Recently on my trip to Kerala, I found that TV channels were toxically loaded with film songs. It shouldn’t have surprised me, as many web sites have written about this phenomenon. Having heard Notebook’s (Roshan Andrews movie) songs and carelessly dismissed them, I was surprised by the way a couple of them climbed into my psyche. The weird thing is, I don’t know why I started liking them. Below are some thoughts on Mejo Joseph’s composing debut.
There are songs like Penne en penne (Udayananu Tharam), and then there are songs like Devasangeetham. These two songs occupy two ends of the orchestral spectrum. Mejo Joseph seems to be leaning more towards the minimalist style. Songs have a crispness and simplicity almost reminding us of Deepak Dev’s style.
I used the word “almost” in a positive way. Mejo seems to be having a richer orchestral knack. He uses strings and electronic sounds very strategically, and carefully suppresses them when vocals are present. Like most youngsters, he also seems to have a penchant for Guitars and synths. He does try to mimic A R Rahman’s style, like Deepak (and like several other composers). There are signs of musical talent, but at the same time, there are signs of “impatience”. I will describe these when I review the songs.
My favorite song of this album, is Iniyum Mounamo?. The song is orchestrated very delicately, with the precision of a micro-surgeon. For any movie-composer, the first and the most critical question, in my view, is “What’s the situation that I should portray with my music?”. The ambience in Notebook is intensely romantic. There is the misty look of a hill station, with breathtaking scenery around.
What is the best instrument a composer can use to portray that ambience?; Cello. Now, listen to the song: Iniyum Mounamo. You can see how he creates an ambience of rain and calm, by using very low energy vocals. Sudeep shines through with his controlled, mature singing. The arrangement consists of Guitar. Tabla is provided intermittently with light electronic drums. It is refreshing to hear.
The best part is the first musical interlude. One of the best I have heard in recent times! Again, it is that quiet, calm, and romantic ambience it creates. The aural bliss of a solo violin’s sound!!!! The first charanam starts with Poyoraa naalukal…. Listen to a very interesting mix of guitar strumming and tabla used alternatively. This creates a lot of space for the vocals to dominate and strike deep into the listener’s mind. Strings come in strategically.
The second interlude also consists of a short string-ostinato (if I could call it that) with flute. Manjari sings with her usual expressiveness, adding a little manodharmam when singing …….aa santhosha~~ngalella~a~m. However, this song does drag a bit, because of the repeated use of some of the notes (e.g. hear pallavi- parayo~o~, charanam-ka-a-lam. This song is a feather in the cap for a debutant composer.
Because I heard these songs on the internet, I somehow skipped the version sung by Dr. KJY. Hence, I failed to mention it in the original version of the review (Thanks Tony for pointing it out). Now that I heard it, I honestly think that I like Sudeep’s version is more refreshing, but of course no one can emulate the expressions of Dr. KJY’s voice. Both versions are good, in their own
Hrudayavum, Hrudayavum is another romantic, but fast-paced song. The use of chorus confirms my feeling that Mejo is a big fan of ARR. Jyotsna has sung the song well, considering its unique requirements. The English lyrics in the beginning are ok. Nothing against Vineeth Sreeni, I would have liked to hear the song in the voice of Karthik. I think this is a song perfect for his voice.
The chorus sundarante… is over-used a bit. Otherwise, charanam is well composed. There is a nice mixture of Guitar and strings in this song also. Vineeth strains a bit as he tries to keep his true voice during the crescendo.
As we all know is track with devotional/spiritual undertones. Again Cello appears in the middle of the song. There is not much to write about this one. A typical prayer-like song.
Mazhayude is fast paced and trendy. I guess, it is the “explosive” track of the album. Both the interludes and the charanam slows down and even takes on a folk flavor. It did a get a bit confusing, when traveling between genres. This is where Mejo could improve in the future. Exercising more patience in switching genres or changing the “feel” of the song might go a long way. Easy to say from the comfort of a chair & a computer!
Overall, I feel that Mejo has shown flashes of talent. He has composed two songs very intricately. I can see how much effort he has put into designing each of the arrangements. A good example is the perfectly co-ordinated “dance” between synths, flute, swaras and the rhythmic techno sounds in the first interlude of Hrudayavum. I applaud his efforts, but at the same time note here that his songs are in no way “classics”. They are fresh, novel (in some ways) and will grow on you. For me, at least two of them did!