Sunday, October 16, 2011

Music Review: Rockstar

Music: AR Rahman
Lyrics: Irshad Kamil

It isn’t every month that you get to listen to a Hindi film soundtrack composed by AR Rahman. The award-winning artiste selects his projects very carefully, so naturally, everyone’s been eager to find out what Rockstar’s music is about.

It may come across as a surprise, but the music of this Imtiaz Ali film is nothing like its name suggests. For all the right reasons, there’s minimal ‘rock’ to be heard. Instead, it follows the musician Jordan’s (played by Ranbir Kapoor in the film) journey across the country and to Europe and packs in wonderfully evocative numbers ranging from folk and alternative to electro-pop and some Balkan gypsy pieces as well.

Because there’re just so many nuances and undertones in all its 14 songs, you cannot judge Rahman’s music in one go. First, its 66-minute length – with no remixes or reprises to speak of – demands time and attention. The richness is in the details, and if you play the tracks casually, without paying much attention, you’ll miss out. However, multiple listens are highly rewarding. Second, the idea of keeping Jordan’s voice consistent à la Mohit Chauhan (who sings on nine songs) is a great decision. His voice oozes flair without going over the top. For instance, in the semi-parodic Sheher Mein… that’s both a song as well as the making of one, Chauhan’s voice dominates, though Karthik also features on vocals. Often, the song stops abruptly and you’ll hear the producer giving comments and suggestions in the background. 

The opening song sung by Chauhan, Phir Se Ud Chala… is a quintessential Rahman number with wide soundscapes, lots of sonic textures and vocal harmonies. Towards the end, it routes into the electro-pop realm effortlessly. The whimsical carnival piece Hawaa Hawaa… that features gypsy music with bits of flamenco is pleasantly surprising and perhaps the best quirky number we’ve heard since Vishal Bhardwaj’s Darling… from 7 Khoon Maaf.

Other memorable tracks include the evocative Kun Faya Kun… a peaceful and melodic qawwali number sung by Rahman, Javed Ali and Mohit Chauhan. Jo Bhi Main… takes the psychedelic rock route and sounds a bit like Pink Floyd circa 1975.

The album loses its focus halfway with songs like Nadaan Parinde… and Tum Ko… but picks up again with Tango For Taj… – another gypsy track with Spanish guitar and foot tapping beats. At the close, Ranbir orates Persian poet Rumi’s words: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

Rockstar’s music is in no hurry to get to its destination. Listen to it without a care for the world and you’ll love it. Rahman’s masterful control is evident in every aspect of the soundtrack, and once again reminds us why he’s the country’s most important composer. We won’t be surprised to see this become a classic.

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