I (Ai) Music Review- by Ram Anand

The music’s depth is more rich here than the typical commercial value and bravura that regularly awaits us in a Shankar-ARR combo.

After a four year hiatus, the combo of Shankar-AR Rahman is returning for the first time in a decade for a non-Rajinikanth film. This Vikram-Amy Jackson starrer has drawn plenty of attention for its captivating teaser that has shown Vikram at his best- taking various avatars, but at the same time, given its romantic theme, much is to be expected of ARR’s music.

Vikram----I----Movie-First-Look-Posters-1324

There is no major surprises in the music of I, if you have the last two combinations that Shankar-ARR had produced. Similar to Sivaji and Endhiran, the music is modern, electronic, and is meant for either a dance number or a romantic number to be shot at posh locales.

But one thing that I’s music has that the music of the two previous albums did not, in my opinion, is some added soul. Instead of just a catchy, appealing romantic number, Shankar and ARR had made it a point to tune the romantic numbers with an added dash of soul and emotion, something we rarely see being utilised in Shankar’s film (as he is known for grandeur and toys very minimally with emotions in this movies).

Then again, it is probably the first time in aeons that Shankar is attempting a full-on romantic theme. Though the love attraction was a mainstay in Endhiran, the movie was all about robots fighting humans. All the previous movies he had done had been about a hero with a social cause and the love track is often relegated to one pretty heroine and a couple of glamorously canned songs. As such, the music’s depth is more rich here than the typical commercial value and bravura that regularly awaits us in a Shankar-ARR combo.

Aila Aila (Aditya Rao, Natalie Di Luccio)

Orchestra, opera, Indian beats, you name it. ARR begins the album by once again flaunting his knack for an unconventional mix. Canadian singer Natalie handles the opera bit and even chirps in with some Tamil lines, while Aditya Rao holds his sport regularly. The song changes beats at every stanza, and there are small pleasures to find at every juncture.

At over five minutes long, it provides plenty of room for ARR to innovate and that is exactly what ARR has done. The middle stanzas, in typical ARR style, is magical, and can send you to a zen mode. The beats will sound uncommon first. but give it two additional hearings and this seamless marriage of different bodies of work into one number will absorb you.

There’s even a bit of bhangra bit! Very good!

Ennodu Nee Irundhal (Sid Sriram)

Remember the soulful “Adiye” from “Kadal”? If you ever wished to hear another song like that, we have it here with the same composer and the same singer. And my, if you thought Adiye was good, ARR and Sid combine to deliver a blast even better than that. The choruses, the beats, the haunting music, and Sid’s unmistakable voice makes this one of the standout numbers in the album.

It starts pretty slow, with some good slow music, reminiscing Adiye as the chorus kicks in the a grand manner. But at the second stanza, unassumingly, the song picks up pace and gets even more special. The middle stanzas shows the best of Sid’s voice and the absolute best ARR’s musical genius, and he increases the tempo incredibly while maintaining the soul song.

Sunitha Sarathy chips in with a few lines of her own, and there’s a little rock bits to end the song. But, overall, this is Magic!!

Ennodu Nee Irundhal- Reprise (Chinmayi, Sid Sriram)

Basically, the female version of the earlier song is haunting, peaceful, slower, melodious and brings with a different kind of soul than the previous composition. ARR lets the able voice of Chinmayi to guide this song along, keeps instruments at a minimum.

The middle stanza is extremely sweet to the ears, and Sid then chips in towards the end of the song. It retains similar lyrics that Sid’s version but carries a different, more melodious atmosphere, and is equally good. Thumbs up.

Ladio (Nikita Gandhi)

Immediately, you are taken to a nightclub. This is a full-on western number with electronic beats, something that is quite common in a Shankar film. Nikita’s high energy rendition starts this number like a typical Western number, but then the Tamil lyrics kicked in, and settles into a right balance between electronic beats and a breeze.

If Irumbile Oru Idhayam was such a popular song, Ladio can be twice that song, is utilised properly.

Impressive.

Mersalaayaiiten (Anirudh, Neeti Mohan)

If you don’t know what this album is before listening to the song, the first minute will you give you an impression that you are listening to an Anirduh composition, especially with Anirudh himself behind the mic. But ARR shows his touch by elevating a foot-tapping romantic number to new levels of innovation that is persistent throughout the song. Where most composers play safe after reaching a foot-tapping tunes and tend to repeat it, ARR tweaks with the tunes and beats constantly, and attempts to this song unique in its own way.

This will slowly grow, and when it does, it will top of the charts, and stay there for a long time. Will clearly promoted to be the most commercial and mass-appeal song in the album. And rightly so. A surefire chartbuster.

Naan Mersalaayaiten. In time you will be smitten too.

There’s a remix version of this song that I am not reviewing as it is not much different from the original, just a shorter, faster version.

Pookale Sattru Oyivedungal (Haricharan, Shreya Ghosal)

After combining with ARR to reveal his maximum potential in Kaaviyathalaivan, Haricharan comes in and grabs all the attention with arguably the best song of the album. The best duet of the album, with the inimitable Shreya Ghosal lending the female voice, that will definitely (must) be shot at Shankar’s typical posh, eye-pleasing locations.

In the lines of Ale Ale (Boys), Sahana (Sivaji) and Kadhal Annukal (Endhiran), comes a number that has some added soul but is just purely good music at the end of the day.

Haricharan starts it off with the aid of some electronic beats, but this song very quickly settles into a nice rhythm. It explains the film’s title, hence why the conclusion that the film is romantic-themed. Shreya’s voice adds to the sweetness of this song, as there is no need to elaborate how good both these voices are. The middle stanzas, in best ARR form, is honey to the ears.

Savour this one!

Verdict: An ARR-Shankar combo is all about commercial appeal, and this album has a little bit more than commercial appeal alone. It has some soul, some added spice and innovation. Definitely it will be a very popular album in the long run. Maybe not ARR’s best work, but this is definitely one of ARR’s better body of works for a Shankar film.

In terms of quality, it is better than Sivaji and Endhiran. This is more beautiful.

My picks: Ennodu Nee Irundhal (both versions), Pookale, Merasalayiten

Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

AR Rahman’s 10 best soundtracks- a compilation by Ram Anand (Part 1)

The list is not about the most popular song, or hits, or most successful movie. This is from a purely musical point of view relating to how well the music worked with, or elevated, the film itself, and further inspired the filmmaking process.

Following my high regards for AR Rahman’s latest film album Kaaviyathalaivan, I have decided to finally act on my long-pending intentions to compile a list of AR Rahman’s 10 best albums, in my view of course.

This list is not inundated with album from the 90s, like how people believe his best work from from his first decade as a composer. If anything, this list is a testament that he has grown and matured as a composer in tune with changing times, always staying ahead of the competition.

The list is not about the most popular song, or hits, or most successful movie. This is from a purely musical point of view relating to how well the music worked with, or elevated, the film itself, and further inspired the filmmaking process. This is a carefully put together list, I had to omit plenty of albums which I personally enjoyed- trying to pick on everything from a critical point of view.

Number ten:

Kaaviyathalaivan (2014)

AR Rahman’s first collaboration with director Vasanthabalan, known for his raw, earthly Tamil films was quite a feast to the ears. Vasanthabalan was among the first batch of filmmakers to work with ARR’s nephew GV Prakash through Veyyil several years ago, and it signals, somewhat, a full circle for the director to work with ARR.

A period film set in the 1940s, the film starts Siddharth and Prithviraj among others. ARR said publicly that he had turned down a Hollywood film offer in order to work on KT, and it is easy to understand why. Kaaviyathalaivan provides any composer with that rare opportunity to revisit the era of Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy while retaining their own stamp. There is no better candidate to pull this off than the Academy Award winner, and he had served delectable mix of jazz, and several carnatic ragas with heightened sound that will grow on any listener.

The album has seven songs, the pick obviously being the effervescently melodious Yaarumillai, a minimal, slow-paced love song that can tug at your hearts, and also the highly energising Sandhi Kuthirai, which seems to be a homage to the quasi-jazz numbers of the Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy days.

The 10-minute ballad Alli Arjuna, which comprises of eight short bits performed immaculately by Haricharan and Bela Shende, is where ARR flexes his musical muscles, marrying off eight varying tunes into one ballad that both tells a story and yet manages to maintain the listener’s attention till the end. No mean feat.

Aye Mr Minor brought with it another slow jazz touch last seen in ARR’s other album Iruvar, while Sollividu Sollividu offered its own uniqueness with the highly moving Karnamootcham bit towards the end of the song.

Vaanga Maaka Vaanga is a pleasant hear to welcome listeners to the drama troupe on which the story in centred, while Thirrupugazh sees a rare combination of Vani Jayaram and ARR for a short, pleasant devotional number.

There is no verdict on the yet to released film, but ARR’s music has already increased expectations and will definitely complement the filmmaking process. It is understandable how much effort has been put into this, it shows, and it deserves a place in this list.

Number nine-

Taalam/Taal (1999)

In living memory, there is no film that relied as heavily on ARR’s musical magic as Taal, so much so even the Tamil version of the film, Taalam, found takers despite only being a dubbed work. The music was wondrous across both platforms, encompassing a total of 14 tracks, most of it pictured on then increasingly popular former Miss World Aishwarya Rai. A trilingual love saga in the backdrop of some gorgeous locations, ARR’s music was embedded in every area of the film that centred around a classical dance performer.

Nahin Samne is a personal favourite, especially through its Tamil version, Kaalaimaane. The haunting start to the music followed by the grandeur of orchestra, and Hariharan’s pitching voice is inimitable in so many ways. There is also the absolutely fabulous Beat of Passion, a small dance number sans vocals, in which ARR combines the most innocuous sounds such as water drops and steel plates crashing on each other.

There are also other classic numbers such as Ishq Bina, Taal se Taal, Ramta Jogi, another instrumental number Raaga Dance, Kahin Aag Lahe, and a western version of Taal Se Taal. You are just spoilt for choices here.

This film marked a successful collaboration between ARR and Subash Ghai, which regrettably ended with ARR giving another fabulous musical album for the film Yuvvraaj, which Subash proceeded to botch, clobber, and ruin with an epically bad movie. Yuvvraaj’s music is almost as good as Taal, but still the latter takes the cake and is here on this list.

Number eight-

Highway (2014)

Imtiaz Ali has surely established himself as a filmmaker who knows how to extract the best out of AR Rahman, and Highway is a fine example. A sumptuous album that fits the theme of this being a road movie, and also about a young woman’s inadvertent soul searching while in captivity.

The album has nine tracks, and each one stands out brilliantly on its own. The two versions of Pattakha Guddi, a variant of Punjabi folk music, were music to die for. The Nooran sisters were brilliant with the female version, which was catchy and high on spirit, but the male version, sung by none other but ARR himself, take the mix to another higher level, with a mix of rock, tabla, and folk music. The male version contains more soul and gutso, and is a bold attempt that has come out fantastically well. I dare to say, it sits right up among ARR’s best compositions in an illustrious two-decade career.

Kahaan Hoon Main and Heera are sweet to the ears, slow, but endearing. They capture the essence of the character’s struggle, and sung with such sweetness in the voices of Shweta Pandit and Jonita Gandhi.

Sooha Saha is a lullaby that will grow on you, especially when you watch it with the movie. Tu Kuja is another huge favourite, sung with such soul searching energy, accompanied with classical instruments, by Sunidhi Chauhan.

Maahi Ve, of course, is ARR’s trademark love number that encapsulates the entire movie. A brilliant album for a brilliant movie.

Number seven-

Kandukondein Kandukondein (2000)

Rajiv Menon’s 2000 musical film, which also featured Aishwarya Rai, was an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. It is an iconic romantic movie for people of my generation, more so because of how well we identify and were taken by the authenticity and the class of AR Rahman’s eight tracks.

Enna Solla Pogirai remains a classic to date, a high energy yearning portrayed by Shankar Mahadevan for a man who is pleading for his love. Smayiyai is another number that is high on energy, with a slightly modern treatment, that would make you tap your feet.

Then there are two sumptuous classical music offerings, Kanamoochi Yennada, which is probably among the best bit of Carnatic music you will hear in modern films, and also Konjum Mainakkale, which has some effervescent energy in it.

Yenge Ennathu Kavithai is a brilliant composition that captures the heartbroken state of a woman who had been deceived by her man, sung with such conviction and realism by the legendary Chitra.

Suttum Vizhi Chuddar is a short-lived all time favourite in which Hariharan, in a short span, imaginatively captures a Bharathiyar poem and gives it a romantic pang that is almost unmatched.

This is a musical that truly had a mix of everything, all topped off with the tittle song, Kandukondein Kandukondein, a duet featuring Hariharan and Mahalakshmi Iyer, a duet featuring some great signing and even greater composition.

Number six-

Delhi 6 (2009)

Many might have missed this, because the movie failed to create ripples at the box office. But for those who have taken the effort to listen, D-6 is among ARR’s best musical work.

images

The reason? Masakali!

A pretty stunning, unique, energising number sung by Mohit Chauhan remains D-6’s greatest identity. The entire song references to a dove’s flying spirit, and ARR does a brilliant job of employing unorthodox sounds to weave together a catchy, tongue twisting song that has stayed on memories for years.

But beyond Masakali, D-6 is also home to one of the best sufi/spiritual compositions of all time, a song that has lifted my own spirits umpteen times- Arziyan.

A seven-minute long epic that can send you into a special zone with the right environment, Arziyan is soulfully rendered by Javed Ali and Kailash Kher, two unmistakably good singers. The song sings of God as someone who already knows our wishes, and to whom we need not make special requests.

Rehna Tu is a brilliant, slow number sung by AR Rahman, that encapsulates a man’s undying love for his hometown, Delhi, despite its imperfections.

Dilli 6 and Kaala Bandar were more hip, modern numbers to suit the main character who was an American who had just reached Delhi, but Gehnda Phool classically marries off these two cultures by combining hip hop and classical. A two-minute bit that is thoroughly enjoyable and showcases AR Rahman’s genius.

Dil Gira Gaaftan is a slow romantic number along the lines of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s previous combination with ARR, Rang de Basanti, which had the song Tu Bin Bataye.

Thumre Bhaavan Me is a melodious and soul stirring Hindu devotional number that is equally rich in musical content. D-6 is probably one of the most underrated albums in ARR’s career.

 

Kaaviyathalaivan- Music Review by Ram Anand

AR Rahman and Vaali go ballistic, and create something more enriching than Iruvar. Period music has never been better.

Kaaviyathalaivan witnesses the first time collaboration between renowned filmmaker Vasanthabalan and Academy Award winner AR Rahman in the music department. But, perhaps, the most important and notable fact about this soundtrack is the fact this is the last film in which Vaali had worked extensively on as a lyricist before his death.

kaaviya-thalaivan-poster_139367944410

Kaaviyathalaivan is a period drama, centred around drama troops of the yore, so there is no expecting any modern numbers here. KT, in its production norm and its setting, has a lot of similarities with Mani Ratnam’s 1997 epic Iruvar, for which ARR provided an impeccable soundtrack which retained the swing and mood of the era it was set in, yet was  melodious in its own right. A good 17 years later, ARR has the chance to repeat this feat with KT.

And he is not one to let such chances slip. For the umpteenth time in his career, AR Rahman has delivered the goods in a way that they would grow on you and eventually place the music in the timeless shelf.

Kaaviyathalaivan has recreated the Iruvar magic thanks to AR Rahman, the mighty pen of Vaali (Vairamuthu penned Iruvar brilliantly), and those vocals from Haricharan.

Haricharan is to KT as what Mohit Chauhan was to ARR’s another majestic album, Rockstar. He is given the chance to lend vocals to four out of the seven songs, and similar to the Mohit-ARR combo in Rockstar, he is lending the voice to a character who is a stage performer so he ends up singing a stunning variety of compositions.

Aye Mr Minor (Haricharan and Shashaa Tirupati)

The first song itself suddenly throws you back to the image of Aishwarya Rai dancing in front of Mohanlal in the backdrop of the highly catchy but instrumentally classic Hello Mr Ethirkachi from Iruvar. Aye Mr Minor is right out of a similar shelf, though the tempo maintained is like a balance between Ethirkachi and the other song from the Iruvar, Vennila Vennila. Shashaa’s voice is enchanting and a perfect fit for the tempo, mood and swag this song brings along.

Haricharan enters towards the second half and makes this a sweet, innocent, foot-tapping, ala-50s duet. Sometimes, you do not need to go that back far in your records to reminisce. Because AR Rahman is capable of re-inventing that magic even half a decade later, albeit with additions that makes the sound even more all encompassing and the sound of the live instruments heightened. This song has no comparison. It a class of its own in modern Tamil cinema, with its only peer being another composition by this same man, ARR, way back in 1997.

Vaanga Makka Vaanga (Haricharan and Dr Narayan)

You would have heard this at some point last month. This song is all over the KT teaser and the single was already last month by Sony. VMV is an introduction to the drama troop that the tale of KT centres around, and Haricharan lends brilliant vocals in the backdrop of a very rich classic instruments and raagas. (I’m not well versed in raagas so can’t name them). This song is catchy, and again is something you don’t hear in regular modern Tamil cinema. Thee different rhythm and challenging classic raagas are brilliantly negotiated by the vocals of Haricharan helped with ARR’s timing of the music. A smooth sailing introduction to the drama troop. (Bear in mind, KT’s songs has plenty of storytelling in them).

Saandi Kuthirai (Haricharan)

We all would have heard that cracky song from Kadhalikka Neramillai back in 1964, called Maadimele. Exactly half a century later, ARR somehow ends up paying homage to that with al absolute cracker in Sandi Kuthirai. This is a groovy quasi-jazz number that you just can’t get enough of. Haricharan is brilliant behind the mic, from the smalls mentions of “Mohana” that reminds you directly of Kadhalika Neramilai to that brilliant shift in vocals in the middle. This is extremely high on energy and impeccably high touches of genius. The lyrics are timeless as well. AR Rahman, Vaali and Haricharan at their respective bests! Play this in your radios and suddenly you will feel like you are in a 60s-themed party where everyone is dancing to a classic catchy song. Wow.

Yaarumilla (Shweta Mohan)

It just gets better, doesn’t it? Remember Poo Koodiyin Punnagai from Iruvar? Imagine a number that is starts similarly but the overall satisfaction is even double of that. Yaarumilla features Shweta Mohan in top form, after collaborating with ARR in the melody numbers in Maryan. The two stanzas are unique to each other but equally melodious, and only ARR can pull off two different melodies in a single track while making the singer sound gorgeous (yes, she sounds gorgeous, I am consciously using that word) in both stanzas. The best pick of the album (it’s actually a very difficult choice).

Mesmerizing and heavenly!

Sollividu Sollividu (Mukesh)

If you have read Mahabaratha (or known about it), there is no better song to encapsulate what Arjuna sings to Krishna following the Kurukshetra war. Arjuna is emotionally paralysed here. And the Arjuna we have here is, of course, Mukesh. And god, he is flaunting his vocals. There are three stanzas to Sollividu. First stanza is fast paced, the second slightly mellowed, in which he regrets killing Karna, but it is in the final stanza that you get the best piece of magic in the entire album. That is Karnamotcham is the final stanza, the single bit of magical music you have heard when ARR posted it up his SoundCloud account couple of weeks ago. The final stanza is a plea by Arjuna to Krishna to stop the war, a cry to stop the battle, after earlier, higher tempo stanzas appeared to unfazed Krishna. Yes, this is storytelling through music at its best. This is a very moving song once you have understood the lyrics, and as said, probably no number will ever capture so sufficiently, how Arjuna felt after having to kill Karna in the battle.

They don’t call ARR a musical genius for nothing, but equal credit to Mukesh for distinguishing the three stanzas.

Thirupuggazh (Vani Jayaram)

Murugan devotees would love this. Thirupuggazh is a two-minute absolute classical rendition, helped by veteran Vani Jayaram’s timeless voice, dedicated to the Perumal.

The only downside would be the length, but of course in those two minutes you can’t help but to be taken away but the generous use to tablas and classical instruments by ARR. Proof that this man can do a Sufi as impeccably as he can do a pucca Southern devotional song. That is the mark of this composer, the worth of that Academy Award.

Alli Arjuna (Haricharan and Bela Shende)

Go find a raaga expert! I can’t be a critic to this song. Never. This is a composition like none other. Alli Arjuna is reflection of stage performers telling the story of Alli and Arjuna’s marriage, told through music. This song has EIGHT short bits in a lengthy ten-minute, vowen together the way only AR Rahman can do. It takes a master composer to seamless marry off these eight tunes into one continuous composition, but man, ARR can do it. Each different bit seems to tell a different story. The tone of the song is slow-fast-slow-fast. You don’t have two slow stanzas back to back. One slow stanza to make you understand the story, then the tablas and instruments pick up, and it gets catchy. Haricharan and Bela Shende combine to sing a duet that encapsulates the entire Alli Arjuna tale in one song. Alli Vaarugiral is easily the best bit of the lot. There’s plenty of humour in this song too, but more amazing is the fact that Haricharan goes around modifying vocals representing both Arjuna and Krishna.

Masterpiece!

In short, Kaaviyathalaivan is one of AR Rahman’s best works till date. That’s all I have to say. It’s a rich, fascinating understanding of nuances of south indian music and gives us a period album that is as good, if not better, than Iruvar.

And since I saw this somewhere online- either AR Rahman was on dope, or he was absolutely bonkers when he did KT. I mean, you can’t possibly be this much of a legend and just continue surprising people better by time, right?

I thought Highway was the best album for this year. Now I have to reconsider. Shit.

Rating: (I’m not qualified to rate this album. It’s beyond expertise. Get some music expert. I’m just a listener. I’m just smitten. I’m in love with the music KT, every bit of it).

Highway (2014)- Movie Review by Ram Anand

It is not often that a movie moves me into tears. Imitiaz Ali’s Highway had that effect on me, though I am not one to promise you a tearjerker that would equally move everyone.

Highway_Hindi_Film_Poster

Imagine that sweet bonding that immaculately develops over a road trip in Jab We Met, Imtiaz’s directorial debut. And now combine that with the ephemeral darkness and greyness of the love portrayed in Rockstar, the movie in which Imtiaz changed his stripes from being just another commercial filmmaker on the block- and you will get Highway.

Highway is one of the rare movies which portrays a love story that you know beforehand has no chance of ending well, yet if you allow yourself to be soaked by its emotions, you will realise Highway its not just about the improbable “love” that two very probable people share, it is also about character development- it tells a story of poverty, abuse, sexual crimes, murder, and guilt all rolled into one.

Mahabhir Pathi (Randeep Hooda) and Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) are two people who probably would have never met each other, if not for a fateful night when the latter, a billionaire’s daughter, decides to soak in some fresh air out of her controlled lifestyle, and is indadvertedly kidnapped by the former who is has just robbed a gas station and is taking her hostage.

Financially, Veera has everything Mahabhir will never have- that is the gulf in their class. Mahabhir is crass in his handling and language, Veera is soft spoken, apologises, and seeks to make more friends than enemies.

Yet, as the story unfolds, Imtiaz tells us a tale of unique human connections- what makes us all the same. Beneath the facade of gulf between a criminal and a rich man’s daughter, they find nothing but solace in each other.

As they confide in each other, their haunted childhoods comes back to the fore, and they are now confronting demons they had stashed away for years. Veera is finally able to talk about her childhood while developing a Stockholm syndrome in running back into the hands of Mahabhir, even when she had the chance to run away.

Mahabhir, slowly, sees his estranged mother’s love and affection in Veera’s innocent love, and this consumes him over time, and he lets himself go to drown in Veera’s love.

Randeep Hooda lives under the skin of Mahabhir Bhati, and adds a layer of depth that only great actors can bring to what are already great characters on the paper. His transformation from a crass, single minded criminal to being a man who’s cautiously falling in love is compelling- even bettering Ranbir Kapoor’s tortured soul in Rockstar, which, at times, was heavily dramatised.

Alia Bhatt, well, what can I say. I thought she was overrated after her debut Student of the Year, but there are little doubts as to why she is the most talented upcoming actress in Bollywood. No one in the many grades and classes of actresses above her could pull off a performance such as this. Her grief, her joy, her past, and her own surprise at her attitude towards the kidnappers, was all brought to live in a two-hour marvel of a performance.

This is not a debutant actress at work, ladies and gentleman. This is the making a great actor, a great talent, one who if nurtured well can become  a legend in the film industry.

AR Rahman’s music, on the other hand, is a timeless musical score. Patakha Guddi carries the essence of the narration on its shoulders (and its delightful because it is the best composition that will ever be made this year), while songs such as Tu Kuja (shot in a desert with shimmering stars), and Kahaan Hoon Main carry so much subtlety in them that they move the narration without disrupting it.

Sooha Saha sounds way better on screen that it sounded on audio, combined with Mahabhir’s affection for his mother and his guilt- this songs packs an emotion no other song packs in this movie.

If in Rockstar the songs were musical performances, the songs in Highway were blended with the narration seamlessly, almost making it a musical road movie.

Many would argue that Imtiaz’s Jab We Met was more entertaining, but we need to appreciate the fact that Imtiaz had long changed his skins. Rockstar was a reincarnation for the director, and he had moved from the terrains of making feel-good love stories, to making love stories that asks more questions and demands a bit more in terms of consequences and life.

Rockstar was peripherally dark and sad, Highway, though at parts carrying the energy that Jab We Met had, is neither a “sad” or a “happy” movie. There is no labels to be given. Yes, it is a love story, but it is a matured, measured love story.

In this respect, Imtiaz Ali had undone himself, going one further than his previous works. And as an aspiring filmmaker, I need to congratulate him for envisioning his creative license and executing it without compromises.

The gist of Highway has always been in the film’s trailer, with Veera Tripathi’s dialogue:

“Where you took me from, I don’t want to go back there. Where you are bringing me to, I don’t want to get there. But this journey, I like this journey. I want this journey to never end”.

That’s Highway. It’s not about the starting or the ending of the movie, it’s about the journey and the bonding that happens in that two hours.

If you can enjoy that, less assured, you will come out of this experience and say- “this is a fucking masterpiece!”

And yes, I said that. Films like Highway cannot just be made- they click just nicely only once in a while. Instead of restricting yourselves to define what is entertainment, you can allow Highway to surprise you.

Rating: 10/10

Highway- Music Review by Ram Anand

After 21 years of ruling the entire breadth of India with his music, I wonder how Rahman still churns up magical numbers like this so effortlessly. What makes this special is that how the singer and composer avatars of Rahman syncs so effortlessly here.

How I wish every new year could start with an AR Rahman album. Few things in life beats the adrenalin rush that triggers within me when I come across a new ARR album, and my subsequent hours spent discerning every small joy in the tunes of the songs. I never made an apology for being a Rahmaniac, and if at all I am accused of bias, some parts of Highway’s music will prove to you, yet again (if at all you need reminding he’s the best out there) why ARR is in a league of his own. I did not expect Highway to be on par with ARR’s previous collaboration with Imitiaz Ali, Rockstar. Rockstar offered an eclectic mix of music variety- be it rock, melody or jazz. Highway offers its own variety, as its central theme, about its two principal characters who travel across six states together- is blended and exposed with its music. Within the plot brief, ARR once again offers listeners a musical journey that is unique on its own and stands out with its own specialty.

Maahi Ve (AR Rahman)

The album starts with the effervescent ARR getting behind the bike to croon Maahi Ve, which Imitiaz has described as the most important song of the film, even though it was not part of Imtiaz’s initial brief to ARR. Rahman sings Maahi Ve with such tenderness and soul-searching vigour that it gives you a ‘feel’ about what you can expect from the movie, which is due to be released this February. The sweet melody interludes, and the highs of Rahman’s own pitched voice makes Maahi Ve the perfect mix of a slow-paced romantic melody and energy that will definitely enter your playlist as soon as you hear it.

Patakha Guddi (Female version)- Nooran sisters

If Maahi Ve can enter your playlist within the flick of a finger, Patakha Guddi will probably stay there for at least a few months, or even more than that. Because compositions like these are ones that only Rahman’s musical genius can offer. The man has offered so any quirky, splendid unique compositions in the past literally outdoes himself with this masterpiece, and its energy is something that I am finding difficult to put into words. The little intervention of the tablas, flutes, punjabi folk music, and the Nooran sisters’ Sufi-like singing means that Patakha Guddi is a song that you need to listen to in order to capture the real imagination of the effort that was placed into it. This is like listening to Rahman’s previous sufi inspired classics Arziyan (Delhi 6), Kun Faaya Kun (Rockstar), and Khwaja (Joodha Akbar), but while the soulful singing gives you an inspired feeling, the energy blended into this means you will find it hard to refuse to listen to this song when you just want plain, fast, music.

Wanna Mash Up (Kash and Krissy)

Lady Kash and Krissy enter the fray with a short, three minute complete hip hop, techno number, that probably belongs to a scene in a nightclub. Rahman’s touches is still visible, though this sounds and seems to belong to one of Rahman’s Hollywood compositions rather than a movie like Highway. This was probably placed there due to demands of the script more than for musical reasons, but Lady Kash as usual carries the song on her able shoulders and trust me, this is not a bad option if you want to play it in nightclubs and get people dancing to it.

Kahaan Hoon Main (Jonita Gandhi)

With visible traces of Tum Ho from Rockstar, Kahaan Hoon Main demands a little bit of patience as it unfurls in its own pace before settling into a zen-like rhythm with minimal instruments used, relying heavily on Jonita Gandhi’s beautiful voice. A soul searching song sang from a female voice, Kahaan Hoon Main is the best fit of a composition for you if you are looking for a song to be played while you watch the silence, or if you want some calming, masterful music to accompany your moment of inspiration or work. In so many ways this song is a display of Jonita’s impressive voice that can hold a song on its own without much help from percussions. Very Good.

Sooha Saha (Zeb, Alia Bhatt)

So, the one-movie old Alia Bhatt now takes a new avatar behind the mic to sing (partially) Sooha Saha. By now, you sense Highway settling into a certain constant rhythm, a slow, melodious canvas of songs that tries to tell more stories than merely being songs. Zeb’s amazing voice means you will barely notice Alia’s fresh own voice. There’s nothing much to judge here, as her voice appears more fleetingly, while Zeb holds most of the song. Sooha Saha runs and sounds like a heartbreaking, yearning lullaby. This song definitely tries to define Alia Bhatt’s character in the movie and does a pretty good job at that. Good.

Tu Kuja (Sunidhi Chauhan)

The best of several melodious, female voice-themed songs that this album has, Tu Kuja has Sunidhi Chauhan taking her turn to croon a song that has a little more energy than Kahaan Hoon Main, while assisted with a generous use of tablas by Rahman. Sunidhi wilfully brings this song a pitch up and down whenever necessary, and the more you listen to this song, it will slowly make its way into your favourites list. Trust Imtiaz to do this song justice with his picturisation.

Heera (Shweta Pandit)

Like Kahaan Hoon Main, this song a slow, walking pace. But again, there’s something about Rahman’s even slowest melodies that holds your attention- and that is how he makes one song so distinct from one another even though they all slow melodies. Despite having four such songs in Highway, everything stands out on its own, and I find it difficult to pick between this number and Kahaan Hoon Main, as this song displays the sweet voice of Shweta Pandit, and some of the best usage of flutes and traditional Rahman melody you have listened to in recent times. Very, very good.

Patakha Gudi (Male Version)- AR Rahman

Ladies and gentlemen, give Mr Allah Rakha Rahman a round of applause. Do I love this man for his music, or for his voice? If I told you the female version of this song was a masterpiece, what shall I call the male version crooned by ARR himself? This is, simply put it, unlike any other Rahman composition- and Rahman has done a lot of innovative music in his time. After 21 years of ruling the entire breadth of India with his music, I wonder how Rahman still churns up magical numbers like this so effortlessly. What makes this special is that how the singer and composer avatars of Rahman syncs so effortlessly here. The composer starts the song with sufi, tablas, giving it a rustic feel, and then switches to hardcore rock guitar and then uses techno before easing into tablas towards the end, creating a blend of fusion that I can only compare to a mysteriously delicious sweet, mixed with so many ingredients without tasting too sweet. Everything about this song is just right, so bloody perfect. Then there is this singer, the singer Rahman, who switches from high pitches to low pitches within seconds, creating something beyond a song- an atmosphere, a feeling, an environment. I don’t know. Go figure. He creates something only a Rahman can create.

In short, Highway has its blend of absolute masterpieces with songs that will grow on you given the time. The both versions of Patakha Guddi are among Rahman’s best compositions in recent times (or maybe a decade), while Maahi Ve trudges just slightly behind. Songs such as Tu Kuja, Heera, and Kahaan Hoon Main will grow on you the same way Tum Ho or Tu Muskura did from his previous albums- which literally means AR Rahman is back and you are betraying your musical senses if you give this a miss.

Rating: 8.5/10

Inspirations at 25

The filmmaker inside me might not have a shot a single scene since 2011 (when I shot a music video for a friend), but this is not my trade for me to be rusty after two, or even five years. This, is my talent.

Sometimes, when you reach a certain age, you are no longer able to differentiate between a half empty and a half full glass. It’s a mixture between enthusiasm and also fear. But gladly, for me, the fears do not revolve around job security, future, finances, or marriage.

Instead, it is about making my dreams come true that still consumes me and morphes into my greatest fear and also my greatest enthusiasm at the same time. It scares the shit out of me but yet it is what keeps going with passion and zeal every day.

But I choose to feel proud, over the fact that 2014 will mark the 10th anniversary since I first decided that I would eventually become an author and a filmmaker. Of course, I can somehow, in my own twisted way, call myself an author, thanks to my self published 2011 novel The Rainforest Unicorns, and also my unpublished 500-page saga Last Man Dreaming, which I completed back in June.

But the ambition of becoming a filmmaker has somehow been neglected and has taken a back seat in the midst of me focusing on my increasingly consuming yet fruitful career in journalism, while balancing it with my hours doing creative writing.

It is a bit of let down for a man who wrote his first full film script at the age of 19, which I still have today, six years later, and could still use with minimal tweaks, to make my first full feature film (if anyone would give me that money). It is also a bit of let down for a man who first envisioned a science fiction story spanning a trilogy at the age of 16, (a story that I later re-developed twice in the form of novel drafts, and plan to write a three-part book sometime later).

Circumstances, though, aren’t the same for everyone. Being born in Malaysia and harbouring these dreams are not easy. You know, you kinda have to make a living, and nobody will tell you that pursuing these dreams will put food in your mouth when it matters.

Of course, it’s not easy anywhere in the world, but here, we don’t even have decent opportunities to explore our filmmaking ambitions to begin with. It’s a pain in the ass to get a proper team with proper technical knowledge, and it’s an even bigger pain in the ass to get actors who can actually act given that drama schools are run as though they are for the elite (read, for those who can afford that extra time which doesn’t pay). The rest, we all rot in our offices, slowly clobbering our passion to death with each passing punch card.

Given all these factors, I woke up yesterday to being told that it’s my birthday and I’ve failed to reach the target I set for myself ten years ago, which is to become a director by the age of 25.

But then again, I bask in the fact that nothing has changed- the enthusiasm remains the same, the passion remains the same, and the inspirations come in abundance. The filmmaker inside me might not have a shot a single scene since 2011 (when I shot a music video for a friend), but this is not my trade for me to be rusty after two, or even five years. This, is my talent.

The 16-year-old still lives inside me, and that my spark of inspiration, and the many inspirations after that, remain vivid in my thoughts till today. Looks like no amount of years can eat away into that passion.

Luckily, my passion is still alive. Now, I owe to myself to take it by the scruff of the neck and start making real progress. I might have starved my passion, but now is the time to feed it again.

And, in a rush, all minute moments of inspiration that made me who I am today comes rushing back to my fodder of thoughts, and my fodder of writing.

My moments of inspirations with those teachers of mine whom do not even know they have been guiding me all along:

1. That English teacher whose name I do not remember- when I was 16 and in Form 5. This was when I attempted to write a story and pass it off as an essay for my SPM trials, and she gave me 48 out of the 50 marks available. She attempted to get me to write for the school magazine, but that failed miserably (because I always exceeded the word limit), and she finally gave up while warning to keep my words in check when I write the real examination. But my overzealous self did not listen of course, I wrote a story for 1,000 plus words for my SPM essay and flunked with a B because I gloriously exceeded the word limit.

2. A Biology lecturer I vaguely remember from my short stint at Nilai college, who saw me writing a short story at 8am in the morning in the lab, half an hour before a Biology class during my American Degree Programme course there. He told me, you don’t belong here. He couldn’t have been more right, though I never had the time or maturity back then to thank him.

3. Kamal Haasan, for teaching me what real acting was. For Anbe Sivam, in which you never missed a single twitch in your jaw when you played a man disfigured from a serious accident. For having that innocent smile on your face, for redefining what is joy and also loss, on screen.

4. Mani Ratnam, my guru, for those title credits and the first scene of Aayitha Ezhuttu which stirred something inside me, the building tempo of background music, and the almost careless way with which you portrayed the character of a hit man, ranting on about his wife, moments before committing murder. For giving me that first moment inspiration.

5. Mani Ratnam, again for that climax in Raavanan, which keeps playing in my head as if it’s a form of poetry in motion, for the thoroughly brilliant portrayal of shades of grey in both the perceived evil and the perceived duty bound man in today’s world. For blurring the lines, for making Seetha come close to touching Raavan but pulling him away at the last moment, without ever showing what happened next. Thanks, for being a genius.

6. Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman for those numerous times in which you showed that I’m not a over romantic fool for dreaming about making Indian movies and not Hollywood movies like how the rest of the world seems to think. For showing that art exists even in our song sequences, for showing the songs in Indian movies is not about running around trees like how some self-absorbed tools think, but is rather a great vehicle to tell a story within a story. For shooting Pachai Nirame, which portrayed the different colours of love with such effervescent beauty, for Usure Pogudhey, which could make any filmmaker worth his salt take his hat down and applaud with sheer jealousy as to how it was shot, conceived, composed, and written.

7. Kamal Haasan, again, for making Hey Ram, which showed it is possible to make world class movies in Indian cinema.

8. For that random chance with which I got my hands on a Paulo Coelho novel back in 2007, which taught me a great lesson- that I’m not a filmmaker alone, but rather a storyteller. For showing me that I had an author inside me.

And above all, a thanks to my continuously superficial self which listed eight inspirational moments in my life (being born on 8th, and having already made eight as my favourite number).

Not to forget, to all my friends, well wishers, family and loved ones who, over the years, have stopped laughing at my dreams and have instead nodded in subtle recognition of my talents.

Despite the fears that may envelope me and those who care for me, this should be the year for me to start making a dash for my dreams. I’ve walked on the sidelines for long enough, it’s time for enter the competition and start sprinting.

For that “director sir” inside me.

Maryan- Movie review by Ram Anand

Because what sets Maryan apart from all its predecessors which told stories about eternal love, including ones made by Yash Chopra, is that the energy of love is not told via emotional dialogues, tears, kisses, and dance sequences- it is instead told visually- breathtaking, out of this world visuals.

Towards the halfway point of Maryan, Maryan (Dhanush) quietly slithers out of captivity literally in the middle of a desert in Sudan, and piggy rides at the back of a small truck.

At the same time, his lover Panimalar (Parvathi Menon), who is a shipwreck after hearing Maryan say that he might never come back over the phone, suddenly senses that Maryan is coming back. She bangs her head, and shouts at the top of her voice that he is indeed coming back.

And then you get one of the most majestic background compositions ever- done unmistakably by AR Rahman.

Maryan is all about expectation- if you had gone into the theatre expecting a novel story, with twists and turns, then you’ll get none. Maryan starts and ends predictably, it does not, at any point, make any effort to be unpredictable.

The scene illustrated above is probably as old and cheesy as Indian cinema itself, but trust me it is not something you would feel you have seen umpteen times before. Because what sets Maryan apart from all its predecessors which told stories about eternal love, including ones made by Yash Chopra, is that the energy of love is not told via emotional dialogues, tears, kisses, and dance sequences- it is instead told visually- breathtaking, out of this world visuals.

Another scene is when Maryan reminisces about how he misses his lover while he is stuck in a cave in the middle of nowhere overlooking the moon. “Netru Aval Irundhal” (she was with me yesterday) begins the song.

The scene is not all that exciting. The song was not shot anywhere posh or grand, it was filmed by the sea shores somewhere in India, Dhanush looking like his ragged self, and Parvathi Menon dressed a simple blouse without a make-up.

It’s as old as yore, but the way Bharatbala, the director, and the cinematographer Marc Knonicx films this sequence is quite purely the stuff of legends. Using nothing but the dusk, the sea, and two characters who are in love playing by the sea, this exquisite AR Rahman composition is taken to even greater heights with the visuals.

Maryan does not have a great plot or a great screenplay- it’s not taut, at times it’s even lethargic. But when the final scene unfolds, which you would have saw coming all the way, you realise it was probably purposely made lethargic by the filmmaker, who was trying to paint a bigger canvas of visuals with Maryan.

There’s something subtle, about the way Panimalar looks at her lover and slowly touches him to make sure he was really back in flesh before she slowly lies on his arms.

You always have two ways of making a great movie- either it is a very well written movie, or it is a very well pictured movie. The latter is a rarity- more so in Indian cinema. That’s exactly where Maryan takes the cake.

It takes the old formula of a love story, the old formula of a musical, the old formula of undying, superficial love, and serves it to us with such panache that it morphes itself into a world-class motion picture.

Dhanush and Parvathi Menon keep us engaged throughout by literally wearing their characters on their sleeve. If Raanjhanaa impressed you, this will only prove that Dhanush has quiet rightly entered a league of his own- a league of actors that can be trusted with any character and would be expected to deliver without the director having to push them to any extremities. This man will go places, and can only get better with age.

Parvathi Menon though is the surprise. She looks terribly pretty for a village girl and you start having your reservations about her role, but as the film grows, she increasingly becomes the focal point of the story and delivers with such abundance that she matches Dhanush, and even outshines, in emotional scenes.

Again, watch Netru Aval Irundhal, and you will realise no actress has looked more gorgeous wearing just a simple blouse, like your typical village girl, and crashing on the oncoming waves with her lover. She’s a treat, both visually and also in terms of performance.

But the real hero here is AR Rahman and Marc respectively. The transition points in the story are weaved so greatly with its music, which effortlessly pulls up a notch or pulls down a notch when the situation demands. Make no mistake, this is a pure musical classic. Yenga Pona Raasa, Netru Aval Irundhal, Kadal Raasa Naan and Innum Konja Neram were all done great justice in this movie, and you won’t be able to take off their images when you listen to the songs again after the movie.

Marc, on the other hand, shot dusk in one sequence so eloquently that it can make you melt if you are a fan of nature. The way he shoots the landscapes of both the desert and the sea with such visual contrast adds to the feel that the whole story was bringing, at times even symbolic- the sea is where Maryan rules.

The word Kadal Raasa can’t be defined better.

Bharatbala was here an able captain. He takes this potpourri of breathtaking visuals, a story inspired by a true event that showed a man’s determination, two great performances, and a timeless music score and literally does justice to everything.

There’s only one thing missing from Maryan- unpredictability. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this movie and many take aways it provides with its visual poetry.

This movie has its soul in the right place.

Rating: 8.5/10

Raanjhanaa- Movie Review by Ram Anand

Just like love- you just can’t describe. It’s ambiguous, beautiful, heart breaking and at times incomprehensible. Raanjhanaa is exactly one such film.

Did this same filmmaker direct Tanu Weds Manu two years ago?

There’s something unsettling about Raanjhanaa’s climax. After two odd hours of watching a Banarasi delivery boy travelling all over the country just so that he could impress, and later find retribution for his guilt feeling, you sit there, in the theatre, and you can understand when the hero simply concludes by saying that he could wake up again if he wants to, but he just doesn’t have the mood- not to fall in love madly again, slit his wrists, and be betrayed.

Once in a while, you watch a cinema that is such a tour de force that it stays true to its conviction, and delivers a story that only needs reflection and pondering- and not so much judgement. Raanjhanaa is one such film.

The title of the film means the beloved, or more accurately a mad lover- and normally refers to a male. Dhanush’s Kundan is the perfect epitome of this word.

He falls in love with Zoya, a Muslim girl as she was offering namaz, when he was only 10 years old. She becomes his life, she defines his life. He never looks back. He gets close enough to her to offer her a kiss after consistently wooing her, but eight years after she is sent out of town by her parents who had discovered their innocent romance, Zoya returns, in love with someone else.

But Kundan is still adamant about wanting her, and after numerous attempts and approaches, he had to simply play the sidekick as he arranges for her to be with her lover, only to later ruin her wedding and has to live with the guilt.

What follows is a captivating, sometimes bizarre, journey that this man takes to find retribution and love from the woman he had spent a lifetime obsessing over.

Dhanush as Kundan delivers one of the best debuts in recent Bollywood history. Bollywood did not have a good track record as far as fresh debuts are concerned, but Dhanush breaks that mould, probably owing to his repertoire of being a National Award winning actor from South India.

He might be having unconventional looks but the fact remains that, he is exactly the fresh face Bollywood needs amidst a plethora good looking hunks who have been debuting in the industry over the past few years. His slightly tinged Hindi accent suits with his characterisation, while there is simply no other actor who can pull off the role of a dedicated lover as good as this man. This man is going places, and on the evidence on Raanjhanaa, there’s no stopping him.

Sonam Kapoor as Zoya excels in the first half, but falls slightly below par when it comes to pulling off the more emotionally taxing scenes in the second half of the movie. She didn’t seem to comprehend the fact that this film is about Zoya as much as it is about Kundan, but unfortunately at times she portrays Zoya as indecisive, volatile young lady who’s blinded by her own love and ambitions.

Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub however is a real show stealer in his role as Kundan’s friend Murari, while Swara Bhaskar is captivating as Bindiya.

Abhay Deol makes a fleeting appearance, but leaves a telling impact despite his eventually short-live appearance.

Raanjhanaa is not best films you will see in terms of execution, it was near-perfect in the first half as a budding, innocent love story- but once the innocence was stripped off, some of the scenes does get on your nerves, while some scenes leave you lost, losing focus on the story.

But as far as story and screenplay are concerned, this is one of the best written films of all time. Raanjhanaa is like a bravura Shakespearean tragedy- it starts like a beautiful melody but ends like melancholic poem, with plenty to reflect upon.

AR Rahman’s music blends in seamlessly into the movie and some great compositions carry the story and the emotions through the second half (notice the lyrics of some second half songs, they are timeless). If you want to see songs shot with beauty, that the picturisation of the most popular tracks from the album, Tum Tak and Raanjhanaa, should appease your tastes.

Raanjhanaa is not just a love story- it is tour de force that explores the white, grey and dark shades of love added with a shocking twist- pivoting around a character that is purely driven by love, and who doesn’t find purpose in love.

As you sit and watch the protagonist lamenting in a voiceover about his life in the final scene, you will be tempted to laugh as much as you are tempted to cry.

Just like love- you just can’t describe. It’s ambiguous, beautiful, heart breaking and at times incomprehensible.

Raanjhanaa is exactly one such film. Class, redefined. Where were you hiding Aanand L Rai? Now I would look forward to his next movie.

Raanjhanaa- Music Review by Ram Anand

All in all, Raanjhanaa is a brilliant, fantabulous album that once again must be savoured from ARR. My picks would be Tu Mun Shudi, Tum Tak, Raanjhanaa, Ay Sakhi and Piya Milenge. Well, that’s a lot of picks, isn’t there? That’s how good this album is.

Anand L Rai’s directorial debut Tanu Weds Manu was widely enjoyed by audience even if it didn’t find much takers among critics. Anand seems to have developed a soft spot for South Indian actors- after casting Madhavan in his debut, he is handing Dhanush his Bollywood debut, that too alongside well known Bollywood names such as Sonam Kapoor and Abhay Deol.

But the main appeal of Raanjhanaa is definitely it’s music, which is composed by AR Rahman, a boon for any filmmaker who is making a romantic movie. ARR himself has not been particularly handed films with such romantic potentials in such a long time, thus it was easy to see why ARR has delivered such a soothing, top shelf album that will be savoured by music lovers for a long time.

Raanjhanaa (Shiraz Uppal and Jaswinder Singh)

The album starts with a rendition of the title track itself- and you can’t ask for a better start for a colourful album. Raanjhanaa is full of energy, beautifully balanced with beauty and melody. It gives the impression of an epic love saga transcending time, something the film’s trailer also attempts to portray. Shiraz Uppal and Jaswinder Singh do a great job behind the mic, and this is one song of its kind you won’t get to hear very often in Bollywood.

Of course, it also seems to be tailor made to cater to Dhanush’s dancing abilities, and this number is one that will remain in the memories for some time.

Tum Tak (Javed Ali and Keerthi Sagathia)

Delicious! The first listen might not sound too appealing to you, but a repeat listen can you make you melt with the sufi touches in the middle, especially in the second stanza of the song when ARR uses Javed Ali’s brilliant voice to the tee to create a very loveable ambience about the whole song.

In the myriad of party and westernised songs we have in Bollywood today, this song is sort of a throwback, full of classical interludes, and the whole song is about a man’s devotion towards the woman that he loves. Songs like these are very rare to come by.

Savour them while you can.

Banasriya (Shreya Ghosal)

There are songs that you can listen for the music, but there also songs that you can listen for the beauty of the voice alone. Banasriya is a fairly simple composition (at least by ARR’s standards), but then the moment you listen to Shreya’s sweet voice, it is very hard to skip this number.

Not to forget there is a very catchy middle stanza that enhances the uniqueness of this song, which again is owned completely by the voice of Shreya Ghosal.

It has been a fair bit of time since we had Shreya singing for ARR, and thus this can be savoured for that very reason, while the classical undertones of the entire song are very soothing, uncomplicated, and ultimately appealing.

Piya Milenge (Sukhwinder Singh)

Starts off slightly haunting then traverses into the sufi territory with utmost gusto and comes out with flying colours once you give it one full listen.

This is ARR’s composing genius at its best. Sukhwinder’s voice is an added bonus to the entire song, but this composition is more about ARR’s balance of sufi and modern music to create a beautiful song which is very much in touch with Banarasi roots of this song.

This is gorgeous. Here’s hoping the song would be given justice on the screen.

Ay Sakhi (Chinmayi and Madushree)

All about beautiful voices and classical touches. It reminds me of Yaaro Yaarodi from Alaipayuthey for a start, only that this an improvised version that has released some 13 years later.

Chinmayi and Madushree are an excellent combination, their voices elevate the song greatly, and this one song that is catchy from the off. ARR also surprises with his quirky infusions of techno beats in the middle of classical stanzas- similar to the legendary Gehnda Phool from Delhi 6.

Solid!

Nazar Laaye (Rashid Ali and Neeti Mohan)

I can’t really say any song in this album is bad. There are either excellent songs or really good songs. Naazar Laaye falls in the latter category, that’s all.

Again, it starts with a slightly techno beat but Rashid and Neeti’s voice make for an excellent, sweet, ballad of a duet that will surely linger in the memories of those who have the mood for a slow, lullaby romantic song.

Tu Mun Shudi (AR Rahman and Rabbi Shergill)

Smile.

AR Rahman goes behind the mic himself, and as usual, delivers the number that has the most zip in the whole of the album. Probably the only one that doesn’t have any classical touches to it, this is pure passion and the fire of youth.

Rabbi is an unconventional choice for a song like this, but he pulls it off brilliantly as he complements ARR’s brilliant rendition. It has a tone of success in it, and as usual, the brilliant ARR beings out the exact mood of the situation with his song.

Aise Naa Dekho (AR Rahman)

Remember Tu Boloon Mein Boloon from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na? If you do, then you would know exactly what I am talking about. Sung by ARR himself, this is a super slow ballad about a man naughtily asking a woman to stop looking at him in a seductive way.

This song is all about the lyrics and casual way with which ARR delivers it, with heavy jazz undertones, in which ARR uses minimal instrumental interferences.

This song for a select mood and a select time, but you appreciate it’s niche, then this is as good as it can get.

All in all, Raanjhanaa is a brilliant, fantabulous album that once again must be savoured from ARR. My picks would be Tu Mun Shudi, Tum Tak, Raanjhanaa, Ay Sakhi and Piya Milenge. Well, that’s a lot of picks, isn’t there? That’s how good this album is.

Maryan (Mariyaan)- Music Review by Ram Anand

Regardless, AR Rahman has given a stonking, high original album for Bharatbala that competes tit-for-tat with ARR’s brilliant work for Mani Ratnam in Kadal. Similarities cannot be missed, because just like Kadal, this film too is about a man from the fishing community and his travails.

So, we have Dhanush and AR Rahman coming together for the first time. But this is about Dhanush and AR Rahman. What makes this album so special is the combination of Bharatbala and AR Rahman.

Bharatbala was the brains behind ARR’s famous 1997 patriotic album Vante Mataram, and their relationship stretches for a long time- just that it was never displayed in a mainstream movie as Bharatbala was yet to direct his first feature movie- until Maryan that is.

Regardless, AR Rahman has given a stonking, high original album for Bharatbala that competes tit-for-tat with ARR’s brilliant work for Mani Ratnam in Kadal. Similarities cannot be missed, because just like Kadal, this film too is about a man from the fishing community and his travails.

But yet ARR gives this album such a distinct flavour that it stands out on its own- none of these songs remind you directly Kadal songs- and that’s not to say whether they are better or worse. They are just incomparable but equally as good.

Now that is a testament to AR Rahman.

Nenje Yezhu (AR Rahman)

There are some emotions, some spirit, some passion, that only the voice and the musical touch of AR Rahman can evoke. Nenje Yezhu sets the album starting with a sense of brimming positivity that concurs with the theme of Maryan- the perseverance of one man. The song is about a man clinging on to the hope of love, and about how love offers the only reprieve even though despite all the hardships that the man faces. ARR did Vanthe Mataram for Bharatbala, and I am sure in the annals of time, this song will be remembered for generations to come when they look for inspiration and magic. Pure ARR territory.

I Love my Africa (Blaaze and AR Rahman)

This is a bit of a South American fusion and elements dazzled along with African elements to churn out a number with a distinct flavour to it. The song at times appears to be your typical introduction to a new country number that leaves next to no impression, but something about the arrangements and Blaaze’s presence make this number quite catchy when you listen to it on its own- though its almost a certainty it will have very limited time on the screen.

Yenga Ponna Raasa (Saktishree Gopalan and AR Rahman)

Saktishree Gopalan is at it again. But this is nowhere near the same as Nenjukulle from Kadal. This is a typical AR Rahman slow poison- its like a seaside ballad with minimal percussions, that picks up soul as it builds up momentum slowly. The middle stanza has ARR’s genius stamped all over it- and Sakthishree is quickly but surely making a household name for herself. What a singer this woman is. While she brought out the love of a woman so well in Nenjukulle, she expresses the pain of a stricken lover with such aptness in her voice. Another great ARR find, needless to say.

Kadal Raasa Naan (Yuvan Shankar Raja)

Well, this is not something you get often- Yuvan Shankar Raja singing a song for AR Rahman, for Dhanush’s dancing pleasure. To be honest, Kaadal Raasa Naan starts in very untypical AR Rahman manner- its quite run of the mill, but just when you get that impression- the song is thrown into a medley mixture to portray a man’s life as a fisherman. Yes, the theme, setting, and the purpose sounds very similar to Elay Keechan from Kadal- but this song was meant for Dhanush’s feet to do the dancing- and it’s as catchy as you would expect it would be. With ARR’s quirky tunes added in the middle- you will walk away remembering this number for some time. Thumbs up!

Sonapareeya (Javed Ali and Haricharan)

Right after Kadal Raasa Naan, the catchy tunes continue with Sonapareeya, a song that absolutely takes off from the word go! It sounds like it has very little special going for it, but you can’t avoid tapping your feet along with the song as it grows. Haricharan and Javed Ali are quite a stunning combination- and they infuse such infectious energy into this song that it will leaves quite a mark on you too. Definitely matches the Kadal Raasa Naan energy, though as you would expect ARR- both these songs may fall in the same genre- but they sound nowhere near the same!

Netru Aaval Irundhal (Vijay Prakash and Chinmayi)

The first time I listened to this number while working, I could not understand why Dhanush singled out this number as his pick from the album. I wanted to be sure about this number before I wrote this review, and I was right. There are one of those songs when you just let yourself go to bask in its magic. If you have loved Moongil Thottam from Kadal, you will know what I am talking about. It’s a beautiful duet ballad, and Vijay Prakash is in impeccable form here- it’s easily among the best numbers he has ever sung. Chinmayi compliments him with such succulent perfection. Once you get a hang of this, you won’t get enough of it.

Masterpiece.

Innum Konja Neram (Vijay Prakash and Shweta Mohan)

A pretty perfect antithesis to this album. This slow, catchy, carefree song is a simple number about a guy appealing to his girlfriend that he wants more time to spend with her. That’s what the album will leave you with- it grows with a wave of a momentum and gets to a point of magical touch where you are left asking for more.

But there’s not just enough to satisfy your thirst- but that’s not to say it falls short in any way. It would be a travesty to say something like that. This album is just like this song- beautiful, innocent, and just not long enough to quench all your thirst.

This is one of the most pure Tamil albums AR Rahman has come up with in a long time, and it proves that if given the freedom to just compose a mixture of love-personal perseverance songs for an movie that would ride highly on his music, he would weave magic!

Who said the nothing beats the ARR of the 90s? Adapt your ears and find the magic between these lines, especially in Netru Aaval Irundha.

Rating: 9/10