Sunday, April 23, 2006


Greetings faithful reader(s?), i am very sorry for having been away, been very busy with work and all the usual excuses, plus my car is out of action, so i am having to devote much time to the arduous task of getting around in Gurgaon (I use 4 modes of transport to get to work).

But when i saw RENT yesterday I knew I had to write about it on an urgent basis, since I had a grand total of 5 people in the hall with me and 2 of them were my friends, and this means it won't last longer than a week. RENT is a film version of the smash-hit Broadway musical of the same name with music by the genius Jonathan Larson, who died just before the opening of RENT off-broadway (hours after its final dress-rehearsal!).

RENT is directed by Chris Columbus, of Home Alone, Mrs.Doubtfire and Harry Potter (in)fame. When I saw his name on the opening credits, my expectations actually dropped. Maybe that helped me love the film even more than I would otherwise. RENT is a story of bunch of penniless artists/idealists in East Village, New York, living their lives in tenements for which they can't afford to pay (It's quite amazing how Hollywood can make even poverty look glamorous). The central characters include an aspiring film-maker, a former guitarist-frontman of a band, a tech-wizard and his drag-queen lover, a club-dancer, a showgirl and her extremely attractive lawyer girlfriend (a stunning Tracie Thoms). With all except two of the characters played by members of the original broadway cast, this movie is a winner from the word go.

The opening keyboard sequence leading into the knock-you-dead-at-first-hearing song "seasons of love" sung by the entire cast standing on stage, sets the tone for the rest of the movie, as one brilliant song after another sketches the story of a year (5,25,600 minutes) in the life of this motley bunch, fighting eviction, AIDS, poverty and cold to find love, happiness, creative fulfillment and the bonds of la vie boheme. The music is the main character in the film. Beautiful tunes with an agressively 80s arrangement featuring overdriven guitars, thundering drums, melodic keyboards, and some unbelievable voices. The melodies are strong and straightforward, with beautiful, sometimes complex harmonies and the recording and mixing, especially the 5.1 work is mesmerizing. The voices are top-notch, my favourite being Tracie Thoms, who manages to look and sound fantastic, and Jesse L Martin with his edgy baritone. The band that played the stuff is again excellent, with the drummer (whoever he is) really getting in some fine passages.

When i saw the trailer and heard the 5.1 mix on 'seasons of love' i told myself 'I have to see this movie just for the sound.' The beauty of it is that on top of the great sound and the music, it has an inspiringl, moving story. Yes it's cheesy, but then a broadway musical has to have cheese....and I am an avowed cheese fan. The beautiful thing about this musical-movie is that it is a true-to-stage musical, ie, 95% of the script is songs, unlike many other movie adaptations where they replace many songs with conversation. I have to admit that, although Chris Columbus had a great starting point with this amazing script, he's done a great job of shooting the film and sequences are put together masterfully. Hats off, sir.

Go see this movie, if you want to feel inspired and happy and creative. It really did things to me. I came home and played my guitar, and while for a long time I've been tired of hearing myself play the same stuff over and over again, yesterday I sounded good, I was putting notes together that I never had before, i was playing phrases and solos and rhythm bits that sounded fresh, and original, it felt like falling in love! Go see RENT, it's magic!!


destination unknown said...

Isn't it ironic that your average Bollywood fare characterised by loud music and bad dancing will run to packed halls, and the same audiences will reject a musical, where the music and dancing are rather appropriately placed?

Smith said...

exactly what i was thinking, but I also realise that the reason i like some Bollywood movies such as Rang De Basanti so much is primarily the music. If RENT had the same plot, characters and lyrics, with some crappy grunge type (or anu malik type) music, then I would have plain hated it.

The reason why these people reject RENT is that they have no brains. (Most) Bollywood movies, songs, dances and all, are targeted squarely at the brain-dead, while RENT, while not cerebral, would require at least a modicum of intelligence to appreciate.

Tashmetu said...

I love "Seasons of Love". And my blog ID is Avant-garde Angel (from La Vie Boheme). And I love, love, love Jesse L.Martin to the point of wanting to assaut him :) But Rent did nothing for me, was tremendously disappointed and found it quite boring. None of the characters were intriguing enough to hold my attention, not even Tom Collins. As you said - Cheesey.. but then, I loved Top Gun, so go figure!

Smith said...

@tashmetu, like i said, i loved the music, so the rest just sort of fell into place...i don't even think i can look at it from a perspective independent of the music to judge its cinematic merit...i saw it again yesterday, i need to get the audio CD...the songs are stuck in my head....

sunsister said...

oye.. i didn't know u knew abt my blog.. good of you to drop by!

and that sri sri funda you spouted abt listening to sounds really works. amazingly relaxing.