AR Rahman’s 10 best soundtracks- a compilation by Ram Anand (Part 2)

I rest my case. AR Rahman’s best works were spread throughout his career. Not just 90s. You are musically deaf if you don’t appreciate how he had innovated himself and music for the industry.

Number five-  

Duet (1994)

One of the best use of saxophones in a soundtrack came in Duet, and AR Rahman without an ounce of doubt used this to great effect to present us with what was arguably his his most diverse albums so early in his career. Duet, a tragic love story featuring Prabhu Ganesan and Ramesh Arvind which was directed by K Balachander, featured ARR’s first collaboration with the famed KB. KB’s script and tempo resulted in an amazing, word-class score that feature timeless classics that remains relevant until today, including songs such as Anjali Anjali, Vennilavin Therril,  and En Kadhale, which were great romantic compositions.

There were also quirky numbers such as Kathirikka and Kulicha Kuthalam, and also Mettepodu, a sweetly composed introduction song.

The background score, regardless to say, is a masterclass of its own.

 Number four-

 Dil Se/Uyire (1998)

I mean, I can’t possibly compile a list of ARR’s top ten soundtracks without including in it a movie directed by Maniratnam, ARR’s guru and mentor, right? It is difficult to pick what has been the duo’s best collaboration, but Dil Se/Uyire was definitely a bilingual marvel. The music was such a marvel that it peppered cracks in the movie itself, and shot Shah Rukh Khan into some sort of global fame.

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The original soundtrack was in Hindi for Dil Se, which was Maniratnam’s first attempt at a full on Hindi film, while the music was replicated for the Tamil dubbed version, Uyire.

Chaiyya Chaiyya was the song that won most popularity, and remains extremely famous to date. It has been featured in more than one Hollywood productions, and that image of Shah Rukh dancing atop a moving train became an iconic image that propelled ARR, and by extension Shah Rukh, into global recognition.

Jiya Jale head a beautiful raaga to it set in Kerala, and sung by the inimitable Lata Mageshkar, and has gone one to become another timeless classic of its own. It’s Tamil version, Nenjinile, was sung by another female singing legend, S Janaki, and was good on its own stead.

Dil Se Re, and Sandhosha Kannire, the Hindi and Tamil versions of ARR’s own romantic rendition in the backdrop of bombs and wonderful scenery in war-torn north India, is a majestic composition which was sung with such fervour and passion by the composer himself. The lyrics from Gulzar and Vairamuthu encapsulated one-sided passion in love so well.

Saatrangi Re explained the theme of the entire movie, which is the seven shades of love leading to obsession. Its setting in a dessert and ARR’s rather Arabic influences to the music added to the enigma.

But the best underrated jewel in this album is “Poongatrile”, the Tamil version of the Hindi original “E Ajnabi”. Unni Mennon brings out such pang and such depression in his voice and you can almost “feel” this heartbreaking song of a lover’s yearning. The Hindi version, in my opinion, did not replicate that magical level of emotion because Udit Narayanan’s voice didn’t contain just as much emotions.

Dil Se and Uyire were magical albums that deserve to be one of the best works a music composer had ever produced, world over. It is arguably the best ARR work. Yes, ARGUABLY. It’s bit redundant to say that when I’m compiling a list of his ten best albums and I’ve just place this album at number four. That’s because there are three albums that are more majestic, better, and perhaps more underrated than this. Read below.

Number three- 

Rockstar (2011)

What can be better than Dil Se? One word-ROCKSTAR. This was one album of Rahman’s recent works that completely blew me away and would have jerked any music connoseiuers off their comfortable seats.

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I have already reviewed the album before on this same website here: http://www.ramyuva.com/voice-of-the-winds/378/

But heck, it’s so good I’ll repeat my laurels. Rockstar was ARR’s maiden collaboration with Imtiaz Ali (the second one was Highway, which also featured in part one of this list), but given that the movie was, well, about a troubled “Rockstar” and his troubled love story, the rich variation of emotions that came in this album is stuff legends, no, stuff of folklore even. Mohit Chauhan delivered a singing masterclass, singing almost all of the songs in the album as ARR and Imtiaz uniquely attempted to retain the authenticity of Ranbir Kapoor’s performance.

Phir Se Ud Chala was a brilliant and Jo Bhi Main were soul singing at its best, while Kateya Karun brought forth the quirky Punjabi music elements.

Kun Faya Kun sits right up there with AR Rahman’s best Sufi masterpieces, while Sheher Mein demonstrated Mohit’s singing prowess. Hava Hava had a distinct Eastern European touch to it, while Aur Ho had so much passion and grandeur.

Tum Ko and Tum Ho were two beautiful renditions of slow melody in female and male voices respectively, something ARR is so good at doing regularly.

The best two, however, would be Nadaan Parindey, a legendary composition on which ARR and Mohit combine behind the mic to encapsulate the lead character’s angst, yearning and love with generous use of soulful rock music, and of course, Saadda Haq.

The latter is a one-of-a-kind, brilliant, timeless nerve pumper which is akin to holding the middle finger to capitalism and the system it perpetuates. It’s a song any political revolutionary can sign to the power elites, at any corner in the world. A blood rush can can typify any mass demonstration or major rally in this world.

Rockstar gave ARR the opportunity to delve into rock music and capture the sojourn of a musician’s life. It was an opportunity he did not miss to deliver the third best work of his career, in my view.

Number two-

Iruvar (1997)

Iruvar isn’t about the songs alone. Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman’s best combination to date, both musically, and cinematically, is also about AR Rahman’s best background music work in his career, added to it songs that retained a period era feeling but were highly delectable on its own right.

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The film was peppered with beautiful rendition of poems, recited by Arvind Swamy, and two such examples in the soundtrack, Udal Mannuku and Unnodu Naan Irundha, typifies this. The minimal instruments but the heightened emotion in each poem gave the words of a poet a brilliant platform to shine on. Also check out the background music in the climax scene of the movie, shortly before, and during Prakash Raj’s recital of a heart wrenching poem mourning the loss of a friend in an empty hall while the old friend’s body is being paraded in the streets filled with crowd. If you never lived you to feel how MGR’s funeral might have been, this scene would have given you an idea.

There is also this one scene where Mohanlal’s character is introduced to a huge crowd waiting downstairs of his home by Prakash Raj. The music that accompanies the gesture of slowly raising one’s hand to the crowd and the crowd going berserk is why this was a world-class movie with world class musical work.

The songs were timeless as well. Kannai Kattikolathey and Aayirathil Naan Oruvan is like listening to MGR’s best hits being remastered and rebranded to make them sound contemporary, catchy and periodic at the same time. They remain unique compositions that still fall sweetly on the ears almost 20 years after being produced.

Narumugaiye is high on the ARR’s classical qualities, a combination of two distinct raagas, and a brilliant composition. Vennila Venilla is a jazzy number with a classy treatment, so is Hello Mr Ethirkachi, which is faster and catchier. Pookodiyin Punnagai is another brilliant slow melody reminiscent of movies of old.

 Number one-

 Swades (2004)

Mastery. Legacy. AR Rahman’s had always, in his entire career, been most passionate about patriotism more than anything else. Very few ARR works tops works that he does for movies or albums that carry a patriotic statement. I have no doubts in my mind, in my decades of following his work, Swades is one album whose level of depth, genius of music, and overall feel is almost unmatched. It can give even a person who had never been to India a glimpse of how you will fall in love with India despite its imperfections. The background score, for which ARR won a Filmfare Award, can move you to tears. Shah Rukh Khan delivered was was arguably his most restrained, best performance over the past decade. He felt the script. He felt the music. The emotions showed in his eyes. Ashutosh Gowariker treated the film as carefully, as patiently, as a father would bring up his daughter, or a son would find beauty in an ailing mother.

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This film’s music was all about beauty. In every word that Javed Akhtar penned, in every tabla beat that came with the music, with every scenery of rural India. This was just a complete musical experience, unmatched, unrivalled. The work of a lifetime.

Yeh Tara Woh Taara can make you smile and cry at the same time if you had understood the lyrics and had watched it with the video. Udit Narayanan’s rendition won him a National Award. At over seven minutes long, this song is a marvel that didn’t try to overshadow brilliant lyrics that had so much of depth and message, but at the same time, had great music that can send you to someplace beyond earth. When they say God is in Music, I understand that through many ARR compositions, but this album has many such songs, and this is one of it.

Saanwariya had such sweetness and innocence in it and was very sweet to the ears. Alka Yagnik’s voice was pitch perfect for the song, and it was one song where Gayatri Joshi’s simple beauty was encapsulated.

Yu Hi Chala was a song that had defined my entire life, from the moment I heard it. Javed’s lyrics were a masterpiece. The picturisation by Ashutosh, having Shah Rukh sit in a caravan along with a quirky saadhu who was showing him the path on a gravel road, with the lyrics blaring about how the traveller keeps on travelling in an unknown road were stuff of magic. The song talks about ambiguity of life- appreciating beauty while not knowing your final destination. That’s life. That’s how a journey should be. Sitting atop a caravan and enjoying good music while not knowing where you are heading to. Hariharan’s voice was sweet, Udit gave passion to the song, while Kailash Kher was brilliant as the voice of the saadhu, who through the words of the saadhu, says the wisest things you will ever hear being written in film lyrics. The song of my lifetime.

Aahista Aahista had such pain, longing and nostalgia packed inside it, that it is another brilliant composition. It is one song that you would love to close your eyes to, and enjoy the emotions poring through it. Udit Narayan and Sadhana Sargam combine to great effect here, but the dubbed Tamil version, Thai Sonna Thallatu packs an even better punch- with KJ Yesudas’ voice tugging at your heartstrings. This song might be slow, but you must be missing a lot on life’s finer details if you can’t appreciate the beauty this number entails. This was written soulfully, and composed even more soulfully. By someone who was in touch with the elements around him.

Yeh Jo Des Hera Tera had already become a song for a generation. ARR goes behind the mic and delivers the best rendition he had ever done for a song. There’s so much subtle longing and passion in this song, so much so you can imagine the character’s struggle without having to watch the scene. Lyrics such as “your motherland is calling out to you…” takes patriotism and one’s affection to homeland to a new level. The love of a man to his motherland, and the need his motherland has for him, as never been married so well as it did in this song. This song can move you to tears, no matter which country you are from. Try going away from home for a long time, and when you miss it, listen to this song.

Paal Paal Hi Bhaari was another peach of a beauty from Madushree and Vijay Prakash. It is the sweetest song you can imagine Seetha singing while being kidnapped by Raavanan. The use of the Ramayan analogy to relate to struggles in a rural village was brilliant, and so was ARR’s flute-based composition.

Dekho Na is a slow romantic song that builds up nicely and is extremely sweet to hear to. Not to forget, the album has two magical instrumentals, a flute-only version of Paal Paal performed by Naveen and a shehnai-only version of Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera, performed by Madhukar T Dhumal.

I basically ran out of superlatives praising this album. End of. Nothing more to say.

I rest my case.  AR Rahman’s best works were spread throughout his career. Not just 90s. You are musically deaf if you don’t appreciate how he had innovated himself and music for the industry.

And give us some more albums to make this list seem irrelevant.

 

 

 

 

 

Best of the decade- Hindi cinema

TAsB takes a look at the ten best films of the decade in Hindi cinema, or known more popularly known as Bollywood.

It’s Deepavali eve, and I have completed my compilation of ten best movies of the past decade in Bollywood. However, in order to remain true to the spirit of Indian cinema, I’m calling this Hindi cinema and not by its cheap moniker called Bollywood. There are notable absentees in this list, the most telling one being Ashutosh Gowariker’s ‘Lagaan’ and Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’, both which were highly acclaimed and got close to Oscar glory.

I have also left out Kamal Hassan’s masterpiece ‘Hey Ram’ because I have already featured it in my Tamil-language compilation. Otherwise, ‘Hey Ram’ clearly has a special place somewhere beyond this following list.

10. Black (2005)

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherji.

Plenty of critics would argue that this film deserves to be higher up the ranking, or maybe even in a no.1 position. But I have always maintained that you can’t simply call a film ‘the best’ because it attempts to be different or features very unique performances alone. The main reason why Black only got as far as no.10 in my list is because the film can get a little slow in narration at times and it takes a patient viewer to enjoy it, and even more patient to be able to enjoy repetitive viewing.

Black tells the story of a blind and deaf Anglo-Indian girl, whose family contemplate sending her to the school for special kids until they hire an erratic old teacher from a special kids’ school to personally tutor their out-of-control daughter. What follows is a series of events that tightens the special bond between tutor and protégé, and when the old man starts suffering from Alzheimer’s, his protégé takes it upon herself to help him recuperate.

The film’s features some of the best performances of the decade, especially from Rani Mukherji who played the role of a blind and deaf woman. Amitabh matches her with his brilliant performance as an erratic teacher who later has Alzheimer’s. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the king of melodrama, allows the film to flow on its own, and his choice of location and backdrop of an Anglo-Indian family also suits the film perfectly.

Black is an aesthetically rich film that will delight any cinemagoer, and deserved all the awards that came its way. And it is by far SLB’s career best work.

9. Delhi-6 (2009)

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Waheeda Rahman.

This movie had a mixed reception when it came out, but in my opinion, a clearly re-hashed ending does not mean that Delhi-6 becomes any less awesome than it is. Many people might have gone to the theatres expecting to see another ‘Rang de Basanti’, but just because the movie does not feature action and aggressive patriotism does not mean that it lacks soul. In fact, if you could appreciate the subtlety, it has more soul than most movies put together.

The movie is about an American NRI who accompanies his ailing grandmother back to her old hometown in downtown Delhi. He becomes a passive observer as the different facets of the society unfolds in front of his eyes, from a pair of bickering neighbor brothers, an wannabe actress, and also the nuisance of the ‘Kaala Bandar’, a mysterious monkey-like creature which commits theft and injures people.

The film is best social commentary of the past decade, and probably Indian viewers felt the sting because no other movie attempted to be so honest in stripping naked the hypocrisy of the Indian culture. There is one classic scene when a man glorifies how Lord Rama is equal to all beings but shuns away someone who is from a lower caste in his own society.

Abhishek’s role is that of a passive observer, something that did not go down well with many Indian audiences, but that is the core element of the film, and he plays the role brilliantly. Sonam’s character is slightly annoying but she plays it well. AR Rahman’s musical score is one of the best, even though the movie did not do justice to all those great tracks.

The movie is about loving something despite its imperfections and trying to make a change. Atul Kulkarni’s climax monologue is worth remembering, while the whole allegory to ‘Kaala Bandar’ and how it relates back to the society is also brilliantly written.

8. Dev D (2009)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Abhay Deol, Mahi Gill, Kalki Koechlin

At some point of your life, you might have come across a spoilt rich brat, who is an absolute ass, and chose not to be too close to him or her. If you wanted a peek on how their personal life would be like then Dev D is one great watch.

With raw honesty, the film tells the story of a lustful son of a millionaire, who gets heartbroken when his childhood love marries an older rich guy. He turns to alcohol, drugs, and prostitutes- one of them being Saro, a girl who decides to enter the prostitution business after a MMS scandal featuring her making out with her boyfriend spreads like a wildfire, causing shame to her middle class parents, who subsequently disown her.

The film is a modern day adaptation of a classic 1917 novel Devdas, but its modern twist written by Abhay Deol himself along with Anurag Kashyap makes it very much relevant.

With some serious badass acting from all involved, a very straightforward direction, and a cult musical score, this film walked away with plenty of acclaim and also a good box office performance.

7. Taare Zameen Par (Stars On Earth) (2007)

Director: Aamir Khan

Cast: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan.

You’ve got to give to Aamir Khan for knowing the exact pulse of his audiences. In hardly unexplored theme, the movie tells the story of a dyslexic kid, whose parents almost lose faith in (not realizing that he is dyslexic), and how his teacher helps him attain that awareness and subsequently play to his strengths.

A simple film that would delight audiences from all walks of life, Taare Zameen Par was like the perfect Disney film, with the right amount of tartness and sweeteness and makes it feel like a small fairytale. There are plenty of emotional scenes, all powered by an excellent performance from child actor Darsheel Safary.

Aamir Khan steers the vessel with immaculate ability in his maiden directorial venture, and also through his dialogues tackles a very essential factor of the Indians’ result-oriented mentality when it comes to education.

6. Omkara (2006)

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Vivek Oberoi, Kareena Kapoor.

Here, Hindi cinema proved that they make Shakespeare’s work look great even in the celluloid of the much-maligned Bollywood-ish routine. Set in a dry land in Uttar Pradesh, this adaptation of ‘Othello’ is about a local gang leader who chooses one deputy over another to succeed him.

The left out deputy hatches a devious plot to incite hatred and jealousy among his leader, his first deputy and also his leader’s ladylove, resulting in a tragic ending for all involved.

The setting and backdrop helps the film a great deal, bringing out the dark mood that is maintained throughout, while the star-studded cast does not disappoint one bit. Vishal Bhardwaj’s script is the work of a genius and pays genuine tribute to Shakespeare’s work.

5. Guru (2007)

Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai.

Guru, by a distance is not Mani Ratnam’s finest but it certainly is Abhishek Bachchan’s best performance to date. In a decade where Bollywood had moved to multi-starrers, dual roles and stretching performances had gone out of trend. That was until Abhishek made his critics eat their own words by displaying so many different shades in a narration, which documented a man’s rise from the age of 30 till he was 60.

The film told the story of an industrialist wannabe who starts his life in Mumbai as virtually a nobody but works his way up, by sometimes being ruthless and cunning, but ultimately creating an industry that helped created thousands of job opportunities, at the expense of some very personal losses.

Abhishek was meteoric in the lead performance, and so was Aishwarya, who played the role of his older but fiercely loyal wife. The film had an ensemble startcast, and everyone else, including Madhavan and Vidya Balan did justice to their well written but rather short parts.

The master filmmaker that is Mani Ratnam has written many scenes that are worth applauding, and that is reason enough to make this an excellent film.

4. Chak de India (Buck up India) (2007)

Director: Shimit Amin

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Malvade

Definitely not your typical Shahrukh movie, as it did not come with incredible hype like most SRK films do, but it definitely made a wave at both of the box office and among critics. One of the most likeable films of the decade, Chak de was a sports film with a difference.

The film told the story of a disgraced former Indian national hockey team captain, who attempts to make a comeback by coaching the national women’s team to World Cup glory.

The film is extremely well shot, as all the actors genuinely practiced hockey and the hockey game scenes were shot with great authenticity. Sharukh delivers an incredible performance, somewhat restrained as the bearded, disgraced coach trying to redeem his pride. The film does not have the typical song-and-dance routine but is instead a simply well made sports film. Easily Hindi cinema’s best sports film of the decade.

3. 3 Idiots (2009)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Aamir Khan, R Madhavan, Sharman Joshi

A loose adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s novel, 3 Idiots upon release went on to make an absolute splash for an entire generation. This is a movie that was a massive cult hit, with the dialogues still reverberating among the younger Indian generation until now.

The film told the story of an off-the-beat student at a highly respected engineering college in India, whose dean is a strict disciplinarian. This student comes in and changes the whole complexion of the education system there- he does things creatively with plenty of hands-on approaches yet still becomes a class topper. He befriends two of the lowest ranked students in the class, both of whom do not feel like they belong at the institute at the first place. And this results in a comical merry go round.

This film is a tale of friendship, love, and above all celebrates a different form of education, one that is less rigid and more expressive. The film has everything- from rich visuals, plenty of genuinely funny moments, some great acting, and plenty of evergreen dialogues.

Watching this would definitely make your day and make you want to come back to the film. A masterpiece, and a movie of a generation.

2. Rang de Basanti (Paint it Saffron) (2005)

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Cast: Aamir Khan, R Madhavan, Soha Ali Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Siddharth.

Another massive cult hit. RDB told the story of five carefree youths who get extremely frustrated and takes up arms after an army pilot friend of theirs dies in a plane crash but is later labeled by a corrupt minister as a bad pilot in order to hide his own corrupt practices.

Exquisitely written and directed with panache, the film moved an entire generation when it came out. There are scenes that will make you weep, and no film in the past decade highlighted the pain of losing a loved one better than this film. The frustrations that drives these youths over the edge is also highly relatable. The ensemble cast is perfect, everyone do an excellent job, including Madhavan, who made a simple cameo but left the greatest impact.

Siddharth does his role so well that he overshadows the veteran Aamir Khan himself. Rakesh Mehra’s direction, embedded with AR Rahman’s fresh musical score, all worked in favor of the film. Hardly a single flaw existed in the whole movie. A class above.

1. Swades (Motherland) (2004)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi.

The film gives a feel of nostalgia. Ashutosh, the director, has not made a good film for nearly four years now and has completely dropped off the radar, while Gayatri Joshi became a one-film wonder. This was the one and only film in which she acted, leaving the audiences wanting for more. The bertrayal of the decade is the fact that this movie flopped at the box office. But it subsequently became a cult flick, attracting an almost universal critical acclaim.

Patriotism never had a better advert than the story of a NASA scientist who falls in love with the deepest, most rundown areas of India. The film had some gut wrenching scenes that depicted poverty in India, but at the same time celebrated the sense of culture that exists in the country and the sense of purpose that the scientist finds back in his motherland. Shah Rukh Khan, sans his typical machoness, proves that he can act according to the script alone with a very controlled performance that bought tears and memories for plenty other NRIs all over the world.

‘Yun Hi Chala’ was the best music video in the industry over the past decade, while AR Rahman’s subtle musical score makes it, in my opinion, the best album in Hindi cinema history.

A story about humanity will always remain strong in the memories of people. The true masterpiece of the decade.