Years before when I heard the album “Kannathil Muthamital” by A.R.Rahman and Mani Rathnam, my only reaction was – this album has only two hummable songs. The other songs did have mastery craftsmanship in that the individual parts of a song were engaging but as a song there was something amiss. After seeing the movie I realized how wrong I was. Because that album belonged to a very rare case in Indian music industry in that it was a soundtrack rather than an album. The rawness of “Sundari” and the repetitiveness of “vidai kudu engal naade” became jubilant (thanks to the guitar) and haunting respectively. Incidently Rahman received his fourth National award for that film. Today after hearing “Raavan” by the same duo I get the feeling of hearing a soundtrack again. I am not the fourteen year old boy anymore to not appreciate a soundtrack and that is why Raavan excites me, but was it satisfying?
The first song, “Beera Beera” starts like “Maiya Maiya” (here its Urdu? Instead of Arabic) after which Rahman chips in to hum a peppy version of the tune from which Vijay takes off only to be interrupted by weird & enjoyable tribal sounds. When Vijay continues afterwards, it all turns comical of sorts with the listing of the traits of Beera what with the tune that seems to be bent towards portraying the joyous side of the alleged fearsome Raavan. It may well pass of as a title song for “Bheema – the kid warrior” for the tiny tots in Pogo.
The second song, “Behene de” starts with the ostinato that was played in the theme of Couple Retreat followed by the mellowed down - straight forward rendering by Karthick. Starting off slowly he steadily acclimates the scale while the tempo too shifts to higher gear with every set of notes aided by the violin and then settles for a crying melody. This format is looped continuously to form the mukdha. What pulls me into this age old style is the musical layers that form the background every time a variation shows its presence. The cluster of electrifying guitar, the swift violin and the sharp drums fits into the mood. If that doesn’t interest you wait till the end when the pizzicato played using keyboard slowly takes prominence. The staccato that follows the keyboard cue, created by alternating use of drum & the bow of the violin is really worth the wait.
“Tok de Gilli”, the next track is a folkish/punjabi rap that provides the rustic Sukwinder to unwind like a callow youth. Being a Punjabi number there is no dearth for the “hai hai” chorus though here the tongo of “hai” & shehnai and at a later stage with the cadenza of violin set to motion for an exciting later half. The short vibrato with which Sukwinder starts the 2nd mukdha and quickly changing to different articulation for the entirety is what makes the song special.
What follows next is “Ranja Ranja”. A special mention should be given for utilizing the negative aspect in singing of Anuradha Sriram to appropriate use, as the befitting alley to Rekha. It maybe a very ordinary/used up tune with simple lyrics (lyricist down south write song like this for every movie that comes out) but what sets apart this song is the haunting/sharp voice of Rekha and the crazy pronunciation by Javed. When he sings “bina tere, Raadhe …” and goes on we just have to submit to the shear grandeur and texture of this song. The keyboard that was playing the part of ostinato clubs with Sitar for the interlude and then when Anuradha joins them backed by the guitar we know this song is surely the song of the album.
After all the eccentricity that was “Ranja Ranja” comes “Killi Re” playing from a familiar turf. The song concentrates mainly on the intricacy that Reena brings to this classical number which gushes with romance in the form of melody, similar to its inspirations - "Pookodiyil poonagai" & "Saawariya Saawariya" . As she stretches each syllabi in different ways invoking a range of emotions from lust to lullaby, the violin and then backed heavily by the flute gives us a divine experience.
Can a Shehnai be played like this? In the last song of the album, “Kata Kata”, Shehnai first plays the part of the war horn followed up by the jubilant folk rock start to the song by the singers. Reminding of “Rukumani” & “Yaaro yarodi” both by this director-composer duo, “Kata Kata” is painted with lush colours invoking the local flavour. Slipping into typical marriage mode using the Shehnai again, the song shifts to the first mukdha where the quivers of the fretless oud plays at the front while the shehnai is pushed to the back. While the tune and even the articulation remains the same in the second mukdha, the shehnai is replaced by the backing vocals to support the intoxicating voice of Sapna, setting the tempo for the coda where Shehnai, oud and off course drums along with the seductive vocals combine to enthrall. Let the fun and frolic stay for eternity.