Thursday January 6, 2011

Roja (Music review), Tamil – A R Rahman

Posted by Karthik

With a definite, but mutated fusion reggae sound and dew fresh vocals by Minmini, Chinna chinna aasai doesn’t sound like anything one has heard before in Tamil film music. Vairamuthu’s lyrics, in particular, is a captivating word play on the ‘aasai’ theme, while the composer makes a lovely uncredited vocal appearance mid-way. Rukkumani rukkumani opens with an interestingly unconventional, aged voice and continues to use similar aged vocals in a startling manner all through. The main tune, sung by SPB and Chitra is a fantastic reinvention of the usual item number, with pulsating arrangements. Hariharan aces the anthemic Thamizha thamizha – it starts off beautifully, on a serene note, but gets into a rousing mode with a really impressive chorus that ends on a high! The orchestration that the debutant composer chooses to adorn this song with is mesmerizing!

But the soundtrack’s sensational highlights are the two dreamy and scintillating melodies – Pudhu vellai mazhai and Kaadhal rojave. The former’s ambient sound has to be experienced to fully believe it, while the vocals are stunningly beautiful, particularly the way the young composer reserves the higher pitched lines exclusively to Sujatha, with Unni Menon supporting her appropriately. Kaadhal rojave, on the other hand, is exhilaratingly lovely. Sujatha’s haunting humming is strikingly reminiscent of the similarly desh raag based jingle for Garden Vareli (originally by Vanraj Bhatia, later refurbished impressively by Ranjit Barot), while SPB’s portion in the song conveys a heartbreaking sense of solitude. The way this song’s tune fluctuates between incredibly high pitched notes and soothing milder notes is proof enough of the debutant composer’s prowess over music!

Roja’s music is path-breaking. The sound is astonishingly fresh and the fusion Rahman attempts works at so many levels. Hats off to director Maniratnam for introducing us to a phenomenal new talent!

Keywords: Arvind Swamy, Madhubala, Maniratnam, A R Rahman, Dilip, Roja music review, #300

PS 1: This is a small birthday gift for Rahman, one of my favorite composers. I was in school when Roja released and Milliblog is just 5 years old!

PS 2: This is only the second 300 word review in all of Milliblog; the first, of course was for Rahman’s Delhi 6.

PS 3: I was under the impression that the Garden Vareli jingle was by Louis Banks, but came to know recently from a friend in the ad agency circles that it was by Ranjit Barot, based on Vanraj Bhatia’s earlier version, both based on raag desh.



  • buzzmepls

    One of the most evergreen albums, if not THE most evergreen.Thanks Karthik for the one review I was looking for :). Luv all the songs. The start of Puthu Vellai Mazhai is a perfect fusion of visual and aural qualities resulting in a fantastic experience!

    • i like yeh haseen wadiyan better though. somehow spb and chitra seem better for the song. naveen’s flute version comes second, and then pudhu vellai mazhai.. 🙂

  • was looking forward to this…:)…nice…:)

  • This would be one of the most wonderful gifts to A.R.Rahman today 🙂

  • Impressive album .. Was curious of what Maniratnam would do without Ilaiyaraja .. i hope this guy wins an award or 2 for this .. though Devar Magan is equally good.

    • milliblog

      Clever 🙂

      • Haha! The next Amit Trivedi eh?

      • hathim2

        Really nice. Infact, was browsing through all the reviews of ARR’s albums. And i saw, you have stuck upto your 100 word blog then, and have given minimized review for all good albums like Guru, JA,RDB etc… Would you have given it 100 words if it were released in 2010 too??

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  • buzzmepls

    Have you heard Yodha – his only mallu film yet? What did you think about the album?

  • How could you review an album so early after its release? Like always you want to be the first to review, no. 😛

  • sunilssounds

    I can’t stop rewinding the Rukkumani song after its finished on the cassette player.

  • I read last week kumudam’s issue .. and this was the comment ( my father says that 13 years olds like me should not read Kumudam, although he buys it every week ! )

    இசை யாரோ ரஹ்மான் . இளையாராஜா என்னும் இமயத்தை அசைத்து விடுவாரா?

  • Be It Vairamuthu’s pen or the voices which sung those Lines or those passionate keys behind,a wonderful review on one Music which has a very special place in my heart..No wonder it is listed in Time magazine’s Top 10 sound tracks of all time.. 🙂

  • Excellent review for one of the best soundtracks from India! Happy Birthday A.R.Rahman!

    Looking forward for reviews of Dil Se, Rang De Basanti, 1947 Earth, and many more (for future birthday anniversaries and special occasions 🙂 )

  • Disappointing songs from Rahman.
    He seems to have lost his touch in this album.

    The magic of Deen Isai Malai and Set Me Freee is missing here.

    I think he should stop composing for movies and go back to jingles.

    Karthik Raja rocks !!!!!!

    • u liked set me free better than roja?? :O

  • MaximumMallu

    > definite, but mutated fusion reggae sound

    what in the hell is that ???

    • milliblog

      You want to take a guess? Definite – ‘it sure is’. Mutated – ‘but it seems completely strange’. Reggae sound – exactly what it says.

      • MaximumMallu

        OK something along the line of “a strangely placed definte fusion reggae sound” or a “a definte fusion reggae sound that was completley strange

        The definte, mutated and fused – all at the same time got me all confused.

        To expand my musical horizons I looked up fusion reggae and came across “Reggae Fusion” a big sprawling sub genre of reggae music as per Wikipedia.

  • jeanjohny

    Karthik, you just bowled me over!

  • mark my words… this guy rahman will go on to win 25+ filmfare awards, 4 national awards, 2 oscars, 2 grammys, bafta and a golden globe.
    i will cut my tongue if he doesn’t.

    aug 1992

  • Since Roja music is a disaster, Mani Ratnam is going for Karthik Raja for his next movie. The news will be announced at the grand official release of Ilaiyaraja’s Symphony, expected in Jan 1993. As per sources, Ilaiyaraja will sweep the Grammys next year for his album.

  • Sonnenlicht

    I can’t understand why my father keeps playing this Lahari cassette over and over again! The only song I like is Rukumani.
    Time to play!

  • NRI_2

    Now you should follow this up with reviews of some of Rahman’s other timeless classics – e.g. Thiruda Thiruda, Pudhiya Mugam, Duet, Indian, Jeans etc etc! Finding reviews on any of these is quite difficult!

  • Interesting Karthik.. A small question, how did you prepare yourself to review this album? Did you empty the tea cup and shed the baggage of the popularist tag you had already developed for Roja and listened afresh as you do for any other new albums? or with a preset mind (anyway it is a great album, let me see if i can find any nuances in the song)?

    • milliblog

      Finally…someone did ask that question 🙂 Emptying the tea cup is not humanly possible…so, the least I could do is listen to it all over again, a LOT, and find whatever nuances that I may have missed (as if!) in all these years. But basically, I was just putting on an act as if I’m reviewing it afresh.

  • I literally can’t get enough of this. My rewind button on my walkman will be dented soon enough!



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