The music of GuruGuru: a film by Mani Ratnam, lyrics by Gulzar, music by A.R.Rahman
(biggish post - apologies for the OD)
So the latest collaboration between the big names is out. An opinion:
Barso Re: Shreya Ghosal kicks off proceedings in this typical Mani Ratnam heroine introduction song (usually accompanied by water). Pleasant progression of the melody with a lot of humming (quite a feature of the album). The flat percussive slaps in the beginning were a little annoying, but this is a good and uncomplicated song without being too spectacular. I was a little disappointed at not hearing more of Uday Mazumdar and the Gujarati flavour - he is limited to a few fragments.
Tere Bina: This on the other hand is one of those songs that grabs you by the collar and borrows your breath as it advances - and you don't mind. A.R.Rahman picks up the mike for this one (giving himself another great song to croon!), is into his now traditional alaaps early. The use of the lyrics of the mukhaDaa again later in the song was really unexpected and nicely done. Chinmayi is mindblowingly good - even though she only joins in late. It's hard to recognise her voice off the bat. She provides an interesting counterpoint to Rahman's voice, which is naturally higher on the register. In contrast, Chinmayi adopts a gravity and Hindustani classical lilt (she talks on her blog about her classical and ghazal lessons, so they're paying off!), moving into alto and then back into full voice. This should earn her a lot of notice outside tamil film music, and very deservedly. Be prepared for a full-blown Mani Ratnam choreographic experience on this one to match the richness of the orchestration.
Ek Lo Ek Muft: When I first heard this, it brought a smile to my face - first, I wasn't quite expecting the Bappi song to turn out this way, and secondly, that Rahman finally did a song like this in Hindi. It's quite daft and demented, Bappida has been made to sing all over the place - but I'm willing to accept it as a bhang-babble song. The Gujarati section is very well used here, and it was fun getting a friend to translate them for me ("Joye" means "chaahiye" and the rest of the lyrics are about needing two grooms for the two twin daughters - the situation of the song). Chitra is again a surprise, in terms of how her voice has been modulated. The song could, however, do with a little more zing. I suggest not over-hearing this song (it doesn't offer that much outside the context), but come back to it once in a while and one should be satisfactorily amused. The opening is all ga.njiiraa and sounds almost Bangla-baul like, and then goes all the way east. Bappida's "slurring" is actually quite charming, quite like the man.
Mayya Mayya: This is a good song to recall the past. It invokes a situation quite like "naan sirithaal diipawaaLi" from Nayakan, a risqué "item" song (Mallika Sherawat will shakety-shake here, of course), the usual double-barrelled Rahman lyric, and finally the Arabic flavour. Maryem Tollar, Keerthi and Chinmayi combine for this one. While it never quite hits any great heights, it's a fairly decent song. (I'm sure one'll see the word "experimental" tagged to this song, but that's usually a fan-euphemism for "I don't want to say I didn't like it" ;-).) The Middle-East arrangements are interesting to hear as is the Gujarati mix towards the end.
Aye hairath-e-aashiqui: My personal favourite of the album, and that's because the seemingly conventional nature of the song, not despite it. Hariharan and Alka Yagnik are in a ghazal-like duet which includes a romantic tease and the gearing up for love after marriage (the accompanying images indicate a wedding in the air). And again, whenever Rahman has used the harmonium, the output has been charming - this is no exception. It's gratifying to know that there is a lot of sweetness left even in these conventional structures even though we demand novelty all the time. Mixing in the "dham-dhara-dham" aural backbone works well with the song as do the interludes.
Baazi Lagaa: The frightening non-Rahmanesque-ness of this song can possibly be explained by describing the song as being very, very functional in the context of the film. The arrangements seem to echo a 80s film music feel with the violins and accordions, the chorus and general hullabaloo, but I can only imagine an accompanying montage detailing Guru's money-mindedness, which surely must be pre-80s? Still, the visuals will reveal all. Udit Narayan, Madhushree and others sing this slightly cynical look at the allure of money, and it ain't all that bad as it may seem on repeated hearings - the feet begin to tap a little. If it turns out to be a "dol"-like montage from "Yuva", I'd be looking forward.
Jaage Hain: A magnificent flourish to end the album, this orchestral and highly instrumental piece probably illustrates the bent of the film. Chitra and Rahman progress in differing ways - the first time you listen to this, surprises are guaranteed. The 1:30 minute long string section takes you up the inspiration scales ending with the Madras Chorale Group. Incidentally, the song bears an uncanny resemblance to "Lag Jaa Gale" from Woh Kaun Thi.
Now to the old maestro himself. Every Gulzar album is also a little language lesson, and this one taught me "besuaadii" and "chasm-e-nam". Incidentally, this album is exceedingly onomatopoeic in nature, so we see a lot of humming and yodelling. The music and phonemes do go hand-in-hand. A brief review of the album, lyric-wise:
Gulzar pulls out the same "kosaa-bosaa" rhyme we also saw with "Jag Jaa" (Omkaara) for "Barso Re", and there is some very pleasing rural imagery woven in. The romanticism of "Tere Bina" is quite old-fashioned and engaging. "Besuaadii" is the word of the album, by miles! "Ek Lo" shows why Gulzar is right in considering himself to be the best nonsense lyric writer around (consider the musings on double offers and even the appearance of "loadshedding"). "Mayya Mayya" in its "propositioning" lyrics is actually quite skillfully done without any over hint of lewdness (quite like "biiDii" from Omkara). "Ay hairath-e-aashiqui" is downright wonderful. The female section's tease "kyo.n urduu-faarsii bolate ho" brought forth a chuckle, for that sounds like a self-deprecatory joke, while the next line "das kehate ho do tolate ho" is a gentle dig at the protagonist's far-from-scrupulous ways. The song's last major lyric section is a sublime summary of the arranged match, and worth a recount:
do chaar mahiin se lamho me.nJaage Hai.n is a nice poem and typical of the Gulzar repertoire: let me sleep for a while, they sing, let me finish my half-dreams first, and then I can wake up and try and fulfill them. The quiet defiance and resolve is well underscored by the choral track.
umro.n ke hisaab bhi hote hai.n
jinhe.n dekhaa nahi.n kal tak kahii.n bhii
ab kok me.n woh chahare bote hai.n
Guru plays a lot of singers against type. Chinmayee and Chitra sound a lot more robust than we are accustomed to, and pull it off. Rahman takes on an even bigger singing role than before, and does a decent job musically. Bappi Lahiri has been used very differently, and it's only with Shreya Ghosal, Hariharan and Alka Yagnik that we come to some semblance of normality. However, a major complaint must be made of the diction. It's very nice to note that dialect coaches were used (and credited!), but in many of the songs, it was quite hard to pick up the pronounciation. I know Rahman has usually opted for musicality and "cuteness" over diction in the past, but it's a little tiring to have to figure out what they're trying to say. The affliction even hits the like of Hariharan, with only the ladies getting it mostly right. It also masks the impact of the lyrics.
And while on the subject of cribs, the CD is priced at a hefty 160/-. I know this is a premium combination with quite a track-record, but even then, 160/- is pricey (in fact, it's the most expensive CD I've bought). The CD comes with a lyrics booklet which has been well-designed visually, but the actual transliteration of lyrics is nothing short of shocking. The lyrics (written in English) have several inconsistencies in spelling, have omissions of words ("baazi lagaa" has the word "arabo.n" missing), includes lines that seem to be nowhere in the Bappi song - all in all, not what I want to get in a product for which I pay premium prices.
Another crib is about the distribution: why do releases happen overseas first and then in India? (The music went out on Thursday in the US, while being available on Friday late evening or Saturday. Omkara had the same problem.) Surely, it ought to be simultaneous or at least start here first? It caused me to fidget all morning with all the reactions pouring in, and I ended up searching high and low (successfully) for rips on the web. It is a much awaited album and I'm sure there was a major hit in productivity among a section of people last Friday :-). Also, it drives people to seek mp3s even if they don't really mean to.
All in all, a very satisfying album for the fan, but there are enough elements to hook the average disinterested listener. Multiple-listenings advised, but as much for the functional songs. If the usual Mani Ratnam choreography standards for such kind of films will materialise, then we could be in for a treat.
And finally, I wonder what happened to the cool rock and roll theme we heard on the website?
P.S.: great gesture by ARR to dedicate Tere Bina to the memory of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. It's fitting because ARR considers him to be one of his gurus, and after all, they were the Gurus of Peace.