That, one can never predict how an A.R.Rahman melody would flow in a song is common knowledge, but even by Rahman’s standards, the flow of the melody in “Phir Se Udd Chalaa” is stunning. Not a single phrase falls in line with your expectation. There is no groove to groove to. There is no hook to hook to. There is no comfort for a listener here, only twists and turns, surprises and more surprises. Rahman does give you a hook – “Tu too du”, but by the time you catch hold of it and prepare to settle down with the song, the song ends. But, of course, to give us some comfort, there is that Mandolin hook that Rahman introduces right in the beginning of the song and allows it loop throughout the song. That is how A.R.Rahman, even when he is at his lunatic self in experimenting with melody structures and song patterns, manages not to alienate the listeners. Also, all these thrills, chills and surprises in the melody are never employed in a song at the cost of the mood and emotion.
Who else, but A.R.Rahman could have the audacity to use those zany, delicately stacked “Ya Ya Ya” phrases as the sing-along phrase of a rock song in Jo Bhi Mein. I can not yet hum that phrase while I am not listening to the song. Rahman does not leave even the format of qawwali “Kun Faya Kun” untouched. Yet, the deviations in the structure of the song and not in the melody pattern happen not at Rahman’s whim in this song; it seems to have emerged from the demands of the situation in the film. Can Rahman ever settle for just some generic goodness with Qawwali? Rahman whips up an immersive divine fervor in every Sufi-qawwali composition, in the way only he can. Rahman sound, here, is in the melody. In my opinion, ever since Minsara Kanavu, the meaning of “Rahman sound” has changed. Rahman sound, now, is not characterized by dense layers of Synth loops. Even when he decides to build a soundscape with sounds and Synth loops, he does it in a way no other composer in the world could do – sample Aaj Dil from Blue.
These forever revealing layers in Rahman’s soundscape are now constructed from real instruments. Like, he does, so brilliantly in the groovy Hawa Hawa with multiple layers of all that is Tango and a middle-eastern tinge. Can Rahman ever go wrong with Middle-eastern stuff? The contour of the main melody in Hawa Hawa song has not yet revealed itself entirely to me, but I am instantly hooked and it is not just because of the Hawa Hawa hook. The melody, with its short phrases and sudden pauses, has an infectious charm despite the zig-zag sharp cuts it takes on its course. And that “Tango for Taj” is a Jaw dropping amalgamation of Tango and Mughal Music. The other instrumental track “The Dichotomy of Fame” with the Jugalbandhi of Balesh’s Shehnai and Kabuli’s Guitar has a familiar template (Yeh Jho Desh Instrumental from Swades) and yet the rooted flavor of the Shehnai melody makes it a refreshing soother.
With just a single Guitar refrain, Rahman Rahmanizes even an utterly traditional Punjabi melody in "Katiya Karoon". When that guitar refrain looms large in volume, in the final act of the song, the comforting feel it gives to a listener is inexpressible. It spreads a sense of positivity in the aura like no song did in the recent past. Nothing could explain this Rahman’s process of Rahmanizing a song better than incredibly funny and funky Seher Mein. A composer (Is it Anu Malik?) is teaching a song to the singer, and what the singer does with the basic melody that is given to him is what Rahman does to turn even the most conventional melody into his own.
Have you been longing for a song like that of vintage 90s A.R.Rahman? Then, "Tum Ko" (or Tum Ho) is for you. The haunting main motif (Aaaaaaaaaah Aaha Haaha), pristine Piano pieces, flute, tinkle bells, breezy strings, soft Synth pads come together to take us to a lonely, romantic wonderland. Want more? There is another version of the song that uses the dulcet registers of Kavitha Subramanian’s voice to its advantage, and with even more enchanting layers of Saarangi and Tabla.
Rahman’s soundtracks have always been eclectic. I thought Imtiaz Ali would finally make Rahman stick to one genre for the entire soundtrack. But he didn't. Rockstar is amazingly eclectic. Even within Rock, all the rock songs in Rockstar are entirely different from each other. There is the soothing soft rock in the intoxicating Jo Bhi Mein, psychedelic Sufi rock in Aur Ho, generically mixed forms of rock in exuberant Naadaan Parindey and grunge rock in anthemic Sadda Haq. Mohit Chauhan. The spitting anger in Sadda Haq, submission to the supreme in Kun Faya Kun, flamboyance in Phir Se Udd Chala, exuberance in Hawa Hawa, the longing in Tum Ho, the suffocation in Aur Ho – Mohit Chauhan nails every emotion to perfection is all the songs.
A.R.Rahman has always maintained that his music is a collective effort, and that his job is to musically realize a director’s vision. Imtiaz Ali’s vision has been triumphantly realized by Rahman in Rockstar soundtrack. The music, though enjoyable on its own, is deeply connected to the film which is why you hear a soprano whispering “Tum Ko” melody down underneath Orianthi Panagaris’s Guitar interludes in Sadda Haq. A.R.Rahman has come a long way as a “movie” music composer, and that is why he is the darling of all great Indian Filmmakers, and he would remain so. Is there any other Indian Composer, who remained the most sought after by most of the Indian filmmakers (whose films matter), even in his 20th year in business?