Over the last couple of years, I feel that IR's work has been Rahman-esque (I know its blasphemous to say so, but I will), in the sense that it takes repeated hearing for a song to grow on you. Examples - Oliyilae Therivadhu Devadhaya from Azhagi and Elangaathu Veesudhae from Pithamagan. Most of his efforts (barring a few, incl. Bharathi) in the recent years have failed to interest me.
But Virumandi sort of changes this trend. After a long time, this is an OST from IR that did not fail to enthuse me the first time I heard it. Lazy Geek initially spread the news to out of town (town = Chennai) bloggers that Virumandi's music was going to be released on the 8th of December. In fact I think it was only on that day that Kamal chose to divulge that Sandiyar had been re-christened as Virumandi. Interestingly Kamal's costume and make up in the promo pics seem akin to Thevar Magan (which was remade as Virasat in Hindi, starring Anil Kapoor and Tabu) with a similar subject too. Remains to be seen if the movie garners similar critical acclaim.
Back to the soundtrack. Listening to IR soundtracks for all those rural subjects of yore always conjures images of a lush green countryside. It could just be me, but that has not been the case in his recent compositions. Virumandi is pleasantly different in that sense, prime contributors being no less than the singer and the director in Kamal (not to mention Shreya Ghosal, who's become a IR regular after Azhagi). As has become customary with Kamal's own productions, he gets to sing 6 of the 10 songs that IR composes. A couple of songs - Onna Vida (Shreya Ghosal and Kamal) and Chandiyare Chandiyare (Shreya Ghosal) stand out with the other songs nicely adding to the value of this IR gem. Unna Vida seems to the same mold as Inji Iduppazhagi from Thevar Magan. Karumathur Katukulae is a laudatory account of the life story of Virumandi in the theru koothu format. In Andha Kandamani and Karbagraham Vitu Samy Veliyerathu (two versions of the same song again?), you probably would find it very difficult to identify Ilayaraja (is he the one who starts out the song?) and the other singers, but Kamal stands out. Mada Vilakka and Magarasiyae Manna Vitu Poniyae are two versions of the same funeral song sung by Kamal and Theni Kunjrama respectively. Kombule Poove Soothi seems to be the fun song in this soundtrack. The chorus in the start of this song sound so 80s like.
The stars of this OST according to me:
IR - for bringing us a anachronistic (for the better) offering that reaffirms the fact that all obituaries pertaining to his "death" in TFM (brought out more or less after the meteoric rise of ARR and other MDs like Vidyasagar and off late Harris Jayraj and IR's own sons, YSR and Karthikraja) are too early. The accounts of the master's death, as Mark Twain noted, are greatly exaggerated.
Kamal - for the six songs that he sings with his usual verve and zest. But I still think sometimes whether he himself over-rates his talent and gets to sing only because of his stature. But I do enjoy hearing his efforts, all the same.
Shreya Ghosal - Has become for IR what Sadhana Sargam has for ARR. A regular who gets to sing atleast one song in any soundtrack and deservingly so.
The single formost difference between North Indian female and the male singers who sing Tamil songs is that the females - Sargam and Ghosal mainly, do not bastardize the Tamil words, the way that Udit Narayan and Sukhwinder Singh have done in the past. ARR is quoted as saying he is sorry for introducing Udit Narayan and Sukhwinder to TFM and while that statement cannot be substantiated by me, it is most certainly true that ARR has to take the blame.
On the whole, this soundtrack adds credence to the theory that the music sense possessed by a movie's director plays equal role in the success of the soundtrack along with the composer. AR Rahman's sometimes insipid efforts for movies like Parasuram also add relevance to this claim. I perfectly believe this because of the far greater percentages of hits that Rahman has churned out with directors like Mani Rathnam, Shankar and Rajiv Menon and to a certain extent Bharathiraja.