For the love of Rhythm and everything about it!
This post is inspired by one recent conversation I had with a friend, that turned into a meaningful analysis about 90s (yeah, the best era) in music. We are both music fans, him favouring the ‘Isai Puyal’ more than anyone while I swear by the ‘Isai Gnani’. I have always steered clear of arguments where one person’s tastes are considered because I have known things to get pretty heated, with each person staunchly defending what they love and scorning what they hate.
But a pleasant evening, an open window, fresh air, mellow music in surround sound and a cup of coffee each, was enough to kick off a great discussion.
It all started with the fanatics of two different styles of music trying to find something in common – not that easy, really, to find something agreeable to people who have really different tastes. I have always liked Rahman, but the pre millennium year version of him better than the Oscar Winner. So after much consideration, the playlist was limited to the three most magical Rahman albums of 2000. Alaipayuthey, Rhythm and Kandukondain Kandukondain. (Okay that was a very personal, partial list. But still, true according to me).
And as the first song played out, from the movie Rhythm, a casual mention started one of the biggest arguments I have ever had, one on one. Apparently, and after much checking with others, not many people knew this simple thing about the songs of the movie.
The songs of Rhythm were based on the five elements of nature.
Yes. You read that right. The album has five songs, each inspired by one of the five elements. While this might not come as a surprise to many of you, there are a considerable number of people who did not have an idea about this.
There are many wonderful things about the album, and four out of its five songs are my favourites. So for those of you who did not know (Others who know please give the following five paragraphs a miss). They might not contain any Eureka moments, and it might be quite obvious by now, since the words themselves are written that way. But still read on to kindle your memories if you so wish!
Water – the first song in the album, ‘Nadhiye Nadhiye’, a soulful rendition by Unni Menon, and thus far one of the best songs about women, was obviously about water. One of the most mesmerising things about this song is the cinematography. And it will show you how sound effects make all the difference. Shot in locales around Mysore and Triveni Sangamam, I will remember this song as one of the best opening scenes a movie could have.
Air – another no brainer, this is ‘Kaatre en vaasal vandhu’. Shot around heritage sites and the scorching desert, this duet by Unni Krishnan and Kavita Krishnamurthy is hands down the most popular song of the album. A perfect visual treat, the whole concept of the song, including the SFX of airflow, add to the perfect composition.
Sky – Not really quite obvious at first sight as a song about the sky, the word does make a sneaky appearance in the second line of the song. This song, enacted on screen by Meena, is my personal favourite from the album for more reasons than one. I love the lyrics, music, dancing, the overall effect of the song, and its placement in the movie. I will always remember this song as the one that made me a fan of Sadhana Sargam, who carried off the solo with panache.
Earth – again, a sneaky reference, a deciding song as far as the movie is concerned. The word ‘nilam (land)’ appears in the second line, again like the sky song. Though it does seem quite unrelated to the movie at first glance, there are many implications of having this song in the movie. The ‘Aha’ moment happened for me only after I had watched the movie the second time, and I felt like puzzle pieces had fallen into their places. The references to ‘land’ implying the lead female’s patience in choosing a life partner the second time over and the crucial juncture at which it is placed, changing the path of the movie, kind of goes over your head if you have not watched the movie.
Fire – easily the only song that will make you wonder if it was inserted to complete the five element series, or to add a glamour quotient to the film, the song ‘Aiyo Pathikichu’ is dedicated to fire. Sung by Udit Narayanan and Vasundhara Das (God! That voice, though!), this song (do I dare call it the item number and invite the wrath of its fans?) is fast paced, husky and everything you would expect a fire song to be. I have heard this song fully only twice, this being my least favourite from the album, but I do love how it does complement the other songs of the movie.
Summing it up, the movie was 4 years in the making, quite a long time (something I got to know only recently) but the troubles between the producer and the music director do not seem to have affected the final output much. The film also boasts of excellent BGM, one of the most pleasing, soothing and apt ever in movie history.
Why Rhythm, you ask?
It is one of those rare albums where the songs sound excellent on both speakers and headphones, and seriously, for someone who is as music crazy as I am, that is a hard thing to achieve. Rahman, a special bow!
Excellent BGM – one of the best, and I could listen to the independent bits from the BGM collection and recollect the scene in which they appeared. One of my all time favourites because it complemented the dialogues and the scenes well, and gave me high expectations, so much so that I flinch these days when BGMs make it difficult to hear the dialogues and are passed off as ‘racy’.
The lyrics, penned by lyricist Vairamuthu, are timeless, and relevant both in and out of context. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen, and many bits of the songs have often become my ringtones both for the tune and the depth.
The instrumentals – no brainer again. 16 years on, I am still discovering new things about the songs when I hear them. I often hear the sound of splashing water that I might have missed or that of a sudden horn placed well hidden inside the regular BGM that you will surely miss it were you not looking for it.
I do sorely miss the meaningful songs and captivating music in the era of rapidly changing playlists. Recent songs are good – valid up to 50 times of hearing, after which they are quickly replaced by the next forgettable melody. And I often go back like a wounded dog to my old favourites, soothing my brain from the overdose of songs glorifying abuse, perverted humour and somehow mindlessly mistaking ‘popularity’ with ‘quality’.
Okay, new music fans. I am old fashioned. Don’t take up your brickbats now. And to all hardcore ARR fans – I still love him and his songs, and have immense respect for some more of his beautiful compositions. But Raja Sir is GOD. And by that view I stand. And before you ask, I will pick out the top 10 Raja Sir songs I hate in the bat of an eyelid, too! Ultimately it is the percentage of favourite songs by each person that counts and the older gentleman wins!
And as to the movie, I love Rhythm because it is a musical. But it is much more than that. A decent movie with a clean and inspiring story of how intermingling fate can both pull you apart and put you closer, the cast with their mature performances have made this movie a memorable one. I am a fan of most things about Rhythm and writing this post has made me want to go watch it all over again, for the seventh time. Off I trot.