99 Songs is directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy and written/produced by A.R. Rahman, which is what makes it special. (He also composed the music, of course.) The movie is about Jay (Ehan Bhat) and how he has to compose 100 songs to be able to marry Sophie (Edilsy Vargas). This condition is posed by Sophie’s father, who wants Sophie to marry someone who has a real job rather than someone who’s a struggling to earn.
The movie has a choppy start. We are bombarded with different songs every few minutes, breaking up the film with various music video-style segments. (To listen to, the music is brilliant, but to watch, not so much.) The fantastical effect of the production and the music (a solid 14 songs in vastly different genres) brings the effect of a fairy-tale to the story when it is much more than that.
The first half of the story follows Jay, his love for Sophie, and how he sets out to Shillong to compose his music. The movie remains mostly watchable and interesting while we follow Jay’s relatively simple trials and tribulations. Sophie is ignored during this part of the movie, and it’s understandable because Jay is on his mission to win her hand in marriage. He’s so engrossed in composing his 100 songs that he ignores her calls, and we sympathise with him … until the second half of the movie, where a whole bunch of different ideas are thrown together incoherently.
There’s one subplot involving drugs, which leads to Jay ending up in a rehabilitation centre, even though he was never addicted. This idea didn’t fit with the fairy-tale quality of the first half. It didn’t feel necessary when seen as a whole film. The second subplot involving Jay and his music-hating father felt a bit old: a child develops a love for music though his father is completely against it. Another subplot involving both of Jay’s parents felt stereotypical as well. The music is what kept the movie going, though, and eventually saved it.
99 Songs isn’t a movie you watch repeatedly, but it is a movie worth watching at least once for the surreal, fantastical experience, and the music.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.