Seven years later and I still love every inch of it; it makes me laugh; it makes me cry; it makes me dance. Yeah, I'd call that restorative.
Love Sex aur Dhoka (2010), Sneha Khanwalkar
Kinda hard to believe all of these songs are by the same person, isn't it? And she can sing, too! AND SHE IS A SHE. One of my top soundtracks of all time is by a woman. This album reminds me why I, for one, am going to keep talking about how the relative lack of women in creative positions (among others) in Hindi cinema diminishes the whole industry. I have no idea if Khanwalkar herself is interested in such a fight, but I am.
Raised fist aside, which maybe it will be for good someday, this album is mindblowing—as standalone music, as complementary to what's happening in the film as you see it, as evocative of the film afterwards. As much as I love sassing around my living room to "I Can't Hold It Any Longer" (a lot), I will never forget what happened after this hilarious but discordant moment in the film. This album is a badge of the impact of good cinema, of being unforgettable.
I haven't done a proper blog post on Love Sex aur Dhoka despite my huge respect and love for the film, but it features in the Masala Zinabad podcast on films of 2010 and in my piece in the Wall Street Journal India Real Time blog "Bollywood Journal" column on why I love Dibakar Banerjee's films generally.
Taal (1999), A. R. Rahman
What could restore faith in cinema like being swept into one's very own melodrama with rich and gorgeous music? That's how I feel whenever I hear even just one song from this album.
Taal has some serious problems as a film (my complicated thoughts on it are here), but its music is flawless. Within the context of the film, it does all the right things at all the right times; even on its own (that is, just listening to it rather than watching it in the context for which it was creative), I find it beautiful and rich, in turns dramatic and simple, unusual and satisfyingly cheesy. For example, just when I am about to sigh "Okay, that's enough of that" during the rippling, 80s pop ballad piano of "Nahin Samne Tu," up sneak the orchestra and chorus and I am lost in the lushness. I can't pretend to know about the folk music of whatever mountainous region Aishwarya and Alok Nath are supposed to be living in, but it sure sounds like Rahman worked hard to create some interesting and distinctive sounds for that side of the story, then combining them perfectly with the bombast of the world ofAnil Kapoor's overblown, ridiculous music director (Vikrant). It must have been a dream script to score, giving Rahman the perfect setting to use whatever instrumentation and vocal styles he wanted. Vikrant would never say "no" to an approach or ingredient he thought might be dramatic or manipulative, and Rahman didn't hold back one little bit. Weird bird-like coo-coo-coo with synthesizers and strings? Yes! Chimes and water droplets while chords with a whiff of 70s bom-chicka-wow-wow pulse underneath before brass blares? Let's give it a whirl! Sunkhwinder Singh cutting loose on more than one occasion? Certainly!
There is no restraint in Taal (though many, many very smart decisions), which is one of the (admittedly stereotyped) appeals of Bollywood in the first place. It blasts the fog off of whatever grumbles I'm suffering from.