Mani Ratnam and A.R. Rahman are a combination that gives “the magic of music” a new meaning. Coming together to give us such masterpieces as Roja, Bombay, and the most notorious, Dil Se; they are back together in what is the most awaited musical score of the year, Yuva. This will be Mani Ratnam’s first appearance in the director’s chair after six long years (Dil Se), and who better to rope in as the musical lead than the one and only A.R. Rahman. Last year didn’t prove as promising for Rahman, as he only had one release, Tehzeeb, which didn’t quite go down too well with the masses. Fortunately, 2004 looks like a much better year for A.R. Rahman, as this will be his third release of the year, following Lakeer and Meenaxi. If there is anything going against Rahman in this case, it would have to be the massive expectations from him to give the industry another perfect composition. Knowing Rahman, he probably loves these kinds of opportunities, with history as evidence, but let’s just see if he’s able to live up to the challenge.
The opening track of the album is Dhukka Laga Bukka sung by Karthik, Mehboob and A.R. Rahman. From the beginning this track is very appealing. With this also being regarded as the title track since it has the lines Oh Yuva Yuva, the song will appeal to the youth rather than the elderly. Unfortunately, the rendition by the singer-lyricist-composer threesome does not do much for the ears and just reaches average. The composition by Rahman is well done but the draw back to his composition, as is throughout the album, is the fact that he does not allow any opportunity for change. Throughout the track, Rahman uses the same percussional rhythm. On another note, the lyrics by Mehboob are nothing to rave about. As will the composition, the lyrics will probably find approval by the youth. Average (for Rahman).
The next track is the infectious Dol Dol. Like before, Rahman begins this track on a great note, with an invigorating liquification of synthesizers, drums, and bass. The rap supplements by Blaaze are alright when you compare them to the disgraceful rap he offered in Chori Pe Chori (Saathiya). Once again, Rahman did not change his harmony at all throughout all four minutes of the song, which leads to an end result of annoyance, especially with Blaaze rambling on and on. One thing that I did appreciate was Rahman’s use of Shahin Badar’s vocals, which were nicely altered by Rahman. Not to mislead anyone…this track is definitely a winner, but relative to Rahman’s usual, this one could have been much better!
Now this is vintage Rahman! Back to his ingenious and creative self, Rahman finds a new talent in Sunitha Sarathy, who sounds a tad similar to Sunidhi Chauhan in her rendition of the line Eh Khuda Hafiz. After using unconventional and underrated vocalists such as Kunal Ganjawall, Adnan Sami, and Daler Mehndi in his previous albums, he utilizes the extremely talented Lucky Ali. After his comeback in Kaho Naa…Pyar Hai and his superior performance in Sur, Lucky Ali lends his heavy vocals here to bring a breath of fresh air into the album and succeeds immensely! Unlike in the previous two songs, Rahman does allow himself to venture off into the land of creativity, which he is ever so popular for. My personal favorite is when he adds the piano to accompany Sunitha’s rendition. Only Rahman is capable of creating such an effect. In addition to the masterful composition and uncanny vocals, Mehboob’s lyrics don’t disappoint either and he writes some winsome lyrics for both Sunitha and Lucky to sing to.
Kabhi Neem Neem is another gem of a song. All three categories account for the highlight of this piece; the composition, the vocals, as well as the lyrics. Throughout the song, Rahman uses a ballad harmony, which gives the track a rudimentary feel to it. But, within this balladry folk tune, Rahman throws in numerous variations that give the song it’s fresh and primitive feel. The other highlight of this score would have to lie in it’s vocal content. The queen of the vocal reigns here is the very underrated Madhurshree, who was last heard in Rahman’s “Naina Milaike” (Saathiya). Here she sounds a bit like Rahman’s Tehzeeb favorite, Sujata Battacharya, as both have the same rich texture to their voice. As if all this weren’t enough, Rahman gives us something truly special…his own voice, that too in a classical style. His alaaps throughout the piece are a treat for the ears as Rahman really does weave his magic all around this number!
The next song, Baadal is not as well composed as Kabhi Neem Neem and Khuda Hafiz, is a treat to listen to. Personally, this song took a few listens to grow on me, as most of Rahman’s tracks tend to take, but when I did get a feel for it, that repeat button seemed so big! Without digressing too far, this score seems to be a sequel to Aye Udi Udi (Saathiya), as Rahman uses the same beats, the same tempo, and the same singer. Anyhow, Adnan Sami and Alka Yagnik do justice to their roles as playback singers here. Both are able to create an atmosphere of liking, as their on-audio chemistry is a treat to listen to. Mehboob’s lyrics are above-average to say the least but the treasure of this piece lies in the voice of the singers.
The best part of the final track "Fanaa" is Rahman’s rendition of the word Fanaa. In addition Rahman’s vocals are left to impress as he completely takes control of this song. Rahman picks up where Dol Dol left off and composes another fast-tempo disco song. Once again, as was the case in the beginning of the album, Rahman doesn’t digress from the monotonous harmony, which holds you in but then soon let’s you go. The greatest of variation comes when Rahman throws in his classical alaaps once again, which come as a highlight in this song. Mehboob’s lyrics are very unconventional here. “Hone dho dil ko….fanaa,” which roughly translates to, “Let your heart become completely destroyed…” is a line to perplex. Whatever the case may be, this song is definitely going to be accepted by the masses.
As always, Rahman comes up with a good album here. Unfortunately, I would have to say that Yuva fails to live up to the expectations of many music lovers. Myself being an adamant fan of Rahman, I was pretty disappointed when I heard this soundtrack, as I was in the Dil Se mode from the very beginning. Honestly, it is unfair to compare this soundtrack to the likes of Roja, Bombay, or Dil Se, because Yuva is nowhere close to the quality that those three, especially Dil Se, possess. Yuva, no doubt, is a welcome collection to any CD compilation, as all of Rahman’s works are, but if you are expecting a masterpiece of any sort then this one will surely disappoint. I guess Yuva was just an aftershock of a truly memorable masterpiece, Meenaxi.