- Uttama Villain (The good villain)
- O Kadhal Kanmani (O love, my dear)
- Tanu Weds Manu Returns
- Tamasha ( The spectacle)
The four films that earned my applause and repeated viewing in 2015.
Why do they always end the fun part? But of course, the younger Ved constantly asked that question to his banyan tree ‘storyteller’ in this non-linear narrative. But that’s life. Fun ends. Insecurities start.
Sitting at a cafe library in Delhi, Tara (Deepika Padukone) is reading a book called Catch 22, eagerly hoping she would somehow bump into Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), the man whom she knew as Don from her short holiday in Corsica, France.
Nah, I’m kidding. This song is more than seven minutes long. Discovery? Fuck that. I’m getting lost in this number. I’ll lose myself. I’ll rediscover myself some other day. I’ve been taken over by the music.
There are two things that I look forward the most when it comes to Indian cinema- a Mani Ratnam film and an AR Rahman musical. With “Tamasha” (Show), the legendary Rahman teams up with filmmaker Imtiaz Ali for the third time, and their previous two collaborations is enough to cause pangs of excitement.
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.
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.
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.
Orianthi, Michale Jackson’s ex guitarist, has teamed up with AR Rahman for the year’s greatest anthem song. This song will be on everybody’s lips for eons to come, like how Rang de Basanti was. This is a generation’s song, a hot-blooded composition and will make your veins pump.
It is here. After months of teasing an entire legion of supporters that swear by the ‘Rahmanism’, AR Rahman has returned as a music composer for an Indian film for the first in time in almost a year.
2010 was a glorious year for ARR fans in a sense. For a man who averaged one or two films a year ever since the turn of the millennium, a practice that saw him reach the peak of international recognition, ARR delivered four albums last year. But with the exception of Endhiran, which was a typical commercial mix that did not explore ARR’s ability to deliver soulful compositions, none of the other films succeeded. Both Raavan and Jhootha Hi Sahi had excellent musical score, but they got drowned along with the films’ unconvincing run in the box office.
It was a case of delivering a lot only to have a part of it widely recognized. Grapevine has it that Imitaz Ali (Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kaal) wanted to make Rockstar a long time ago and had always wanted ARR to be part of the team, and vice versa. It is easy to understand why. Though we pride ourselves as a musical industry, it is not often that a pure musical is made here. Rockstar is one of that select few- a project that would allow ARR to fully express the musical versatility he normally brings to a table. I have always encouraged Rehman to go ahead and make films with young director (Gautham, Imitaz, Abbas to name a few) instead of sticking to some veterans who have passed their sell-by date and hardly do justice to his music (read Subash Ghai).
So without much ado, it is time to review the year’s most anticipated album, for which the demand was accentuated by the fact that T-Series took an awfully long time in releasing the music. (A full week from the originally planned date).
The specialty of this album, note, is ARR’s decision to use only Mohit Chauhan as Ranbir Kapoor’s singing voice. This is in itself a refreshing, logical decision miles away from the image of having one actor mouthing songs sung by so many different singers even while playing a musician- and this soundtrack has a whopping 14 tracks- I’m reviewing the 11 tracks, leaving out the instrumental numbers.
Phir Se Ud Chala (Mohit Chauhan)
The album begins with ‘Phir Se Ud Chala’, which starts with a very traditional chorus, and slowly slips into a catchy tune, with Mohit Chauhan, trying to do the Masakali thing again here, made famous two years ago through Delhi 6. It is unconventional, but tell me the last time ARR did something that followed this conservational rulebook? The song is a romantic ballad about flying away with love, has few keyboard mixes thrown into it. Simple in length and with a heavy North Indian flavor to it, Phir Se Ud Chala gives you a breezy feeling. I would say this is a very good one, if only the others that followed weren’t so mind-blowing.
Jo Bhi Mein (Mohit Chauhan)
“Whatever that is I have got to say..” that’s how this song starts (translated, of course). That tells you everything you’ve got to know about it. With a small ‘yaya’ at the start and the sound of the crowd singing along with the singer, it reminds of you of Bob Marley. ARR uses instruments that almost reminds me of ‘No Woman No Cry’, but makes sure there are modern undertones. The lyrics are wonderful, a form of self-expression. This song is about Jordan and everything he has got to say as a musician. This is rock, but not the adrenaline type that we often tend to assume as rock. This is soulful rock. Mohit flexes his vocal muscles magnificently and you’ve got to love it when he soulfully goes high pitch. Just listen what this composition has got to deliver. With a little patience, you will feel utterly connected, an effect only the brand AR Rahman can give.
Kateya Karun (Harshdeep Kaur, Sapna Awasthi)
It’s a bit like Rang de Basanti, a Punjabi folk rhythm starting the song off with consistent interludes. This is the rhythm you heard when you saw the first trailer of Rockstar. But the cuteness in full length is almost unlimited. With brilliant interludes in between that make the song a great blend of folk and blues, this one works big time, and will have you tapping your feet big time. Harshdeep Kaur is brilliant big time. Let’s just ‘ding-a-ling-ding-a-ling’.
Kun Faya Kun (AR Rahman, Javed Ali, Mohit Chauhan)
Oh, oh, oh. Take a bow. Every time AR Rahman composes a devotional song, it sounds so soulful that you’d think if God were listening, He himself would have a smile on his face. After a typical slow, warm-up start, the moment the song goes ‘Kun Faya Kun’, you are already witnessing one the best Sufi compositions ever dished on screen. Having loved both ‘Khwaja’ from Jodhaa Akbar and ‘Arziyan’ from Delhi 6, this is another wonderful addition to that legendary list. I may be a Hindu, but this kind of compositions breaks all religious barriers and makes you clap along with them. It’s a solid seven minutes of one of the most pure, soulful compositions you’ll ever hear this year and beyond.
Sheher Mein (Mohit Chauhan, Karthik)
Speechless. Not everyone will appreciate this composition. But anyone who knows music will know how difficult it is to compose something like this. This song is a personification of Jordan’s talent. It begins with Karthik crooning to certain lyrics, which Mohit (Ranbir) will later so uniquely improvise up till the end of the song. This is a conversational song that has its own purpose and tells a story on its own. It’s not often you get to hear something like this, don’t you? Mohit, by the way, is just awesome.
Haawa Haawa (Mohit Chauhan, Tanvi, Vivianne)
Suddenly out of nowhere a composition that is very Arabic in nature. The way Mohit croons immediately gives you the Mediterranian feel, which is maintained throughout the track. Against, in a Masakali way, ARR experiments, makes it conversational, allowing Mohit full freedom to go high and low pitches alternatively. The song also has hints of European setting, and is very carefree in nature. Good listen.
Aur Ho (Mohit Chauhan, Alma Ferovic)
A dramatic rock composition, it starts with Alma Ferovic’s soulful chorus. Mohit goes incredibly high pitch and proves what he can do as a dramatic singer. Mohit simply has to be one of the best singers in his generation, and this song, helped ARR’s orchestra backed composition re-affirms this fact. A soul-searching, epic-sounding number.
Tum Ko (Kavita Subramaniam)
The opening lines reminds me of ‘Waiting for You’ from Jhootha Hi Sahi, a song that I initially didn’t rate too highly but later went on to grow immensely on me. This song wouldn’t need to wait so long on me though, thanks to the infusion of tabla, making it a fusion of Western and Indian sounds. A romantic ballad, this was sung with controlled refrain by Kavita Subramaniam. The arrangements outshine her vocals, but if you wanted a romantic groove from AR Rahman, there, you have got it. It however is very similar to ‘Tu Muskura’ from Yuvvraaj as well.
Nadaan Parindey (Mohit Chauhan, AR Rahman)
‘Nadaan Parindey Gar Aaja’. This is a homecoming rock composition. If you request ARR compose a homecoming song, he never fails to infuse such rich emotions to it. Within seconds you are tapping your feet to it. Even within a rock realm, ARR has this incredible ability to suck you into his music. A simply amazing composition. Mohit’s interludes brilliantly compliments ARR’s vocals at the beginning. This is AR Rahman ki Jaadhu.
Tum Ho (Mohit Chauhan)
Tum Ho is basically the male version of Tum Ko. But this is not a direct rehash of the same tune. It reminds me of the male and female versions of ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ in JTYJN. One carried a sadder anthem while the other was catchy, simple, and more romantic. Here, Tum Ho, which has some magical piano usage, is the romantic one while Tum Ko had a pang of sadness in it. A slow ballad that’s reminiscent ‘Oh Venilla’ AR Rahman.
Sadda Haq (Mohit Chauhan)
By this time, you must have been wondering where is Rockstar’s anthem song, Sadda Haq. First of all, here’s some news for those who do not know. Orianthi, Michale Jackson’s ex guitarist, has teamed up with AR Rahman for the year’s greatest anthem song. This song will be on everybody’s lips for eons to come, like how Rang de Basanti was. This is a generation’s song, a hot-blooded composition and will make your veins pump. At least once while listening you’ll get this urge to smash something in front of you. The lyrics ‘why are you preaching truth when you can’t stomach the truth’ will linger with you for a long time. AR Rahman has left the best for the last. A maximum marking doesn’t do justice to this number. Full of anger, frustration, and hardcore rock arranged so beautifully, all I can say is ARR knows how to even make angst sound so catchy.
Oh eco friendly, nature ki rakshak, mein bhi hun nature.
All I could say is- ‘Chamak Challo’ what? Rockstar is the big deal. The biggest deal of the year. Just keep saying ‘Sadda Haq’, because AR Rahman is grooving again. This is one of his best albums in an illustrious career.