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Rahman on his way to Oscars
Jan 29, 2009 01:56 PM 2839 Views


A.R.Rahmanhas always been fascinated by the rhythm sound of a train and there are not many who have used it in songs as interestingly as him. The fascination was very evident in the background score of Bombay much before the ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ thunder hit the world of music.

In the movie Bombay, in the scene when Manisha after hearing the news of Arvind Swamy leaving to Bombay, runs towards a train moving on a distant bridge, we don’t hear the natural train sound, instead Rahman fills the soundtrack with a thundering rhythm that imitates that of the train as if the deafening sound of the train - carrying her beloved soul away, is tearing apart the music in Manisha’s life.

And now Rahman takes one step further and creates the thunder once again with a thumping train rhythm in the opening song ‘O Saya’of the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ soundtrack, tearing apart the barriers and making the real cross over in his own inimitable way.

The song gives me the ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ days of exhilaration. It sounds as fresh as the songs of ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ sounded, when it released and from what I read and understand even people from the other part of the world feel the same about this song.

The beauty of the song is not just in its rhythm, as the Rahman’s alaap is one of the catchiest hooks I have heard in recent times. While the rhythm is all Rahman sound, the vocal melody is all Rahman music and together it spins a captive aural web on the listeners. M.I.A’s vocal portions and the cute and playful kids’ choral portions are nicely sandwiched in between.

Also, the music beautifully matches with the rapid cuts and energy of the visuals where kids are shown running in the narrow streets of Bombay slums.

‘Riots’with its sustained bass implying the prevailing tension and the turbulent rhythms adding upon a disturbing aura and with a very petrifying layer of e-sounds, brings out the intended effect quite well.

‘Mausam & Escape’is the first piece I heard with the visuals from this movie (thanks to Youtube) and the one which I instantly liked. The initial pleasant strain of guitar beautifully underscores the sweet surprise of Lathika and Jamal as they meet each other in the railway station and before they could come closer and before guitar could take a complete thematic form, it is abruptly broken by the gang abducting Lathika, as does the freaking Sita(r)ock and running violins that abruptly ends the guitar piece and aptly captures the chaos, the struggle and the high energy chase in the visuals.

After reaching its maximum energy and sound with thick layers of chorus, strings and beats, it turns mellow at the end and the tempo slowly fades and sitar theme gasps and whispers like how a person running and chasing someone would stop and gasp before he stabilizes.

Rahman gives a new meaning to the term Inspiration with the track ‘Ringa Ringa’, a beautiful rework of notorious and catchy Lakshmikant-Pyarelal’s ‘Choli ke peeche’ song. The ‘Ringa Ringa’ line in such an additive phrase of melody that I kept singing it, long after listening to the song. Even cookcookcook hook gets a twist as chikchiku. Rahman thickens the rhythm section with lot more loops of beats along with conventional Dhols and Dholaks, keeps the eroticism of the original intact by making Ila Arun and Alka Yagnik to land the ending notes of each line sensuously and infact injects more feel with additional hmms, hoons and haas of Ila Arun.

He also adds a lot of beautiful sub layers like occasionally joining flute pieces and expressive humming of backing female harmony.

‘Liquid Dance’is a cocktail solution prepared with a spoon of Sriram’s alaaps in ‘Love Check’ song from Rahman’s Tamil soundtrack ‘Parthalae Paravasam’ and a spoon of string section of the ‘Spirit of Rangeela’ from Rangeela. But it indeed is a sweet cocktail that alternates between catchy Arabic strings section and classical Indian alaaps that just nicely touches and parts with each other at various moments. Madhumitha’s voice is a surprise; Rahman indeed knows when and how to use the singers. Can’t imagine what could be the situation in the movie that this piece is scored for.

While I was getting a bit worried about lack of simplicity in Rahman’s melodies off late, here comes a bonanza in the form of ‘Lathika’s Theme’that sounds so simple and yet a beautiful, deeply moving piece of music which also gains longevity with Suzanne’s vocals. The leisurely sitar strains playing the main theme towards the end adds a serene and divine touch to this emotional romantic melody. The ‘Dreams on Fire’ is the vocal version of the Lathika’s theme exquisitely sung by Suzanne again. With a constantly running bass, guitar strains, shakers and effective yet muted beats that thud deep under, this vocal version of Lathika’s theme is such a gripping love ballad and is one of the best English songs Rahman has written so far next only to ‘The Journey Home’ from Bombay Dreams. And the ending Flute version of the main theme is absolute bliss to listen to.

The strictly hip-hop ‘Gangsta Blues’is a slow poison in which Blaaze and Tanvi Singh has put up a neat performance with right attitude and punch. It was tedious to listen to it initially because of its monotonous beats, slow pace and not so instantly identifiable structure of the song. But there are hooks in this one too and once you figure them out, you won’t skip this track next time.

If ‘Jai Ho’was there in one of our Hindi film soundtracks, we would have definitely and easily rejected it out as another mediocre effort of Rahman. The song isn’t great but it isn’t bad either. Rahman gets the energy and the emotions right in the song with a clever structure that doesn’t ponder too much on the weak vocal parts in middle and instead breaks into the catchy hooks and the punchy percussions every now and then. Being quite aware of the highly emotional triumph at the end of the movie, I can understand how the overall energy and the euphoric sound of the song take over the audience. It is okay if Rahman gets nominated for Oscar for this song and wins it. Though not his best, if he wins then the world will come to listen to his far better Indian classics.

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