Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Music of Paa

If I made you close your eyes and played you the Karaoke version of the OST for Paa, you wouldn't be faulted for thinking you had tuned in to any one of America's multitude of smooth jazz radio stations. (I have upside-down views on legal ownership and copyright, so this is just an observation).

Paa gives Bollywood listeners the rare opportunity to listen to the work of a much respected and decorated composer like Ilaiyaraaja so it's worth talking about.

What has Ilaiyaraaja done with this soundtrack? He's created a clutch of songs that sound like lullabies or hymns for children. But the music he's programmed around it is polished. Whether its intentional or not, it seems to fit in perfectly with the theme of the movie which is about a kid (Amitabh Bachchan) who ages physically at an accelerated rate.

Ilaiyaraaja uses simple melodies with simple lyrics. Twice he employs a chorus. Once he uses a younger singer. He keeps the lyrics straight and uses his instruments sparingly, often one at a time to construct linear tunes. Because Ilaiyaraaja uses a jazz-pop format in a lot of the songs, he is able to create instant sophistication to offset the simple tunes and lyrics. At all times, he fills his songs with more hooks than a fish and tackle shop.

Most notably he uses Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan in ways they are rarely used. (There is a flagship song with a cool slapped bass called Mudhi Mudhi that he gives to the sensational Shilpa Rao - but more on her in another post).

Shaan sings Gali Mudhi Ittefaq Se as a slow burn. Because Shaan has a lovely timber to his voice, he is able to bring a sense of solitude and wonder to the song without sacrificing its pop sensibilities.

Sunidhi is entrusted with the lullaby Hichki Hichki and asked to reign in her powerful voice. Hichki is a bubbling brook of a song, evoking mischief and playfulness - and this is entirely done without help from Sunidhi who sings in straight notes. Instead Ilaiyaraaja uses a tumbling funk rhythm to give the song its bounce.

There are more tricks like this worth listening to on the OST - often Ilaiyaraaja patiently lets an instrument shine with delicious licks. On the gorgeous play-anthem Gumm Summ, he has his vocals and his backing chorus sing lines alternately before breaking out into a piano solo.

There is no hip-hop or R&B on this album and because of the way our ears have been tuned in recent times, Paa evokes a sense of lilting old Bollywood in new clothing.

More:
The songs of Paa on Dhingana
The official web site of Paa

19 comments:

Now Cheerful In Delhi said...

Thanks again for headsup on the Music of Paa.
I always wondered and wanted to ask you how do you manage your time work/life balance ?
May be that should be the topic for next post for all Drifters addicted to your Blog.

meena said...

havent heard illayaraja in a while need to hear the simple-melody king's latest. somehow you make it all tempting to catch music before it is blaring all over the place :)

BTW catch mr. B's meandering writeup of om puri scandal
http://bigb.bigadda.com/
though nice to see him stand up for omi.

Aspi said...

NCiD, I don't achieve work/life balance - I achieve work/life integration :) And I do this by writing posts in my head while I'm doing mundane stuff like cooking or shopping.

meena, can't find the exact place where he talks about it - that site is such a navigational mess!

meena said...

aspi, its day 581 the very latest post. AB actually did the book launch for Om puri.

and NCiD..thanks for asking that question..:)

Aspi said...

meena thanks!

Related to work life integration, because I tend to think about a lot of stuff while doing chores, I get the following statement a lot when I get home:

"Where did you leave our son this time?"

Anonymous said...

Great write-up looking forward to hearing the songs now.
Would be good to know you come back to the right house each time, or drive back to work when should be driving home!!
But, I know what you mean, I do a lot of task line-up in my brain, like we most women do to keep multi-tasking, so I end up drawing a blank as to why I am in a certain place sometimes.

Aspi said...

I take wrong turns ALL the time before I realize I shouldn't have.

But I'll tell you this - when my kids were tiny I used to live in constant fear that I'd forget them in their car seat in the back of my car and walk off to work each morning. So I used to set alarms on my phone every 5m between 8:30am and 9am to make sure I never forgot to drop them off at day care.

Drift Memsaab said...

Work-life integration is possible only because Drift saab has a fabulously organized and eternally patient Drift Memsaab :-) She keeps track of everyone's flu shot appointments and knows when the family is about to run out of TP...etc.
But truly, this post reflects how well Drift saab can listen between the lines...awesome!

Aspi said...

Thank you and thank you

Anonymous said...

Great job here!
Next, a review of Om Puri's biography??

Anonymous said...

& Cooking Tips by The Super Chef Aspi !!

Aspi said...

Anon, Om Puri's biography - brilliant idea, I will seek it out on my next trip to India! Cooking tips - you might want hold off on that until you have a taste :)

Anonymous said...

Wot, u do cartoons, music reviews, writing, AND cooking? (and u have a job?)
Drift sir ur approximating Leonardo Da Vinci?

Anonymous said...

and Who looks like Leonardo deCaprio !!!!

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ECOSYSTECH said...

Hi,

One of the finest reviews of Paa - probably the finest. I am glad that there are a few souls who look beyond the front face and can get on to the details. In this context, you might find this link interesting- http://raagadevan.blogspot.com/2009/11/mudhi-mudhi.html

Ilayaraja is an under understood genius

Thanks
Chandra

ECOSYSTECH said...

Hi,

One of the finest reviews of Paa - probably the finest. I am glad that there are a few souls who look beyond the front face and can get on to the details. In this context, you might find this link interesting- http://raagadevan.blogspot.com/2009/11/mudhi-mudhi.html

Ilayaraja is an under understood genius

Thanks
Chandra

Aspi said...

ECO, thanks and thanks for the link. Loved it.