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Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit star in 'Pukar'

Rahman excels for
a 'fan of melody'

Will Madhuri Dixit bid goodbye to movies with Pukar? Even staid newspaper editors, normally unmoved by happenings in tinsel town, are lamenting the retirement of this 'screen goddess'. Mumbai's dream beauty couldn't have asked for better tunes from Rahman to sign off

Rs 48

So it's goodbye Madhuri? The film glossies say Pukar could well be her last film. Her wedding to New Yorker Dr Nene seems to have shocked not just film journalists but also the normally staid editors of the big dailies. Edit writers have been lamenting the retirement of this screen goddess, but then Madhuri has always been extra-special, even inspiring M F Husain to do a series of paintings and a film on her.

Mads -- as one magazine calls her! -- has quietly stopped signing new projects. And we already see reader surveys about who will take her place as Mumbai's No 1 woman star.

Since it had been in the making for over two years, Madhuri couldn't have intended Pukar as her goodbye film. But even if she had, she couldn't have asked for better tunes to sign off. Sometime in 1997, Rahman had said he was enjoying composing for Pukar as Rajkumar Santoshi, its director, "is a fan of melody". It shows.

The opening Kay sera sera opens intriguingly on a been (that's the instrument snakecharmers play) and you hear this hero, sounding as though he's screaming from inside a tunnel in outer space, telling young men to be wary of love. "Naujawano, baat mano, kabhi kisise, na pyar kar," Shankar Mahadevan intones, and soon you hear a heavy beat and samba sounds and whistles and a chorus led by Kavita Krishnamurthy taking issue with him and celebrating all the positive qualities of love. As the dialogue continues, Rahman sprinkles the song with phrases in raga Yaman, Greek bouzouki passages that could well be a bulbul tarang playing in a qawwali, an alap in what sounds like raga Kirvani, some scat singing in Shankar's voice, and a scale change... It's one of those musical quilts Rahman is so good at stitching.

Hain jana hai jana uses a beat that reminds you of Michael Jackson's '80s numbers, but it's Indianised a little by the tabla. Sujatha hits the high notes, and that makes the song fall somewhat piercingly on the ear. The violins in the background are well done, but the star of the song is the guitar: towards the end, listen to its stylised, dissonant strokes between sung lines, and then the rhythmic vamping on the refrain.

Kismat se tum hum ko mile ho is a serene love song with accentuated Indian graces, and raga Bhim Palas seems to inspire most of its movement. Sonu Nigam and Kavitha Krishnamurthy sing for reunited lovers piecing together a broken mirror. Sonu is comfortable, Kavita gets mechanical somewhere in the middle perhaps because the pitch is too high.

The song has a rich silken feel, thanks to violins playing the melody along with the voices. This gives it an old-worldly texture, but the orchestra arrangement is very Rahmanesque and '90s. It begins quietly, with a soft chorus and just a tinkle keeping time; the tabla comes in much later. The first interlude is perhaps the most tenderly beautiful piece Rahman has composed: it borrows harmonies from religious canticle singing, and then the violins come in with their caressing sensuousness and there's a flute to conclude it all wistfully.

Udit Narayan sounds strong and natural in Sunta hai mera khuda, but you can't say the same of Kavitha Krishnamurthy who is probably forced again to sing in a shruti too high for her. Swarnalata's hum sounds good though. The interludes and the swirling notes show a definite Arabian leaning. Another tune, like the previous one, which shows that Rahman's doing 'melody' and enjoying it.

The fast-paced Hum rahi jab ho mastana is again an out and out Udit Narayan song, and you'll be forgiven if you miss Hema Sardesai, who's somewhere in it. Like Hulla gulla from Bombay, it moves at a pace that doesn't allow you any time to think. But it's a better song than Hulla gulla thanks to Udit Narayan's inspired singing.

Lata and a chorus of children (K Vidya, R Survihi, R Priya, Subhiksha Rangarajan) feature in Ek tu hi bharosa, which achieves a contrast between her voice of experience and the children's voice of innocence. The prayer may not be in the same class as Manna Dey's Tu pyar ka sagar hain, but it is simple and understated. The piano arpeggios underline the plaintiveness of Lata and the children calling out for spiritual strength in a world of strangers.

The words are by Javed and Majrooh Sultanpuri, but credits are not given against individual songs. Pukar is produced by Boney Kapoor and stars Anil Kapoor in the lead.

Ram K

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