A.R.Rahman: Top 10 Hindi Albums
January 06, 2013
After 20 years, over 100 albums, countless awards & accomplishments, we pick A.R. Rahman's top 10 albums!
A.R.Rahman's list of accomplishments is simply too long and too expansive to spell out. Nicknamed the "Mozart of Madras," Rahman has contributed to Indian and world music in a way that can't be replicated or replaced. The Oscar-Grammy-Golden Globe-BAFTA-winning composer has also won too many awards in India to count. What lingers, well after the awards are forgotten and the publicity hype fizzles, are his musical ingenuity in breaking boundaries and the timeless quality of his compositions.
With all that in mind, we took on a challenge: to whittle down a spectacularly accomplished career spanning 20 years and over 100 albums to just a few favorites. A daunting task to say the least. To make it a little bit fairer, we've filtered it down to only his Hindi albums, which is no less a struggle.
With our hearts in our hands, we present to you our top ten Hindi film albums composed by the illustrious A. R. Rahman. Challenge accepted!
10. Humse Hai Muqabla (1994)
Making up words or juxtaposing random words and phrases in a song is something Rahman has made into an artistic statement. And the music of Humse Hai Muqabla is a prime example. It’s a thoroughly fun album, with each track inspiring you to shake a leg….or at least tap a foot. This album was Rahman at his quirky best.
9. Rangeela (1995)
Tapori songs have never been this much fun. The songs of Rangeela were cool when the album (and film) first released and they remain cool to this day. Our favorites: ‘Kya Kare Kya Na Kare’ and ‘Yaro Sunlo Zara,' and of course the sexy 'Tanha Tanha.'
8. Tehzeeb (2003)
This one's our wild card. Tehzeeb remains one of Rahman’s most underrated albums, but one of his best. Rahman takes pure Urdu poetry (penned beautifully by Javed Akhtar) and puts it to very contemporary beats of hip-hop, electronica, rock and more. Check out 'Sabaq Aisa' for a great example of experimentation with substance and style. Now that’s what we call talent!
7. Lagaan: Once Upon A Time In India (2001)
Trust Rahman to compose a soundtrack that fits perfectly in an epic like Lagaan. The songs are Indian to the core, deeply ingrained in the rustic heart of the film and its characters. The instrumentation is simple yet emotionally very powerful. Listen to 'O Paalanhaare', for one of the most deeply emotional devotional songs ever composed for a Hindi film.
6. Taal (1999)
Another album based in rustic sounds, but this one seamlessly blended them with a slightly funkier edge. The soulful tracks, such as ‘Taal Se Taal Mila’ and ‘Nahin Samne’, complement the faster-paced numbers like ‘Kahin Aag Lage’ and ‘Ishq Bina.’ And who can forget the exquisite ‘Ramta Jogi’? A gem of an album.
5. Rockstar (2011)
The most recent of all the albums in this list, Rockstar showed a darker, deeper side to Rahman's musical versatility. Following the course of an artist's emotional turmoil and downfall, the tracks in this album range from the impassioned 'Saadda Haq' to the haunting 'Aur Ho', to the slow-burning 'Jo Bhi Main'. Bonus points for the heavenly instrumental piece 'The Dichotomy of Fame' and 'Kun Faaya Kun' for probably being the first qawwali to incorporate a guitar riff!
4. Swades (2004)
The great challenge of this soundtrack was to bring a Western sensibility to small town India, going by the plot of the film. It succeeded and how! Rahman delivered one of the most stirring patriotic songs in contemporary culture with 'Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera', a song that can give you goosebumps. The rest of the tracks remain just as grounded, whether it's the metaphorical 'Yeh Tara Woh Tara' or dreamy 'Dekho Na'. And thanks to Rahman, no road trip playlist is complete without 'Yun Hi Chala Chal.'
3. Roja (1992)
His first Hindi album and still one of his best. Ranked by TIME Magazine as one of the best film soundtracks in the world, Roja offered a magical realism in its sound. There was the innocently charming 'Chhoti Si Asha', the naughty 'Rukmani Rukmani' and the heartbreaking 'Roja Jaaneman.' Of course, the pinnacle of this album will always be 'Yeh Haseen Waadiyan', one of Indian cinema's most magical compositions. It's delicate and grand all at the same time. When music has the power to transport you to another world, you know it’s good.
2. Delhi 6 (2009)
Trust the maestro to put together an album with almost a different genre of music in each track! From the soft ballad 'Dil Gira Dafatan', to the rap 'Kaala Bandar,' to the folk-hip hop inflected 'Genda Phool,' to a full-fledged aarti and qawwali back to back, it's one of those rare albums that exemplifies musical innovation. Delhi 6 remains one of Rahman's greatest achievements – much more deserving of an Oscar, but let’s not go there.
1. Dil Se… (1998)
Mention ‘Chhaiya Chhaiya’ to anyone who was even remotely aware of Hindi cinema in the ‘90s and they’ll reminisce back to the absolute domination of an eternally catchy dance song. In an album that was short (only 6 tracks) and feisty, every song carries equal weight - from the innocent yet sensual 'Jiya Jale' to the ethereal 'Ae Ajnabi' - a glowing testament to Rahman's talents. The Dil Se… soundtrack was a complete package of one uniquely memorable track after another, powerful and beautiful.