Monday 23rd October 2017
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Paradesi – Music Review

Paradesi is an upcoming film directed by Bala, starring Adharvaa, Vedhika and Dhansika. It tells the story of Plantation in South India in the 1930s, highlighting the many struggles they faced. It is clear from the movie’s stills that this is going to be an intense and sad film, and GV Prakash‘s compositions for the soundtrack confirm this.

Opening the album is Avatha Paiya, a melodious, folky track with vocals from Vandana Srinivasan and Yasin. The lilting flute pieces along with the string interludes make for pleasant listening, but it is Vandana’s singing that is the highlight of the track; her vocals are crisp and her embellishments are simple, in keeping with the rural feel of the track. Yasin’s voice is soothing and complements Vandana’s well. I have a feeling the picturisation for this song will be beautiful!

Next we have Sengaade, sung by Madhu Balakrishnan and with small vocal interludes by Pragathi Guruprasad. The opening few bars are reminiscent of tracks of the 80s, and the melody itself seems familiar – I found myself humming along during my first listen of the track! At just over 8 minutes in length, the song is a long one. Vairamuthu‘s lyrics are bleak and the emotions translate well through Madhu Balakrishnan’s vocals. GV Prakash has kept the orchestration simple, allowing the listener to pay full attention to the lyrics. Sengaade has been well-composed, with well-written lyrics and great vocals, but the fact that the song is so long means that it’s easy to feel bored partway through.

Or Mirugam is possibly my favourite song from the Paradesi soundtrack. The song opens with the voice of Pragathi Guruprasad, a 15-year-old brought up in California who was a finalist on Airtel’s Super Singer Junior 3. Listening to the song, it’s hard to believe how young Pragathi is, not only because her vocal abilities are beyond her years, but because of the manner in which she evokes the anguish described in the song’s lyrics – "Vali sollave illaiye vaaimozhi / Kanneeru dhaan ezhaiyin thaai mozhi" (There are no words to express my pain / Tears are the only mothertongue for the poor).  The song has an almost trance-like feel to it, and the string-based interludes are beautiful. What’s interesting is the way VV Prasanna has interpreted his lines – despite the sadness, there seems to be a sense of determination in the way his vocals translate, almost as if he has accepted that these struggles are just a part of life. It’s a direct contrast to Pragathi’s parts – which sound more like that of someone succumbing to the struggles. The fact that the lyrics were written after the scenes had been shot makes me really curious to see how this song will play out on screen. 

Thannai Thaane is the only upbeat song on the album. It’s a koothu-based Christian hymn, and ‘Gaana’ Bala‘s voice is perfect for the track. The "Hallelujah, Hallelujah" hook over dappan koothu beats is slightly bizzare, especially because it’s followed by a Nadaswaram interlude! It’s certainly catchy, and it’s interesting to see GV Prakash exploring new territory.

The last track is Seneer Thaana and it’s another dark, sorrowful song. Gangai Amaran (younger brother of musical maestro Ilaiyaraja) takes the mic for this song, and his despair is palpable, right from the opening line. GV Prakash’s arrangment for this track is intense on every level, and Vairamuthu’s lyrics reflect this.

All in all, the Paradesi soundtrack is hard-hitting and dark. For some, it may feel a tad repetitive and almost emotionally-draining to listening to a whole album of songs about sadness and struggle, and because of this, it’s not an album that’ll appeal to everyone. 6.5/10