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A. R. Rahman Raavan Review

Soundtrack. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Rich and intense, but not to everyone’s taste.

Jaspreet Pandohar 2010

When Mani Ratnam decides to make a movie, the first two people he usually turns to are his long time collaborators A. R. Rahman and Gulzaar. Having joined forces on Roja, Dil Se and Guru, it’s no surprise the master filmmaker has reunited with India’s top maestro and lyricist for the soundtrack to his latest release, Raavan.

Also returning to the Ratnam camp are Bollywood’s golden couple Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, who previously featured in Guru and helped popularise songs like Tere Bina and Barso Re. With such talent on board, expectations for Raavan’s soundtrack are undoubtedly high.

It would have been easy for Rahman to knock out a Bollywood soundtrack full of funky numbers aimed at the youth and NRI market. Thankfully India’s leading composer takes his music a little more seriously, and doesn’t bow to such commercial pressure. Instead, Rahman opts for a distinctly darker flavour in line with the film’s setting. An amalgamation of Indian folk and tribal sounds, Raavan focuses more on building mood and tension than delivering cheap entertainment. There are no throwaway numbers here.

He presents a set of songs that transport you to a different world, in which interesting lyrics weave in and out of complex rhythms and melodies. The album kicks off with Beera Beera, featuring an energetic chorus laced with tribal drum beats designed to introduce Abhishek’s villainous character. Its masculinity is at stark contrast to Behene De, an intoxicating love ballad sung by Karthik that has the Rahman’s signature orchestration all over it.

No Rahman album would be complete with Sukhwinder Singh, and true to form he lends his trademark vocals to Thok De Killi, alongside Am’Nico. Unfortunately its lacklustre tune combined with Gulzar’s innovative lyrics make it slightly difficult to understand.

Standing out as the jewel in Raavan’s crown is Ranjha Ranjha, a spellbinding number destined to be one of the best tracks of 2010. Reminiscent of Taal, another Rahman classic, Rekha Bhardwaj’s sensual, earthy tones perfectly complement Javed Ali and Anuradha Sriram’s soft vocals, making this instantly likeable. Equally appealing is Kata Kata, an explosive, fun-filled Indian stag night song of sorts.

Overall Raavan will please hardcore Rahman fans, but may disappoint those who like their Bollywood music a little more light and frothy. Like dark chocolate, it’s rich and intense but not to everyone’s taste.

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