Mariyaan PosterThe last thing you want to do as a comeback article after a hiatus is a music review, and an ARR album on top of that.Whatever I say, there are going to be ARR fans who are going to chip in that this was the best gift God gave to mankind and there are going to be the purists who attack the lack of lyrical strength and local context. So I will shut all this out and do what I like best doing. Repeatedly hear the ‘Mariyaan‘ soundtrack on my Sennheiser till I form an opinion about
it and pen my 2 cents above the same. The rest I leave it to the awam and God almighty.

For the uninitiated, ‘Mariyaan’ is a widely awaited movie featuring Dhanush and Parvathy of ‘Poo’ fame. It is directed by Bharatbala (of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Jana Gana Mana 2000’ fame) and produced by bags Aascar Ravichandran. It is ARR’s next Tamil release after the highly successful album of ‘Kadal’(yes the album only). The movie is supposed to be based on a real life story of three migrant oil workers in Sudan(from India), who were kidnapped for ransom and their subsequent struggle to escape and come home in the quest of a normal life.

The album gets a solid Rahul Dravidesque opening with ‘Nenje Ezhu‘ with the master himself behind the mike and also donning the role of co-lyricist along the hugely talented Kutti Revathi(a multi-faceted literary figure). Going by the promos, this is a motivational song playing when Dhanush is struggling as a hostage and escapes from his captors. The song does what it sets out to do bloody well, with probably some of the best lines in the album and a rousing orchestration arrangement.

when 1000 suns burn you ,
when compassion’s sheen wears off,
when injustice rises up to the skies,
when man forgets love,
when your body starts breaking down in pain,
even then your love won’t die,
oh heart rise, heart rise….

Simple as they may look, the lyrics are supremely effective and the orchestration is intelligent enough to rise and fall in tandem with the lines. There is hardly anything to fault in this song.

At the outset, Innum Konjam‘ has a deja vu feel to it with the first few seconds sounding like an ‘Ay Hairathey‘ (Guru) on ghatam. I have no qualms as I worship the latter. Vijayprakash, who has had a number of Tamil hits recently in Enthiran,Ko, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya,Nanban and Settai pairs up with Swetha Mohan in this simple song by a couple very much in love. Initially he sings about not getting enough time with her and then she replies saying she was the one suffering alone in love so far and now that he has joined the fray now and tells him to be patient. They then together wax eloquent about their love and dream about a future with nice kids and their own small world. Simple lyrics(by Kabilan Vairamuthu) and a pretty simple song.Me being a sucker to violin orchestrations the high point in this song for me is after 3.10 when the violins reach a crescendo and give way to a seamless transition. Vijayprakash is an exceptional talent, but there are definitely places in the song(esp ones where he teases around) where Hariji is very badly missed. This is totally Hari territory. Overall pronunciation and lyrical clarity in this song are amongst the best in this album.

Naetru Aval, a text book ARR duet, seems much more native Vijayprakash territory. It suits each and every trick his voice can throw at you. He is joined this time by our very own Chinmayi whose voice is such a perfect fit, that you wonder if she was born to render this song. What could have been an otherwise ordinary song is saved by brilliant vocal casting and inventive work with the orchestration vis-a-vis teasing violins and the continuum. On a nice speaker there are multiple wow moments such as Chinmayi’s ‘hey mariyaan’ , Vijay’sagayathil nooru nilakkal and the brilliant violin buildup post 1.30. The continuum, a personal ARR favourite makes an entrance at 2.10 and its effect must be heard to be believed. The lyrics at the outset are simple to the point of stupid but then slowly the veteran Vaalee weaves beautiful poetry around what happened hen the lovers met yesterday. There may be comparisons made about the similarity in feel to Kadal’s ‘Moongil Thottam’, but I would put this a tad above that in terms of vocal achievement and vocal ability. Abhay Jodhpurkar with his patchy Tamil was a weak link for me on that one though he had better poetry to play with. The lyrical clarity in this song is the best in the entire album.

Right from its start, ‘Sonapareeya is peppy in rhythm and catchy in its wind section. You know that there is not going to be a dull moment in this song. The ever dependable Haricharan gets the song off to a decent start. But the magic wand of the song is Javed Ali. Firstly Javed’s voice timbre matches his portions a 200% and add glory to the song. Secondly he uses all of his classical music background, to invest tremendous energy into each variation of the sonapareeya catch phrase. And every-time he does that, the deft touches in orchestration are vintage ARR and the song overall has a very pan-Indian tone to it. So IMHO the tune could work even in Bollywood at a later date.

Mariyaan-New PicThere are a few grouses against the song and they are all on the lyrical front. The lyrics involve typical fishermen matters, but there is nothing special about it, which is a tad disappointing considering it is the legendary Vaali Sir who is behind it. Also in a few portions Javed’s pronunciation is pretty patchy , for eg: when he talks about the Peter and his quarter. But what’s most worrying is the bad splitting pattern of lyrics to fit it in the tune. Best example being, it took me a long time to understand the phrase, ‘enna padachavan kodukkum kai oyala‘ . The way, the kodukkum part here was split it made it sound more like an oft repeated Tamil cuss word. But all in all it is an extremely energetic and peppy song which will rule the airwaves for some time. Many thanks to Javed and the wind section.

Enga Pona Raasa’ starts with a subdued Shaktishree Gopalan calling out for her ‘Raasa’ who has not returned even though its evening. Bulk of the work is done by a guitar or two and hence the song never loses its soothing melody quotient. The lyrics and tune here are adequate and soothing enough to create the pain of missing the loved one. For ARR’s standards no new ground is broken here but the purpose of the song is clearly served and the song is nice enough for its situation and for repeated hearing in the first few weeks/months of the album release.

I love Africa is clearly a song which seems like a track to be played as soon as Dhanush and probably few others land in Africa to take up their new job there. The song has pretty authentic African beats, trumpets and a dash of ARR with the background arrangements and the pleasant choir section with Madras Youth Choir. ARR himself sets the tone with the vocals and Blaaze features across the song with rap section he has written and sung. All in all a song which is largely situational but also managed to sound pretty fun and peppy all throughout. The wow factor is how within the same ARR can pull of both a Nenje Ezhu and I love Africa with equal ease and 100% feel. Real class.

First one minute into ‘Kadal Raasa Naan and you know the things you are going to like the most about this song. The bloody brilliant choice of Yuvan Shankar for this song, the awesome beats and that to-die-for Naadhaswaram signature. I am a big critic of Yuvan as a singer, given his terrible pronunciation and even abhaswaram tendencies. But even his detractors cannot debate that some songs are just made for him and there is no better example than this one. In terms of feel and energy, he gives it his all and more. That combined with the brilliant orchestration and musical set pieces on offer, the song soars above some of the flaws it has. These are mainly with a few areas where Yuvan huffs and puffs a bit or his bad pronunciation stars jarring a bit too much. Examples are some of the ‘Kovam kondu vithaiyai kattum….’ where he tries to reach higher notes, and the part from 3:20 to 3:50 where Yuvan eats words and is just in too much of a hurry. But ARR just owns the track with his conceptualization. Especially whenever the Nadhaswaram features you never want it to stop and overall Yuvan’s voice fits the rustic requirements to a T. The purely functional lyrics by Dhanush clearly show in the first section what Mariyaan is missing since he is not in his hometown in the coastal south TN belt and the later half says how he is trapped in this desert amidst senseless thugs.

The biggest achievements of the ‘Mariyaan’ sound track are
1) An album with a not a single below average or forgettable track
2) Largely very clap worthy choice of singers. Yuvan for kadal raasa, Chinmayi and Vijayprakash for netru aval and Javed Ali for sonapareeya are all masterstroke
3) A relatively experiment free album post ‘Kadal’ where genre choices like blues, church choir and so on sounded promising on paper but all died an inglorious death in the hands of an already hotch potch of a film
4) Clear situational fit in many cases like Nenje ezhu, Africa, kadal raasa , enga pona raasa and the love duets and
5) Most importantly a good variety of instantly peppy(sonapareeya, kadal raasa), simple romantic(innum konjam, netru aval), motivational (nenje ezhu) and situational(africa, enga pona raasa) tracks.

There are a few pain points for sure though. Coming on the back of Kadal the quality of lyrics dips heavily. Kadal had brilliant poetry all along by the father son duo of Vairamuthu and Madan Karky while here the lyrics of a few songs at best scale the above average calibre. More than that ARR returns to an occasional vice of his where the thrust on music is so high that in some songs like Kadal Raasa and Sonapareeya, the words are awkwardly fit in some sections of the tunes. This is totally fine for a young genius composer who is fresh in the scene and manages to wow purely with his musical talent. But we are way past that state with ARR and hence these small things too become an important responsibility of his. Because these are all small factors which make the difference between good tracks which you go fida over during the first few weeks of release and rape the replay button over, to great tracks you sit and listen with your children and grand children for ages to come.

All in all a pretty fulfilling album without a single cringe worthy track and a few addictive tunes to keep you occupied till the next ARR album comes along. Bharatbala is blessed with songs which clearly seem to fit his situations to the T thereby making ‘Mariyaan’ a movie clearly worth waiting for. Somewhere between 3 to 3.5 on 5 as an album.