A career in music that includes scores for 100 films, 300 commercials, couple of Broadway shows and a handful of private albums.. This post does not intend to list them all. Having said that, I don’t have the time or space to list down all his awards either. The year 2016 marks A.R. Rahman’s 24 years in the film industry (as a film composer) and this post aims to list down some of his not-so-popular film songs right from Yodha to the recently released 24. The intention is to make people create a playlist of these songs on their iPods and mobiles. If you think that this is too much to ask for, please go through the full post again and again until you feel that these songs are worthy enough to share the priceless space on your device.
1.Mampoove – Yodha
It always feels good when you start off your post, especially about music with a song sung by K.J. Yesudas. But wait for a moment. If you feel that Roja was Rahman’s first film, you are partially wrong. Yes, only partially because Roja released first before Yodha did. But instead of digging into archives and going back in time for 24 years, let us take some time and listen to this song which I consider to be one of the many Rahman melodies that will stand the test of time. It’s also a shame that we haven’t listened to Rahman in Malayalam after Yodha.
Fun fact: This song was later reused in the Tamil film Pavithra as Sevvaanam.
2. Idhudhaan Vaazhkai Enbadha (Netru Illadha Maatram – Sad version – Pudhiya Mugam)
We all love the sight of chripy Revathy running across a valley brimming with love singing Netru Illadha Maatram Ennadhu. If the happy version of the song captivates some of the best loved moments in the film, the sad version reciprocates the pain of leaving your loved ones. I consider Pudhiya Mugam to be one of the finest Rahman movies till date. It is also safe to say that the songs played a huge role in making people remember the name of the film.
3. Kangalil Enna Eeramo – Uzhavan
Imagine the male lead of the film plunged in sorrow over the loss of his mother and the female lead trying to console him. There are no better singers than S.P. Balasubrahmanyam and K.S. Chithra to reflect this mood in a song. Full marks to Rahman for arranging the song in such a way that no screen is necessary to understand / guess the theme behind this.
4. Idhu Sugam Sugam – Vandicholai Chinnarasu
Of all the songs listed above, I rate this to be a work of sheer brilliance by Rahman. I also guess that Rahman’s music played a huge role in portraying the intimacy of the male and female lead on screen. The other part where Rahman deserves an accolade is the choice of singers. S.P.B can emote a million emoticons in a single song whereas Vani Jayaram can emote a single emoticon million times. That’s how this song has captivated its listeners.
5. July Madham Vandhal – Pudhiya Mugam
Yet another song from Pudhiya Mugam. The song is about a man and a woman running the streets of Colombo and enjoying their love life by singing. We would have seen this situation a thousand times in films. But where this song stands apart is in the usage of instruments. Bongos and Spanish guitar accompany the actors everywhere they go and this is the one Rahman song that comes to my mind whenever I relate him with guitar.
6. Kaadu Potta Kaadu – Karuthamma
The singer Bharathiraja… Wait, you heard it right. Yes, Bharathiraja is the singer here. Guess the idea of choosing Bharathiraja to sing this song is to convince the audience about the incapability of a land to produce crops anymore and to stress the pain and struggle of a debt-ridden farmer in making his drought-ridden land yield crops.
7. Vaanil Yeni Pottu – Pudhiya Mannargal
A group of college students turning rebel and you have Rahman compose music for them. The song carries the entire wishlist of a group of ambitious students’ unprecedented love towards the society. Add Nadaswaram and Thavil to Rahman’s signature synthesizer tone of the 90s and the product you get at the end is something similar to a Rolls Royce or a Bentley driven at Mount Road with a group of people looking at it with a sense of awe. You don’t get to see them often, after all.
8. Naalai Ulagam – Love Birds
Because Unni Krishnan has never sounded this warm after Narumugaye. The song doesn’t appease you as Ennavale or move you as Uyirum Neeye yet sits in a unique place that no other song can be made to sit by your inner soul. Another song that deserves a mention here is Thendrale (may be because all the songs listed above were sung by Unni Krishnan).
9. Aadi Paaru – May Madham
The way little G.V. Prakash Kumar starts off the song with a coltish tone and the female lead singer takes off from there is pure fun to listen. In my opinion, this track of Rahman sits right at the top as one of the most tongue-in-cheek attempts ever tried by him. Do give a listen and I bet there will be a mild smile at the end once you are done listening.
10. Vennilavin Theril Yeri – Duet
Boisterous violins, resentful lyrics and K.J. Yesudas are almost impossible to go together but this song is what you get when all the three come together. The lyrics is penned in such a way that Balachander’s screenplay plays a second fiddle to it. You don’t need a screen in front of you to capture the emotion of the song.
11. Mona Lisa – Mr. Romeo
What is fun? Prabhu Deva and Rahman coming together. Add Vaali to it and you only get more fun. I also love the way Malaysia Vasudevan pronounces Mona Lisa (as “Mono Lisa”).
12 & 13 Sakiye Neethan & Oru Naal Oru Pozhudu – Anthimanthaarai
The film name might sound new to most of you. It is to be noted that it also had a couple of really good songs sung by Unni Krishnan and Swarnalatha.
Fun fact: The film was directed by Bharathiraja.
14. Vennila Vennila – Iruvar
May be due to the fact that this was overtaken by the other jazz in the film, Hello Mister Edhirkatchi.
15. Suttum Vizhi Sudar – Kandukondain Kandukondain
Listening to someone hum a Bharathiyar poem would sound sweet. Imagine if that someone is Hariharan and A.R. Rahman is the composer who had set the tune for that. Water pouring down the Earth in the form of rain thereby quenching people’s thirst is a metaphor that symbolizes a peerless piece of poetry set to tune by Rahman that quenches the listeners’ thirst.
16. Nenthukitten – Star
A severely underrated gem. Set in the early 2000s, the song carries all the essence of a folk viz Thavil, Nadaswaram and Ghatam. Karthik, who later went on to sing many successful songs started off his career with this song.
17. Neethan En Desiya – Paarthale Paravasam
A melody that sounds sweet and simple to the ears will always be well-received by its listeners. This song is a prime example of that.
18. Sattena Nanainthathu – Kannathil Muthamittal
The heroine meets the hero at his place. Cut. The song appears. Later, the hero meets the heroine at her place. Cut. The song appears again. Guess Mani Ratnam must have brought all his movie-making experience into play to place this song at the right spot (not sure if the song was composed after the film sequences were shot). Anyway, we all know what a Mani-Rahman combo can do when they are on top of their creative skills. Don’t be surprised if I say that this song is an adaptation of a Telugu song from the movie Super Police for which Rahman is the composer as well.
19. Theekuruvi – Kangalal Kaidhu Sei
What’s a Harini song without those fast sangathis? An all-time favourite Rahman number that still sounds fresh even after listening to it multiple times.
20. Kaaviriya Kaaviriya – Desam
From the Hindi movie Swades (Desam in Tamil), this song has Rahman playing with the synth layers. The transition of the song at the second minute plus Madhushree’s vocals above all make this song a good listen.
21 & 22 . Ye Manpuru Mangaye & Orey Kanaa- Guru
Ye Manupuru Mangaye is what you get when you pack everything neatly, right from the singers to the arrangement and the orchestration. If you ask me to prepare a list of Rahman melodies, this song would feature in the top 10. Orey Kanaa is a supremely orchestrated piece and Rahman has pulled it off in a grand style.
23. Chinnamma – Sakkarakatti
A reused track from the movie Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities, this song would take multiple hearing before getting used to. There is also an interesting pattern in this song. Every time the male lead’s voice is pitched high, the female goes low. Not sure whether this was done deliberately.
24. Theera Ula – OK Kanmani
Not that this song was not popular. I just feel that this song wasn’t given the due it deserved. Take all the songs of OK Kanmani into equation and somewhere I feel that this song was left behind despite being blessed with some wonderful singing.
It’s almost impossible to narrow down all the songs to 24 in number. While the guessing game still continues, it would only be fair if we list down some of the (if not all) underrated gems of all the composers and listen to them and appreciate them. Choosing Rahman was easier for me since I keep listening to him almost every day. I should also accept the fact that I have left out some of his unexplored tracks (particularly the pre-2000s). I have not included his Hindi and private albums in this post only with a hope to post them separately sometime in future.