‘I’ or Ai as it was being referred to earlier is an acid test of a film for multiple reasons and it has been in the news ever since it was launched. The film brings back Shankar and actor Vikram together once again after their blockbuster Anniyan (2005). In my opinion Vikram hasn’t really had a good film after that (with films like Mani Ratnam’s Raavanan and A.L.Vijay’s Deiva Thirumagal being passable fare), hence what could be a better way to bounce back finally in style than associating with the same director who gave him such a big turning point in his career earlier. After working with Harris Jayaraj in his previous film Nanban, Shankar once again has fallen back on his trusted music composer A.R.Rahman for the soundtrack of ‘I’. Incidentally ‘I’ is the 12th film to be directed by Shankar of which ARR has composed the music for 10 of them (the other 2 films, Anniyan and Nanban being Harris Jayaraj compositions) and so the expectations were always going to be high.
And why not considering that the all the previous Shankar-ARR films have always had some amazing songs to boast of. Being known for his ability to deliver lavishly mounted larger than life films in convincing fashion, all eyes are on Shankar once again as the release date gets closer (the film is expected for Diwali this year). As I am writing this post sitting in Mumbai the audio launch of the film is going on in Chennai. Aascar Ravichandran, the producer made heads turn by roping in Jackie Chan for the audio launch of Dasavatharam (2008) and now he has brought in Arnold Schwarzenegger for the audio launch of ‘I’. From last night I have been listening to the songs of ‘I’ on loop and to be honest I wasn’t too excited the first time around when I heard the songs. But then I wasn’t too worried as in my case very few ARR albums have been able to hook me completely on the very first listening itself (Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa being an exception in recent times). Repeated listening has always gone on to make me fall in love with many of his albums time and again.
One of the aspects that surprised me and made me feel happy in a way about the music of ‘I’ is the fact that ARR himself hasn’t sung a single number in the album. Now before anyone else gets too alarmed let me clarify this point. As much as I like ARR the singer, I like the composer in him a lot more and feel that he has been getting too over exposed as a singer of late. Hence this made me feel that ‘I’ could be one of those back to the old times kind of simple, yet fun albums. Was I right, or was I wrong? Well after multiple hearings here’s what I feel about each of the compositions in the album.
1. Mersalaayiten (lyrics by Kabilan, sung by Anirudh Ravichander and Neeti Mohan)
The first song in the album and also the one which somehow got leaked out earlier over the weekend preceding the audio launch, this one is a little strange song of sorts to begin the album with. Why strange? Well because it comes across as a little too desperate to sound different, yet funky, what with its pedestrian style lyrics and Anirudh Ravichander trying to sound way too cool. Neeti Mohan’s portions sort of bring in some balance and while repeated listening has made me feel a lot more comfortable, as the album opener it still disappoints.
2. Ennodu Nee Irundhal (lyrics by Kabilan, sung by Sid Sriram and Sunitha Sarathy)
This is a lilting number, aided and accentuated by a lovely chorus at the backend. Sid Sriram who had impressed with “Adiye” in Kadal does well here as well and he is well complimented by Sunitha Sarathy alongside. The orchestration though minimal works very well over here, it’s one of those songs where everything slowly but surely seems to fall in place. Easily one of the better tracks in the album, this is a song which has the potential to grow on us.
3. Ladio (lyrics by Madhan Karky, sung by Nikita Gandhi)
Presumably a groovy dance number for Amy Jackson (now that we’ve seen the teaser as well 🙂 ), this one has Nikita Gandhi on full throttle. A conventional western number, ARR brings in some variations in between (check out the portion from 2:24 to 3:06) before shifting gears once again. This is just a standard song from the maestro, nothing to make you get back to, again and again.
4. Pookkalae Sattru Oyivedungal (lyrics by Madhan Karky, sung by Haricharan and Shreya Ghoshal)
A pristine mellifluous ballad, Shreya Ghoshal’s lilting vocals elevates the song by many notches. Haricharan proves to be more than adept at matching her in this song and it’s a pleasure to re-visit the song again and again. A special word of mention for Madhan Karky’s lyrics, definitely the lyrics too play a crucial role in making this song easily the best of the album.
5. Aila Aila (lyrics by Madhan Karky, sung by Aditya Rao and Natalie Di Luccio)
The most “interesting” track in the whole album for its variety in terms of the music and the vocals that accompany it, it takes time to get used to. But on repeated listening this is the song which intrigues you the most. Natalie Di Luccio seems to have had a blast especially while hitting the higher octaves with ease, making it a pleasure to listen to.
If you are wondering why this song has a second version, the initial few seconds will be enough to give you the answer. Chinmayi steps in place of Sunitha Sarathy here and virtually leads the song, with Sid Sriram providing the support, a reversal of sorts compared to the previous version. This is also a much shorter version incidentally and is as good if not better than the other one.
7. Mersalaayitten (lyrics by Kabilan and sung by Anirudh Ravichander and Neeti Mohan)
Now this is what one would call a regulatory remix, with the only prospect of making the album have another track and to appeal to the party circuit perhaps. It is just a little more pumped up and a faster version of the original track, nothing to rave about.
So while the songs of ‘I’ certainly seem to be in a different zone compared to what ARR has done in the recent past with films like Kadal, Maryan or Kaaviya Thalaivan, I will be lying to myself if I don’t admit that I do feel let down considering the kind of songs one has grown up on from the Shankar-ARR combo. While the songs from the recent Kaaviya Thalaivan (yet to be released) are from a different era and have a more classical touch, over here with ‘I’ ARR has tried to go in for a more contemporary style with a huge western influence. I am just hoping that the music only goes on to grow on us as we keep listening to it more often and that the visuals on screen only enhance the songs all the more. Overall ‘I’ has a couple of good songs and one song with potential, but it is still a slightly underwhelming outcome considering the stakes involved.
For an English translation of the lyrics of the songs of “I” you can check here
Check out the teaser of I-