In 1993, ‘Khalnayak’ and ‘Baazigar’ stormed into the scene, demanding viewers’ attention and instantly bagging the superhit status. Both films would go on to become cult classics while the music from the films, Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai and Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen, dominated the charts.
But 1993 was also the year when tunes by a 26-year-old musician from Tamil Nadu would be dubbed into Hindi. The Khalnayaks and the Baazigars stood mesmerised as the ‘choti si asha’ of a young woman from Tamil Nadu stirred the country’s soul, selling over 12 lakh cassettes in Mumbai alone. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the song quickly became the country’s favourite tune. AR Rahman had arrived.
Cut to 25 years later, and AR Rahman delivers yet another stunner with ‘Kaatru Veliyidai’. What a journey of musical ascent!
Go straight to 0:58 and listen close. This is where the theme music (which is what I believe it is) begins. It accelerates and then scatters into a playful rigamarole of electric guitars.
The thing about AR Rahman that he consistently experiments with unexplored melodies. The impact of the songs evolve too, sometimes even as intricately as Rahman’s music itself. And his offerings always bring something new, for listeres to discover and discuss.
Vaan Varuvan: Subtle Alliteration at its Best
If used well, alliteration can be beautiful. It is often used as a tool of subtle expression in Tamil poetry and films.
Even if you don't get the lyrics (since they are in chaste Tamil), you cannot miss the beauty of alliteration in this tune. Pay attention for when the music takes a beautiful turn, when you listen to the word 'Kadhal' (love).
Saarattu Vandiyile: Folksy Funk
After ‘Gentleman’, AR Rahman was accused of being incapable of creating folk music. What does someone who taps out music on his electronic synthesiser know about the scent of the earth, they asked.
He shut his critics up with 'Kizhakku Cheemayile'. If Ilayaraja melded a symphony orchestra to the earthy 'tavil' and 'naadaswaram', Rahman made the saxophone and kettle drum wear a Kannangi Sari and Kara Veshti (dhoti). Here's a folksy tune, with a little bit of funk thrown in.
Nallai Allai: Here's how to Listen
The lead-pair Karthi and Aditi Rao Hydari have a soft spot for this song. In an interview with The Hindu, Karthi said that ‘Nallai Allai’ was his favourite song. Aditi said that the song was an earworm and revealed that Karthi hummed it throughout the shoot.
‘Nallai Allai’ is one of those songs that call for a pair of noise cancellation headphones and a recliner (if you can get your hands on one). The song is bound to make you close your eyes and smile.
Don't make the mistake of watching the video to try and follow the lyrics. You’ll miss the beautiful layers of this deceptively simple song.
Pure Tango in Pure Tamil
Now there's no semblance of fusion in this song. This is a Tango song, just that it's in Tamil (or Hindi or Telugu). Rahman has done this before; he has unleashed Qawwali, Carnatic or folk tunes, without a semblance of the synth. If you like to Tango, you'll love this.
Azhagiye is a Breezy Beauty
It's irreverent. It doesn't wait for you to finish the verse. It doesn't care that you have to rush to keep up with the song in a few places. You simply cannot fight the urge to sing along to this song, and you do, only to find yourself dancing to bhangra all of a sudden. Until things mellow down again, only to rise again.