Among the combinations in Kollywood, Vijay-A R Rahman is rather intriguing as the idioms that define the duo are totally different, and twain looked unlikely to meet. To be sure, Rahman had indeed scored music for a Vijay starrer previously. That was the unsung Udaya, a film that was laid low by many problems. Except the eponymous title track (and was certainly beguilingly brilliant), none of the numbers hardly had anything to redeem or remember. Vijay, in the meanwhile, had become the commercial star and this kind of films demanded ‘a’ kind of music, which if it came from Rahman would be disappointing. Rahman’s musical methods are believed to suit a different canvas.
So before settling down to listen to the Azhagiya Tamil Magan songs, the feeling was rather mixed, and the belief was that something, or rather someone, had to give. But after a single listen, we are happy to report that Rahman has packaged Vijay’s musical needs in a different flavor. But one that doubtless will have the Ilaya Thalapathi’s fans dancing in the aisles with gusto. Rahman’s genius lies here in the fact that he has not compromised his core constituency.
The six numbers, including a remixed one, carry that unique Rahman stamp ---- rhythmic razzmatazz, quaint harmonies and experimental interludes all creating a symphonic sounds cape.
1 Ella Puzhal
The title track in a mass Tamil movie is microcosmic to the overall genre. It has to have elevating lyrics. It has to have simple but catchy beats. It has to set the tempo for the scrip to feed on. But Rahman here bucks the trend. He provides all the necessary rhythms. He has, in a sense, redefined the ‘intro song with a tempo that is reflective without being ponderous. Rahman’s own vocals — in typical nasal high-pitched twang ---- provide a further newness. The beats are not all-out or in-your-face, but carry forward Vaali’s undoubtedly exalting and ennobling ideas in attractive packets of snappy strums and bewitching beats. It is not impossible to imagine what the reaction of Vijay’s countless fans whenever the word ‘thalapathi’ is uttered in the lyric.
2 Pon Magal Vandhal
Rahman, among the music directors, had steadfastly avoided the abhorrence of remixes. The one time he had to attempt that, Rahman did the honorable thing of re-tuning it (Thottal Poo Malarum in New), rather than add some high-octane rhythms to the original and preen to the world as if it is indeed a ‘new original’, so to speak. But here settles for the straight forward remix; the only liberty he takes here is a bizarre rap interlude. Aslam has sung with his all his energy, and Embar’s rap bit also works. But remixes are not Rahman’s.
3) Nee Marilyn Monroe
This is Boys song meeting Anniyan. Both in terms of the musical trope as well in terms of drift of the language. Full of city youth’s Esperanto, the words of Na Muthukumar (almost in bilingual with liberal use of ‘Party’, ‘Saturday night’,’ scanning’) will have the dancing feet tapping incessantly. Benny Dayaland Ujjaini sings with that stylized lilt that such songs are expected to sound. The chorus pattern is interesting and provides a defining staccato feel. The way ‘Nee Marilyn Monroe’ is enunciated is certainly very alluring and provides all the right impact for the song.
Imagine a rambunctious Tamil folk madly cohabiting. And now, as if for a lark, throw a bit Carnatic nuggets. What do you get? A song that defies imagination. It takes musical effrontery to conjure such mix n’ match song. Rahman’s brilliance is in pulling this amazing number, on which explanatory words are ineffective. Naresh Iyer, like a stone waller is being asked to play the pinch-hitting role in cricket, has been asked to let his curly hair down and sing with uninhibited effulgence. Naresh does and provides the song the perfect patchwork. The twist into the by-lanes of Carnatic ragas (like Bageshwari, Saraswathi and Neelambari) is sheer genius. Ujjaini and Madhumitha’s voices climb the higher octaves with felicitous zeal while Muthukumar’s lyrics again match the mood. One for the album of mind!
5) Kelammal Kayile
Saindhavi sounds from just the upper part of the throat. It is a style that is fraught with risks. But it works to all our amazement. Pray why? The curious musical arrangement of Rahman and the male vocal of Sriram Parthasarathy, perhaps the most talented and bankable of young singers around. The pattern of the number is difficult to grapple immediately. But as ever, it takes hold of you slowly and before long you are captivated and traveling inside those lovely musical loops that every Rahman experience gives us. Thamarai’s words carry that love emotion quite effortlessly.
6) Maduraikku Pogathadee
Does a mass rhythm song have to be gross and cheesy, and sound soulless? Need not be. Rahman shows how. This is a folksy number that combines the resonance of Goanese beats, but is full of robust energy and rhythms that immediately transports the listeners to, say, rural Madurai. The singers Benny Dayal, Archith and Darsana voice Pa Vijay’s inspired words with an élan and ease that come to those who want to prove a point. The natural drift into the rural symphony is a stroke of musical genius.
And Rahman is certainly one.