"Yogi" Soundtrack

‘Tamizh MA’ happened two years ago and after that there isn’t a single movie soundtrack of Yuvan, which one could call a complete musical feast. There definitely were few gems here and there but overall there weren’t movies that could feed the creative hunger of Yuvan Shankar Raaja. Well now, here it is the soundtrack of ‘Yogi’ that displays what Yuvan Shankar Raaja adds musically to the movie, when he gets genuinely inspired by the script. Yuvan has always delivered for Ameer and he does it again (though the movie is directed by Subrmaniam Siva, screenplay and dialogues are written by Ameer).

The album kick starts with a song where everything is electronic and it sounds quite unusual for a hero introduction song. I usually have lots of problems with such songs of Yuvan where he goes overboard with too many layers and e-sounds, but this song is done with a lot of restraint, each and every layer is catchy and has been added after a lot of thought. A sample for that is rough synth strings or saw motif that keeps looping around in the background which aptly fits in for the roughness of a ruffian that the song exclaims about. The lyrics too are sensible and though sung with a western attitude, it fits well for the toughness that the song requires. While the other version is clouded lesser with e-sounds but with more funky guitars, it is set on a different beat and the voice and lyrics are heard better. It is good that they didn’t name this track as a remix, because it actually is not, it is set to a completely different orchestration and it has to be heard without skipping.

‘Yaarodu Yaaro’ is a neat soulful melody with feel and rhythm reminding the songs of ‘Paruthiveeran’. The song has lengthier interludes with some amazing instrumental pieces and orchestration, especially that vocal harmony in the first interlude is such a heart-felt melody which I would definitely hum accidentally on any day few years later. Snehan beautifully describes the budding love between two extremely different people and sample this line where he describes Yogi falling in love as ‘Ithu Yenna Maayam, Sooriyanil Eeram’. And what can one say about Yuvan’s singing except ‘Nallathor Veenai seithu athai nalam keda puzhuthiyil yerivadhundo’.

With strains of ‘Yaarodu Yaaro’, the melody soon gets an identity of its own with the exquisite Sarangi solo (performed by Ustad Sultan Khan) in ‘Yogi Theme in Sarangi’ playing a very earthy melody sitting firmly on the rhythm of ethnic percussions. Though the template of the song is straight out of ‘Kanaa Kaanum Kaalangal’ (7/g Rainbow colony), there are not many composers who care for such instrumentals in film music these days. And when you think that is the most that you could get from a Tamil film soundtrack, being a fan of such instrumentals, Yuvan serves up with one more theme which again is soulful and addictive. The beat of this theme is interestingly made by embedding a Tavil on synth pads and the strings, flute, Amalraj’s Violin all march one after the other playing beautiful melodies.

The soundtrack’s most entertaining and fun track arrives with ‘Seermevum Koovathiley’ and what a funny way to start the song, no one would think of ‘Seermevum’ and ‘Koovam’ on the same line. Ameer, Snehan (lyricist), Naveen and Jijuba get dirty, real and give a knock out performance in this one. The sound of Chennai Tamizh over years has gained a musicality, which is very evident in this song. With each section song tuned like a popular yester year song, the song should please all the front benchers in the cinema hall. A sure shot winner this one is. Snehan again shines through with his utterly down-to-earth lyrics in the song and can’t wait to watch what they are going to do visually with that Rudhra Thandavam bit at the end of the song.

And with that, Yuvan’s Yogi is 5/5 for me.


"Blue" Soundtrack

I have to admit that I was not expecting much from “Blue” soundtrack. The initial teasers with ‘Blue’ theme and ‘Chiggy Wiggy’ didn’t create any curiosity. So without any expectations, I started listening “Blue”, considering it as just a soundtrack for a massy commercial entertainer. In these movies, Rahman has no limitations on the choice of instruments so to stick period in which it is set in (like a Jodha Akbar), or for which Rahman need not keep a coherent sound and feel throughout the soundtrack (like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na). It is in these kinds of movies Rahman freaks out with his anything-and-everything goes attitude, turns playful and unleashes few more experiments breaking the un-written formulas with which an Indian movie song should be composed. While Rahman has attempted all of these in the music of “Blue”, it isn’t entirely ground breaking but that isn’t a complaint – it is just a formality to say that (and probably cringe later for the same) and a big barrier that an avid A.R.Rahman fan has to break through while listening to every soundtrack of his in those initial days.

So when I broke through that barrier, even ‘Chiggy Wiggy’ sounded genuine, unpretentious, catchy and thoroughly enjoyable. ‘Chiggy Wiggy’ is no doubt an addictive phrase that gets repeated umpteen times throughout the song, but what makes the Kylie Monogue’s (except for the silky voice, there is nothing spectacular about her singing or may be the composition doesn’t demand anything more) part magical is the madly running bass (slap or synth??) lines that impose a heavy pull to keep frivolous melody lines grounded. The song suddenly makes a not so comfortable transition from Kylie’s pop to Sonu Nigam’s Bhangra, and on first listening, it sounded so plaintive, it wasn’t bang on. The tempo of the Bhangra beats should have been higher at the transition point to create a greater impact, I thought. But the realization comes later that this is actually a Bhangra without typical Punjabi dhols and that the song is meant to be in this way because Rahman wants to create a Hip-Bhangra-hop music. The euphoria of Bhangra is kept intact through chorus shouting ‘Hoi’ in rhythm, Sonu’s diction and expression and Punjabi strings but the beats is that of hip-hop. Rahman though entirely doesn’t pull this off, the song as a whole is good fun.

‘Aaj dil’ is colourful cocktail of style and substance, synth and melody. It has got one of the finest layering of synth, e-sounds and acoustic instruments we heard for a while. The best thing is that even without those infinite layers of sounds, the spirit of song is so densely stuffed in its melody itself, which has got a great momentum in it with never ending catchy phrases piling up one after the other. But what those eclectic sound layers bring to the table instantly is the aura, the ambience that the song wants to create. And Oh! Those madly done interludes without any identifiable melodies transport us directly to a dreamy water land. All these synthphonies could easily turn into a cacophony if not done with utmost care but for someone who put together something as magnificent as a ‘Potter’s Village’ this must be a child’s play. But nevertheless such attempts ceaselessly surprise the listeners. Adding to the beauty of already colourful bowl of sounds is the ‘Saayasa’ and a Piano motif sprinkled throughout the song. Shreya Ghosal is unbelievably versatile and extremely irresistible as she makes best use to the seductive range of her voice in this song. And Rahman interestingly makes Sukhwinder singh (who adds classical touches even in a song like this) sing this one and Sonu Nigam sing the ‘Chiggy Wiggy’.

I doubt if there will be a song this year that is more thumping, more addictive, more exuberant, catchier and hookier than ‘Fiqrana’. The song instantly sucks you into its groove and takes us through an exhilarating ride of rhythm and melody, right from the moment the main guitar riff starts to loop around your ears. How does a composer choose a certain sounding guitar? Rahman hits it bang on target with the choice of instrument for that guitar motif that ends each stanza and begins the interlude. The sound of the guitar and the melody played on it are ridiculously funky and hooky. The Rahmantic moment of the song arrives with the melody that swirls around on the lines ‘Jeet-te hain adh adh ka hum’. The song as a whole with it never ending rhythm, completely sweeps you off your feet and makes your heart jump with joy.

When the ‘Blue Theme’ was heard first in the teaser, I thought that Rap bit would instantly bounce off from the very beginning but interestingly there is a prelude to the RAP which is more interesting than the actual theme. The song takes lots of twists and turns with varied rhythms of folk, rap, pop, hip-hop and rock parading one after the other with all of thump. Amidst all the shouting, rapping, Rahman has stuffed a genuine melody (sung by a female vocal) which borders on Sufi. Though it has a pivotal theme (which could be used umpteen times in the background score of the movie whenever heroes complete an action sequence triumphantly), it doesn’t meander by orchestrating the same theme on different ways, it keeps moving on from one portion to another of varied rhythms, tempos and melodies. We will have to wait and see what the piece as a whole add to the visuals on screen.

‘Bhoola Tujhe’ is relatively an underwhelming song of the soundtrack. The main melody in Mukhda is really nice and soulful; it is a melody that I would definitely hum even after having stopped listening to the soundtrack, but it begins to meander in the middle with stretch-the-last-word-of-the-line technique used to make the melody fit into a preset rhythm. The song’s melody and orchestration seems to be derived from the intersection of ‘Do Kadam aur sahi’ and ‘Kahin toh’ but it isn’t as effective as either. Rahman tries too hard to add more soul and feel to the song with a soft bed of symphonic strings running throughout the song, while string section sounds heavily, it can’t help much when the melody playing over is weak.

The moment I heard those shrill hit-hat hits and deep bass in the beginning of ‘Rehnuma’, I thought this is going to be Rahman’s yet another true-to-genre Jazz songs in the lineage of ‘Jaane Tu’ title song and ‘Jillunu oru kaadhal’ title song, but soon as Shreya exquisitely begins to scream ‘Qaatil Ada’, Rahman takes a stunning route to a Rahmanish John Barry Stuff with that yet another additive and funky guitar motif of the soundtrack. Also to move far away from his other Jazz numbers, Rahman goes in for synth pads instead of syncopated acoustic drums that mostly accompanies Jazz songs and there is a delightful dense string section backing throughout. The flashy orchestration adds more attitude, style to the substance that is truly western. Shreya Ghosal and Sonu Nigam sing the lines incredibly without ever sounding like an Indian voice soaked and trained in Indian classical music, they have poured sweat, heart and soul into this song. The crescendos with multi overlapping layers of ‘Rehnuma’ chants, guitar motif and the string section are perfectly placed and are just out of the world (though you wish sound mixing could have been much better – rarest of complaints on a Rahman’s song).

‘Yaar mila tha’ is a song for which we cannot easily attach a genre to, it sounds like one of those early 90’s saccharine melodies with a touch of Rahman’s trademark cuts in flow of the melody, and with a new age rhythm that is part folksy and part hoppy. Adding further to that feel is Udit Narayan’s and Madhusree’s voice and singing. The melody in the Mukhda that perfectly sits on an unusual rhythm makes it an instantly catchy song but it faces the same problems as that of ‘Bhoola Tujhe’. In the antara, Udit starts to sing the lines with a melody that takes a random path with unpredictable pauses, which leaves us wondering where all of this is leading to (I immensely liked the maddening flow that the melody takes in the middle of ‘Behka’ or ‘Vaan nila tharum oli’ songs). Usually when such issues come up Rahman use to give a walking stick to the listeners like say that guitar motif in ‘Rehna Tu’ which was so helpful in initial listening to go through the middle portions where Rahman bothers little about fitting the melody to beats and sings passionately straight from the heart. But here, the rhythm though catchy is repeated endlessly and turns monotonous, so it doesn’t serve the job of a walking stick convincingly. This problem often comes up when Rahman composes melody for already written lines. Why do lyricists write such prose without any setting a definite meter so a composer can fit them easily into a rhythm and melody? Or if the music was composed first, how on earth a composer can come up with a melody that is as zig-zag and random as one in this song’s antara?

Few days before the release of this soundtrack, A.R.Rahman released a note like this

“This is my first film after the Oscars. So expectations are scary. It's important to work with a great team to create great music and we've done that with Blue. What's special about Blue is that it's an underwater adventure. So, it was very exciting to do this score as a composer. It's important that you don't get typecast. It's also important to give the kind of music the film requires and have fun with it! Drown into the music of Blue.”

It seems he was genuinely worried about the post-Oscar expectations of his fans and that was utterly unnecessary with a soundtrack like ‘Blue’. Of course there are some misfires and water is mudded here and there but that doesn’t stop me from drowning into music of Blue.

On a different note, I wondered why there is so much fuss about A.R.Rahman doing music for an action movie. In India, even in an action movie (for which if it truly is, there is no need of songs), the soundtrack is going to be a standard mix of love ballads, duets, a theme song, an item number soundtrack. Blue being an action movie and with a special mention of ‘Music and Background Score – A.R.Rahman’, one thing I eagerly expect is the background score. Let us see if A.R.Rahman could pull a John Powell or a Hans Zimmer with this.