Raavanan Soundtrack

The Melody – that which a song is primarily made of is simple and easily accessible in the songs of ‘Raavanan’ – the latest from the trio Maniratnam-A.R.Rahman-Vairamuthu. The flow in the melody isn’t as quirky and it doesn’t take unexpected and sometimes weirdly puzzling twists and turns, as it took in Rahman’s recent soundtrack ‘Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya’. The complexity exists in the structure of the song and not in the structure of the melody and moreover, it just sounds complex, on surface, because of those varied additional sound layers and loops that keeps panning across.

In Veera, the dense percussion layers and gibberish chants are of those kinds that can be easily peeled off for those who really want to taste the pulp - main melody. The melody is made of phrases of short runs and sharp ends that travels on a bumpy trajectory tracing and glorifying the grey characteristics of Veera (or rather Raavanan). The thump, thud and thunder in the intense percussive (both electronic and acoustic) layer grabs us by the collar and ties our attention. Rahman still manages to put up rhythms with percussion layers in his songs that are so familiar and yet so unique in its arrangements and sound, you can’t help but drown into it. The bugles, twanging guitar layers, along with the tribal beats, puts us right amidst rustic rural-tribal ambience that Veera seems to be a habitat of. And with that, the soundtrack begins with a bang. (And why Vairamuthu refused to write this song?)

The melody in the songs of this soundtrack doesn’t always rely on the instrumental accompaniments and sound layers to create the mood or evoke the emotion. This demarcation is very evident in the instantly intoxicating Usure Poguthey, in which the melody oozes with the passion and squeezes out the painful suffocation that is storming inside Veera, who falls for Raghini’s beauty, but, on the other hand, the orchestration embellished with serpentine strings, deep drum layers and xylophone tickles to put the listeners in a deep dark forest ambience in which this intense two-person drama is supposed to be happening. The only time melody and accompanying instruments join hands is when melody along with rock-guitars exert the exhaustion in Veera’s longing and distortion that Raghini has created in his psychological balance. Aided by Vairamuthu’s earthy poetry, Karthik’s heartfelt rendition proves yet again why he is cut above the rest and a favourite of A.R.Rahman.

The melody that starts on a high spirited note in Kodu Potta turns meandering and banal in later portions and fails to spark with the rebellious energy that is set ablaze by Vairamuthu’s fiery verses, the unsettling groove and by the rock-guitar riffing through the roof all along. And yet the song works hugely because of power packed punch in Vairamuthu’s verses and those two fine interludes – one with a celebratory Shehnai and Chorus and the other with string swirling its way into Rahman’s favourite middle-eastern territory - that remind us what a Rahman-in-form sounds like. For all its celebratory and self-congratulatory sound in music and words, it is intriguing to note that there is a tone of villainy and wily eeriness that runs throughout the song with the usage of Duduk and other woodwinds. The problem is that these tiny interesting bits and parts of the song don’t come satisfyingly together till the very end.

The flow - that magical flow in the melody is back in a Rahman song in Kaattu Chirukki and it is relieving to listen to a Rahman song after a long time that follows a standard Indian film song format – Pallavi-interlude-charanam-thunduppallavi-interlude-charanam2-Pallavi. Adding to zing and swing of the melody is that hip-folk-hop template that Rahman teased us with, few months ago in ‘Yaar Mila Tha’ in Blue. Vairamuthu is in fine form, at his playful best, as his words sensibly or rather sensuously flow completely in sync with the melody. Anuradha Sriram’s quasi-trance voice is so seductive and it beautifully works for the feel of this song and what we can say about Shankar Mahadevan - his classical touches, variations, and expressions are sheer magic.

Kalvarae is the one song where every single aspect of the song, veers or rather crawls towards, one single action or emotion - Seduction. The leisurely drone of Oud that keeps looping behind, the velvety filler flute that gently glides over and tickles the derma, the exquisite pleading and yearning in Shreya Ghosal’s voice, the laid-back rhythm, the saccharine melody and Vairamuthu’s Tamizh - all come together to help Raghini woo her husband. Even the only interlude is characteristically built around the purpose of the song. The gorgeous classical melody in the interlude that streams in Swaram is rendered by the ensemble in mid-tempo and punctuated with pauses, so as to make Raghini – a classical dancer, not diligently perform an exhaustive classical dance piece, but to move her elegant body, every so gently with sensuous postures and gestures, to seduce her husband.

The celebratory Shehnai and Nadhaswaram, rolling drums and roaring chorus embellish Keda Kari with all the fun and festivities of a rural Tamil marriage. Vairamuthu is shrewd and inventive with his lines which whips up rural flavour, though the puckish melody or pounding drums doesn’t smell the soil as much as it ought. Amidst the chaotic chorus, the song breathes some melodic air with Rayhanah and Tanvi Shah doing their folksy bits, which keep up a sinusoidal balance in the exuberant flow of the song. And that maddening coda with relentless beats gradually doubling up in its tempo, multilayered instrumentals and vocals, the soundtrack closes with a bang.

I like ‘Raavanan’ music. And I completely agree with all those who have problems with ‘Raavanan’ music. I am too empathetic to complain about ‘Raavanan’ music or to disagree with those who don’t like it as much as I do.