Music Review: Rockstar (AR Rahman)

by Srikanth Mantravadi

The mellifluous, gradual buildup that almost reaches a frenzy, the sinuous phrases, Mohit’s free spirited singing; all work stunningly in Phir Se Ud Chala. The slightly more metronomic Jo Bhi Main is uplifted by it’s irreverent (gibberish) and  meaningful lyrics. With its bouncy rhythm and playful singing Katiya Karun is a gem of a song. However one of the best songs in the entire soundtrack comes in the form of Kun Faaya Kun with Rahman tapping into a rich vein of sufism with the help of Irshad Kamil’s outstanding lyrics. The melding of Rahman’s and Javed Ali’s fervent vocals is a thing of beauty even as the guitar riffs are overlaid in a splendid fashion midway through the song. The best part for me – The way Javed Ali takes off into the Sadaq allah…Ali line as soon as the jab kahi pe kuch nahi bhi nahi tha refrain becomes moribund. Although it might be forgotten amidst Rahman’s musical largesse, I like Sheher Mein a lot. Tunewise it isn’t great – just the regular catchy hook – but the singers here, Karthik and Mohit Chauhan, make it work beautifully. Mohit especially imbibes a certain Kunal Ganjawala like spirit while singing and the whole theme of rehearsing through a song is great. Hawa Hawa is an addictive song with those staccato beats woven with dramatic violins and trippy guitars or simply Mohit’s rollicking vocals. The middle eastern twang is unmistakable, especially when it comes to the chorus, but what makes this song heady is the constant overhang of the tango riffs. Rahman’s mastery over mixing genres so harmoniously is amazing here. He can also be extremely prodigious when it comes to heartbreak songs and he unleashes Aur Ho to mesmerising effect. The edgy changes of pace, the breathtaking use of Mohit where Rahman himself could have taken the mantle, the elegiac tone and the haunting orchestration make this a brilliant song. Although Nadaan Parinde falls into the same category as perhaps Ghar Aaja Pardesi (DDLJ), Rahman leaves his stylistic stamp all over it and lifts it from that void to where all, so called, situational songs go. It is quite antithetically set to an upbeat and punchy rhythm; a far cry from the familiar dirge like dreariness that usually pervades such songs. Tum Ho is a fabulous song in itself but frankly that memorable hum, reminiscent of Sonu’s lilting opening in Guzaarish (Ghajini), simply makes it unforgettable. It is also the most Rahman’ish song of the lot along with Aur Ho, albeit for different reasons, with its disregard for a rigid tune structure. Tum Ko is like an accompanying piece to Tum Ho although it carries a lesser appeal with its forlorn, wispy vocals. Rahman and Irshad Kamil unleash fury and wrath, anger and angst in the riveting Sadda Haq; a rebellious, impetuous song that seems destined to never go out of fashion in a dysfunctional democracy like ours. Such is its topical feel that it almost feels like a ready made song for a thousand protest marches that are yet to be taken out. The clarion call of Kamil’s lyrics carry weight and significance beyond the cadences of the song and will undoubtedly spill over into the consciousness of the listener and this alone is the greatest triumph of the song, in fact the soundtrack itself. Dichotomy of Fame is a gorgeous melting pot of shehnai and guitar with trademark Rahman soaring motifs. Tango for Taj begins with a Tchaikovsky like trippiness before settling into a more mischievous tango rhythm drawing its inspiration from the extraordinary Hawa Hawa. 

A definite thought seems to be driving this soundtrack in the way vocals have been used and shaped. This is seen, I believe, in the way the humming emanates from the music in songs like Phir Se Ud Chala, Tum Ho and to a large extent in Jo Bhi Main; just like a singer trying out an extension or a variation of some hook. And the beauty is Rahman makes it look like plain on the spot improvisation. Rahman, certainly, is in inspired form and a music driven film seems like the best way to shrug off the indifference of a Jhootha Hi Sahi (with the exception of the seraphic I’ve Been Waiting) or a pensive Raavan. And Mohit Chauhan is an impressive rediscovery, singing with renewed zest and exploring uncharted genres; working outside the comfort zone generally. His singing is expressive and refreshing; a departure from the rut he was getting into. Also Irshad Kamil provides solid support with his evocative and powerful lyrics. If there ever was a musical feast, this is it. A virtuoso effort!

My Picks: Phir Se Ud Chala, Kun Faya Kun, Aur Ho, Tum Ho, Sadda Haq