Monday, September 29, 2008

Battles lines are drawn on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009

After a long time harnessing his somewhat quick temper, Himesh Reshammiya finally decided to unleash his inner Battle Droid - much as some of us had hoped for. He built some bridges, then burned them and then went ahead and half-heartedly tried to patch the charcoal. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In the last few weeks - and I confess I have missed several episodes - fellow judge Shankar Mahadevan had effectively put Himesh in his place. This he did by not mincing his words whenever his opinion differed from Himesh. At the same time he back-slapped the other two judges - Pritam and Aadesh Srivastava - and cajoled them into providing somewhat veiled support.

Himesh, not doing himself any favors, gradually realized he was being pushed into one corner. And Mr. Roji Roti became Goody Two Shoes and the SRGMP show sputtered on in aman and shanti. Yes, that was me you heard snoring.

Thankfully the knife's edge was been restored on the show thanks to some rather silly disagreements - the best kind when it comes to judge jhagdas.

This week Himesh decided to announce that the judges would not dismiss a good singer over one bad performance . It might have helped to consult his fellow judges because as soon as he said that both Shankar and Aadesh jumped in to undermine him. Himesh, looking visibly troubled, trotted up on stage - perhaps not realizing that this grandstanding would piss people off even more. Finally to salvage it all, Himesh declared that Shankar and Aadesh were in one corner and Pritam and he were in another. Poor Pritam look a little shell-shocked if you ask me at this impromptu recruitement.

Later, Himesh announced his support for the girls on the show by stating that a girl should and will win SRGMP this year. But the taalis he was looking for instead came as a gaali. Somewhat inexplicably Aadesh referred to Himesh uncharitably as Chanakya. "I don't have any girls in my gharaana" he sniffed, implying that Himesh was shutting down Aadesh's house by throwing his lot in with the girls. Sa Re Ga Ma Kindergarten Pa.

On the second of the two shows this weekend, Imraan Khan and Minissha Lamba showed up to promote their new movie . The SRGMP producers manufactured a promo subplot of tremendously infectious silliness. This required Head to pretend that he had been kidnapped. Head freed himself and took the entire show to realize that Imraan had done it.

This brilliant bit of comedy showed that not satisfied with spanking the TRP covers of Voice of India and Indian Idol, SRGMP now had the kiddie shows squarely in its sights.

I enjoyed the presence of Imraan and Minissha quite a bit. Imraan seems to be of a new breed of actors - those who consciously try to act un-starry and strip any semblance of adaas from their body language. And Minissha - because she spoke articulately and didn't once try to "charm" us via unnecessary giggling - got major points from me.

All wasn't done yet. At one point Tarun Sagar delivered a rather lukewarm rendition of Gadar's mega hit Mein Nikla Gaddi Leke. Himesh immediately jumped to his defence by informing everyone that Tarun's throat was not in good shape. Yes, nodded Tarun sadly. Pritam issued an eye roll and warned Himesh not to play the galleries for sympathy. Himesh waved his middle finger around - supposedly unintentionally.

Aadesh, by now stewing over Himesh for some reason I can't explain, asked Tarun to prove it by singing the same song. Tarun croaked something out. "Beta" Aadesh shook his head "acting mat karo!" Tarun tried again - this time it sounded better. He got a hammering from both Aadesh and Himesh, who looked a little embarrassed.

But enough about the judges. Next week, I'll have to force myself to talk about the singing on the show.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Entrée FAIL!

A few days ago a famous hasti who has been on the Drift recently announced that they were going to play a gig in Delhi. Promptly came a comment from a friend: "Have a blast!" It was well meant, of course.

But in today's environment in India, its best not to use certain words. Like say naming an entrée Egg Bomb Kebab.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This appeared in a newspaper that I used to work for - so it's name won't be mentioned. Apparently my beloved M. S. University is under siege. Someone has been stealing laptops, food and clothes from the hostels. The police are flummoxed.

Enter a rather famous "city based psychiatrist" who has cunningly picked up on the clue that the thefts have occurred in the girls' hostels to offer the following analysis:

"We find more kleptomaniacs among the female of our species due to their urge to own something. It is not a matter of being rich or poor, but it is generally an urge to get something at a specific time."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Family Values FAIL

Boy, it sure is good to be back in India and reading the papers to see if any of the stars yawned today. Just as much fun: post economic boom advertisements.

In this Pied Piper like Ad,
On Top: Rocking Family Time Guaranteed
Inside winged heart: Sin Is In
And below: Temptation Reloaded

Concept from wonderfully crowdsourced

Friday, September 19, 2008

Suraj Jagan: The resurgence of a rock star - an exclusive Drift interview

Not so long ago, Suraj Jagan was part of Chakraview and at the forefront of India's burgeoning rock scene. Chakraview didn't last and the rock scene in India petered out. But years later, Suraj is enjoying a huge mid-career resurgence thanks to Bollywood's recent embracing of rock as a way of reaching a more urban audience.

Suraj has delivered some bravura singing on terrific songs this year: lending a soulful purr to the power ballad No Big Deal from Money Hai To Honey Hai and then bringing the party to The Theme of Hijack with his slow slung growl.

But it was Suraj's crazy snarl on Zehreelay (Rock On!!) that got him a lot of attention this year. And while performing the song, the production team noted (among other things) that he had his tattoo in the right place (neck) and hired him to act in the movie.

Thus it was that Suraj sang his own song in Rock On!! in a face off with Farhan Akhtar and Arjun Rampal's fictional band Magik in the movie.

Sure he later got pummeled by Arjun, but he walked off with the hottest chick in the movie and he should have won that competition too if you ask me. But since no one is asking me, I'll let Suraj do the talking.

Aspi: Suraj, thanks to your recent fireworks in Bollywood you are one of India’s most well known rock stars now. All that hard work is paying off! Can I take a guess as to who your favorite singer might be: Ian Gillan from Deep Purple?

Suraj: Actually my all time favorites are Robert Plant and Chris Cornell

Aspi: So what plays on your CD changer most of the time these days?

Suraj: Metallica

Aspi: You’ve mentioned before that you’ve been through ups and downs. More downs than up. What’s the worst down you’ve been through – the one that put you down the most? And how did you come out of it?

Suraj: When I look back, everything's been a learning experience. So nothing's bad in that sense.

Aspi: Chakraview was probably the biggest band you were in before it went south. When did you get the feeling that that band wouldn’t last?

Suraj: Never got that feeling. It was just over one day!

Aspi: You formed Dream Out Loud with Chandresh and released Human Race sometime last year. I loved Desire! How’s DOL doing these days?

Suraj: The second album is almost ready but we are not going to spend any money on it. Probably we will put it up for download at some point.

Aspi: Let’s talk about the independent rock scene in India. It’s never taken off as much as one expected at the turn of the millennium. We know Bollywood swallows a major share of the music market in India. But do you think there were rays of hope that might have led somewhere if they had been capitalized on?

Suraj: Definitely, but we live in a country of Greed NOT Passion.

Aspi: Speaking of Bollywood, I would never have heard of you if you hadn’t rocked those songs in the filmi duniya. How did you engage with Bollywood?

Suraj: Never ran after it. Life has a strange way of working out.

Aspi: Do you think Bollywood now has place for rock songs?

Suraj: I think so.

Aspi: One of your songs I loved was “No Big Deal” from Money Hai to Honey Hai. Please, please tell us a little bit about it.

Suraj: Ya, loved singing it! The song was recorded in one of the best studio's I've ever sung in - Yash Raj. Great experience.

Aspi: You also sang a couple of songs on Hijack. Could you tell us a little bit about the composers Justin and Uday? I don’t know anything about them!

Suraj: They are old friends of mine. Great guys, superb sense of humor and they can keep you in splits for hours.

Aspi: Last Bollywood question: is there a non-rock song that you’ve heard recently that you wish you could have sung?

Suraj: I actually sang Khuda Jaane for Vishal-Shekar but at the last moment they decided to go with KK. That's one of my fave songs.

Aspi: Ok, hypothetical situation: let’s say you are scheduled to deliver a major rock performance at India Gate that will be telecast live across the world. Unfortunately you ate some really bad pau bhaji the previous day and can barely croak. The rock izzat of India is at stake. Who would you pick to sing in your place?

Suraj: Vernon Abraham from Bangalore.

Aspi: My 9 year old who I call MotorSandal can’t stop listening to Zehreelay. He doesn’t know a lick of Hindi but can sing the whole song – probably backwards if you asked. He has a question for you: Suraj sir, how did you prepare for the song? Did you eat a lot of spicy food like Kurkures so that you could put out that crazy, loud growl?

Suraj: Yes I did!

Aspi: Finally, please indulge us – this is a mandatory question on my blog for everyone. Can you fold a fitted bed sheet?

Suraj: No!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Regional Drama on Star Voice of India

Since SRGMP was so boring this week and my blasted DVR started acting up again (give humans something simpler to use and they'll find a new way to screw it up), I decided to tune in to Star Voice of India. And I must say, if I had time I would be watching this show every week!

Why so? Hold that chai a little tighter while I explain. We don't want any stains on the sofa.

Last year VoI played the regional card willy nilly down to the finals, issuing pukaars to the home states of the contestants to send in SMS votes. This year if you can believe it, VoI kicked it up a notch.

In its current format, VoI has contestants picked from each state called "Voice of this-state or that-state". Having established home (and vote) base as part of the premise of the show, VoI then allows itself to shamelessly play the Regional Vote drama.

Often someone on the show (like the host Shaan or an audience member) will take on an admonishing tone, implying that the people of a state are not patriotic enough or maybe they are just plain lazy.

Sweet Mother of God! Is this what India has come to? I mean people who won't be bothered to pick up a mobile - a mobile I tell you - and not punch in a few buttons to vote for their brother or sister? In the time it would take them to roll their eyes and switch to a different channel, someone could just as easily get suckered, continue to watch the show and spend hundreds on SMS votes!

Last week the Voice of Punjab (let's dispense with names shall we?) didn't get enough votes to keep him out of trouble. A bunch of people shook their heads and admonished their fellow Punjab ke vaasi. "Kya ho raha hai!" yelled one. "Its shameful" another shook his head.

Yet, I must confess this drama gave me pause. I even stopped eating my aloo bhujiya for a while. Judge Monty Sharma picked up the mike and declared: "Why Punjab!? All of India should vote for this boy!" Everyone shook their heads solemnly - the boy himself nodded vigorously - and applauded.

Monty laid down his mike and looked around as if the point had been made for the first time. And then it was back to more State-mongering. This bit of amusement made up for the fact that Monty did not say "Attack!" even once while I was watching.

Finally, in my opinion it is unforgivable for a show that is a singing competition to have its contestants lip sync. Sure SRGMP does it, but only for the opening act - and I can't say I like that either. But when the show kicks in, everyone sings live and lives and dies by it.

But it was Disco Night and the producers of VoI decided to have their singers jump and shimmy around in the name of top class entertainment. And in such a situation, we all know that singing properly is like chewing lohe ke channe. So every single contestant mimed - even the handicapped guy who sat it out.

Often someone would be caught napping and try to catch up with the words - they would dart off a guilty look and then immediately execute some exaggerated move to try and deflect attention. The camera would helpfully move quickly to a wider shot.

This provided continuous fun - I even rated the contestants on their ability to dupe the viewers. Voice of Delhi - great work!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The music of Drona

While listening to the Drona soundtrack the one thing that jumped out at me was that composer Dhruv Ganekar seems to love mellow stuff. More accurately: his heart is set on simmering rather than exploding. (He's the anti-Himesh!)

Drona wallpaperWhat does the music of Drona sound like? Its touching, sometimes visceral and its different enough that it stands out. But despite Ghanekar exploring (relatively) new musical territory its also very commercial. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, Ghanekar isn't in Sajid-Wajid territory (Partner, God Tussi Great Ho) when it comes to commercial tunes, but he sure knows how to create a mainstream hook. And second, thanks to the influx of mavericks who have cut their teeth on the independent music scene in India, Bollywood music is undergoing a slow but sure change. And that change is beginning to redefine what mainstream hits sound like. This suits Ghanekar's sound well.

Take the title track for starters on which Ghanekar man's vocal duties. There is a soft percussion and a neat edge in Ghanekar's voice. There is a simple up-tempo beat that is paced with an electric guitar. And despite building up the drama, Ghanekar leashes it enough that it doesn't quite blow up in your face. And this bit of restraint makes Drona a neat piece of counter-programming as far as title tracks go.

Ghanekar constructs Oop Cha gradually with nifty tribal beats. He's playing to the galleries here because he asks Sunidhi Chauhan to sing with that singular high note followed by the speaking note that adorns so many of her hits and unfairly marks her as having limited depth. Predictably, the rap hooks follow.

But for some reason Oop Cha is tremendous hook to have in a song. I couldn't get it out of my head the first time I heard it. And there is a reason this singing formula works for Sunidhi - it just sounds really good! So it is that Oop Cha is hugely listenable - even when the mandatory remix arrives.

Past these two songs, Drona gets more interesting. On Bandagi, Sunidhi and Roop Kumar Rathod sing a laid back semi-classical composition. Ghanekar uses brief harmonies combined with a spare set of instruments: mostly synths and tablas to create a clean, almost still sound.

He uses the same Rahman-like formula to create the one truly memorable composition of the CD - the gorgeous lullaby Nanhe Nanhe.  In a terrific move, he hires Sadhana Sargam to sing the song. And Sadhana is such a singer that although she lacks Lata Mangeshkar's legendary throw, she can hold some of the legend's notes without losing the sweetness that left Lata's voice with age. Its a long song (it clocks in at 6:04) but a lot of the tedium is resolved by Ghanekar who introduces new instruments or arrangements with each verse - a rousing, strident percussion that appears by the second chorus being one that I loved in particular. Ghanekar brings the song to a close with an extended rendering of the melody by flute. Its a nifty move because he uses your memory of the sound to tie in his next composition with the CD.

Drona wallpaperWhich brings us to Khushi, Ghanekar's hugely interesting pop-jazz composition, notable for being uncompromising in its musical arrangements' fidelity to its genre. Shaan - who sings this song - avoids mimicking jazz-swing straight notes, thus giving Khushi a somewhat distinctive sound.  Suzanne D'mello sings backup on this and unleashes her gorgeous wail to end the song - its worth a listen.

There is one more song on the album - a version of Drona rendered by Sunidhi which has more of the mainstream drama and pace you'd expect in a big title track. And despite the fact that it showcases Sunidhi's vocal range in a way the other tracks don't, I was happy with Ghanekar's original choice.

I have only one critique of Ghanekar to make. Yes, its a big break (congratulations are in order on producing a gutsy set of compositions) and the expectations and schedules have to be met. But I would have loved to have seen a better variety of voices on the tracks.

It would have been a fitting way to announce the arrival of a  talent who will - in all likelihood- continue to nudge if not push the envelope.

Friday, September 12, 2008

JMLR! Himesh Reshammiya vs Shekhar Suman

Well you'd think what could Shekhar Suman and Himesh Reshammiya have in common except a fine sense of what looks good on them? But thanks to Bee, we all see the possibilities.

So we decided to have Himesh and Shekhar go at it. Head to head. And here are the results.

Chick Magnetism
Often one has to wonder how anyone can resist these two. Shekhar's looks are only overshadowed by his dashing personality. Himesh's Five O' Clock Shadow can barely hide his dashing visage and looks.
Winner: Tie

Man Cleavage
Shekhar Suman's is bonier (think Keira Knightley). Himesh's is boobier (think Bindu).
Winner: Himesh because Shekhar's is probably a bitch to shave

Vocal Talent
Shekhar once cut a CD but his hopes for a hit were shattered by poor sales. Himesh's cutting whine adorns several hits and can shatter glass.
Winner: Himesh for rocking his jonar

Dance Ability
Himesh can do hand rolls and patty cakes. Shekhar once waved his hands and rolled with a bunch of cupcakes in a music video.
Winner: Shekhar in a photo finish

Shekhar's pursed lips produces a smile that looks like a grimace. His laugh feels forced and displayed. Himesh's chapped lips resemble a purse when smiling but his laugh has never been on display.
Winner: Himesh for providing more entertainment and suspense

Himesh waited for ages and ended up with a bird's nest that he passes off as a Japanese hairstyle. Shekhar's hair may not have style but at least his nest is real.
Winner: Shekhar because like Himanshu himself would say: he genuinely has hair

Dimaag Khau
This is a tough one. Shekhar's eponymous talk show was loved by many although his propensity to manufacture PJs is unparalleled.  Himesh showy propensity to talk in an eponymous way is unparalleled.
Winner: Himesh, unless you are a masochist

Both started their career with experimental cinema. Shekhar delivered buzz thanks to a sizzling scene with sex goddess Rekha. Himesh successfully hid his buzz under a cap and became a sex god for autowallahs.
Winner: Shekhar, until Himesh takes his clothes off

Shekhar's career looks tapped out - he's a successful permanent fixture on lowly rated reality shows. Himesh is a lowly rated fixture on a permanently successful reality show.
Winner: Himesh is India's new King Midas!

Google Hotness
Himesh's fans may not know how to spell cuss words properly, but they sure can spell his name - making this Google Trends race a no-contest.
Winner: Himesh, JMLR!

More: Himesh takes on Rakhi Sawant

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bollywood Dance Dhamaka: The forgotten classics

Songs are ubiquitous and special in Bollywood. Some people refer to Indian films mistakenly as musicals. That's only because a word hasn't been invented yet to do adequate justice to the unique Bollywood jonar.

Bollywood also has a tradition of songs that rise above being just music and words. Why Megan's link to Akki's delirious bath song from Suhaag is still used by me to motivate the kids when they complain that baths are boring. And who can forget Salman's gorgeous blouses in Aisa Pehli Baar from Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega that sparked a new fashion trend. And thanks to YouTube, these can be enjoyed endlessly.

Fortunately for us, Kanan has a terabyte memory and intense detective skills. She's dug up a treasure trove of lesser known funky dance delights for us.

Husn Ka Rang Lagaa (Johny Mera Naam, 1970)
A delicious looking Padma Khanna with tremendously ink-lined eyebrows tries to mock-seduce Premnath. Padma executes dizzying and loopy moves and at one point tries to mount a rifle. Premnath responds by starting a game of kho-kho. Will Premnath's precariously perched wig fall off before the song is over?

Jaan Pehechaan Lo (Gumnaam, 1965)
Who is that masked woman? Wait, its Laxmi Chhaya channeling zombies and elevating surf music to a completely different level. Great chance to observe Mohammad Rafi poised to become the second greatest singer of his generation.

Jogi O Jogi (Lakhon Mein Ek, 1971)
He's nimble, he's stylish, he's super romantic. He's Mehmood?

Dekho Ab To (Jaanwar, 1965)
Shankar-Jaikishen and Shammi Kapoor pay tribute to the Beatles in a very Bollywood like fashion - by entirely lifting I Wanna Hold Your Hand. Shammi in a wig and waiter's jacket channels Ringo Star. But stay to check out who's playing John Lennon among the four imposters.

Jawaane Jaane Man (Namak Halaal, 1982)
Shashi Kapoor receives a death threat and turns around to find Parveen Babi in a gold outfit dancing around a thorny rotating disco ball (clearly a brilliant cinematic metaphor). Bappi unleashes some major disco beats. Amitabh sensing something amiss stays close to Shashi (he's Namak Halaal, get it?) but clearly the only thing in danger here is Parveen's ass which comes dangerously close to that rotating ball.

Zindagi Mein Pyaar Karna (Phool Aur Patthar, 1966)
Shashikala in a blond wig and shimmery mauve dress sings a nonsense rhyme and tries to prove that someone trained in Hindustani nritya can dance anything. Madan Puri and Iftikhar - looking evil and dashing - judge from the sidelines. Does Asha succeed? I'll let you be the judge, but stay till the end to watch Garam Dharam show up and disguise himself by holding up his collar.

Note: Concept, links, everything except text is all Kanan's

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cringeworthy Entertainment on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2009

There are lot of times when watching SRGMP is just so embarrassing, I can barely bring myself to watch. And let it be said that I enjoy those times immensely.

Last week a ton of crap happened that made me put my hands over my eyes and whisper: "Man I can't take this anymore". At times SRGMP became so cringe worthy that it entertained me by virtue of emotional trauma.

First, Head hosted the entire thing in a silly shloka sing-song voice. Well, I thought, if I give it enough time it might grow on me. But is SRGMP a show that takes the predictable route? No! And so it was that Head ended up just as nutty as he was when the show began. I'd like to state this briefly: this season Head has displayed a welcome understanding of the show's tacky values. And his efforts to embrace that are appreciated.

More fun arrived from - surprisingly - the normally soporific Suresh Wadkar.

Let's start with Yashita Yashpal - who has been a bit of a revelation on this show and because she sang that much maligned Aitraaz song (albeit as soon as Asha Bhonsle had left), is one of my favorites. Yashita scorched her way through Vaishali Samant's playful lavni hit Aika Dajiba.

Yashita Yashpal LavniAfter it had ended, Suresh Wadkar asked Yashita if she was Marathi. "I'm Punjabi but I was born and raised in Mumbai". Yaar, Suresh interjected, you sang Marathi so well even though you are Punjabi!

This confusion between ethnicity and statehood used to annoy me back when I used to tell everyone I was Gujarati only to have someone say "But I thought you were a Parsi". Nowadays this stuff just entertains me. In fact, I would like to nominate Wadkar as Maharashtra's Global Cultural Emissary. Sure he'd piss people off, but think of those cool YouTube videos that would result.

But Wadkar wasn't done. At one point Head - putting forth his best straight face - informed the singer that fans had questioned his credentials to judge hip-hop and rock singing. This seemed to wake up Wadkar. "Because I have taleem (in Hindustani music) I can sing anything!" Wadkar thundered, waving his arm about for effect. "Give me a rock song to sing!" and here I detected a note of pleading in his voice "and if I don't do it justice, I'll quit!"

Thus in one fell swoop, Wadkar devalued the singers of every jonar of music but Hindustani classical. I would like to suggest that Wadkar's first assignment as Maharashtra's Cultural Emissary be a meeting with these two gentlemen.

And then - killer! Debojit bombed his way through Sonu Nigam's Aisa Pehli Baar. After listening to some do-chaar from Himesh, Pritam opened up his Puran and handed it to Head. And Head basically told Debojit that he had been left adhura and unfinished by God and was considered abnormal by usual standards. This was followed by some patronizing encouragement.

The go to music at times like this - Taare Zameen Par's theme - started playing in the back. Debojit looked up and blinked. At this point I covered my eyes again and couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry.

Thankfully Debojit's Mom took charge and without unnecessary drama or rona-dhona narrated that Debojit had been evaluated by multiple psychologists who couldn't come up with a definitive diagnosis. So, she concluded, our boy is different from others and unique. Much clapping ensued.

And who can forget on Sunday a jyotish showed up. Smilingly he asked each one their birth date and followed it up with some Linda Goodman style advice. Head introduced Mitika by saying she was in some sankat because she loved someone in Chandigarh. "Achieve something of note!" advised the jyotish man "so that he may love you!"  Wow, India sure has changed: looking hot gets you nowhere these days.

One of these days, when the entertainment value in SRGMP downsizes, we can all talk about the singers. But that might not happen anytime soon. Already a noteworthy cold war is brewing between Shankar Mahadevan and Himesh Reshammiya. And Himesh is still sulking from his chela Sunwinder's exit last week. Its only a matter of time before Monty is back...with a vengeance.

Aren't we all glad that SRGMP is so deliciously...adhura!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kidnap and the burgeoning career of Imraan Khan

Sure Imraan Khan had a few things going for him this year.

He is nephew to the celebrated Aamir, who produced Imraan's debut starring flick Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and launched a canny publicity blitz for the same. It was an association Imraan happily and wisely accepted without false pretense.

He had a terrific hook in his movie courtesy of Abbas Tyrewala: movies that depict companionship before romance continue to drive female audiences into urban multiplexes.

And A. R. Rahman produced one unstoppable song that gave the media campaign a rousing kick start.

On Kidnap, due October 2, Imraan follows up his golden debut with what appears to be a big risk. He plays a bad guy who spirits away Sonia (Minissha Lamba) in order to settle an old score with her father Vikrant Raina (Sanjay Dutt). But on closer examination, its not such a big chance to take. There are several reasons.

First, Imraan needs to establish himself in multiple genres. And the best time to do that is early in your career before you get typecast. Its super tough to grow your audience laterally after your first few years. So the timing is right.

Baddies playing good guys has been done multiple times before in Bollywood - remember when Pran, after terrorizing the entire movie-going population of India went all goody two shoes on us in Zanjeer? But of late in an against-all-odds career, Shahrukh has shown that playing baddie can open up possibilities.

If Kidnap flops, Imraan will escape the pointed finger. After all, wasn't the production team nuts to cast a hot, romantic, youth property in such a bizarre role? If Kidnap is a hit, Imraan goes two for two in his career - worth a half or full crore increment in his asking price.

So it is that recognizing Imraan's red hot career right now, the marketing team of Kidnap has centered all its promos around him. Sure Sanjay Dutt shows up to establish the Ransom-like story line for us - but Imraan is clearly the star here.

Imraan has safer choices coming up. He stars in Luck - an action movie with Kamal Haassan's multi-hyphenate daughter Shruti. And he's known to have replaced Ranbir Kapoor in Aamir's home production Delhi Belly. Both are in production.

More Kidnap: Mit Jaaye


Friday, September 05, 2008

Autoricksha Confessions 8: Relationship Advisor

I've shepherded a lot of friends through relationship issues. And I'm sorry to say that before I met the Drift Memsaab, I handed out all kinds of villainously bad advice.

Once my Shahid Kapur-like friend from school days called me up.

"Bawa, yaar" he said "What should do I do about this woman I met? She's six years older than me. She's divorced. She's had multiple partners in Bollywood. She's from a different community. And you know my Dad - he's the self-appointed gatekeeper of our community gene pool"

"Hmmm" I thought for a while "Have you slept with her yet?"

"Yes! In fact we've been going at it like rabbits since"

"You should marry her" I told Shahid "Physical chemistry rocks!"

This precipated a major chapter full of stress in Shahid's life. It all climaxed with a seven page letter sent by Shahid's Dad that contained a passionate discourse on how picking up a less than pure strain of genes and mixing it with dubious character can produced deranged kids. (The irony of this was that Shahid is one of my most deranged friends - thus making me suspicious of Uncleji).

This letter - over much rona dhona on the phone - was then faxed to me. I had to issue a para by para rebuttal to shore up Shahid's nerves. Fortunately I had the good sense to convince Shahid to not rupture his relationship with his parents at any point.

Shahid is happily married and Party Girl is adored by her in-laws. But none of this is thanks to me.

A year later a friend at work - let's call him Chiranjeevi - stopped by and leaned on my cube.

"Yaar" he said "My parents are pre-screening girls for my marriage. What should I tell them to look for?"

"What do you like in a woman?" I asked, feeling proud of myself for coming up with that question.

This was a mistake. Because Chiranjeevi then bored me to tears with a one hour discourse on the many qualities of a woman that mattered to him. He even assigned wieghts to each quality hoping I could derive some magic formula for him. I had to down three chais just to stay awake.

When Chiranjeevi finished, I was pissed enough to say. "You should ask your parents to look for girls with awesome hair. Great hair rocks!"

For some strange reason Chiranjeevi actually followed this advice. A fortnight later he stopped by my desk all red in the face and slammed three glossy head shots on my desk.

"Look at this!" he hollered close to tears.

I looked at the pictures - each one framed a good looking woman putting forward her best smile.

"These chicks look great!" I said. "What's wrong with you?!"

"But none of them have great hair! They don't even have LONG hair. I gave my parents specific instructions but they are out to ruin my life!" Chiranjeevi wailed.

I don't know what happened to Chiranjeevi, but years later another friend Mammooty was looking at women to get married to. He was down to the last two when he called me.

"Aspi" he said excitedly "I met Priya today. She was so casual - pants and blouse. But we went to her terrace and talked for four hours straight! It felt like she was my best friend already."

Two days later he called again.

"I met Revathy today. Man, I just couldn't connect with her because she was so shy. But she was so nice and traditional and homely. She wore a yellow Saree and covered her head and everything. She reminded me of my mother!"

At this point I interrupted Mammooty. "You should marry Priya!" I declared.

For sure I thought, this was great advice - a chance to redeem myself. But two weeks later Mammooty was engaged to Revathy. I was beyond puzzled.

Mammooty and Revathi are happily married and have two kids. As far as I can tell they both seem to have a good relationship. So in this case, I'm probably glad Mammooty didn't follow my advice.

Tomato Analysis: You are what you grow?

Recently I went to pick some tomatoes in the garden and saw something that scared the daylights out of me. I turned to our resident analysta Mind Rush for help.

Dear Mind Rush,

They say you are what you eat. But is it also true about what you grow to eat?

I grow cherry tomatoes and lettuce all summer for my salads. This year I decided that with the general summer craziness, I wouldn't have time to look after the garden as much. So tough love ensued: very little water and no care taking of the plants.

I've had a bumper crop this year - hundreds of tomatoes populate my six plants. They are all delicious. But yesterday I found this weird thing hanging off one of the plants. Does this mean I'm messed up? And should I eat it?


Dear Drift saab,

Your question reveals your earthy wisdom and also an eye for detail. What an extraordinary picture!

So, let's visit some mindful truths.

As you sow, so shall you reap. Your garden represents your deepest desires. Your plants are your progeny, so to speak. When you lavish your garden with love and TLC, you get a bumper crop. Why, even Prince Charles is known to have chats over a cuppa tea with the botanical beings at Buckingham gardens.

But back to your tomatoes.... We know that your garden symbolizes your fertile imagination and your thoughts are the seeds to great fruit. So, these are truly "hot house tomatoes!"

Drift saab, my question to you is: what do you see in your tomatoes? Do you see two cricket balls and a stump or a sticky wicket? Do you see a red carrot nose on a snowman or some other man thing? Do you see a monkey eating a banana or some monkey business in this picture?

In these tomatoes, you will see a reflection of your own mind. Your answer will tell you more than I can tell you. Maybe your blog friends can throw in their own thoughts too.

And before you chomp these tomatoes down, remember your own statement: You are what you eat!

Happy interpretations,
Mind Rush

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Clinton Cerejo: The mehnat behind the music - An exclusive Drift interview

Clinton Cerejo pops up a lot on CDs where he's very visibly credited as a playback singer. But much happens between the first glimmer of a tune from a composer to the final cut that goes on a CD. And its in this area that Clinton has been steadily making a name for himself in the music biz.

Clinton's worked on musical arrangements, vocal arrangements, background scores and produced music. He has a unique style which multiple composers have tapped over the years to fuel their hits. Most recently Sajid-Wajid, fast becoming hot shots in Bollywood music, had him work on the vocal arrangements for Partner. And we all remember those don't we?

There is a lot worth learning from him and his story - and he was nice enough to tell us all about it.

Aspi: Hey Clinton, congratulations on enjoying a hot career streak of late. Partner was such a huge musical hit.

Clinton: Thanks very much. Partner was huge, although my contribution to Partner extended only to vocal arrangements. I’ve worked on other films in larger capacities...

Aspi: First off, I'd like to ask you which projects you've worked on lately and in what capacity.

Clinton: One film that’s not so recent but which I’m quite proud to have been a part of is Vishal Bhardwaj's “Omkara”, in which I programmed and produced along with Hitesh Sonik (fabulous musician and great friend! ) all the songs in the film as well as the background score.

Recently I’ve scored the soon to be released “Maharathi” along with another music director Mr. Rajat Dholakia who is like a musical mentor to me. I also work on a regular basis with quite a few other music directors like, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Lalit Pandit, Adnan Sami, Pritam, and AR Rahman.

I’m currently busy working with Hitesh again on the songs for Vishal Bhardwaj’s upcoming film ‘Kamine’. In between my film work I also compose a fair amount of music for TV commercials and ad jingles.

Aspi: You once explained the role of a vocal and music arranger to me that was a revelation. Could you please educate our readers about that too?

Clinton: Well a music arranger is a much broader term. As an arranger it’s my job to take a song through it’s various stages of creation. A music director comes to me with just the melody...played on a guitar, piano, harmonium, whatever...

Thereafter we sit together and ideate on things like the groove, tempo, vibe, genre, etc. After which I begin programming the track. Once I have an arrangement that’s very close to the zone the director wants the song to be in, we over dub any live instruments we feel may enhance the arrangement and then the tracks go to the mix engineer for mixing.

As a vocal arranger I get called in to specifically enhance an already finished track by adding interesting vocal harmonies or counter melodies. It’s much more specific to vocals and it’s more about enhancing a track that’s already been conceptualized by somebody else rather than conceptualizing it yourself.

Aspi: How do you get projects? Is it through networking? People just know you in Mumbai? Or do you have a resume and an agent that help you get work?

Clinton: I have been fortunate enough to say that I’ve never had to make a demo of my work and pass it on to people in the initial years. It was always word of mouth and one project that led to another. In fact I started working with Mr. Rahman quite by accident.

Over ten years ago I had vocally arranged a song, which was being mixed at 4D studio 'A'. Rahman happened to be working in studio 'B' and the studio door was open and he heard the harmonies and came in asking who had arranged it.

Even though I wasn’t present at the time of mixing, I happened to meet him a month later and I reminded Mr. Rahman that I was the guy who had done the vocal arrangement that he had heard at 4D. That was pretty much it. A week later I was on a flight to Chennai to work with him. In our industry one thing usually leads to another.

Aspi: Ok, let's digress a little bit to talk about Clinton the musician. Your Mom is a professor, your Dad is an engineer. Young Clinton decides to become a musician. How did your parents react? Were there long life lessons about roji-roti at dinner time?

Clinton: Ha ha… wow, you’ve obviously done your research! Yes my family’s pretty academic as families go. Mum’s a French Prof, Dad was an engineer at L&T, my elder brother’s a software professional in Zurich and my younger sister edits medical journals for publications in the US. So my choice of career was pretty radical to them…

In fact I was actually going to do my MBA after my BCom and I had even bought the books to study for the entrance exam. Until I had a conversation with a couple of friends who told me I actually had what it takes to make it in the music business and that they would hate to see my talent wasted working in a desk job.

One of them is now my wife Dominique (we were just friends back then) and the other is our long time friend Asif Ali Beg - the musician, actor, and lyricist for several of Bollywood’s recent hits.

As far as my parents are concerned though, they really are proud of me and Dom today. I guess they just didn’t want to see me starve...:)

Aspi: What were your earliest influences that made you sit up and say: "I want to have a career in music!"

Clinton: I’ve been influenced by a lot of people but my strongest were the big pop producers – Quincy Jones, Trevor Horn, Arif Mardin, Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Hugh Padgham, Peter Gabriel, Roland Orzabal, Roy Thomas Baker, etc. When I heard their kind of production I would go nuts...

Even today I’m influenced by a lot of fabulous producers who keep blurring the boundaries.. guys like William Orbit, Carmen Rizzo, Mark Bell, Marius DeVries, Neil Davidge, BT, Glen Ballard, Brian Eno, Craig Armstrong, Will Gregory, Timbaland...the list is pretty endless...

Aspi: And how old were you then?
Clinton: About seventeen

Aspi: You started your career doing jingles. Which of today's superstars did you run into then?

Clinton: I started off singing jingles. I worked with Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan (Noorani) & Loy (Mendosa), Lezz Lewis, Ranjit Barot, Louis Banks. KK was definitely singing a lot of jingles around the same time. Kunal Ganjawala and me have sung a lot together on jingles.

But as a jingle singer I read the writing on the wall pretty quickly. I knew my voice was just not versatile enough to be really successful as a jingle singer, besides I was itching to move on to something else. When I heard music I would always listen to what was going on behind the lead vocal. I was just pulled in the direction of music production/arranging.

Aspi: Your first break was in a Marathi film called Mukta. Then you started working with AR Rahman on Taal. How did that break come about?

Clinton: You’re right about that. Mukta was not only my first song but the first time I actually saw the inside of a studio. I was in college with Siddharth Haldipur (Sid from Band of Boys). We were great pals and I would go over to his house and play piano and sing - we’d jam basically.

His dad, Mr. Amar Haldipur, famous arranger and violinist, heard me and quite liked my voice. He called me over to his house one afternoon and introduced me to Mr. Anand Modak, the music director. That’s how I did the song. It was an English song for a Marathi film, picturised on a black American.

With Mr. Rahman actually I didn’t do any work on Taal. I started just after that on some of his famous Tamil films, like Mudhalvan, Alaipaiuthey, Kandukondain Kandukondain, as well as Hindi films like Takshak, One Two ka Four, and later Lagaan...

Aspi: What type of work did you do for AR Rahman?

Clinton: Vocal arrangements mostly...and a little bit of lead vocals especially for his Tamil projects.

Aspi: Any arrangements in your recent work that you think really stand out?

Clinton: I’ve recently arranged a song for Mr. Rahman for his new film "Robot" - a cool song, which features some cool Afro style backing vocals.

I just sang with Kunal an acapella song for the Hindi version of Rahman’s Tamil hit film “Boys”.

Also did some nice vocal arrangements for a song on SEL’s new Telugu film, which they’re currently scoring.

In terms of production work, Hitesh Sonik and I are quite happy with how the songs are progressing for Vishal Bhardwaj’s new film. Watch out for that when it comes out. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Aspi: I have to digress again to ask you this: is Dominique around? Can you please tell her a true-blue Cerejo fan says Hi!

Clinton: Sure I will...she is around as a matter of fact.:)

Aspi: Well, what did she say?

Clinton: She’s got a smile on her face. She’s flattered to have you as a fan...

Aspi: You work on a lot of songs that have Western arrangements or English lyrics. How did this quasi-specialization come about?

Clinton: Well it all started back in my college days. I would listen to all the albums that were coming out of the then booming Hindi pop industry. And whenever I heard BV (backing vocal) sections they really sucked sonically. And yet when I turned on a Jackson album or a Whitney CD the backing vocals shimmered and sparkled to me. Which led me to wonder – "What are they doing that we’re not?" and "Why do their vocal sections sound so good and ours do not?"

So I pretty much did my own little research, breaking down harmonies of vocal bands like New York Voices, Take 6, as well as Steely Dan records. etc.

That’s when I realized that’s it’s a combination of how vocal harmonies are written and the vocal texture in which they’re sung. It was all there in the writing. I guess doing that research helped me develop a sense of harmonic structure and also expanded my chord vocabulary. Something that would be of great value to me as a session musician.

Aspi: Ok a couple of quick questions about today's music. Best new male singer you've heard?

Clinton: Difficult to say but I like Raghu Dixit a heck of a lot.

Aspi: Best new female singer you've heard?

Clinton: Shilpa Rao definitely has an interesting texture to her voice. And I love Hard Kaur. She makes every song she raps on, her own.

Aspi: Best new CD you've heard recently?

Clinton: Right now I’ve just begun listening to Goldfrapp’s new album Seventh Tree which I’m really digging. A month or two ago I bought the soundtrack of Ratatouille and that blew my mind as well… Michael Giacchino – insane composer...

I keep listening to a lot of different stuff. There’s an electro house DJ called Seamus Haji whose music is killer.

Aspi: You've also produced a CD by a Dubai-based band called The FINE. How is non-filmi production different from filmi production?

Clinton: Wow...How did u hear about that? The FINE were actually introduced to me by Salim Merchant who actually was supposed to do the project himself. When he heard their music he actually suggested me for the job. I am grateful to him for that because the project was a lot of fun. In terms of production I actually got a chance to come into my own.

When you’re producing film music there is a deliberate intent that you’re always aware of. There are certain liberties you just can’t take. You learn to work within the boundaries of the Indian consciousness. But the FINE’s music was so UK/ Brit alternative rock based...that’s a sound I love. So I could do what I wanted basically. And I think they’re really happy with the results.

Aspi: Let's say you wanted to change the destiny of independent pop in India forever and you had one wish from a genie - what would you wish for?

Clinton: I think I’d wish that India would adopt the system of royalties to music composers like the rest of the world so that a musician’s art is respected and musicians who genuinely contribute great music year after year would actually see the fruits of their hard work. That’s when we’d really see a shift from Quantity to Quality...

Aspi: Clinton, thanks for being such a sport and good luck for the future. We look forward to more kick ass stuff from you.

Clinton: Thank you so much!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

September Linkology

For anyone new here, welcome the the Drift. Here is how Linkology works: if you find anything funny, touching, entertaining or just plain worth sharing, leave us a link in the comments section with your take on it. I'll put it up here and on the front page as soon as I can and we can take a look at it, amuse ourselves and discuss it here.