Saturday, 27 July 2013

Challa from Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Song in topic:

The most played song on my iTunes has 310 hits. The second has 142. Today is my 21st birthday and a celebration of my graduation, which was 2 days ago; as a commitment to my blog which is still in its baby stages, I want to write a small post on the song Challa from Jab Tak Hai Jaan. When it was announced that the late Yash Chopra was going to collaborate with AR Rahman and Gulzar for his final directorial venture, excitement was understandably abuzz. The first glimpse of Challa was in the following teaser: (00:53) and I remember when I was constantly replaying the video just to hear the guitar intro of the song. The intro has a magically stripped back effect which only Rahman is capable of creating. Most people know exactly how much I love Shahrukh Khan. Most people also know how much I love London, my city. When the trailer for Challa came out and I saw SRK running around the Trafalgar Square and Southbank with his guitar, I was blown away at how beautiful the two [London and SRK] look together. The lyrics of the song, the loca
Screenshot from JTHJ on
tion of the video and the charm of SRK have left a permanent mark in my heart.

The content of the song is plain and simple: “Challa ki lab da phire?” (Translated as “What does this crazy wanderer seek?”) is the opening line of the song and it comes with great irony. London is a city of ranging culture and ethnicity. Thousands upon thousands of people grace the city every day with their presence. Amongst so many people, Samar (SRK's character) is still searching for something. His busking is received well by the tourists’ around him and he feels at home in London; yet he’s still missing something and this song is a charming form of search for SRK’s character. Gulzar saab has penned a beautiful set of lyrics and has given full poetic justice to them by writing them in Punjabi.  Challa is not just a song for me but a form of motivation, inspiration and escapism. It’s a song that promotes London’s beauty, culture and opportunistic nature. Challa has taught me that whenever I'm feeling lost, a great option for relief is to grab a bag, jump on a tube and head to London. If all goes down the drain, then come to London and enjoy being part of a crowd that doesn't care who you are, where you’re from and what you do. You never know what you might find. You see, I've never really felt a part of a specific friendship group or clique. Instead, I try to think of everyone around me as one friend; even strangers. I guess I also feel like I belong to everyone, but no one belongs to me (Tu sab da…Tera koi nahi) and I say that with a huge smile and no regrets. These feelings are testament to SRK's amp portrayal in the video. It’s way too soon to call it, but the way it’s going I wouldn't be surprised if these lyrics determine Challa as my favourite song of all time.

Whoever I've come across in life has made a conscious or subconscious contribution to making me what I am. Every family member, every friend and even every stranger I've ever spoken with has made a contribution and because of these, I will forever be a people person.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Mean Girls

Let’s set the record straight right now: Mean Girls is a f*cking sick movie. Those who have any bad words against the story, the characters, the dialogue or the Plastics can stop reading right now and go read Immortal Technique tweets.  The art of emphasis has never been more so accurately placed, accurately executed. Mean Girls has a timeless ability so powerful that it takes you back to your high school days with minimal effort. Tina Fey has written a script that has – anything but carefully – depicted the most sensitive, obsessive and paranoid years of all our lives. Fey has not only identified [pretty much] every stereotype at high school, but she’s pumped up so much specific detail in them that you can’t help but relate to them.

Taken from some Tumblr page
High school madness comes in from the very beginning as we see it from the perspective of ‘the new kid’, Cady Heron. A character who starts off as evidently normal but ends up being just as crazy and involved in high school politics as everyone else. Just by falling for a guy, she becomes immediately typical and this is a representation of what Fey thinks is an inevitable outcome when joining a public high school. What’s crazy is, some of the dialogue from Mean Girls is scarily identifiable. Let’s look at a few current examples: how many people do you get that ask questions like “Do Muslims wear turbans?” “Do Hindus and Sikhs fast during Ramadan?” “Are you not allowed to eat anything when you fast?” If you live in the UK, then how many Asians and Blacks do you know that have asked a question such as “who the f*ck is Margaret Thatcher?” I’m writing all this from a British perspective so I can only imagine how absolutely literal the comparisons would be with schools in the USA. High school truly is an animal world, and by the end of the movie that comparison seems very valid and evident.
We’re in 2013 now, so writing what I’m about to write may seem a little bit very crazy: Lindsay Lohan was incredible as Cady. She looked perfect as the new kid, and a member of the Plastics. Her narration provided some reality in an otherwise unreal setting and her voice is ideal as well. The heart and soul of this movie, by a huge margin, are the characters of Regina, Gretchen and Karen: aka, the Plastics. Regina, amazingly portrayed by Rachel McAdams, is the definition of Queen Bee and is a character who you can guarantee exists in every high school around. The shining stars of the Plastics however, are Gretchen and Karen. These two are just so cleverly written to be absolutely stupid; their expressions are immaculate and timed to perfection. Note Karen’s face in the build-up to when she asks “So if you’re from Africa, why are you white?” which is challenged by Gretchen who states “You can’t just ask people why they’re white”. Both of these Plastics compete for who is the dumbest and hats off to Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried for their awesome portrayals. Whilst Lizzy Caplan looked ideal for Janis, I think that her actual performance was missing some over the top qualities. Daniel Franseze is hilarious as the overly gay Damien. Tina Fey wasn't too bad herself.

Mean Girls is the most enjoyable example of feminist art. Where female self-awareness, politics and hormones are made to look like utterly stupid. What I really like is that this movie doesn't claim to be anything but a form of comic relief. Tina Fey’s sarcastic consistency has led this movie to become a cult classic and you know what: I think I want to watch it again.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

Badtameez Dil

Up until One Two Three from Chennai Express, the babies in my family were demanding to repeat one and one song only. As soon as the saxophone/trumpets end at the beginning and the music drops, they head into a rave-mode. Badtameez Dil is a cheeky, charming and repeatable song through and through. Most people won’t even be able to sing anything but the chorus but that’s what makes it so, so fun. I’m a huge fan of Pritam and his work despite what anybody claims. YJHD’s successful soundtrack speaks for itself and we will see many a mention when next year’s awards season starts. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics (not the English ones) are perfect for the song but I want to give the most credit to Benny Dayal here; to sing such nonsensical lyrics and make them seem – actually cool – takes some talent. Dayal’s voice is youthful and despite the speed of the verses, he takes his time and enunciates each and every word. The way he puts a thumps the ‘Badt’ in the chorus makes the chorus that extra bit catchy and his voice naturally captures the essence of Ranbir Kapoor’s character.

Taken from ©
The video of Badtameez Dil is almost like a celebration of Ranbir Kapoor’s achievements over the last few years; consecutive best actor awards, national recognition and startling box office success has made RK one of the most in-demand actors. He’s having a Hrithik Roshan style start to his career and all credit to him. That’s why I think this song is perfect for him in terms of content and style and that’s exactly how the video comes across; a celebration of current times with a huge ‘YOLO’ attitude. He makes the video what it is. I can’t think of any actor – other than one – whom can ‘own’ a song as much as RK has done in this video. He pulls off the suit look with absolute class and shows the world his ability to effortlessly dance. RK’s side-to-side chorus dance brings a smile to your face every time. As someone who loves to dance, I haven’t been able to imagine my next performance to be anything but Badtameez Dil’. A clear cut nomination for #SongoftheYear which will take a lot to beat and I just hope we can see more Dayal-Ranbir combinations in the future because their first collaboration is just brilliant. Oh, and the one actor that I mentioned earlier is none other than the King himself: Shahrukh Khan.

Badtameez Dil:

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Aashiqui 2

Mohit Suri has directed what seems like a combination of Devdas, Jannat and Rockstar; without forgetting the obvious link to A Star Is Born. The story of an accomplished singer-turned-alcoholic who wants to make a small-time village girl famous is farfetched, to say the least.  There was never a real insight into why RJ, played by Aditya Roy Kapur, had become an alcoholic; was it because he couldn’t handle fame? Was he heartbroken from something else? Did he hang with the wrong crowd? This lack of information also makes you wonder why he’s getting attacked so often by the ‘gunde’. However, instead of suggestion and wondering, I want to explore what Suri did with the script he was given.
What worked well in Aashiqui 2 was the sincerity of the central characters; especially of Aarohi, played by Shraddha Kapoor. It’s safe to say that both of these actors are relying on this movie as a stepping platform. If I were to choose one as the more successful performer [for the sake of debate] I’d have to go for Shraddha. Her loyalty, purity and innocence throughout the movie are a joy to behold and I really enjoyed her performance. Whether it was at the beginning when we got a glimpse of her cheeky side, in the mid-section during the intimate love scenes or at the later stages when she had become famous, her performance was consistently believable. Aditya did a good job and more importantly, looks the part. However, a small-scale Twitter debate got me thinking that perhaps there was something missing from his performance. Initially, he was untouchable. In the opening scenes as the alcoholic superstar, his voice and stature was spot on. His expressions were intriguing and you just want to see more, know more. However, the scene when RJ shouts hell at his manager friend for not informing him of Aarohi’s calls was just not convincing enough. At times, the screaming became awkward and reminded me of Zayed Khan (think Main Hoon Na). I liked that the structure of the movie was reflective of RJ’s rehab nature. When one point of tension reached its cause, a few minutes of light relief comes in; but not long before another problem arises and the tension gets back up. This structure is an exemplary decision by Suri which separates him from others. We can see why he’s an accomplished thriller director. Oh, and the ending of the movie is executed brilliantly. A heartbreakingly painful climax for which you'll probably need tissues.

Aashiqui 2 was never going to come anywhere near its predecessor in terms of music but the movie has two songs that, in my opinion, do some justice. These two songs have become a craze amongst all Bollywood fans. I’ve spoken to people that rarely watch Bollywood whom have heard Tum Hi Ho, complimenting the heart touching lyrics and painfully wonderful singing. The one that stands out for me though is without a doubt Sunn Raha Hai. It would take a huge miracle to challenge this powerful ballad to the song of the year award. It’s certainly the song of the year for me. The execution of the song in the movie was perfectly fit for RJ and his story. When he opens up his concert with “Apne karam ki kar aadayein”, you’ll feel a cold sensation travel through body to straight to your heart. Ankit Tiwari deserves all sorts of recognition, award and appreciation for his beautiful performance on this song. Here’s a link: Turn your lights off, listen to the lyrics and fall into the anthemic trance that is Sunn Raha Hai. Bhula Dena is a decent addition to the soundtrack but I think we can agree that the composers didn’t take full advantage of Mustafa Zahid’s voice. Zahid is one of my favourite singers of all time and that’s an opinion based on just three of his songs. To give him such a weak song is so disappointing. Milne Hai Mujhse Aayi – which incredibly didn’t make it into the movie – is a well written song, but the main two mentioned earlier stand towers above the rest. All in all, this movie is a decent watch and I enjoyed it but ultimately, it should not have been made as a sequel to the 1990 Aashiqui. Have producers become so desperate that they’re forced to sacrifice legacies in order to sell a new movie? 

£££ ½

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Emirates A380

Take a second to think about the best service you’ve ever received. Be it in a shop, on a flight, at a restaurant. Think about the most amazing facilities you’ve ever used. Be it at the gym, in the office, at a hotel. Combine both of these thoughts and you come very close to what the Emirates experience feels like.  I have a lot of love for British Airways on a patriotic level and recently I flew on first class with them. However, I regretfully confess that flying economy on Emirates was better, so much better.  The cabin crew welcome you with smiles that are so natural and as incredible as it sounds, it looked like they genuinely enjoyed their jobs (!). I eavesdropped on requests that guests around me were making and every single one of them was met with a positive response, even the most outrageous requests. At some point during the flight, I stopped a member of the crew called Hector, and I asked him how to use the On Air wi-fi. He could simply have said to “follow instructions when signing in” but instead, he kneeled down by my side and took me through step-by-step until I was connected on to the internet. During the times my phone would load, Hector would give me some information on how On Air developed and on what Emirates airlines you would find the network most available. The conversations flew so naturally that before I knew it, I had connected on to a reasonable internet service on flight. Hector’s brilliant service was not only in his extensive knowledge and ability to converse, but also in the fact that he was kneeling down when speaking to me and he wasn’t the only one; almost every member of the crew would kneel down when speaking to customers for longer than 15 seconds. Now, picture it: you’re lying back in your seat and a cabin crew member is kneeling by your side, at your service. It gives an image of the slave era, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to say that the Emirates crew are like your slaves, far from that. My comparison is a compliment to how amazingly personal the service is; the cabin crew have a huge respect for authority. They treat their customers with the utmost respect, attention and loyalty and that is exactly what excellent service is. ©
Incredible customer service aside, Emirates have the most amazing in-flight entertainment –titled ‘ice’ – available for its customers. Anyone that has used ice knows that there is simply too much to choose from. I saw that there was entertainment in all sorts of languages, from all sorts of cultures. There were also heaps of information on ‘Today’s flight’, ‘About Dubai’ and ‘Duty-Free shopping’. My favourite part of the entertainment was the interviews involving Steve Harvey and relevant Dubai business people. The interviews are insightful and help you to understand the past, present and future state of Dubai as a business capital and potential world expo host. The only issue, which was very easy to spot because it was the only issue, was that they had run out of chicken on my fight and the second option was just not good enough. In-flight catering is so tough to get right and I’m sure that the guys behind the scenes at Emirates are doing all they can to improve. I was surprised that there was no Arabic focus on the menu, which is what I had expected. ©

I’ve heard a countless amount of stories about the growth of Dubai and a huge part of that growth has been the Emirates airline. A few years ago I only identified them as the shirt sponsor for Arsenal FC, but here I am now writing a review on my Emirates A380 flight experience.  To get to Dubai, you pay a bit more than Royal Brunei and British Airways but believe me, every single extra penny is absolutely worth it. It doesn’t surprise me that Emirates currently hold the award for Airline of the Year, best Airline of the Middle-East and have the Best In-flight Entertainment as well (voted on Whenever you have the option to do so, I strongly urge you to ‘Fly Emirates’ because when I did, I was [metaphorically] blown away.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Chennai Express (Soundtrack Review)

One Two Three Four – Get on the Dance Floor: What a fun start to the soundtrack! Full of energy and character, Vishal Dadlani and Hamsika Iyer deliver great performances and compliment the incredibly happening production. This song has taken it’s time but has settled in well as a catchy item number. A track that would have been perfect had Prabhudeva taken control of the choreography. Anyways, good start to the album. 8/10

Taken from ©
Titli: This song needs time. It sound generic at first, but it goes grow on you. The lyrics are sweet and the song acts as the conventional SRK romantic number which was last seen in Saans. Although not incredibly moving or classic like songs from the late 90’s and pre-2005 Shahrukh Khan golden era, the song is good enough for a Rohit Shetty entertainer. Nice listen. 7/10

Tere Rastaa Mein Chhodoon: This song will probably come shortly after that sequence from the theatrical trailer when SRK walks away intensely from Deepika. It’s an emotional song with contrastingly upbeat production and that works well; a very international quality. When I close my eyes and listen to this song, I can imagine it working really well in a busy city setting like a London or New York or Mumbai, similar to Sau Dard from Jaan-E-Mann so it’ll be interesting to see how they film this song, considering the movie is set in a villagey-type location. This song has replay value and is one of my favourite from the soundtrack. 8/10

Kashmir Mein Tu Kanyakumari: Upbeat and positive vibes throughout this song and it suits the look of the movie. The results are decent and the picturisation might help but I don’t see this song as nothing more than just filler on the soundtrack. Nowhere near as impacting as One Two Three Four. 6/10

Ready Steady Po: I was waiting to review this song the most! International production reminds you of the likes of Guetta and Will I Am. Being someone who is incredibly into both English and Hindi music, I don’t normally like the combination of the two but this song has got the right balance. The rapping doesn't seem [as] lame as it has done in recent Bollywood songs, and the Hindi sections are just so fun. The hook, which I think is sung by Natalie Di’luccio, is one of the most catchiest I've heard. I can’t believe I do, but I really like this song! 8/10!

Chennai Express: Remember Ek Main Aur Ek Tu Hain from Bluff Master? This song has a very similar introduction from the same producers, Vishal-Shekar and acts as a musical trailer for the movie. The biggest names on the intro are of course, SRK and SBP (acronyms ftw!). Very, very catchy chorus but the unfortunate lame English lyrics take away from the overall result. Nevertheless, a very good advert for the movie and the train metaphor is clever. I hope they release this video soon as it’ll probably encourage people to buy the tickets, as the lyrics explicitly suggest you to. 7/10

Chennai Express Mashup: Firstly, I don’t think the songs on the album offer much for a sufficient mashup, but compliments to V-S for attempting. The fact that it comes right after the title song and uses the chorus so heavily makes you feel like it’s just a remix of the title song. Not much scope given to the other songs. They should probably have focussed it more on Ready Steady Po. Mashup doesn't work and you won’t want to listen to it after one or maybe two times. 4/10

Taken from ©
Titli Dubstep Version: So, if Vishal-Shekhar’s international approach to this album wasn't suggestive in the previous songs, it’s absolutely clear in this song. Before I give my view, I want to applaud the duo for attempting this; a very risky combination of genres and one that will work in Bollywood soon enough. However, Titli just isn't the right choice for the first ever Bollywood dubstep song and I can name so many that would have been better. That’s not to say that this attempt isn’t decent, it is. I have high appreciation for the intentions here, but it doesn't work as well as it could have and won’t have much scope on an international scale. I've seen YouTube remixes that are far better. 6/10

So basically: I wasn't expecting a classic album or anything that has much replay value from the Chennai Express soundtrack. It just had to fit the genre of the movie and have a well-rounded result which it has. My picks of the lot are One Two Three Four, Ready Steady Po and Tera Rasta. A few other songs are worthy as well, but there seems to be too many a filler on the soundtrack. Once again, big compliments to the producers V-S for their international approach to this album. This should get them some good work in the future. 7/10!

My theatrical version of Stan

My theatrical version of Stan