Saturday, December 17, 2011

Has the music of A.R Rahman really changed? thoughts of a true rahmaniac...

This is a question which has been debated by many people over the past two years. Ever since rahman won the oscar, he has been inundated with various projects, both Indian and international. Many believe that this has led to a downfall in his quality of music. Is that really true? I don’t think so.

If I ask anyone which is his favorite rahman album, majority of the people including me will say either Bombay, or taal, or maybe roja. But few will also say Rockstar. The commonest answer people give is that earlier, rahman’s songs had soul, depth. Look at the songs of Bombay – every song dripped of soulfulness, melody and purity.

Today when you hear the songs of rockstar, you might say that they are awesome no doubt, but nothing like Bombay or taal. Answer me frankly – do such films come up today? When was the last time you saw something poignant and moving as Bombay? Those were different times, when such music worked. I am not at all saying that today such music doesn’t work. Infact, if rahman’s soundtrack of Bombay were to be released today, it would scale the same heights as 15 years ago.

You cannot blame him for poor quality. Because the quality is not poor in the first place. Let us take a look at Rahman’s works in the last 6 years.
He swept away all the BEST MUSIC awards with rang de basanti, guru and delhi 6. Also came were Ghajini, jodha akbar and Jaane tu ya jaane na ; and then he won his oscar for slumdog millionaire..

Ghajini and Rang de basanti saw ARR in top form as he delivered stunners like Guzaarish, kaise mujhe, behka and paathshaala, tu bin bataaye, luka chhuppi, roobaroo and khoon chala. Rang de basanti was one of his best albums ever, with every song being picturized in the awesomest possible way – an added bonus.

Guru had some heavy chartbuster stuff – the kind of songs which are superbly melodious and are bound to rule all music charts for months, something which is very very typical when mani ratnam and rahman come together. Barso re, Tere bina and Aye haiyrate were brilliant melodies. A fun song by bappi lahiri and another one by udit narayan were the not-so-awesome songs. But they were hardly noticed as they were overshadowed by the 3 songs I mentioned. The BEST song of the movie “SHAUK HAI” picturized on vidya balan and madhavan wasn’t included in the soundtrack, but was released later. Do listen to it if you still haven’t. it is vintage rahman.

Jaane tu ya jaane na was sort of a cult youth album. Kabhi kabhi aditi was an instant hit, with people humming it everywhere you went. A dance number (pappu), a song to be sung with friends (nazrein milaana), a beautiful romantic number (kahin toh), a haunting title track and two versions of “jaane tu meri / mera kya hai” made this album a perfect peppy youth album. It effortlessly won all awards for music. 

Ashutosh Gowarikar and rahman together have never failed. Be it the epic LAGAAN or the poignant SWADES, rahman created nothing less than MAGIC. With Jodha akbar, he delivered again. A perfect soundtrack for a period film, it gave us one of the most melodious songs ever in the form of “Jashn-e-bahara”, one of the best sufi songs in the form of “Khwaja mere khwaja” and other memorable songs like “man mohana”, “In lamhon ke daaman” and “Azeem o shan shahenshah”.

Next came Delhi 6, where rahman was in his top form. He delivered a perfect ten with that album. (The album actually had ten songs…). The film did not do well, but that did not stop the soundtrack from becoming a huge hit and winning all awards that year. Incidentally, when the Oscars were announced and rahman won it, I was in the theatre watching Delhi 6. Hence, it will always be a special film for me.

In between all this, came the debacle YUVVRAAJ. By debacle, I mean a debacle for subhash ghai. According to me, yuvvraaj is one of rahman’s finest album in terms of melody. Some quality stuff with beautiful melodies like tu muskura, tu hi toh meri dost hai, manmohini morey, zindagi and my favorite dil ka rishta made this a gem of an album. But as luck would have it, the film as well as the song picturisation turned out to be a big letdown. The film vanished from theatres within a week, leaving rahman’s music stranded. Weak promotion too played a roleThe commonwealth theme song was unanimously rejected by the people. Agreed the song was not upto the mark, but then rahman had to face a bit too much of the media’s wrath. It was then that things started going downhill.

Once rahman won the oscar, he started taking up international projects. There was news that he had shifted his base to United States. Amidst all this came the years 2009 –2010 which was to provide 3 rahman offerings – Blue, Raavan and jhootha hi sahi.
Blue was a weak album – no doubts. It had its good ones – Fikraana is a song which I love hearing even today. And not to forget the blue theme – awesome. But largely, it was not upto rahman standards. Plus the movie was a big dud.

But raavan and jhootha hi sahi were plain bad luck for rahman.

Raavan boasted of some typical rahman songs like beera, thok di killi and kata kata, which relied HEAVILY on their picturisation to work amongst the audience. And then there was ranjha ranjha, khili re and behne de – 3 brilliantly composed and sung tracks. Infact, rahman feels that ranjha ranjha is one of his best works ever. So to say that raavan’s music was WEAK would be totally wrong. Compare the songs of guru and raavan, and tell me which one was better. Those who say guru, will only do so as the film was more successful and hence the music more popular. I say both the albums were at par in terms of melody. No one knew that raavan would go on to become the biggest flop of the year along with kites. Is rahman to be blamed for that? His music was perfectly in sync with the demand of the movie. This was a typical ratnam – rahman album.
Thok di killi was well picturised. Kata kata was apt. but the film bombed, and so again the critics and media attacked rahman.

Director abbas tyrewala’s debut Jaane tu ya jaane na turned out to be a blockbuster and rahman delivered a brilliant soundtrack in that. Obviously, abbas roped in rahman for his next Jhootha hi sahi. However, during the film being on floors, rahman received the oscar and became busy. It was heard that the film was delayed due to the music not yet being ready. When the music finally released, it turned out to be as good as one would have expected – “Call me dil”, “cry cry”, “hello hello”, a melodious “Do nishaaniyan” by sonu nigam, a brilliant “I’ve been waiting for the moonlight”, and a peppy “maiyya yashoda”. Pam pam para para turned out to be the single weak track. However the movie didn’t do well (Surprisingly… I found the movie nice. Definitely worth a watch…) and so the album sank. You cannot blame rahman for the debacle. His soundtrack as an entity was very good.

Finally came ROCKSTAR and as always, the media started with the hype that this would be rahman’s career best work. Again the news of the film’s music being delayed surfaced. But this time rahman came back with a vengeance, like never before. He delivered a 14-track album, which made sure he was back with a bang. Even before the movie released, it was already a hit, courtesy A.R RAHMAN. I don’t need to elaborate.
He made such a beautiful album which went beyond all boundaries, portraying the joy, the angst, the outburst of a rockstar. And doing that is something no one else can. Rahman showed and silenced all his critics by one single master stroke, and showed them that he’s still, and will remain the BEST for a long long time.

So, coming back to my question. Has his music changed? Has he really become busy? And most importantly, is that reflecting upon his work? The answer is a very resounding emphatic NO. Sometimes people expect a bit too much from maestros. Just let him be his own self, and he’ll show you that he still is what he was when he came up with ROJA. He is in the industry since twenty years, and he has given the bollywood as well as the south Indian film industry music which is well – LEGENDARY. He has every right to experiment, do international films and most importantly to be respected. The way the media attacked him regarding the CWG anthem was shameful and disgusting. Come on people, he didn’t deliver one song. Leave him, alright?

And lastly, I write this in BIG BOLD font – this one is for those who have even the audacity to compare Rahman with music directors like Pritam, Vishal-shekhar, salim-sulaiman, etc.
How many of you have heard the full OST of lagaan? Everyone will raise their hands. All of india. BUT BY THE ENTIRE OST I MEAN ALL SONGS AND “ALL BACKGROUND SONGS.”
For every album he makes, he composes five to ten songs. BUT FOR EVERY SUCH ALBUM, HE COMPOSES FIFTY OTHER TUNES WHICH WE HEAR IN THE BACKGROUND. Those who haven’t heard his background tunes, go to and download them. Because for every 8 songs of rang de basanti you hear, there are 40 other TOTALLY NEW background tunes. According to me, this is an even tougher job than composing the songs.
For those who thought pritam and VS do their own background scores, let me correct you – they don’t. Majority of the times it is Salim sulaiman who do it (They are considered to be the masters of background scores. After rahman, that is.) so next time you criticize or compare him with today’s composers, make sure you first know how much effort is being put by whom.

I am a devoted rahmaniac, and just like million others, I too wait eagerly during the music release of every film of his. I too celebrate his birthday in my own way by listening to his songs the WHOLE day. I too download ALL the background scores composed by him and value every single instrument and tune which he makes. I too am a rahmaniac… supporting my idol in times of good and bad. But I am not biased when I wrote this article. I admire good music – be it by pritam, vishal shekhar, salim sulaiman, shantanu moitra or anyone in the industry. But I’m sure even a non – rahman fan will agree that whatever I blabbered is right (If there IS a non-rahman fan somewhere…)  


  1. well to an extent .... the CWG anthem was a sham to the spirit of the game, as far as bollywood is concerned apart from Rockstar he hasn't given any soulful tracks after Slumdog

  2. @stuti.. CWG theme music by ARR was 100 times better than the world cup (cricket) theme by SEL.. it became prey for the political instability that was there centering the entire CWG thing..he indeed has given a lot of soulful compositions after getting oscars.. and u r ignorant abt it.. almost all the tracks of Jhoota hi sahi were soulful and awesome compositions.. and raavan had what it needed... music is composed to compliment the film's content and his music composition was apt... the film flopped and many dont recognize the awesome music it had... the nuances and the intricate details his music has.. his compositions are not monotonous and are not composed for commercial hit only... the compositions stand out for their technical brilliance and the apt feelings it comes up with..