Saturday April 20, 2013

The 10 worst songs of A R Rahman!

Posted by Karthik

You may wonder – why pick on bad songs and make a list out of it? No, sorry – I don’t derive happiness in picking bad songs from any composer, but Rahman is a composer that I started following, adoring and loving when I was in the prime of my life… early 20s. I was really happy to have found a composer who composed the kind of music I could proudly associate with my sensibilities and interests. That I was a fanatic in those days when he started and eventually became more mature and discerning with his music is a different story. Heck, I used to run a website called to collect his music and helping fans get access to his songs in one place… this was in early 2000!

So, don’t question my fanboy credentials. But, even back then, I had a couple of Rahman songs that I wondered if they were really composed by the man. Perhaps it was an assistant who begged Rahman to do one song. Or a producer who forced his absurd tune on young Rahman. Or the senior singer who insisted on singing free-flow and Rahman, diplomacy personified couldn’t do anything. Or, a country bumpkin producer who insisted in adding a village-matter song to satisfy his C center or Z center audiences. The point is, Rahman did have some cringe-worthy and atrocious songs. Its just that we all collectively chose to ignore it in the face of fantastic music the man was churning back then (and continues to do so, even today, barring occasional deviations).

Here’s my top 10 terrible songs by Rahman. These are songs that personally made me cringe – you may have liked some of these songs. So, apologies in advance.

It’s no coincidence that the picturization of most of these songs is horrendous, to say the least – Daud’s Oh Sai Yaiye tops that list, in my opinion. It’s just possible that the director’s vision for these songs, in itself, was so appallingly bad, that the thought seeped into Rahman’s music too. Just perhaps!

Barota barota – Vandicholai Chinrasu (Tamil, 1993)
I haven’t seen this film, yet. I don’t intend to, either. But I have always wondered how the picturization of ‘Edhu sugam sugam adhu’ was, if it was ever in the film, that is. The song whose picturization I don’t want to see, however, is Barota Barota. Yes, it is lilting in a corny way, but this was a song that I just couldn’t explain to anybody back when I was completely besotted to Rahman’s music. People around me were bringing up the, ‘But he won’t last, trust me’ logic and I was throwing Rahman’s awesome numbers at them, one by one. And this one was always my Achilles heel.

Eechambazham naavappazham – Pavithra (Tamil, 1994)
I vaguely recall seeing this song picturized on Vadivelu and Kovai Sarala. Barring Shahul Hameed’s voice, I used to cringe even back then. The combination of an exotic latino-style tune and Coimbatore-Tamil slang just doesn’t work. Add to it those too-simple-to-be-Rahman’s backgrounds… and you have something that hit rock bottom.

Mona lisa – Mr.Romeo (Tamil, 1996)
The Prabhu Deva period in Rahman’s career was not bad at all. This song, however, in my opinion, is an aberration. I know it is intended as a funny song, but it is hardly funny from Rahman’s repertoire point of view. The lyrics and the persistent humming in the background (attributed to Vadivelu in the picturisation) all has me pinching myself in disbelief if this was really Rahman. Every time I hear this song, my face is exactly like the bald villain (in white and white) till it ends – in a way, I can understand why he seems so upset.

Oh sai yaiye – Daud (Hindi, 1997) After Rangeela, I was expecting the world from the Ram Gopal Varma-Rahman combo and they didn’t completely disappoint with Daud. Barring this song, that is. Right from the bizarre backgrounds (like a man burping, in the beginning), to a cornily dressed Urmila dancing in her Manish Malhotra undies and Sanjay Dutt moving his body like he had an epileptic fit, this was bizarre to the core. Musically, you have Asha Bhonsle singing in her 60+ voice after Rahman had given her a free hand to do whatever pleased her mind… and SP Balasubramaniam (doing something similar in the name of yodelling) and balancing it all with his string South Indian accent – Gawd… enough!

Saiyan pakad baiyan – Nayak (Hindi, 2001)
I still cannot understand why Shankar did not use the original’s title song here – it was fairly pan-Indian in its sound, not rooted any region. But he perhaps felt the need to make it more Punjabi-Rajasthani or whatever to ‘suit local/regional audiences’. Result – a muddled song from Rahman where he gets Hans Raj Hans to mess things nicely for him. Even that bin used in the interludes and the completely awkward antara… everything is symbolic of everything that was wrong with this song. Less said about the song’s tacky ‘special effects’, the better.

Rozana – Lakeer (Hindi, 2003)
This is a song sung by VIVA and the song, by nature of it being a cheer-leading song, is apt from the situation. But does it sound like a Rahman song? Oh yes, there is that flute in the first interlude that brings his name to the mind, but then the song starts again and spoils things further beyond help. This song (and the film) completely undid whatever brownie-points Nauheed Cyrusi scored with Piya Basanti, incidentally.

Askava – Enakku 20 Unakku 18 (Tamil, 2003)
I always felt the entire soundtrack of this music was indicative of the director (producer A M Rathnam’s son, Jyothi Krishna) who had the best budget any debutant director could dream of. It was a different thing that he didn’t have anything remotely associated with taste or maturity to make a decent, watch film. This song is such a weird hodge-podge that I have wondered what went through Rahman’s mind when making this song. What gets my goat, in particular, is Shreya Ghoshal repeatedly and joyfully going, ‘ALagina ALagi’.

Jack Jill – Parasuram (Tamil, 2003)
I cannot understand what Surjo Bhattacharya is singing (in Tamil) till today. Mathangi goes for the jugular too with her fake, accented voice to suit one of the semi-dressed heorine’s expressions (I assume). And the song has Nithyasree Mahadevan too!! The backgrounds are utterly unbelievable for any Rahman song. And the song also has a vague Kerala connection for no particular reason – Kathakali, Theyyum tha etc.

I Wanna Be Free – Tehzeeb (Hindi, 2003)
I remember laughing out aloud when that ‘Tod de zanjeer’ shoutout appears in the song. And then it becomes ROTFL moment with the same phrase taking newer, more absurd proportions. All woven into a droning 80s synth style package. The song ends with a ‘Freedom freedom’ chant… quite apt, I’d think, for the listeners too.

Mastam – Yuvvraaj (Hindi, 2008)
A bland and annoying song that has me going, ‘Kashtam!’. It has a cat meowing at random points, for some reason, and a chorus echoing Sonu’s medley’ish singing. Mastam is perhaps more Subhash Ghai than Rahman and it is apparent when it changes pitch mid-way, as Alka Yagnik joins. Thoroughly embarrassing.



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