The album, Raanjhanaa (Ambikapathy in Tamil) composed by AR Rahman and penned by Irshad Kamil begins with the obligatory title song, ‘Raanjhanaa hua’. Sung by Pakistani composer, Shiraz Uppal (who shot to fame after the song, ‘Roya re’ from Dhokha) and Jaswinder Singh, the Ghazal singer and son of music composer Kuldip Singh, the (mandatory) Title Song gently handholds you to the rustic charms of Banaras and treats your ears with strains of Sitar thrown in good measure. They reprise later like a gentle breeze from Banaras in other two tracks, Banarasiya and Aye Sakhi.
A digress here: Such layers aren’t new in AR Rahman’s songs, be it ‘Tu hi re’ from Bombay, ‘Sun ri sakhi’ from Humse Hai Muqabla, ‘Jaa ri jaa ae hawaa’ from Duniya Dilwalon Ki, to ‘Rang de basanti’, ‘Jaa udd jaa re’ from Raavan, ‘Tum ho’ from Rockstar to ‘Heer’ from Jab Tak Hai Jaan. When asked in his interview about such layers which run the risk of going unnoticed or rather unheard, he narrated a story of Michelangelo. While Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, he sat behind the same Chapel, painting silently, as if in a trance. When the Pope suggested him to paint it on the front side of the Chapel so that everyone would appreciate his art, he simply said, ‘It isn’t for people’s appreciation. It’s between me and God.’ Hence, AR Rahman tries infusing such little nuances in his music, not because he wants to be appreciated by people, but purely because it’s between him and God.
A honey-strewn track rendered by Shreya Ghoshal, ‘Banarasiya’ is a song where the composition steps aside, giving way to the wordplay in the lyrics with refrains like, ‘Rang mein bhang ya bhang mein rang’ and ‘Sang mein jung ya jung mein sang’ and later simply follows the lyrics. The line, ‘Gaal mein jab ye paan dabaave, teen taal mein chalte jaave’ is a wonderful imagery created by Irshad Kamil drawing analogy between tipsy walk and ‘teen taal’, one of the most popular Taalas of Tabla with sixteen beats.
This one can easily be termed as the Banarasi Sufi Song, where ‘Piya’ can also mean the almighty. Sample the opening lines, ‘Jisko dhoonde baahar baahar, woh baitha hai bheetar chupke, tere andar ek samandar, kyun dhoonde tubke tubke’or the lines, ‘Paake khona, kho ke paana, hota aaya re, Sang saathi saa hai woh toh woh hai saaya re’. Now doesn’t it seem as if the composer and lyricist breathed life in a philosophical sermon in guise of a love song? This surely is a track which was tailor-made for Sukhwinder Singh. He is accompanied by Kmmc Sufi Ensemble for the Sufi leitmotif which remind you of ‘Kehna hai kya’ from Bombay.
This track sounds like a wedding song with an ensemble of singers like Madhushree, Chinmayi, Vaishali, and Aanchal rendering their mellifluous voice to a composition with an interesting ‘harkat’ (refrain) right in its first line of ‘ae sakhi saajan’ followed by yet another refrain in ‘na sakhi saajan’ – classic stuff indeed! The singers also get to indulge themselves with a carefree ‘tyaaoon tyaaoon’ and ‘pe pe pe’ to create perfect ambience of a celebration. The song seems to have found its inspiration from the song, ‘Mukarniyan- Aye Sakhi Sajan Na Sakhi’ (courtesy Mr. Pawan Jha).
‘Nazar laaye’ | ‘Aise na dekho’
These are two lilting tracks in the album which would surely compel you for many a repeated listening, just to experience the magic that music can create and emotions it can invoke at the press of a replay button. The song, ‘Nazar lagaaye’ sung by Rashid Ali and Neeti Mohan cherishes love and wishes away the ‘evil eye’ of the world, endearingly expressed with the line, ‘Tamki main mirchi varoon, saari sharam utaarun, maahi na jag ko haaron’. The song, ‘Aise na dekho’ sung by AR Rahman is a Jazz number reminiscent of ‘Jaane tu ya jaane na’ title song which was also sung by the Mozart of Madras. Just like its antecedent, this song, too, sticks as a sore thumb, making you tune into a Ray Charles album instead.
‘Tun Mun Shudi’
This song is based on the Persian verse by Amir Khusro, ‘Tu mun shudi, mun tu shudam’ which means ‘You’ve become me, I’ve become you’. The verse has been transformed into a chant, a trademark of AR Rahman (Chaiyya Chaiyya, Humma Humma, Maiyya Maiyya, Dum dara dum, Beera Beera). In 1985, Gulzar saab had done a similar experiment in lyrics with the song, ‘Zihaal-e-miskeen mukon ba-ranjish, bahaal-e-hijra bechara dil hai’ which was based on a Persian verse which means, ‘Is gareeb ke dil ko itni ranjish (gusse) se na dekho, yeh bechara abhi bhi (mehboob ki) judaai se behaal hai’. So, coming back to the song, ‘Tu Mun Shudi’, the chant, along with funky beats and vocals of Rabbi Shergill and AR Rahman is a perfect fusion with lyrics delving on love (Humse wafaayein lena taaza hawaayein lena), trust (Par na tu jhootha pyar kari, yaar dari Rab se), promises (Tere liye hum chaand khareedenge. Haan, Bungla na denge, Par chain ko la denge), and optimism (Shehar bhi dil ke maaninda, khulkar saansein lega baashinda). The song lingers over your mind long after you’ve indulged in it.
‘The Land of Shiva’
This is essentially a Tandav number replete with percussion, chanting and conch shell sound succinctly packed in one-minute duration. The moment you start relishing the track, it ends, leaving you yearning for more.
But before you could complain, the album takes you to the world of true love which charts the path of devotion akin to the love that Meera shared for Lord Krishna. AR Rahman once said in an interview that he believes the best way to express true love is in the form of a bhajan. The moment love transcends to the level of mysticism, it ceases to become just an emotion and takes form of pure devotion. Perhaps this philosophy inspired Rahman to take the route of a Bhajan for the song, ‘Tum tak’ sung by Javed Ali, Pooja AV, and Keerthi Sagathia. The lines, ‘Baatein bachkaani bas tum tak’ and ‘Meri har hoshiyaari bas tum tak’ leave you in awe of lyricist Irshad Kamil’s ability to articulate profound thoughts in the most simple and effortless manner.The song gives you many a reason to play the album ‘Raanjhanaa’ on the loop, right from the morning walk to your way home from office.
The nine tracks are perhaps the nine emotions, navaras of love or maybe I am reading (listening) too much between the lines. Well, as of now, I just can’t resist the temptation of pressing the replay button.