Music Review: Ekk Deewana Tha (AR Rahman)

by Srikanth Mantravadi

When Rahman failed miserably……

This is Rahman’s worst soundtrack in a while (probably his worst ever) and I can’t believe that he managed to achieve it with the same wondrous tunes he had composed for Vinnaithaandi Varuvaya. Whatever were the high points of VTV have been brutally stripped, strewn on the ground and trampled upon here. There is little redemption and solace to be found in the snatches of wizardry that Rahman’s creaky soundtrack delivers. Its like a Bentley has been ransacked and fitted with the parts of a Maruti 800.

The unkindest of cuts is dealt to the gorgeous Hosanna. Vijay Prakash who was the heart and soul of the song is mysteriously eschewed for a Leon D’ Souza. It is a pathetic decision not only because (a) Vijay Prakash can sing Hindi with command but because (b) Leon D’ Souza sings worse Hindi. It is a ruthless desecration of a memorable song. Leave alone the gravelly majestic voice of Vijay Prakash this guy sounds like a teenage Bieber singing about his wannabe love. There is absolutely no idhayam in this song. And this is not even the worst. You know what is the worst? What has been done to Aaromale and Dost Hai. The former completely loses its fragrant, enchanting quality because it is heartlessly shoved with Hindi lyrics that are not only insipid but border on funny. (Did Javed Akhtar really write them? Seriously?) Even though the wrapper for Aaromale is psychedelic, it is a song that is steeped in South Indian’ness right from the way the phrases break, the chant like interludes…everything. At the heart of the problem is the clash between the south Indian idiom and the north Indian idiom of music that Rahman can’t reconcile. Remember S.P. Balasubramaniam plaintively singing Roja Jaan-e-mann with his thick south Indian accent. It is like that all over again except that the roles have been inverted.

Dost Hai is the Hindi version of Kanukkul Kannai. Now, pray tell me, what was the selling point of that song? Wasn’t it the constant strand of mesmerising and intrepid violin work that almost reached Broadway’esque proportions? Wasn’t it the infectious energy of Naresh Iyer’s singing that somehow attained a free floating quality? Please find me that in this watered down remix of a song that is filled with techno and plastered with the occasional burst of violin only to be later suffocated under the debris of offensive rapping. This is a song that a mediocre DJ would be proud of. Not Rahman.

Phoolon Jaisi is somewhat salvaged by a fabulous Clinton Cerejo but again the question stares in the face of the listener – Couldn’t they find better set of lyrics than this? The original phrase Omana Penne was so ingenious and layered that the lyricist for this song already had an impossible job on hand. In the movie the boy was a Tam; the girl Mal. The phrase, in Malayalam, referred to a girl (Omana Penne) while in Tamil the same referred to a bride (Oh Mana Penne) and this was brilliantly brought out in the chorus (when both the shades of it were touched upon). How beautifully wrought the meaning was, till this Phoolon Jaisi and Pari Jaisi strikes it a debilitating blow. Funnily enough, the maragadha thottilil interlude is retained in Malayalam and not subjected to a suicidal translation. Wonder why Aaromale wasn’t spared from the same fate though. Any answers?

Sharminda Hoon is one song that manages to escape unscathed from this merciless butchering spree. Madhushree’s honey coated voice attains the same seraphic lilt of Shreya while Rahman’s melancholic vocals gush forth with the same intensity and resonance.

Sunlo Zara is rendered well by Rashid Ali and Shreya Ghoshal who capture the boundless enthusiasm of Devan and Chinmayee even though the choice of singers could have been much better. They are after all not even close substitutes. For one, Rashid Ali’s baby footed anglicised voice lacks the assertiveness of Devan’s timbre. The biggest and cruellest blow, however, comes in the form of the first interlude which featured a lovely amalgam of Christian choir music and traditional Hindu shehnai music, with both playing wedding music, in the original. Rahman somehow does the unthinkable here and decides to change the shehnai part to something else. Goddamn it!

Zohra-Jabeen, the Hindi version of the title track, loses it icy cool quality because it no longer has Karthik’s vocals gliding over the lines serenely. Javed Ali sings with felicity but his voice does not meld into Rahman’s sparkly orchestration and form that silvery strand of magnificence that was seen in the original. Akhtar’s verses, for once, shrug off the indifference and shine through.

The wistful Kya Mohabbat Hai’s jazzy style is reminiscent of Rahman’s I’ve Been Waiting. Rahman’s singing is a good touch. The lyrics are passable.

The rest of the soundtrack is taken from the VTV collectors edition. Of these Shreya’s version of Aaromale, titled as Broken Promises, is excellent and a must listen.

In an interview Rahman (or Thamarai) had said that he composed the music for the Tamil soundtrack after the lyrics had been written and this was quite evident from the way he played around with the phrases – twisting & breaking them at will – and the scintillating free form rhythms that his songs took. It was unpredictable, edgy sometimes and thoroughly exhilarating. There is nothing of this sort in the Hindi songs because Rahman’s decision to go with the same tunes (I do not know who made the fatal decision) meant that the lyricist had to pigeonhole lines into the tune – something Akhtar has shambolically and spectacularly failed at. Will the real Akhtar stand up or bring back Gulzar please!

Rahman’s Ek Deewana Tha might delight first time listeners but it has only heartbreak for lovers of the Tamil soundtrack. The soundtrack is unimaginably mutilated with some horrible chances taken by the composer. The vocals are decidedly juvenile for the most part till Cerejo, Rahman and Javed Ali step in.  The lyrics are consistently sloppy. There are innumerable bad musical choices.This movie’s only redeeming factor seemed to be its music. But alas!             

PS: I am revisiting VTV’s music again just to relive the brilliance all over again.

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