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Popular cinema's salaam to Gangubai

Hrudaya Hrudayaa
Rs 40

At 72, Rajkumar is still going strong at the music studios. The Kannada star had stopped acting some years ago, but continued to sing for films starring other heroes. He has now announced the launch of his long-pending film Shabdavedi, which means he will be on screen again. Something for his fans to celebrate.

In this film starring Shivarajkumar, he sings the opening track O premave with Chitra. Inviting the Ganga of love to descend would require some musical enticement, and this is just what Hamsalekha attempts.

Hogi baa again by Dr Rajkumar and Chitra is very quiet and sombre; it is a song about lovers parting. There are no pathos-filled crescendos. The violins are strangely Arabian. There is a lone drum with some tinkling tones. Rajkumar's voice strains in the higher reaches but in intensity it remains as good as ever. The silent stretches with no background music add bleakness. All this combine to effectively bring out the pain in the situation. The second bit has an understated flute bit and a scale change (shruti bheda) on the violins. Towards the end suddenly the whole orchestra comes alive, violins, chorus and drums.

Ivale nanna rani is sung by Shivrajkumar, the hero of the movie, Rajesh and Manjula Gururaj. The first movement of the pallavi seems usual movie stuff, but the second movement takes unexpected turns. The first bit is based on a piano and sparingly used violins. The tabla and dholak too are understated. There is too much echo in the mastering, giving it a distant feel. The lyrics in praise of the heroine as the queen of all domains also indirectly praises great names in this line, Ragada rani Gangubai. The reference is of course to the legendary Karnataka vocalist, Gangubai Hangal, one of the greatest names in Hindustani music. Hamsalekha brings in contemporary cultural references, and such a sensibility is perhaps what sets him apart.

Side B starts with Venkatesha by S P Balasubramanyam. It sounds like a march song in its intro and it discusses the country going to dogs. With a disco beat and a piquant sense of humour, it protests against all the latest problems: two elections a year, the price of onions, tomatoes and milk, fighting outside and inside the country, the tensions related to cricket, and finally a prayer to god Venkatesha to save our country and also look into the price of the costly laddu at Tirupati! The refrain goes predictably, Ayyo ayyo! But SPB does not sound like himself leading the listener to believe there might some mistake with the credits on the inlay card.

Hamsalekha is at his best with street language. Here the pallavi goes, Ballu gabbu edhoyuthu naadu. Mithra mithra is a mixture of Arabian and folk styles. The singers are Rajesh and L N Shastry but there is a female voice with no credits. The catch phrase is Click ayitha prema pathra. Again the wily use of spoken Kannada with its generous dose of Indian English. The tune itself is not too remarkable. The last part of the song changes register to resemble somewhat a Western chamber concerto with a key flute.

Hey hrudaya is by S P Balasubramanyam and Chitra. Chitra hums an Abheri or Chandrakauns-like phrase as refrain on the intro. The best song of the cassette, it is rich without being overdone on the orchestra arrangement. The guitar and flute bits are tender and use unexpected notes. The lyrics are more conventionally accepted poetry, without at the same time being obscure. The second bit uses the tabla and the saxophone in tandem on a bass guitar until Chitra takes up the refrain again.

All the songs are characterised by space and quietude, rare to find in the noisy world of movie music, all trying to impress more with loudness than with thought. But if you ask, "Is this tape better than his Preethsod Thappa?" the answer is no!

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