At its core, Morning Raga deals with a very lofty question that many Indian artists have to contend with, an issue elaborately worded by Vikram Chandra in his essay The Cult of Authenticity. The big question, how does an Indian artist balance his Western and Indian influences, without being torn apart by culture critics on either side of the fence? The recording artists for Morning Raga got the gist of this conundrum, whipping out an awesome soundtrack; but just about everything else is so grievously wrong, right down to posting a press releasey edit on wikipedia.
It’s about this ad exec who makes jingles, who one day he realises that he’s a whore to the capitalist gangbang and decides to quit his job and start a band to make some TROO music. In the next 5 minutes, he recruits band members in the most fake and contrived circumstances designed to push the plot further to the divine tragedy of Shabhana Azmi, a Carnatic singer with a catholic guilt complex.
The whole movie is so wannabe urban meets rustic, east meets west, old meets new that it feels like a 3 hour Bharti Telecom ad, you know, one of those ads in which they show a hundred contemporary faces of gratitude and joy for a telecom service without which their lives would be impossible. The colours and tints are very Karan Joharesque, whether its ‘hip’ backdrops of coffee franchises and discotheques, or rustic backdrops of paddy fields and old Chettiyaar style houses.
So the plot is that 20 years ago, Shabhana was a great singer in her gult village, and had a best friend who was a violinist who never ventured out of the village so when they go to the city to perform, they meet with a bus accident that kills Shabhana’s son and her best frand. This instills in her a guilt complex, and she blames her ambition and her various gods for this divine retribution, because a woman belongs in the kitchen lol.
20 years later, the best frand’s son comes back, he’s the ad jingle maker now troo musician wants to recruit the now tragically emo Shabhana. Before he recruits shabz, he has taken in Peridaaz Zorabian in, and she’s the modarn metro chick who wears tight jeans. Guess what, pehraaz does not have a father! You wanna know why?! Cause he died in an accident 20 years ago by drinking and driving, the same accident that Shabana’s son and gult-ktvlt music director’s mother died in!
The cathartic ending for the movie is the band playing at a major concert without shabz who’s still chickenshit to travel outside of the village. But in the omg sensational yending, she does come with her Veena and sings to a spellbound audience who stand and applaud her while pehraaz zorabian gyrates and gives the western touch to the Carnatic like an Usha Uthup remix.
And everyone lives happily ever after, I suppose.
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