AR Rahman is generally at his best when in partnership with his friends.
His greatest works have come in collaborations with Mani Ratnam, Gautham Menon, Imtiaz Ali, Shankar and Ashutosh Gowariker. It’d be interesting to hypothesize about the success of these filmmakers without Rahman’s music, but that’s for another post.
Ashutosh Gowariker is back with his next film, and it looks like it took him six years to recover from the debacle of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. He’d earlier taken a six year break after Baazi, coming back with Lagaan.
Gowariker’s earlier stints with Rahman were all major winners, and the two of them come back along with their third musketeer – Javed Akhtar. So does Mohenjo Daro live up to the filmmaker’s earlier collaborations with Rahman?
Track 1: Mohenjo Mohenjo
The first track in the album begins with Rahman’s tribal sounds, a set of gibberish accompanied by Shivamani’s thumping beats. In a few seconds, you’re looking forward to what’s coming. You see, listening to a Rahman album for the first time is almost a spiritual experience.
If the songs are good, that is. If they’re not, like Blue or Yuvvraj, you begin to question the purpose of life in the first place. It’s alright to listen to Anu Malik make bad music, but for Rahman to do it, is tragic.
The first track sounds familiar, a bit from Behne De, a bit from Ghanan Ghanan. Arijit Singh croons to Javed Akhtar’s rather simplistic lyrics, a problem I faced throughout the album. Lines like Chand aur Suraj donon ne dekha, Mohenjo Daro mein Rangon ka Mela just don’t cut it anymore. They were in vogue in the early 90s, but the analogies sound rather stale now.
Rahman manages to make Arijit sound the most un-Arijit-like, and that’s what keeps you interested through the track, which ends in a crescendo by Shivamani. All in all, the song feels like a performance in a reality shows, where Rahman seems to half-heartedly smile, like he’s itching to get back to his studio and call Hariharan about a new song idea.
Mohenjo Mohenjo leaves you gasping for more, just as the second track, titled Sindhu Ma takes off.
Track 2: Sindhu Ma
Undoubtedly the track of the album, Sindhu Ma begins with Sanah Moidutty’s sensuous overtones, and truly kicks off when Rahman comes into the picture. This is the song that plays in the trailer (though that doesn’t seem like a very bright idea in hindsight!).
Rahman makes even gibberish sound magical, and performs a ‘scat-aalap’ that only he could have. Every Rahman album has that one song that gives you goosebumps, Sindhu Ma is that track in Mohenjo Daro.
The sound doesn’t sound completely original. There are shades of ‘Tum Ho’ (Rockstar) and ‘Kaise Mujhe’ (Ghajini). The track doesn’t bother with staying true to the time period the film is set in, using violins and synthesisers, but all that’s forgiven since it’s Rahman.
Javed Akhtar’s lyrics continue to disappoint, with lines like Paas aake bhi maun hai tu, Yeh toh bata kaun hai tu. The kind of lyrics Sameer used to churn out in the 90s – Tu hai jeevan mera, Tu hai jaaneman mera.
The song ends in classic 90s boy-band love-track manner, opting to shift to a higher scale at the end. I felt a tinge of sadness as the song came to an end, perhaps as a premonition about the rest of the album.
Track 3: Sarsariya
Crooned by newcomers Shashwat Singh and Shashaa Tirupati, Sarsariya begins on exotic footing – gibberish, flute, and drums. And yet, it has the half-hearted feel of the tracks of Asoka. I have a feeling this track will be used as the heroine’s entry song. Javed Akhtar continues to dish out lazy lyrics with lines that go – Sab hai mere sapne, rang hai sab apne.
Shashwat Singh has an interesting voice, but the track switches tracks too quickly for you to invest in it. In fact, the track is quite annoying and I couldn’t wait for it to end.
Track 4: Tu Hai
This is a rehash of Sindhu Ma, but a more sanitised version of the song. It lacks the magical beginning of the Sindhu Ma, and if the trailers are anything to go by, will be sung by the leads when they find love in each other.
There are traces of Rahman’s beauty in the track, but having heard the earlier version, this seems like yesterday’s Chicken Biriyani that’s been refrigerated and reheated. It’s Rahman nonetheless, and I gave it a full listen out of respect for the man.
Tracks 5, 6, 7 : Whispers of the Wind, The Shimmer of Sindhu and Lakh Lakh Thora
What sets Rahman apart from his contemporaries are his stunning background tracks. While most music directors lazily employ pieces from songs in the film as background music, Rahman actually composes stunning pieces of music.
Listen to Slumdog Millionaire’s Latika’s Theme, or the haunting Bombay theme, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Which is why I wanted to listen to the three tracks that come with the album.
However, these are mere rehashes of the songs on the album, and nothing to write home about. You might enjoy Whispers of the Wind if you’re smoking a joint alone in the night. The Shimmer of Sindhu is a rehash of Tu Hai, and Lakh Lakh Thora is the last track of the album.
Mohenjo Daro fails to stir up the kind of emotions that Rahman is used to when collaborating with Ashutosh Gowariker.
If my theory – Rahman Knows – is anything to go by, the album and the impending film might be headed for a disaster. But one can never be sure about these things. The soundtrack of Mohenjo Daro is strictly ordinary, and only for die-hard Rahman fans (which is probably half the nation anyway!).