Friday, July 05, 2013

Raanjhanaa

'Raanjhanaa' is a film directed by Anand Rai, a new film-maker whose first film was 'Tanu weds Manu'. I have not seen his first film and I have not heard its music too. For Raanjhanaa, he roped in A.R.Rahman for music and Irshad Kamil for lyrics. Rahman and Irshad have worked together before in 'Rockstar', where they did a wonderful job. I was curious to see the kind of music that this new director would tap from Rahman. In a way, it lets me gauge the director's taste and sensibilities. Rahman's last Hindi outing was the absolutely disappointing 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' and his recent albums - 'Kadal' and 'Mariyan' were a bit underwhelming for me (though Kadal was better than Mariyan). So with zero expectations, I listened to the soundtrack of Raanjhanaa.

1. Raanjhanaa (by Jaswinder Singh and Shiraz Uppal): The song carries exuberance in its tune and its pace. Not sure which of the two singers actually sang the song but the singer did a fine job in carrying the exuberant mood of the song. The strings section layer adds some charm to the song throughout, enhancing the sound texture beautifully. The moment 1st interlude starts briskly with strings - something told me that Rahman is on a roll in this album. A premature conclusion no doubt, but it was just a hunch, triggered by the music vibes in this song. While i do like the 2nd interlude on sitar, I must add that I am not much a fan of the sitar-scribbling - the fast playing style that Rahman employs (hangover of Slumdog millionaire). In this song however, given the pace, it manages to impress. 

2. Banarasiya (by Shreya Ghoshal, Anwesha and Meenal Jain): The saarangi strains that open the song made me sit up because Rahman used it after a long time. This semi-classical/folkstyled situational song has some playful vocals by Shreya with wonderful gamakams. Rahman fleetingly enters the zone of songs like "Mehendi hai Rachne waali" (Zubeidaa) and "Damadam mast kalander", but adds enough twists to the melodic lines thus shaking off any influences. Rahman also brilliantly uses a variety of the indian percussions, both North Indian (dholaks, chenda) and South Indian (kanjira and all) and instruments like sitar which sit perfectly well in the composition. My only gripe - Why only 1 charanam? Irshad too, matches Rahman with clever wordplay such as "Banaa rasiyaa".  This song is one of the best compositions in this album and will have shelf life.

3. Piya Milenge (by Sukhwinder Singh and choir): Just when I am all tired of the qawwali style songs in Hindi, Rahman comes up with a song that is not exactly into-the-face or perfect-to-genre and yet retains the essence of it. Rahman's experimentation is at a high in this song and with Sukhwinder Singh on vocals, it gets perfect. This raag-jog styled song has atmospheric arrangements with Piano riffs, strings, keyboards, electronic percussions and dholak. The 1st interlude has the choir moving from one raaga (which one?) to another (Ahir Bhairav) without breaking the mood of the song. This Ahir Bhairav is repeated in 2nd interlude too, with a solo violin added (superb touch by Rahman). The lines "Usiko paana Usiko choona" in the end highlights the key differentiating factor between Rahman and others - clever improvisation. Irshad Kamil's lyrics are good. 

4. Ay Sakhi (by Madhushree, Chinmayi, Vaishali and Aanchal Sethi): Another playful song by female singers and this one goes a little more ahead in the 'situational'/funny territory. Native Indian instruments clearly seem to be Rahman's focus in this album and particularly in percussions. This song too has a variety of them like ghatam, tabla etc. And he keeps changing the rhythms all through the song. The singers have all done a nice job while the only irritating aspect is their vocalization of instruments in interludes. But since it is meant to be a  funny song, we can't hold it against the composer. Rahman could get folk-ish flavour very well in this song, much like the he could do it in albums like Lagaan, Swades etc. 

5. Nazar Laye (by Rashid Ali and Neeti Mohan): Compared to other songs, this song seems to be a bit in template-mode, working within the confines of guitar songs by new bands. It is like taking a step back, in the overall listening experience. Yet, what works for me in this song is the portion by Neeti Mohan. A small twist here and there and the colour of the tune changes, impressively. I am not a fan of Rashid Ali's vocals and Neeti Mohan too is just ok. It is the way the tune flows that keeps interest levels a bit up. Again, no major interludes in this song and has only 1 stanza. This song ranks in the bottom.

6. Tu Man Shudi (by Rabbi and Rahman): This song is the attitude-show-off song. While it is not as anthemic as the song in Yuva, Rahman does a good job in constructing hook-lines that work big time. While Tu Man Shudi line is hummable, Rahman debunks it by adding a far more hummable line "Humse wafaayein lenaa". And the way it keeps recurring in this song - it adds to the effect. The arrangements border on hip-hop and but lounge and yet don't completely play there. This song might not be a favourite of mine, but rahman's improvisation in the tune is commendable, particularly from the lines "woh dil se...", where we do not know how and where he is taking the tune to. And he ends it perfectly well in that hypnotic hook-line. 

7. Aise na Dekho (by Rahman): Rahman off-late seems to be favouring accordian a lot, for many of his recent albums had this instrument. This song is fashioned along the lines of Rahman's own "Jaane Tu ya Jaane Na". Can't call it jazz per se, but a diluted jazz-ballad perhaps. The song has simple but nice tune. The arrangements are bit underwhelming though, with only that whistle adding a lot of appeal and instruments being so subdued. I loved the more stronger jazz quotient in instruments in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na song than this one. Rahman's choice to keep this song for himself to sing, is apt i feel, given the raw-ness (conversational tone) in the tune.

8. The Land of Shiva: This is a pointless instrumental piece, with percussions. I don't know why Rahman at times relies on percussionists to build these short rhythm pieces that do not tell anything specific, musically. Instead a good melodic instrumental piece would be much better, laying out the theme and mood of the film. Rockstar was the last album in which he composed two beautiful instrumentals. This film, being set in Benaras, had ample scope for a theme - be it location specific or story-specific.

9. Tum Tak (by Jaaved Ali, Kirti Sagathia and Pooja): If we ignore the spray of word "tum tak" on us, this song is actually a well constructed composition. The tune flows so naturally from one line to another, without letting in any kind of monotony. Indian rhythms and shehnai take us into non-urban North India and the tune meanders by adding melody line after line. The portions of female singer which start with the lines "Ik Tak Ik Tak" are beautifully composed, especially when the song takes a bit of Rajasthani colour in the lines "Maaro Nainaa tum". Again, getting the song's ebb and flow perfectly right without predictability is Rahman's genius here. The lines "Nainon ki naiyyaa" with those rhythms and sitar and the subsequent lines make this song distinctly delectable melody with Indian soul - something long pending from rahman. Again, true to the strengths of Rahman, this song too is free-flowing in structure and yet, is not way-ward but perfectly complete.


Rahman has this strange habit of throwing in a beautiful album after a series of not-so-impressive ones. Rahman's genius in this album lies constructing tunes that go perfectly hand-in-hand with the Indian sounds in the arrangements. He seems to have experimented very well with Indian percussions and with riffs of instruments like sitar, flute, shehnai - which together formed a distinct sound canvas that was missing in many of his recent albums. I find it curious & interesting that Rahman, by adding a layer of strings in many songs (raanjhaanaa, Banarasiya, Piya Milenge, Ay Sakhi), elevated the overall sound-scape in the songs. And no, Rahman is not just 'sound' in this album, as his critics say, but here, he is more on melody and improvisation. Banarasiya, Ay Sakhi, Piya Milenge and Tum Tak have some really melodious phrases and I have not seen Rahman giving so many "improvised-on-melody" songs in a single album. Not many after Lagaan/Swades at least. That Rahman gets the North-Indian film music ethos very well is a known fact and this album is another step in that direction because of the way he used those folk-based Banarasiya/Ay Sakhi/Piya Milenge/Tum Tak or the Punjabi-hip-hop flavoured 'Tu Mun Shudi'.


Bottomline: Raanjhanaa is certainly a brilliant album in his repertoire, matching the eclectic bouquets such as Meenaxi or Delhi-6. The album is musically far more richer than many of his recent albums and I like it because Rahman, for a change, discards his "global appeal" approach (with which I don't have an issue, but just that I don't want it in every album) and instead keeps it more earthy and rooted with more of Indian flavour. 

Not to miss: Banarasiya, Piya Milenge, Ay Sakhi, Tum Tak, Raanjhanaa (in that order)

PS: Contrary to public perception about Rahman's albums, this album did not take time to grow on me. One listening and I was at it.

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