Sunday, November 20, 2011

The making of the Kolaveri song (The Kolaveri Gumbal version)

You must have heard the Kolaveri song. Here it is, if you haven't. It's in Tamil. I don't speak it, but it isn't hard to understand what the song is about. The song has gone viral. I liked it almost instantly.

If I were a music critic, I would have launched into a long explanation about how the freshness of the concept and honesty of the lyrics were juxtaposed with the simplicity of the sound track and so on but I'm not. Anyway, I think it is the butler-english-ness of the lyrics that got me. Totally loved it!

And, I found out on twitter, so did most of my friends.

"Great minds think alike", I told the missus.

"Hmm" said the missus, unconvinced.

She has a generally low opinion of whatever I like, initially atleast. While I concede that my choice in clothes is perhaps not the finest in the land (there was some funny business recently about a 'wine colored' jacket I had been sold by a slick salesman which, in the opinion of the missus, is a shade of crimson that even the great Govinda must have refused to wear, which is why, she says, it was on the market in the first place, but I digress) or that my culinary preferences tend to be skewed towards the un-classsy but I rather pride myself on musical ability.

I ignored her lack of enthusiasm in my usual dignified way and repaired towards the home of Mohan and Girija, where we, along with Ramaa, Mahesh and Rahul, were planning to have a dignified discussion about the nuances of melody in Indian music.

Except that we didn't.

As we reclined on the sofa with our wine (most of us) or fresh water (Ramaa), as the case might be, the topic of discussion was the kolaveri song linked to above. Rahul and Mohan had put together a Carnaticised version (this) of the thing, but the lack of time ("we had about 5 minutes to spare, da" Rahul explained) had prevented them from according to the project the dignity it merited. They were sad.

"The euro is melting. We can take that. Evil forces are threatening to steal Pakistan's nukes and use them against civilians. We can suffer that. But to leave the Carnaticisation of this great song unfinished! Posterity will not forgive us" Mohan articulated.

We agreed solemnly. Our little company of thinkers was enriched by the induction of a new member M, formerly of Madras but now of Mumbai.

"Something has to be done!" said Mahesh, and we all sank in thought. All of us, that is, except Rahul and M who realized that they used to live on the same street in Madras and knew virtually everyone else who lived there, except each other, and spent a few minutes marveling at what a small world it was.

But soon, they too were deep in contemplation.

Something had to be done.


That something turned out to be the Raga Shubha Pantuvarali which is pretty much like the Hindustani raga Todi. Mohan sang a small piece in it and, emboldened by the fact that I was the only one there who knew any hindustani music, I weighed in with some Miyan Ki Todi.

Rahul and Ramaa pitched in and soon, the skeleton of the melody was established. M, who too is a trained Carnatic musician, pointed out improvements. Rahul played the thing out on the violin. Mohan and Ramaa were busy arranging the talam. Mahesh was planning out the rap part of the song.

And I? I was busy agreeing with everybody. I'm a world class agreer, with decades of practice at agreeing with everyone and everything.

My old uncle had advised me, when I got married, that just as a good cricketer gets in line with the delivery and keeps a straight backlift the moment the ball leaves the bowler's hand, so should a married man agree the moment the argument leaves the wife's lips. It's a matter of technique. With his, the cricketer is able to keep his wicket intact. And with his, the husband his peace. And what am I rambling about here? Sorry. I'll get on with the story.

As I was saying, I agreed with everyone, providing them with the critical reassurance that artists need to create something special and soon, this masterpiece, was born. (My voice can be heard in the fourth 'kolaveri' of the first verse. The one which sounds like Bhimsen Joshi's)

When we replayed the thing, we knew we had created something special.

"Hmm" I said, contemplatively, and the rest of the company echoed "Hmm" in agreement.

"What is the procedure to apply for a Grammy?" asked Mahesh, echoing the thought in everyone's mind

I realised, with a twinge of nostalgia that in the old days, if Grammies were under Indian Government management, we would easily have won one by the simple expedient of locating a friend who knew the Director General of the Department of Grammies, getting him to create a separate category for "Kolaveri songs" and prevailing on him to award the grammy to us but in this day and age, things are not as simple.

But I'm preparing my speech, just in case.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A very p j

The setting rays of the sun caressed the Gulmohars outside our living room on their way into it, bouncing off the carnations in the vase, off the chinese candle stand, off the Laughing Buddha which, the missus never tired of reminding me, had once been mistaken for a likeness of me by my elderly aunt, and off the tall glass full of chilled beer that had manifested itself taking advantage of the missus' absence, she having gone to the spa for a beauty treatment.

The boys were supposed to study for their upcoming exams.

"Make sure they don't watch TV and all" the missus had instructed me before she left.

The lads, of course, switched on the thing the moment they heard her drive off.

"Boys, you are going to get me into serious trouble"

"Chill, Annie! She's got an appointment for a manicure, a pedicure and a hair wash. Two hours, pukka"

"No. no, last time she came back in 45 minutes"

"Chill, Annie. Anyway, she wasn't serious"

"What do you mean, not serious? Not serious about what?"

"Not serious about this "Don't let them watch TV" business. She has a different tone when she's serious. A bit like a 600 cc motorcycle"

"I don't think so. 600 cc motorcycle forsooth! Please switch it off and go into your room"

"Chill, Annie"

"For the last time" I told them, in an icy manner I reserve for sarcasm, "I will have you know that I am not equipped with a compressor and cooling coils. Chill, it seems!"

Wasted, of course. The boys were riveted onto the screen. Some species of cricket was going on. An old classic match. There was some Hindi commentary rolling along.

Very wordy, Hindi commentary, for some reason, atleast back then. They liked to describe every single thing that happened on the screen. "Now he's picked the ball. Now he's transferred it to his other hand. Now he is rubbing it on the back of his trouser." Dude!

Anyway, coming back to the res, the younger guy piped up

"Annie, what's Salaami Ballebaaz?"

"Er, opening batsmen I think. boys, would you consider switching the TV off ?"

"Annie, look at it this way. If Amma walks in now, she will see us watching the TV and yell at us. You know what that means, no?"


"She won't notice you've poured yourself a beer"


"Annie, why is that guy not hooking the bouncers?"

The boys were watching Sourav Ganguly and his legendary shyness towards fast, short pitched balls directed at the coconut.

"He's a bit afraid of short pitched balls, old Sourav is! But a splendid player of the fuller deliveries. His cover drives are the stuff of legend!"

"Haha! He'd be the right brand ambassador for Venky's!"


"He's an opening batsman, right?"

"Er, yes.."

"And a fraidy cat"

"I guess so, yes.."

"There you are. Chicken Salaami"

I groaned but before I could clout the lad a richly deserved one, the door opened and the missus entered. She got a call from the spa while she was on her way there, apparently, to the effect that the appointment was cancelled because of the non availability of the manicure guy.

There was what they call a pregnant pause.

"What's all this?"

We rightly recognized this to be a rhetorical question.

A little monologue was delivered on the subject of irresponsible children who have no sense of responsibility and on even more irresponsible fathers who have absolutely no idea what parenting is all about.

But the boys were right about one thing.

She never noticed the beer.