Sunday, April 8, 2012
Ilaiyaraaja Vs A.R.Rahman
Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai (Ilaiyaraaja) Vs Doli Saja ke Rakhna (A.R.Rahman)
Ilaiyaraaja’s background score in Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai is one of my all time favorites. Those who have been following this blog for a while already know the extent of my obsession on this score. I always wanted to watch Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, the Priyadarshan’s Hindi remake of Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai (Tamil) or Aniyathi Pravu (Malayalam) directed by Fazil, for the film’s background score is the only case where the Ilaiyaraaja versus A.R.Rahman comparison or debate is valid. I was tripping on A.R.Rahman’s songs in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna for past few weeks and it suddenly occurred to me that I haven’t this film yet. This could become an amazing exercise in understanding the importance of background score in a film, I thought. It did. I didn’t watch the entire film; I decided to check just the climax of the film. And I did. I also watched the climax of the original Malayalam Version Aniyathi Pravu, for which music is composed by Ouseppachan. Having seen all the three versions, I guess A.R.Rahman must have watched Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai before scoring the background music for the film, because most of the sync points and the transitions between the cues in A.R.Rahman’s are similar to that of Ilaiyaraaja’s. They are few differences, mainly because of the way the scene is differently cut in Hindi version of the film.
I have divided the climax into seven parts. For the ease of comparison, videos are made with clips of the same part of the scene from all the three versions.
When Mini (Shalini) comes running out of the kitchen to receive the unexpected guests – Jeeva’s Father and Mother, Ilaiyaraaja uses an ecstatic Synth piano run to make us feel that Mini is excited to see them in their house. But, Pallavi (Jyothika) in Doli Saja ke Rakhna seems to be going through different set of emotions. A.R.Rahman’s deep bass flute implies that she is nervous, anxious and unsure of the purpose of their visit and its consequence.
The awkwardness evident in the eyes of Jeeva (Vijay) and Mini’s brothers when they look at each other is underlined with bites of strange electronic pad beats. But, Rahman doesn’t bother to underline and emphasize with music, every little shift of focus on the characters and their moods in the scene.
Though the piece sets up a pleasing feel-good atmosphere, Ilaiyaraaja begins the cue a little earlier I guess. In Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, the cue begins to play precisely when Inder (Akshay Khanna) appears in front of Pallavi’s Mother, which clearly implies that Pallavi’s Mother is instantly impressed.
Ilaiyaraaja chooses a melody with a classical tinge but ornaments the melody with hippy Synth beats and additional loops, whereas, A.R.Rahman goes totally traditional, classical and conventional here. There is always a tendency to over use Shehnai in such remakes to add north Indian flavor to the south Indian films remade in Hindi and force nativity in the story. That apart, the soothing Shehnai melody brings in the much needed classical, ceremonial sound to the scene.
Unlike Ilaiyaraaja, A.R.Rahman switches to silence when Pallavi is out of Inder’s Mother’s sight. Ilaiyaraaja continues to play the music because he wants the brief silence, when Mini hesitates to move next to Jeeva to serve the juice, to be strongly felt. A.R.Rahman aptly plays the deep bass flute piece (Cue 1) that he played in the beginning of the scene again here to highlight the anxiety and nervousness of Pallavi. While A.R.Rahman’s score is just right, Ilaiyaraaja’s score works as a tangential musical narrative that implies every possible indescribable emotion in the visual narrative. What Ilaiyaraaja does here is what only he can do.
However, A.R.Rahman comes closer when he plays a sublime flute version of Shehnai theme without any accompaniment, for the sequence where Pallavi walks back to a table in the corner of the room, keeps the tray and starts reading a magazine. There is deep silence; everyone is looking at everyone else. The absence of accompaniments helps the soothing flute piece to become one with the silence. The sound of the piece doesn’t disturb the deep silence in the scene.
While Ilaiyaraaja’s cue captures every single expression in Jeeva’s Mother’s face when she hesitates to talk to Mini, A.R.Rahman conveniently plays the Shehnai theme again when Inder’s Mother walks towards Pallavi. We can’t blame A.R.Rahman, for there is no shot that lingers long enough to tell us about Inder’s Mother’s hesitation to talk to Pallavi.
When Jeeva’s Mother opens up and asks to send Mini with her, banging strokes for the reaction shots of all the characters fittingly emphasize the sense of shock and surprise in everyone’s face. When Mini’s mother agrees, the moment of exhilaration is elevated by another classical piece with a violin and flute running together on ecstatic stream of notes. A.R.Rahman doesn’t go for these bangs for the reaction shots; instead, he plays a relieving Sitar piece, but subtly underlines the confusion apparent in some of the characters face in the scene, by sustaining a deep bass in a layer down under the Sitar piece. The piece turns more ecstatic and relieving when Pallavi’s Mother agrees. There could also be another reason why the bangs wouldn’t have worked in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, because, unlike the Tamil version, in Hindi version, in the subsequent scene, Pallavi’s brothers tell their Mother that they too wanted the same.
The genius of Ilaiyaraaja lies in the specificity and precision in those sweet staccato notes on flute that plays when Jeeva looks at Srividhya as if asking "Why you did this to me" and the seamless transition from the previous cue to staccato flute and from this cue back to the main Violin theme. Unfortunately, A.R.Rahman gets no such opportunity in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, as nothing lingers too long for the music to make any notable statement. So, A.R.Rahman settles with a generic happy Santoor piece when Inder’s Mother walks to Inder and apologizes to him.
Overall, I liked A.R.Rahman’s background score in Doli Saja Ke Rakhna. A.R.Rahman’s score is much quieter and restrained than Ilaiyaraaja’s. But, remember, Jyothika is no Shalini. With a stone-faced Jyothika playing the central character, even Ilaiyaraaja couldn’t have saved Doli Saja Ke Rakhna. That background score can only enhance what is already there in the visuals and it cannot add anything on its own is the lesson learnt from this exercise.