As A R Rahman completes 20 years of his stupendously imaginative work and creations on 15th August and the only person who I will ever bow down with RESPECT in the field of cinema & music, my memories and experience of the man & his music. 20 songs which I will take to my grave till now and entirely my personal journey from 13 to 33.
The genesis of this post has to go back 20 years but my association with listening to ARR‘s soundtrack and music will be a year late. Somehwere in the month of June’ 93 scratching the audio tapes of Subhash Ghai‘s Khalnayak which was a rage at that time and listening to a lot of Nadeem Shravan, Anand Milind, Laxmikant Pyarelal etc. I landed up at my Uncle’s home for some work and at the background there was a Tamil song being played. Was not able to identify why my ears were having a crystal clear reception of sound (Ok for the record I was a big sucker for sound & great audio equipments because of my dad’s job being based in Gulf and his penchant for the same). The song being played was Kaadhal Rojave but I was instantly hooked to find out how Illaiya Raja scored such music away from his tradional style (For all your information I always associated Tamil music with Illaiya Raja as the flow of information was the lowest during those years). I caught hold of my pattar tambrahm friend, and he introduced me to a world of music and to a man who will remain a very important part of my life and existence.
(1) Roja: So lending that audio cassette from my Uncle’s home I went home at double speed to listen to the songs of a movie which was called Roja. The only thing I knew was that it was directed by Mani Ratnam and I had seen some portions of it in a Prannoy Roy DD special on friday called ‘The World This Week’. But the moment I heard this song on my Pioneer audio equipment(In those days it was called as Deck system) which was a neighbour’s envy and only my pride, Rahman became a talent to look out for. It was so mesmerising, this track that I was feeling ashamed of the music that I listened in those days. Puthu Vellai Mazhai was pure and serene and if you ever want to get transported in a world of dreams this song can do it without fail. For the record even its Hindi dubbed version carries the same imapct.
(2) Pudhiya Mugam: As I was hooked and wanted to know the man and more of his music, there was an audio shop just located outside Thane station by the name of Jai Ganesh Music Centre. This place was a treat to watch in its hey days as there was never a dull moment ever witnessed outside this store. And most importantly it was the only music shop in Thane which sold regional music and so were the sales guys informative too, who at the name of A R Rahman handed me 2 cassettes from Magnasound. One was Pudhiya Mugam & the other being Thiruda Thiruda. ‘Kannaku Mai Azhagu’ has a female version by P Susheela and a hindi disaster by the name of Vishwa Vidhaata. But for me this is pure vintage stuff and remains a personal favourite which is sung by Unni Menon.
(3) Thiruda Thiruda: If you are expecting me to write anything about ‘Thee Thee‘ then you are on the wrong page and the wrong post. I was and will always remain speechless for this compostion.
(4) Karuthamma: During the cable invasion there used to be a channel called Jain TV which was very popular for various reasons. But the one good thing about the channel was that they used to play regular Tamil music and had a Top 10. And one song which consistently featured there was ‘Thenmerku Parvakattre’. Though it was ARR’s second collaboration with Bharati Raja after Keezhaku Cheemayile, but this was more popular among guys like me who had limited knowledge of Tamil. Had travelled a distance till Matunga to obtain the cassette for the same as it was not available anywhere near.
(5) Kaadhalan: In those days I made it a favourite pass time to walk once in a month to Jai Ganesh Music Centre from my residence which was around 5 kms and collect all Rahman cassettes whichever got released or available and proudly walk back home. During such instance I got lucky with a tape which was told to be selling like hot cakes and only a single copy remained. Needless to add any more facts, Kaadhalan was such a huge rage in non Tamil speaking states too that finally all could say that ARR has truly arrived. It had some of the biggest chartbusters of the year but my personal favourite remains this song which fetched its singer P.Unnikrishnan his National award.
(6) Bombay: Rahman & Ratnam went for the kill with the soundtrack of Bombay which changed the way Hindi music was ruling during those times. This soundtrack catapulated ARR to feverish levels where even his lesser known albums where dubbed and films released solely on his name. Though I was personally never a great fan of his dubbed versions but Bombay was perfect with no feel of gibberish words inserted. This theme is a truly outstanding piece of creativeness conveying all pathos and even made it to the Hollywood flick, Lord of War.
(7) Indira: Between all the hype and appreciation for the music of Bombay, therein slipped a film directed by Mani Ratnam’s wife, Suhasini. This song Thoda Thoda is so mellifluous that even S P Balasubrahmanyum ranks it among his personal best with ARR. He even wanted to sing the Hindi dubbed version of the same where Harhiharan was handed over the mike. Listen from 0:42 to 1:15 and one will know why ARR is considered as the best even now.
(8) Indian: Rahman’s first collaboration with Kamal Hassan and one of the most expensive films to come of India at that time, Indian was highly anticipated even outside the Vindhyas and eventually dubbed as Hindustani. There are some songs which are meant to be sung by certain singers and when it comes to Yesudas then it has to be the best. This song is still a delight if you have a great audio system and gives the perfect example of how stereo sound travels in different speakers.
(9) Minasara Kanavu: The audio of this had just released around Dec 1996 and my board exams for the 12th grade were round the corner in March. But nothing could stop me from listening to the soundtrack infuriating my parents to dizzying heights. ‘Vennilave‘ has ARR written all over it and a great listen with some effective choreography.
(10) Dil Se..: During the second year of my college if any individual possessed an audio cassette it was shared among the rest, Dil Se.. remained a sole exception of everyone having their own copy. It has my own personal record of 3 cassettes for the amount of time it was scratched, used and abused extensively. Lata Mangeshkar‘s first song with Rahman had to be great with expectations to match from all and they do deliver in spectacular style. If most of the world population knows few words of Malayalam all the credit goes to this song alone. It’s difficult to pinpoint any particular track from this movie and a serious advise for all who want to judge how good your audio equipment is should mandatorily check out the soundtrack of this film.
(11) Taal: Now the time had come when Compact Disc was the future of music and being in the final year of my graduation did not know how to upgrade purchasing a CD of Rs.299 from a cassette of Rs.40. My pocket money could not afford one and had to manipulate my college fees at home because I was very sure that beg, borrow or steal; the day the music of Taal was supposed to release it will be in my hand. ‘Nahin Samne‘ shows a different side of ARR with minimal orchestration and a surreal feel, that whenever I listen it seems there is rain in the air.
(12) Alaipayuthey: After my graduation there was a phase in my life when I was disconnected from music and was not keen with movies too. As soon as I joined up with my first assignment for work and subsequent salary that was recieved, got my hand on 2 CD’s out of which one was Alaipayuthey. Hariharan and ARR have teamed up for a lot of gems, but this to me remains an absolute favourite for the portions from 3:00 to 3:30. Hariharan is unrecognizable and the melody is unmistakable. And yes you wont find a better picturized song than this.
(13) Zubeida: There is something about this song which never lets me go and seems time comes to a still whenever I listen to it. An under rated track from an equally under rated soundtrack & film, Rahman till now had mastered his stamp in Hindi music with equal gusto and nobody could point a finger that his music had lot of western & South Indian influences.
(14) Lagaan: If Lagaan is considered among the best of Indian & World Cinema a part of the credit also goes to A R Rahman’s soundtrack and all the themes composed for the film. The film has many small pieces and large orchestras to stimulate and blow one’s mind. This is a rousing theme and a great one at it.
(15) Kannathil Muthamittal: Another song that I don’t have enough words to write about and will let the song and its lyrics do the talking.
(16) Swades: Though Rahman is a master at creating Patriotic themes & songs, this song from Swades still gives me goosbumps everytime I hear it. At some point of time one even feels if ARR has really sung it because like the title song of Dil Se.., this one pulls all the right strings and straight goes inside the heart. Had seen Javed Akhtar conveying in some TV show that to sing this song, “Ache Achon ke paseene chhoot gaye the” and maybe thats why ARR must have taken it upon himself to complete his labour of love. A song that has my eyes moist even now as I listen and write about.
(17) Rang De Basanti: A song about a mother & son, to be interesting; should be an achievement in itself. Typically Hindi films have a lot of such melodramatic songs but Rahman goes straight from the heart into our heart with terrific emotions along in the company of Lata Mangeshkar.
(18) Jodha Akbar: No compilation of ARR can go without atleast one religous song in it and Khwaja Mere Khwaja is an electrifying one at that. Rarely does such kind of song feature in personal favourites but this stands tall with even some of them very serious about converting to Islam and the reason being ARR’s soulful & divine approach to such songs.
(19) Delhi 6: This must have been the most personal tune that ARR must have composed in recent times and it shows in the compostion. There is an unhibited laziness about this track but distinctly complex and will always find a place in my top 3. The Continuum at the end is so heavenly and he has learned the art to play it; that even his contemporaries can feel proud to be in his era. The video below does not give any justice to the entire track, so would advise you all to listen to the entire audio track.
(20) Rockstar: After going through a lull phase after the high of Oscars where as usual everyone feels he has the ability to pull down and criticize a person, Rahman gave a kick ass to all his detractors with an album having 16 songs. The impact of the songs has been revealed in detail at my review here, but Nadaan Parindey is what you call as a chartbuster with a soul. “Sau dard badan pe phaile hain…har karam ke kapde maile hain” is still one of the best worded lines in recent years for me.
For a generation who has listened, ate, drank and slept with his music there are some great memories for 20 long glorious years. Have missed on a lot of tracks that deserved attention and am sure everyone will have their own personal choices too. Would be equally thankful to the people who have made his music memorable along with the lyricist and singers whom I have not touched upon here and also to the Yahoo fan club which forms an important part of my life too.
Will continue to get excited about an audio release, anticipate upon the release date, watch it in a movie hall and will continue to be your fan even if the whole world go against you.
Looking forward to such happiness & joy in the coming years and my heartfelt thanks for your wonderful music SIR.
For a person like me who has just started listening to music from tamil cinema, this is immensely helpful. Thank you so much.
Its nice to know that this post is helpful to you and have a good time listening to his earlier work.
good choice of songs.. zubeidaa is my all time favorite. His other under-rated albums are The Legend of Bhagat Singh & Bose-the forgotten hero
Yeah both the films you mentioned have some superior songs and so does Meenaxi..
Good selection Ajay though I’d also have included something from the following films- Kandukondain Kandukondain -period was almost the same as that of Alaipayuthey & both the albums rocked and carried their own style, May Madham- period was almost the same as that of Kadhalan but on hindsight the album got a bit lost due to the Kadhalan wave, Sangamam- Rahman had worked on rural subjects earlier but this was the 1st time he did a whole album which was a mix of rural-folk&classical,Swades,Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya….of course the list can go on but then these albums also require definite presence over here IMO !!!
Yes a lot of albums deserve a mention but that would have made for an e-book and I would not have known where to stop. So kept it well within my fanatic limit…
What’s remarkable is that even in albums lackluster by Rahman’s standards there would always be 1-2 songs that stand out. For example in Sillunu Oru Kadhal its a pleasure to listen to “Munbe vaa un anbe vaa” or ” New York nagram” or in a Varalaaru where “Kaatril” is a breezy song or even in a Anbe Aaruyirae where you go in a trance when you listen to ” Mayiliragae” though S.J.Suryah spoils it all with his useless expressions in the video !!!
I am really really glad that you have incorporated Zubeidaa…….. Not a lot of people listen to tracks from that film, though I admit, Ye Jo zindagi, Rut aa gayi from 1947 Earth, Ae Ajnabi from Dil Se are few personal favorites……. and I would like to see them right up there……… but all in all a brilliant list, and 20 is criminally short a number for AR Rahman…….. 🙂
Raat ki daldal from 1947 Earth & Khoon Chala from Rang De basanti almost works as an effective medium to understand a situation and there are numerous such references that I can go on & on… Maybe a different post some other day…