The Chinese call the year 2008 as the year of the Rat but looking back at the year, it is more apt to call it year of AR Rahman. Even after more than 16 years in the field, it is a wonder that he constantly keeps on reinventing himself and seeks to differentiate himself in every movie that he scores for. The sheer variety and the mood that he is able to capture speaks for the sheer class of the man. With a handful of Hindi movies, a Tamil movie and an international score, culminating in the Golden Globe nomination for “Slumdog Millionaire”, it has indeed been a fruitful and a busy year for the man.
First in the year was “Jodha Akbar” – a period film, Rahman could definitely not make use of the heavy bass (ala rock types) that he had been using quite often in the recent past (Jana Gana Mana in Yuva a notable example). Instead, what ARR produced was a collection of soothing tunes with elements of sufism infused in them. A rich mixture of the classical instruments, most of the songs were soft melodies and tugged at the heart. “Khwaja mere Khwaja”, “Jashn-e-Baharaa” being absolute standouts
Next “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”. A composition primarily targeted towards youngsters, the songs had a spirit to them. The songs had a mixture of the amazing strings as well as disco style music. And of course woe betide any female named Aditi, as Kabhi Kabhi Aditi song was on the lips of quite a few youngsters. The Pappu cant Dance became a rage at parties and once again proved that ARR could rock the dance floor as well or probably better than anyone
“Ada” was probably the least hyped album of ARR that came out this year. It fits into the category of previous ARR releases (Meenakshi, Water, Netaji Subash etc) that despite low publicity that absolute gems in them. “Meherbaan” is an absolutely tremendous song. The song is carried by ARR’s voice and features a beautiful accompaniment by the piano. Its a song that you would like to dedicate to someone really special.
“Sakkarakatti” was his only Tamil release of the year. This album had a few ARR idiosyncrasies as in recycling his compositions from other albums into this one. This is something he uses i guess when ARR wants to freeride. So he uses tracks from Meenakshi to fill up the album. However, before you think that this in an album one should skip, think twice because the original compositions ensure that you look in the mirror and slap yourself for believing that ARR is a lazy bugger. “Taxi Taxi” easily became the chartbuster and remained a youth anthem. (Chennai Auto driver are a sinned lot and with good reason) My personal track was “Elay” which was another youthful song. A creative mix of strings and violins, its a free flowing song and despite the zany lyrics, it has a nice feel to it.
Rich. That would be one word that can be used to describe “Yuvvraaj” (Not something that the producers of the film would use to describe their state after the movie release or as they say in my Chennai Tamizh, “Thalai mela thundu”. A literal translation is Towel on head to indicate bankrutcy. Ok I exaggerate but I did watch the movie! Shudders) Influenced heavily by western classical theme, the music simply is an orchestra in itself. My personal pick being “Dil Ka Rishta” which simply flows from one point to another, one instrument to another and the voices simply complement it. Amazing piano work combined with deft violin work makes this song really come alive. The English lyrics add more flavor to the song and makes it highly appealing. “Manmohini Morey” is another infinitely pleasing song and features the talented Vijay Prakash (he surely deserves more chances). “Zindagi Zindagi” is an example of how even with minimal background score, a singer can carry the song on his own if he has the backing of the composer.
“Ghajini” belongs to the high energy compositions that ARR produces every now and then, when he unleashes his creativity with no checks. It could be classified as a purely crazy work and without any doubt is capable of polarizing people. A typical ARR album has 2 songs that you like immediately and 4 others that tend to grow on once you listen to them a few times and then they become your favorites. Ghajini has “Guzarish” which almost everyone likes (Javed Ali, you are slowly becoming ARR’s go-to-kid for some awesome songs) but debates break out on the other songs. (I had a long one with my cousin in the US which is surprising as our tastes in ARR quite match). “Behka” is a song that I am particularly attached to as it features my favorite singer Karthik.
Finally the Golden Globe nominated Slumdog Millionaire. This has 13 tracks that includes a couple of songs by MIA ,the song “Aaj ki Raat” from Don and a tribute to “Choli ke Peeche” ( the only thing missing in that song is Madhuri Dixit). But stealing the show is the very last song of the album called Jai Ho. ARR excels as a composer who brings out the best in his singers and here, one can clearly that Sukhwinder Singh will find the same fame bestowed on him for Jai Ho as he got for Chaiyya Chaiyya. O saya is another brilliant song full of energy featuring the voices of ARR and MIA. There are a few instrumentals to set the mood and overall is a nice work but elevated to greatness by the Jai Ho song.
What has been amazing in ARR is his sheer versatility in his work. Be it the Jazzy ” Tu Bole” from JTYJN to the Magnum Opus feel of “Azeem- o-Shaan” in Jodhaa Akbar to the brilliant Sax in “Behka”, ARR is constantly excelling himself and constantly innovating. Another aspect of his work is his ability to spot talent and encourage them. The number of singers that he has given breaks is a large one and it is something that he continues this year with new singers like Benny Dayal, Javed Ali etc testimony to that fact.
With exciting projects up for next year, one hopes nay feels that the ARR juggernaut will continue to rock next year.