Friday, July 28, 2017

Bollywood Playback singers

Bollywood likes to have actors that look good, dance good and connected, but they don't require singing ability.  They rely on unseen playback singers, but don't worry that they are neglected.  They have their own fan base and are in demand for movies and concert halls around the world.

Their music has changed with Bollywood taking on rock but also keeping traditional and unique Indian instruments and rhythms.  A didgeridoo was used in "Dil Chata Hai" which was partially set in Australia.

Check out some of the links--even when filtered through western tastes you will find some very enjoyable music.  There is also a lot of variety meaning if one link turns you off, it is likely another will work for you.  You will find an American pop star amongst the links.

Lata Mangeshkar is perhaps the singer with the longest reputation.  She started singing for movies in 1942 and has sung for over 1,000.  I remember reading decades ago (before I had any interest in Bollywood) that she had sold out Maple Leaf Gardens.  The link is to a critical scene in a famous breakthrough movie (for Shah Rukh Khan) and sung with Kumar Sanu

Her sister Asha Bhonsle is slightly less famous and is still active in her 80's.  A modern example comes from  "Queen" with the song "Hungana ho Gaya"  with Arijit Singh and perhaps is the most pulsating song in this post.  You can read more about Kangana Ranaut, the star and about the movie:

Mohit Chauhan graduated from geology, but turned to  singing with a band called Silk Route and could play guitar, harmonica and flute.   He was recruited by A R Rahman, but got his big break from Pritam Chakraborty.  "Tum Se Hi" from "Jab We Met" is considered one of the most romantic tunes

Mohit has a duet with Alyssa Mendonza in "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, with "Khaabon Ke Parinday,"  Mohit doesn't come in until towards the end, but this is a delightful picture of a very contented man played by Hrithik Roshan.  A small herd of horses running beside the car got my attention.

Sonu Nigam started singing at age 4 with his father and moved up to Bollywood at age 18.   Like most Bollywood singers he performs in many languages.   From "Agneepath" is a great song "Abhi Mujh Mein Kahi"  Another blockbuster song with Alka Yagnik,  He also sang "Kal Ho na Ho," another favourite with Shah Rukh Khan lip synching.

Shreya Ghosal  famous in North America for her version of a song used in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," (originally from "Jab We Met") but this is better  She has sung in Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Malayalam and Kannada.  She has a wax figure done for Madame Tussaud's Museum.

Sunidhi Chauhan started singing at age 4 and made her Bollywood debut at age 13.  She has sung with Enrique Iglesias.  She teams up with actress Katrina Kaif for a very sexy dance number (this is no exaggeration):  See below for two other duets where Sunidhi really shines.

Shankar Mahadevan is one third of my favourite musical team, Shankar Ehsaan Loy that wrote many of the songs in this post.  For some reason I didn't quite credit Shankar with many of the songs he helped compose, but he also sings others.  This first link is a bit unusual as a blues song.  " Doli re doli"  They brought in some seasoned blues performers to enhance the effect

A little more of what one expects from Shankar who is part of a group singing from "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara", a song he helped write, "Dil Dhadakne Do".

Shankar duet with Sunidhi Chauhan in what translates to "Bubble song"  This is one of my most favourite videos.  It is fanciful and fits the song.

Farhan Akhtar started as a director, writer, producer before acting and is one of the independents who is allowed to sing many of his own songs.  "Rock On" is a good example and one of the interesting songs "Socha Hai"

In "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara he got his co-stars Hrithik Roshan (generally considered best male dancer in Bollywood) and Abhay Deol to also sing in "SeƱorita," a song used by the Spanish Tourist Board.  There is an unusual pause in the song that helps dramatize it.

Farhan is one of the great Bollywood cinema forces with singing just an extra talent.

Arijit Singh is now considered the hot singer.  He started as a musical director and producer, but won lots of awards including in 2013 best upcoming male vocalist.  He plays several instruments and sings in several languages.    One of my favourites  is the title song from "Hamari Adhuri Kahani"

Another favourite is a duet with Sunidhi Chauhan, " Darkhaast" They each solo, but play very well against one another.

Shakthisree Gopalan mostly sings in Tamil, although has done Hindi and Engllish.  Here is a Tamil song that is also my overall top ITunes song, "Nenjukkule" written by A R Rahman

Having worked with A R Rahman she was given a chance to sing in a Hindi movie,  this is incidentally the first and only movie where Shah Rukh Khan kissed the heroine on the lips--Katrina Kaifa.  This is a duet with Javed Ali on "Jab Tak Hai Jaan"

Akon, a well known American hip hop artist was brought to India to do "Chamak Challo," a very infectious dance tune giving Shah Rukh Khan and Kareen Kapoor a chance to really show off,

Many movie goers feel music intrudes too much, but others feel it enhances emotions.  Many Bollywood DVDs include the songs and often you can relive the movie through the songs.

Monday, July 17, 2017


We can rant all we want about Donald Trump's misdeeds, but somehow he got into power.  An increasing majority of American voters now realize a horrible mistake was made.  Can we go forward somehow?  The problem is, the status quo suits some people.  In my head there are a number of enablers who bear responsibility.

Number One:  The electoral college.  You might think this is trivial or something that can't be changed.  The origin of the electoral college goes back to the Constitution negotiations.  The southern colonies (especially the elite) that owed their economic wealth to slavery were very concerned they would be out voted and were able to obtain some protections.  Even though they thought Africans were sub human they were able to insist that a slave was worth 3/5 of a human which enabled them to build up their population base.  This was eventually discarded, but the electoral college has been maintained.  It assures that small states can have disproportionate power in presidential elections.  In cold hard facts Hillary Clinton won almost an extra 3 million votes than Donald Trump and she never contested the electoral college.  Obviously if you want to win you have to play by the rules and the Trump camp took advantage of the rules.  The rules need to be changed.  Remember George W. Bush lost the popular vote, but was able to win the electoral college.

The Media that is now mostly upset played a significant role. Trump knows show business and attracted a notoriety that greatly boosted his platform.  As always the media was more interested in their own ratings than discussing the issues and the credibility of the candidates.  Climate change should have been a much higher profile issue, but the media mostly ignored it.

The evidence is piling up that not only did the Russians want Trump to win, but were deeply involved.  Hillary Clinton had been critical of a recent Russian election and honestly earned the scorn of Vladimir Putin.  Trump has in the past been helped by Russian mobsters.  The Republicans had their own motives, as usual taxes and regulations that were very concerning to the 1%.  They knew that a social agenda would help draw in evangelicals and many low education voters willing to vote against their economic self interest.  It is hard to keep up to date, but read the link for a good perspective on Russian activities.

The education system is uneven with many parts of the country investing more than others.  It seems ironic that Trump did best with the low education voters.  At the same time many of the wealthier better educated voted for their economic self interest.

Big money was not only able to contribute massive amounts of money for their interests, but because of laws passed by conservatives and supported by conservative elements in the Supreme Court, could keep much of it secret.  Elections should not be decided or influenced by big money.  The big and dark money enabled gerrymandering that ensures Republican congress members fear their home base more than the Democrat opposition.

Ultimately the voters.  Did they really think Donald Trump was going to represent their interests?  Did they think he understood the complexities of the modern world?  Did they feel putting such an immoral man in charge of their nation was ok, because he would somehow do the "right" thing?  Unfortunately, despite losing the popular vote the Trump agenda will get its chance to set the country back and maybe much worse.

Democracy allows one to get what one voted for.  Some hope that after this experience the voters will wake up and vote more reasonably.  Hopefully they are right.

The photo is of a non voter, Sabre, but I like him much more than the enablers.

Friday, July 14, 2017


Democrats are frustrated.  They believe the facts are on their side, but voters persist in giving power to the Republicans, even against their own economic self interest.  George Lakoff argues that facts and reasoning are not enough, but that there is a way to better understand how to influence voters.  Words count.

Reasoning is the main weapon of the Democrats, but they overlook the critical role of emotions.  The conscious reasoning process is already lagging behind the unconscious reflex process.  The unconscious mind is the base for much of our conscious decisions.  There is discussion of neural connections and how everything fits into established unconscious patterns.

Lakoff divides voters into two main camps--conservatives and progressives, but very definitely allowing that most people have a little bit of both tendencies.  There are words and images that tie to one "frame" and over a period of time can steer us in a direction.  If you listen you will notice that the Republicans use a well defined frame for their policies and criticisms.  Although no one is all conservative or all progressive in their thinking, we can be steered to accept views that are not totally compatible.

Conservatives are authoritarian and favour a strict father while progressives are more nurturing parents.  Discipline is admired as is loyalty by conservative.  An example is that when Bush pardoned Scooter Libby for taking the rap for disclosing a secret service employee (Valerie Plame) the conservatives admire the loyalty displayed.  Masculinity (including what I call machoism) is part of the same package.

A favorite word of conservatives is "entitlements" and they have even been able to get Democrats to use the term.  It infers that safety net items are luxuries that should not be taken for granted, instead of something voters help pay for.

A pet theme of conservatives is that regulations stifle business.  De-regulating is a stated goal of Republicans, but if you examine the issue what they really mean is the regulations that cut their ability to maximize profits.  A progressive view is that they are really protections.  Lakoff contends that if politicians always counter with the word "protection" voters would eventually realize they have a stake in the issue--their health, their financial security and their safety.  It really is a life and death issue, but Republicans have succeeded in picturing regulations as harmful.

Another beef he has is that conservatives are always wanting to privatize different functions on the premise that private business can do it more efficiently.  The problem from Lakoff's view is that the government has a mission to protect citizens while private businesses have profit as the highest priority.  These two goals are often in conflict.  One example of privatizing:  Black Water started by Erik Prince (brother to Betsy De Vos who wants to privatize education) contracts military services, but are not accountable.  It has changed ownership and names, but still active.

9-11 was initially termed a crime, but was soon converted to terrorism and the government adopted war powers putting Democrats on the defense.  Criticism was regarded as unpatriotic and many people suffered.

The Bad Apple defense is often used by conservatives.   A few underlings with little authority take the blame, not the organizers/designers.  One example was the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.  The big decisions were made at the presidential, cabinet minister level, but they were not punished.  Instead the focus was on low level employees.

Still another abused term is "Job Creators" who are pictured as the over taxed citizens who would start up factories, etc if they had the money when in fact no jobs are created without consumers spending money.  Usually poor people when given a little extra money are more likely to spend it than the rich who just gain a bigger cushion and the ability to better protect their greedy interests.

At the same time government jobs don't count.  Overlooking the fact that not only do their employees spend money, but they facilitate a wide range of market activities whether teachers, police, researchers, infrastructure workers or even bureaucrats.

Taxes are always bad and progressives are criticized as spendthrifts who take hard earned money from deserving people and waste it.  Expenditures should be seen as investments--facilitating and protecting.  Yes there is waste and government which is accountable to the voters must make efforts to control waste.

Metaphors are a critical tool we all use to make sense of things.  Republicans have mastered many of them.  Check

"The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt provides another perspective to my way of thinking.  It demonstrates some of the underlying differences that voters start with.  He is sympathetic to conservatives, but I think explains their base.

Paraphrasing Bill Clinton, "As we all become more interdependent we are more inclined to look for win-win solutions instead of win-lose."  It reminds me of  Stephen R Covey and the fear Republicans spout about dependency.

Deregulation and privatizing mark a shift from a government with accountability to the public to a government (private business) without accountability to the public--from a government with a moral mission to a government with a mission of maximizing profit.

I would like to leave with a link to George Lakoff's thoughts on how Trump triumphed (over reason). From this link you can learn more Lakoff's thoughts on other political matters.

Monday, July 3, 2017

"A Man Called Ove" a Great movie from Sweden

We all start judging people as soon as we are conscious of them.   It is hard to overcome our initial pre judgment, but everyone is deeper than their appearance.  Movies often dramatize how we are often wrong about our judgment.  "A Man called Ove" from Sweden is a good example that some would call formulaic, but here it is well done and a reminder we are all fallible

Ove is at first sight hard to like.  He is a grumpy even belligerent nit picker.  Much of it is comic.  At the very beginning you see him deliver flowers to his wife's grave and talk to her giving him a touch of humanity.  He is disgusted with much of the world and wants to join his wife, but his suicide attempts are interrupted

His background is told in flashbacks.  You can see many of his dislikable characteristics, but he is humanized and you might guess a woman is behind it.  The formula works with Sonja a perky and more sophisticated young woman overcomes his awkwardness.  She sees something in him after a chance meeting, perhaps his honesty (even though he lies to make an impression) and earnestness.

One example of his pettiness is his preference for Saab cars and judging other people's character by what cars they buy.  A close friend drove a Volvo and later a BMW and this really tested their friendship.  My father thought Saab was the best car he had ever driven and had been asked to join their rally team.

Back to the present; an Iranian immigrant woman, Parvanah meets him when her Swedish husband's car backs into Ove's mailbox  She annoys him at first, but she is persistently positive and gifts a Persian treat which he ignores until he eats it out of desperation and likes it.  Her two children make him cringe at first, but over the course of the movie he becomes attached.  This also segways to why he doesn't have children.  Later in the movie when Ove and  Parvanah have formed a friendly relationship as he is teaching her to drive, he calls her husband a loser.  She is a very boisterous and pivotal character..

The ending is not unexpected with everybody appreciating Ove a bit more, although they are not privy to all the flashback information.  It feels so good  I felt compelled to recommend the whole movie as you can't appreciate the ending unless you have seen what led up to it.  A grumpy man has been mellowed with young children loving him.

A first time novel from Fredrik Backman inspired the film.  He is a blogger, a magazine writer and now a novelist with a few best sellers under his belt that have been translated into 25 languages.

Hannes Holm directed and wrote the script.  He started directing in 1987 and writing scripts in 1995.  He acted in films starting in 1981.

Rolf  Lassgard appeared in my favourite movie "After the Wedding," a Danish Oscar nominated movie.   He played a benevolent manipulator and won at least one award for it.  He is also known for playing Kurt Wallander.  He played Ove with a lot of bluster, but also subtlety.

Bahar Pars was born in Iran but came to Sweden in 1989 after the Iranian-Iraq war.  Her acting career is all in Sweden.  She played the title characters in both "Anna Karenina" and "Hedda Gabler" on stage.  She also directed two short films; the second after this film she also wrote and produced.  It concerns a black woman asked to do a voice over for an advertisement that tries to steer her to a stereotypical role.

Ida Engvoll  plays Ove's wife seen only in flashbacks.    She brought a lot of energy as she had to make up for Ove's shyness.  She plays a title role in"Rebecka Martinsson"  tv series and also in some episodes of tv show I had seen earlier "The Bridge" a joint Danish-Swedish production.

The younger Ove was played by Filip Berg who like many Swedish actors gets most of his experience in television series.  He played a strait-laced man trying to make an impression on a vivacious woman.  He was a good complement to the older Rolf Lassgard.

The background music was provided by Gaute Storass, a Norwegian.  A few songs in Swedish and English helped set the mood.

Goran Hallberg was the cinematographer and had also worked on "The 100 Year Old Man who climbed out the window and disappeared."  Back in 2004 he filmed "ABBA:  Our Last Video Ever"

The editor Fredrik Morhedan has done over 40 films.  He was a creator for a popular Swedish tv series, "Blue Eyes"

A husband and wife team of Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr were nominated for an Oscar for best costume and makeup.  It was actually their second such nomination.  The earlier one was for "The Hundred year old man who climbed out the widow and disappeared."  I had seen that movie and even watched a special feature showing how they applied makeup to create the 100 year old in nine stages of aging--they had to speed up the camera as it was a very long elaborate process.  They had done some other interesting films--the Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy plus one of the English versions plus the Wallander series in Sweden and Britain.  In addition they worked on "Skyfall."  In Sweden film makers had not opted for expensive digital cleanup so that makeup crews had to be available during the shooting.  These two movies have made me appreciate makeup can have an important impact on a movie.

The producing team was headed by Nicklas Wikstrom Nicastra and Annica Bellander.  Nicklas had been a producer for over 10 films while this was only the third for Annica who had worked in the marketing department for several films.

If you are looking for a serious movie with a few laughs and leave you feeling good, this is good choice.  If you are sick of formula movies then maybe you wouldn't miss it, but really your enjoyments are rare and you should reconsider.