The score of the much-awaited “Raavan” is proof that A.R. Rahman saves his best for old friend Mani Ratnam
Here's a Dare. Try keeping yourself away from not tuning in to this album. The songs will find you no matter where you go for the next three months — as ringtones, caller tunes, friend's car stereos, before it finally takes over your iTunes playlist.
“Raavan” is further proof that A.R. Rahman always saves some of his best stuff for old friend Mani Ratnam. That appetising teaser playing on TV with chants of Beera is guaranteed to make even the cynics take that dive straight into the album.
The magic of sounds
“Raavan” begins with a paean to Beera (Vijay Prakash, Mustafa Kutuane and Keerthi Sagathia) with an African tribal vibe, a little “Lion King”-ish, thanks to its jungle rhythms and the percussion pepping up the ode to the riotous Raavan.
The song establishes the character of the protagonist, and we see him as a grown-up Mowgli, bursting with energy, cruising through the jungle, and gearing up for a ride into the wild, warned not to mess with Beera — because he's all about Abhimaan (pride or ego as we've heard from the myth).
Gulzar has a lot more to do in the melancholic second track ‘Behene De' that begins with a pall of gloom (faint drum beats and ambient sounds) — sort of an aftermath song.
Despite the hurting, we see that Raavan hasn't lost his sense of pride. Beautiful similes of fire and water punctuate this mood song that packs in the pain and angst of Raavan. Soulfully rendered by Karthik (and additional vocals by Mohammed Irfan).
The energetic ‘Thok De Khilli' (Sukhwinder Singh, Am'nico) comes up next as an anthem for revolution. The situation seems to be inter-cut with a wedding sequence as the shehnai smoothly blends into the revolt song, and we can be assured of some intense drama in the choreography, what with lyrics such as ‘Kisme Dum Hai Ki Suraj Bhujaiye?' (Who has the guts to extinguish the sun?) and a crescendo. Rahman sets it up for a volatile encounter. The song suggests that Mani Ratnam's “Raavan” is tired of decades of the differences between the haves and the have-nots.
‘Ranjha Ranjha' (Rekha Bharadwaj, Javed Ali and additional vocals by Anuradha Sriram) seems to be the outlet for Raavan's angst of his unrequited love, and Rahman packs in some more soul. Again, a great opportunity for Gulzar to delve into the pangs of love and longing..
We suspect this happens after the abduction when Raavan finds himself crazy in love with his captive. This could also be the only opportunity for the item number, with Rahman infusing slow dance beats into this pathos-filled love ballad — maybe a couple of street performers echoing his sentiments.
There's a certain vulnerability about Rekha Bhardwaj's voice that helps Rahman churn out the album's only slow song — a beautiful melody, done Hindustani style, with Naveen's flute and tabla giving ample scope for Aishwarya to showcase her dancing skills. This song is bound to sound way better at the end of a long day, a soothing song about a girl's love for her piya (husband). Probably, the only song Ram gets in “Raavan”'s album?
There are going to be numerous comparisons between ‘Kata Kata' (Ila Arun, Sapna Awasthi, Kunal Ganjawalla) and ‘Rukmani Rukmani', both being wedding songs involving a group of singers, but if ‘Rukmani…' was a mischievous set-up for the nuptial night, this one's sung like a warning (‘Kata Kata Bechara Bakra'), but with equal amount of revelry and fanfare. ‘One more bites the dust' is the sentiment, but the shehnai and the dhol, coupled with Kerala-flavoured percussion building up to a riotous climax, may make it a favourite at weddings.
There's no escaping “Raavan”. Or Rahman. They will get you.