Saturday, October 13, 2012
Jab Tak Hai Jaan Music Review
I wanted Jab Tak Hai Jaan to be an A.R.Rahman soundtrack in which the songs have simple and straight melodies with a conventional Indian film song structure and no real quirkiness in any of its aspect that demands the effort of a listener to decode the song. I am not at all averse to Rahman’s quirks and his experimentation, in fact, those aspects make him what he is, but just once in a while, it is no harm to go back to basics, take the cliched route and see what happens and how best he can turn the cliches sound not so. There is a lot of challenge in there. Rebelliousness is fine, but making something utterly basic and conventional and yet likable and make it stand out of the crowded Indian film music scene, is a big challenge in itself. For Yash Chopra’s Jab Tak Jai Jaan, A.R.Rahman, as I expected, has taken that conventional route, and also, more importantly, taken it precisely the way I had expected him to take. Jab Tak Hai Jaan is one wholesome soundtrack. I love all the songs. I am totally satisfied.
A.R.Rahman, many a times in his interviews has told how everything sounded the same back then when he was working as a musician with other composers. He repeatedly referred to the music as “same Dholaks and Tablas”, but quite obviously, he didn't mean that he had problems with using Dholaks and Tablas, he had problem only with using them in every damn song that got made. A.R.Rahman has used Dholaks and Tablas (Nenachapadi – Kaadhalar Dhinam, Kurukku Siriththavalae – Mudhalvan and many more) when it is entirely indispensable in a song that has to have its roots firmly in milieu of the film. A.R.Rahman using Dholaks and Dhol drums in Jab Tak Hai Jaan to the extent he has used isn't a problem. I don’t give a damn whether he was forced to use them. I believe that he hasn't done something he loathes doing. Also, like me, I don’t think A.R.Rahman looks down upon any form of music, he just don’t like using same form continuously. He hates monotony and repetition.
A.R.Rahman is very clever when he uses cliches in his songs. He uses them, but mixes them in the song in a way that suits the situation of the film, and that gives you the comfort of listening to something utterly familiar, and yet never sound embarrassingly simplistic and pedestrian. Whenever Rahman uses Dholaks, Dhol drums or Tabla beats, they would almost always be accompanied by the synthesized beats. In most cases, it is the synthesized beats that hold the main rhythm of the song, while the familiar drums loop along distantly. Both Saans and Heer in Jab Tak Hai Jaan have this blend of Indian percussions and the Synth beats. Rahman boldly uses just the Dhol drums with no trace of any Synth in the rhythm section of the Saans reprise, and it is just as beautiful. He even denounces some of the syrupy instrumental layers, like, that Cello in the Saans song that achingly repeats the melody of the line Mujhe paas aayi immediately after Shreya is done with repeating the line three times. Similarly, the flute piece - that is already playing melodies in lowest registers, in Heer, is totally muted. I would have liked the song just as much if he had mixed them boldly.
Most of the songs have a simple and straight structure - a prelude, main verse, first interlude, first stanza, second interlude, second stanza, reprise of the main verse and a postlude. And we don’t complain as much when he uses this cliched structure. Actually, we haven’t got bored of this structure yet and probably we wouldn’t for long time to come, because this structure is kind of a perfectly balanced mathematical equation. The sense of completeness and wholeness, and thereby the satisfaction, we get in a song, when each section of this conventional structure does its job right, is still unparalleled.
Except for the title song, all the songs in the album have the standard Indian film song structure, and it is after quite a long time since we have heard so many songs with familiar structure in one single Rahman soundtrack. And in that title song, Rahman quite wonderfully jumps between Rahman and Chopra mode and yet the song works like a magic as a whole, because the melody is beautiful and the flow and the transition in the melody between the two modes of the song is quite seamless. It took me a few times of listening to realize the beauty of the emotions in the melody in the lines Tumse hi Mohabbat thi Tumse hi Mohabbat hai – what I call the anchoring phrase in a song that is set afloat like this, and once I did, the whole song fell in place and I was perfectly in sync with idea and the emotions of the song.
Challa - the song sung by the street singer, who has nothing in life except a guitar in his hand and undying spirit to live in his heart, has just those elements in its musical backing too – a relentlessly beaten acoustic drums (brilliantly played by Ranjit Barot) that thump in sync with the rhythms of his heart and guitar that he strums in sync with the melody on his lips. For its melody, Challa is overtly upbeat and dangerously plays to the point of becoming monotonous. Probably, that is why, in the first interlude, A.R.Rahman chose to have an extempore guitar piece, the kind guitarists play following their heart without thinking much. The rhythm section in the second half is different from the first, also, while Rang Satrangi de lines are repeating again with rangi in satrangi repeated twice the second time, the corresponding lines in the second half of the song isn’t repeated at all. If that is not enough, there is a vintage Rahman sargam in the second interlude that peps up the proceedings further.
Heer is simple, flawless and mesmerizing. Harshdeep Kaur renders the song with such honest yearning in her voice; Rahman decided that her voice and the melody is enough to carry the song through and hence denounces everything else in the song. Am I the only to have realized the beauty of the Saans melody after hearing its instrumental version of the melody playing as an interlude in Heer? A.R.Rahman gets into his favourite middle-eastern terrain in Ishq Shava and expectedly he kicks ass. A song meant to make you dance, and it will and how! It is tightly packed with incredibly catchy melody, rhythms, Oud and Mandolin pieces throughout. The only so-so song is Ishq dance. If I heard it somewhere else first, I would have thought of it as a song from one of those Blazing drums series of albums done by various percussionists. I am surprised that the pleasant, swinging main melody in Jab Tak Hai Jaan poem isn’t that of any of the songs in the soundtrack. That main musical theme of the poem sounds incredibly romantic when played on a sweeping string section. I would like to listen to it more in the background score of the film.
The zing and swing of the accompanying guitars, the pitch perfect attitude in Neeti Mohan’s voice and singing, effervescent bubbles of joy that relentlessly burst through the never ending layers of strings underneath, an incredibly peppy and flamboyant melody - Jiya Re is as best as it can get. It is a song transports you to a magical land. The melody that sounds so western on surface is laced with beautiful teeny-weeny classical touches and sargams. Rahman brilliantly binds the main melody and backing orchestration. I mean, I cannot sing the line Chotte Chotte Lamhon Ko titli jaise pakdon without playing in parallel in my mind the accompanying guitars that is actively conversing with the vocals singing the line. How many different varieties of strings accompaniment Rahman provides to the hook line Jiya Re Jiya re Jiya Re! I am still counting. The feel of flight it evokes when Neeti Mohan gradually ascends up after every Jiya Re Jiya Re Jiya has to be experienced to be believed. Jiya Re is vintage A.R.Rahman. Jiya Re is Perfection. Jiya re is Genius. Jiya is limitless Joy.
There are songs and there is Jiya Re. There comes once in a while, a song, which, when I get the song in its entirety for the first time, I jump in joy, I love myself more, everything in the word around suddenly seems to be absolutely perfect, I sense extreme ecstasy, I sing aloud with the song, I sway my head and body in sync with the rhythm, I want to instantly run to and hug the person I so dearly love, I smile at everyone throughout the day (because the song is always looping in my head). I stop listening to the song, and even stop looping it in my mind, because I want to have the experience close to that of the first time, again. I deliberately make myself to crave for the song again. Jiya Re is that kind of a song. That is why, though Jiya Re is my favorite song of the soundtrack, it is still the song I played the least number of times.
This level of joy and excitement while listening to a song like Jiya Re is inexplicable. I don’t know if it just because of the beauty of the song or if this is an emotion compounded by the fact that he composer who made a song that made me feel this way, is the one whose music I care for and love the most. Few days back I tweeted, “This feeling when I listen to Jiya Jiya Re Jiya Re Jiya – omg! Omg! Rahoonga mein ek Rahmaniac Jab Tak Hai Jaan Jab Tak Hai Jaan” and I will.
P.S: I remember that people were quite underwhelmed by Rahman’s music in Yuvraaj when it first released. Now four years after its release, I am surprised that people (not just Rahman fans) remember even one of the string section layers in one of the songs in Yuvraaj, and they say Rahman has reused them in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. That unforgettable, huh?
P.S: “A.R.Rahman has lifted Jiya Re Jiya Re hook from the hook “Dhaiyyaarae dhaiyyarae dhaiyya” of the title song M.S.Vishwanathan composed for a Tamil TV soap called “Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati”. Seriously? Can’t you think of something original Oscar winner?” – I am disappointed that no one in the national media has made this brilliant observation yet.
P.S: After a long time, I see in credits of an A.R.Rahman soundtrack that no one else has done "Additionally arrangements" for any of the songs.