Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rahman strikes the perfect balance between being different and being commercially safe

Whenever Aamir Khan and A.R. Rahman have come together, the music has been distinct and experimental ("Lagaan", "The Rising"), and of historic proportions. Some of it worked, and some didn't, because the elasticity of the experiment is usually calmed by commercial confines.

"JTYJN" isn't afraid to experiment, but luckily, it's targeted at an audience that dares to be different - the college crowd. It's a young and peppy soundtrack that has significant shades of Rang De Basanti, as well as clear influences from Rahman's ongoing theatrical work on London's West End.

"Kabhi Kabhi Aditi Zindagi" features lead vocals by Rahman's new find, Rashid Ali, who has been his lead guitarist for most of his recent world tours. Behind the mic, Rashid's warm vocals, which fit the bill of the young and have the fresh aura that the movie has created around itself, take centrestage as the song is comparatively lower on background instrumentation.

"Pappu Can't Dance" brings the unorthodox genius of Abbas Tyrewala and A.R. Rahman together in a must-hear, musical mélange of madness. Barring all the controversy around it, which could only help step up its impending popularity, the song is trademark ARR who has historically come out trumps, when given a lyrically and conceptually offbeat track ("Rukmani" from "Roja", "Urvasi from Kadhalan"). Featuring a smorgasbord of singers, and a catchy Carnatic classical vocal hook, Pappu is clearly one of Rahman's wackiest creations.

Although there may not be an immediate attraction, the symphonic and melancholic natures of "Jaane Tu Mera Kya Hai" are magnetic; a large part of which is to be attributed to the voice of the relative newcomer, Runa Rizvi. Her voice does tend to get a tad nasal in higher registers, but it only adds to the haunting appeal of this track.

The male version of this track, rendered by Sukhwinder, is more dark and morbid, with a near-theatrical allure to it, with elaborate string orchestral accompaniments. The main melody, which features the movie's title, creates a memorable theme, which is unforgettable and lingers, long after you have heard it.

After the heavy and pensive segment, "Nazrein Milana Nazrein Churana" acts as a respite - a simple, hummable guitar track, which seems to be sung by a group of college friends. Very "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander".

The experimentalist returns with "Tu Bole Main Boloon", and takes the soundtrack down a different avenue altogether - into the genre of jazz, which is a fairly unfamiliar terrain when it comes to Bollywood. Tyrewala's engaging lyrics, as they talk about two tangential viewpoints, and Rahman's inimitable coarse vocals create an experience that is beyond words.

Finally, Rashid Ali returns to the mic, accompanied by Vasundhara Das, for "Kahin To Hogi", a gentle love ballad that brings back memories of Glenn Madeiros.

Balance sheet: Rahman is clearly the Salvador Dali of Indian music, when it comes to the level of experimentation in his compositions, constantly testing the shock absorbers of his listeners. At times you feel that he pushes the limits of his audience's comprehension and music appreciation (as in his recent "Ada: A Way of Life"), and at other times you feel he has struck the perfect equilibrium between standing out of the crowd and being commercial enough for surefire success. "JYYJN" is a brilliant example of the latter - a balanced chord that only ARR could strike.


No comments: