Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Yuva shows a different Rahman

Yuva shows a different Rahman

Bijoy Venugopal | March 22, 2004 10:08 IST

Your opinion of A R Rahman's music notwithstanding, everything he does these days is hailed as a blockbuster. The industry pundits say so and you had better lap that up.

But I guess I am entitled to an independent opinion.

Something does seem to have changed for Rahman with Yuva, the Hindi version of the Mani Ratnam film made in Tamil as Ayutha Ezhuthu. Perhaps it is too early to take heart, but for the first time in ages, we see him withdrawing from his odious staple of massive orchestration and preferring to play around with voices.

This is a lean offering -- six tracks, under 30 minutes of listening. Refreshing when you consider how many previous compilations have been fattened with remixes like Thanksgiving turkeys.

Talking of which, let's pick out the turkeys first.

Dol dol has some very annoying rap by Blaaze, the same guy who brought you all that nerve-jangling stuff in Boys. Shahin Badar, the Indo-Arabic songstress from the UK who has performed on Nitin Sawhney and on the trailer of Tomb Raider 2: The Cradle of Life, also performs this track. But she is nearly invisible as her voice is cut into ribbons with some half-hearted mixing.

Dhakka laga bukka, the title track with its refrain of O yuva yuva…is performed by Rahman with lyricist Mehboob and Karthik. Rowdy and streetwise, it is immensely layered and chaotic.

Yuva's star cast -- and we don't mean the actors -- is luminous. Lucky Ali, sounding crisp, performs Khuda hafiz with Karthik and the mellifluous Sunitha Sarathy, a Team Rahman regular. But the track lapses into an incomprehensible jazz piano interlude that is not only pretentious but also completely needless.

Kabhi neem neem, performed by Madhushree, has an interesting percussion arrangement. Rahman keeps ambience down to a minimum, which is just as fair for Madhushree's voice is strong and carries the track on its own steam.

Adnan Sami sparkles with Alka Yagnik on Baadal though the halting beat is distracting. Rahman fans may find Sami too languid for their taste but in an album thickened with sound, his is the expert touch. His vocals are cool and balanced, and you cannot accuse him of trying too hard.

Rahman's bad habits, conspicuously underplayed throughout the rest of the album, resurface in Fanaa, sung by Sarathy and Tanvi. Multi-layered and dense, the last track also has him pitching in with vocals. Frightful. But if you give no care, you can dance your limbs off to this one, though the quavering tempo can be a downer.

The album inlay card devotes ample space to Mehboob's lyrics, which are consistently incoherent. It is hard to see what epiphany inspired any of this babble. The album is clearly Rahman's show, mostly because the rampant, aggressive percussion that usually accompanies his arrangements is underplayed.

A colleague sheepishly admitted, "I bought this for the free CD." Venus, which has released the album, has thrown in a freebie -- a CD of Rahman's big hits.

It's always fun to get what you don't pay for.

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