Friday, January 24, 2014
Highway - A.R.Rahman
As it happens with any A.R.Rahman song, when I first heard Pataakha Guddi (Female Version) I didn’t understand anything, though it doesn’t have as wilder a melodic pattern as in Phir Se Udd Chala from Rockstar - Imtiaz Ali, A.R.Rahman and Irshad Kamil’s last spectacular collaboration. Typical of most of Rahman’s songs these days, the flow of the folk melody doesn’t follow a predictable pattern, the song hits the lowest registers within first three lines and springs back to action quickly into the Maula tera section that ends hitting the core spiritual hook of the song - Ali Oh! Sometimes the verses are thrown by the vocals not so much like they are singing them with a melody but like poetic verses set to a rhythm. However, soon everything in the song always leads back to the most melodious, affecting and divine part of the song — the call to Ali. That which the Ali portions of the song invokes in me, only A.R.Rahman’s music can invoke that. The overall template of the song is rather conventional and complete with two short and sweet rustic flute interludes. Can it get any more rustically folkish than that Chaddiyaan Doriyaan phrase accompanied aptly by flute? But, Rahman being Rahman, adds a funky western twist to the folk with that “Ooh o ooh o” riff. The riff gets it addictive quality not just by the musical notes, but by the sound of the voice that sings the notes.
There are many examples - Anuradha Sriram’s voice in the interlude of Desh ki mitti, Febi in Oh Maria, Swarnalatha in Andha Arabic Kadaloram, Malgudi Subha in Thanga Thaamarai Magalae, Anupama in Dil se re and many more. These are parts where Rahman treats a voice like an instrument, where besides the music of the melody, the sound of the music too is the inseparable part of the music. In other words, if you quiz me to guess the song with a piano version of these parts, I would never be able to.
The other version of Pataakha Guddi in the voice of Rahman himself is sheer magic. It can’t get any wilder. Explosive is the first word that came to my mind when I first heard a very low quality version of two-minute audio clip of the song that someone recorded when they played the song in a press meet last week. I was stunned by the song like I was when I first heard Gurus of Peace which is a rework of Rahman’s Poraalae Ponnuthaayi. I learnt from Rahman’s interview that his version of Pataakha Guddi was the original version and the female version happened after he saw the film and wanted the song to be in female voice for the film. I guess this is the first time in the history of film music, where a re-arranged version ends up having a more stream lined conventional film song structure than the original which is all scrambled and goes all freaky all over. The attitude in Rahman’s singing, the ever-changing rhythm pattern with one pattern followed by a catchier pattern, the stunning hard rock interlude that has space for dholaks and harmoniums too — song is a blast all the way. Rahman’s attitude and style of staccato singing makes the even portions that I felt like a plain recital in the female version sound more musical. Even the Ali parts feels much more heartfelt when Rahman sings it. And he sings his other song Maahi Ve with an equally affecting romantic fervour.
The melody of Maahi Ve is an exercise in extempore, I mean how could one deliberately think a melody with those unsettling pauses between the phrases that carries the song to its sweetest spot — tu saath hai, and not to forget the way Rahman goes on to melodically stretch the Ve of Maahi ve. And the following strings section takes it further from there to insanely unpredictable directions. What is also startling is the main clap rhythm pattern of the song is same as that of Pataakha Guddi (also Tu Mun Shudhi), proves that Rahman realised that he doesn’t need to create a whole new soundscape every time to Rahmanize a song, which he can do when he is half asleep. As I always say, Rahman’s sound these days is in the melody, which is evident from the breath of fresh air that hits you when the song takes a turn with Yeh Jeena bhi. And the unexpected end, Rahman doesn’t even bother to repeat the main stanza again.
Wanna mash up is the odd man out in the soundtrack. The main hook is very groovy and addictive and each repetition is catchier than the one before with thumper layers of synth beats, but it meanders a lot in the middle. I understand you want every soundtrack of yours to be eclectic, but AR, I don’t want you to mash up every soundtrack of yours with one such rap/hip-hop song. I must also admit that I was disappointed with Magudi from Kadal when I first heard it on CD, but when the song played in the opening credits in the movie, it felt so right there. You never know. Implosive Silence is a sonic experiment like Acid Darbari. Sounds like a cue from A.R.Rahman’s score for Gravity, that is if he were the composer for Gravity. Melody is trapped and drowned in a sound machine. The soundscape is spatial, melody is a mystery, and the mood is contemplative or rather meditative. It certainly triggers some inexplicable moods points as we travel with the song. Someone’s in the movie is seriously suffocating with intense emotions suppressed hard and tight in their Silence.
Sooha Saha is everything a lullaby should be — melodic, melancholic, quiet and calming. Soothingly rendered by Zeb and Alia Bhatt, the song has that gentle swing in its rhythm and melody, typical of any lullaby. Don’t remember a song in recent past which had such long unpunctuated phrases in the melody without ever slipping its emotional core on its way. It is leisurely paced, but yet feels so tight because of the melodic grip. Rahman repeats the non-intrusive orchestral style of many of his other lullabies. The brief and almost no instrumental interludes shows that Rahman isn’t interested or doesn’t have time or patience for elaborate instrumental interludes anymore. But, how can something that is not in the song could be a problem in the song, so, no complaints.
Wall to wall synth and a classical melody is a perfect recipe for Vintage Rahman. Whenever I listen to Tu Mun Shudi, I think that Rahman should make one soundtrack full of songs orchestrated with loops and Synth and no real instruments. Well, at least I get one for now in Tu Kuja Mann Kuja. Finally Sunidhi Chauhan gets a worthy song from Rahman, and she nails it perfectly. So, does Shwetha Pandit in Heera, finally she gets a song of her own to sing in Rahman concerts. Just when you think Rahman is at his best with Synth, he slaps a Heera in your face, where he goes all acoustics in its orchestration — those breezy strings, the english woodwind, the solo violin, santoor, shakers and what not! The honey dripping in the melody through and through transports you to an all-green fantasy high land where you will sense all things pure, serene and divine.
I am shocked that there is a song like Kahaan Hoon Main in Highway, which sounds like a song Rahman made for me, for where I am in my life now. Is it only me? Two months back I wanted something else, I had made some drastic decisions, but finally landed somewhere I never wanted then or I expected to be, now that I am here it feels like it couldn’t have been any better, but still there is fear that anything may go wrong anytime. Oh my god! I just can’t believe this. I realize how intensely and intricately personal a relationship one can have with a song and that no one but you can understand what a particular piece of music does or means to you. The melancholy in the melody is just killing me. What happens between a listener and a piece of music he is listening to in that dark mysterious space enclosed by the walls of the person’s mind, body and soul is what happens to him and him only, and no one can know it better than that person. Next time when someone tells me, Lattoo Latto from Ghajini is their all time favourite A.R.Rahman song, I will not argue, if I do, I am a “ARRivu Ketta Mundam”.