The combination of Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rahman is always one full of anticipation. Roja introduced Rahman as a musical genius far ahead of his time. Dil Se redefined the standard of Hindi Film Music. However, their latest venture together, Yuva, did not do justice to Ratnam and Rahman’s track record, even though it still was a wonderful soundtrack for keepsake. Guru marks the fourth pairing of the two in Bollywood, and is yet again another one of those most anticipated soundtracks of the year 2006.
Although 2006 has been notorious for big budgets, big banners, and star-studded casts, the music of these gigantic films have been everything but stupendous. Whether it be Fanaa, Krrish, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Don, or Dhoom 2, none of these super-hit (and pending super-hit) films have had quality music to back them up. The one exception would probably have to be the most recent Umrao Jaan, were Malik has surely put forth his best and it shows.
Guru’s music leaves no stones unturned as it boasts of a studded line-up in A.R. Rahman, Gulzar, and a list of virtuosic singers ready to take your breath of away – or do they?
My initial impression of Barso Re is not a particularly positive one. Although Shreya Ghoshal’s presence is nicely felt with her ‘na na na re’ refrains, the arrangements by Rahman are free of variability, which hampers the piece. With broken sound effects interlaced by a synthesized eastern amalgamation, Barso Re is attempted with gusto but lacks the Rahmantic touch of melody. Gulzar saab’s lyrics seem as if they will fit nicely into the situation on screen. Overall, Guru does not begin on a praise-worthy note.
Although Bappi Lahiri makes a repeat appearance this year with Ek Lo Ek Muft, he’s definitely not the star of the show this time. Gulzar saab is the man in the spotlight, as he completely redefines his style of writing. The man is exploring versatility all year: First it was his naughty Beedi (Omkara) that made the critics bite their tongue in shock. Then it was his youthful/conversational English-filled lyrics in Jaan-E-Mann that showcased his ability to span generations. And now we have a clever song on twins, hence the ‘Ek Lo Ek Muft’ title. Bravo to Gulzar for going the extra mile and catering to the what’s hot, as opposed to the old is gold way of writing. Rahman’s ace arrangements take us through the streets and galis of India, hearing the voice of Bappi Lahiri reverberate ‘yema yema yema ye.’ All in all this is a fun number that’s full of firsts.
Next up we have an internationally intoxicating number in the form of Mayya. Credit must be given to Maryem Toller who brings her vocally rooted renditions to play with Rahman’s Egyptian influenced composition that is everything but controlled! Chinmayee picks up where she had left off earlier, oozing into the piece seamlessly. Keerthi’s invigorating vocal interludes match the power of the composition itself. Gulzar’s words are somewhat along the ‘Beedi’ lines, filled with passion and power. This is a prime example of how good a pan-global sound can make you feel!
A techno retro sound is heard from Rahman very rarely (if ever at all?). But it is heard in the Udit Narayan, Madhushree, Swetha Bhargavee rendered Baazi Laga. Unfortunately, the racing score strips us of Rahman’s precious nuances and symmetric style. Not only do we have a lacking melody, the composition is naked in terms of variability and flavor. Furthermore, Narayan’s vocals do not sit well with the listeners in this overtly rushed piece, which is unusual as vocalists seem to sound much better under the realm of Rahman. Overall, Rahman should reconsider this composition and give more scope for melody and quality lyrics.
The invincible ‘dham dara dham dara’ refrains beautifully open up the magical Ay Hairathe. When things are a bit shaky, it’s best to return to the elements. And that is exactly what Rahman does. Hariharan and Alka Yagnik, both of whom are Rahman favorites, help lift this piece to absolutely tremendous heights. Not to mention the gorgeous ‘dham dara dham dara’ refrains, which are rendered by Rahman himself this time. Rahman returns to the elements in more ways that one as we have a steadily balanced background, set by the tabla and strings, which have limited orchestral interims throughout. And finally, the Rahmantic melody returns in fine form as well. Gulzar’s romantic lyrics are perfect for the situation and complete the musical trinity of arrangements, vocals, and lyrics. Eat your heart out with this fine piece of art.
Next up is an orchestral piece, Jaage Hain. This is one of those light-hearted tunes that are great to fall asleep to. Chitra’s opening line is a treat, and very slowly leads us into a soft play of the strings. Rahman is known for his use of choral groups, and we hear one throughout this orchestration: The Madras Choral Group. Rahman was able to fine-rune his orchestral skills quite nicely after his fascinating outing in Bose – The Forgotten Hero. After he waves his baton it’s his turn to render the opening lines…and he does so in marvelous fashion. Gulzar saab’s lyrics are extremely sweet, and one only wishes he got to write a little more poetry for this piece. Nonetheless, Rahman only adds to his versatility here.
Although Guru does have its share of winners, it has its share of drawbacks as well. When we think of Roja and Dil Se, we think of perfection, and Guru is far from it. And after a productive 2005, Rahman closes the year 2006 with just one [Hindi] release (remember, the music of RDB released late 2005). Personally, after waiting all year for Rahman to return, I was quite disappointed with his efforts, as it falls in the category of Yuva, several notches below the likes of a Dil Se. But one is still able to treasure Tere Bina, Ay Hairathe, and Mayya. But there’s always 2007, and there’s nothing like waiting for another Rahman score.