Best four of Indian cinema- 2015

The four films that earned my applause and repeated viewing in 2015.

  1. Uttama Villain (The good villain)
Cast: Kamal Haasan, K Balachander, Andrea Jeremiah, Urvashi, Pooja Kumar, Parvathy
Director: Ramesh Aaravind
Plot:
Manoranjan is an alcoholic middle aged South Indian superstar. At the premiere of his latest film, he discovers that he is suffering from a brain tumour and also discovers that he actually has a daughter from a previous affair that ended tragically.
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Now married with a son while at the same time maintaining an affair with his family doctor, Manoranjan confronts his mortality by returning to his cinema mentor to make one last movie, while at the same time reconciling all the relationships in his life- including his long estranged daughter who resents him.
My take:
Uttama Villain wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who had taken a liking to the film, it is highly likely to feature high in their list if they were ever to make one such list for 2015. Written by the ever versatile Kamal himself, Uttama Villain is an unique cinematic experience, there is an intense family drama, a deconstruction of fame, and a half-satire about mortality all rolled into one film.
This is something South Indian stars had almost never done before, deconstructing their own fame to a human level and even putting out their flaws out there for everyone to see. Uttama Villain was almost a self parody of the enigma that is Kamal Haasan himself and how he views his own life story- with ambiguous, albeit very personal, spiritualism.
And the way the screenplay weaves in all the relationships he has- with his wife, with his son, with his family doctor, his mentor, and also his past love affair which resulted in a daughter, is subtle and poetic, and the same time without judging or preaching about a flawed man’s life.
Easily the most delectable piece of work in Indian cinema for 2015.
  1. O Kadhal Kanmani (O love, my dear)
Cast: Dulquer Salman, Nithya Menen, Prakash Raj, Leela Sampson
Director: Mani Ratnam
Plot:
Aadhi and Tara are two South Indian youths plying their trade in India’s financial capital Mumbai. They hit it off immediately after meeting at a friend’s wedding and their whirlwind romance ends up with them living together under the same roof, albeit sharing the space with Aadhi’s middle aged landlord, who cares for his wife, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.
But as time passes by, Aadhi and Tara must confront the realities of living together in a largely traditional society, while at the same time choosing between chasing their individual dreams or staying with each other.
My take:
Mani Ratnam, the man credited for revolutionising Tamil cinema, has not had pleasant outings with his last two movies- Raavan and Kadal, even though the former remains an all time favourite for me.
OK Kanmani, in so many levels, is Ratnam going back to a turf he had not touched since his timeless romantic drama Alaipayuthey, which was made 15 years ago. But it also completes an unique romance trilogy that displayed his mastery as an auteur.
In 1986, Ratnam broke into the scene with Mouna Ragam, which explored the relationship between a couple who had got into an arranged marriage half heartedly and how they try to make it work. 14 years later, with Alaipayuthey, the central theme was about a couple who elope to get married without their parents’ consent.
With every movie, Ratnam had documented the changing societal landscape in India, which is still largely traditional. OK Kanmani explores live in relationships in the context of India, and also brilliantly juxtaposes it with the relationship of an older couple who are devoted to each other.
It also raises a crucial dilemma for the youths of today- being torn between chasing individual dreams and trying to reconcile them with a partner. Of course, above all this, is the ability of the 59-year-old master filmmaker to capture the pulse of the young generation in the way he develops the romance between the two leads. The dialogues are minimal yet exquisite, the shot compositions are typically masterful, and the overall mood of the film are in the hallmarks of a legendary filmmaker.
Mani Ratnam is back.
  1. Tanu Weds Manu Returns
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, R Madhavan, Jimmy Shergill
Director: Anand L Rai
Plot:
Four years after Tanu and Manu’s marriage, their romance has petered off, leading to consistent fights. Manu finally has a meltdown, resulting in him being admitted in a psychiatric ward. When he does get discharged, he is ready to divorce Tanu and in the process meets Tanu’s doppleganger, Kusum.
Things between Manu and Kusum proceed quickly and ends up in them being set for a marriage, but Tanu is not prepared to let go so easily, even though she initially starts dating other men in her effort to get over him.
My take:
If Tanu Weds Manu was sweet, twisted, and funny, it’s sequel is just double in dosage, thanks in no small part to Kangana Ranaut, who plays a dual role in this film.
She again steals the show as Tanu, but this time, she is not competing with with any other actors but herself- the other role- Kusum. And by the time credits roll, it’s difficult to tell which role packed a bigger punch.
TWMR is also packed with brilliant, quirky subplots that makes you feel like you are watching a Shakespearean stage comedy play. The pacing is brilliant, the acting exceptional, laughter aplenty, and a fitting ending to go with the tone of the rest of the movie.
TWMR is a pure, classy riot of an entertainer.
  1. Tamasha ( The spectacle)
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Plot: 
Ved and Tara meet in Corsica during vacation and their romance takes off. They make a pact never to meet each other again post the vacation, but Tara could not get him out of her head despite four years passing by.
She tracks down the man she fell in love with in Corsica, who is a sales manager by professions, but is slowly confronted by the reality that Ved in Delhi was not the same Ved she had longed for from the French trip.
At the same time, Tara’s presence reveals Ved’s struggle with his inner creativity, his childhood frustrations, and his yearning to come out of a box.
My take:
The most beautiful movie of the year. Tamasha had the best music of 2015, by the timeless AR Rahman, and of course a filmmaker, Imtiaz Ali, who had made a glowing career by making each and every film with an element of self discovery.
Tamasha is the crescendo of what Ali has been building up over the years- here, he sheds conventional, methodical storytelling traditions, and weaves the screenplay like a stage play- divided into acts.
It is also a musical, filled with gorgeous music that flows seamlessly with the narration.
Ranbir Kapoor is immense as Ved, as the sales manager and the creative storyteller yearning to express himself. Deepika Padukone’s Tara shares excellent chemistry with Ved and holds her own in the scenes she is involved in.
Tamasha is just a beautifully made movie. And a movie that was made right from Imtiaz Ali’s heart.

Tamasha- Movie Review by Ram Anand

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.

We all know what is eventually going to happen- there is no unpredictability here. This scene has been played a hundred times over, in a hundred movies over. The fun at Corsica just had to end, and they just had to make life difficult for themselves. But don’t we all?
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Then she catches a glimpse of him. The background music, which was silent, gives way to the final beats of “Heer to Badi Sad Hai”. We are treated with the grinning faces of Punjabi folks music performers, singing about Heer’s state of mind, as she runs down the stairs, runs back back up, and struggles to make up her mind on whether she should make herself visible to Ved. When she finally walks over and he says hi to her, overcome with excitement, she sits at a coffee table and does a small fist pump to herself. Now, this, you don’t see in a hundred movies over. It’s called treatment and characterisation. And in Tamasha, it’s as gorgeous as Deepika’s heart melting reactions- especially when she hesitates and says “Oh okay” when Ved tells her she has no boyfriend.
Of course, the mass populace will moan and gripe about the “boringness” of this second half, especially after a rollicking first hour in Corsica. 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.
But then, Ranbir Kapoor’s bravura performance takes over. The way he converses to the mirror, somewhat creepily, shows, the alter ego, the dual personality, that he has been hiding. And in more than one way, hints at how that common 9am-5pm man on the street, who does exactly the same things everyday, might have hidden a Don inside himself.
Ved and Don fight each other quintessentially in the second half- and Don can no longer take it. He is yearning to come out, and the more Ved restraints, the more damage Don causes to Ved’s sanity. This is not something new for an Imtiaz Ali movie, he started this paradigm of exploring the psychology of his protagonists intently with Rockstar. He followed that up a notch higher with Alia Bhatt fighting the demons of sexual abuse and Stockholm syndrome in Highway. In Tamasha, the canvas is larger, and the performance a masterpiece.
There will plenty of reviews to tell you how good the Corsica part was, but Tamasha can be best epitomised in that intense scene at a pub when Ved and Tara wrestle each other.
Ved is telling Tara he might hurt her as he is unsure of his own behaviour, while Tara, looking totally shattered, asks herself “what have I done?”- she had touched a raw nerve that had triggered his other personality.
As Ved finally succumbs to crying and admitting that Tara’s words had totally changed him, he turns away from her and lays his face on the table. She imitates him, and pats on him on the head. AR Rahman works his magic here with the best number of a sumptuous album- Tum Saath Ho.
And there is this line from Irshad Kamil, the lyricist- “There are dreams in your eyes, your dreams are full of disappointment, I feel whatever you may say- they are full of lies. What difference does it make- if you are with me or not? Life is cruel, and always be cruel”.
Fine poetry, legendary musical, aesthetic direction, and two wonderful talents competing with each other on their acting chops.
Yes, I will tell you Tamasha is entirely predictable- as predictable as the high you will get if you drink a bottle of wine all on your own.
The question is- do you enjoy the taste of fine wine? Does it make a difference whether it’s wine bottled in 2010 or one bottled 100 years ago?
If you have proper, delectable taste, Tamasha will bowl you over, and leave you moved.
And just think, how many of us are struggling to get out of the box liked Ved?
A beautiful movie made on a canvas of great emotions, this will linger on me for sometime, I can tell you that much.
Rating: 9/10

Tamasha- Music Review by Ram Anand

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.

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First, there was the timeless album Rockstar (2011), in which the range that was brought out by Rahman made it one of his best albums in a career spanning over two decades- while Highway (2014), was a hidden gem that contained some of the most carefully composed tunes you’ll ever hear, if you are bothered to listen carefully.
Hence why, the first thing I did this morning was to get my hands on a Tamasha album, and quickly ensured I had listened to each tracks at least three times before I posted this review.
And there is not gonna be a review more apt for me to end my hibernation from Thou Art So Beautiful, as I had not written much here this calendar year.
Here goes.
Matargasthi (Mohit Chauhan)
Now, the promo video making rounds since last week had already captured the imagination of millions. Ranbir Kapoor’s quirky dance moves, with Deepika Padukone’s energy, had already promised a great musical number with a mix of unconventional sound mixing. If anyone remembers what Mohit Chauhan did for ARR in Rockstar, this is right up that classic alley. Once again, Rahman brings out a new range in Mohit’s vocals, and both of them combine to deliver an absolutely mental, breathless, and soothing number.
Where Rahman stands out in the deluge of Bollywood hit numbers is the fact that he does not relegate his dance numbers to all of high pitch noise and blasting music. Keeping in mind that the song is shot in the outdoors of Corsica (a gorgeous island), Matargasthi tells a story of its own with the flow of its music. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics flow seamlessly with the music- resembling “Hawa Hawa” from Rockstar, which was shot in Prague.
The highlight, apart from Mohit’s vocals and that cute “ding a ding” and that minute pistol sounds (all part of the storytelling elements)- is of course the rather melodious second half of the song- where Mohit switches his vocals- and the violins come in to allow Ranbir to do his effervescent impersonation of Dev Anand. An absolutely Tamasha way to start an album to begin an album that Rahman fans had been craving for months now.
And man, he did not disappoint.
Rating: 10/10
Heer To Badi Sad Hai (Mika Singh, Nakash Aziz)
Mix that Punjabi folklore tune with Mika Singh’s voice, you’d normally expect a high pitched dance number- but again this is AR Rahman’s touch. With Irshad’s lyrics, this song describes the female protagonist (Heer)’s sad emotions and frustration. There is a journey element in this number (Imtiaz’s films always have an element of travel interconnected with personal emotional growth).
The beats are absolutely catchy- for a song that has the word “Sad” in it, this song is far from a sad hearing. Mika gorgeously goes high pitch at the middle stanzas, and this must have been one of the best numbers he had sung in a long, long time.
Then, comes the final one minute in which ARR takes it to another level with a gorgeous beats that have become the theme of the film’s trailer. Captures your imagination- and your musical senses. Sumptuous..
Rating: 9.5/10
Tum Saath Ho (Alka Yagnik and Arjit Singh)
Look who’s returned! Aka Yagnik is behind the mic for ARR after a long time, and my, the results are as sweet as her voice. An out and out, soulful, romantic number- ARR kills it with his use of flute and two different tempos for Alka and Arjit’s portions.
This stands right up there with the likes of Tum Ho (Rockstar), and Heer (Highway)- songs that takes you to a different plain altogether.
The soul of AR Rahman’s songs in this album is captured in this extremely delectable number. “Teri Nazrein Me Sapne, Tere Sapne Mein Narazi”.
This is beautiful poetry mixed with beautiful sound mixing, with the voice of one of the best female singers of the recent generations. And it has everything- tablas, flute, you name it.
Not to forget, Arjit does an exemplary work with his parts as well. You do not expect anything less from an AR Rahman album do you?
Rating: 10/10
Wat Wat Wat (Arjit Singh and Sashwat Singh)
This is another song that has Punjabi folklore elements- and elements of a personal journey. This tells a story of a man who, literally, got “done over” by a woman he loved- hence the “Wat”.
The percussions are absolutely quirky but it all settles nicely in a soulful rhythm. Arjit does an excellent job and seems to be having fun behind the mic.
On another day, this could have been a situational song- but as situational the lyrics sound, this song comes out as catchy as Heer To Badi Sad Hai.
Rating: 9/10
Chali Kahani (Sukhwinder Singh, Haricharan, and Haripriya)
Begins with a slow flute, and suddenly you have a grand orchestra coming in. Probably the richest composition in the album, Chali Kahani is the central song of the album- the one that befits the theme “Why always the same story?”
Fittingly, this composition never settles in a monotony. The tune changes orchestra to carnatic effortlessly. Sukhwinder Singh, needless to say, does what a veteran like him does so best- anchor the different tunes so well, before Haricharan flexes his sweet vocals for a brief time- along with Haripriya.
This song is an important backstory to the film- and befitting to an album like Tamasha, is so bloody high in musical quality. Three or four listens, and you’ll be taken in by ARR’s stunning background musical mix.
Now, it’s time to wait for the story.
Rating: 9/10
Safarnama (Lucky Ali)
Who would have thought Lucky Ali will get one of the best songs in the album? Soulful, rich, and spiritual. “Shuru tumse, khatam tumse”.
ARR uses minimal instruments for this song, but the effect is almost magical. It’s deeply emotional too at the same time. You really don’t get compositions like these often, even in an ARR album.
This packs so much soul and depth that even if you don’t understand the language, the heaviness won’t be lost on you. A man’s search for his love encapsulated so well in its music and BGM work.
You can only take your hats off.
Rating: 9.5/10
Parade De La Bastille (Instrumental)
Now- imagine a track named Parade De La Bastille, starting with some Sufi humming, following Mediterranean touches, and then flute, and then a rehash of Matargasthi.
Nothing left to say- it’s just pure creativity- AR Rahman way. Listen.
Rating: 9.5/10
Tu Koi Aur Hai (AR Rahman, Alma Ferovic, and Arjun Chandy)
There, finally, with the final track, ARR goes behind the mic- and how. Such rich orchestra, and such soulful lyrics. A song about self discovery, Tu Koi Aur Hai is something you should listen on a quiet morning overlooking the sea- because the richness is so vast and can move you places and also invoke so much emotions.
Alma Ferovic returns to the mic after Rockstar and again provides ample support for ARR with the orchestra parts.
And there is also the use of opera vocals, which goes along with this beauty of a composition. Discover yourself. Discover the music.
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.
Rating: 10/10
There’s nothing left to say. Some albums leave you speechless, and this has done exactly that. Beauty. Perfection.
Thank you Imtiaz, for providing a script that has clearly enabled ARR to weave his magic again. Apart from Mani Ratnam, it seems only Imtiaz brings out such richness in ARR compositions. This is a hat trick of stunning albums.
Never stop collaborating.
Now, Phir Tamasha Dekh!
Whole a album rating: Sumptuous. Delicious.

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.

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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

Rockstar (Hindi)- Music Review by Ram Anand

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.

Rating: 3/5

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.

Rating: 4.5/5

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’.

Rating: 4.5/5

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.

Rating: 5/5

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.

Rating: 4/5

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.

Rating: 3/5

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.

Rating: 3.5/5

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.

Rating: 4/5

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.

Rating: 5/5

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.

Rating: 4.5/5

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.

Salut! Magnifique!