There are few moments of reckoning one can have while listening to ‘film music’. It is, after all, the most looked-down upon genre in the Indian music scene. ‘Film music’ is what has enabled India’s image as that of normal people ‘breaking into song and dance in the middle of the street’. And yet AR Rahman changed all of this with 1992’s Roja, where his music became an entity by itself. From there on whether it is the flute in the Bombay theme or the violins in the Spirit of Rangeela, Rahman’s melodies have been truly gratifying.
I felt that gratitude once again, when I was made to listen to the title track of Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya (VTV). The bluesy guitar accompanied by a mandolin, was reminiscent of Gustavo Santaolalla. What was music like this doing in a mainstream love story any way?
Gautham Menon’s film is a tale of unrequited love, something that’s been echoed by countless films including last year’s Meri Pyaari Bindu by Akshay Roy. And the title song captures the gloom almost perfectly, with a melody that is both introspective and unsure. The music never blares and neither do the corresponding characters bawl on screen. That’s not how ‘real people’ react when their love story doesn’t pan out they way they had hoped.
One of the novelties of this movie, was that it promised to be a ‘realistic account’ of heartbreak. The friend, who introduced me to the film’s music, said it is like our very desi version of 500 Days of Summer (that released only a few months before). And that reticence reflects in the music, where people internalise a lot of heartbreak, before moving on with life.
Apart from the title song, the main highlight of this album is Alphons Joseph’s Aaromale. The song features sparse and angry guitar-riffs while Joseph’s raw vocals convey the sheer agony of an incomplete romance. It compresses the mood of love stories that are nearly there, but still aren’t there yet.
Omanna Penne sung by Benny Dayal manages to (by some sorcery) serve jazz with a huge dollop of carnatic influence, on the side. It helps that the vocalist is equally adept in both styles, and the song soon transforms into a beast that doesn’t belong on the planet of ‘mainstream film music’.
The love ballads – Mannipaya, Hosanna and Anbil Avan, all start out like routine ‘commercial’ songs. But they’re all elevated by Rahman regulars. Shreya Ghoshal’s splendid vocals on Mannipaya accompany the composer’s own, Blaaze’s rap integrates seamlessly into Hosanna, and even though Anbil Avan sounds like a conventional ‘beach party song’, Menon throws us a curve-ball by using it to describe two weddings from different faiths.
The music was remade in Hindi, and wasted on a wooden Prateik Babbar and Miss ‘I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-here’ Amy Jackson. The original starring Silambarasan and Trisha Krishnan, is exactly where this gem of a soundtrack belongs. Starting from Minnale to VTV, Gautham Menon’s romances always have great music. Whether it is from Harris Jayaraj in the early days or from the maestro himself, of late.
Vinnaithandi Varuvaayaa’s soundtrack is something all Rahman fans must listen to. Never mind the language, just embrace the melody and brace yourself to be transported to a place where only great music can take you.