Thursday, June 05, 2003

AR Rahman and some of his underrated gems

Over the last couple of days, there has been a major thread on the AR Rahman fans mailing list, discussing some of his songs that have not been appreciated by the masses. And most of the songs discussed are from his older Tamil efforts – the likes of Andhimantharai, Pudhiya Mannargal etc.

But, other than his "hidden legends", which most other people have been mentioning, I actually feel that some of his Hindi numbers have been the ones that have been underrated the most. I think that’s natural, that, being a music director from the Chennai, ARR had some initial difficulty in getting his message across the Vindhyas. However people like Sandeep Chowta, who’s Chennai based, have managed to get over that very problem quite easily. But I still haven't seen the variety in Sandeep Chowta's compositions that are so apparent in each of AR Rahman's efforts and that I feel had been one major reason why a number of his compositions fail to tickle the mass's interest.

Even that apparent difficulty faced by Rahman can be attributed to his experiments. The use of voices ("strange Madrasi voices", as one of my friends who hails from Mumbai once told me) alien to their (people from North India) ears along with the use of classical carnatic alaaps (like in "Tu hi tu" from Kabhi na Kabhi) brought only strange looks to people's faces. Other than that, in terms of Hindi movies, it has only been the non-performance of some of his movies in the box office (like Daud, Thakshak, Kabhi na Kabhi etc.)

And when we speak of underrated songs, the first song that comes to my mind is - Khamosh Raat from Thakshak. People who hear it for the first time (I listen to it almost once a day, mostly before going to bed, because it’s kind of calming :)) immediately ask me the name of the movie. And I think the song gets new fans everyday, courtesy me. Sung so beautifully by Rope Kumar Rathod, its one of our man ARR's best.

And another one that makes to the top of my list is Tu hi tu from Kabhie Na Kabhi. I think though MG Sreekumar and Chitra did an excellent job with the song, I think Rahman was experimenting and it did not go through to the masses at all. I have been humming this song ever since I heard it on Superhit Muqabla. By the way, Deva did a poor imitation of this song with Unni Krishanan and Chitra (Manase Manase) in Nenjinille. I think the last mentioned song was picturised on Vijay and Isha Koppikar, exactly the same way as the Hindi original was, I think on the Mumbai beachfront. I might be wrong of course. But somehow the original Hindi song stuck to my mind and it stuck with the visuals of the Tamil song. Yuck!!!

And then the next one is Mere Yaara Dildara from the same movie. Vintage Hariharan, in the way he lets the frivolousness in his voice come through. I love Hariharan and so this is one of my favorites. What is unique is that, I think this is one of the few songs featuring both Hariharan and SPB (I can’t seem to think of another one).

Other than these songs, Zubeida was one of his best efforts for a period movie. And the fact that it was period movie, I think, led to the music not being appreciated by the masses. Actually other than Lagaan and Gadar (which I think was mainly because of the cricket and the nationalistic messages in them), none of the period movies in the recent past have made a splash, both at the box office and in term of music sales. But the effort to tailor the songs to suit the flavor the period represented was exemplary.

Same goes with Iruvar. You hear the songs and you CAN picture MGR or any other hero of the period singing the songs. The basis of the movie and its story took care of that. But that does not just happen with Narumugaye, more because it is a song based on a classical raaga and such songs are timeless (in my belief, at least). In that sense Narumugaye was probably the most popular of the set.

And I just got into the mood for some of "Kabhi Na Kabhi".. my friends are already groaning. But am sure they will come around :) And for all you guys who would wanna do some additional reading on this subject (sounding academic, are we:) ), check this link out. It is from The Music Magazine. And to sum up, all the links in this post open out to external pages. And I could not find Pudhiya Mannargal at both and So if you guys know where the songs from this movie are available as streaming files or something, do leave a message.

To sum up my mood for the day, check out the exchange of the day. Actually this should and is termed as "Exchange of the Week"! Life's that bad!

Forrest Gump: It happens..
Bumper Sticker guy: What, shit?
Forrest Gump: Sometimes.

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