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Discernment. Online


Rahman was called the Mozart of Madras, but Bombay Dreams generally got slammed in the press for its corny jokes
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Dosa served with English chutney

Bombay Dreams
Sony Music 
Rs 55

Bombay Dreams is mostly songs we have heard before. Did we wait so long just for a glitzy cover version?

After two years of waiting, Rahman's Bombay Dreams album is out. India probably will never see the theatre production, but its CDs and cassettes are out on the stands. After all the euphoria about Rahman hitting the international music scene, it is hard to swallow what we've finally got: familiar dosa with English chutney! 

Most of the tracks here are much heard in India, only they now come with newly fitted English lyrics.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is known for Broadway musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats. The Broadway musical is a play that unfolds with music and song. Musicals are not new to Indian theatre, with most mythologicals thriving on song. And who can ever imagine our films without songs? There's hardly any novelty value to a play with songs. The novelty, if you want to find one, is that it's a play in English.

In Bombay Dreams you get a hit Broadway musical producer working with a hit Indian music maker. That may make for a lot of commercial potential, but one thing is very clear: Webber didn't much care for original music, and wanted Rahman to recycle his Indian hits.

A majority of songs in Bombay Dreams come out of Rahman’s earlier work, like Shakalaka baby (Mudhalvan) and Ooh la la la (Minsara Kanavu). The songs do not come out of the context of the play; rather, the play takes up tunes already present in the Indian film context.

Bombay Awakes, one of the original tracks, starts with a soft instrumental passage. Then, the listener is transported to a street in Bombay, as the sun rises with “budding heat” on “straggled” streets, where “some live and die in debt” and “some make millions on the Internet”.  “Anything is possible in Bombay dreams,”  which is a “city of extremes”.

This track sounds Arabic – could well be a part of Aladdin. The alaap by Rahman comes as a background to the  tak din tak din spoken out in a Western accent. The song also features Dalip Tahil, Raj Ghatak, and Karen David. Who knew that Dalip Tahil, who usually appears as a villain, had a singer within him

Another song sounds a bit like Sona nahin na sahin from One Two Ka Four. The romantic duet sung by Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan it is now almost a loud description of the perfect guy: hero, lover, son, everything. There are quite a few similarities to the original song -– such as the instrumental and electronic sounds used. The actress asks, "Are you sure you want to be famous?" -- which is also the name of the song -- and the actor says, of course, “I’ll try to play the part.”  This duet is sung by the main pair -- Preeya Kalidas and Raza Jaffrey.
Happy Endings is an argument between parallel cinema and mainstream cinema with its mandatory “happy endings”. It is on the tune of Rangeela Re, Asha Bhosle’s racy number from Rangeela. The argument is sung out by Preeya Kalidas (who is for “thinking” movies) and Dalip Tahil who supports the usual “happy endings.”

Like an eagle is the song of an aspiring actor who felt his place was always the big screen of Bollywood. A Hindi chorus and Rahman’s alaap come in this new tune. An Arabic feel lurks around this song too.

Ishq Bina from Taal is reincarnated as Love’s Never Easy. The nasal female vocals are thick, a contrast to the female voices used in the Hindi original: Anuradha Sriram and Sujatha. The rhythm is louder. 

Only Love sounds like an old Indian song- with its violins and slow pace. It is not a carbon copy of any particular song though... just evokes the Vividh Bharati mood. Ooh la la la  has comes from Minsara Kanavu/ Sapnay  and is here sung by Andrew Playfoot. It is now a light romantic song, of a newly found love with an “angel face.”

Shakalaka Baby was a hit in its original version sung by Vasundhara Das in the movie Muthalvan and was released in the Hindi remake Nayak. Vasundhara Das won the Screen award for best female playback in Tamil. This is one number that hasn't been revamped; it sounds almost like the original.

The general storyline goes something like this: Akaash (Raza Jaffrey) grows up in the slums and aspires to be a movie star. His dreams start to come true when he meets Priya (Preeya Kalidas), daughter of corrupt movie mogul Madan (Dalip Tahil). Akaash and Priya fall in love. But will their clashing worlds come in the way of a happy ending?

Rahman, they say, didn’t get his way and make fresh songs for this musical. Webber wanted Chaiyya chaiyya (Dil se ) and other numbers he'd already heard. This could also have caused a straggly musical work.


Divya Minisandram

Published on 22 August 2002

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