A R Rahman, the master blaster of Indian music industry, celebrated his birthday recently and internet was flooded with varieties of stories and musical tributes for him. So what subject probably can be further explored about a man who has taken the entire generation off their feet and every person has a certain Rahman connect in his or her life. Well, when you have layers to find out, there are layers to be found out! Rahman was introduced to Hindi speaking audience with his maiden venture Roja (it was a Tamil film and dubbed in Hindi and other languages) and the impact was so strong that the entire nation came together to celebrate this young maestro. We cannot dismiss that the Rahman fever was so strong that until Rangeela, which was his debut as a full-fledged Hindi Film music director, all his south Indian movies were dubbed in Hindi with a clear intention of making his music popular to wider audience. Most of the movies dubbed were box office disaster and are remembered purely for ARR fever.
While his movies like Hum Se Hai Muqabla, Mr. Romeo and others were winning the musical countdown shows, there were many interesting and extremely soulful compositions which Rehman gave for South Indian movies. And if you ask any ARR lover, he would agree that the period of 90s, when Rahman was still a South Indian export to Bollywood, he has some of the best songs to his credit. These songs are so honest and pure that tampering either with lyrics or tune to suit Hindi speaking audience would have ruined it completely.
Lets take a look at some of the musical marvels created by AR Rehman in South Indian movies. Here’s the list –
1. Margazhi poove –
One of the most soulful compositions ever made in Indian film industries is the song Marghayi Poove from the Tamil movie May Madham (1994). The song beautifully starts with flute playing the iconic Suprabhatham by M.S.Subbalaxmi and you know it’s a dawn welcoming song. Sung mesmerizingly by Shobha Shankar, the song is set in raga Hindolam (malkuans in Hindustani). The orchestration of the song is so perfect that it is difficult to believe that the music is composed by a novice (then).
2. Porale Punnuthaye
Probably one of the most underrated songs composed by Rahman in his early days is this song from a lesser known movie Karuthamma. An absolute country side music melody which will keep lingering in your mind for days. I guess Rahman wanted this composition and orchestration to reach wider audience, hence later he this composition for his album Vande Mathram as Gods of Peace in a collaboration with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saab, with modern touch. However, the rustic desi original version is definitely worth saving in jukebox.
Post the stupendous success of Kadhalan (Hum se hai muqabla) Prabhudeva and Nagma were teamed up again for a lesser known movie Love Birds. The only saving grace of this movie was its music. There is clearly a déjà vu feeling with Kadhalan song, however this particular song has its own beauty with signature Rahman touch to it. A soothing romantic number in soulful voices of Chitra and Hariharan.
4. Azhagu Nilave
Sometimes you don’t need heavy percussion or drums to make a song soulful. All you need is Chitra’s divine voice and a few basic instruments in the background to make you feel the song. When the expressions in a voice are so powerful, it doesn’t matter which language it is in, your heart feels heavy automatically. For the sheer simplicity of composition and singing, this song remains one of the most favourite.
5. Varaaha Nadhikkarai
An art which Rahman excels effortlessly is blending multi-cultural melodies in the most unexpected manner and come up with something spectacular. Shankar Mahadevan was introduced to South Indian film industry with this qawwali-ish village festival song. And if you find shades of a popular Sufi number in it, then remember you are not also to think so!
6. Oru Daivam Thanda Poove
Mani Rathnam and A R Rahman combination became legendary from the word go. This album – Kannathil Mutthamittal is no different. Intense storyline, matured performances and compellingly complimenting songs. For a Mani Rathnam lover, this movie is a must and this song is an audio visual treat with some amazing cinematography and multi range vocals by Chinmayee (Sairaat fame) and Jaychandran.
7. Nila Kaikiradhu
Another Mani-Rahman combination which is exemplary composition is from the movie Indira. An extremely intense movie dealing with village feudal systems and politics with superlative performances. One of the highlights of the movie is this song which aptly eases out the tense situation and as portrayed on screen a little girl tries to calm her angry father and very aptly the angelic voice of Harini (a child artist then) fills the environment with innocence. Do listen to this song for some Carnatic music treat.
8. Munbe Vaa
A R Rahman has introduced many talents to mainstream film music and genuinely helped them with opportunities. One such artist is Naresh Iyer, whom Rahman heard in a reality show where Naresh sang a Carnatic melody with fusion Himagiri Thanaye. Rahman loved Naresh’s voice and promised him a break. Since then Rahman has given Naresh quite a few interesting songs including Rang De Basanti. The song I have chosen here is a romantic duet with Shreya Ghoshal. Definitely a song worth listening in loop mode.
9. Minsara Kanna
One song which I think deserves a mention is the high octane jugalbandi between Nityashree and Srinivas in raga Vasantha in romantic drama Padayappa. The song is at a definite juncture of the movie where a strong female character (played by Ramya Krishnan) admits her love to none other than Rajnikanth and Thalaiva doesn’t bat an eyelid before rejecting the proposal and insulting the otherwise respected strong woman from the upper-class village feud. Well Ramya Krishnan has not landed Bahubali’s mom’s role just like that and to prove it right, watch this high voltage ego clash between her and Rajnikanth. Rahman’s music accentuates the characters’ emotions, apathy and sorrow with each song.
10. Malargal Kettain
While I completely agree that Rahman gave his best compositions in 90s, his deep understanding of classical music does peep out of Bollywood closet from time to time. One song which has grabbed my attention with 100% marks to it is from the recent box office success OK Kanmani! Statutory Warning: Please do not compare anything with the hindi remake disaster OK Jaanu! This beautiful bhajan is sung by none other than Chitra and if you closely listen to it, you will find shades of Bhaja Govindam by late M.S. Subbalakshmi. The way protagonist impressed her landlords by her singing, Rahman definitely continues to impress his fans with his wonderful compositions.