Lagaan: Once Upon A Time in India – Opening Credits

(A post by Suresh who writes on www.backgroundscore.com, a person I highly respect for his thoughts on music and his tolerance and appreciation for good music)

A one-rupee coin engraved with Queen Victoria’s face is spinning. It continues to spin for a few seconds, accompanied by rapt silence in the soundtrack. The film begins, literally with a bang, with a loud thud on the percussions. Gradually, a rolling rhythm mimicking the spinning motion of the coin fills the soundtrack. Music is slavishly duplicating an action and its pace in the visual. The spin slows down, coin loses its balance and falls on a surface revealing the picture and the text engraved on the coin — the image of the Queen and the text “Victoria Empress”. With a pronounced solo trumpet melody that leads the bombastic Majesty Theme, the sepia hued surface is tilted towards us revealing the Indian map as it was cartographed in the period the story of the film happens — 1877.

A. R. Rahman Opening Credits
from Suresh on Vimeo.

 

A solo trumpet continues to play the majesty theme in its entirety when the title of the film “Lagaan – Once Upon a Time in India” expands to occupy the entire screen space. The title appears to have been sculpted out of the map behind, which has now morphed into a bare sketch of the boundaries of a vast, dry and cracked land surface; there is no green to be seen anywhere on the map, the whole country seems to be affected by drought — the underlying problem that would trigger the core conflict later in the film. The title Lagaan (Tax) is shown in Hindi and Urdu, when precisely an authentic Indian spiritual fervour is appended to the soundscape with layers of crashing cymbals and chiming temple bells.

The majesty theme represents the British in the score throughout the film. The instrumental track “Lagaan – Once upon a time in India”, titled after the film and released as part of the film’s original soundtrack, opens with a bold proclamation of the main Majesty theme. In India, a film’s original song-soundtrack is released months before the release of the film. It does sometimes come with a cue or two from the film’s score, and that means any discerning cinephile or film music enthusiast who heard the music several times before the release of the film would anticipate the whole track as it was presented on CD to be played in the opening title sequence.

Title music in Lagaan, instead of lethargically playing out as it was recorded for the soundtrack release, diligently follows the characteristics and moods emphasized through the array of material objects from the British era that appear one after the other in the titles. It helps the composer that the credits footage has an inherent energy, a sense of drama, a quiet narrative of its own and isn’t merely a slide show of static images of the objects.

The opening credits sequence in Lagaan is designed as a primer to the world and times of the film’s story. It is an extradiegetic tool that exists outside the realms of the film’s universe, but it can be used inventively in myriad ways to setup the context of the main narrative. In Lagaan, it is a show-reel of materials, objects, symbols, shapes and artefacts from the era when British ruled India, the era in which the film’s drama is about to unfurl. It is used as a trick to pull the audience out of their modern realities and gently nudge them into the reality of Lagaan.

A decorated silk-cloth fan is gently moving as if waved by a fan-bearer standing by the side of a Maharaja (the King) at the throne. Though the property here doesn’t symbolize the British, an unmistakable English melody, the Grace Theme, plays on woodwinds and is accompanied by a zen-like Harp riff suggesting the tenderness and grace in the waving motion of the fan. Grace theme would be played in its entirety later again during the introduction of one of the main characters whose kindness and empathy would change the course of the narrative.

After the calming and caressing English chamber piece, the score tonally shifts to a darker zone. Muted yet turbulent rhythms, wily low-pitched flute motifs and short bursts of tense phrases on low-pitched strings play to the images of the objects — Commander’s pith helmet, Queen Victoria’s portrait, the royal sceptre and the crown — that are emblematic of the ruthless, arrogant and oppressive English men, as they are portrayed in the film. With the first half of the musical piece representing the angel in the British and the second half the demon, the opening title sequence serves to set the entire narrative arc of the film upfront and drops hints of what is about to come.

Lagaan is a story set in India and about people of India but there are no Indian strains anywhere to be heard in the score underneath the elaborate and aesthetically constructed opening credits. Ashutosh Gowariker, the director of the film says in the documentary Chale Chalo – The Lunacy of filmmaking, made on the making of Lagaan, that he, in hindsight, believes that the English characters brought a certain authenticity to the milieu and era depicted in the film. Filmmaker and composer must have thought that it would be most appropriate to open with English orchestral music instead of classical Indian melodies and folk rhythms, for it is with the realistic depiction of the physical world of British in Colonized India Lagaan sets itself apart from all the other contemporary Indian films.

When Ashutosh Gowariker and A. R. Rahman collaborated again for the film Swades (Homeland), Ashutosh asked A. R. Rahman to compose an original title music that is not a derived, instrumental version of the other songs in the film. This doesn’t happen often in Indian films. Most Indian films have opening titles running anywhere between three to five minutes and the music is usually the instrumental version of one of the songs — songs with voices singing verses — of the movie’s song-soundtrack, or an arranged instrumental suite of the main melodies of multiple songs from the film.

In Swades the title cue isn’t intended to consolidate the whole narrative of the film in a few minutes. It is a catchy accordion tune that would also be the central musical motif of the film’s score, the various orchestral variants of which would be used throughout the film. I still remember the electrifying effect the music had when a velvet white screen spat the title Swades in many different Indian languages with the title music playing along, aloud. Here, the titles are accompanied by a hip and peppy tune and a slow addictive rhythm, and is devoid of any clichéd tone of nationalism in its melody or soundscape. You could dance to the DJ mix of the Swades title music in a pub.

The music in the opening title sequence serves different purpose in different films, and it is entirely up to the filmmaker to use the buffer screen time in the beginning of the film in a way that best serves the ensuing narrative.

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Partners in Rhyme – Part 1

(A post by Naga aka SoundTrackIndia)

The aesthetics of singer choices, dynamics and interplay in albums always appeal to me; an aspect that I sometimes obsess with and occasionally fuss about in AR Rahman’s repertoire; but this is not uncommon I know, and some may nod approvingly as they read this. My post is a throwback to an arc of dulcet voices paired-up, from early days in the composer’s career. To get into my shoes, perhaps the best frame of reference is Indhirayo from Kadhalan, where Sunandha and Minmini sound inextricably as one; this arc can be traced to how Madhushree and Sadhana Sargam bring out the festivity in Naina Milaike from Saathiya; or Sambho Sambho from Pudhiya Mugam where Shubha and Minmini conjure a boisterous duet; or how Meenal Jain and Anweshaa play a brilliant supporting role to Shreya Ghoshal show in Banarasiya from Raanjhanaa;  or most recently, Nooran Sisters in Patakha Guddi from Highway.

 

This palette, to me, is best identified by two singers, Anuradha Sriram-Sujatha Mohan, and when Viju asked me to write about my favorite singer duos, we instantly concurred on the choice without so much as a thought. In fact, Anuradha Sriram’s debut Achcham Illai from Indira already showcased her compatibility with co-singer Sujatha (Anuradha would go on to do remarkable interlude-hummings for the composer, like in Anbe Anbe from Jeans and Desh Ki Mitti from Bose). Interestingly, both the voices are used on the same protagonist in the song; and it worked great on screen. A phenomenon that would repeat later in Ishq Bina from Taal. Anuradha exclusively sings Ishq Bina lines, while Sujatha gets to sing the divinely Rab Se Sona Ishq verse. They interleave the O-o-o-oh humming, and join at the end, so seamlessly that even a not-so cursory listener remains blissfully unaware. The two are likely to have sung many uncredited chorus lines; the noted ones being Missing from Vande Mataram, Malarodu Malar/Aankhon Mein Umeedon and Idhu Annai Bhoomi/Apna Zameen Yeh from Bombay; while the former essentially belongs to Anuradha and the latter to Sujatha, the other voices are unmistakable in these songs. I’m ending the post on the best song they have sung together — Ishwar Allah from 1947: The Earth. It is a near-impossible execution of a harmony, backed by a minimalistic arrangement;  no one voice takes a backseat nor is projected. They walk a tightrope, in unison, as if it were a stroll by the sea, achieving a singular feat of not sounding like a chorus. This effect is impossible for two different-pitched voices to bring about — recall how Chitra is clearly in the forefront, while AR Rahman is meticulously receded, in the recent harmony exemplaire from OK Kanmani, Malargal Kaetten. To me, Ishwar Allah is just the fruition of their singing faculties (Sujatha, a veteran at that, having been in Rahman camp since late eighties, singing jingles and harmonies).

 

Music as an Expression of Romance (Mani Ratnam and A.R.Rahman)

A post by Deepika

Viju’s question to Deepika was – Connect the romances in Alaipayuthey, Kannathil Muthamittal, OK Kanmani and Kaatru Veliyidai via their music. This was due to the fact that Viju’s movie exposure has been mostly shaped up watching Mani Ratnam romances!

 

I am not the biggest fan of Mani Ratnam’s brand of romance but it’s hard to deny that he lands beautiful music for his cinema. Viju came up with this idea that I write about the music of Alaipayuthey, Kaatru Veliyidai, OK Kanmani and Kannathil Muthamittal and how it’s tied to the romance in the plotlines. The conventional sense of romance in Tamil movies should tell you that Kannathil Muthamittal does not belong to this list. But, if we were to characterise romance as a deeper emotional attachment, this movie and the album, finds a prime place in the category of romance. Each of these albums definitely merit their own separate post on how they contribute to the plot but I am going to be talking about which albums from this list I keep going back to and how the movie also influences my taste for the music.

 

Of the above, the album which resonates the least with me is Kaatru Veliyidai. I’ve developed this habit of listening to the music for the first time when I watch the movie for a richer viewing experience. The visualisations lend grandeur to the narrative and wanting to be about an experience that is larger than life, yet I found the album quite underwhelming. Take Tango Kelaayo for instance, which coincides with the first proper meeting between the protagonists, is supposed to give us that electricity. This, however, was better done in Rockstar’s, Tango for Taj. I quite liked Azhagiye and Sarattu Vandila but I couldn’t really register the rest of the album because it didn’t really stand-out for me between the distressing plotline and enactments. But then I don’t really see those two songs I mentioned as signifiers of a romantic attachment; particularly Sarattu Vandila which I see more as associated with “fun” (read as Sangeet material in South Indian weddings) rather than expressive of any deeper emotions. Contrast this album with Kannathil Muthamittal, whose plotline also emphasises on the connections between the larger themes of war (something that is larger than individuals) and the very personalised conflicts of Amudha and her family; here, the male and female versions of the title song express these conflicts and attachments at the individual level. Even with Vellai Pookal or Vidai Kodu, it seems to be talking at two different levels. Even so, the songs I keep going back to in this album are the title songs and Sundari (which is quite literally character-defining in its lyrics is elevated by something in the music that I cannot find the words to explain.)

 

Alaipayuthey has always been an evergreen favourite; it’s just one of those albums that defies diminishing marginal utility. I hold this album close to my heart because it is also one of the more popular albums from my school days which gave me something to sing about in antaakshari in a school where nobody seemed to (or pretended not to) listen to Tamizh music. It’s hard to pick the song I likes best. Without getting into the problematic romance stalking, this is one of those movies which give you the good feels and very beautifully complemented by the music. It is really hard to pick a favourite song, but if I had to I would pick Kaadhal Sadugudu and Pachai Nirame. After all, who doesn’t like Madhavan cooing about how important you are to him? But definitely, the best contender for the romance genre is OK Kanmani; at least, in my books. The plot is airy and refreshing amidst all the drama from the other movies; nay, it feels like the drama is understated in comparison but then it’s the right amount of it for me: the storm in a teacup variety. All the music in OK Kanmani is exuberant and youthful without making it seem over-the-top. There is something about Nithya Menen that seems to ground the movie (and the music) in a reality where women are cheerful but are not the giggly, idiotic versions that most movies project. It is the atmosphere the music creates that I enjoy the most: the joy of being in love; and yes the Bhavamulona Dubstep plays a very integral part in the colouring of the cheeks. This album will continue to be in my playlist for a long, long time.

 

On Kaatru Veliyidai’s music – A conversation

Long ago (Okay! A year ago), I asked two of the most enthusiastic Tamil music fans who I know of to write about Kaatru Veliyidai’s music for Rahmania. Those guys did their homework and gave me the doc on March 25 2017, but I missed posting it then. Then the movie came to the theater screen, the Amazon Prime Video screen, Aditi Rao Hydari went around singing Vaan Varuvaan on TV shows and then people forgot about the movie. And I still hadn’t put the post up! Here’s the conversation between Karaboondi (K) and SoundTrackIndia (N) on the music of Kaatru Veliyidai! Better late than never! –Viju

 

Karaboondi (K): The release of a Mani album is like a festival and what better way to celebrate than discussing the album with friends.

SoundtrackIndia (N):  Indeed, sometimes you end up making friends because of the music. If I recall correctly, you became friends with V around the release of Kadal, and I around the release of OKK. And now, here we are discussing the latest release Kaatru Veliyidai for his blog.

 

K: Azhagiye, the meet cute song  came out first. The Charanam is all sorts of brilliant , hitting the high with Marukaadhe Nee and then going on to tease you to break into Nivedha. I find a lot of things I love in the Charanam compared to the Pallavi: Sid and Jonita playing hide and seek with Charan, the carnatic music flavor – What’s not to like about this song?

N: Of course! Starting with some catchy a cappella ish harmonies, the song hides no surprises and is one groovy number with no lull moments. Throw in a bit of Punjabi shake-a-leg, and Jonita’s na na na  the song is just so effervescent. Karky’s lucid lyrics hide no intentions either. You know what,  I’d like to dub this song the third of the “heralding triplet”, following Adiye! and Aye! Sinamika.

 

N: Moving on to Vaan, a quintessential track of the Mani-ARR soundtrack. An instance of variety of complex emotions in a song — melancholy, love, jealousy, longing. And all these connect with me so plainly.  Vairamuthu shines here with his inimitable command over the language. The tranquility about this song is ironically unsettling. Shashaa is sweetness personified here. How things confluence at the ”கர்வம் கொண்டால் கல்லாய் உறைவான்” phrase is an experience that is quite difficult to articulate — but go ahead and ask your headphones. As cliched as the ending fading refrain of காதல் வந்தால் கனியாய் நெகிழ்வான் is, it leaves me heavy-hearted.

K:  Vaan is a modern Aandal Paasuram tinged with longing. Leela’s anticipation is represented by that melancholy flute cutting through the piano notes, especially between 2:23 – 2:45. They remind you of Porkkalam Ange, don’t they? That Ennodu Irundhaal Evalo Ninaivaan line is beautiful and functional  characterizing the man’s profession as the other woman.

N: Aha! Gotcha.

 

K: Let’s take a small journey to some hill station where close friends have gathered to celebrate a wedding.  The Sangeet is an intimate affair around a campfire on a cool September Evening. The best man is strumming the guitar and the groom’s brother who is also the flautist is making moon’s eyes at the bridesmaid. The bride and the groom are cuddled up under a blanket under the stars , and all of a sudden a groomsman starts drumming on the stool . Soon the others join in with their plates , glasses and spoons  as the bride and groom start reminiscing about their story through song. They are so comfortable with the place they are in their life that they grin and nudge each other in a weird dance as the ribaldry continues. Somewhere down the line , the groom’s brother who is our flautist has fallen for the bridesmaid who is behind most of the jests and the culmination of a love saga sparks the beginning of another. N ! you know what I am talking about here .

N: Saarattu Vandiyila is good old Rahman, wielding an orchestra of gazillion instruments, both classical and otherwise, to a folksy tune sung by chorus, checking every item off a celebratory event list, in the process. Perhaps the first time Tipu gets a solo credit in an ARR album, he is effortlessly charming. Raihanah owns the song, and Nikita chips in with the best segment that goes Kathaazhang Kaattukkul just as the song crosses mid-point.

K: Aha! H. Sridhar moment!

N: There’s something about delayed gratification. Last time it was the Thalli Pogathey hook. And take a note of this song, BandBaajaBaaraat enterprises.

K: Saarattu was the third single that came out. It had a resemblance to Alangatti and Eechi, inspired by the Kummi format. There was that coincidental similarity to Dhavanipotta Deepavali in a line that created frenzy and drew battle lines across twitter. Despite all this, the song is addictive as hell, with instrumental filigrees that are super intricate decorating the intimate lyrics. You know, Rahman is also very naughty with this song. The soundtrack version of this song is slightly different than the single version with the production slightly tweaked to make the strings and flute sound crystal clear. The percussion is also less tinny, and the soundscape resembles an open revelry as opposed to an intimate celebration.

Now , lets come back from this imaginary wedding to the present. You are no longer in Coorg. You are at your desk. You miss the fun you had  at the wedding. You miss Kamalakar’s flute , the singers. You want to go back to the poetic lyrics tinged with Eroticism and Ribaldry that entices without crossing its limits . You close your eyes and hit the repeat button , again and again and again . The Siren Sings “Katthazha Kattukkul Matthalam Kekkudhu Sitthanai Rendukkum Kondattam”. You grab some camping goods and walk behind the Siren into that enticing forest leaving the mundane behind you.

 

N: Sigh! But then all drama culminates in Tango Kelaayo. While the singers only sing Kelaayo, the title of the track is a tip-off to us, the listeners, to check out the Tango the song is set in. Another conflicting song of the album, that contrasts the dual personalities of the male protagonist, with respective vocals by Hariharan and by Diwakar. Nice touch comes in the form of a processed female voice. The song is embellished with all grand sounds that a Tango needs. Chuckle if you noticed a nod to Sundari..Siriya Rettai Vaal Sundari!

K: (Chuckles) The orchestral flourishes indeed remind you of Sundari and the grandeur is remnant from Arima Arima.

N: I’m curious to know what imagery you have in mind for the Tango song. Don’t disappoint me!

K:  The warrior and lover are in love with the same woman and she is miffed. The warrior tries acting nonchalant, telling her she may come back if she needs to. She doesn’t give an inch and so the lover takes over and all this happens within the first two minutes of the song as Diwakar and Charan pass the baton between each other seamlessly. I had to listen to this song about 45-50 times to identify the two voices and I was so surprised by the Googly ARR bowled by having Charan sing the female voice – Sexy Indeed.

N: (Chuckles) Like the exotic Indai Haza! What do you think of the Tango template?

K: The tango rhythm is addictive and for the most part ARR has stuck to the instruments traditionally used in a tango. The flute which played a starring role in the other songs representing Leela, is missing though. The song paints the story for you keeping the mood light and playful.

 

K: Let’s talk about the rap fixture that is an ARR standard these days.

N: Following Magudi and Aattakkaara, we have Jugni, a Punjabi track, one that could find a place in an Imtiaz Ali’s album without any reservations. After Aaromale, we have a whole song set in a non-native language, dictated by the movie locales; and likely the sole montage song of the album. Sprinkled with Piano chords throughout, this song makes for a wonderful listen. The rap portion, which doesn’t seem to have had many takers, certainly brings in a new dimension to this song. I’ve got another song in my travel playlist. How about you?

K: Jugni is  the Punjabi Thenmerku Paruvakatru revamped with trance and rap.  Tejinder serenades the free spirited Heer who doesn’t want to be caught. She is on this never ending road trip — friends with you but not quite. A flute like instrument forms a repeating leitmotif along with the keys, tying this song thematically with Vaan and Saarattu. This is the perfect song for long summer road trips, where the days are filled with sunshine and the thought of doing something productive seems criminal.

K: You know N, I had very high expectations of Nallai Allai and therefore it disappointed me the most. This song has the best lyric Vairamuthu has written in ages. It has the perfect leading man voice behind the mic and Chinmayi is in scintillating form. It is simple, sweet and reminds you of Ek ladki ko dekha toh in places. But it doesn’t grow on me. I get the fact that the idea was to showcase the lyric but you need a stellar tune too. That said, I have started looping this song, because I cannot afford to stay mad at the singers.

N: Indeed, Sathya Prakash leads the vocals with grace and conviction, and it feels as if the composer made the song with the singer in mind. You’re right, it is very much a simple melody, one that took quite a while to grow on me, despite the ethereal cameo by Chinmayi in the interludes. But as you noted, the most striking quality about the song are the lyrics that singularly convey helplessness and conflict, which perhaps the hero is going through in his state of mind; it teeters on the edge of futility of his exercise vis-a-vis love. It is this nature of contrast that makes this song quite impossible to label as a breezy romantic number. Sample “Oligalin thedalgal …mounathil mudigindradhey”  for how forlorn he is. While this all could be reading between lines, I’m looking forward to see how it is picturized.

 

N: So, what do you think of the album?

K: See, in Kadal and OKK, ARR had delivered enticing soundscapes that were new to Tamil Cinema. KV sticks to soundscapes we have heard previously. Here the songs have a strong frame of reference to other melodies and hence don’t meet the standards set by this combination.  May be this was ARR’s brief . It is after all the 25th year of their association, making nostalgia inevitable. N , How do you like the album and what are your picks?

N: Hey, I’ll take nostalgia any day, and I’m almost entirely sold with this album. You know why I qualify it with ‘almost’, don’t you? Anyway, my picks are Vaan, Jugni, Kelaayo & Saarattu. In that order. Yours?

K: My preference is a little bit different: Saarattu , Kelayo , Jugni , Vaan  and Azhagiye in that order. (Chuckles) But this can change in a week. What do you think about V’s picks?

N: You mean, what *will be* V’s picks? We’ll have to wait and see.

 

PS: After a year almost, K says ‘I fell in love with Nallai Allai later and cannot get enough of the song!‘ How music changes us!

Thalli Pogathey

(A post by Deepi)

I watched Accham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada in the theatres and needless to say, it was good money down the drain. Having not listened to the songs at the time of their release too many times, I still did enjoy a pretty fruitful experience at the movies. Thalli Pogathey on the first (and multiple other listens) didn’t hold any specific impact for me. I remember thinking back then that it was an average song made even less memorable by the surprisingly below average picturisation of it.

tp

But then I developed this recent affinity for this particular song and it’s been continuously looping in my playlist. The more I think about it, I like how right in the middle of the song we reach this dramatic point (with the female singer humming and the beats setting in) and it coincides with the narrative’s turning point; a bike crash and the possibility of life fading away now melding with the urgency and desperation of the lyrics and the mood of the song seem to make more sense (Nodi nodiyay neram kuraya! Yen kaadhal ayuzhl karaya!) This is probably the most addictive part of the song for me. I like how the song moves from the love-struck man beseeching for attention from his love interest to this mid-point of some kind of unexpected drama in their lives to moving towards just wanting to finally confess his feelings for her.

While the album in itself is pretty memorable, I don’t think I liked their placement in the narrative thread. It all happens so fast, as opposed to say how it was spaced in Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya. In retrospect, I think Thalli Pogathey is one of the best placed songs that very precisely captures the tension in the storyline and elevates the mood, which is until then very light-hearted to the point that you aren’t interested in the proceedings and do not care about the leads’ romance. As a standalone album, it is pretty refreshing but then I suppose Time would determine how well it ages!

Song Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiL5UTTTrxk

Happy Birthday A.R.Rahman

(Written by Aishwarya)

I think I’ve been listening to Rahman’s music forever. There are old home videos where Telephone Manipol plays in the background at a birthday party. There was a time my friends and I choreographed dance moves to Chaiyya Chaiyya when Dil Se came out. Once Sangamam released, I remember dad being enthralled by Shankar Mahadevan’s voice in Varaga Nadhikarai. I repeatedly danced to songs from Lagaan in school. But it wasn’t until years later when I started to take a special interest in Rahman’s music, and eventually music in general.

As an impressionable 12 year old, the Boys album changed my life (about which I have written on the blog with a cheesy title). I went through Rahman’s entire discography one by one between August and December 2003. Dad bought me a CD burner, and I used it to burn the songs of Enakku 20 Unakku 18 on it. I am sure I still have the CD somewhere. When Kangalal Kaidhu Sei released in early 2004, I remember my distinct disappointment. It was a Saturday morning, and I was home listening to the songs on Oosai.com. I thought, “What are these songs….I DON’T LIKE THIS.” I eventually changed my mind.

I welcomed my teenage years with Aayitha Ezhuthu. Before the official launch, I obsessively listened to little snippets that were leaked online. I visited the movie’s official website every day. I had never been more excited about anything, and I have never felt that kind of excitement again either. When the album released, I lost my mind. I had cassettes of the album that I would play every night before I fell asleep. One day Yaakai Thiri was my favourite. The next day it was Dol Dol. On Tamil New Year the same year, I sat in front of the tv to watch a Rahman interview even though I had a final exam the following day. He played this amazing version of Jana Gana Mana. There was another interview with actor Vikram that year in which he was asked what songs he was listening to at the moment. Vikram said he was listening to Nenjam Ellam and that he loved the album. That made me ECSTATIC.

I spent my adolescence listening to Mangal Pandey during power outages, playing Swades on my grandfather’s cassette player, watching the RDB title track everytime it was on tv (which was once very hour), memorizing the lyrics to Machakari with my sister, trying to understand what was going on in the Sivaji soundtrack and so on. Also, I must confess that I gave Dil Gira Dafatan a serious listen only after Amit Trivedi mentioned it in one of his interviews. Thanks AT.

My anticipation for Rahman’s albums is different today. The manic energy is replaced by a mixture of nervousness and curiosity. I put the album on loop, and more often than not, I am left exclaiming, “Ah! Vintage Rahman!”

Happy Birthday to the man whose music has constantly given me company, challenged me and opened me up to a world of possibilities, and given me something to look forward to every few months. Rahman’s music also still makes me want to stop everything I am doing when Humma Humma is on.

 (My sister and me)

Rustic Rahman

(A post by @atlasdanced)

Everybody who was anybody growing up in TN in the 90s will tell you that the album, that turned Rahman from being talked about as the “new kid in the block taking the industry by storm creating interesting music with computer generated sounds” to someone who everyone started taking really seriously as a guy whose success wasn’t going to be with defined by just ‘sound’, was “kizhakku cheemaiyilE”.

Bharathiraja was no longer the director whose movies were going to be box-office hits because it was “A film by Bharathiraja” (his previous 5 thamizh films, captain magaL, nAdOdi thenRal, pudhu nellu pudhu nAththu, en uyir thOzhan & kodi paRakkudhu were disastrous flops). I will stick my neck out here and say that had it not been for the album and the rage it created, the man’s career could’ve hit rock bottom with a 6th. But boy how much the success of the album turned everyone into finally believing that the kid wasn’t a one trick pony! “mAnooththu mandhaiyilE”, “kaththAzha kAttu vazhi” & “edhukku poNdAtti” were such brilliantly done folk numbers that have stood the test of two decades’ time.

There was another movie set in the village, “Uzhavan”, that released around the same time. But it was so damn insufferable that even a decent soundtrack from Rahman couldn’t save it. Although it had just one folksy number, it was enough to make us know what the guy was capable of. ‘mAri mazhai’, in the eminently likeable voice of Shahul Hameed is another number i go back to every now and then.

A handful of such brilliant numbers, picturised in a village backdrop, followed over the years – “senthamizhnAttu thamizhachchiyE” from vaNdichchOlai sinrAsu, “nee kattum sElai” from pudhiya mannargaL, “mazhaiththuLi” & “varAha nadhikkaraiOram” from sangamam, “thirupAchchi aruvALa” from tajmahal (i am obviously not including the few lovely melodies/ballads set in a village backdrop here), but none as supreme, as standout, as complete as my all-time favourite song among such songs one of my all-time favourite songs – “kAdu pottakkAdu” from kaRuththammA.

Everything about this song is well done, the picturisation (check out the video…the movie was centered on the ‘female infanticide’ theme…almost every stage of a woman’s life in a village is covered in 5 minutes of directorial/editorial brilliance…sigh, if only the entire movie had that kind of quality overall!).

The lyrics..ah the lyrics! Vairamuthu is in elements and shows you how much of emotional value lyrics can bring to a song. Every line makes you realise and even feel a bit awkward about the privileges of an urban life.

And what to say of the rendition by the third of the holy trinity of thamizh cinema’s male playback singing of my generation. SPB is a mad genius rockstar, KJY is gifted and should sing all our lullabies but ‘Malaysia’ Vasudevan is the voice that makes you appreciate the extraordinary art of (at the risk of sounding like a The Hindu katcheri review) – soulful rendition. Check out the “ada pOda vekkakkEdu” around 1:59-2:00. An entire life resigned to the tragicomedy of being a puppet in nature’s scheme of things brought out in half a second of nonchalant snigger while singing about it!

I have always thought it was a masterstroke to make Bharathiraja sing those opening lines…i mean, can it even get any rustic?

The minimalistic arrangement fits perfectly well with the mood of the song and one of those songs that i’ve probably heard a zillion times by now. It is *that* special.

“பட்ட மரத்து மேல…எட்டிப்பாக்கும் ஓணான் போல வாழ வந்தோம் பூமி மேல” (because some lines shouldn’t even be transliterated, leave alone translated.)

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Am I a Rahmaniac? Let’s just say i’ll probably be the first guy who’d take a dig at a lot of those as ‘Rahmehniacs’. So why am i writing here? I’m just tired of reminding even my good friends that I am a fan of the man’s music too. Just because i take a dig (almost always in good humour) at some of his recent works, doesn’t make me dislike the other 100+ songs that i love. Does my opinion even matter? No. Then why?

I have been wanting to write in this blog for a while, primarily because the good folks who are managing this blog are two of the nicest folks you’d come across online. People whose ‘mania’ i respect & relate to. This is just for them and of course, the music we all love.