‘Cuckoo’ Music Review: Nest in peace

Cuckoo-Tamil-Movie‘Cuckoo’ is Fox Star Studios’ next Tamil production after ‘Raja Rani’. They have taken measured steps in Tamil and barring the disastrous ‘Vathikuchi’ they have been largely successful too. This time they have put their faith on Raju Murugan an erstwhile assistant of director Lingusamy. The trailer has created a lot of expectations of a wholesome family entertainer involving the love story around 2 visually impaired protagonists and the quirky characters around them. The music released a couple of weeks ago has met with highly favourable reviews. The rising star of tamil film music, Santhosh Narayanan is scaling new peaks with each release. Is Cuckoo another feather in his cap? Let’s analyze.

Ah how I have been waiting for this kind of a track. ‘Manasula Soora Kathey’ . Clean melody, crisp tamil, stellar vocals and a Raaja like freshness in presentation. Even the small computer work here and there for adding metallic feel to the vocals all blend well to the final natural feel. Heck even small flaws such as the mild rhythm misalignment after 3.00 seem to blend. These tracks need some sort of divine blessing. The tune, orchestration and vocals can only take you thus far.  The insanely talented RR alias Sean Roldan does a great job with a totally unique voice. Divya Ramani too is making rapid strides in Tamil now after her Soodhu Kavvum and Rummy numbers.  We are taken back to the golden 80s when nature played a major role in depicting love. ‘Minnal osayum kadhile ketkudhe, undhan vasanai vanavil kattudhe’. The beauty here is he says that her smell shows him the rainbow as the hero and heroine in the movie are visually impaired. ‘Solladha asai ennai suda suda kaichudhe. Polladha nenjil vandhu pudhu oli paychudhe’. She while replying specifically refers to his untold desires troubling her and giving her mischievous heart a new light. So deep and so thoughtful words these are. I could go on and on about ‘Anandham pennai vandhu azhagaga pesudhe’ or ‘Minsara rayilum vanna kuyil pola koovudhe’, but I will let you watch the trailer and the movie for the importance of all of this to sink in. All in all it’s a once in a blue moon masterpiece.  I am going with an impulsive 4.25. I do not even know what will fetch a 4.5 or a 5 if this doesn’t. Probably those are things to reflect 10-20 years down the line.

Genre defying is what I would call ‘Potta pulla’. It sounds a bit folkish in rhythm but has its own western classical influences and is backed solidly by a classically trained RR helming the vocals. And the flute is so endearing. You have to but admit that this kind of heady cocktail has been long missing even from the piper of Pannaipuram for some time, though he is of course the founder CEO of the same.  This is of course no unfair comparison of the kid Santhosh to him but the inspiration is strikingly visible and Yugabharathi even funnily expresses that in the lines ‘Ethanayo mettugalil Ilayaraja…’ where the hero says how the heroine touches his heart like the maestro’s songs have done on many occasions. This song though sounds much more casually orchestrated than ‘Manasula soora kaathe’ and ‘Agasatha’ is actually pretty deceptively layered and even lyrically it is one of the most complex pieces in the album. Watch out for the start where the hero expresses the moment he fell in love. The percussions pause for a while and he says that the at the moment when he lost his sense the world forgot to spin , a dice is spinning in his forehead, a lizard is making noise from the depth of his chest and he feels like milk kept to boil. The flute in the interludes is as sweet as it gets. ‘Mukkaniyil sakkaraiyam avalin pechu, adhu ullathile seidhidudhe kodungol aatchi , ippadi naan innum solla, sindhanaiyum oda villa…’ I won’t try to translate and dilute this any further. Sheer bliss. 4/5.

The Raaja mood returns with ‘Agasatha’. And you continue smacking your lips and chewing your fingers. Kalyani Nair and Pradeep Kumar are proven performers in the band circuit and also on platforms such as Kappa TV. Pradeep has also performed and sung for Santhosh Narayanan in the past for beautiful songs such as ‘Asai oor pulveli’ and ‘Mogathirai’. The song comes to immediate life with the chorus humming and the violin ensemble at the start and there is just no looking back after that. Then it just flows and flows. Kalyani, chorus, Kalyani, Pradeep, Kalyani and so on with the beautiful violins never leaving their side. Just hear that variation at 1.58-2.04 when Pradeep sings ‘Madi vaasam podhum orangave needhane saaga varangale’ and you feel this is not a song from a movie that you are hearing. The ultimate triumph of a song is when you stop realizing that it is all a put together act of singers, musicians and other paraphernalia and the song just starts talking to you in one voice. It is in some ways like that pure Sachin straight drive you cherish from the bottom of your heart and watch repeatedly on youtube. Like excellence always is , this too is a product of all the natural talent he has and the hard work put in by him and his support staff, but at the end only the excellence talks to you one on one. ‘Kamba thedum kozhandhaiyaa onna thedum usuru pasiyile’ she sings to say that her heart pines for him in hunger like a kid would pine for mother’s nipple. I tell you we too keep pining for such masterpieces amidst all the ‘drink and shout at girls’ routines that we get in tamil film music these days. 4.25/5

Speaking of ‘shout at girls’ numbers, there is one here too. Andony Dasan comes up next with ‘Kalyanama Kalyanam’.  But within that genre this one is definitely tastefully done and is no useless kuthu number.  It talks of the girl in love marrying away someone else and the plight it throws the boy in. It goes on to say how she sits as a ‘maharani’ and he is as helpless as an ‘aprani’(innocent animal) . The nadaswaram is delightful throughout.  The lyrics are playful and so is Andony’s singing.  It talks about her capturing photos with her hubby and bombs exploding in the lover’s heart. The breath control and voice modulation too is top notch, even things as simple as how he keeps on bringing variation in the way he says kalyanam as per the mood of the sentence before that. Smart song this and will surely grow more on you with time. 3.25/5

Next up is a Vaikkom Vijayalakshmi special. This wonderful new talent has been creating waves in Kerala and Tamil Nadu for the last couple of years. It is of course poetic justice that a visually impaired person must deliver such an impactful melody in this film. The song is an easy melody tune with some cheeky innovations like an irregular rhythm pattern and the periodic use of a kazoo. Vijayalakshmi greatly impresses with her perfect and impactful diction. It is known by now that she has one of the most strong and unique voices around,  but the diction only helps her create a larger stamp. Anyone else might have struggled to create such an impact with this song.  Be it the simple start with the piano backing, the kazoo introduction at 0.54, the rhythm change at 1.19 for the first charanam, Pradeep’s surprise intro at 1:49, the non-introduction of the pallavi between the 2 charanams the song just keep throwing surprises at you all the time and the sheer irreverence of Santhosh really amazes you, though by now it is a pretty known thing. I started with a 3.75 in mind but the more I think of it I want to give it a 4/5

I confess I have a Gana Bala allergy. Not because he is bad or anything. He is a supremely talented entertainment package. But he is the kind of person you keep as a trump card and use intelligently much unlike the situation in kollywood now where he is as common as a censor certificate. But still like the case with the anti-girls genre, Santhosh proves that in addition to doing his own thing, he can do what market demands too very aesthetically. Some of the things this song has in its favour are an unconventional rhythm, a fantastic jazz keyboard feel in the background(including the closing), the cheeky auto tune parody at 2:05 and the continuous old lyrics reuse post 2:50. Overall a decent Gana Bala outing which is neither his best nor one of those abominable assembly line ones. 2.75/5

The Cuckoo sound track calls for a celebration. It is a rewind to the golden 80s of recall value worth melodies, simple tamil and committed singing with a small tadka of modern technology and mixing techniques. Santhosh Narayanan proves he is rock solid consistent and in fact in this outing goes beyond just being reliable and makes a case for taking him seriously as a solid composer of his generation. He of course has miles to go before he actually deserves any fancy titles and punch tags. But this is a lot of useful bricks he has amassed to contribute towards building a monument of a career if he is serious enough about it. And a special mention to the wildly talented RR aka Sean Roldan who is also launching his first tamil album with ‘Vayai Moodi Pesavum’ this weekend. A comfortably rounded off 4/5  for Cuckoo. I seriously do not know what kind of an album could fetch more than that in today’s age.

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3 thoughts on “‘Cuckoo’ Music Review: Nest in peace

  1. Manasula Soora Kathey plays like Illaiya Raja of the old and yes somewhere in the 80’s as you mentioned but is nevertheless a charming song with a good flute interlude. The kind of song where fresh air breezes your face while travelling by road amongst the bright rays of the sun.

    Flute is the reason why Pota Pulla works especially before the vocals that start from 0:47 and subsequent use of it in the interludes during the entire song. Found the tune to be not so engaging and works only after the rendition of Pota Pulla even after few listens.

    Agasatha doesn’t impress me at all and has a ‘heard that’ feel all around with no variation or spark in the tune or music. Maybe will work better with a film or the situation that it comes.

    The pick of the album for me is Kodaiyile Mazha Pole because of some solid singing and the constant change and variation in tune and vocals.

    Kalyana Kalyanam is a fun song strictly limited to regional boundaries and I am tired of songs like Endaa Maapula popping up in Tamil cinema which don’t add any liveliness to the situation too.

  2. Fabulous effort from you Badri,your passion for music and love for this soundtrack shows up clearly in your review. I have been playing the album on loop for quite some time now & it is indeed a throwback to the 80’s when Ilaiyaraaja was ruling the roost clearly & comfortably.

    Agasatha a nice soothing number & is clearly having a Raaja Sir hangover, but the vocals & the lyrics go in tandem, making it a breezy song to listen to.

    Manasula Soora Kathey evokes a really lilting feel and as the lyrics go,the song surely is like a whiff of fresh air, very pleasant to the ears.

    Potta Pulla is definitely a tricky number as mentioned by you & its taken me a few hearings to get into its rhythm completely.The video also makes you like the song even more.

    Kalyanamam Kalyanam is a nice situational song which though not great is a fun song alright. On a similar note Gana Bala’s Enda Mapla is a staple song from him,hopefully the picturization would be good.

    Vaikom Vijayalkashmi is turning out to be a sensational find and her good work in Malayalam Cinema last year (Celluloid, Nadan etc) surely continues here with Kodaiyile Mazha Pole. This is a song that one would love to keep listening to endlessly on loop.

    With back to back successful albums (Cuckoo & Jigarthanda) Santosh Narayanan is having the time of his life.

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