certain clichéd way to approach music for the subcontinent in Hollywood> – throw in solo parts for a sarangi or a tabla, and sufficient
concession to local idioms has been made. No matter how talented and
accomplished the composer may be, the music just doesn’t stand up to an
authentic mixture of instrumentation and idiom. In my recall there are only a
few occasions where the composer has actually managed to strike an effective
balance in both western and eastern notations: Maurice Jarre
on The Man Who Would be King, and now Michael Danna, who has previously
come very near to something neo-classical and modernistic in eastern scale (ala
Peter Gabriel) with his scores for Mira Nair’s films Kama
Sutra: A Tale of Love and Monsoon Wedding. Also a gifted writer of
African and Middle eastern music –equally well-trodden locales in terms of
scoring clichés – in such films as Ararat and 8MM, Danna stands
tall with his latest accomplishment-Water, director Deepa
Mehta’s final chapter in the trilogy of films rounded after Earth (1998)
and Fire (1996)
The film Water
is about group of widows in 1930s British India.
It is a doomed love story between one of the widows – forbidden to ever make
company with a man and bring disgrace to her dead husband – and a man from
another class, a devoted follower of Mahatma Gandhi (here played by Bollywood’s latest heart throb John Abraham). The love
story is set in the political context of Gandhi’s drive for independence. It
should be noted though that this film is closer in intent to Western arthouse cinema than the typical Bollywood extravaganza.
score is simple and yet lushly orchestrated in an almost poetic pastoral mode,
traditional and authentic instruments all coalescing in a musical experience
both heartfelt and breathtaking. ‘House of Widows’ is the opening cue of the
score, starting the main theme with solo sitar, santoor
(eastern dulcimer) and baansuri flute,
and adding string accompaniment as the cue progresses. The theme, which
dominates the album, is almost spiritual, and yet sad, characterizing a widow’s
life of piety and accepted fate. The main theme works equally well in eastern
and western instrumentation. This is Mychael Danna’s
skill – making a seamless correspondence between two different scales. The only
drawback is that the main theme has a few bars sounding as if they came from
James Horner’s Titanic.
theme is reprised in almost all the tracks like ‘Luddo
Dreams’ and ‘Fatty’. ‘Chuyia Explores’ is where the
theme takes a frolic like stance to accompany the little orphan girl. A new theme
is introduced in ‘Carriage’- a somber piece with sitar
and flute accompanying the orchestra. Melancholy vocals also accompany a
few tracks such as ‘Funeral’ where the mood is tragic and elegiac – deep
emotions are evoked here. ‘Train’ is a triumphant peace of music, a Hollywood style penultimate track in feel. The final
track is very similar to the first, and a strong conclusion to the album.
the album are original songs by Bollywood maestro A.R. Rahman.
Why A.R. Rahman didn’t write the score for this film
as he did for Mehta’s previous films is uncertain. However, what we have here
are some impressive numbers by him including ‘Chanchan’,
‘Naina Neer Baha’, and the traditional religious song such as ‘Vashnava Janiho’. ‘Sham Rang Bhar Do’ (which translates as ‘Let me shower you with color of life’) is a very festive song celebrating the
arrival of spring is in the typical Rahman mode –full
of life. This track comes closest to the typical Bollywood musical style.
Rahman’s work is a wonderful marriage of both eastern
and western modalities- it perfectly accompanies the film’s eastern and almost
mystical setting. This is a gorgeous and infectious album and I can’t wait for Rahman to write a western film score someday. A triumphant score for Danna. Recommended for fans who wish
to be swept away by film music altogether.