After two sumptuous albums in “Cheeni Kum” (2007) and “Paa” (2009), R Balki and Illayaraja have returned to complete with their hat trick with their biggest collaboration yet, Shamitabh. The expectations for Shamitabh can’t possibly be higher, with the film bringing increasingly popular southern star Dhanush, who, against all odds, captured Bollywood audience’s attention with Ranjhanaa in 2013, along with the inimitable Amitabh Bachchan.
This is also the third time Amitabh is featuring in a Balki film after the two films stated above. Apart from Dhanush and Amitabh, (the movie is titled after their respective real life names), the film will mark the acting debut of Akshara Haasan, Kamal Haasan’s younger daughter. So, needless to say, Shamitabh has been marketed as a real coming together of giants. What more with Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan jointly launching the music of the movie, composed by the southern legend Illaiyaraja.
In 2007, the King and Balki combined to deliver one of the most sweet romantic melodies in modern Hindi cinema, through Cheeni Kum. Raja reinvented some of his most popular songs from the 80s to while maintaining the melodious base, making it an unforgettable album.
If Cheeni Kum was unforgettable, the burden of expectation on Shamitabh required the maestro to debunk all the critics who say he had failed to reinvent himself to keep up with times. He did manage to prove them wrong, and how:
Ishq-E-Phillum (Suraj Jagan)
The album begins with Suraj Jagan’s Ishq-E-Phillum. The tune for this song actually featured as a background music in Paa. Blake was captivated by the composition that he requested that a full song be fleshed out from that tune and this was the result. IEP combines the best elements of Raja’s trademark music, while combining unmistakably with an energy, mainly helped by Suraj Jagan’s delivery.
The song revolves around a character’s obsession with the cinema, and how cinema occupies every facet of the life. IEP may sound ordinary in the first hearing, but get that headphones on, and after three or four hearings, you would appreciate the effortless nature behind this composition. Even in a high energy number like this, Illaiyaraja settles the middle stanzas into his trademark groove and carves out a smile when heard without any prejudice. Very good.
Sha Sha Sha Mi Mi Mi (Caralisa Monteiro)
To be honest, when I heard this in the trailer, I didn’t think much of the title song. I can’t describe how wrong I was about this song. I was so wrong that I could be slapped on my face for assuming that the maestro probably did not pull off modern, glamorous tunes as well as expected.
It starts slowly, but settles into a nice tempo with absolute finesse. Caralisa Monteiro is phenomenal in this number, maintaining the groove throughout. The middle stanzas are again an absolute winner. You immediately get that majestic image of Dhanush and Amitabh Bachchan trying to outdo each other for stardom. The use of orchestra is the second stanza was also legendary stuff. You think the maestro can’t strut his instrument range? Listen to this song.
By the way, Illaiyaraja is 71 years old. Absolutely brilliant number.
Piddly (Amitabh Bachchan)
Ah, here we are. The song that Big B, Balki, and Raja teased us with two weeks ago. And my, from the offset, the stamp mark is very clear- this is, without a shred of doubt, the BEST song that Amitabh had ever crooned in his career. And I can gush all I want about this song, but everything I say will be an understatement.
If you understood Raja’s best music of the 80s, you would understand the value of Piddly. It’s almost a celebration of the best of melodies that Raja can come up with- and mind, the fact that he brings that melody and that peacefulness from Amitabh’s rather gruffy voice is a testament to his genius. Piddly is not a song that just exists because Big B will say some verses in it- like in most cases. Piddly cases because Amitabh actually sings his lungs out in this one. In no time, you would be singing along, and taken along by the magic. Nostalgia all over. This is a timeless number.
You don’t rate the work of absolute legends. It’s beyond my level to offer any criticism. I’m just in awe.
Stereophonic Sunnata (Shruthi Haasan)
The trademark thing about this album is that every song only seems to have one singer each and that singer is given all the scope to own the song. And no one owns a song in Shamitabh like Kamal’s elder daughter, Shruthi Haasan, does with Sunnata.
Sunnata is a remake of Raja’s classic composition from the early 80s, Aasayil Kaathula Thoothu Vittu, form the movie Johnny featuring Rajinikanth. Raja is almost paying an ode to himself by reinventing a composition that is more than 30 years old, and making it sound like it can just throw all the songs in a club off a shelf even today.
Shruthi brings in her vocals to elevate the English lyrics of Sunnata to another level, while the middle stanzas is interluded with guitars and heavy stereophonic beats, at the same time maintaining the original beauty of the original song. Only Raja can do that. And how he went about it. Electric stuff.
Thappad (Suraj Jagan)
If you are yet to be convinced that Raja can totally surprise you by delivering a modern number, Thappad will literally slap you (thappad, after all, means slap). Thappad is likely to be the most underrated number in the album, but probably the most ingenious composition.
Sure Jagan is again in absolutely blistering form, and Raja brings in heavy metal and an array of other instruments to bring the angst behind a song that is basically about a slap, presumably in portraying a film’s scene.
There are instruments that you would normally NOT associate with Illaiyaraja in this song, but he pulls it off as though he just didn’t want to try this before, not because he is not used to it.
Get that Thappad right. Like a boss.
Lifebuoy (Suraj Jagan)
I don’t know what this short two-minute bit was about but it definitely strutted more of Illaiyaraja’s range of creativity. This funky composition definitely is making a satiric reference to a film scene or an ad scene. There even a club dance bit thrown in, but the amount creativity in the sound mixing here is just orgasmic.
If you have been waiting, or wishing to have the best of Illaiyaraja’s melody combined with modern creativity- your prayers have been answered. Shamitabh is one of Raja’s best albums, a truly international one, and without a doubt the best combination that Balki, Big B and him have offered thus far.
The movie maybe Shamitabh. But the album is All Raja. Nuff said.