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Music Review: Slumdog Millionaire

This time, it is not a music discovery, because I am pretty sure everyone and their grandmother have heard of this movie. I managed to obtain a very high-quality version of the soundtrack (and discovered for the first time what a difference a high-quality sound file makes, and what I’ve been missing out by listening to mp3s), and gave the soundtrack a thorough listen.

Of course, Slumdog Millionaire has been a runaway success, and has been awarded and nominated for several titles. Its soundtrack by AR Rahman has already won the Golden Globes, and looks set to be on the path for the Oscars.

Is it good? Short answer is, of course, it is. AR Rahman has once again demonstrated his genius and flexibility, and given us another delectable aural treat. But I will not call it his best work, because having followed his work since the time he premiered on Roja, I can confidently say it is not. Yes, it has gained international recognition – but only because it is attached to a production which is not of Indian origin. Him winning the Golden Globes (and potentially the Oscars), is a lot like Katherine Heigl winning an Emmy for season 3 of Grey’s Anatomy, or a more potent example, Einstein winning the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the photoelectric phenomenon – he/she deserves it, but for the wrong work.

The last time his work gained international recognition was when he did Bombay Dreams and Lagaan. Bombay Dreams soundtrack was decidely unoriginal (Rahman simply reused the tunes from his former work from Indian films, which, of course the non-Indian audience would not have picked up at all), and was rather butchered by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bad writing.

Slumdog is an original production by contrast, and includes a mix of decidedly Indian soundtracks (Jai Ho), to the extremely western (Gangsta). It would not be entirely wrong to call Slumdog‘s soundtrack AR Rahman for the non-Indian audience – a bit of a primer before you can start appreciating the true depth of the man’s work.

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January 28, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

Indian Movies: A Primer

This post is probably long overdue, but as with everything else, I’ve been too busy to blog about it. I’ve received enough ribbing in my life about Indian movies, Indian songs and everything to do with Indian culture. People making fun of “dancing around coconut trees”, moving their heads and hands in a horrible imitation of what they consider Indian dance, and laughing at music – all of which I am expected to agree with and laugh at. I don’t confront residual racism directly, and until recently, I myself would have been unqualified to confront it [But that is not really the point].

So, with the axiom that knowledge is power, I am giving all my readers a tour of that great Indian institution: Indian films. Before I start, I must disclaim that I am by no means an expert, and I have not seen every movie out there [that would take roughly 100 years], and I am only able to give my point-of-view from three languages. Yes, surprise, there is more than one Indian language – roughly 20 official languages, in fact, spread out over 26 states. But the languages with an active film industry are not that many – Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu and of course, Hindi (popularly known as Bollywood). I am familiar with three of them – Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil. My interest in Indian movies was only recently revived, after having considered most of them in disdain. I still do, but I have learned to appreciate the gems too. Continue reading

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Celebrities, Movies, Music | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Indian Among Indians

Originally published on Sayoni Speak

I wish I could write this in the nature of some undercover spy report, or even a fascinating account of some rare new species by a researcher. While it feels like I am doing something of the sort, the subjects of my article are far from treason-committing criminals or an animal species. They are a bunch of queer women of Indian origin, a group of girls in an educational institution unnamed, brought together through to a weird gravitational force yet unaccounted for by the laws of physics.

How did I get to know these girls? Quite honestly, mainly through an ex-partner. For one and a half years, I have been hearing reports of these women and their exploits from more than one source, and met a couple of members on occasion. But last week was the first time I met them en masse, a mass of black-and-brown skinned girls (to be quite politically correct, boys too, but we shall get to that later), representing maybe half this unique sub-culture.

Continue reading

August 18, 2008 Posted by | LGBTQ | , , , | 1 Comment

Music Discovery

Title: Bailando Va

Artist: La Caina

Album: Cafe del Mar Dream Vol 4

Cafe del Mar albums are famous world-wide for their soothing, chill-out, perfect for watching-a-sunset, perfect for a dinner-or-drinks-party music. Only recently have I gotten into their music, and I stumbled onto this song while looking at the Cafe del Mar Singapore website. It has all the classic markers of a Cafe del Mar song, the sounds of sea, the slow soothing Spanish female vocals, slow strumming of the guitar, that envelop you in a comforting lyrical blanket. It makes you want to curl up with a good book or a partner at the beach at night by a cosy fire. [By the way, the song is best heard without watching the accompanying music video – I used this link because it was the only one I could find]

I also managed to find a song I’ve been hunting for more than two years, from a Cafe Del Mar album – Mumbay Theme Tune, as it is called in the Cafe del Mar Volume 5. It is the theme song that appears in Fire, the controversial 1997 Indian lesbian movie. Fire, to this day, remains my favorite movie for many reasons, and this theme song, beautifully written by A.R. Rahman (as always, him being an unparalleled musical genius) makes me want to cry every time I hear it, so beautiful and bitter-sweet. Okay, I admit, I did cry the first time I heard it again, as it evoked for me, strong memories of the film and its powerful ending. You caught me, I am a weepy little sensitive girl. Now shoo, and go listen to the recommended tracks.

Update: Another recommendation from the Cafe del Mar Dreams Volume 4Feel Safe by Luminous, a beautiful, almost romantic tantric piece.

February 27, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment