Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Those tunes that ring in your mind...

I just saw this little known but quite charming movie called The River King..... It's a mystery/crime movie based on Alice Hoffman's bestselling novel by the same name, starring Ed Burns (remember the assault-rifle wielding, handsome Ranger in Saving Private Ryan?) and Jennifer Ehle (who bears a good resemblance to the the exquisite, great Meryl Streep) plus an excellent supporting cast. What struck me most while I was watching this movie was Simon Boswell's refreshing mandolin score in the background.
There are some sounds, smells and sights that hit a spot somewhere deep inside you, awaken memories or strong feelings..... things you had buried so deep in your psyche. The mandolin score in this movie (plus the whole setting and theme of the movie) reminded me of someone who failed to "see" me a long time ago. The music somehow strikes resonance with the vibrations of your heart (corny, huh! ). I get a somewhat stronger reaction when I listen to "Never Tear Us Apart" from Inxs (see my previous post for more on this)..... especially the poignant flourish which accompanies the lines
"I was standing..... you were there,
Two Worlds collided"

Today I would like to share with you some tunes that have stayed with me for a long time.... have almost become a part of me.
I bet every Malayalee has seen Padmarajan's immortal movie Thoovanathumpikal .... a love triangle movie way ahead of it's time, which sports some of the most multidimensional characters in film history. There's this central theme which we fans call "When It Rained" or "Clara's Theme"..... a most soothing and melodious violin and piano piece lasting about 90 seconds. This music evokes bittersweet feelings and subtley warns that the love is doomed even before it began... even before Jayakrishnan meets the enigmatic Clara. Whenever it rains and the smell of fresh, moist earth (what we call Puthu Mannu or 'New Earth') hits me..... this song rings inside my head. Love it.....

Dil Chahta Hai...... remember that scene where a smitten Sidd is talking to Tara? He suddenly blurts out "I want to paint you" to which a pleasantly surprised Tara doubles up in laughter and agrees. There is this music piece termed "Sidd's theme" which plays as he first walks , then jogs and finally sprints to his home to collect the canvas and brushes.... stuffs them in his jhola and races back to Tara's house. Notice that adoring expression turning to moonstruck impatience and desperation as he picks up his speed? The music piece is so haunting..... It is the bedrock to the "Kaise He ye" song by Srinivas, but this short piece is sheer poetry. It's something that grows on you as you analyse the most cerebral story of that 3 segment movie again and again....

Remember the whistling 'hook' in "Always look on the bright side of life" in Monty Python's The Life of Brian. (Spoilers Follow........)
The classic satire on bigotry, organised religion and the stream of Bible thumping movies from Hollywood is a real piece of art. Period. The highlight is the finale, the mass crucifiction scene parody with a hapless Brian(Graham Chapman) being let down by his lover, his compatriots, his very Jewish mom and the dumbest suicide squad ever. The movie ends with a fellow condemned (played by Eric Idle) cheering up Brian with his astute poetical observations on some Nihilist truths of life, spiced up with that oh so catchy whistling 'hook'. Black humor at it's best! The movie ends with most of the ensemble cast plus Brian singing the song cheerily while they wait a slow death on the cross. This song captured public imagination as a testament to human fortitude in the 80s and has been called the second national anthem of Britian.... even the drowning sailors of HMS Sheffield, sunk by Argentine exocet missiles, were heard singing this song in the icy South Atlantic waters. I first listened to this song way back in IIT-Mumbai festival Mood Indigo, 2000.... ever since it has been a sort of anthem during my dark hours.

There's this short and sweet "Wind of My Soul" by Cat Stevens, now Yusuf-ul-Islam, now a fundamentalist Muslim convert, recently imprisoned for funding the Al Qaeda. The soothing guitar and Steven's soulful voice mouthing some simple yet deeply philosophical and autobiographical lines is some experience. The guitar strikes that resonance I told you about...... I dunno, there's something with stringed instruments that takes me places. Wish I could get some time to learn to play them.

Every English speaking music lover has listened to Elvis Presley's stirring "I can't help falling in love with you"..... probably you have heard every other artist make a personal version of this song. From Britney Spears to U2, many have tried a hand with this cult song (the remake craze is second only to "Leaving on a jetplane" from John Denver). However, nobody has been able to measure up to the UB40 version set to the Sharon Stone's thriller flick Sliver. Remember that slick black and white video, brilliantly edited to scenes from the movie....with the entire UB40 troupe doing their thing in a brightly lit, narrow hallway with all those closed-circuit cameras swinging ominously? ( I bet you pervs were more interested in that peek-a-boo shot of a nude Sharon Stone strategically covered by an errant bedsheet edge! Well, it was kinda tastefull though...). UB40 pulls it off through the judicious mix of the reggae beat they are famous for and trumpets and saxophones. The streched vocals and the deliberate (with almost Shakespearean sighs) phrasing of
"Taaayke myyyyy haaaaaand,
Taaayke myy whhhholle life tooooo...
Eyeee caaaaan't help..... faaalling in laavv weeeth you"
gives you the picture of a man well aware of the forbidden, illict love....but can't just fr1ggin help falling for her magic. The whole effect is mindblowing; the soothing Elvis paean is transformed into a classic confessional anthem..... an anthem of "dangerous love". This song stayed in the charts for a looong time and was played over and over again in channels and radios.... something like that "My Heart will go on" craze.

Speaking of Titanic anthem "My heart will go on"..... strangely, that piece doesn't affect someone so "sensitive" like me. But there's this flute and bagpipes theme, an instrumental version of the same song, titled 'Hymn to the Ocean". It's the piece they play in the last scene..... when Rose finally rejoins Jack to the applause of all those who died with the ship. It's beautiful.

Coming to my favourite genre.... Celtic and New Age. I could write pages on my favourites, there are a lot of them.... but I guess I should stop with one or two best of tha best.
Guys and gals, I am making a confession. Enya was my teenage crush.... and I still am pretty struck by her looks and talent. I was 13 when I first heard "Anywhere it is" and "Orinoco Flow" you know..... her exquisite pure Irish features and silken voice bowled me over big time.
Anyway, there's this rather recent song from Enya called "Only Time"..... it's set to that bittersweet movie Sweet November starring Keanu Reeves smitten by a gorgeous and tantalizing Charlize Theron. The original video featuring dreamlike settings remniscent of Heaven in Robin William's "What dreams may come"and the best portrayals of passage of time, was an instant hit. The condolence ceremony to the fallen in 9/11 featured this song set to scenes of worldwide support for the victims and America. Again, this is one track that struck a deep chord in me.... for the same reasons as Thoovanathumpikal and The River King.

Whew, got it off my chest! Wanted to put it into black and white so many times...... you know, I talked about these fundaes, like which pieces stay with me and why to somepeople closest to me. But I guess I failed to convey it through just words.... maybe its because I went on tangent everytime and they couldn't catch up with my feverish brain. Perhaps I have done a better job now...... I hope.

Chhhalll...... Bye for now. Thank you for listening to me.

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At 6:59 PM, Blogger your said...

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At 10:14 PM, Blogger Mind Curry said...

man..you are deleting all the comments here!! will mine get shot too?

uh oh!!

just wanted to say that you are the biggest movie maniac i have come across so far..i used to think that i was one, but i am just a novice compared to you!!

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Anand K said...

@MindCurry: Thanx yaar.
And no.... those were some plain old spams linking to the the weirdest XXX fetish sites ;). Since my blog is rated PG-13 (for the moment), I had to do the spring cleaning.

BTW, thanx for puttin in the first comment! :)

At 10:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude you should enable the spam filter on you comments, that would get rid of a whole lot of the spams.

At 11:54 PM, Blogger >|' ; '| said...

enya affects peoples minds.
presly sang the great song. ub 40 sucked at it.

i saw in ur profile tht u have watched the vengeance trilogy.
i saw oldboy...what a movie.
i have got sympathy for lady vengeance too..have to procure the other one

At 2:31 AM, Blogger quills said...

Loved your post on movie soundtracks.The ones mentioned in your post are all my favs as well except for the ones from River King which I never watched. However seeing that it stars Jennifer Ehle ( who played Elizabeth Bennett in the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice to perfection) I am going to definitely rent it. As I write this comment, I am listening to Joe Strummer's Minstrel Boy from the soundtrack of Black Hawk Down. Being a major movie buff I guess all I needed was to mention the name of the song and the rest you would know. :)

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Anand K said...

@ Kuttan: Thanks boss.... but true to my religion of procrastination I have decided to wait....one....more...day. :)

@ Poison: Right about Enya... listening to her takes you to the clouds, the almost etheral voice just grows on you as you listen to it again and again. Her videos are quite apt to the music... book of dreams, wild child, storms in africa, the celts, orinocco flow just to name a few.
My fave Park movie is Oldboy, Mr Venegance follows and finally Lady Venegance. What I like most is the anti-fairytale vendettas where no one is spared, no innocents. Korea is churning out some excellent movies... like Tae Guk Si and Swiri (both have Min-Sik Choi who plays Dae-Su from Oldboy) and Peppermint Candy.

@ Quills: Thanx Quills. Yea, Black Hawk Down has a great soundtrack... but did you watch the official trailers aired that time? It featured the haunting "Why does my heart feel" track by Moby meshed into the hellish destruction and death that was the Battle of Mogadishu. It was quite surreal, almost Kafkaesque and tounge in cheek.... the stretched vocals playing to walls exploding to 12.7mm bullets, Rangers ducking from shrapnel and Somalis mowed down by the scores. Something like Platoon movie featuring the delightful "What a wonderful world" by Louis Armstrong to the scenes of Huey choppers blowing up Vietnamese positions and napalam bombs flattening whole jungles while veteran GIs carry on with normal routine just across the fire line.

BTW, I had a major thing for Meryl Streep... something about her sharp features AND her immense talent I guess. This has now been summarily transferred to Jennifer Ehle ;). i've heard quite a bit on her role as Liz Bennet, got to watch it sometime.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger quills said...

I vaguely remember watching the trailer. But as you said I like the soundtrack a lot too. Very moving movie.

I like watching Meryl Streep movies.There is another actress Natascha McElhone who I feel also resembles Meryl Streep. She starred alongside Brad Pitt in Devil's Own.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Anand K said...

Natasha McElhone.... yea, she does resemble Meryl Streep. Talented actress too.... but she's got the no nonsense, pinched, Iron-Lady look that wards me off ;)
Her characters in Ronin, Killing me Softly and even Solaris have a dark aura...

At 6:31 AM, Blogger quills said...

I see, poor Natasha does not make the grade. :)

At 6:24 PM, Blogger deepthi said...

hey, the Dil Chahta hein bit , you have very aptly expressed how Sid's expression changes over the course of the painting..that was a very nice detail taken care of, in the movie..along with so many other things..like how quielty Aakash cries alone in an alien land among alien people.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Anand K said...

@ Quills: Yes. And I'm sure she is devastated! ;)

@ Deepthi: Thanks EP, that was one scene I felt my heart go out to Sidd (Errr, am I sounding too Gay? :P ). It was a pretty good movie too....

At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Jian said...

Came across this blog through your message on orkut, and took the freedom to read on.

Lovely choice in songs and even more so in films, if I choose to ignore the solitary reference to that commercially motivated formula monstrosity that was Titanic.

Such lists have a tendency of making the reader think and try to add something of hs own at the end of it. To your credit, I cannt think of too many to add while I reply with a list of my own when my friends come up with something like this.

And yet, the temptation is just too much for me not to take it, but I can think of only one more to add to this already lovely list and thats the main theme from the movie "Requiem for a Dream." The movie moved me, forgive the bad pun, but the OST has just this haunting effect on you; its even made me cry a couple of times.

At 11:00 PM, Blogger Anand K said...

@ Jian: I always wanted to see that much acclaimed movie. Somehow eludes my grasp all the time. Now I REALLY got to see it! Thanx Jian.

At 2:22 AM, Blogger Maya Cassis said...

Oh man!you're a movie maniac
that said,I used to think you were just plain crazy n too funny.but now movie crazy too;P


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