THE MUSIC (or should I say MAGIC) OF 99 SONGS : A R RAHMAN
About four weeks back, when I first listened to fourteen songs from 99 songs, the first thing which I decided was that I would listen to these over and over again. And I have listened to these numbers at least a dozen times in the last four weeks! And this is the second time that I have heard new songs at such a frequency in 2020, the first time being in January, when the Telugu album ALA VAIKUNTHAPURAMULO was released. For those of you who do not know, the music of this Telugu film has been the first album in India to exceed one Billion music streams on YouTube India! But this post is about 99 songs and not ALA VAIKUNTHAPURAMULO!
I queried with at least twenty of my musically inclined friends about whether they had heard of 99 songs, and not one seemed to have heard about this! And that was about the time when AR Rahman in a rare exchange of views with media had talked about his not getting enough opportunities to score music for Bollywood. It was then that I put two and two together, and understood as to why the best music album in Bollywood in 2020 till date had not garnered much publicity!!
99 SONGS is a Bollywood commercial movie produced by AR Rahman (his first as a producer), that was premiered in Busan International Film Festival last year, where he performed live the track THE ORACLE, which is the theme tune for 99 SONGS and which track is appended to this post. The whole sound track was released in March this year, and it is easily Rahman’s best creation since ROCKSTAR which happened about nine years back. Each of the numbers is in a different genre and at least six of these fourteen tracks are worth hearing over and over again.
My pick is JWALAMUKHI, rendered by Arijit Singh in his trademark pitch and the lyrics seem to convey Rahman’s inner feelings : Jwalamukhi Bezubaan! And there is a female version of this as well, sung by Poorvi Koutish, one of the alumnni from Rahman’s music school. Another new singer Shashwat Singh gets to sing five numbers, but the most outstanding is the first number in the album, O Aashiqa. And there is a Sai Bhajan by Bela Shinde, and a lullaby that sounds like the Chanda Hai Tu from Aradhana. And you have Armaan Malik singing O Humnawa which stays with you for a long time. I can write and write about these numbers (because there are fourteen tracks), but I do not want to come in between your listening to these tracks. Before concluding, I must however mention the Soja Soja track sung by Shasha Tripathi to the accompaniment of a jazz type structure and how the lyrics (If you dont love me, I will put a bullet through your heart) seem to resonate with the thoughts of a jilted lover or paramour.
And this movie 99 SONGS is about love and sensuousness of art and music and is slated for a release on NETFLIX shortly. I dont know how the movie will be, but you will love quite a few numbers in this album! Happy listening!
#MusicOf99SONGS #99SONGS

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IF I hadn’t been referred to watch this new series, I may not have watched it. ( Why: That will come later on!)
IF you are a hardcore addict of violence, crime and continuous thrill infused movie buff,
IF you are someone who doesn’t like to see fresh faces on the stale idiot box,
IF you are someone who hates classical music of any kind, including that which is churned out by the ace team of SHANKAR EHSAAN LOY,
IF you are someone, who doesn’t find NASEERUDDIN SHAH to be a great actor,
IF you are someone who gets put off by the brilliant scenes and the blues dotting the buildings in a place like Jodhpur,
IF you are someone who loves loud melodrama,
THEN, it is best that you stay away from this magnificently crafted!
THEN, it will also be a waste of time for you to read further!

If you are reading this line, it means, that you have answered in the negative, at least a few of the above points!

And without much further ado, let me straight away recommend that you watch BANDISH BANDITS. And I am giving it a straight Four out of Five stars in my rating scheme!
It shouldn’t really matter that perhaps I have seen too many “thrillers” of late, and therefore when a classical music based series like this came in my line of vision, I might have been biased in my rating.
Because that shouldn’t take away the credit from the aspects of the ten episodes of Season One of BANDISH BANDITS, which make it a worth watch. It is rare for someone to take a risk to mount a theme like this on such a large scale, but writers Anand Tiwari ( who is also the director),Adhir Bhat, Amritpal Singh Bindra and Lara Chandni have very cleverly infused modernity and contemporary situations against the background of Hindustani Classical music. That coupled with superb acting by everyone ( which includes thespians like Naseeruddin Shah and Atul Kulkarni and a host of fresh faces), music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy and pleasing settings of Jodhpur help create an entertainment package, which should please everyone except the very hardcore purists of classical music.
Do not get put off by the usage of “classical” cuss words mouthed by a few characters now and then; remember that we are talking of contemporary times!
The last time, I saw a well made classical music based movie was five years back. That was the Marathi movie, KATYAR KALJAT GHUSALI starring Shankar Mahadevan, who made his acting debut. If you haven’t seen it, let me tell you, that it is on ZEE5. Don’t miss it!
Coming back to what I wrote in the beginning of this post, I thought that this was another series about the underworld and BANDITS and would have stayed away from it! Thanks to my dear friends for recommending this to me!

RATING: 4 out of 5
August 9th, 2020

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Anu Menon’s previous directorial effort was five years back, when she directed Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin in WAITING. A poignantly made movie about a friendship between two persons, whose spouses are in a comatose condition, this 100 minutes movie was a worth watching production. If you have missed seeing it, you can catch it on Hotstar. The BITS, Pilani alumnus, Anu won a couple of awards for her direction in WAITING. And she doesn’t let us down in the story telling of SHAKUNTALA DEVI.
But what helps Anu tremendously is the value brought to the movie by the excellence of Vidya Balan’s acting. Vidya Balan fits snugly in the character and makes it look as though it is easy to portray such a character.The movie doesn’t itself throw any light on how Shakuntala Devi managed to bring those answers to arithmetical (not mathematical) questions and hence the focus is just on incidents and how they help to build her personality and eccentricities. But the fact of the matter is , despite all research and psychological evaluations, there isn’t any clue on how she managed to find answers for those large arithmetical sums in a remarkably short time. Sanya Malhotra ( one of the two DANGAL girls) and Amit Sadh are reasonably adequate in the roles created for them. Jisshu Sengupta, who plays Shakuntala Devi’s husband has a very soft role, and I don’t know as to why the movie doesn’t delve much into his homosexuality ( as referred to in an article in India Today) and whether that was the trigger for her book on that subject.
There are many amongst us who do not know that there is a Japanese photographer, Keiko Nakahara, who is a much talked about person in Bollywood. Why she came to Bollywood is another story, but suffice it is to say that she has a neat job behind the camera in SHAKUNTALA DEVI, like she did in her earlier movie TANHAJI: THE UNSUNG WARRIOR. That makes her out to be the only person in 2020 who has the photography credit for two films till date!
There are three things in common between Shakuntala Devi and me: Both of us loved ( I still love!) the Dosas from Vidyarti Bhavan in Bangalore; both of us loved to travel ( I still do!) and I can multiply a two digit number ending in 5 by itself just as fast as she could!!!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5
August 3rd, 2020

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RATING : 2.5 out of 5
July 25th, 2020

A few days back, I wrote positively about the music of DIL BECHARA. If you haven’t still listened to it, please do so, because it is the best Bollywood music album from amongst all the movies released in 2020. And if you have heard the numbers a few times, you may like when the numbers are played out when and if you watch the movie. That is, if you still like to see the movie, after reading my views.
In short, I would call it VIEWER BECHARA!
That’s despite the very good acting by the lead pair, Sushant Singh Rajput ( his last movie before his unfortunate death) and the debutant Sanjana. And the wonderful story telling in THE FAULT IN THE STARS, on which this is based. And the very fresh sounding music of AR Rahman.
The story sounds hollow and no effort is made whatsoever in trying to detail Sushant’s character and background. All that we are told is that he is a fun loving person despite his health issues. And the adaptation from the parent is weak. Thus, instead of feeling with and for the tragedy lined characters, you actually wait for the next song to deliver some freshness. There are about 8 songs, and so you will come across one song every fifteen minutes or so!
Mukesh Chhabra, the director had an excellent theme to create a mushy love tale, but perhaps he too felt Bechara (Helpless)!


July 25th, 2020

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There aren’t many of my friends who wouldn’t have heard of the unfortunate passing away of the Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput a little over a month back. Sushant’s last film is DIL BECHARA which is slated for release in the next few days on Amazon Prime platform. The songs were released less than a fortnight back and I have just kept listening to these songs every day in the last week. The first time I heard these songs, two things struck me. One was that most of these songs sounded very different from the crap that has come out of Bollywood in the first half of 2020. The second was that the songs, because of the pitch changes and overlay of voices, sounded like “remixes” of the underlying melody of these songs. But very, very different from the Honey and Mika Singh remixes!
As a rule, most films beginning with DIL have pretty decent songs, the last film being DIL DHADKNE DO, about five years back. So, one can say that DIL BECHARA had that in built advantage! Add to that the fact that the prodigious AR Rahman is the composer and the lyrics are by one of the prolific lyric writers Amitabh Bhattacharya. Superimpose the tragic love tale of the movie and the tragedy involving the lead artiste, you cannot blame music lovers for not failing to reach out to listen to this album. A R Rahman’s last really successful music score for Bollywood was about nine years back for ROCKSTAR. After that, he has scored for just five movies, and barring a couple of songs, most of them were forgettable. Will DIL BECHARA change that downward slide? I dont know, but I would rate this as his finest composition after ROCKSTAR. But a long long way from his classics in another movie beginning with Dil: DIL SE.
There are songs of different genres, and although not melancholic in nature, do have a certain undertone of sadness like the storyline of the movie. How do I know that the story is a sad one? Because it is based on the enormously successful 2012 novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, which was made into a movie with the same title in 2014.
Like most AR Rahman’s numbers, you will need to listen to them a couple of times, and imagine the situations and the context and perhaps, you will like them. At any rate, this is the best Bollywood album in 2020 till date.

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Soon after we were grounded at home following the COVID 19 scare, we began to engage ourselves by watching interesting Malayalam movies on the TV screen. Our choice of Malayalam movies was guided by the fact that the few Malayalam movies which we saw, were not only off-beat, but highly watchable. But more about Malayalam movies in my next post.
This post is about seven Tamil movies, all released in the last few years and which seemed to fit the reason for our watching Malayalam movies. Each of these movies, as we will see has a theme very different from each other and can justifiably be called off-beat and watchable at the same time. Perhaps there are more such movies which I have not watched and therefore, by no means, can this be an exhaustive listing. Quite obviously, I am not going to write a detailed review for each of these ( I had done a detailed review for one of these films KD some time back), but hopefully will give you a brief insight as to why I would classify them as not-to-be-missed. These movies are available on Netflix or Amazon Prime and therefore have sub-titles, and so can be watched by folks who don’t speak Tamil also. The listing of these movies follows no particular order.
1. GAME OVER: This movie, starring Tapsee Pannu was simultaneously shot in both Tamil and Telugu and is also available in the Hindi dubbed version.
The tale of a game designer, who has had to undergo a personal trauma and the psychological fall out of her being in that profession and going through the trauma produces a nail-biting script. Topped by brilliant acting by Tapsee, this is not a movie for the weak-hearted or for those who don’t like movies of such genre. For the others, I would say that this is the best scary film I have seen in any Indian language in recent times.
RATING: 4 out of 5
2. SETHUM AAYIRUM PON: An unusual story against the backdrop of the custom of applying make-up on corpses, before they are finally consigned to the crematorium or the burial ground, the movie captures the moods of an extremely backward village and human relationships in a very vivid manner. At a running time of just 100 minutes, the acting talents of the characters brings a lot of life to this movie.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
3. SOMETIMES : This is a simple tale describing the happenings in the waiting room of a pathology lab and the persons who are awaiting the results of the blood test with bated anxiety. Expressions of the characters involved, particularly Prakash Raj, and the stories of each of the characters make this movie to be a very different, and yet, a very likeable movie.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
4. OTHTHA SERUPPU SIZE 7 : This is indeed a very unique movie. Written, directed and produced by Parthiban, the uniqueness stems from the fact that Parthiban is the only actor in the movie. There are other characters as well, but one just gets to hear their voices. A murder drama, it has its twists and turns and Parthiban’s performance is outstanding. This was also in the running for India’s entry to the Oscars, but lost out to GULLY BOY.
RATING: 4 out of 5
5. SUPER DELUXE: If this movie has to be fitted in a genre, then I am afraid there isn’t a word for it. It is a collage of four stories, each different from one another and extremely hard hitting at the same time. The kaleidoscope of real-life happenings couldn’t have been filmed better. Vijay Sethupathy is outstanding in the role of the dad who transforms his sex later on, but so are all the other actors.
RATING: 4 out of 5
6. KANNUM KANNUM KOLLAIYADITHAL : A hilarious con drama, the fast pace of the movie helps offset some of the far fetched moments in the script and story. But it is a jolly good ride, so why complain? And heart throb of millions, Dulquer Salman is there in a negatively positive role. Confused? Just watch it.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
7. KARRUPU DORAI ( KD) : Since I have already reviewed this earlier on, I wont repeat except to say that this is the best movie in the above anthology.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
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Today morning, on my walk, I encountered a few known four legged friends (known to you and me😜). I told them that I was impressed that they were following one way street restrictions. When I asked them as to why they weren’t wearing masks, they said that those rules weren’t for the likes of them. And they added that they didn’t have to do social distancing either. They then spotted the 17th Cross Road Sign and asked me whether I could take a picture. The senior one said, “This will demonstrate to your friends, how we can hug each other even in these times. We feel so bad when we see our two legged friends practicing social distancing. Many of your friends are our friends too, but they feel hesitant to declare that openly. You are an exception. You can post these photos anywhere and everywhere: we have no issues with privacy.” And with a glint in the eyes, the senior continued,” There are a few VIPs staying on 17th Cross. Today is Sunday 17th and I am sure your friends will love this coincidence.”
So I went ahead and clicked! Have a good day!
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The first mainstream movie from Bollywood which decided to be on the OTT platform before releasing in the theatres, GULABO SITABO is as quirky as the title. Gulabo and Sitabo refer to, in the world of puppetry in Lucknow, the wife and the mistress and the puppet show is about the squabbles between these two characters. And here in the movie, these squabbles are between the ageing Mirza (played with great realism by the Big B) and the difficult tenant played by Ayushmann Khurana. By making the movie, Shoojit Sircar, who has decidedly done daringly different movies (like Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe, Piku and October) adds one more to the list. GULABO SITABO is the quirkiest one of these, but that’s not the reason, I would put this in the bottom of the ranking of these movies. But this bottom is higher than the top creations of most of our Bollywood directors.The dialogues by Juhi Chaturvedi are the best portions of GULABO SITABO, filled with wry humour, and delivered superbly by all the actors. The shots of the decaying parts of the Lucknow Haveli and the neighborhood have been captured superbly by Abhik Mukhopadhyay. The portrayals are also very good, but sewn together, GULABO SITABO comes across as a loosely strung series of skits rather than as a well constructed movie. Also, the character of Ayushmann has been drawn rather weakly. Consequently, in quite a few places, in between the skit scenes, it slips into what could be called empty ennui.On the whole, GULABO SITABO is watchable, but certainly not unmissable!

RATING : 3 out of 5

June 13th, 2020

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This has been my guiding principle for me for the last ten years or so.. And believe me, this works! And if you have achieved this, it means you are not dependent on any external source for your happiness. I just chanced on this in today’s Times of India and how delightfully this thought has been expressed in such a simple manner!


No photo description available.
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My last post was about Green Chikki and those who read that could be pardoned for assuming that this post about Hakki Pikki is a sequel to Green Chikki! But it is not!
If you were to be a relatively new recruit and posted at Bengaluru Immigration at the International Airport, it is likely that you could have had the following conversation with an international passenger.
YOU: Name please
PASSENGER : Mysore Pak
YOU: I am asking for your name, not what is your favourite sweet
PASSENGER : That is my name!
You become slightly irritated, but when you look at his passport, his name is indeed Mysore Pak. To save face, you smile and ask him, “Who is the person holding your hand?”
“He is my cousin”, and turning around, he tells the other person, “Tell this Uncle your name”
The other man in his twenties, gives a smile and says, “High Court”.
And you look at his passport and his name is High Court! You immediately want to take a break and visit the wash room!!!
High Court and Mysore Pak are two members of the about 15,000 strong Hakki Pikki tribe, one settlement of whose is a little distance away from Bannergatta in the South of Bangalore. Evicted from the forests in which they had stayed for a long time, this community of tribals used to make a living by catching and selling birds. Hence their name Hakki ( bird in Kannada) Pikki ( to catch in Kannada).
The names of the children would be after whatever first caught the parents’ eyes soon after the birth and hence those seemingly funny names! The Hakki Pikki tribals are great entrepreneurs and world travellers for their business in trading in oils, which they harvest from the herbs and roots in the forest. Oils which have wide variety of therapeutic applications.. And sold in Africa, UK, Malaysia, Dubai!
What caught my attention about this tribe was a news item in yesterday’s newspaper about a chartered flight two days back (June 21st) from Johannesburg to bring back stranded Indians on an Ethiopian Airlines flight to Hyderabad. And there are 15 Hakki Pikki members on that flight!!


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