A.R. Rahman…a man who breathes music…speaks music…lives music… “If you have Santosh and Rahman, anybody can make a good film” M.F. Hussain
How sweet it is! Just when you think he is starting to slack off, he creates magic. Just when you think he is losing his creative touch, he re-innovates the beauty of music. Just when you think he’s out of it, he composes a soulful masterpiece. Meenaxi is nothing short of a magnum opus, in terms of its music or as a film. This is M.F. Hussain’s second directorial venture after his first film, Gaja Gamini, failed to pull in the cine-goers. This time, the renowned artist-painter has roped in the best in the business including Tabu to play the title role, Santosh Sivan to direct the cameras, and music legend, A.R. Rahman, to bring a simple touch of music to Meenaxi…and what a touch it is.
Going through a dry-spell, if one may call it so, A.R. Rahman had only one hindi release in 2003, in the form of Tehzeeb. Unfortunately this one only caught the attention of the critics, calling it an above-average album. Above average and A.R. Rahman, does that really match? But you can’t blame Haji Rahman for this as in the year 2003, our beloved composer went abroad; composing for the stage acts of Lord of the Rings and China’s official Oscar entry, Warriors of Heaven and Earth. His first release in 2004, Lakeer, didn’t really find any place for success, as only about half the songs got recognized. Then came the end of January…and so the deliverance of Meenaxi.
With a tagline as “Tale of 3 Cities,” Meenaxi is shot in 3 exotic locales: Hyderabad, Prague, and Jaisalmer. The film has Tabu in the lead role. It’s almost given that with her in the lead, this film has the full potential of being a super-hit. With Tabu all set to take on the stunning locations of Hyderabad, Prague, and Jaisalmer, let’s just see how good the music is…
1) Yeh Rishta
Yeh Rishta is the first shot of Meenaxi and is Tabu’s solo entrance piece. The song starts off on a beautiful note and never lets down. The beautiful note is the voice of debutant Reena Bharadwaj. Her opening line, and the opening of her career, is as soothing as running water and just bewilders you. Her rendition of the entire track is superb, but in particular the feeling with which she sings the title line “Yeh Rishta Kya kehe laata hai” is perfect. Speaking of perfect, A.R. Rahman simply amazes! The way he builds the beat of a tabla-like drum throughout the entire song is uncanny and sets a pace at which Reena sings with ease. Reaching a midpoint in the song, begins the unique integration of strings, supplied nicely by John Themis. To top it all off, Rahman superimposes a synthesized beat into the background that only adds to the flavor of this colorful track. Just when you think that it can’t get any better, the Genius adds the sound of flowing water to accompany Reena Bharadwaj, creating the most peaceful effect. Lyrically, Rahat Indori pens some very meaningful lines. Throughout the album, he proves to be a top-notch lyricist by bringing words and emotions to life. An interesting tid-bit to add to this number is that Rahman requested Reena to give an audition in his studio apartment in London and ended up recording the scratch version in his kitchen! That’s Mr. Rahman for you…doesn’t get his nutrition from food, but from his music!
2) Chinnamma Chilakkamma
No, don’t worry this isn’t one of Rahman’s Tamil hits or remakes. Rather, it’s an excellent mixture of western beats fused together with Telagu folk. As odd as it may sound, Rahman once again weaves his magical touch all over this one to create another chart-busting hit. This piece is initiated by one of Rahman’s favorite instruments, the flute. He then leads the pan flute to blend into the opening line “Chinnamma Chilakkamma” and here on out begins a simply awesome number. The line Chinnamma Chilakkamma is so catchy that you’ll be tapping your feet before you even know it! The lucky voice that will be featured on this Rahman rhythm is Mr. Sukhwinder Singh. The heavy drumming coped together with some of Rahman’s signature electrical beats back up the western aspect of the song, while the traditional flute and percussions, along with the lyrics of Chinnamma Chilakkamma, round up the Telagu Folk aspect of the song. Being set in the beautiful regions of Hyderabad, this song may even challenge the amazing setting of Rahman’s great “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” which was stunningly choreographed on top of a train by Farah Khan, we’ll just have to see for ourselves. Speaking of Chaiyya Chaiyya, there was a lot of buzz going around the industry saying that this may be the next Chaiyya Chaiyya as Sukhi and Rahman team up to create an extremely catchy piece. It was said that Singh had requested Rahman if he could change before the recording of the song. Surprised yet? Maybe now…he came out wearing a sexy netted black vest so he could “get into the mood.” I guess that explains the authentic feel to Sukhwinder’s silky smooth vocals. Oh yeah, Sukhi penned this one himself…you’ve got to be surprised now!
3) Do Kadam Aur Sahi
M.F. Hussain originally titled this film Do Kadam Aur Sahi, but as time progressed he believed that Meenaxi suited the film better. Before the switch, Rahman had already composed the what-would-have-been title track. Undoubtedly this is the best track of the album. If you thought that Sonu Nigam sounded nice in the title track of Kal Ho Naa Ho then be prepared to be surprised because Sonu Nigam has really out done himself this time. A.R. Rahman always has a way of bringing out the best of people as he did with Sonu in their previous hit together, Saathiya. This song will definitely appeal to the masses as well as the classes. Set to the lush scenery of Jaisalmer and Prague, this piece should create an even more peaceful and resounding effect, if that’s even conceivable. The beauty in this piece lies in it’s vocal-musical melding. Rahman doesn’t add a single “hard” beat, yet he creates an evenly symmetrical rhythm that flows nicely. Overlapping, is Sonu Nigam’s rendition, as pure as can be, and really does raise the feeling and emotion of the song greatly. The line Do Kadam Aur Sahi has such a simple yet catchy melody that Sonu’s voice will literally be stuck in your ears and hearts for days on end. Rahat Indori’s words are extremely touching. He writes on a place not too far away, a place where everything is shining bright with light, a place where hearts are filled with freely glowing flames and where love is all-pervasive. A land just a few more steps away…I promise you, your heart will skip a beat while listening to this spectacle of sound.
4) Dhuan Dhuan
"For one song, we started with no tune and no lyrics either. One afternoon I bumped into Lataji and Ashaji in London. I asked Ashaji if she’d do a song with me the next day. She had to go to Scotland the next day. But she returned in a few days and we finished the track Dua dua in four hours in London.” – A.R. Rahman [Filmfare]
It was heard that Ashaji had cut her vacation plans short to record this song for A.R. Rahman out of utter respect for Mr. Hussain. That’s not all; she reportedly did the song for free! All that is well and good but with what quality did she render the song? Remember how I said it seems as if Rahman saab always brings out the best of every singer he’s ever worked with, Asha Bhosle is no exception. After teaming up in the chartbusting Meherbaan of Tehzeeb, the pair comes together once again to construct a hard-core piece to say the least. Ashaji’s rendition of the line Na na na naa will get you every time. This ever-youthful vocalist proves to the nation why she is still in the business even after many decades. Kunal Ganjawalla, the current favorite of all music directors it seems, is featured with Rahman after their chartbuster Oh Hum Dum from Saathiya. Although he appears for a very short time, he does a nice job in opening the track. A.R. Rahman’s choice of music is great. His choice of heavy percussions, provided by the much talked about Shivamani, and synthesized rhythms provide great support to Asha Bhonsle’s vocal strength. Once again, Rahman provides us with an extremely fresh and feel good number. This song will be shot in the midst of the city of Prague. It should be noted that M.F. Hussain chose this song as one of his all-time favorites, stated in the Marathi Daily Loksatta.
5) Rang Hai
“It is the music of the film. It just did something to me. It´s almost divine.” – Tabu
Now that we have been through Hyderabad and in Prague, Rang Hai takes us into the land of Rajashtan…Jaiselmar. A.R. Rahman does a superb job in incorporating some Rajasthani folk while adding a little western twist to it all, and still making the end result as sweet as sugar or as smooth as silk, whichever you prefer! The most unusual part of the track is the very beginning, opening with a mysterious voice of the Lebanese singer Dallinda. Rahman’s use of percussions, provided by ace percussionist Hossam Ramzy, is ingenious. Alka Yagnik is the one in charge vocally and does complete justice to the song. In her rendition, which is first class, she sounds a bit like Reena Bharadwaj, or maybe that’s just her voice still lingering in the back of my mind from the first track! This is a real colorful track; (no pun intended) with Ramzy supplying some heavy drumming and clever percussioning, Dalinda’s shaky vocals conveying an eery yet fresh feeling, Alka breathing a lot of enthusiasm into the piece, and Rahman mixing and matching western with Rajasthani folk at ease, this track is definitely a winner all the way. On a side note; An interesting feature to look for while watching the film is Tabu’s performance to this piece. At the time of shooting, she had four stitches in her leg, yet she still danced relentlessly, later saying, “It is the music of the film. It just did something to me. It’s almost divine.” Now Mr. Rahman is literally healing people with his music…
“There is a qawwali written by me and sung by classical musicians Ustad Ghulam Mustafa and his son for which Rahman has tuned unusual music. The film opens with this qawwali, the picturisation of which is a major highlight…The qawwali is exultant about the presence of the light and what a light it is! It is a Sufi thought, a thought that keep us going even when there is pitch darkness.” – M.F. Hussain [The Hindu]
Who said that A.R. Rahman doesn’t have an ear for classical music? You can throw all that out the window after you give this qawwali a listen. Rahman gives the honor to the sensational duo of Murtaza Khan and Quadir Khan. They fill the song with alaps and swaras of the like and really show that they have the talent and skill required to be worth the opportunity of singing for the virtuosic Rahman. Like every other song in this soundtrack, this song will have you on a beat right away. Never letting down, Rahman continuously provides us with the quick-paced beat of the tabla and the flowing melody of the harmonium, characteristic of most modern qawwalis'. The title line Noor-Un-Ala is extremely catchy and will have you singing it in no time. Mr. Hussain does it all! Either it be his unique painting skill, his aptness of directing huge films, and here, his ability to pen some nice lyrics, which is quite difficult to do when writing for a qawwali I might add! There’s an interesting story that goes along with this. M.F. Hussain had originally hired a lyricist to write this qawwali. Unfortunately the poor lyricist decided to center the song on one of the most commonly used lyrical words, Ishq. Mr. Hussain took one look at the words and decided to write the song for himself! I wouldn’t be surprised if that original lyricist was Sameer, but it’s just a hunch. Also, watch out for this one on big screen as it is picturised in pouring rain, and choreographed by Italian National Award Winning choreographer Illiana Czhtaristi.
7) Cyclist’s Rhythm
"Yesterday there was a ballet of bicycles at night. We filmed the scene where Tabu is caught in the street amidst the bicycles and Rahman´s score is innovative in this." – M.F. Hussain [The Hindu]
How creative can someone get? This instrumental proves that A.R. Rahman, without a doubt is the most innovative composer of all time, crossing so many boundaries! To us lay people, the bell of a cycle would sound rather annoying and irritating, but to Musical Mastermind A.R. Rahman, even the sounds of bells ring the sweet sound of music. Special mention must be given to Shivamani who does wonders with the percussions. The beginning of this instrumental piece starts off with Rahman’s bicycle bells chiming away nicely to the background drum beats. The bells then lead into a masterly composed flute performance by Shivamani in the foreground of some subtle yet very innovative Rahman beats. In the middle of the piece, Rahman brings the harmonic background to a halt and just has the sound of the bicycle bells in a short interim. From here on begins the fun. Soon after the bells fade away, the percussion starts to pick up. The drumbeats get louder, up to the point where they are thundering loud, accompanied by some powerful percussion instruments. A.R. Rahman and Shivamani create a great atmosphere towards the end with the whistling and the fast beats. No doubt you’ll be up dancing with the drums in no time.
8) Potter’s Village
This is the second instrumental by A.R. Rahman and it picks up right where the last one left off. This one carries an Arabic feel to it, most probably because of the extensive use of the guitar throughout the piece. This time Hossam Ramzy takes over the reigns for the percussion composition. Rahman, with his mastery over innovation, is able to add a new spin on this one with the variety at which he utilizes his instruments. The tune that is played by the guitar is very catchy, especially when coupled together with the new percussion instruments introduced by Rahman. Similar to the previous instrumental this one really picks up speed in the second half and is a joy to listen to.
Without a doubt, this is A.R. Rahman’s best musical score since Taal, if not the best of his career. For A.R. Rahman has proved, ad nauseum, that he is the most innovative music director ever and the most brilliant. This Musical Genius is now an international force to reckon with. With beautiful locations such as Hyderabad, Prague, and Jaisalmer, set to the delicate melodies of A.R. Rahman, Meenaxi is truly a sight for the eyes to feast on and an intonation for the ears to savor.