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Swades and thoughts on Rahman

with 15 comments

Finally watched Swades last night and I was pretty much disappointed. Frankly, it is a half-baked product. Ashutosh Gowariker takes an interesting plot, weaves an extremely ordinary story around it, shoots some scenes at NASA and Washington DC, throws in a few songs (in all the wrong places except perhaps for Yeh Jo Desh……) and somehow expects everything to work out. Much of the movie is undone by extremely poor acting. Did shooting in the US and paying Shah Rukh Khan drain all the budget so that the producer could not afford any half-decent actors ? Maybe I am being harsh on the actors – it could be the director’s fault too – but then Gowariker did quite a good job on Lagaan. That gripping intensity of Lagaan is sadly absent in Swades. You can understand that the director is trying to make a statement here and trying it subtly enough, but poor execution makes the effort fall flat.
I was particularly irked by the female protagonist played by Gayatri Joshi – it seems her only role was to look nice, show up in the scene with just a handful of expressions, (a stern face, a playful smile or on verge of tears) and pretty much not do anything else. She could have been intelligently used as the ‘conscience’ of the movie – but with her painted face, pristinely clean and colorful attires, she simply sticks out like a sore thumb in every frame. And I will not even go into the logical and factual errors strewn throughout the movie.While the movie overall was a let-down, I did like some of the cinematography and the songs, which I had heard before, I must say were very good – especially Yeh Jo Desh….you cannot help but feel a twinge of homesickness and patriotism on listening to it – Rahman at his best.

On a slightly different note, does A R Rahman produce his best music when it is a patriotic or India-related theme ? Recently, I was listening to the music of Bose (a Shyam Benegal movie on the life of Subhas Chandra Bose, whose release has unfortunately been held up for a long time), where once again, Rahman is in top form. A few compositions from Bose stand out

– Apne Desh ki Mitti, like Yeh Jo Desh, is an evocative number and you cannot help but conjure nostalgic images in your mind while listening to it. In particular, I was touched by the following two lines: “Beete pal chhoone lage hain dil ko aise… Dost rakkhe haath – kandhe pe jaise”

– brilliant use of the orchestra and millitary drums to enhance the patriotic effect in Kadam Kadam Barhay Ja (the unofficial anthem of Bose’s Indian National Army originally composed by Ram Singh) and Hum Dilli Dilli Jayenge (based on Bose’s famous call ‘Delhi-chalo’).

– the orchestral version of Jana Gana Mana in Bose is perhaps one of the most soulful and heartfelt rendering of our national anthem.

While I did not start out this post with the idea of a detailed commentary on the music of Bose as well, I must mention that there are two drawbacks in the sountrack – first is the composition called Durga Puja – it sounded more like a ‘Ganpati-bappa’ procession in Bombay than any Durga puja I have been to. In fact, the drums (‘dhaak’) played during Durga puja is one of the most melodious rhythms you can hear – why Rahman chose to destroy it with a high pitched shehnai is beyond me. Secondly, the use of the lines ‘jodi tor daak shune keu’ written by Tagore in freedom-fighting era Hindi movies has become cliched. It is used in Bose during the song “Tanha Rahee” – but I have to say it blended in nicely with the rest of the song. What irked me though was the use of Nachiketa for singing those lines – was he the only one they could find among vast number of Bengali singers, most with much better voice than this guy ? I would have thought that someone like Srikanta Acharya or Suman would have suited the song much better. Well, thats two Bong-related nitpicking from an otherwise brilliant album for you.

Getting back to my original point, if you consider the songs in the album VandeMataram along with Swades and especially Bose – it does seem that patriotism or perhaps a love for the country inspires Rahman produce great music.

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Written by BongoP'o'ndit

April 16, 2005 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Films, Music

15 Responses

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