Please note that comparisons to the original Tamil soundtrack (“Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa”) are fully justified when you try and understand why certain songs have translated well into the Hindi version compared to others. Otherwise the fact that “Ekk Deewana Tha” is a remake should not be to its detriment! If you haven't heard the original then listen to this with a clear conscious and enjoy!
Another year another Rahman soundtrack! Just like he ended the previous year with a bang, delivering a superlative effort for Rockstar, a soundtrack that eventually turned out to be the best of 2011, he sets an early benchmark for 2012 with a romantic soundtrack for Ekk Deewana Tha. The fact that the film and music is a remake of his award winning soundtrack to Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa works in favour of the composer because it allows him to transfer the best songs for the Bollywood film and add some fresh songs at the same time. This genre is arguably the most challenging for any music composer but we all know that nothing phases the meastro although his choice of lyricist (Javed Akhtar) is critical to the outcome of the Hindi version. Rahman's last great romantic soundtrack in Bollywood was Saathiya which was released almost a decade ago (2002) so can he repeat the magic in “Ek Deewana Tha”?
The album commences with an original song not taken from the Tamil soundtrack. It’s a pleasant orchestra based ode on love called “Kya Hai Mohabbat” . The music is very slow and soft creating the ambience of bliss and and serenity, adjectives you normally associate with the feelings of love and mohabbat. While the music soothes your senses, the purity in Rahman’s vocals will cleanse your soul with the help of a lovely chorus in the background. Javed Akhtar has written better romantic lines but their simplicity works for Rahman’s vocals. This is just the type of song to get you in the romantic mood so a good start but you expect better things to come.
“Dost Hai (Girl I Love You)” tries to experiment with the original song but the end result is an average translation. At the core there is a romantic vibe provided by the melodic strings of a viola and the vocals of Naresh Iyer who sounds very much like Javed Ali! Remixed onto this core is a modern rap song with beats and mixing composed by new age musicians Sachin Jigar and rap vocals by Jaspreet Jasz. Was this remixing necessary? Maybe it was but the effect is that Javed Akhtar’s lines are just overpowered by the rap portions so hold very little impact. Just give it a try and it might click otherwise move on. The original was a lot better.
Listen closely and you will quickly sense the outstanding qualities of “Aromale (My Beloved)” which are the hallmarks of classic Rahman! Like all his classic compositions, the music consists of multiple layers of instrumentation but the guitar riffs are undoubtedly the highlight. In fact the guitars are strummed so precisely and expertly here you can feel the tension of each TWANG explode in your ears! Then there’s the wonderful integration of multiple languages (in this case Hindi lines by Javed Akhtar and Malayalam lines by Kaithapram Damodaram Nambuthri) through the use of Alphonse Joseph (who also sang in the original). His stunning vocals deliver powerful mood swings throughout the song with some amazing alaapsthat are tagged onto the end of words such as “Aromale”. There is intensity and angst through the highs and there is a sense of loneliness and despair through the lows but deep down all these emotions are underpinned by one feeling…Love. He is brilliant but his performance is made possible by Rahman’s ingenuity for what is arguably the BEST song of Ek Deewana Tha. If you haven’t heard the original now is your chance to savour…
Imagine a super slow version of “Aromale” with a temptress at the helm? Well that’s exactly what awaits you in a quite stunning rendezvous of this song called “Broken Promises” which is found later in the soundtrack (Track 9). Rahman just unplugs the music here and allows Shreya Ghoshal to intoxicate proceedings with her mesmerising alaaps...just close your eyes and allow it to consume your senses.
Love is definitely in the air with the fabulous “Hosanna” , a song that was the biggest hit from the original Tamil soundtrack and listening to it here in the remake, you can understand why. The infectious music just lifts you off your feet and makes you want to fall in love (again and again)! The fitting atmosphere is provided by a serene orchestra topped with a mesh of peppy beats and guitar strumming together with English verses by Blaaze, giving it a truly modern setting. Leon D’Souza’s youthful vocals are perfect whilst Suzanne D’mello provides background chants and alaaps. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics do the trick but again one expected better from him. Overall “Hosanna” is another highlight from the album and if your in the right mood expect it to hog your playlist for a long while. Interestingly some fans of the original "Hosanna" consider this to be a lame version which makes you wonder how good the original was to begin with!
“Phoolon Jaisi” is a background song depicting the feelings of our lover who is totally besotted by his newfound love. The dreamy music is pleasant enough but rarely keeps your attention however the fact that it’s a background song means it might work better on screen. Clinton Cerejo and Kalyani Menon (Malayalam lyrics) sing well but unfortunately Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are pretty drab throughout. This makes it one of the weaker songs here with very little replay value. It’s a shame because the original version worked a lot better.
“Sharminda Hoon” is pretty hardcore from the onset but give it a chance and you will find a beautiful love duet between Madhushree and A.R.Rahman. With a strong melodic core provided by the piano, A.R. uses a number of traditional instruments to give sincerity to the song including the flute. He also tries to invigorate Javed Akhtar’s poetry with some haunting choir chants of Allama Iqbal’s poetry (in the interludes) and the effect is welcoming. Madhushree’s performance is the highlight of the song and Rahman acts as supporting singer. The only question mark against the song is the replay value which is quite limited but no doubt it will have an important role to play in the film. This is a good translation of the original.
For something a bit livelier try “Sunlo Zara” which breezes through the blocks from start to finish! The music isn’t anywhere near as intricate as other songs from the album but the purpose is to get your feet tapping with the protagonists of the film who are brimming with mutual happiness! And thanks to fantastic vocals by Rashid Ali and Shreya Ghoshal you feel their enthusiasm and sprightliness. The lyrics could have been better but we only feel that because the bar has been lifted by the likes of Amitabh Bhattacharya. Not a bad translation overall and will sound damn good on the screen no doubt.
“Zohra-Jabeen” belongs to the group of slow love songs from the album that will act as a background song in the film. Again while the music is pleasant enough particularly the use of multiple string instruments, it is unlikely to light any fireworks due to the slow pace, short length and mundane lines. Again the original worked a lot better than this.
The rest of the tracks are instrumentals but as with all Rahman instrumentals they are not just any instrumentals. They are composed with a lot of finesse and attention to detail. “Broken Promises” is an awesome revisit of Aromale as discussed previously. The romantic theme just exudes from “Moments in Kerala” and “Jessie’s Land” where the piano and violin are used to ethereal effect. Background alaaps are provided by Prabhakar and Mehga. Lastly, “Jessie’s Driving Me Crazy” is a short but rocking tune with vocals by Sanjeev Thomas and Timmy.
Comparisons are unfair but sometimes necessary. “Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa” was an award-winning soundtrack that had fans thrilled in Southern India! And after hearing “Ek Deewana Tha” you can appreciate why the original Tamil version was such a big hit – songs like “Aromale”,“Hosanna” and “Sharminda Hoon” sound refreshing even for the romantic genre! Unfortunately half the songs have not been translated as well. These include “Dost Hai”, “Phoolon Jaisi” and “Zohra-Jabeen” mainly because Javed Akhtar’s lines just don’t have the same impact with the original music and with all due respect, maybe A.R. should have gone with a modern lyricist (Irshad Kamil or Amitabh Bhattacharya would have been ideal!) who is better equipped to deal with such songs? As a result the album will sound lame to those fans who enjoyed the original Tamil version but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a failure, in fact the decision to do a remake was the right one given that it was the only way of ensuring exposure to a wider fan base and audience. But questions remain. Could more original songs have been added to the remake apart from the instrumentals? Yes. Could more experimenting have been done? Maybe. Does it have the replay value of his previous Rockstar? No. Is it as good as Saathiya? No. But as an overall package particularly aimed at a new audience, there are some enjoyable romantic songs here with a good mixture to appease the youth and hardcore fans and let there be no doubt - there's a few songs here that will put a spring in your step, put a big smile on your face and make you want to fall in love...just don't expect a Rahman classic with long-term replay value, don't expect another "Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa".
(Recommended songs: "Aromale", "Hosanna", "Sharminda Hoon", "Sunlo Zara", "Broken Promises")