This is the review of the soundtrack.
For the full film review of Rockstar, click HERE.
There is a reason why A.R.Rahman has achieved the dizzying heights of success that he has so far. He creates music like no one else does. After a relatively lukewarm 2010 (Raavan, Robot and Jhootha Hi Sahi), Rahman's only Hindi film album in 2011 proves yet again his musical genius. Director Imtiaz Ali's highly anticipated Rockstar - starring Ranbir Kapoor and Nargis Fakhri - has a total of 14 original tracks, making it an unusually long album in the current crop. But in a welcome change, the album has no remixes. Lyrics are by Irshad Kamil.
The primary voice given to Ranbir Kapoor's character in the film is that of Mohit Chauhan, who jumps right in with the first track - Phir Se Ud Chala. It's a peppy song, done in Rahman's own way, making for an appropriately upbeat beginning to the album. A choir opens the song, followed by a strumming mandolin and Chauhan's soulful voice singing about taking flight and letting go of fears and hesitation. It's an enjoyable song but not a track that lingers or begs for repeated listenings.
The second track - Jo Bhi Main - swerves into musical brilliance. Chauhan glides into the song with an oddly infectious "ya-ya-ya" intro, which is followed by an audience echo. It's a powerful soft rock number - electric guitar and bass in tow - with Chauhan giving it an intoxicating rendition. The whole song bears a live concert feel and turned up loud, it's an engulfing track.
No Rahman album is complete without the quintessential love song. Katiya Karun is sung by Harshdeep Kaur, who brings in her deep voice and Punjabi spunk to make the song instantly catchy. Kaur sounds like a mix between Rekha Bhardwaj and Richa Sharma, but definitely carries the song successfully by herself. It has a rustic feel throughout, with dholki and tumbhi sounds, and will warm hearts for sure.
The masterpiece of the album is without a doubt Kun Faaya Kun. Sung passionately and gracefully by A R Rahman, Mohit Chauhan and Javed Ali, it's a soulful Sufi track to the core with unique embellishments. The song's hypnotic quality, message of peace and hope, and serene composition shows that perhaps Rahman put the most effort and energy into this one. And what a result! Roughly halfway into the song, Rahman introduces a guitar interlude, which is rarely done in a Sufi composition. The guitar works, and beautifully. Rahman's spiritual songs are some of his most powerful and memorable, whether it is 'Piya Haji Ali' (Fiza), 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' (Jodhaa Akbar) or 'Arziyan' (Delhi 6). If anyone in Hindi cinema knows how to deliver a spiritual song to entrance listeners - regardless of faith or religious belief - it is Rahman.
After such a tough act to follow, Sheher Mein, doesn't excite as much. It's a song built on the premise of artists trying to record his song in a studio, ending up in a sort of sing-off. Sung by Chauhan and Karthik, it has a situational touch to it which will probably be more effective visually.
Shifting gears completely to another musical style, Haawa Haawa opens with an accordion and erupts into a foot-tapping gypsy tune. Chauhan enjoys himself here, singing playfully with a bevy of female backing vocals and a frenetic Spanish guitar. The song will probably be set in the Prague segments of the film and fuses various European influences together in its composition and vocals. Rahman experiments with the sound and makes it work, even if the female vocals at times get too screechy.
Rahman's serious and dark songs are usually hit or miss. Aur Ho, by Chauhan and Bosnian singer Alma Ferovic, is a song about anguish. It has a brooding, mysterious composition that accompanies Chauhan's angry and Ferovic's haunting voices. Once again, this might be a song that has far more impact with visuals.
It's a pleasant surprise to hear Kavita (Krishnamurthy) Subramanium open Tum Ko with her melodious voice. It's a welcome return for the singer to playback singing after a long hiatus. Subramanium's haunting intro is followed by a great tabla and string lead into to the music. Parts of the song work - mostly the vocals, tabla and string combination - but it gets too slow and monotonous in other parts to stand out.
Nadaan Parindey, sung by Rahman and Chauhan, is a high energy rock number that has a balance of anger, desperation and also hope. The composition wavers between hard rock and soft rock, with some parts that sound too ordinary for an album that has flowed so well so far.
Tum Ho is essentially the male version of the earlier 'Tum Ko.' It's another soulful romantic number, by Chauhan of course, accompanied by soothing humming by Suzanne D'Mello. The composition is kept simple, yet more varied than in 'Tum Ko,' making this song one of the highlights of the album.
The anthem of the soundtrack is the already popular Sadda Haq. It opens with a full on guitar riff, followed by Chauhan coming in to build the tempo, which then erupts into the rebellious rock song that everyone has already come to know so well. Chauhan gives it his all and, along with powerful accompanying riffs, the song becomes a potent call for claiming one's rights and fighting the establishment.
The album moves on to two instrumental tracks. Tango for Taj brings back the European flavor of 'Haawa Haawa', but this time the feel is more Parisian. This is followed by The Dichotomy of Fame, which is one of the best instrumental tracks in recent Hindi films. Rahman beautifully and fluidly melds the sounds of the tabla, shehnai and guitar to create a somber and contemplative track that lingers on long after it's over. The final track is The Meeting Place, a very short piece in which Ranbir Kapoor recites a few lines by Rumi about reuniting with a loved one.
As with most A.R.Rahman albums, Rockstar is also eclectic to the core. With such a large and diverse platter of songs to choose from, everyone will have their own favorites. It's a wonderfully accomplished soundtrack that only heightens curiosity for the film, even if it is only to see how the songs are visually depicted. Rockstar's album has the effect that the best of Rahman's work does - it's intriguing on the first listen, even better on the second listen, and an obsession by the fifteenth loop and counting. You don't want to miss this album!
Listen to the full album here.