Friday, September 11, 2009
Music Review: BLUE (Hindi; 2009)
Outright fun, not to mention silliness, has long been a casualty of A.R. Rahman's recent Hindi oeuvre. Unlike in Tamil, Rahman simply hasn't done very many soundtracks for "ordinary" Hindi films of late. That is, the typical Rahman Hindi album this decade has been a Swades or a Jodha-Akbar, or a Delhi-6 -- not a Rangeela or a Daud. The last year might well be the beginning of a shift, with Ghajini, and now Blue. No song in either album will ever make a list of Rahman's best, but equally, no-one can doubt that at their best, these albums feature a more playful Rahman, the sort of souffle-lover one missed in the likes of Jodha-Akbar. On the down-side, at its worst, the likes of Blue do give the impression of a composer who hasn't lavished much care on his work. Luckily for us, the balance comes down on the side of buying the album.
Fiqrana began with a nod to Ghajini's Kaise Mujhe Tum Mil Gayeen, but then, when it seemed one of the Mahesh Bhatt stable of composers had taken over the song, my heart sank -- not that there is anything wrong with those neo-Pakipop songs, it's just that such generic music is unworthy of Rahman. At the fifty-five second mark, I realized how wrong I was as Vijay Prakash's voice segued from the familiar sounds of a number filmed on Emraan Hashmi to the more rhythmic, almost drunk "Jeet te hain hum larh larh ke"; and then, after about ten seconds of the addictive loop inaugurated by those words, the song begins to soar with "Hum mehekte ... gulzaaron mein". By then, this listener was hooked, with no possibility of escape. This song doesn't soar very far in terms of complexity, and will never be a major Rahman song; but it remains a song that insinuates itself into the bloodstream, and demands to be heard dozens of times -- or not at all. That the maestro has not lost his taste for light musical confectionery after all these years in the industry is worth celebrating in itself; but the extent to which this song's edges have been smoothed out in keeping with the film's aquatic theme (in no small measure due to Rahman's effective deployment of Shreya Goshal's voice), means this sweet dish will go down easy. This track is worth the price of the album.
There is more breeziness in this album: Aaj Dil Gustakh Hai is twice as light as Fiqrana, and half as interesting; and while Sukhvinder Singh's voice is always welcome on a Rahman composition, the duo do not break much new ground here, resulting in a song that is musically faultless but quite safe. That doesn't mean you'll be skipping this song. Far from it: think of Aaj Dil Gustakh Hai as the Ocean's Eleven of this album -- smooth, suave, utterly charming, and rather pointless. Given the song's video trailer features Sanjay Dutt and bikini-clad Lara Dutta cavorting on a beach and on board a boat, this track seems like it is just what director Anthony D'Souza ordered.
Rehnuma features Goshal and Sonu Nigam at their charming best, and the somewhat portentous effect created by the juxtaposition of their old-school crooning with a relatively overwrought orchestral backdrop makes this a more interesting song than it otherwise might have been. However, there is something missing from the song, a certain fun quotient that was needed to justify a song its musical arrangement does not get all the way there. At least on a first listen: of all the tracks in this album, this one is most likely to gain by repeat listening.
No-one will ever accuse the delightfully throwback Yaar Mila Tha of lacking a fun quotient. Fittingly enough, Rahman resorts to Udit Narayan for the male vocals here, with Madhushree's faintly over-ripe voice playing the female part. The song is best thought of as Rahman's attempt to turn his gaze toward the sort of rollicking love song Hindi film music just doesn't see much of these days (replete with lyrics like "har maa kahe bete se, laa aisi dulhaniya"). That he is doing so self-consciously is indicated by the early soft-jungle beat reminiscent of a rather different vibe, namely Daud's "Shabba Shabba"; and by the decidedly contemporary hip-hop groove the song ends with. It all adds up to this album's best shot at timelessness, a song that should be as un-dated ten years from now as it is today.
Bhoola Tujhe is another relatively simple composition, elevated by a chorus that soars several notches. The song's mellow anthemic vibe is in keeping with its subject -- Rashid Ali's vocals are addressed to the Creato -- although the tune seems a bit too upbeat for the lyrics. This song has the smell of a purely situational number, and as such might well work within the context of the film, but could have been truly memorable has Rahman himself crooned in place of Ali. In the final analysis, Bhoola Tujhe is notable for hearkening to an earlier Rahman, the composer of relatively sparse numbers like Bombay's "Tu Hi Re" -- the effect is one of clean, if safe, lucidity.
The less said about the Blue Theme, the better. Or rather, I'll say enough to make clear that large chunks of Blaaze's rap are strongly reminiscent of Give It Away Now by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (or is it Ishq Bector's Dakku Daddy?). The song flows into some neo-Arabic strains and compelling incantatory passages, but these aren't good enough to rescue the track (which in fact falls apart at the very end, as it speeds up and is ultimately washed away in the sound of the surf). In Rahman's defense, I suspect this piece's function within the film will be to serve as background music rather than a conventional song. As it stands in this album, however, the Blue Theme is more a rough draft than a fully realized composition.
The real stinker in the album is the first track. Piggishly named, I Wanna Chiggy-Wiggy With You features Kylie Minogue in an utterly generic pop song, cheerfully interrupted by an equally generic Hindi/bhangra song. From the song's video trailer, the latter moment affords Akshay Kumar an opportunity to play his populist card, a gatecrasher persona the actor has perfected beyond anyone else in contemporary Hindi cinema, but it is disappointing Rahman was not inspired to come up with something more imaginative to showcase his lead star's wattage.