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A treat for Deepavali

There's a simple beauty in the songs of Mudhalvan, released this Festival of Lights

Five Star
Rs 45

Mudhalvan has hit the cinemas at Deepavali time. Director Shankar, music composer Rahman, lyricist Vairamuthu and hero Arjun -- the team that gave you Gentleman -- are back with another spectacle. This time around they've imported some Mumbai talent in the form of Manisha Koirala and Sushmita Sen.

So you expect another album like Gentleman? Don't, because this one's better. For one, there are far more natural sounds: a real sarangi, real violins, real flutes, real percussion... Rahman, who usually dazzles you with his music programming wizardry, opts for real, natural tones this time. And his tunes are beautiful in their simplicity.

Azhagana rakshasiye has S P Balasubramanyam, Harini and G V Prakash, all singing at times in a husky whisper. Vairamuthu revels in paradox, describing the heroine, among other things, as a 'lovely she-demon'. The percussion mainly comprises the ghatam, joined in the interludes by castanets. Raga Ananda Bhairavi colours the stylishly done phrases.

The album's pride is Kurukku siruthavale, sung with understated feeling by Hariharan and Mahalakshmi in the first version, and Hariharan and Swarnalatha in the second. It's mostly based on raga Bibas, and the sarangi plays a lovely interlude (is it the great maestro Sultan Khan? The inlay card says just 'Sulthan'). The flute plays memorable motifs on a straightforward tabla and dholak beat. A chorus ends the song even as a violin ensemble builds up a crescendo.

Rahman makes a groovy dance number in Shakalaka baby, sung by Vasundra and Pravin Mani, who incidentally is also its rhythm programmer. The other song that gives Rahman's techno talent free rein is Mudhalvane, sung by S Janaki and Shankar Mahadevan. The chorus sings passages that sound like Gregorian chants, and there are short alap bits too; on the whole the song's a sort of fashionable pastiche.

Uppu karuvadu, sung excellently by Shankar Mahadevan and Kavita Krishnamurthy, borrows the rhythmic energy of folk songs. The bass is remarkable, coming on and disappearing at unexpected moments.

O Priya

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