- Siddharth Patankar
One of the most anticipated films of 2001 and a musical in the true sense, which relies heavily on the wizardry of the little man from Chennai. And A R Rahman does deliver - and how!
Any grand spectacle is accompanied by sounds that match--that's exactly the feeling one gets when track one Ghanan Ghanan starts. The album opens with the rumbling of thunder and the soft strains of music start to filter in.
The song has a lot of singers that lend their voice to it. Being a musical, the complete cast breaks into song from time to time and so do the many voices. Alka Yagnik, Kishori Gowariker, Shaan, Shankar Mahadevan, Udit Narayan, and Sukhwinder Singh - quite a long list for one song, won't you say? Well they are all very good and blend in perfect harmony.
Rahman's complete control over his music is evident in the use of his trademark percussion. Alka Yagnik does tend to hit octaves that are a bit harsh on the human ear. However, the opening number impresses and makes you want to hear it again.
The twanging of the ektara brings on Mitwa--a delightfully catchy tune with lyrics to boot. The song aims to capture the strength of the human spirit to triumph all and achieves with full marks.
Sukhwinder Singh is his usual self, but it's Udit Narayan who really handles the tune effortlessly. Alka Yagnik sails through the song and Srinivas, who comes in only towards the end is also quite pleasant on the ears. Remember, a huge cast in a musical needs lots of voices.
Rahman has done well to find the apt singers in most cases as is obvious in the next song Radha Kaise Na Jale.
Asha Bhonsle. That's all I need to say to tell you that the song is brilliant. It is the most cliched thing to say but Asha Bhonsle is indeed magical. Her voice handles the heavy classical style of this otherwise folksy number with such elan. The melody and expression of the song are matched beat for beat on screen by Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) and Gauri (Gracy Singh). Vaishali--a relatively unknown voice in the Bollywood context comes in to do a small solo taan at the end of the song, which I am sure Asha Ji could have managed with great ease. But in any case she is good at it, so the song's quality is not marred by the sudden and obvious change in voices.
Udit Narayan is every bit the nat-khat kanhaiyya he is singing for, but the song will need you to listen to it a few times before it grows on you. But in all probability, it will!
Next up is the love ballad O Re Chhori. Now this to me is the most innovative and experimental of all the songs. It blends folk, hindustani and western classical with such ease that the complete musical experience might just leave you spellbound.
While some may not appreciate the fact that english lyrics have been interwoven with hindi ones, but this experiment by Akhtar and Rahman has worked in my opinion. The haunting voice of Vasundhara Das was the right choice for the english bits and once again Yagnik and Narayan weave pure magic.
In fact I must say this - Udit Narayan was born to sing for Aamir Khan! A playback voice suiting someone is one thing but when Narayan sings - you really believe it is Aamir singing.
Good use of traditional instruments like the Sarangi and the Pakhawaj add to this song's value. At this point the album peaks and the following songs, while just as good, may not retain your attention. Now, more often than not, you might find yourself hitting the rewind button!
Percussion seems to be the theme of this album and if you have a good sound system, remember to turn up the bass and listen for the varied beats--they are truly something and really hit you.
In Chale Chalo Rahman decided to sing himself. While I have no complaints about him singing, his voice doesn't truly have the edge that singers like Narayan have. However it must be said, that this song did need somebody to sing powerfully, delivering a knockout punch with each line--which Rahman manages to do.
Srinivas again joins in and does well to match Rahman's rhythm. The instrumentation, especially the use of the violin and the cello in the song are brilliant--every bit vintage Rahman. And this is the only track on the album with the Rahman chhaap!
Waltz For A Romance--a nice western classical track composed very well by Rahman. Interestingly the tune is a derivative of O Re Chhori, which is nice! And it is used for a sequence of the Brits dancing in the Officers' Ballroom. So, apt it is!
O Paalanhaare is next--a devotional plea to the Gods. This bhajan has been rendered by Lata Mangeshkar and Udit Narayan. The Nightingale of India might consider retiring gracefully! Her voice manages the song alright, but the quavering and the quivering are very apparent, even though the song is picturised on Suhasini Mulay, Bhuvan's mother in the film.
Just like in Zubeidaa, in which Rahman had previously used Lataji's voice, here too the song could have very well been sung by, say a Kavita Krishnamoorthy. Another female artist sings alongside Lataji, but recieves no credit on the album jacket! Narayan is his usual best.
The last track is the theme from the movie which is used in bits all through the film--right from the opening titles to the climax. Lagaan- Once Upon A Time In India as it is called, is a grand composition which in part really does sound like the theme from an epic of the scale of Ben Hur.
Anuradha Sriram and the chorus do the job too. Rahman has used the 'Methodist Church Choir' from Chennai and the 'Waltzes in the Wilderness' group from Mumbai as background and choral vocals in many tracks, which I think was a great move!
Overall? A musical masterpiece indeed! A must-have! This one is for keeps. Er....if my blatant hints were not enough--yes, you should buy this album! The prices are Rs 60 for the cassette and Rs 295 for the CD.