Readers Write In #56: Make a musical, Or Don’t: A rant on the usage of songs in modern Tamil cinema

Posted on October 18, 2018


First in the ‘Chekka Chivantha Vaanam’ review, and now in the ‘Vada Chennai’ review — I much liked BR’s views on the usage (or lack thereof) of good songs. I, for one, am really really glad that BR brought this up.

I am an audiophile. I love listening to songs in the theater. I enjoy listening to songs on TV. And because of that, I absolutely hate it when directors waste really really good compositions by,

1) Not using them fully / cutting them short
2) Fading the song’s audio out / playing dialogues over the song
3) Overwriting the song’s audio with background noises
4) Adding special effect noises over the song

First of all, I blame this on the introduction of DTS sound to Tamil cinema. More speakers meant people wanting to fill each of them with some/any sound.

Second of all, as I could not recollect anyone else before him, I blame Mani Ratnam for starting this mayhem, beginning with his ‘Alaipayuthey’. It all started with ‘Yaro Yarodi’, didn’t it? — with Shalini & Madhavan’s talky portions overwriting parts of the song. Then, a beautiful song like Swarnalatha’s ‘Evano Oruvan’ was spoiled by adding background noises (wind noise, river water noise, et cetera).

Since Alaipayuthey, Mani Ratnam has been effectively spoiling many songs’ audio in almost all of his movies. Consider ‘Usurae Pogudhey’ from ‘Raavanan’, for instance. This gem of a song by A.R.Rahman was totally destroyed by the director. The song was filled with a variety of audio other than the actual song. Viz. — that ‘ulagathula irukra ella ketta varthai’ argument between Aishwarya Rai and Vikram, waterfall noise, gunshot noise, and so on.

In the 90s and 2000s — I used to buy the audio cassettes (and later CDs) of all major movies, which were released a month or 2 before the actual silver screen release of each movie. I had the luxury of owning an amazing “Sony Walkman”, which only made listening to these pre-released songs closer to being in heaven.

Due to the hype created by these pre-released songs, I used enter the auditoriums, expecting to enjoy listening to the songs in the grand DTS speakers of a movie theater. Because, you see, for an audiophile like me, whenever a song is playing in a movie hall, whatever is happening on-screen would only be an added pleasure. The actual pleasure resides in the ‘listening’ part, and sometimes even going to the extent of trying to dissect which sound is coming from which speaker, between which speakers the sound travels to and fro, and so on.

Meaning, knowing well in advance that a movie has amazing songs, and taking that expectation to the theater was a amazing feeling in itself. It was like a sleepless child with a sack full of crackers, anxiously lying in bed before the dawn of the ‘Deepavali’ day. The real ‘event’ began for me only when the songs started playing in the large ass speakers of the theaters.

And then Mani Ratnam willfully started spoiling that experience for people like me. And all his movies having amazing A.R.Rahman songs was only an added cruelty.

But now, this madness has spread to many a director in Tamil Cinema.

Remember how the moron that is today, G.V.Prakash, had composed really good songs for ‘Aadukalam’? Well, Vetri Maaran actively spoiled them with overplayed dialogues, bullet motorcycle noise, et al.  Remember the ‘Ayyayo’ song and how S.P.Balasubramaniam’s superb rendition of that song was replaced by mundane dialogues, bike noise and whatnot?

Remember how Jayam Ravi goes ‘vroooom vroooom’ with motorcycle noise while Yuvan’s beautiful ‘Kannan Varum Velai’ is played in ‘Deepavali’?

Yuvan also had is this really good composition with nice lyrics, in the Surya/Asin starrer ‘Vel’ — ‘Ottrai Kannala’. But then, the ‘fast-jump-cut-specialist’ that is director Hari, decided to add special surrounding effect speaker noises (translates to ‘voooosh, voooosh’) whenever the visuals changed to a different shot, throughout that song. I mean, sitting through that song in the theater was a grand torture for me.

Remember ‘Ayyayyo Ananthamae’ from ‘Kumki’? After the first stanza of lyrics, there is this beautiful stretch of music involving percussion instruments. According to me, this is where that song soars really really high. I thought D.Imman had really outdone himself here. Then again, to my dismay, when I watched it in the theater, the “artificial-climax-tragedy-specialist” that is director Prabhu Solomon, had spoiled this exact stretch by overplaying it with elephant noises and/or dialogues. I was like, why? Doooode, why????? 😾

Remember how Meera Jasmine keeps yelling ‘laka laka laka’ and ‘otharavaaaa’ like a mental case, throughout Yuvan’s soothing ‘Dhavani Potta Deepavali’ from ‘Sanda Kozhi 1’?


You know what the main downside to these overpowering noises over songs? They are the number 1 bummers, when these songs are repeatedly played on TV music channels. I mean, do we really need to listen to yester year actor Rohini’s voice (she dubbed for Aishwarya Rai), swearing every damn time Raavanan’s ‘Usurey Poguthey’ is played on TV?

Ugh, again!

I think modern Tamil cinema directors view this song-damaging culture, as part of their stylish film making. To me, it just feels absurd.

There is a reason why Americans call all Indian movies as “musicals”. Because they have songs in Hollywood movies, only if it is a musical.

In this aspect though, even though I dislike many aspects of their film making, I like how directors Shankar and Gautam Vasudev Menon make use of their musician’s songs in their movies. The songs are almost always played in its entirety in their movies, with no intervening dialogues or background noises. Great to watch — be it a movie theater, or a TV screen with a music channel on.

Imagine how torturous it would have been, had Gautam Vasudev Menon decided to intersperse all songs in ‘Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya’ with dialogues and background noises?

I know it probably won’t happen, but I so wish that these so called ‘modern’ Tamil movie directors would stop spoiling the songs in their movies. Childish wishful thinking, eh?

I mean, like BR suggests in the ‘Vada Chennai’ review, either have songs and play them fully, or don’t have them in the movie at all. Don’t have A.R.Rahman compose beautiful songs, pre-release them in YouTube and create unnecessary hype, only to later destroy them in the actual movie by cutting them short, or by adding noises and dialogues.
So, make a musical (with full, uninterrupted songs), OR don’t. Anything in between is, well, just nonsense. Either ditch them altogether and make song-less movies like the rest of the world, or include songs and make them to be proper musicals. We will buy them either way. But don’t linger in the middle. Because that just sucks! 😒
(by Siva)