When he debuted in 1993 and reinvented the sound of Indian film music with “Muqabla”, “Urvashi”, and “Humma Humma”, the media christened him, the “Music Storm”. In a recent interview, Allah Rakha Rahman spoke about the growth of technology in the music field, admitting that in today’s times, it would be extremely easy for him or any other composer to create the kind of music that made him a phenomenon. As a result of creative reinvention, one has seen Rahman experimenting with his sound in recent years, seeking out and working with directors who have the ability to challenge him: Ashutosh Gowarikar (Lagaan, Swades), Mani Ratnam (Peck on the Cheek, Yuva), M.F. Hussain (Meenaxi), He Peng (Warriors of Heaven and Earth) and Sanjay Leela Bhansali (the upcoming Bajirao Mastani). Commercially favorable, chartbusting rhythms have given way to artistic, classy melodies, eclectic sounds, and diverse orchestral arrangements recorded with philharmonics world over. Shyam Benegal’s mammoth-budget, historical war-epic, “Bose - The Forgotten Hero” in a way, completes Rahman’s transition from a music director to a maestro. “Bose” obviously is not a conventional, six-track filmi soundtrack, but rather a 20-track album with 7 vocals and 13 tracks from the film’s score that immaculately express the mood and scale of the film.
Rahman opens the CD with his own vocals in Aazaadi, destined to go down as one of the finest patriotic songs ever written. Rahman’s singing brings back the passion of his very own Maa Tujhe Salaam. The orchestration this time is grander and far more sophisticated, with Chennai’s Western Choir adding a larger than life, feverous touch to it. Javed Akhtar’s poetry captures a man’s excitement at finding out that he is not alone in his struggle for freedom. A classic.
Vijay Prakash and the Mumbai Film Choir take over the second track in an inspiring marching song, Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa. The brasses of Rahman’s orchestra sound themselves in all their glory, adding an epic feel to Javedsaab’s description of the road to freedom. The Mumbai Film Choir returns for Hum Dilli Dilli Jaayenge, another marching number about Netaji’s leadership and the quest to march the armies to Delhi. Rahman controls the thematic consistency in this number by using the tune of Kadam Kadam as his bass track. Instantly catchy and very inspiring.
Ekla Chalo begins with a soft Bengali prelude by Nachiketa Chakraborty. It’s mesmerizing tone sets up the mood blending Sonu Nigam’s soothing vocals. Javedsaab elevates his lyricism to new heights through this call for unity. Ditto for Des Ki Mitti about Subhash Chandra Bose reminiscing about his land. Once again, Sonu Nigam shines with his hypnotic rendition. These numbers will grow on you as you delve deeper into Javed Akhtar’s masterful poetry.
Rahman returns to singing with Rafi, Rakeeb, and Sahukar Ali in Zikr. Listen deeper and this call to Allah asking for forgiveness, peace, and unity with send you into a trance. The powerful vocals carry more of a chant than a tune, and are set to a steady rhythm of membranophonic percussion. The lyrical plea may take a few listenings to understand in its entirety due to the chaste use of Urdu, but this is a very powerful track.
Ghoomparani is the last of the lyrical tracks in the album, sung by Sapna Mukherjee and Satyanarayan Mishra. A mother’s lullaby for her child, the lyrics speak of great dreams she foresees for her son. A soft, melodious number with addictive interludes in Bengali.
The thematic score section of the CD begins aptly with the Durga Puja Rhythm, a traditional piece with heavy percussions and shehnais. Diversely different from any of Rahman’s earlier thematic pieces, this one oozes with spirit and energy.
Netaji Theme showcases Rahman reinventing himself to reach alternate dimensions as a composer. The signature strings and choir retreat into the background, creating a warm ambience for the flute to lead, impeccably supported by the clarinet. The theme repeats towards the end of the CD in a slightly different version led this time through string solos. The “Mozart of Madras” at his best.
The two Afghanistan Themes carry an eerie, epic-scaled feel, with pronounced percussion and razzy vocals. The Arabic style strings drive the piece with a keen Middle-Eastern flavor. Stunning vocals in the shorter, second theme exemplify vintage Rahman.
Hitler Theme is an uneasy piece with short orchestral bursts, with a heavy dose of strings and timpani crescendos. As any piece of music trying to create an aura of Hitler’s Germany would be, this too is a discomforting composition in the minor key.
The two tracks titled Emilie Theme 1 and 2 are soothingly resonant western classical pieces. A stunning blend of violin solos backed by French horns and clarinets, these compositions and orchestrations would make any composer proud.
War Theme and U-Boat Theme as the titles suggest, are pieces of the score for what could presumably be war sequences in the film. Rahman liberally plays with his brasses and timpanis as the strings help alternate the pacing of the piece between victory and tragedy.
The orchestral versions of Kadam Kadam Badhayeja and Mere Desh Ki Mitti are not merely instrumental versions of their originals but rather orchestral interpretations that vary quite significantly. Short and sweet.
The CD closes with Rahman’s orchestral rendition of the national anthem, Jana Gana Mana. Undoubtedly, the finest version of the national anthem ever presented, this one is grand with heavily complex arrangements. Don’t be surprised if this is the version that is used henceforth to represent Jana Gana Mana in its instrumental form at least. Spectacular.
“Bose - The Forgotten Hero” is one of A.R. Rahman’s and Javed Akhtar’s finest creations. It’s lack of mainstream compatibility and item numbers may hinder it from topping tabloid music charts, but that is barely a price to pay for having the distinction of creating musical storytelling of such high caliber. With three creative geniuses (A.R. Rahman, Javed Akhtar, and Shyam Benegal) at work, this quality soundtrack promises a very exciting movie to watch out for.