Morning Raga (2004) Poster


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Shabana Azmi's mastery of Carnatic singing
Peter Young8 July 2009
Morning Raga stars Shabana Azmi as an accomplished Carnatic singer who does not sing anymore because she is still stricken by an old bus accident she got involved in on her way to a concert with her violinist and son, both of whom died. Since then she has never left her village and never sung a song. Now, the son of her violinist comes and asks her to sing a few songs with his musical group. That's when the story begins to take shape. I quite liked the story of the film. It was fresh and innovative and the film was made artistically and intelligently. The locations are beautiful, especially the village views shots, and are aided by effective cinematography.

The film entirely belongs to Shabana Azmi, in a fantastic role that gives her scope to display both her dramatic talent and particularly her ability to play a very difficult character. Carnatic music is a serious thing, and Azmi had undergone a great deal of training for this part in order to understand how they sing, and to learn their body language and mannerisms when they sing. She did not sing the songs herself (well she's not a robot you know), but believe it or not, lip-syncing is very difficult in such songs because they are sung in twisted tones at lightening speed. Azmi played the character exceptionally well and was convincing both as a Carnatic singer and as a traumatised woman who is terrified to even think about going out of the village and stepping on the damned bridge on which the accident happened.

I watched the film for Shabana Azmi, and she is the main reason I liked it. The rest of the cast is decent, and the entire concept of modern members of a rock band who want to make something special and collaborate with a Carnatic singer was interesting. The film is about music, the beauty of music, and the music of the film, from the songs to the background score, is outstanding. The first song Shabana sings with them is the best moment of the film. I liked the film for showing how contemporary youngsters appreciate old and traditional music. It is a pleasant and realistic film which beautifully portrays the lifestyle of rural and urban India, and then brings them together by creating an interaction between their people.
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Offbeat Movie... for people with a taste for Music
Vikas SS9 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
To avoid spoilers, I wont write about the story. After seeing the movie, I have pooled in my views as below...

The movie qualifies as a typical offbeat movie that would meet the palate of the sensitive movie-goer with an inclination towards music. Since karnatic music is the fibre of this movie, it has been given adequate focus with songs such as 'Vatapi' and 'Thaye Yashoda' being performed. Popular songs such as 'samajavaragamana' and Raghuvamsa' are also played, albeit with less grandeur.

Shabana Azmi has single-handedly taken the movie through. She plays her role with ease and fullness. Prakash Rao fits perfectly into the role of an andhrite-musician youngster. Perizaad seems to carry her role of a 'nice girl' from her previous movie 'Mumbai Matinée' where she plays Sonali Verma who finally falls in love with Rahul Bose in the movie. She looks impressive in ethnic wear. Lilette Dubey has done a wonderful role as Mrs. Kapoor, the mother of Pinky, a boutique owner and a socialite wannabe. Dubey can be seen in similar roles in Monsoon Wedding.

Music has a classical and a fusion tinge and has been given a good deal. Artwork blends well with the people and places. The movie has been shot in a village, probably gannavaram in Godavari District of AP. The scenes in Hyderabad have been shot around Tank Bund, Jubilee Hills, Golkonda, etc.

Bottom-line: If you have a taste for 'offbeat movies', you can try this one.
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Sensational Shabana!
AishFan26 June 2005
I am at a loss of words when I see Shabana act. One wonders how she is able to enact each minute expression, gesture, and thought of her character. She fully immerses into the role she is playing leaving no stone unturned. Her acting in this movie really makes it very easy for the audience to completely empathize with her tormenting guilt, agonizing frustrations, and haunting fears. To add icing on the cake of art cinema are Perizaad and Lillette. Both did a good job. However, Perizaad did a much better job in Jogger's Park. This film does a good job of emphasizing its theme: Follow your heart. The bridge separating the city from the village acts as an interesting symbol in many ways. For example, it symoblizes the long road of trials and tribulations one must travel and conquer to fulfill his/her desire. The final fusion song is excellent.
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Morning Raga - Good Telugu movie in English
balusmbox16 June 2005
This movie is strictly for people who has an ear for carnatic music and who like simple story telling. Three people are brought together by music in a small village in south India ( East Godavari district i guess ). They later realise they are all fighting the demons of one tragic incident that occurred 20 years ago. They try and help each other through music, and finally overcome their struggles.

Such simple story is shot very beautifully in Konaseema of Andhra Pradesh. The screenplay is fast, editing good, and most importantly the story telling is very simple. There are less/no clichés, emotions are handled without dramatising them. Shabana Azmi and Lillete Dubey are excellent in handling their characters. The youngsters Perizaad Zorabian and Prakash Rao are wonderful with their balanced performances. Perizaad is very beautiful too. And the true hero of the movie is Carnatic Music with beautiful compositions that sounded super cool with fusion music.

The telugudanam is used as a stage to paint the beautiful morning with all its melodious sounds. Balu
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Good photography & location but average storyline
bsvprasad15 August 2005
Produced by the well-known Tollywood director Raghavendra Rao, this movie is a refined version of a typical Tollywood movie. He appears to have selected the locale but otherwise seems to have left the direction department well alone.

Shabana stands out with her performance. The roles of Prakash Rao and Perizaad could have been better thought out; the well-known & talented Tollywood comedian Dharmavarapu is wasted in a silly role that is supposed to be funny but hardly brings a smile. Lillette Dubey is very good, but why does the director make her ride a buffalo at the end? I was gratified to note the movie was shot in the beautiful Konaseema. The photography and editing are top class. Shabana should have spoken at least some Telugu - she did in Shyam Benegal's movies. This would have brought greater authenticity to the role.

The Carnatic music pieces are of course beautiful, thankfully unspoilt by the attempt at fusion - I particularly like the renditions of "Mahaganapatim" and "Thaye Yasoda".

Overall worth seeing once.
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A fine mixture of carnatic music and funky band music
venkat19263 January 2006
This film is the confluence of older and younger generation, of traditional music and contemporary music. Born out of a tragedy of a fatal accident in which Swarana (shabana Azmi) and her dear friend and their sons travel in which the friend and swarna's son die. Swarna is a mature carnatic music vocalist and her friend vaishnavi is a violinist. The survivor guilt of Swarna keeps her aloof from the outside world for 20 years and then vaishanavi's son Abhi, a modern music band leader wants to incorporate swarna's music into the band After some trauma Swarna agrees.

The story and direction is by the acclaimed theatre personality Mahesh Dattani. The carnatic music pieces are excellent and I am not an expert on modern music. The final piece, which is a fusion of carnatic musical piece "Thaye Yasodha" in Todi raga and the band music with heavy percussion, is excellent. In the final carnatic piece the Music Director cleverly used more of "swara" delineation and "thanam" pieces instead of complete "sahitya". The acting by Azmi is as usual superb and the actors, who portrayed the role of Abhi and his girl friend Pinky, give good support. There is a delightful cameo role by Lillete Dubey, (as Pinky's mother ), another acclaimed theater personality.

Once again an off beat film, off from the garish dressed women protagonists and unbelievable fight sequences by the male protagonist and loud music of the contemporary Indian films..

But there are some cinematic clichés. The accident is supposed to heave been caused by Pinky's ever drunken father.. Pinky seems to have learnt carnatic music in a few days or months from Swarna In spite of these clichés the film is an excellent film.
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It's about music
Amerind34 August 2005
I saw this movie tonight and actually found it quite astonishing. I always expect the best from Shabana Azmi, and she did not disappoint me.

The movie is in English, which is not what you ordinarily expect from an Indian film. It's about music mostly, but it is about so many other things as well. It's about mentoring, it's about a triangle of lives, it's about mothers and children, it's about facing fears, it's about forgiveness, it's about facing yourself. And it's probably the most virtuous movie I've seen in years.

As usual, Shabana Azmi is right on character. She has to be today's best actress.

But really, the movie is about the music. Indian music, Northern or Southern, is the world's best.
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Shabana is the only good thing in it
shanks-326 September 2005
It's not awful. But its awfully bland. And barring Azmi, who is brilliant as has come to be expected none of the actors register at all. The male lead is dull, with no discernible acting talent. The female lead was bright and bubbly, and we may well end up buying soft drinks and detergent from her for a few years!! The major resolution is way too pat and easy (she waited twenty years to have her problems fixed like this?), and the ease with which this band gets gigs and the lady learns carnatic music is laughable! If only! The movie is well shot, with the colours and sounds all pleasant enough. Annapoorna will agree with me that while this raga may not miss too many notes, it doesn't really aspire to any great heights in the first place. If you are a Shabana Azmi fan, watch it - otherwise, give it a miss.
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Morning Raga is Shabana at her best
Srinivas G Phani26 December 2011
Morning Raga is the new-age cinema with a refreshingly new plot, aesthetically shot scenes and the addictive soundtrack. It successfully blends classical and western music as well as it has a storyline concurrently running where the leads lament over the loss of their dear ones and help each other overcome their grief.

Shabana Azmi is the only choice to play the role of the classical singer Swarnalata. She gets it completely right, from her body-language to the way of singing. Her acting skills are well known but here, she gets full marks for perfectly enacting the role of a South-Indian village woman. She is the show-stealer and deserved more footage. Perizaad Zorabain is okay. Prakash Kovelamudi needs to improve. Lilette Dubey is fun to watch. Her comic timing is great and she has got good hold of her character. I am eager to watch more films of her.

Music by Mani Sharma is of different standard and the instrumentals he has composed for the film are nice. The film makes good use of the excellent music and places them at the right place. Rajiv Menon's cinematography and A. Sreekar Prasad's editing are flawless. The film is fast paced and the colors are vibrant.

A big deterrent in the film is the use of English. No other characters except Lilette (and Shabana to an extent) get the English right. Prakash's accent in disturbing and Perizaad has hard time saying her lines in English.

Morning Raga caters to the audience which enjoys experimental films. Go try this one; you are not going to hate it for sure.
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Azmi makes it all worthwhile
ellenshifrin13 October 2008
I sat down to watch Morning Raga expecting to get up in half an hour and go for a walk. But I didn't. Shabana Azmi is mesmerizing, and I stayed to the end. I agree with other reviewers that the plot is simplistic, and the other actors are bland by comparison, but the music and Azmi make it all worth while.

I know basically nothing about Karnatic music, so I cannot speak from any knowledge, but the passion and virtuosity of the traditional songs were incredibly moving. The plot, outlined by others, could have been better had the three stories been interwoven with more finesse. But the story is only a vehicle for the music, so let's forgive its naivety.
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Great Musical!!!
MuCool13 November 2006
I must admit that my liking for pure classical music is limited - however I was awestruck by the music of this film. Songs such as Thaye Yashoda, Maate Malayadhwaja and Mahaganapatim are so good that I remember the lyrics - although I understand very few words of these.

Acting wise, I found only Shabana Azmi and Nasser to be up to the mark. I am sure singing (actually posing as so) such classical marvel is not very easy - esp. when the ragas are so complex. Still the lady has performed in an excellent way. Similarly, Nasser has played the role of a father who might be a father-next-door, concerned and worried.

However, others, esp. Prakash Rao, have to learn a lot. Sometimes, I felt they were reading their dialogs. I think making this film in English and successfully displaying the emotions in the Indian way, might be difficult.

Overall, a nice film to watch, and we have to be generous enough to ignore the acting shortcomings and enjoy the classical-modern music fusion.
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Must watch...
zoombura23 April 2006
The movie is just awesome. Ordinary storyline handled very well by every one. Aren't all story lines ordinary? Great music and good fusion... Carnatic music is so beautiful... So are Perizaad and Shabana...

The storyline isn't far from reality ever...

Javed Akhtar once said that the imagination of a story writer is like the string tied to a stone being swirled. The stone being the story. The longer the string the more you have to work to keep it going, but if it is too long, it falls down or if the stone comes free it lands far away from reality which is the force that is swinging the stone...

The story is a perfect example...
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