Home > Reviews > BEFORE THE RAINS – Mark Kilian


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

An Anglo-Indian romantic drama directed by Bollywood stalwart Santosh Sivan, Before the Rains stars Linus Roache as an English spice baron who settles in South India during the waning years of the British Raj in the 1940s, and who throws the local community into upheaval when he has an affair with a beautiful woman from a nearby village. The film co-stars Rahul Bose, Nandita Das and Jennifer Ehle, and has an original score by South African composer Mark Kilian.

As one might expect, given the film’s geographical setting, Kilian’s music makes extensive use of the musical traditions of the Indian subcontinent, notably solo instruments such as the ubiquitous sitar, the sarangi bowed lute, the bansuri flute and the mridangam drum. The “Main Title” is a lilting, exotic affair with the ethnic instruments playing the first performance of the dexterous main theme, supported by a string-led symphony orchestra and Satya McGarry’s breathy, orgasmic vocals.

Several cues have an unusual, blatting brass motif that floats in and out of the score, often at moments of significant drama, while the recurring vocal elements change style depending on the mood, ranging from soft wordless solo groaning, to multiple mixed-voice humming and aahing, to rather more unnerving throat singing, as in “Funeral” and “The Kammadan”. There is an enticing rhythmic element to much of the music, which allows cues like “Honey Drive”, “Sacred Dragonfly”, “The Search Begins” and parts of “Chase and Standoff” to build up a propulsive head of steam, while other cues such as “Hand Lines” have more introspective, meditative, dream-like textures which are steeped in Indian culture.

A definite highlight is the titular “Before the Rains”, which introduces a tender piano motif underneath the vocals to superb effect, and which is later recapitulated towards the end of “Sajani’s Struggle”. The conclusive pair, “The Prayer” and “End Credits”, are also notable for their delicate beauty, with the former again making exceptional use of McGarry’s unique vocal work.

It’s all very enjoyable and pleasant, and maintains a mood of alluring mystery throughout its 50-minute running time. It’s not groundbreaking in any way, but certainly comes recommended for anyone who – like me – has an increasing affinity for the musical traditions of the region. It’s also very encouraging to hear this kind of music coming from a composer like Kilian, whose work occasionally reminds me of Mychael Danna, and who is clearly a talent to watch in the next few years.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Titles (3:57)
  • Honey Drive (0:50)
  • Hand Lines (3:42)
  • Funeral (2:46)
  • Sacred Dragonfly (1:34)
  • Sajani in Winter (3:52)
  • The Search Begins (3:29)
  • Before the Rains (3:47)
  • The Kammadan (3:29)
  • Sajani’s Struggle (3:09)
  • Down the River (1:02)
  • Did You Kill Her? (2:27)
  • All Quiet (1:22)
  • Chase and Standoff (3:36)
  • Reminiscence (2:21)
  • Feeling the Loss (1:51)
  • Coming for TK (2:21)
  • The Prayer (3:29)
  • End Credits (3:50)

Running Time: 52 minutes 54 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-34022 (2008)

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