Them, robots
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Them, robots

We know by know that music comes out of Chennai’s Panchathan Record Inn and A.M. Studios when A.R. Rahman makes all-night love to his Mac machines.

entertainment Updated: Sep 25, 2010 02:01 IST
Amitava Sanyal
Amitava Sanyal
Hindustan Times

We know by know that music comes out of Chennai’s Panchathan Record Inn and A.M. Studios when A.R. Rahman makes all-night love to his Mac machines. And that Rahman unfailingly performs his nightly duties whenever filmmakers such as Mani Ratnam or S. Shankar call upon him to do so. They are, after all, directors who have had much to do with Rahman’s rise.

After Ratnam’s 1992 film Roja, it was Shankar’s first feature, Gentleman (1993), that kept Rahman up on the national charts with hits such as ‘Chikku bukku raile’ and ‘En veettu thottathil’. The latter song was the reason a dear friend gifted me the film’s VHS cassette, the first one I ever owned. The songs from the duo’s next outing, Kadhalan (1994), too climbed the charts spectacularly. The film’s ‘Ennavale adi ennavale’ and its short reprisal, ‘Indiraiyo’, are still capable of sending a shiver or two down my spine. (The Hindi version, ‘Sun ri sakhi’ in Humse hai Muqabla, never quite matched the verve of the original.) It was clear that Rahman the melody-maker was firmly in charge.

One can’t be too sure of that in the duo’s latest film, Robot, supposedly the costliest film made in India. It only adds to a niggle that has become more persistent in recent times: that Rahman has ceded the controls to his Macs. The more voluminous he gets, the more he sounds like his earlier self. And it doesn’t help when the clumsy accordion-like foldout of the Robot album declares on top: ‘Music made by humans’. Really?

The first song, ‘Naina Miley’, does nothing to allay the fear. The metallic-digital pipe that’s supposed to be the MacVoice of Rahman sounds straight silly. And it’s clear that the producers have in their sights Japan, the second-largest market for the film’s hero Rajnikanth, when you hear Suzanne’s voice whispering “Arigato godaimas”.

The second track, ‘Pagal anukan’ by Mohit Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal, is the only one that goes beyond the mechanical. It’s also the only song in which lyricist Swanand Kirkire (of ‘Bawra mann’ fame) shows that he can rise above machine humour with lines such as “Main Newton Newton keh sakya dil yeh kahe dhol din ratiya”.

From the third track to the seventh it’s again over to the Macs. ‘Chitti dance showcase’ by Pradeep Vijay and Pravin Mani redeems itself partially with interesting splices of the mouthed dance-beat. The rest — the martial thump of ‘Arima arima’, the silly lyrics of ‘Kilimanjaro’ (force-rhymed with ‘Mohenjo-daro’), the scat of ‘Boom boom robo da’, and the slippery electronica of ‘O naye insaan’ — all came about when computers flirted with each other.

The presence of the machines, in fact, is so loud in the tracks that none of the them have been remixed. All of them sound like remixes anyway.

The desi grind

Vishal-Shekhar’s icecream pop for Anjaana Anjaani proves that there can be another kind of robotic-idiotic. True, the arrangements aren’t as richly stereophonic as those made in Panchathan Record Inn. But that’s probably the element that makes them less pretentious and headache-inducing. It’s a drum-and-cymbal-led music that glances back at disco with nostalgia.

Nikhil D’Souza and Monali Thakur’s ‘Anjaana anjaani ki kahani’ will surely get some people spot-jumping on the dance-floor. In ‘Hairat’, Lucky Ali’s usually-out-of-tune voice seems emulsified and processed by — what else? — computers that have made it taut enough to go along with the itinerant warm guitar and ubiquitous perspex beat.

Rahat Fateh Ali’s ‘Aas paas khuda’ moves away from the mechanical, but comes at too high a pitch and with too loud an accompaniment.

Shekhar Ravjiani, one half of the composer duo, has a lovely cascade in ‘Tumse hi tumse’, held together and made everyday by his trademark guitar strums.

Mohit Chauhan, who seems to be becoming as much a regular on filmi albums as Rahat Fateh Ali, is his usual Abhay Deol-ish slacker self in ‘Tujhe bhula diya’. Setting the tone, however, is Shruti Pathak’s sure-and-clear voice.

With ‘I feel good’ Vishal Dadlani and Shilpa Rao are back in the disco world of Usha Utthup and Bappi-da.

But it’s when you get past the customary remix (of ‘Tujhe bhula diya’) that you get the surprise — an unplugged ‘Aas paas khuda’ by Rahat Fateh Ali and Shruti Pathak. It’s the much-needed fullstop to all that’s robotic.

First Published: Sep 25, 2010 02:00 IST