Arguably among the best in the trade, it is a moot point to suggest that AR Rehman knows his music. 99 Songs, too, is an unsung (read unnoticed) film. It makes for pleasant viewing for multiple reasons: it is built around western classical music in contradistinction to most of our films based on Indian classical music.
However, it is surely on a fresh tangent and the innovator wears the crown. Also, it is unpretentiously made as is the man with the music. And the music is engrossing, the songs hummable. In this context, I cannot but imagine a plot of this kind in the hands of Pancham, SJ or Naushad, or even Illayaraja.
Jay (debutant Ehan Bhat) is the child of a single parent who hates music and blames it for destroying his peace and his family. Jay, however, takes to it like fish to water and cannot live without it. He falls in love with an upcoming artist – painter Sophie (Edilsy Vargas), the heiress of billionaire Sanghania (Ranjit Barot). Sanghania is more than willing to give his daughter in marriage to the budding singer. He, however, is not the idealist who sees the loving couple walk with hands clasped into the horizon. He challenges the suitor to produce 100 songs and earn the bride.
Jay has a friend in Polo (Tenzing Dalha) who forces Jay to go with him to Shillong. For the first time, Jay sees a large family of Polo and their musical talent and goes about creating his 100 tunes. Life is never linear, not to the spirit of an artiste. The magnet in an artiste has the knack of attracting crude iron filings and so our protagonist first runs into the local Jazz Queen Sheila (Lisa Ray) and then gets into a ghastly accident and involved in drugs.
The film swings from the parental stance of ‘music kills’ to the therapeutic message from the rehabilitation home run by a lady (Manisha Koirala) that ‘it is the final cosmic magic’, Jay lives it all. Among the many songs, Jwalamukhi and the finale song Oh Maa are the best.
The editing and the performances are a let-down. A part of the blame should rest with the maker Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy. The editor is so engrossed in the movie that he lets go many needless shots into the narrative which robs the end product of its captivity quotient. Rahman is alive with his score. Debutant Ehan Bhat tries but is surely inadequate. The rest are pale. The heroine looks lost. One worth mentioning performance is that of Tenzing Dalhi – you yearn to have a friend like him.
99 Songs also leaves the fan a tad disappointed like with the cricket fans who were disappointed with the man who appeared for the country only 99 times. The consolation is that the reasons are different.
Title: 99 Songs
Cast: Ehan Bhat, Edilsy Vargas, Ranjit Barot, Lisa Ray, Tenzing Dalha, Manisha Koirala
Director: Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy
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