Music in Manirathnam movies (Part 3- The Rahman years)- From Alaipayuthey to Kadal

This is the concluding post in a trilogy dedicated to music in Manirathnam movies. We embarked on this journey a few weeks ago with the brilliant piece from Pallavi Anupallavi and will wrap it up with the gentle waves of Kadal. For earlier posts see Part 1 (Raaja Years) and Part 2( ARR years).

In what is really a wonderful coincidence, this post starts with Alaipayuthey and ends with Kadal. And here we go.

Love was in the air

It was 2000 and I was very much in love. Manirathnam was trying to bounce back from the financial disaster that was Dil Se. And thus, Alaipayuthey was born. A simple love story told in inimitable Mani style and reminding us of his deft romantic touches once seen in MounaRagam, Alaipayuthey was a runaway hit. And ARR, true to form delivered a great soundtrack where every song struck gold. 

Endrendrum Punnagai” sets the tone for the movie. A breezy piece that is short on duration but lasting. “Pachai Nirame” is a beautiful number that is gorgeous to look at and wonderfully set to Vairamuthu’s words by ARR. Evano Oruvan is a wonderfully melancholic song that captures the mood of separated lovers. ”Snehidane” is one of my favorite pieces from the movie with wonderful visuals and a great composition from ARR. And there is another small wonder in the form of “Mangalyam” which redefined the wedding piece for ever. But the best song for me from this great album is “Kadhal Sadugudu”. Still fresh after all these years and romantic as ever. Just the strum of guitars at the beginning of the piece is worth it.

After the huge success of Alaipayuthey, Mani decided to take up a serious subject in the form of the Sri Lankan tamil refugee problem. A very serious movie, “Kannathil Mutthamittal”, ARR stood by his director with some strong pieces. The “Nenjil Jil Jil” piece featuring the very talented Jayachandran and Chinmayi stays and makes an impact. A male version of the same song packs a solid punch alongside brilliant visuals. But the entire movie is conveyed through the brilliant lyrics of Vairamuthu for “Vidai Kodu Engal” sung by M.S.Viswanathan or VisRa fame. The song that delivers the best punch and universal message of love and peace is “Vellai Pookal”. It plays throughout the movie and lasts for a long time. ARR’s voice does full justice to the gentle song. 

After tasting multilingual success with Bombay, Mani set about making another truly multilingual movie with dual starcasts and simultaneous shoots in the form of “Aaydha Ezhuthu/Yuva”. The movie featured a huge starcast and an intersecting storyline akin to Amores Perros. The movie did average business but the soundtrack made it big thanks to some foot-tapping and youthful numbers from ARR.

There is the breezy “Nenjam Ellam” by Adnan Sami and Sujatha. There is the interestingly set “Sanda Kozhi” with the brilliant ARR interlude (at 2:10). “Nee Yaaro” is a fast paced romantic piece with some awesome humming by Sunitha Sarathy and Lucky Ali. “Jana Gana Mana” is something I listen to whenever I need to amp myself up. The song delivers with sheer beats and pace. “Yakkai Thiri- Fanaa” is my personal favorite from this movie. ARR packs a super punch with the composition and his raw vocals. And be sure to check out the “sapamapa-nirisasa nirisasa” that ARR delivers in this song.

As with the rest of the career, Mani shifted gears with his next movie from a youth driven movie like “Aaydha Ezhuthu” to a biopic of Dhirubhai Ambani in the form of “Guru”. Made in Hindi and dubbed in Tamil, the songs were disappointing to me as a tamil listener and jmuch better to me as a Hindi song listener.

Guru had its share of good songs but the overall soundtrack was not outstanding.  It just felt a step below the ARR-Mani benchmark. The movie though was engaging and turned out a hit. “Barso Re” was pretty popular although I didnt find it that exciting. “Tere Bina” – a soft romantic number that somehow reminded me of “Snehidane” from Alaipayuthey struck a chord with me.

The standout piece, one of my ARR evergreen brilliant pieces was the background piece, “Jaage Hain”. It is just fantastically orchestrated and the lyrics truly pack a punch. I often hear to this song and feel completely invigorated and ready to go. The rough translation goes thus:

I have been long awake, let me sleep for some more time.

The night is not yet over, let the morning come.

Incomplete dreams that will never come true

Once more, let me build/weave those dreams again. 

The first real misstep

After the success of Guru, Mani wanted one more bilingual movie for a national audience. He had his own take on Ramayana for this venture titled “Raavanan”. The movie bombed. This also was the first movie of Mani I didnt feel like seeing and never did. The songs, like the movie didn’t make a big mark. “Kalvare” was a pleasant and soft piece. The only song worth mentioning otherwise is “Kattu Sirukki” which has an addictive tune to it.

Kadal

And all this finally brings us to “Kadal”. After the failure of Raavanan, Mani had a lot riding on Kadal. And based on reviews, Kadal doesnt look like it will save Mani’s hide. The movie seems to be a flop (although it is too early to call). The songs came in for some praise. It doesnt measure up to the lofty Mani-ARR standards but is still significantly better than everything else out there. It is definitely one of ARR’s better albums in the recent past but I would rate “Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya” as better overall.

I tried to like “Magudi” but failed. It was just noise for the most part. Adiye” is an interesting jazzy piece but doesnt last long after. “Anbil Vaasale” starts very strongly but doesnt finish with the same flourish. Good but not great. “Chithirai Nela” is good and mellifluous. “Elay Keechan” is a fun piece and very hummable. I like it quite a bit as does my 4 year old. Which brings us to the standout pieces of the movie and it is a toss up for the gold. “Nenjukkule” is a fantastic piece and stays with you for a long time. But my vote for the best piece in the movie is the hauntingly beautiful “Moongil Thottam”. 

And as the song says, “Idhu Podhum enakku” and very much so. People often times ask me why I blog. It is so I can relive some beautiful songs and cherish the memories that go with them. Hopefully Mani can bounce back from Kadal. ARR will be there to give him all the support he needs.

As always, all the songs featured in this post and the preceding Part 1 and Part 2 posts are in the same public youtube playlist. Enjoy. 

Music in Manirathnam movies (Part 2- The Rahman years) – From Chinna Chinna Aasai to Dil Se Re…

Last week, in the first of now three posts on music in Manirathnam’s movies, I talked about the prolific and timeless collaboration that Mani and Isaignani Ilayaraja conjured up. Since then, Manirathnam’s latest movie, Kadal has released to average reviews. But we are not here in this blog to talk about the box office prospects of a movie. We are here purely for the music. In that vein, the show will go on. The second post on this topic features the first 10 years of the 20 year old partnership between Manirathnam and Isaipuyal A.R.Rahman

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The whizkid jingle composer meets the whizkid director

In the early nineties, as Manirathnam was looking for a new music director to replace his faithful Ilayaraja (for reasons we still dont know), he came across a whizkid ad music and jingle composer, Allarakha Rahman. And thus began one of the most celebrated relationships in film music history. The first movie to come out of this partnership was “Roja” in 1992. It took the entire country by storm. Here was a completely fresh take on music with fresh new voices. It felt totally new and unlike anything else we were used to at that time.

From the sweet innocence of “Chinna Chinna Aasai” to the rollicking “Rukkumani” (which explodes in bass in the theater) and the timeless SPB classic “Kadhal Rojave” to the wonderfully touching “Tamizha Tamizha”, it was brilliant. To me, the standout piece was the gorgeously shot and wonderfully sung romantic piece, “Pudhu Vellai Mazhai”. It was sheer magic. A.R.Rahman had arrived.

Cops and Robbers

The whole country waited with baited breath to see what would come next for the young genius. It was to be the cult classic “Thiruda Thiruda”. Critics may have panned the lighthearted caper movie. But to me, it was an excellent masala entertainer with gorgeous visuals and brilliant music. A.R.Rahman delivered a huge hit with “Thiruda Thiruda”- songs that ranged from the sexy to the bombastic. From romantic to sheer fun. A soundtrack for all tastes.

Some dug into the soaring vocals and visuals of “Veerapandi Kottayile”. Others were blown away by the powerful voice of Anupama and her rendition of “Konjam Nilavu” (and yes, the visuals). Some (myself included) connected with the sweet and operatic “Putham Pudhu Bhoomi Vendum” while others fell for the dramatic visuals and the earthy sexiness of “Thee Thee” or the boisterous “Kannum Kannum”. I fell for everything but more so for the raw vocals of late Shahul Hameed and the almost a capella style rendition of “Rasathi”. It felt real and Hameed made it hauntingly so.

Going national

While Roja was a big hit across the country in its dubbed form, Mani itched to make a truly national movie. The 1993 Bombay riots offered a backdrop for a truly patriotic and national unity driven script in the form of “Bombay”.  And A.R.Rahman delivered a soulful soundtrack for the sensitive movie. There were the light hearted and fun pieces like “Humma” and “Kuchi Kuchi Rakkamma”, the Hariharan breakout piece “Uyire”, the Chitra chartbuster “Kannalane”. I fell hook, line and sinker for “Poovukkenna Poottu” – a wonderful piece that represents the joy of impending parenthood in entirety. But the real star of the movie was its haunting bgm. Every scene needed its own voice to speak for the unspoken and forbidden love (the epic “pasanipa”), and later the sadness and horrors of the riots. And A.R.Rahman gave it the voice it deserved. He also gave the movie its own theme. One that resonated with everything Mani wanted to convey and more.  

 The politician and the star

Tamil cinema and politics have been inextricably intertwined since the nation’s independence. And the relationship that truly shaped the last 40 years of it was that of ex Chief Minister and writer M.Karunanidhi and late Chief Minister and superstar M.G.Ramachandran. Mani built his next movie around their relationship. Iruvar stands as one of tamil cinema and even India’s finest political movies and one that truly shines when the viewer understands the context and history. A.R.Rahman had to come up with something that went with the times and still appealing to the current generation. And he delivered. 

Iruvar is like your aged balsamic vinegar (what is the point of using the old wine metaphor when you don’t drink). The older it gets, the better it tastes. Iruvar offers the discerning viewer and listener one such experience. The music gets richer with age as does the movie. The choice of singers is also spot on- Asha Bhonsle delivers a sultry “Vennila Vennila” , Hariharan belts the uncannily MGR reminding “Kannai katti kolladhe”, Mano belts another MGResq “Aayirathil Naan oruvan” and new voice Sandhya rendering “Pookodiyin” that sounds so much like P.Susheela that you would think its Susheela otherwise. Speaking of Pookodiyin- if this doesnt remind you of the romantic set pieces of 1960, nothing else will. Harini offers a very jazzy “Hello Mister Edhirkatchi” which is splendidly picturised on the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai. To me, the standout piece is the lushly picturized and beautifully written “Narumugaye” sung by P.Unnikrishnan and Bombay Jayashri.

A side note for most of the songs in Iruvar- they are set within the context of the movie. There are frequent interruptions and retakes that make it an engaging and unique experience. And a last note on this movie- just watch this scene. There is some background music but its all about the words. 

 National Stage

By this point, the national stage beckoned Mani and he couldnt ignore it any longer. In 1998, Jhamu Sughandh and Bharat Shah launched what was to be Mani’s opus. It featured national stars in Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala with a debutante Priety Zinta. A.R.Rahman and Gulzar collaborated on the music and Mani made his first true Hindi movie in Dil Se and it was dubbed and released in tamil as Uyire. The movie bombed but the soundtrack went to become a classic for the ages. 

Dil Se’s soundtrack really starts with “Chaiyya Chaiyya”. I fondly refer to it as one of the rare perfect pieces in cinema. A song written, composed, sung and picturised to perfection. Nothing was wrong really and everything just is perfect. Gulzar(Vairamuthu’s lyrics) found their voice with Sukhwinder Singh and Swapna Awasti(Malgudi Shubha). SRK and Malaika Arora danced on top of a train and the world seemed to stop to watch it. 

 Sample this:

unnaal enmanam adaindhadhu paadhi

unnaal enmanam izhandhadhu paadhi

kaadhal joadhiyae vaazhvin meedhiyae

dhaevadhai nee meyyoa poyyoa

 

But here is the kicker. To many Chaiyya Chaiyya was not necessarily the best the film had to offer. The soundtrack and the picturisation was so good, it was hard to pick one definitive best. To some, the enigmatic “Satrangi Re” was the one. Who else could deliver a song that encompassed .To others, Rahman’s raw vocals in the title track “Dil Se Re” was the winner. And many a fan fell for the dimpled Zinta in the lush backwaters of Kerala in “Jiya Jale”. I love all the songs in the movie. A lot. But I would personally direct you to the rich vocals and the mesmerizing pull of “ Ai Ajnabi”. It just feels right.

What next?

When I started this series, I was hoping to do all of Mani-ARR stuff in one post. Turns out that would make this too long. So look for the concluding part of this trilogy in a week to ten days.

Until then, enjoy the early part of Manirathnam and A.R.Rahman’s collaboration. The public playlist for the songs featured in this post are here