Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A.R. Rahman: Slumdog Millionaire and Lagaan.

The first Bollywood movie I ever saw was Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. After seeing that movie I fell in love with Indian film and popular music.  But Lagaan's soundtrack, by A.R. Rahman is still my favorite.  Last week his new movie Slumdog Millionaire,  from the director who brought us Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, was released in the United States. The soundtrack also features M.I.A.'s Grammy 2009 nominated single "Paper Planes."

In 2004, TIME magazine declared Rahman the "Mozart of Madras" and has sold over 150 million records, placing him among the 25 highest selling music artist of all time.  He has composed over one hundred film scores in the last 25 years and is also involved in various charitable causes.

Watch this clip from the 2002 Oscar nominated film  Lagaan , staring the fabulous Aamir Khan. The film takes place in Victorian colonial India. During a drought, the English colonizers have placed a double tax (lagaan) on the local Indian farmers.  Feeling the injustice of the situation, Bhuvan, Khan's character, bets the English Captain that he and his farmer friends will beat the English in a game of cricket (a game that Bhuvan has never played before). If the farmers win, they will never have to pay lagaan again, if they lose, they must pay triple lagaan.  

In this clip, Bhuvan and his friend Gauri, must convince their friends and fellow villagers that while the task might seem impossible, the earth and the sky belong to them and are worth fighting for.  
Listen, O my friend,
What is this fear you have?

The earth is ours
And so is the sky.
The song is called "Mitwa." 

This is just one of the several fantastic songs and dance sequences from this movie. If you are interested at all in Bollywood (and good foreign flicks in general), I highly recommend Lagaan . It's long though, as are most Bollywood films, but I wouldn't be ashamed in you if you wanted to fast forward through much of, what seems like a 45 minute cricket game toward the end of the movie.

Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman's new release, is the story of the impoverished teen Jamal Malik who becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire."  The film jumps back and forth through time presenting the viewer with life tales that lead Jamal to possess the answer to every question.  

Read this in depth review of the soundtrack. Thank you to Manu at t-Shirt Junkie for turning me onto this movie.

Don't count on seeing much singing and dancing in traditional Bollywood style in this film, I hear that doesn't come until the credits.

I'm super excited to see this movie.  It's not often that I am able to see a Hindi film on the big screen.

I've also added some Bollywood tunes to my playlist.  Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

I heard this movie was awesome...i want to see it asap!

Manu said...

thanks a lot for mentioning my blog..:).. So you are familiar with Amir Khan too? If you are interested there is another movie you must watch. Taare Zameen Par .. Check it wont be disappointed..Its India's Oscar nomination this year..

gypsy said...

hey tat was a good post ,in the sense that you kind of bringin in the other side of this world to ur side ,hope you have introduced indian cinema (bollywood is not the right term ) to many a ppl around you ,cinema and music are such powerful mediums that bridge the gaps ,keep it up.and rahman's got the potential to give us the tools to do the bridge'in tools.

Jamie: said...

Manu - I saw Taare Zammeen Par! "Every Child is Special", right? I loved it! It's the one other Indian film I've seen on the big screen. Amir Khan has a wonderful sense of humanity; he's a great actor and possesses a great spirit. Thanks for your comment too! Keep up the good work on your blog.

gypsy - That's for your post. I'm trying my best to spread the good tunes. I put a track from "Lagaan" on just about every CD mix I make for friends. You'll be happy to know that "Mitwa" is on a CD for a friend who will be playing it for her new baby. I also have a friend who loved the song so much, she made up a dance to it. So yes, I'm getting people to listen.

You are right, cinema and music are powerful mediums. There are so many amazing stories to be told.

I will also try using term "Indian" cinema more, I think I'm still sorting out what's what. Thank you for the correction : )

I also think it's interesting that you both mention the word "potential" when it comes to Rahman's music. I assume you mean potential for popularity in the U.S.? I'm amazed at how Americans are drawn to some aspects of foreign culture (like yoga and reggae) but push other things away (soccer/football and Robbie Williams!). There sometimes seems to be no rhyme or reason to it, but I think there's a very calculated reason behind is all. I just have to figure out what it is!

Manu said...

@Jamie .. exactly.. Its one of the few movies tht has brought tears to my eyes..and I'm not a person who cries that easily..:D .. great to know there are fans of Amir Khan even there in the states.. He is one of my fav Indian actors.. And the line between bollywood and Indian cinema is blurred.. We prefer to project it as Indian Cinema bcoz of the image that is attached with bollywood( stupid dance and songs). Indian cinema is much much more than that.. thts y gypsy asked to refer to it as Indian Cinema I guess..

Ani said...

Yep ..this guy is really amazing. Probably one of the best things to happen to Indian music ..and music in general.

Good write-up Jamie.

btw ...ARR got a Golden Globe nomination this morning for SDM


Jamie: said...

Ani- Looks like he may be getting the exposure we've been hoping for here in the states. More and more people are telling me about how awesome this movie is. I'm looking forward to a performance on the Oscars for best song (keep figures crossed!)

Thanks everyone fore commenting, it's been really fun talking about this amazing music with you all!

Nicole and Mon Voyage said...

If you live in Austin, you should make a pilgrimage to Houston on occasion to see Indian movies at the two Indian multiplexes there (see I had my birthday at FunAsia last year and got about two dozen friends to go see Madhuri Dixit's big comenback "Aaja Nachle", which has quite a few great songs, by the way. This year for my birthday I a)saw Slumdog; and b)went to a Rahat Fateh Ali Khan concert--fantastic!!

We have three multiplex theaters in Dallas that show them and it's a real treat to see the dance numbers on the big screen with blaring speakers all over the place.

On Saturday I am going with friends--and a pack of kids--to see SRK's latest, "Rab ne Bana di Jodi". It's not getting great reviews from India but the NY Times and LA Times both liked it a lot.

Next up is Aamir's latest, opening Christmas Eve. "Ghajini" looks violent but Aamir usually attaches himself to only good projects.

Glad to have discovered your site because my musical taste runs far and wide. It was ARR's music (non-film album Vande Mataram) which got me into Hindi film. I'm in so deep now that we even drove to Houston for The Unforgettable Tour in August (notes and pics on my blog).

As far as separating "Indian cinema" and "Bollywood": Bollywood refers only to the part of the Indian film industry that is based in Mumbai (Bombay), typically that would include most or all Hindi language films, anywhere from 150 to 250 a year. However, Chennai is the center of the Tamil film industry, which also produces about the same number of films as Mumbai; Hyderabad, the center of the Telugu language film industry, the same again; further, the state of Kerala produces slightly fewer films in the Malayalam language, and then you have Kolkata, the center of the Bengali film industry. There are dozens of languages in India and films made in many of them, but those are the major centers.

So Indian cinema is much bigger than Bombay alone, and the term Indian cinema encompasses them all. In addition, a lot of actors and filmmakers reject the term "Bollywood" because it conjures up an unfortunate stereotype which is not representative of all their work. And it makes India seem like a runner-up to or copycat of Hollywood. The Indian film industry began at the turn of the 19th/20th century and is just as old as our own.

I'm sorry to go on so much!! I can't help it!!

Nicole and Mon Voyage said...

Ok, I am just figuring out that you are in the Bay Area. There are definitely cinemas there that show Indian movies:

Also--two songs from SM are on the Oscar-eligible "shortlist" released this week, Jai Ho and O...Saya. I wish it were Ringa Ringa instead of O...Saya, but I'll take what we can get.

Jamie: said...

HI Nicole! Thanks so much for posting! Yes, I am indeed in the Bay Area, and there is a theater in Fremont that shows all Indian Cinema. I went there with some friends months ago to see Taare Zammeen Par, (Every Child is Special) and it was awesome.

Thanks for the other movie recommendations. I will add them to my netflix queue.

I realize that now about the terms "Bollywood" vs "Indian cinema." So I think that until I know enough to know that a film is coming out of Mumbai (Bombay) it's better to call it Indian Cinema.

And please do check back here to learn about new and diverse music! That's what this blog is all about. Thanks again, Nicole!

(And I'll check out your blog, looks interesting!)

theBollywoodFan said...

Thank you for spreading the Lagaan word. It is a fantastic film all around. It is also my favorite, and I invite you to a series of posts on it at my blog.

Have you had the chance to see Rang De Basanti?

Jamie: said...

I have just added "Rang De Basanti" to my netflix queue. Thank you. And I will check out your blog. Looks like a fantastic Indian Cinema (look I am learning) reference!

SureWave said...

Slumdog Millionaire, the much acclaimed movie shot in sprawling Mumbai, the financial capital of India, with 10 Oscar nominations, is debuting at FunAsiA Theater in Richardson (Dallas) Texas this week. The movie boasts to its credit several Bollywood stars and technicians including India's most popular music director AR Rehman, the music composer for Slumdog Millionaire with three Oscar nominations. FunAsiA has to its credit the honor of hosting a musical nite with AR Rehman in Dallas. (Please find attached a photograph of AR Rehman performing for FunAsiA in Dallas, and another picture of Mr. A.R. Rehman with local Dallas kids when he was here in Dallas to perform for FunAsiA). FunAsiA is giving away a free Mumbai Chai to enjoy while you watch this movie, with every ticket to Slumdog Millionaire. For more information please visit or contact FunAsiA movie hotline 972-889-8000.

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