Thanks to his Golden Globe for Slumdog Millionaire (and the possibility of an Oscar), Rahman is now the flavour of the month. While I haven’t been too impressed with much of his recent work, it made me think about his career over the years.
I heard Roja when I was in high school — to say that we were gobsmacked would be an understatement. It was like nothing any of us had heard before. But while it was new and exciting to us, there were also many who felt it was too synthesized and artificial and wouldn’t stand the test of time. Seventeen years later, it now seems fair to say that he has accomplished enough to earn his place among the greats of Indian film music.
This post is not about Rahman’s contribution to Indian film music (I may do that later), but simply a recollection of five Rahman moments that have surprised and delighted me over the years.
- The repeated shehnai notes in Yeh jo des hai tera (Swades). The song is nice, but what makes it unforgettable is the use of the shehnai. (Aside: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy achieve a similar effect with bagpipes in the title tune of Salaam-e-Ishq.)
- The use of the tanpura in Hai Rama (Rangeela). My friend Ratul brought this one to my notice. Who would’ve thought of using a tanpura to bookend a steamy song involving Urmila Matondkar and Jackie shroff prancing around in their underwear?
- M. S. Viswanathan singing Vidai kodu engal naade (Kannathil Muthamittal). Instead of any of a dozen conventional singers, he picked a veteran composer with a voice that belied his age and got him to sing this one about leaving one’s homeland. (More on his unconventional choices for singers here.)
- The second sax interlude in En kaadhalae (Duet). The credit for this probably goes at least partly to the director K Balachander. Nonetheless, what he accomplishes here is beautiful. Two brothers (one a singer, the other a composer and sax player) in love with the same girl, singing a song at a function where she might make an appearance. When she does, the sax player announces it with four happy notes that are the musical equivalent of jumping up excitedly, then launches into his theme for her (Anjali Anjali). But as he gets into it, he is reminded of the fact that he is estranged from his brother because they both love this girl, so he quietly segues into a sadder theme. It was so well done that I didn’t even realize until later that it was all done through a musical instrument.
- Tu Bole Main Boloon (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na). Exactly how often have you heard a jazz tune in Hindi film music?
Memsaab has a lovely post on her favourite Rahman numbers. Worth a dekko.