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Classical overtones,
familiar orchestra

Rahman's score for this Rajeev Menon offering has more classical overtones than any of his earlier scores, but his orchestra is much the same

Kandukondain Kandukondain
Rs 50

Ad man Rajeev Menon's foray into feature filmmaking, with Minsara Kanavu (Sapnay in Hindi), gave us an entertaining love triangle starring Kajol, Arvind Swamy and Prabhudeva. Between the rich suitor and the poor hairdresser, the hairdresser gets the girl. Behind its veneer of candy-floss lighheartedness, the film took a witty look at the lives of the rich, the nouveau riche and the working class. It calls for some guts, in caste-driven India, for a director in mainstream cinema to celebrate the lifestyle of the hairdresser, and to deprive the rich industrialist's son the prize of the heroine. Rajeev Menon now follows up that well-made - if politically correct - spectacle with a more ambitious film.

Kandukondain Kandukondain revolves around a happy family displaced from its ancestral home. It portrays the efforts of a mother and two daughters to find a new life in the city after this upheaval. Rajeev has put together a big all-India star cast with Tabu, Aishwarya Rai, Mammooty, Ajith and Abbas.

The sugary title track, sung by Hariharan and Mahalaxmi, combines Karnatak-style graces with pop flourishes. Shankar Mahadevan is full-throated and expressive in Yenne solla pogirai, a flowing tune with flute interludes based on raga Bhairavi. Incidentally, Bhairavi in Karnatak music is such a serious, gamaka-rich raga that film music composers rarely borrow from it. The song itself has little of the raga, but takes some catch phrases from it for the interlude. This is the most wholesome song in the album.

Raga Natakuranji rules in the opening lines of Kannamuchi enada. The first version is by Chitra, who then sings the same tune as a duet with Yesudas. Before you think you've stumbled upon a raga-oriented song with vintage charm, the tune starts meandering. Don't play hide and seek, Radha tells Krishna, for my heart is like a mirror and our love is beyond games. Sriram Parasuram, who recently released a pop album called Savariya with his group Three Brothers and a Violin, plays the Karnatak-style bits.

Smiyai is a drum-dominated pop song. Devan, Clinton and Dominique harmonise to the Anglicised words of Vairamuthu. This number contrasts with the rest of the songs which have a more traditional feel:
Magnet vizhiyal manadai tirudi vittai
Oru centimetre pootha punnagai
Jeevan alantha vittai
(You stole my heart with your magnet eyes
With a centimetre-wide smile
you measured my life!)

Sadhana Sargam, who sang the lovely Snehitane in Alai Payuthe, is nowhere as good in Konjum mainakale. The flute plays folk-inspired phrases in raga Brindavan Sarang, but the song moves away from the raga almost before its mood can sink in. Why does Rahman dispense with ragas so impatiently?

Hariharan sings the Bharatiyar poem Suttum vizhi in phrases drawn from various ragas. You hear echoes of Nand and Sohini. The Tamil poet, most famous for his patriotic verse, is here a love poet who compares the sun and the moon to the lover's eyes.

Yenge ennadu kavithai begins softly and then gains in movement. It is apparently meant for an emotionally charged scene, going by the melodramatic keyboard and chorus back-up to the main melody. Sung by Sreenivas and Chitra, it is strongly flavoured by Karnatak music again: the mrudangam is the main percussion, and the interludes, beginning with the nadaswaram, take off in raga Latangi.

Rahman does not try anything new in orchestra arrangement, but that is unlikely to put off his diehard fans.

S Suchitra Lata

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