Eight years. That was how long it has been since one of India’s grandest filmmakers, Ashutosh Gowariker, has teamed up with AR Rahman. To understand the significance of their collaboration, one has to look at the films they worked on together in the past- Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar- all three critical and musical successes. Since Jodha Akbar, Ashutosh’s films without an AR Rahman soundtrack seemed devoid of a soul and failed to live up to its the expectations of the three epics mentioned above.
And similarly, while ARR has never stopped giving good music, Kochadaiiyan was probably the only attempt at giving him the platform to weave a grand, period-setting soundtrack that we last saw in Jodha Akbar. Their previous films together showed, from the Khwaja Mere Khwajas to Yun Hi Chalas, that there is both an element of grandeur, and an earthly sensitivity to the music of the films. From a background score to an instrumental number, every part of the narration in Asutosh’s films seamlessly worked in tandem with AR Rahman’s musical nous.
In so many ways, these two made epic musicals. Mohenjo Daro, set in a period that even predates India as we know it, carries some mighty expectations on its shoulders, both film wise and music wise.
Mohenjo Mohenjo (Arjit Singh, AR Rahman, Bela Shende and Sanah Moidutty)
The album starts with the title track- and unmistakably this has the touches of Azeem-O-Shehenshah from Jodha Akbar. The music is laced with grandeur that fits the epic canvas on which one of the most expensive films in recent Indian cinema history has been made. After melting hearts with Tum Saath Ho from Tamasha, Arjit returns to lead the singing for this title track, ably complemented by a strong presence of chorus and some gorgeous mix of instruments.
The tracks is over six minutes long, so there’s plenty of time for ARR to incorporate different elements of to make for a massively choreographed introduction song.
Sindhu Ma (AR Rahman, Sanah Moidutty)
From grandeur, we transition into a simply soul sweeping number. Sindhu Ma starts heavy on instruments like In Lamhon Ke Damaan Mein, before moving on quite eloquently into a melodious territory. Sarah Moidutty sets the initial tone before ARR comes in with his unmistakable soulful voice and elevates this number into a territory that he truly owns. The “Tu Hai” stanza, accompanied with flutes and the soft touches around the duet melody with Sanah is the work of the genius who gave us the likes of “Jashn-E-Bashaara” and other timeless classics.
There is also an interlude of heavy military chorus laced with touches of the flute, giving the listener a peek into the love story this song describes- a tender tale in a heavily fortified setting. This is Lagaan’s “O Rey Chori” blown up on a larger scale.
Not to forget, Sanah also has a beautiful stanza for herself in the second half of the song.
Sarsariya (Shashwat Singh and Shashaa Tirupati)
Shashaa Tirupati is one of AR Rahman’s prodigious finds in recent times. And Sarsariya is another demonstration of her enormous talent behind the mic. A beautifully weaved melody duet/dance medley, Sarsariya is catchy and at the same time heavenly.
While Shashaa owns the first half, in a strong resemblance of Naane Varugiren. Sashwat, who debuted with ARR by co-singing the brilliant Wat Wat Wat from Tamasha, impresses in the second half of the song as well.
Tu Hai (AR Rahman and Sanah Moidutty)
Tu Hai, the anchor song of the film, is a more minimalistic rendition of Sindhu Ma. Here, AR Rahman gets into the groove right away with the “Tu Hai” melodious stanza.
The beauty of these parts has already been described in Sindhu Ma, and this number is like a gift for listeners who would skip straight to this absolutely gorgeous bit. Sindhu Ma is wonderful in its own stead as a mixture of a larger canvass of music, while Tu Hai is here for the poetry and the wonderful job of the singers involved.
Whispers of the Mind, Whispers of the Heart (both Arjun Chandy)
These two are instrumental numbers backed with the immense vocals of vocalist Arjun Chandy. Whispers of the Mind relies more on Arjun’s vocals to string it along, while Whispers of the Heart has more colour and vibrancy in it, the odd tablas and also accompanying chorus.
The mainstay for both numbers however in the sound of chirping crickets and water in the background, probably reflecting (If I am not mistaken), the massive floods that supposedly marked the end of the civilisation of Mohenjo Daro.
The Shimmer of Sindhu (Keba Jeremiah on guitars, Kareem Kamalakar on flutes)
An instrumental version of Sindhu Ma, ARR has pulled off what he did with his gorgeous Jodha Akbar compositions- leaving it to the instrumental players to quaintly weave their own magic on a melodious tune. Guitarist Keba Jeremiah and flutist Kareem Kamalakar are absolutely wonderful in displaying their talents here, and this number makes for such a peaceful listen
Lakh Lakh Tora (Tapas Roy and PMK Naveen Kumar)
Tapas Roy belts it with his Mandolin in another gorgeous instrumental take- this time on Sarsariya. Naveen Kumar as usual is brilliant with the flute. AR Rahman’s musical arrangements are more hands on given this is a livelier number, and the number ends before you actually want it to despite containing no vocals.
Unlike their previous works together, Mohenjo Daro does not seem to have the space for too many songs in its narration, unlike Swades and Jodha Akbaar, which were laced with so many brilliant songs.
Quintessentially, the soundtrack of Mohenjo is separated into two main tunes, which are spread over four songs and four instrumental numbers. But that is in no a way a blemish to its quality. The way ARR has spread so much richness into a soundtrack with limited vocals goes to show the meticulousness that has gone into every recording.
Have no doubts, this album is extremely high on quality. And an able to successor to the previous collaborations between Ashutosh and ARR.
There’s a convergence of so many international talents be it behind the vocals or instrument wise to record these masterful compositions from an Academy Award winner.
A world class soundtrack.