By Nikhil Raghavan
He is back at a point when he first burst into the film music scene with Roja. He is at that juncture when it is time to do a right about turn and in the process, bring film music to celebrate lyrics and melody. A. R. Rahman has put in his everything, every ounce of his composing talent, his creative juices to come up with 14 tracks of outstanding melodies for his own, forthcoming film, 99 Songs.
Co-written and produced by Rahman and directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, 99 Songs is a Hindi musical romance which stars debutantes Ehan Bhat and Edilsy Vargas in the lead roles.
This piece here, is all about the music and songs of the film – 99 Songs.
To start with, A. R. Rahman has pulled out a few rabbits from his hat. We first heard of the talented Shashwat Singh through Rahman’s composition Wat Wat Wat from Tamasha. Then there’s Shasha Tirupati, quite a regular in many Rahman compositions. Remember Bela Shende who crooned a bhajan for Rahman in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar? Poorvi Koutish’s Rahman composition Ruby Ruby in Sanju has established her credentials as among the maestro’s regular roster of singers. That lot plus a few well-known names such as Arijit Singh, Armaan Malik, Shweta Mohan and Anuradha Sriram completes the range of voices in the soundtrack album for 99 Songs.
Melody rules in all the songs, except one (which I will come to, in sequence of the titles). O Aashiqa is a lilting melody with a lot of emphasis on the lyrics, on which Shashwat Singh has done full justice with his flawless rendition. I loved the subdued percussion in the second half of the song. I could not detect Rahman’s voice, though he is credited.
In Sofia, strummed guitar and medium paced beat steadily builds up into a crescendo at the end of the song. It’s a love ballad by Shaswat and, here I could detect the faint Rahman refrain in the distant background.
Rahman excels in this – the rock feel; remember the songs from Rockstar? He does one better with Nayi Nayi with Shashwat belting it out – and, I can imagine a roaring party scene of song and dance. Here, I must comment on Shashwat’s voice. It is very youthful and no doubt will suit Ehan’s persona. In comparison to Arijit and Atif Aslam, his is not as powerful; maybe he will get there? Or, maybe he should remain in that range to create a niche for himself? Back to Nayi Nayi, I loved the ‘drum solo’ ending.
Humnawaa is neither a ballad nor a song within any particular genre. Its just a good song! Although Shasha Tirupati is credited, it is all the way an Armaan Malik song. Where is Rahman’s voice, by the way?
In my view, Jwalamukhi is the star of the album, with two different versions scoring well above the rest. In the first, Arijit Singh’s (and Rahman) rasping vocals takes this soulful ballad to a soaring high. Later down the album, Poorvi Koutish does an even more powerful rendition to create a lasting impression on listeners and Rahman afficionados.
Shasha Tirupati’s voice is so suited to jazz, that Rahman should have done a bonus track of only her English jazz version. The one in the album, Soja Soja is a unique fusion of sounds which Shasha does full justice to with her powerful range and jazz-infused intonations. If You Don’t Love Me heads the English part of the song which seems to have cabaret overtones.
At one point in the journey of Rahman, I thought I had lost him to Sufi and Islam-centric compositions and renditions. Sai Shirdi Sai brings Rahman right back to his original roots and in the process, proves that he is a ‘complete composer’. Subtly supporting Bela Shende’s vocals, Rahman comes up with a unique bhajan (?), with an amalgamation of sounds dominated by table, creating a fusion of chants. Did I hear a light Sufi refrain in the far end?
With Teri Nazar, I was instantly transported to yesteryear songs filmed on picturesque Himalayan regions, Kashmir and Dal Lake. Shashwat Singh’s lilting love ballad is another very hummable song with an instant recall factor. After Jwalamukhi, I rate Teri Nazar as the next best song on this album.
If variety is the spice of life, 99 Songs surely has it. Is Gori Godh Bari a classical dance song? Is it a classical song concert? Anuradha Sriram, Shweta Mohan and Rahman, render this classical composition by the maestro, with so much ease and fluidity, that amidst the variety of love songs and romantic ballads, Gori Godh Bari simply fits in with ease. The voices blend Oh! so beautifully!
In a similar vein as Teri Nazar of the old-world-charm, O Mera Chand by Bela Shende is all melodious and charming with a mellifluous flute adding to the magic.
Now comes the sore thumb. If there is a reason for the inclusion of this song because of a screenplay necessity, I have no complaints. But, on its own, in this album of pure melody, Veere Kadh De seems like a filler. It would have fit in well in, say Gully Boy. Sarthak Kalyan, Swagat Rathod and Rahman are credited as singers.
The last two songs in the album are a fitting end to the 99 Songs soundtrack album. The Voice without Words by Poorvi Koutish and Rahman is a beautiful poetry in melody. While, The Oracle is a lovely composition played on the piano and backed by a simple orchestration.
With so many beautiful songs, I am looking forward to the release of the movie. With two good looking fresh faces in the lead roles.