If I gave anyone the impression that this blog was only about carnatic classical music, this post should dispel it. As I stated in the first post, I love music of all sorts. And Indian film music is an integral piece of the enjoyment diaspora.
I was in school when A.R.Rahman burst onto the scene and Indian film music has never been the same again. ARR introduced new elements hitherto rare in Indian film music- electronica unlike any other, new voices by the dozen and a penchant to marry esoteric elements in a cohesive manner. And no other director made (or continues to make) better use of his skills than Manirathnam. At the peak of their collaboration came Dil Se. I could write a whole post about the movie but that would be digression from the topic. Suffice to say, it was the coming together of some of the best talents in the country at that time- Mani, ARR, Gulzar and SRK. And there were tremendous expectations from the music. And did ARR meet expectations or what.
Dil Se is probably one of the greatest soundtracks to grace Indian cinema. It offered flavors that were perfectly wedded to the theme of the movie and Gulzar elevated the entire experience with his words. There are arguments as to which is the best song in the movie as each and every piece was a classic. There was the title song, Dil Se Re, which had ARR at his raw and untethered best. Jiya Jale, showcasing Kerala at its virgin best to go with Lata crooning for a smoldering Preity Zinta was a big hit. And so was Satrangi Re, a melange of exotic instruments, brilliant poetry and mind-blowing visuals. Satrangi Re, in its lyrical form boasts poetry of the kind that is almost unrepeatable. Ae Ajnabi was a behind the scenes piece that feels so much real in just audio. And finally, there is Chaiyya Chaiyya. A song that is about as perfect as it gets. And one that I have listened to over a thousand times, the last five hundred courtesy my three year old who is obsessed with it.
Chaiyya Chaiyya is a brilliant piece that boasts a foot tapping tune that is at once Indian and universal. The lyrics talk of a love briefly seen and still warm in the heart. And then there is the picturization that elevates it to a whole different level. A svelte Malaika Arora and SRK cavort to Saroj Khan’s steps atop a running train. It can be argued that Chaiyya Chaiyya is the best shot song in Indian film history (Satrangi Re will be worthy competition). With the tune, lyrics and spectacular picturization, it makes it a perfect song. One that is a rarity, even for a combination as solid as Mani, ARR and Gulzar.
As my son insists on me playing the Chaiyya Chaiyya (and its shorter sibling Thaiyya Thaiyya) over and over again, I remember fondly to when the soundtrack came out. It kept the entire nation glued to every time Chitrahaar (or Oliyum Oliyum for tamil movie viewers) played it. There will be many more hits that ARR, Mani and Gulzar will churn in the coming years but Dil Se will stand its test of time as an album that was just perfect.