1.13.2010

Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaaya Soundtrack

Gautam Menon and Harris Jeyaraj delivered some of the best Tamil film soundtracks of the last decade. Yet, Gautam Menon chose to move on to A.R.Rahman for ‘Vinnai Thandi Varuvaaya’. With Gautam admitting in all his interviews, that he has always been an ardent A.R.Rahman fan, his move is quite understandable. Who wouldn’t want to work with A.R.Rahman? Even A.R.Rahman needs to move beyond Maniratnam and Shankar, and work with more new Tamil film makers who could visually justify his music. The problem is that when such a combination happens, both sides will try to pull the other on their side and it is difficult to find a middle path. Will Gautam make A.R.Rahman to compose simple, instantly hummable romantic ballads that he has been extracting from Harris film after film or will A.R.Rahman drag Gautam to his ever experimental side?


After listening to the soundtrack 10 times, I am convinced that it is the latter that has happened. Rahman shatters every cliché of a Gautam Menon film soundtrack. It is so difficult to take it initially, and one can’t avoid a fleeting thought that Gautam should have stuck to Harris Jeyaraj. But these are concerns of nitpickers; these concerns are external to actual music. If we wither off such preoccupied thoughts, assumptions and expectations, it is easy to accept the soundtrack. While with some of the songs in this soundtrack Rahman tries to stretch and bend the rules of how the music for a simple romantic film should be, in some, he uses the experimental hat to gloss over the deficiencies.


It always annoys me when Rahman drowns the voices in a sound machine, even though the melody itself has all the needed pep and hip. Rahman still struggles with setting tunes to already written lyrics. The exquisite title track sung by Karthik is a classic example of how unpredictable a melody can be twisted to without losing the mood and flavor of the lines but the awful abruptness with which he rushes and squeezes the line ‘Kadhal Yendral Kaayamdhaan’ in an otherwise addictive number ‘Kannukkul ennai’ is puzzling. In the same song, the lines ‘Neeyum Naanum’ has an extremely convoluted solo-chorus interplay with lead vocal and chorus taking turns for singing the every next word of one single line of song. Yet all of this weird play settles down when the line ‘Anbae Ododi’ is set to a pleasing melody pushing us back to our comfort zone. This game that Rahman plays with listeners is so taxing and tiring initially, but once we understand the rules, we are sure to have fun.


‘Omana Penne’ suffers from both robotized voice and also fragmented melodic structures, punctuating a line at an unexpected word to fit it into a melody and rhythm. The sound play is so much so that we are not sure whether those peculiar vocal effects are of Benny Dayal or are that of Rahman’s music tweaking software. Rahman somehow covers all of this with that ubiquitous ‘Omana Penne’ hook and interesting Nadhaswaram bits.


‘Mannippaaya’ is a vintage 90s Rahman melody that overstays its welcome. Surprisingly, it is Rahman’s lines that drag the song and lessens the impact. The sympathetic strings, flute, piano and vocal harmony are layered in abundance to add depth to the melody but song works mainly because of Shreya Ghosal’s passionate singing. The way she curves the notes on the word ‘Mannippaaya’ with a sense of longing and desperation consummates the mood that the song wants to express in totality. The choir-orchestral version of Thirukkural verses sounds noble but it doesn’t sit comfortably within the template of this song.


‘Aaromalae’ is a kind of song that would set the stage in fire when performed live. It is also a song where we forget about the composer and start admiring the singer who instantly makes the song his own. While it is a revelation to listen to a Malayalam song set to a genre of a psychedelic rock (Is it?), Alphonse’s singing and expressions are beyond words. The song’s main melody is anything but hummable so Rahman packs in a hook line amidst those lines celebrating the hypnotism - which music from a liberated mind and soul, can achieve. For those who find songs like “Aaromalae” too alien, there are usual Rahman dance numbers to skip to. Rahman is at his playful best in the foot-tapping numbers “Kannukul Kannai” and “Anbil Avan”. While it is electric violin motif in the former, it is the unique rhythm pattern in “Anbil Avan” that Rahman nonchalantly keeps fabricating with e-beats and his favorite Thavil.


‘Hosanna’ is the most accessible song of the soundtrack with a definite structure, a simple hook line, typical synthpad beats and an elegant orchestration. The lyrics and the melody take twists and turns in this song too but they are not as sudden as it is in the other songs, so it flows like a clear river stream letting the listeners to easily dive and sail in its direction. The interludes with Suzzane’s silky ‘Hosanna’ slides, angelic choirs and soothing string section are so smooth and transcendental. Rahman ends the songs in his typical choir-orchestral way with subtle bell bangs and strings accelerating to a close as Vijay Prakash reprises what could be possible be the Pallavi with least number of lines and words in a Tamil song ever.


It seems in Chennai audio launch, Rahman told that he doesn’t know whether this album matches with high standards set by Gautam-Harris combination and that this soundtrack is a quirky one. Quirky – Yes, but without those aforementioned problems, the soundtrack might have been more satisfying.

30 comments:

MMC said...

"Will Gautam make A.R.Rahman to compose simple, instantly hummable romantic ballads that he has been extracting from Harris film after film or will A.R.Rahman drag Gautam to his ever experimental side?"
The latter was supposed 2 happen, coz it was GM who approached ARR, and not the other way round. He too needed a change, I guess!

mr.weirdo!! said...

If u remember Nenjamellam song from Ayutha Ezhutu, it also is similar to "Kannukul kannnai"... i feel the lyrics in "kannukul" and more importantly the situation demands this kinda of jumpy tune where there is lot of facts stating in a threatening manner helped by the bizarre electronic touch ... and the casual mode it settles down with "anbe od odi" is because the lyrics shift to pleading mode.

and why the harshness for omana penne? with all the synthesized sounds its still effective i think ... lets just look at the tune and stop thinking if its manipulated or did the singer really did this :P

the "kadanilul kaana" and the lines after that is so enticing... those are also hummable in aaromale ...

what u have felt while writing this is what i felt 2 days back and yesterday as i set out to write my post on VTV my opinion on the songs has gone through a sea change :) lets come past the synthesized blunder that Rahman keeps committing and enjoy the rest of the things the songs offer us.

Suresh Kumar said...

MMC - True. Blame it on my expectations. I was expecting them to find a middle path, and that would sound something like the songs of 'Rhythm' or 'Kangalal Kaithi Sei'

Suresh Kumar said...

Mr.weirdo - I would be more than happy if my opinion too changes with time. But.. Let us wait for that.

'Kannukul Kannai' beginning lines are perfectly fine. Naresh starting the line and chorus ending it work well but when it gets to the second stanze it where the song loses the stability.

I am still struggling to sustain my concentration on each line of 'Omana Penne'. Yes, there are lines that are catchy in between, but on the whole it doesn't come out pleasing.

Infact, hummability (is three any word like that) of 'Aaromalae' or any song for that matter depends on the music sense of a listener.

Actually I like listening to this songs, but Rahman keeps making such small errs especially in Tamil soundtracks. I wonder why.

Ramesh said...

Suresh, I think this is a nice balanced review. I have listened to the album around 6-7 times and I like it.

Suresh Kumar said...

Ramesh - Thanks. It was very difficult to write this one as I was not sure till the end about which side to fall on.

Vinith said...

//I was not sure till the end about which side to fall on//

I'm still confused about this song. Enjoying the best parts of the album thoroughly. Eg. "swasthi swasthi" in aromale and the feel that it gives, delightful parts of hosanna, shreya's rendition in MAnnippaya etc etc. There are so many aspects that i'm enjoyin tin this album. Yet, i'm not at all addicted or hooked to. 'Something' is missing is what i felt.

Suresh Kumar said...

Vinith - True. The confusion is natural. I am hoping to listen to next Rahman soundtrack possibly Raavan that is thoroughly enjoyable without such quibbles.

Muthuvel said...

Still haven't got even a glimpse of the soundtrack. But knew the world will be torn into wars on this, as this being a Rahman album, a most awaited and ultra-hyped one on that, and logged into yours and milliblog's review from work just to see what's on about the soundtrack. Seems like you both had some sort of fall-out on the Rahman's yahoo group. Haven't got the context fully as I stopped following the yahoo groups long back.

Personally I didn't feel good about it, as you both being two of very few credible people writing on tamil film music here. Anyway that's beyond the scope of discussion, let me first here the soundtrack.

Anonymous said...

i am not satisfied rahman should have done better i can feel some beats as though i have heard them already in some english song

Anonymous said...

kannukul backround has some similarities with remember the name you know the small tune at the back

Anonymous said...

the person who has written this comment, please rethink twice........plagiarism s easy.like what harris, pritam in hindi are doing...........originality is tough and as usual ARR's tunes become likable after repeated listening...........and this is more than engh for a simbu-gautam combine,,,,,,,

Vidya said...

Suresh, while your analysis on each song in most of your reviews provides a nice read, I sometimes see you defending Rahman why he composed the way he has.. Especially when the album has gotten some criticisms from outside (citing your ATM, Blue reviews here: you almost went into that mode for this review too)..
You either like a song or don't like a song.. As simple as that.. The reason why you like a song shouldn't be with respect to understanding what Rahman must have thought when he had composed the album..

Suresh Kumar said...

Muthuvel - As for me, All izz well now.

Let me know what you think of VTV music once you listen to it.

Suresh Kumar said...

Anon - I don't know what exactly Rahman has copied in the song that you mention.

Anon2 - I don't think Rahman ever works like that. Gautam + Simbu combo or Maniratnam + Simbu combination, the quality depends on the time he is given

Suresh Kumar said...

Vidya - Very valid. It is not that I defend, I try to understand why a composer did what he did in a song. Also especially when the song is not widely accepted, it is important to make my reasons clear for accepting the song. The classic example would be my thoughts on Chiggy Wiggy' song from Blue.

Ofcourse, without any such contemplation, one should be able to enjoy the song. But it is an unavoidable punshiment one much suffer for losing the ignorance.

I guess I was less "defensive" with VTV songs.

mr.weirdo!! said...

its strange ...his work always have some shortcomings in tamil off late ... sivaji, sakarakati ATM and now this ... even though sivaji and this has great amount of novelty there seems to be something missing ... i still love VTV more than Sivaji ... but where is d rahman who gave Delhi 6 or Jodha in tamil? Hope Ashokavanam satisfies us completely like u said ... but dont avoid VTV for its d best of his off late in tamil

Muthuvel said...

After giving the soundtrack a round of listens, i think I am able to put only two tracks with some definite opinion.

Aaromale - Rocking track for sure, I got sold out to it almost in the first listen itself, the vaguely Pink Floydian soundscape of it and rocking vocals by Alphonse.

Hosanaa - a definite hit material, hummable and tailor-made-to-be-hit variety. Pleasant, forgettable, exactly how such songs are intended to be.

The rest... am still in some sort of hazy feel, 'Mannipaaya' starts with a slightly oldie feel, but quickly recovers and goes into some neat melodic lines after the guitar chords come in, then somewhere loses steam completely after Rahman's parts start and never recovers. Actually by the time i finished listening to it, i was more relieved to finish the obligation of listening it fully than wanting to go back to it again.

'Omana pennae' is definitely the lowest of the soundtrack for me, very been-there-done-that Rahman tune, the Nadaswaram bits too don't help much and the vocals drowned into annoying synthesizers. Bad! am not going back to it at all.

I guess the biggest casualty of the soundtrack here is Thamarai's lyrics. Harris for all his musical complacency and stagnancy has always given space and clarity to Thamarai's lyrics and specially in Gautam's movies she has made a distinct mark in the past. Here its painful to say that I couldn't even decipher the words in some songs leave alone enjoying it. Actually in music language doesn't matter yes, but after listening the soundtrack the soundtrack didn't feel like a tamil one at all for me.

I was actually excited when i started listening to the soundtrack filled with curiousity for the new combo Gautam-Rahman, at the end of the few listens, I personally very much wish Gautam solves whatever problems he has with Harris and goes back to his team Harris - Thamarai and leaves Rahman to do work with dirs he is very comfortable with and gives his best with no restrictions. The last soundtrack I fully loved of Rahman is Delhi 6. My personal bet this year is on Ratnam's Raavan.

Suresh Kumar said...

mr.weirdo - True. Unlike his Hindi soundtracks, his recent Tamil ones always had some issues. I don't know why. I am ignoring VTV, I still listen to it, I am sure i will listen to these songs for atleast a month.

Suresh Kumar said...

Muthuvel - I too really felt very bad for Thamarai. The lyrics hardly registers due to the way it the lines are split to fit into a fragemented melody lines and the sound processing of voices. Definitely more than Guatam, Thamarai must be missing Harris.

EnvyRam said...

Suresh,

Pretty quick on this one. Thought you will listen to it for few more days before you give a review ...

Nice detailed review as always! And needless to say 'fair'

Smiles,
Vinayak

Fan said...

"I was expecting them to find a middle path"

Hmmm, if a conventional score is what you need, you don't need Rahman. A Harris or Yuvan or Vidyasagar would fit the bill.

And, you listened to the album 10 times before you were convinced that is was Rahman all the way without Gautam's influence? Sorry Suresh. That means, you were expecting/wishing the soundtrack to have Gautam's influence. Because, it is clear on the first listen itself that this soundtrack is Rahman at his experimenting best.

On first listen, only "Hosanna" appealed. Again, because I was expecting a conventional score too. Once I got off that mindset, what I heard was amazing. As I listen to it more and more, it is like a gold mine. It is an amazing experience.

I don't agree with your comments on "omana penne". I liked the song with the synthesized sounds than the unplugged version. Of course, to each his own, I think.

To some extent, the music overshadows the lyrics yes. But, even Thamarai hasn't done a great job. I was expecting something in the lines of "ennodu vaa veedu varaikkum, en veettai paar ennai pidikkum". Maybe, I expected too much.

Rahman's portion of "mannippaya" was poor especially considering that Shreya was singing the female portion.

The kural couplets came as a surprise but they didn't fit that well.

I think you should have waited a week or two before writing this review Suresh. You will discover more good things after few more listens.

Lastly, great as their combination was, I am sure Gautham wouldn't be thinking about Harris now.

Sureshkumar said...

Vinayak - Thanks. glad to see you here.

Fan - I agree with everything you said. I do like the songs more now, but that doesn't mean that the issues aren't there. They are there but just that I got used to them now.

KK said...

suresh...hi after a long time. Do you remember reading my review about Alphonse's entry as a music director about 4 yrs ago? See, I told you that he is talented!!!

Suresh Kumar said...

KK - Yes. I remember reading your post on 'Manjupoloru penkutty' songs and your comparison btw Alphonse and A.R.Rahman

Shuffle Head said...

Suresh,
The review was pretty good. But i want to tell what i felt. I have no knowledge on music like you, but i like to hear songs. I feel VTV is very unconventional. I mean, except for ARR, no one would dare to tune a title track like that of VTV. Had it been Yuvan or Harris, they would definitely gone for much conventional and catchy tune. But how long do we keep listening to the conventional tracks. i agree, VTV does not sound like a romantic OST, but the new tunes never before heard in tamil cinema (VTV, Aaromale) gives me goosebumps. And the addition of Kural in Mannipaaya was very clever and smart decision. Thamarai would have gleed at that move. Listening to Kural portion was like a bliss. all these r my personal opinion. Not against u.

Suresh Kumar said...

Shuffle Head - Thanks. Actually you are with me in your opinion on the songs VTV and Aaromalae.

Ravi said...

arr breaks and creates rules......then every one follows it.... I realised one thing after each rahman album.... I felt the same when his master piece dilse came in the market....i thought what is this and what he wants to convey. we realise after many day that it was a master piece may be unconventional....i am sure that all of the music directors have already listen to VTV and has also got inspired and even are following the path set by rahman. They know wht it is up to......i still say.....stop listening to VTV then listen to all other songs which are in market now.........hav a gap......then listen to VTV.....then u wont say all this......ans i am pretty sure u will change ur openion and say it a masterpiece

Pratty said...

Suresh,

Swasti Swasti is a too good tune. Is it possible for me to get a hello tune and ring tone of it?? Do u have any links with u??

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