December 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings/ December/

Vanaprastham: The Last Dance (La Derniere Danse)  
Music composed by Zakir Hussain
  Available on Amelie Aime Le Cinema
Running Time: 40:55

Vanaprastham-The Last Dance is basically a reissue on the French label Amelie Aime Le Cinema of an Indian art film score from 1999.The film, directed by Indian film maker Shaji N. Karun, was highly received by critics at the Cannes Film Festival. The story juxtaposes ‘kathakali’ dance form with an examination of the conflicts between romance and family, with a bittersweet depiction of a father-son relationship.

Be warned: this is not your atypical Bollywood or Hollywood inspired film score! Rather it is an actual classical Indian music played across the soundtrack of an Indian art film with great deal of impromptu improvisations. The album features music specifically composed by Indian legend and classically trained musician Ustad (i.e. maestro) Zakir Hussain (who has previously worked with producers James Ivory & Ismail Merchant as actor in Heat and Dust and composer on Bertolucci's Little Buddha. Zakir Hussain is primarily a tabla master- small percussive set of drums that form the basis of rhythm in classical Indian music.

Having collaborated with western artists such as Van Morrison and Jan Gabarek this time Hussain has brought along a troupe of legendary Indian instrumental players as part of the classical ensemble which includes the likes of Ustad Sultan Khan , Ganesh, R. Parthasarathy, B.V. Balasai performing Veena (Sitar like instrument) Flute, Santoor (Indian dulcimer) and Sarangi (a crying violin ) respectively.

The best track is the lovely yet melancholy ‘Smile’ which starts off with a female choral leading to a pot pouri of the above mentioned instruments being led by Zakir Hussain’s tabla making this an equally mesmerizing and hypnotic effect to behold.

The opening cue is called ‘Subhadra’ and its 2nd part, basically the major thematic material for the film, helps convey the anguish and desperation of the story. The rest of the material includes vocals performing mantras and other Hindu forms of musical reverence, part source and part booster of ambience.

CD comes in a nice digipak with booklet entirely in French. The notes include a synopsis, info on Khatakali form of dance, and description of the film and album with a proper track list. Hardly a film score in the traditional sense, but if you are a fan of art movies and enjoy the deeply sweet melodic and moody textures as a form of easy listening, this one is for you.

Amer Zahid

Rating: 2.5

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