Musical Notes

The rainbow journey of the song ‘Cucurrucucu Paloma’

Caetano Veloso’s rendition of the Spanish song bares the souls of men in love in ‘Happy Together’ and ‘Moonlight’.

In Barry Jenkins’s coming-of-age movie Moonlight, drug dealer Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) drives from Atlanta to Miami to meet his school crush Kevin (André Holland). As he coasts through an empty stretch, the camera follows his car. Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso’s rendition of the Spanish song Cucurrucucu Paloma plays in the background.

Chiron has reconciled with his estranged mother when he sets out to meet Kevin, and he is filled with hope. In Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together (1997), Cucurrucucu Paloma comes in the first 10 minutes of the film, as Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) embark on a road trip through Argentina to visit the Iguazu waterfalls and add some excitement to their mundane romance. The two men become disillusioned with each other and break up on the highway.

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Happy Together (1997).

The bridge between the sequences, one about a possible link-up and the other about heartbreak, is Velaso’s soulful voice. The short sequence in Moonlight is a direct homage to Happy Together. “Even the way we framed the car driving down the highway is the same,” Jenkins said in an interview.

Cucurrucucu Paloma (it means the cooing dove in Spanish) was written by Mexican singer and composer Tomás Méndez in 1954. The tune has appeared on numerous film soundtracks, including Escuela de vagabundos (1955), The Last Sunset (1961), Le Magnifique (1973), My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (2009), The Five-Year Engagement (2012). The 1965 Mexican film Cucurrucucú Paloma takes its name from the song.

Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez and Julio Iglesias are among the artists who have recorded the song, but it is Veloso’s version that has endured, becoming something of an anthem for films about unrequited love.

One of the song’s most moving film appearances is in Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s Talk To Her (2002). Veloso performs the onomatopoeic “cu cu rru cu” refrain himself in the sequence. The listeners include two weeping men, both of whom are reminded of the women they love. The ability of Cucurrucucu Paloma to suggest both bereavement and hope makes it a favourite of directors the world over.

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Talk To Her (2002).
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Though we are a country besotted with cinema, theatre remains an original source of provocative stories, great actors, and the many deeply rooted traditions of the dramatic arts across India. CinePlay is a new, ambitious experiment to bring the two forms together.

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The actors too adapted their performance from the demands of the theatre to the requirements of a studio. While in the theatre, performers have to project their voice to reach a thousand odd members in the live audience, they now had the flexibility of being more understated. Namit Das, a popular television actor, who acts in the CinePlay ‘Bombay Talkies’ says, “It’s actually a film but yet we keep the characteristics of the play alive. For the camera, I can say, I need to tone down a lot.” Vickram Kapadia’s ‘Bombay Talkies’ takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as seven personal stories unravel through powerful monologues, touching poignant themes such as child abuse, ridicule from a spouse, sacrifice, disillusionment and regret.

The new format also brought many new opportunities. In the play “Sometimes”, a dark comedy about three stressful days in a young urban professional’s life, the entire stage was designed to resemble a clock. The director Akarsh Khurana, was able to effectively recreate the same effect with light and sound design, and enhance it for on-screen viewers. In another comedy “The Job”, presented earlier in theatre as “The Interview”, viewers get to intimately observe, as the camera zooms in, the sinister expressions of the interviewers of a young man interviewing for a coveted job.

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This should be welcome news, even for traditionalists, because unlike mainstream media, theatre speaks in and for alternative voices. Many of the plays in the collection are by Vijay Tendulkar, the man whose ability to speak truth to power and society is something a whole generation of Indians have not had a chance to experience. That alone should be reason enough to cheer for the whole project.

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Hotstar, India’s largest premium streaming platform, stands out with its Originals bouquet bringing completely new formats and stories, such as these plays, to its viewers. Twenty timeless stories from theatre will be available to its subscribers. Five CinePlays, “Between the lines”, “The Job”, “Sometimes”, “Bombay Talkies” and “Typecast”, are already available and a new one will release every week starting March. To watch these on Hotstar Premium, click here.

This article was produced on behalf of Hotstar by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.