Soft Spot for Old Songs


(One of many great songs from movies starring the legendary MGR. One that stands out is this lyric – “Milk is white, so is the toddy but the truth is only know once I had drink it. Women is the same and I am feeling drunken from her”)

(Kannadasan is brilliant as usual – only a poet like him can think of these words – “the cupid got cheated, thinking all girls are like flowers” which nails the situation in the movie)

No matter where you are right now, no matter how old you are, I am sure you always have your favorite songs that you don’t mind humming the whole day long.

Same goes for me. Despite “starting off” with the music of Illayaraja and later discovering the new age music of A R Rahman and then Yuvan Shankar Raja, Harris and all the new music directors, I always had soft spot for the music from the 1960s and 1970s in particular songs composed by MS Viswanathan – Ramamoorthy and penned by the great poet Kannadasan (I also liked songs composed by KV Mahadevan and AM Raja).

I like old songs for 3 reasons:-

1. It brings back memories from my childhood time. Songs from MGR and Sivaji movies composed by MS Viswanathan were still played as the mainstream songs when I am still an infant. The same songs played during weddings and family functions and it is something that triggers good memories whenever I hear the same songs.

2. The songs itself. Back those days and before the digital age, it is not easy to compose and record the songs and the songs must meet the high expectations of a very demanding directors, producers and audience.

No high tech gadgets to tune the music and composition and the only way to go would be to do things old school – proper orchestrate (instead of music software) and the singers getting the words and tunes just right. MS Viswanathan once told he once worked with a famous director who will drop by the recording studio just to make sure that the singers get the pronunciation of words just right.

3. The lyrics. In those days, every words has a beautiful meaning and it is something to look out for. Who can forget lyrics like “don’t sharpen your knife but sharpen your mind” or “From the neck of Lord Shiva, the snake asked the garuda if it is feeling good and the garuda who will fight & kill snakes replied that if everyone stays at their right place, all will end in an good ending”?

Very deep meaning indeed. Don’t get me wrong, it is not like the new songs has very bad lyrics – quite a number of the songs do have the same beautiful lyrics that one had heard back in the 1960s but sometimes some of it simply get lost within the music.

They say old is gold and the same goes to old songs. It is also ageless too. I just wish someone will compile again all the old songs and re-record them so that tunes that is lost by old technology and analog dust in the past is preserved in pristine condition and made available for the next generation of music lovers.

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Movie Review: Walk the Line


Over the weekends, I watched two movies back to back – one was “The Lost City” starring and directed by Andy Garcia and another was “Walk the Line” starring Joaquin Phoenix.

I have heard about Johnny Cash but never bothered to listen to his songs – I guess too oldie for me but the movie “Walk the Line” changed my whole perception about the man and the music from the 60’s onwards.

(Poster of the movie – source: http://christybharath.wordpress.com)

The Plot

Read the details of the plot here

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(One of the opening scenes in the movie – Johnny Cash’s brother died after an accident with a similar saw)

Storyline

This is a story about the famous singer – songwriter Johnny Cash and how he ascended into the world of music and he struggled with his love life and musical life during the earlier years. It was interesting to note that much of the materials for the movie came from Johnny Cash’s own autobiography.

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(Reese Witherspoon is so natural and talented here. She can sing and plays musical instruments too. She won Best Actress Oscar award for her role)

Acting

This film was nominated for five Academy Awards which included, not surprisingly Best Actor (Joaquin Phoenix) and Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon). Reese Witherspoon won the award. Interestingly for this movie, both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon learned to sing and play musical instruments. Whatever songs we hear in the movie is actually sung by them and it sounds so good.

An interesting trivia from IMDB:-

According to director James Mangold, when Joaquin Phoenix was learning how to sing and play guitar like Johnny Cash in the months following the start of filming, his voice was too high and the band had to learn how to play Cash’s songs in a higher key. But then just before they started filming, Joaquin’s voice dropped closer to John’s level and the band had to re-learn the songs in their original key.

Joaquin Phoenix also excelled in other parts of the acting and improvised certain scenes namely:-

The scene where Johnny Cash pulls the sink off the wall was not scripted. Joaquin Phoenix actually pulled it off the wall.

A very plus point for the movie is certainly the strong portray of characters and good acting skills

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(Johnny Cash’s first shot of making a record. Sam Phillips who is the owner of the record company who is sitting down was clearly not impressed with the first attempt)

Music

What is a movie about a legend in music without the music itself? The movie, Walk the Line, have some of Johnny Cash’s early hits sang by Joaquin Phoenix himself. Listening to the songs, I thought at first Joaquin Phoenix was just lip singing to the original songs but further checking indicates that he is singing using his own voice and his own music.

One of the first songs to be heard in the movie – “Folsom Prison Blues” comes in after the record owner says to Johnny that he have heard many songs “just like that, just l like how you sing it”” and wanted something really refreshing. Johnny picks up courage and sings one hell of a song.

Final say

The plus points: strong acting by lead characters and mesmerising music

The negative points: A bit prolonged scenes on the Johnny Cash’s drug problem

(Click here for other movie reviews)