Favorite soundtracks of 2015

So, turns out 2015 is another year I've refrained from writing down my thoughts on the music. But, somehow I feel this year has been a dud in terms of fresh sounds and great soundtracks. Or maybe I'm turning old !

That aside, here are five of my most favorite soundtracks from this year. Albums are selected the way they grew on me. The way, they translated and complemented the happenings on the screen. The way director has used it and it fueled the film. And, in no particular order.....

Bajirao Mastani:
The Obvious, the mandatory and obligatory choice. Only a few directors left today, who understands the value of music. How music is the integral part of our movies. Bhansali is one. There are reviews saying 'he finally has got his tune right with this album', that I disagree with. He always had it; be it the sound seashore of Goa or the soul of Gujarat. The Indian-ness, excessively rich in everything that is used - Bajirao Mastani is nothing short of a perfect album. Well, there is a glitch here too. Malhari - sounds totally out of the place, both in the movie and the album. But that is forgiven when you have soul stirring Aayat, Ibadat, Albela and stunning Jane na doongi.

Piku :
The sitar - that refuse to leave your head even after you finish watching the film. This is Bollywood's first encounter with Anupam Roy, and is definitely promising. The uplifting Journey song makes me want to make a playlist of journey songs, every time I hear it; Roy's voice has that charming quality that makes you love his croon. Apart from that, there is bright, alive title track; soulful Lamhe and Bezubaan and lovely Teri Meri Baatein. A perfect little album, just like the movie.

Bombay Velvet :
I passed it off as 'overdone-indulgent' work of Amit Trivedi. But the view got changed drastically after watching the film. After watching Rosie crooning 'Malaal mein......' on screen. And after watching those bullets flying from the Tommy gun. Yes, I am in the minority of those who loved the film and even re-watched it. Jazzy and sexy, and weirdly addictive. Disappointing that they haven't included the Geeta Dutt number featured in the film, the album is a perfect in all aspects.

Masaan :
One would outcast me if I say I did not follow Indian Ocean when they were at their peak. But that's the truth. I never followed them seriously without any reason. But here, you can not imagine anyone else doing the score for this wonderful film. The picturesque ghats looked more beautiful with frames sprinkled with Bhor. Or the poetry, that sounded endearing with flamboyant voice of Kirkire. This 3 song soundtrack is most complete even with its short playtime.

Tamasha :
Rahman. Alright? Well, not this time. Again, an underwhelming feeling when I first listened to it as we are getting this from the pair that gave Highway and Rockstar. But as always, Rahman's magic worked like slow poison. Add to this, the finesse of Imtiaz Ali, that shone on screen. Chali Kahani literally started the story as it should and Tum Saath ho moved to tears as it should. We danced off at Matargashti and even the odd sounding Wat Wat Wat got editing so good it now feels inseparable from the story.And, ah, what I can demand for, when a song has Rahman and Lucky Ali in background, while having Ranbir on screen?!!

Would like to mention other albums as well that were, well, decent. Tanu Weds Manu Returns, did have heavy burden of expectations, felt a bit short on them, for me. Dil Dhadkane Do was again, nice, but cliched SEL one. Humari Adhuri Kahani, ABCD2, Shamitabh and Detective Byomkesh Bakshyy were good. And Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo and Dum Laga Ke Haisha : 1-2 song each. Irony is - the later one, has one of the best song of the year.

Tags: Best of 2015, best songs, soundtracks, music, music list 2015.

Book Review : Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

Such a breezy and fun entertainer this book is. Unlike Twinkle's movies, of-course. ;) A fun idea it is to peep into her semi-fictional world. Because, well, if you love Bollywood - you would surely be interested in 'an ex-star married to a superstar's life!?

Have read only a few of Tina's columns, most of which are about current affairs. This book, is pretty different from those and thankfully, written in a very light manner. Making you go LOL at almost every page. Even there were some lines so hilarious, I really had to try hiding my laugh thinking what my co-traveler (in bus) would think.

Read it, because it won't harm your much time. And yes, God Blues You.

Highway : Thoughts overflow

Tu Kuja was haunting my mind since two days. Couldn't get over it unless hearing it on headphones. With all those electronic 'noise' thrown in. Yes, the reason why I love the track so much is because of that electronic treatment ARR has given to it. And for which, people often criticized it. But for me, the sound creates more mysterious atmosphere. More 'black' 'dark' and 'unknown' element it adds. There are two ways to enjoy this track - close your eyes trying to get away from everything. Or open your eyes, while traveling, sitting at window and look at visuals passing thru it.

The exact way to enjoy whole soundtrack of Highway, is like that. I just did it for umpteenth time. And that's why I am penning this down, without any purpose. Just as my mind felt about the songs, getting immersed yet again in this journey of sound. Highway.

Who knows, if Tu Kuja, initially, wouldn't have designed like this? Can anyone confirm, if it was actually made a qawwali as we heard on radio in the movie. May be, that sounded out of place to the director for the situation he wanted this song to be played to. So enter the mysterious version, for a scene where Veera is running away from reality, towards unknown.

That one track, isn't alone inspired by the visuals. Almost all of them, tells the same tale. Moving on to next, the one which got least accolades, for having more 'pop' sound.  Maahi Ve is another one, which takes you on a journey. Passing trees, one by one, as the 'clap' sound goes in the song. Another song, almost bordering on structure of Phir se udd chala. With no fixed lines to repeat. (agree, its not, but). It ends very unusually. But by that time, you already have lump in your throat, by the lyrics and the violins in the last para.

Sooha saha, again, an emotional journey. Scenes in the movie, are put in flickering motion. Coming and going in seconds, from the past of Mahabir. By the time song reaches its climax, and Veera starts singing - Toota Tara sa... for the broken Mahabir. You can't help, and tears well up in your eyes. Visuals of Veera consoling Mahabir come up in front of eyes, when Mahabir totally breaks down, right before the climax. And Veera consoles him like a mother would. Aching pain the scene had, that reflects in a song, that comes way earlier in the movie.

The the playlist moved to ARR's version of Patakha Guddi, which unlike the 'happy' sound of the former version, has its soul more inclined towards devotion. Devotion, towards the one you love. From the silent scattered continued beats, it goes to the height, of belonging-ness, in terms of music - with hard rock portion, gradually coming down. With faint sounds of a dafli. And near conclusion, offering one's self completely to the 'Saaiya'. You hear more faint sounds, almost silent, of 'manjeera', repeating at certain intervals. A symbol of devotion-literally.

And after all this ride into unknown, emotional, physical, devotional peak, and back on soil. Implosive Silence cools down everything. But not for so long. The longing sound remains inside. Like heart beats. Increasing gradually. And then, bass increases, but not outwards. Inwards it takes you. Just like the name of the track. Implosion - of thoughts, of things squeezing you inside. Without shouting outside, without letting anyone else hear you. The one, that makes more devastating effect than an explosion.

Book Review : Gaata Rahe Mera Dil:50 Classic Hindi Film Songs

It used to irk me a lot every time when someone argued 'Gaane to humare/puraane zamaane mein the, aaj kal ke gaane mein woh baat nahi'. (Great songs were in our times/old times, today's songs lack that thing). I always begged to differ, as each generation, each decade has their own share of awesome as well as dreadful soundtracks. But after reading this, my belief proved wrong. Yes, there were bad soundtracks in those times too, but the good ones were so great, from each aspect, and having shelf life so long, it continues to mesmerize us even today.

Balaji Vittal and Anirudha Bhattacharjee's second book, Gaata Rahe Mera Dil tells the tale of 53 such albums (yes, and not just one song from each album), that makes you floored by the detailing and research. Efforts to gather the information, are at remarkable level, that makes you revisit all the songs with totally different perspective. For example, even the simple melody of Yeh raat bheegi bheegi, gave me goosebumps at the lines 'Iss raat ki jhagmag mein, main dhoondh rahi hoon apne ko'. Or some albums which I avoided to listen, just because I love 'well arranged' sound more, when I put on my headphones; are on repeat mode now in my phone. All this because now I know what is the story behind them.

Of course, there are portions, which were difficult for an average 'admirer' of music like me. Like the Komal Ni, Soft Dha and other information about the structure of the songs like chords and coda. But that, makes one want to learn how these things work.

Yes, the list is SDB, RDB heavy. But path breaking, their music was as everyone agrees. Manna Dey has major chunk when talking about male voice, and Lata of course, as female one. But still there are talks of voices like Vani Jairam, Minmini, Bhupinder Singh - rightfully done.

This is one book, you can't afford to miss, if like me, you proclaim yourself a 'music lover'. The only side effect is - this will make your 'To play' list quite longer. And you will miss listening to recent albums, well, though there is nothing to lose in doing so.

Off topic : So I read in this sequence, books that were linked with each other : Conversations with Waheeda Rehman > Sun Mere Bandhu Re:The music journey of SDBurman > The Guide > Romancing with Life by Dev Anand > Gaata Rahe Mera Dil. Phew, now its time to break the link. Though I so want to read Meena Kumari's life account, written by Vinod Mehta, but that can wait. Now its time for a fiction.

Book Review : Romancing with Life by Dev Anand

Always a fan of his works; his style, songs and his movies. Don't know why it took so long that I made this book stay on the shelf. It's a wonderful, often dreamy account of a star shining bright on his own in the very first galaxy of Indian cinema. Knowing no one in the industry Dev Saab's is a story no less than a fairy tale. (wonder what would be the writing material for today's stars when the trend of 'you launch my son I'll launch your new movie').

From the lights and shades of black and white era, to the musical of early seventies to the one after another non-stop failures produced by Navketan. Dev Saab honestly puts it down like no other star has done till date in India.

Of course there are dull moments, and those in larger quantity in last almost 150 pages when he keeps on boasting about the honors he was receiving and the political connections. As everyone's review points out. After the Zeenat chapter, things get boring. But still there are chapters like the shooting of Love at Times Square and his Lahore bus journey, which holds your attention.

I wish he could have written more about working with his two most effective partners on screen : SD Burman and Waheedaji. That would have made this more intriguing. However, for a fan like me, even this is more than enough. Evergreen as he is, the life account is a suitable for the aura he still has, even after his departure.

Bombay Velvet : Movie Review

What's wrong? I mean what is wrong with us - the audience. On one hand we cry out for 'lack of original' cinema. One one hand we shout about typical masala movies ruling the crores clubs. And here, on the other hand, moving ahead of all formulas, sticking to the script, Kashyap dedicates his everything to a movie so rich and fulfilling cinematic experience - we all thrash it out. Like its a sub-standard C grade movie ! Well, I am writing this not because I suddenly got symphathetic to one of my favorite director. Nor I am a bhakt or #inAnuragWeTrust guy. Nah. I don't even like a much acclaimed film from his stable - Udaan. But I am writing this because there is this trend on the rise - trend to start thrashing a movie, say killing a movie from Thursday night itself. To show-off how brilliantly we can influence things thru social media. How my handle / my blog / my reviews matter so much that I can even make Anurag Kashyap to type an FB update about moving on. Hah...

The movie, is surely a treat for me. For someone who love the city of dreams, it must be. Thankfully, I had read Mumbai Fables, a really well researched history of the city by Gyan Prakash. And it shows in the movie that every minute detail of the growing city is being taken care of. Even the very first minute has the Air India hording 'Nariman had a point... and we are at it'! You know what lies ahead. A riveting tale with absolutely sharp twists. Sprinkled with jazzy sexiness. The suave treatment shines throughout. The period setting is just too perfect that not a single thing skips away. Be it the Art Deco buildings or furniture, be it the warring tabloids, be it the mill chimneys or the 'secondary' headlines right below the major one. Everything is taken care of and it shows. The result - you are never bored throughout its (long) running time.

Music. Ah. The music. I never found the album much interesting, or say I had not given it many listens. But here, right from the beginning it gets you. From the opening shot to the end, Amit's score never leaves you. Be it the background score or the opulent jazzy tracks, with all those glamour and shine all around, it made me go Whaa! at places. There is a full song dedicated to Nanavati case, the most famous at that time ! Must mention here, Anushka's acts. She seems so natural as if she is really singing those song. Her 'Dhadaam dhadaam' being absolutely amazing, I would give all the awards to her just for those expressions.

Talking about performances, Ranbir ! How charming and raw goes hand in hand with his portryal of Balraj ! Earlier I had many doubts about him being in a role of tapori/fighter. But here he is totally convincing and plays his part so well, it seems he is perfect for the role for which he was third choice ! I can't believe there are people saying RK's performance is even bad than Besharam ! Ouch. Playing the Godfather of Balraaj, Karan Johar is surprisingly good. Even he couldn't have imagined himself. Jokingly not just people but even I told everyone how he is a bad choice as a villain (because, you know !) But Kashyap knows this and with his own control, the controlled moves and camera work, Khambhata makes a menacing villain. And Anushka, ah, she looks ravishing and the expressions makes each song perfect. Be it first song of Rosie's career - Fiffy or the one when she is star - Naak pe gussa or the situational - Sylvia !

Bombay Velvet is indeed a fine piece of cinema which has less indulgence (if you expect that from AK movie) and more dedication. But you have to have idea whats going on here. What went in making the seven islands into one-the densest city in the world. Bombay Velvet is that story. Story of Bombay !

Arjun : Without a doubt - Book Review

Not another book on Mahabharata. I thought, when I saw the summary of this book. And yet, I was tempted to read it because, it was on Mahabharata. Mythology, as always, lures me to read it. And there, I clicked the button for BlogAdda's book giveaway. Thanks again for choosing me to do something I love. Reading and reviewing.

Though I was sceptical because the subject has already been dwelled up in the past, by various mediums. In the book forms, or the alternate versions of the epic written on point of view of Arjun. A few months back I started reading Anuja Chandramouli's version, which I left midway for unknown reasons. But still, I have a feeling that this is the character - who is not given justice, respect and fame he deserves. Arjun - despite of being the central hero, gets washed off in contemporary versions of the epic whenever it is told again and again. With that in mind, I started reading Arjun : Without a doubt by Dr Shinde Sweety.

At first, what catches the attention while reading this version is the writing style. Here, it is not told from a witness' point of view. Neither it is told as a version of historical tale. But here, it is like a biography. Full of monologues and telling things as they happen, in front of their eyes and around. Making this quite an interesting to read from the very first pages. Though I got confused (and was, till the second half) between the two characters. As the story unfolds with two protagonists telling their story. Arjun and his lady love Draupadi. It was tough to differentiate immediately identify which character is telling his/her tale. Thankfully, I came across a review that described the chapters starting with *** are as told by Draupadi. Phew, things were easy then.

And the fact is - this different styled telling of the tale is the most intersting facet of this book. And then, the author's selection of the events. Which events to be emphasized and which ones to be toned down to mere lines, because such events are so popular that needs not be retold. Even, some events that are originated despite of the fact they are just myths. Like the one popular myth we have been hearing. Kunti did not know what Arjun brought to the hut, and told to share Draupadi among all five brothers. While the actual tale, is totally opposite. How could she order in such a way despite that fact she already knew it was not mere thing? Another major event, yet again involving Draupadi. The famous 'cheer haran' in the court of Hastinapur. The version Sweety tells us, seems more believable then the one which we are hearing since childhood. Here, the author shows the power of woman. Who can transform to Goddess Kali when she is assaulted and insulted. Not a silent delicate and helpless one, but a fierce warrior who can finish up the things at the same moment.

Choice of characters is the clever thing here. I could not get enough of whenever Draupadi and Arjun get confronted. We get to peep into their life. How it would have been for a couple bound by rules and exiles. Despite the fact Arjun won her hand and being the only one who hopelessly loved her - he can't even meet her alone till the eighth year since their marriage.  And during those eight years how his exile forms his life like none other.

By the time the book reaches its last quarter, you are bowled by awesomeness how the war is described. And even the aftermaths and lives of the survivors. Moreover, the bonus 20 pages of analysis by Sweety, that talks about all the ifs and buts and myths and connections. The summary is just as good as the whole journey the book takes.

Overall, this makes a worthy read for those who love this epic. For its central characters of Arjun and Draupadi and for the tales that are not told every now and then.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Ramayana The Game Of Life : Shattered Dreams - Book Review

Why 14 years? Not 10, not 15, but why specific figure of 14 years of exile Rama has to go for? Have you ever thought about it? Here, you will have the answer. Moreover, the questions that are almost unanswered, like how the city of Ayodhya reflected the parting of their beloved Rama? Was Kaikeyi really an evil queen from the start? Why Manthra played the role of a traitor? All this and more, I found in this second installment of Game Of Life series written by Shubha Vilas. Shattered Dreams - the second part of the Ramayana series tells the story starting from the announcement of coronation to the initial days of the 14 year old exile in the forest.
Taking help of Valmiki Ramayan and the other versions of this great epic, Shubha  takes you to that era when most virtuous King once ruled the world. The King, Rama. It is indeed an interesting take on Ramayana to make it accessible to younger generation with occasionally sprinkled wisdom in the footnotes. Even in review of the first book I had noted this. That not just some interesting trivia, but words of wise men are there making your reading more immersive.
Rarely I have read any editions of Ramayana that goes so much into details about the other characters as well, other than Rama and Sita. Here, they have a less exposure compared to other character. Even the later one, Sita, has hardly any notable sequence. On the other hand, here we have detailing about each small person who played key roles at various stages. Be it the evil hunchbacked Manthra, or the ever beautiful queen Kaikeyi. Even the charioteer Sumantra is given so detailed attention, the presence of them hardly go unnoticed.
One beautiful aspect of the writing of the book is how the author has used the expletives. Be it describing inimitable beauty of Rama, or the occasional glances of Rama and Sita. Or the description of beautiful creations of nature. The rivers and the forests. Everything is depicted so beautifully that it comes alive in front of us. Leave only the goody goody things. But the remorse of the brothers, grief of the parents and moans of the citizens of Ayodhya - on losing their beloved sun prince Rama, does let you go with the flow. Only to make you wonder how great a man must be to have such an inimitable image in people's hearts. Another thing I loved about how the characters of Lakshmana and Bharata are developed. Both, bound by their unwritten duty to elder brother. Both taking vows just because their brother is facing hardships.
And not just Rama, but the opening chapters also takes you on the journey to the past. The past when the Ikshvaku dynasty had a King named Nemi, who later on named Dashratha. How a person got transformed from Dasagriva to Ravana. How Ravana got encounter with the god of death - Yama himself. A collage of absolutely interesting backstories gets you hooked. And despite the fact the stories we already know, there is always something new to know about.
So isn't there anything that I disliked? Well, there is. But a personal choice of course. That at places the learnings go in much detailed mode. At places it hinders flow of the story. But still gives out very important lessons. Be it the Mission tests, the virtues, the anarthas, true communication and more. Words that makes you go think, ponder about the things around.
And that's what a book should do, right? Shattered Dreams does exactly that. And full marks to the author Shubha Vilas for taking the age old epic to this new level. Thank you for bringing those stories alive again which were there somewhere in granny's love, in age old books in our cupboards, in Amar Chitra Katha books.

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The Aryavarta Chronicles - Kurukshetra : Book Review

These are the stories one can never get tired of. Each of us have grown up listening, watching and reading stories of Mahabharata. The past, often glorius, often bloody. The politics, rooted in each individual. Virtues and bravado. Mahabharata has it all. No matter how many times its retold, it doesn't lose its charm. Here, Krishna Udaysankar comes with her own version of the epic. Third book in The Aryavarta Chronicles series - Kurukshetra tells the tale that starts on the brink of the greatest war ever fought. On the red soil of battlefields of Kurukshetra, who and what led the forces to victory, who played invisible role in making Aryavarta a dream come true.

Actually, this is my first in the trilogy. Earlier I had seen and thought of reading first two books in this series. But somehow couldn't get my hands on untill this one offered by Blogadda. (Add to this, I never mind reading a series of books, starting backwards. Even LOTR was the book, which I read final episode first, then the other two ;)). Despite the fact I was reading last chapter in the tale, It didn't feel like one. Though it took some pages to get accustomed to the writer's style. Because, she doesn't spoon feed the facts and makes you want to think the scenario from the other angles as well.

Kurukshetra - starts off with those meetings in the background. The happenings around the states of Hastina and Matsya. How the war is being set up with role of Govinda in it. Gathering forces and supoort from other states which initially were supportive to Hastina and Syoddhan. But how Govinda rolls his dice and gets them in Dharma's stride. Interesting politics and alliances happens. While on the other hands, we get to see how lives of unsung heroes like Shikandin, Dhrustadhymn, Hidimbya and the second generation of many kings comes into light.

Writing style of Krishna is interesting. She doesn't reveal the ongoings in traditional way. But with less dialogues, more emphasis on the strategic actions. For a first timer like me, it took really a good time to get familiar with it. The complexity is notable and it actually gets you abosorbed in it. Interestingly, the story emphasize on portraying all the 'magic' and 'miracle' with background of science. So there, you do have reason behind the famous eclipse, reason behind the magical 'astras'. Even, Shikhandin here, is not a character with feminine qualities. Instead, he is a great warrior infusing great strength among the soldiers. Even biggest names like Dron and Syoddhan takes him very seriously. Another character, Abhimanyu, gets a deserving spotlight here. From his role to pre-war strategic alliance, to his role as a lover. The writer innovatively tells the tale which we don't hear much in any other version. Even, we get to see Ashwattama in action like anyone else. Being a complex character, he gets humble attention in the story. Most of the part is dedicated to 18 days long battle (obviously) and the writer paints the red picture perfectly with her words.  Things go really interesting towards the climax and ends fabulously.

Though I won't say its an absolutely perfect rendition I have ever read. Sometimes the detailed paragraphs and monologues make it difficult to cop up with. Also, the name changes here - Duryodhan, Karna, Yudhistir, Arjun, Krishna - all are here with their other names. Agree there must be a back story / reason for this in past books. But somehow we are accustomed to read only those names, and that confuses in opening parts.

Those minor complaints apart, Kurukshetra does live up the tagline it bears - The epic as it was never told before. Highly recommended to everyone, for the style, for the angle the epic is projected here.


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