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A Look at AR Rahman’s Rockstar

Amanda Sodhi
The soundtrack of the eagerly awaited AR Rahman project—Rockstar—has finally released, and much to the delight of Rahman fans, the OST contains fourteen compositions (there are six more pieces which will be present in the film).

Rockstar tells the story of Delhi-based Jordan (Ranbir Kapoor), a struggling musician who is determined to fall in love and go through heartbreak when he is told that is secret behind success. While there are rock and Latino music influences in the soundtrack, there are also Indian elements present.

“When I envisioned a rock music score, I didn’t want a copy of western rock. I wanted music that adhered to the principles of rock but originated from our land and from our realities,” said Imtiaz Ali in an interview in Mumbai Mirror. “I told him [Rahman] how Jordan, the protagonist, is inarticulate, how he can express himself only through music, how his music is influenced by not only his situation but also by the music of the place he visits.”

This is the first time lyricist Irshad Kamil has collaborated with Rahman. And, since this is also the first time filmmaker Imtiaz Ali has roped in Rahman for a project after collaborating with composer Pritam twice, the curiosity factor is certainly present. Anyway, without much further ado, here is jumping right into the Rockstar soundtrack!

“Phir Se Ud Chala” (4.31) opens with choral vocals, incorporation of an upbeat mandolin played by George Deoring, guitar by Randy Bensen, and Mohit Chauhan’s warm vocals soon following. There is slight use of chimes, too. The build-up of emotion 1.33 onwards is gorgeous and the slight reverb works magic. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are beautiful—“kabhi khud se bhi main milaa nahin, yeh gilaa toh hain main khafaa nahin,” (I haven’t even met myself, I have a complaint that I am not cross yet),” “mitti jaise sapne, yeh kitnaa bhi paklko se jhaaddo, phir aa jaate hain” (These dreams are like dust, As much as you try to brush them away from your eyelashes they come right back). Techno elements are present 2.50 into the song, becoming even more prevalent 3.05 onward. The song was recorded last July and happens to be the first song recorded for the soundtrack.

“Jo Bhi Main” (4.36) became a hit much before Rockstar’s soundtrack released thanks to the YouTube promos of the film. An awesome rock song with guitars played by Kabuli and Shon Pinto and drums played by Ranjit Barot, “Jo Bhi Main” has a brooding feel to it and there are brief choral inclusions to recreate a rock star-audience interaction. The song expresses how difficult it is to articulate things sometimes—“Jo bhi kehnaa chaahoon barbaad kare alfaaz mere,” (Whatever I want to say, my words end up ruining the beauty of).

“Kateya Karun” (4.00) is a catchy song with folk instruments present throughout in addition to a guitar played by Keba Jeremiah. Harshdeep Kaur’s rustic vocals and Sapna Awasthi’s backing vocals sure leave a long-lasting impression! The ting ling ling’s are addictive, and the lyrics are delightfully naughty—“Teraa roo katiyaa karoon saari raat katiyaa karoon” (I will spin your cotton all night), “Mainu darr hun nahi o jag daa” (I have no fear of the world anymore).

Rahman sure excels at composing qawwalis—“Pija Haji Ali,” “Khwaja Mere Khwaja,” “Arziyaan,” and now you can go ahead and add “Kun Faaya Kun” (7.53) to the list. This qawwali—filmed at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargaah—is really interesting because it also incorporates the guitar! “Kun Faaya Kun” roughly translates into “be and it is,” in the context of God and the Old Testament section about the creation of the world. Towards the beginning of the qawwali the harmonium is played staccato very symbolically when Javed Ali sings “Kadam baddhaa le” (go ahead, move your feet forward in this direction), reflecting the initial hesitance Jordan feels in doing so. Neelakantan and Prasad play the tabla really nicely! Keba Jeremiah takes the guitar once more in “Kun Faaya” 2.46 onwards alongside the harmonium. The way Mohit Chauhan sings the word “maula” at 3.45 is mesmerizing, perhaps hinting at the awakening of the character Jordan in the film, and is the most memorable part of the composition. The qawwali takes a turn twice more at 5.01 once the bells start ringing bells, and at 5.51.

“Sheher Mein” (4.04) will make you smile throughout—the innovative composition showcases a dialogue between a composer trying to tell a singer how to render a particular composition and the singer melodiously rebelling back! Karthik’s voice resembles Abhijeet’s voice a lot in this particular song and Mohit Chauhan absolutely rocks. The commentary about the ringtone and the lyrics being a hit in UP and Bihar is hilarious and the SFX are funny, too. The use of a metronome is also audible at parts. The opening of the song brings back memories of “Akhiyaan Milaaon Akhiyaan Churaaon.” The way Mohit stretches the word “jaana” at 2.04 is really cool and the composition also takes a very pleasant twist from there. Raja, Neelakantan, Bala, Veda, Lakhsmi Narayanan and Raju do a great job with the percussion instruments in this song. His laugh at 2.35 followed by an explosion of an upbeat melody shows the triumph of the singer’s persistence to sing in his own style, ignoring the composer’s commentary and directions. The line “denaa na tu kuch magar aake mera dil to tu le le jaana,” (Don’t give me anything but at least come and take my heart away) stands out.

“Haawa Haawa” (5.42) is really mesmerizing and has an awesome pace. According to Rahman it was the most difficult song from the soundtrack due to so many instruments and styles being blended in. Mohit Chauhan seems to be having lots of fun here. The song will be included in the film after Jordan meets gypsies in Prague. The lyrics are awesome and tell the story of a rebellious queen who dances away and demands freedom from the king. Viviane Chaix, Tanvi Shah, Suvi Suresh, and Shalini provide decent vocal backing. Seenu works magic with the mandolin, just as George Doering does with the dulcimer and Ann Marie with the violin in this song. The lyrics are definitely innovative—“chakri si pairon mein pahiyaa… paanv ruke na kisi ke roke,” (her feet are like a spinning wheel…they simply won’t stop dancing even if everyone tries to order them to stop).

“Aur Ho” (5.34) begins with haunting vocals by Alma Ferovic. The composition has a spiritual feel to it like “Behne De” and “Satrangi Re.” Mohit Chauhan modulates his voice from a whisper to an outburst of angst really well throughout this very intense and breath-taking composition. The use of the flute (Naveen Iyer), electric guitar (Keba Jeremiah) and violin adds to the sense of urgency in “Aur Ho.” Irshad’s lyrics are full of depth and capture the state of helplessness and confusion very well—“ras hasrat ka nichodd doon kas baahon mein aa tod doon” (Should I squeeze out my wishes? Come, I’ll break you tight in my arms), “Iss lamhe kya kar doon main jo mujhe chain mile aaraam mile?” (What should I do at this moment that will give me peace?), “Tujhe cheen loon yaa chhodd doon? Tujhe maang loon yaa modd doon” (Should I snatch you or leave you? Should I ask for you or relinquish you?). One word—Wow!

“Tango for Taj” (3.01) as the name implies is a tango, and of course instruments normally used in tango music are present here, too, such as the violin, accordion, bass, piano, bandoneón, flute, and guitar, and the tambourine is also incorporated. There is an Indian flavor 1.30 into the tango, along with clapping, which sounds very, very pretty.

“Tum Ko,” (5.47) is special only because we get to hear Kavita Subramaniam after a long time, and because of the tear-jerking melody played on the sarangi by DIlshad Khan along with nice tabla accompaniment by Sai Shravanam. The composition does sound dated, though.

“The Dichotomy of Fame” (2.43) is simply a gem of a composition—it juxtaposes the pathos of a Shehnai (Balesh) and the upbeatness of a guitar (Kabuli). The end result is a composition that beautifully expresses mixed emotions. Perhaps as the title of the composition indicates, the composition reelect’s Jordan’s state of mind as he attains fame but at the same time cannot forget all he lost along the way. The maracas and Spanish guitar are also blended in harmoniously.

“Nadaan Parindey” (6.26) conjures up the image of a cathedral at the opening—you can sure hear the organ loud and clear. The electric guitar carries a feeling of angst and urgency throughout—Sanjeev Thomas is amazing! Ace percussionist Sivamani also displays his talent here. While Mohit Chauhan and AR Rahman both sing, it’s Rahman’s vocals that really haunt you. The direction of the song changes each time Mohit takes the mic, though, but we’re thankfully back to Rahman at 3.37! Irshad’s lyrics are lovely, once again—“Naadan parindey ghar aa jaa. Kyun des-bides phirey maara? Kyun haal-behaal, thakaa-haara? Sau dard badan pe phaile hain, Har karam ke kapde maile hain. Kaate chaahe jitnaa parron se hawaa ko, Khud se naa bach paayegaa tu…Koi bhi le le rastaa, Tu hai bebastaa—apne hi ghar aayegaa tu” (Stupid bird, come back home. Why do you wander country-country tired and weak? There is so much pain spread upon your body. Clothes of compassion are all dirty…Take whatever path you want, you will remain homeless—in the end you will return back home). There is also reference to lines from a folk song, “Kaaga Re Kaaga,” where one asks the crow to eat all of one’s flesh when they die except for the eyes so they can still see their beloved. 

“Tum Ho,” (5.19) is a soft rock duet sung by Mohit Chauhan and Suzanne D’Mello, which doesn’t leave much of an impact compared to the other compositions, but it makes for good light-listening.

Revolution time! “Saddaa Haq” (6.05) is the anthem of the year! “At that point in the film, Ranbir’s character is asking for his right to be himself. A human being is nature and society has no right to make him plastic,” explained Imtiaz Ali in the interview. Awesome vocals (Mohit Chauhan), awesome lyrics (Irshad Kamil), and Orianthi works magic on the electric guitar as does Oscar Seaton on the drums! The pace picks up at 1.48—you can totally imagine people marching and demanding their rights. There is a lot of angst present in the song and attitude is oozing throughout. Check out Irshad’s lines—“Tum logon ki iss duniyaa mein har kadam pe insaan ghalat. Marzi se jeene ki bhi main kyaa tum sab ko main arzi doon? Matlab ki tum sab kaa mujhpe mujhse bhi zyadaa haq hai ?” (In this world of yours at every step it’s people who are wrong. Do I need to file a request with all of you to simply live my life the way I want? In other words, you all have more right to my life than I do?). But what’s even more profound are the following lines at 4.33—“Rivaazon se, samaajhon se kyu tu kaate mujhe, kyun baante mujhse iss taraah? Kyun sach kaa sabak sikhaaye jab sach sun bhi naa paaye?...Teraa darr, tera pyaar, teri waah, tu hi rakh.” (Why do you cut me and divide me through customs, through societies?  Why do you teach lessons of truth when you can’t even bear to hear the truth?...Your fear, your love, your praise—go ahead and keep to yourself because I don’t want it.)

“Meeting Place” (1.10) is a short, simple piece where Ranbir Kapoor recites lines based on a poem by Rumi. It has a surreal feel to it and you can actually hear cell phone static starting from .18 as well as chimes.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go listen to all fourteen songs!

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