99 Songs review – 3.5 Stars

By: Shubhaprada Iyer

AR Rahman’s 99 Songs, premiered on Netflix on the 21st of May. With its magical music and captivating visuals, 99 Songs is a treat to the eyes and ears. Directed and written by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, the film is co-written and produced by AR Rahman, under the banner name “YM Movies”, which is also his maiden production.

99 Songs is a romantic-musical based on the desires of a young musician Jay (Ehan Bhatt) and Sophia (Edilsy Vargas) who play the lead roles in the film. Sophia, who is a mute girl, is an extremely passionate artist. Jay and Sophia are already in love when the movie begins. The film also portrays Jay’s childhood struggles to explore music, since his father was against pursuing music as a passion. On the other hand, Sophia’s father encourages Jay to pursue music as a business, but, not as his passion if he wanted to lead a life with Sophia. This is when Sophia’s father throws a challenge at him to write 100 songs if he wants to marry his lover Sophia. Jay takes up the challenge and sets out on a journey only to meet with unforeseen and unimaginable hurdles.

Apart from Jay and Sophia’s relationship, the viewer gets to see another important relationship, that is, Jay’s friend Polo (Tenzin Dalha). When Jay takes the challenge to write 100 songs, Polo persuades Jay and takes him to his home in Shillong to complete his challenge. This suddenly brings Jay and Sophia’s relation to a rest, which seemed quite abrupt. Upon reaching Shillong, Jay and Polo start performing at a Jazz Club for a popular singer, ‘Sheila’, who also helps Jay in his journey. This is when things start taking an ugly turn. Sophia’s countless efforts of reaching Jay were often rejected by him. She gets called by a University in Paris and moves eventually. This is when she starts turning Goth.

Jay, who is a clean guy, from the very beginning of the film, gets caught for consuming drugs and is sent to rehab. During his stay at the rehab, he starts believing that he isn’t made for music and that music ruined his life. He starts believing everything that his father told him when he was younger. Manisha Koirala plays the role of the head of the rehab. Her scenes were quite limited in the movie.

There are quite a few instances in the film where we get to see flashbacks of Jay’s childhood and his parents’ relationship. At a later stage, it is revealed that Jay’s passion for music is something he inherited from his mother, who was a singer with an angelic voice. This is when he understands his strong desire and passion for music.

As far as acting is concerned, debutant Ehan Bhatt delivered an excellent performance. He is perfectly cast for this role. He could bring out the musician on screen and his frustration and expressions were on point! Edilsy Vargas could have been better. Since she played a mute role, one thing that went missing in her role was the use of hand gestures to communicate. She could have expressed her feelings better on screen. The direction by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy was par excellence! The kind of shots, the hooking VFX and the scenic locations are a treat to the eyes. Just by watching the film, one can say that the film was produced on a grand scale.

There are a few things that could have been better in the film. To start with, the movie could have focused a lot more on music and the journey of Jay while composing the songs. Secondly, the story lacked a few key elements. For instance, Sophia’s character could have been written well which would have lifted her character and would have looked much better on screen. Even the parallel drawn between Jay and his mother, and their ever-lasting love for music, could have been pleasing if the story focused on details, as to how Jay was musically inspired by his mother. The climax gave us a little insight, but it wasn’t very convincing. The song that he composed contained the tune that his mother hummed for him. The song was indeed fabulous, but he sang it immediately after he was released from the rehab. As a viewer, we don’t know how or when he composed it. When this song was released anonymously by Polo, it brought about a change in the entire world, even politicians, which seemed very unrealistic. The story and screenplay could have potential, had it been curated and written better.

Rating: 3.5 Stars