo la la…  by the director, and lyrical poetry reveals Rajiv Menon as an incurable romantic. The best poems are always those written to our childhood sweethearts. I want to wear a Kerala saree, drink deep from the fresh mint mojito, and dance on the blue-tiled courtyard! Rajiv Menon writes in English/Tamil but his dialogues are in Malayalam, his matribhasha.

As a physician, I give him full marks for taking cues from his own arthritic mother, Apollo hospital’s ICU is packed with patients suffering from alcohol withdrawal in lockdown, and doctors treating patients without proper PPE. Rajiv Menon got this right! Once a doctor- always a doctor at home or in the clinic! An unexpectedly tender love story of redemption and joy. I remembered “ Taare hain baraati, chandni hai ye barat

#5. Miracle: directed by Karthik Subbaraj with Bobby Simha as Devan K. Muthu Kumar as Michael is about an Indie filmmaker and two hoodlums who want to make quick money inspired by a spiritual “Baba” with a scripted message: Miracles do happen! This quixotic comedy of errors crescendos to a climax with rolls of crisp rupees rolling out from proverbial Sheikh Chilli’s imagination!  Who loses, who wins is the question? Karthik Subbaraj has certainly won my applause with an uncanny knack to conjure a hilarious tale with an iPhone with awesome night scenes! This last short is radically different and perhaps that makes it more memorable. The fact that I was able to narrate it to my grandson in India in one breath says a lot!  These “Do deewane shahar mein.., may not have found their biryani but they are content in eating puliyodharai and hoping to catch reruns of Mahabha…rat on a stolen laptop.

I have watched the PPK anthology on Amazon Prime thrice, to familiarize myself with Tamil words, music, and the ambiance of Chennai! I am indebted to the wonderful personal advice given by Rajiv Menon about making good stories! Putham Pudhu Kaalai is relatable like dishes created from a snake gourd-like pachadi, raita, curry and sambar, similar but deliciously different! This analogy does make me hungry! 


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.