The Sultan of Song, the Maestro of Music. the Master of Melody...well...you get the picture. Call him whatever you please, but A.R. Rahman is a name that has been dazzling music lovers worldwide. His last Hindi release arrived over a year ago, with the deliverance of Guru. As if the unbearable gap wasn't enough, we've been teased even more by the continuous sequences of delays and postponements. However my friends, your patience has not gone unrewarded. The music of JODHAA-AKBAR has finally arrived, and it's ready to paint the town red!
Aseem-O-Shaan Shehenshah is easily the most recognizable track, since it's the one which has been widely featured in the film's promotional videos for the past few months. Rahman opens the track on a majestic note with a classic horn, making way for a singular, yet steady, rhythm which maintains itself throughout the entire piece. The male chorus, comprising prominently of Mohd. Aslam and Bonny Chakravedi, injects the soulful melody with animation and life. Rahman dabbles with his rhythm quite expressively throughout the entire track, while maintaining the essence and aura established in the opening beats. Midway, the Genius conveys his mastery over instrumental ingenuity by incorporating sounds of sword thrusts, which not only apply to the events on screen, but seamlessly become one with the music. The melodic female chorus provides a beautiful balance to the energetic male ensembles. Javed Akhtar's lyrics are poetic yet strong and fill Rahman's epic melody with words of patriotism and love. Verdict: A perfect thematic track in all its splendor and glory.
The beautifully conceived Jashn-E-Bahaara is lit with a folksy guitar that leads into yet another soulfully simple eastern rhythm, which Rahman uses throughout the entire number. The highlight would undoubtedly have to be vocalist Javed Ali, who should finally get the recognition he has been deserving of for nearly a decade now. Ali sings Rahman's syrupy sweet melody using the natural tenderness of his voice. Although Rahman justly limits the variation in his rhythm (since his melody doesn't call for it), he does however articulate his arrangements with a very subtle pan-flute and the light play of the table, which makes a delayed entrance. Javed Akhtar is obviously in his most rewarding zone while writing for this romantic solo, where we are spared the usual clichÃ©s. Javed Ali might have been criminally ignored for his spectacular rendition in 2003's Jaane (Chameli) and he might have been overshadowed in 2005's super hit Kajra Re (Bunty Aur Babli), but let's hope that the third time is a charm - and he has truly re-written Rahman's composition with his vocals. Verdict: A beautiful rendition, coupled with a sweet composition, make this a coveted piece for romantics everywhere.
We bow in honor of the hauntingly poetic In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein. Sonu Nigam somehow seems to sound his absolute best for Rahman - simply a testament to how inspirational the man's work can truly be. Yet again, Rahman paints a musical canvas that commences with a very soft set of music and melody, brushed ever so lightly with Nigam's soothing vocals. Kudos to Rahman for etching a melody that is both quixotic and memorable. The true brilliance of Rahman's composition lies, however, in the haunting deliverance of a very evocative chorus that builds into a grand crescendo of choir, strings, and drums. Joining Sonu in the back-end of the piece is one of Rahman's beloved singers, Madhushree, who adds to the tremendous vocal value of the song. Javed Akhtar's poetry finishes the trinity and completes the musical puzzle that is In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein. Verdict: Rahman toys with the outer boundaries of musical serenity and creative perfection in In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein.
Khwaja Mere Khwaja is an absolutely gorgeous end to this magical soundtrack, and arguably my favorite piece. What appeals is its raw nature and ear-pleasing melody. Oh and let's not forget that Rahman himself has stepped up to sing the best song, and he is an absolute delight as always. A pure qawwali in the traditional sense, Khwaja Mere Khwaja opens with the flowing lines of the harmonium, superimposed upon by Rahman's youthfully explicit vocal riffs, which reach out to your souls. What follows is a religious awakening in the form of song, as Rahman writes a spell-binding melody on top of a steady, yet foot-tapping rhythm, which is engulfed with sounds of harmonium, strings, table, and hand-claps. One can't help but draw parallels to his earlier masterpiece, Piya Haji (Fiza) - Rahman proves that he is up there with all the great Qawwals, as he re-resurrects the genre with unmatched luster. Verdict: Rahman scales new heights and treads new grounds with this creative masterpiece, as Khwaja Mere Khwaja easily serves as the centerpiece of Jodhaa-Akbar's soundtrack.
Khwaja Mere Khwaja has been re-written as an orchestral Instrumental piece by Rahman as the sixth track of JA. After hearing scores like BOSE - The Forgotten Hero, we know the mastery that Rahman has over his orchestra, and it shows yet again here. The Oboe takes command of the orchestration, as it plays the melody. The only other instruments which are heard to a discerning extent are the harp and the strings.
Jashn-E-Bahaara has also been reworked into an instrumental offering, and it has the privilege of officially ending the wildly anticipated soundtrack of Jodhaa-Akbar. Unlike Khwaja Mere Khwaja's instrumental, where the entire piece was re-written, Jashn-E-Bahaara is your more typical instrumental, where the arrangements are left alone, just the vocal renditions are replaced by an instrument of choice, in this case it would be the flute. We may be deprived of Javed Ali's sweet vocals, but we are still blessed with Rahman's caressing melody.
If the payoff is as sweet as this, I wouldn't mind waiting another two years for the next Rahmantic creation. Let's just hope that it won't come to that...
Aakash Gandhi is Managing Editor and Senior Writer for Planetbollywood.com. He also freelances for the Asian Variety Show at avstv.com.