Thank you thank you to T.J Stevens for posting the “Azhagiye” song in a comment! This is about the happiest thing I have ever seen/heard. And then I remembered that it wasn’t, because there are other AR Rahman songs which made me the same amount of happy! And then I thought, “Why not a theme post?”
I’m gonna keep this Tamilian, because we all know that Rahman saves his best stuff for the Tamil versions.
First, the song that inspired the whole post (full version on Saavn now, by the way. Yes, I have been listening to it on a loop for 2 hours):
Starting with the very first Tamil film I saw (4th Indian film over all), which just blew me away with this one song. The music is great, obviously, but the staging is what really puts it over the top for me, the layers on layers of the rehearsal mixed with the fantasy of Tabu mixed with the finished version for the film-within-a-film. If you haven’t seen Kandukonden Kandukonden yet (you should! It’s great), our hero is a film director. He has to come up with a song sequence for his movie. And he keeps fantasizing that his girlfriend Tabu is in the sequence with him. And then he rehearses with the movie star for the film, who has a little crush on him. And then finally the finished version of the song plays for the heroine and hero of the film-within-a-film.
Around the same time I first found “Smiyai”, some friend or friend of a friend told me I had to check out the Boys soundtrack, because it is some of the best stuff Rahman has ever done. Which is true! And while some people may like “Girlfriend” or “Dating” best, for me it is all about “Boom Boom”.
A few years back, when the Nameste India TV show still played in my market and it was my Sunday morning ritual, they played this bit of a song from an upcoming Hindi film, and it was so good I had to buy it on itunes immediately. And it also kind of puzzled me, because it’s the kind of quality Rahman usually saves for down south. But then I learned, nope, not a Hindi song at all! A remake of a Tamil song, and, as always, it was much better in the original language.
And then last spring I got to see Rahman live in concert. And he stubbornly refused to play his big hits until the very end, making us suffer through his fancy artsy arrangements and genre experiments and so on. But right at the end, he did this big medley of all the top stuff, “Chaiyya Chaiyya” and so on. There was one song I hadn’t heard before, but he played it once, and suddenly it was all I wanted to listen to for the rest of my life. Thank goodness I was able to track down the original version.
And then finally, the only Hindi language song for me that really lives up to the lyricism and freedom and joy of Rahman’s Tamil stuff. Yes, even more than “Chaiyya Chaiyya”.