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Uncle sings an old story

The most expensive sets ever and a lavish orchestra, but Raju Chacha is an unspontaneous musical, a pale echo of The Sound of Music

Raju Chacha
Sony Music
Rs 75

A governess coming in to discipline spoilt, rich kids, and then hitting it off with them... That's the storyline of the classic English musical The Sound of Music. Julia Andrews played the young, impetuous and musically gifted governess who brings happiness into the children's lives.

Storywise, Raju Chacha runs on similar lines, but provides for a big role for Ajay Devgan, who plays a thief pretending to be in love with the governess. He eventually falls hopelessly for her, and ends up protecting the children and the governess against bigger crooks.

Doe a deer, a female deer and These are a few of my favourite things were among the many runaway hits in The Sound of Music -- lovely numbers that evoked innocence and a childlike wonder. You won't find any of that charming musicality in Raju Chacha.

This is Ajay Devgan's home production, and he has splurged on the sets: the make-believe castle in Raju Chacha reportedly cost him Rs 4 crore! It's a "home" production in another sense: Ajay's heroine is his wife Kajol.

Ajay and Kajol: the thief and the governess Tune mujhe pehchana nahin is sung by the talented Shaan, who showcased his flair in his recent private album Tanha Dil. Here he sings with ease and emotes well in one of the film's better numbers.

The song constantly uses the guitar, emphasising the Latin element. The interludes are fast-paced and recall a Spanish hat dance with clapping hands and snapping fingers. But nothing much happens musically -- the same melody is repeated again and again. The orchestal arrangement is simplistic.

Yeh vaada hain is an indifferently recycled Jatin-Lalit tune. Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik sing with a chorus. It begins slowly and in the antara surges up with trumpets and heavy drums. It is similar in arrangement to Jadu hai tera hi jadu from Ghulam and Jo haal dil ka from Sarfarosh. The racing violin passage brings in a European folk feel. Mercifully, there's no dholak and heavy violins, a combination you see almost in every song of these composers.

A sad version, sung by Alka Yagnik, reflects on broken promises. The highlight is a pretty flute and violin interlude.

Dil dil is another Latin-style number by Amit Kumar, son of the legendary Kishore Kumar. This singer has been out of circulation for a while. He sounds strained in this comeback song. Jatin-Lalit use two guitars -- one provides the chords while the other retraces the notes at a slower pace. Nice effect. One interlude brings back Yeh vaada raha, indicating that such tunes are similar and interchangeable!

Ek sher tha ek sherni is a story told through music, somewhat like the Amitabh number in Mr Natwarlal. The violins interpret the emotions of the story. When it is happy the violins run cheerfully, when it is sad they wail, and when it turns scary they play jittery phrases.

Shankar Mahadevan sings, but this isn't really a song with much music for him. The background rises to a crescendo and does most of the musical work.

Kahin se aayi rani, kahin se aaya raja features Amit Kumar, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Shweta, Shraddha, and Ishwari. As the Raja (Ajay Devgan) and Rani (Kajol) fall in love, the song uses various electronic tones and the saxophone.

The younger voices -- a pleasure -- sing with Kavita Krishnamurthy and Amit Kumar.

Aaj ka kya program is more conversation again. Musically colourless. Its repetitive tune is sung by a host of singers: Abhijeet, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sudesh Bhosle, Shankar Mahadevan. Ishwari, Shweta, and Shraddha.

The title track, Raju chacha, features Shaan, Francis, Shweta, Shraddha, Sneha, and Sehar. Too many singers and too little music.

Jatin-Latit can't seem to figure out what to do with a track that's closer to speech than to song. In The Sound of Music, Julia Andrews delights her pupils with song, enriches their emotional lives, and helps them through her musicality to adjust and grow. That score succeeded because it could bring a spontaneous musicality to the spoken word. Perhaps that's the quality that makes a musical special, and Raju Chacha clearly doesn't have it.

Divya Minisandram

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