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A.R.Rahman: Top 10 Hindi Albums

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.

11 Comments

  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    22.01.13 10:18 AM
    @Pulkit

    “After 20 years, over 100 albums, countless awards & accomplishments, we pick A.R. Rahman's top 10 albums!” to quote you.

    I am fan of music of many and ARR. He has brought a change and they are melodious pleasing to the ears. I listen to his, Not knowing Hindi is a huge drawback that prevents me to know if there is any deep meaning in the lyrics. Sometimes underlying messages are lost in translations.

    After reading an article today in the BBC, I know now what’s missing in Indian movies and Music. It is the magical and mesmerizing effect to unite the people and politicians of two nations at war ever since independence.

    I wonder if this aspect of changing the world ever occurred to anyone in the Bolly, Kolly, Tolly and Molly woods?

    If not, it’s about time they did to move away from politicians to inspire people of Pakistan and India to co exist side by side and respect each other’s culture and traditions.

    Here’s the link to the story: Göttingen the song that made history. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21126353
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    21.01.13 05:59 AM
    @Ezhil: I agree, Yuvraaj is quite under-appreciated. 'Manmohini Morey' is one of my favorite tracks. I felt the same about Tehzeeb, which was my wild card on this list.
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    21.01.13 05:58 AM
    @parthapratim: Thanks! Bombay is a great album but like I said before, I wanted the list to display his versatility with genres, etc. So some great albums had to be left out.
  • Ezhil
    By
    Ezhil
    20.01.13 12:42 PM
    In my mind, Yuvraaj remains one of the most under-appreciated albums in Hindi. I am not sure if it deserves a top 10 mention, but it is certainly one of his best works.

    But like others above I believe Rang De Basanti deserves to be in the top 10 list . Rockstar didn't provide the generational shift in his music that Rang De Basanti did :)
  • parthapratim
    By
    parthapratim
    20.01.13 11:18 AM
    Thanks Pulkit for the topic, only a bit of surprize miss is BOMBAY --- Tuhi re , bombay theme ... Woah... ARR's magic
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    13.01.13 05:07 AM
    @Amit: This is by no means a complete list of his albums. It's my top ten of his Hindi albums.
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    13.01.13 05:06 AM
    @Igirit: Haha, I struggled with what to do with Bombay. While it's a great album, I had to sacrifice certain albums in favor of showing Rahman's versatility with genres, styles, etc.
  • AMIT WAGHELA
    By
    AMIT WAGHELA
    09.01.13 02:47 PM
    NICE ALBUM LIST BUT CAN NOT COMLEATE LIST. BY A R RAHMAN?
  • Igirit
    By
    Igirit
    09.01.13 02:35 PM
    This cannot be.
    You cannot NOT have included Bombay in this list! Shouldn't Dil Se and Bombay have tied at first place?
  • Pulkit
    By
    Pulkit
    09.01.13 09:47 AM
    Ya know, I debated for a long time about whether or not to include Rang De Basanti. Ultimately, I thought Delhi 6 and Rockstar deserved to be on there more. Saathiya is good too, and also a near miss. :-)
  • sourav roy
    By
    sourav roy
    08.01.13 10:24 PM
    Nice list :) Although I would have loved to see Rang De Basanti and Saathiya somewhere down the list. Khalbali, Luka Chupi, Pathshaala, Roobaroo... while RDB had the quintessential youth tracks, Saathiya had some of the best romantic and ones. The title track of Saathiya being a rare merger of Indian and western music to perfection.

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