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.


arun said...

very fine review Suresh. I haven't listened to 'Raavanan' yet, but have heard 'Ravan' many times. I know exactly what you are talking about with respect to the music.

I'll check out the Tamil version to hear Vairamuthu has in store.

Anonymous said...

Good review: I personally didnt like the album. There are no clincher songs in the album: I guess I will reserve my comments till I watch the movie..

Nitpicking on your article:

Empathetic on whom? Rahman, the album or Mani-ARR combo? Or did you intend to convey some other meaning?

You can't completely agree with people that have the exact opposite opinion on something! Did you mean you completely understand?

Every time I read your article, I sort of understand what you try to convey but this time it was a little too vague for me to comprehend..

umesh said...

And I completely agree with all those who have problems with ‘Raavanan’ music.

what does this mean?why to agree with problems after writing a positive review?

Suresh Kumar said...

Anonymous - Empathetic on the subject matter of the film (which I get from Synopsis in the website and the trailers).

"I agree with those who don't like" is meant to say I would also be in the same opinion if I listen to the music through a mind space same as theirs.. In a way, as you said, i should have put it 'I understand' but that is why I put the word 'empathetic'

Suresh Kumar said...

Umesh - The problems exists if heard through their ears. If you can understand how their ears, mind and heart takes and processes music, it is easy to understand why they are saying what they are saying.

I access a film soundtrack in a different way, which may not be the right way. But the truth is, those who don't like, they really don't like it and those who like, they really, genuinely like it.. one can't question each other. We just have to *Agree* to disagree and go on with whatever our mind tells us on how we feel about the music..

Shuffle Head said...

Awesome review Suresh. I've been awaiting the release of Raavanan audio just to read your review. You've done a great job. Glad u liked the songs. Me too. Usure poguthey is killer track with awesome lyrics. There was some post in arrahmanfans group that Behen De lyrics were of Water and the Usure poguthey was linking to Fire. ANd it is very true. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Just like always - beautiful and poignant review....hats off Suresh.......

however, im quite surprised that u have been very appreciative of Vairamuthu and didnt have problems with "lyrics fitting sandham" in some places in all aongs.....maybe Gulzar has been too good this time, maybe :-)

Suresh Kumar said...

Shufflehead - Thanks. I read about that water Vs fire somewhere.. Nice one.. the rhythm and musical flow of the song could be imagined both ways too..

Sudhir - Thank. 'Lyrics fitting Sandham' and yet so sensible and that is why I was appreciative of it. Most people who complain about the lyrics.. I recommend that they listen to the songs atleast once with the lyrics book (that comes with CD) in hand

Srijith Unni said...

Wonderfully said, Suresh!. Everyone has their own way, their own reasons for appreciating music. That is why no music is good / bad. I used to think all S.A.Rajkumar tunes are bad tunes, repetitively played to induce melodrama, but was really shocked to realize the other day when you posted the quiz, how much they have stayed with me.

Knowing rahman's capability to adapt, even though not completely impressed with the music right now, I'm sure that the music will do full justice to the film as a whole and will linger on for long, after the film.

R Sathyamurthy said...

First hear, I didnt like Raavanan. Then it just grew and grew on me.

Each song is very different from others and is very unlike the songs earlier scored by Rahman.

Vairamuthu's lyrics are superb to tell the least.

The only bit I don't like is two or three words that has got forced into the song "Kida kari" and doesn't fit. It comes at 1.32 minutes into the song "Elimicham pazam pola iva konda sirisu, nagapazaham pola vaai maattum sirusu". Vairamuthu could have chosen better words for these to fit the tune or Rahaman could have slightly twisted these words to match the tune.

Rajasekaran.K said...

@Suresh :- have been following your blog for quite some time. your reviews are honest and free from personal biases..Keep it up.kindly review Ananthapurathu Veedu and a kannada soundtrack called Just maath maathalli

Suresh Kumar said...

Rajasekaran - Thanks. I am eager to listen to 'Andhapurathu veedu'.. Hardly have any time to breath now and it will be like this for few more days.. until then no time for music.. I will listen to them for sure, sometime later..

sowmya said...

@ suresh
P.S. no offense meant.
Its a surprise that a person like you who explains and enjoys every bit of music to appreciate Raavana. Are you attempting to be a diplomat than a critic. Not one song stayed with me after I left the theatre. Not one single piece of bgm that shook me. Are people bound or forced to like ARR + MR combo...or is the music really good.? I am sure you are a better person than I to answer the last question. I have seen people like Ravana songs simple bacause it is a byproduct of ARR+MR...To me the music...actually there was no music....

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