Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A befitting tribute

Singer Usha Uthup and actress Kalpana rock to a pulsating song, which is a reply to Vineeth Sreenivasan’s ‘Palavattam’ from the ‘Coffee at MG Road’ album

By Shevlin Sebastian

At the Asianet studio on Convent Road, it is difficult to recognise singer Usha Uthup. She is wearing a wig of frazzled brown curls and a body-length black gown and a dazzling golden necklace.

Standing next to her, in black top and jeans and boots, topped by a black wig, is actress Kalpana.

“Since Usha is always wearing kanjeevaram sarees, we wanted to give her a different image,” says director Diana Sylvester. “Hence, we opted for western style dresses.”

(Incidentally, all the costumes were brought by Usha on a recent visit to Kolkata).

Usha and Kalpana shake their bodies, move their hands and their faces from side to side, in rhythm to a pulsating song by the singer being played over the speaker system.

There is an easy camaraderie between Kalpana and Usha. When Kalpana does some quick, jazzy moves on the dance floor, Usha, who is watching from the sidelines, shouts, “You are a rock star!”

When Usha says in mock protest, “I don’t want to dance next to Kalpana, she makes me look old,” the actress crooks her finger and says, “Come here, little girl.”

In the make-up room, Kalpana says this is the first time she is acting for an album song. “The biggest plus is the dynamic voice of Usha Didi,” she says. “And to act with her is a second big plus. Lastly, the director is a lady. So, this song is a collaboration of three women.”

Hands-on director Diana keeps coming onto the set from the control room and says, “Kalpana, your lip movements are not synchronising with the lyrics,” or “the expression is not precise.” Kalpana always takes it in a sporting spirit and is ready to do, take after take, to get it right.

As for the song, it has a thumping beat and soaring above it, is the rich velvety voice of Usha. Who can resist swaying to the song? But music fans will recognise the tune at once: it is by Shafi Rahman and the song is ‘Palavattam’ from Vineeth Srinivasan’s ‘Coffee at MG Road’ album.

“I loved the original song by Vineeth,” says Usha. “He is a brilliant singer. I have always believed that non-filmic songs don’t get the right kind of exposure. This song was so beautiful I just wanted to do a reply.”

So, she asked lyricist, Chittoor Gopi, who has written all her songs in Malayalam, to compose a witty reply and he wrote it in one hour a fortnight ago.

“Since the man is a Romeo in the original song, I wanted the girl in my song to reject the boy,” he says, with a smile. “And look how wonderfully Usha has sung it.”

Diana says this is the first time in Kerala that this concept of responding to a song is taking place. “The music is the same, only the lyrics are different,” she says.

Usha says this happens in international music all the time. She says ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon and ‘Blowing in The Wind’ by Bob Dylan have been sung countless times by other singers. “People don’t follow this concept in India,” she says. “If a song is beautiful and requires recognition, the best way is to sing it yourself.”

As she talks, in walks Anjali, Usha’s Kochi-based daughter.

“How do I look?” Usha says.

“You look great,” says Anjali.

“Are you sure?” says Usha.

“Of course, Amma,” says a smiling Anjali. Later, she says, “I am so used to seeing my mother wearing all kinds of wigs and costumes. She is the comic element in our family. I am never surprised by my mother. There are no limits to her.”

Meanwhile, Usha takes a break and sips a cup of tea. In a couple of days, she is off to Dubai for a programme, then to Singapore, then back to Thiruvananthapuram for the shooting of Idea Star Singer.

This rocking number, ‘Palavattam Kandathanu’, will be telecast on Asianet during Onam.

(Copyright: The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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