“I think Hindi films need to become proud of songs and music again. That’s what the history of our cinema is all about.” – A.R. Rahman [IANS]
So the music of Rang De Basanti has finally released. But what should we expect of A.R. Rahman’s music? Rahman ji has had two releases this year: Mangal Pandey, which had huge hype, ended up disappointing the classes. Second, Bose – The Forgotten Music, which had no exposure at all, yet turned out to be one of Rahman’s best compositions to date. So what story will the music of Rang De Basanti tell?
It’s already known that the story of the film is a very unique one; telling the tale of an English lady returning to India to create a documentary based on her late father’s diary. Each character in the film will play two roles: One in present day India, and one in the 1920s. So technically, this isn’t a period film as speculation had suggested earlier. In regards to the music itself, Rang De Basanti generated ample attention. For starters, it featured Aamir Khan’s rare vocals. However, the bigger surprise was that there would be a track featuring the legendary Nightingale, Lata Mangeshkar, and the Madras Mozart himself, A.R. Rahman, for the very first time. Let’s have a listen at what promises to be a heart-warming journey through the musical fields of A.R. Rahman’s Rang De Basanti. Oh and by the way, the impressive add-on of lyricist Prasoon Joshi should be yet another reason to praise the musical cast of this film…right?
There isn’t a better way to start off a score than with Ik Onkar. It is a soothing Punjabi prayer that does nothing but ooze all over you. The purity of this track alone overwhelms your senses. The heroine of this awe-inspiring piece is Harshdeep Kaur. Music buffs will recall hearing her voice in Le Jaa of Karam earlier this year. Nonetheless, she is in perfect form and her Punjabi rendition is right on. A.R. Rahman realizes that the brute force of the prayer and rendition alone is enough to set this track ablaze, as he wisely lets off on the music and only provides Harshdeep with some steady strings in the background on which she beautifully structures her melody. Awesome is what comes to mind first!
Khalbali has definitely got style, but I’m afraid it won’t find too many takers. Rahman leans back into his breezy ways as he co-sings this with Aslam, with Nacim providing the lyrics and vocals for the limited Arabic portions. A valiant effort to infuse Arabic flavors, however, if you want an invincible Arabic piece by Rahman please listen to Potter’s Village of Meenaxi. Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics take a back seat to the music of this piece.
Khoon Chala is another fabulously crafted piece by Rahman. Mohit Chauhan is a singer to look out for. Although he’s sung sparingly in the past, he was most recently heard in the forgotten music of Main Meri Patni Aur Woh, where he showcased his immense skills. Rahman picked up on the scent and here you are, he’s featured full-fledged in Khoon Chala. Apart from the flawless rendition, Rahman’s touch of grandeur and Joshi’s touching lyrics take this tune to the top.
“Khoon se khelenge holi, karvatan mushkil mein hai. Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai. Haath jin mein junoon, kat the nahin talvaar se. Sar jo uth jaate hai woh jukte nahin lalkaar se.” – Prasoon Joshi
These ingenious lines by Prasoon Joshi are spoken by Aamir Khan in Lalkaar. The sheer power of the chorus and the strings behind Khan’s authoritative voice make for a very commanding piece. Although Khan’s voice is perfect for the mood, Joshi’s words are what hit you the hardest. Listen closely and you will realize the motive behind making Rang De Basanti.
Paathshaala and Paathshaala – Be A Rebel are a pair of roller-coaster tracks, with Rahman going wild with the baton. These songs run parallel to Rozana of Lakeer, which failed in gaining any respect. This piece has a similar fate, as it tries to conquer too much in one sitting. Although the renditions by Naresh Iyer and Mohammad Aslam are respectable, the piece is too inconsistent to like. Blaaze provides the English in the Be A Rebel version of the piece. Don’t take my word for it…listen for yourself.
“You know he’s really surprised how I finished recording in 15 minutes, while most other singers take 4-5 hours.” – Daler Mehndi
Next up we have the much too over-hyped Rang De Basanti sung by Daler Mehndi (last heard with Rahman in the popular Nachley from Lakeer). But honestly, I don’t know why everyone’s been raving about this one. Chitra was pushed to the background very surprisingly. Rahman is completely out of form, as he reverts to clichéd rhythms and melodies. His signature touch is nowhere to be found. Somewhat comparable to Pagdi Sambhal from The Legend of Bhagat Singh (for which he got criticized for not knowing anything about the genre of Bhangra), this track is out of Rahman and Mehndi’s league. If you want to hear Daler Mehndi at his best, listen to Ru-B-Ru from Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool.
“Although I had sung for Rahman before, I have never sung with him. It’s a lovely maa-beta song.” – Lata Mangeshkar
A 10 on 10 goes to the most beautiful, most touching, and most creative piece of the album, Luka Chuppi. This track was arguably one of the most anticipated songs of 2005, and rightfully so! Lata Mangeshkar has never sounded better in this maa-beta tune. Full props to Mr. Rahman for invigorating the piece with a sensational play of the guitar and the classical touch of the tabla. Not to mention Rahman has sung this piece with passion, as he does all his songs. The unsung hero is Mr. Prasoon Joshi who comes to fruition in this soundtrack with Luka chuppi bahut hui saamne aa jaa naa. He captures the unique relationship of mother and son with his mastery over words. He picks up right where he left off in Black’s solo song, Haan Maine Choo Kar Dekha Hai. This is a brilliant piece by the Madrasi Mozart. Encore!
Next up we have Roobaroo, rendered by Narersh Iyer with the Roobaroo interludes sung by Rahman himself. This one reminds me of the fun Rahman had while composing Swades’s Yun Hi Chala; not only because of the energetic play of the guitar but also because of the way Naresh Iyer’s stylistic rendition is handled. Nonetheless, it’s some clean fun but nothing special. Joshi’s lyrics are not very demanding once again as isn’t the music.
The journey through Rang De Basanti comes to a close with the romantic ballad, Tu Bin Bataaye. The effort is a valiant one by Rahman, but it just doesn’t reach the expectatoins the soundtrack has set for itself. No doubt, it’s a very good song. But with Rahman, you expect something different and new, which this piece lacks. Madhushree, a Rahman regular, and Naresh Iyer make up the vocal cast and do justice to the tune. The lyrics are somewhat reminiscent of Do Kadam (Meenaxi) and the music is somewhat comparable to Dil Ne Jisse Apna Kaha (Dil Ne Jisse Apna Kaha). Rahman should do a better job if he wants people to stop accusing him of being repetitive, which he brushed off by saying that it’s due to the number of period films he’s done recently. Anyhow, it’s a pleasant close to Rang De Basanti.
So what do you think of the music of Rang De Basanti? I think it is a let down to some degree. Ik Onkar, Khoon Chala, and Luka Chuppi carry most of the burden that the enormous expectations have plagued this soundtrack with. Half of the tracks are superb, and half of them…well not so much. With some tweaking, Rang De Basanti could have been yet another feather in the ornamented cap of A.R. Rahman, but that’s not the case. Although it isn’t up to par for A.R. Rahman it’s definitely a jewel of an album in the music markets. Buy this soundtrack, if not just for Luka Chuppi.