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OKS:The Best of A.R.Rahman

A.R.RahmanWell, can you squeeze in a whole jukebox to a single CD? Forget compression technologies. I am talking about A.R.Rahman, arguably one of India’s greatest music composers. From Carnatic to Qawwali, Blues to Bhangra and from Bollywood to Broadway, Rahman has conquered all. From his first album Roja, which was released in the year 1992, to the latest Hindi Album released:- Ada, Mr.Rahman has indeed scaled new heights, invented and reinvented new sounds, broken borders of genres, and made a brand for himself.He has to his credit,the most recognisable ringtone of India (the Airtel ringtone) and above all, he features in the list of TIME magazine’s most influential Asians (alongside Freddie Mercury). Mr.Rahman deservingly stands at a position where many musical stalwarths envy to reach. And with every new composition, every new note, we get to experience a nano-portion of the musical genius, Rahman .And it has indeed taken me sleepless nights and intense brainstorming and repeated playing on my Winamp to compile this list of the Top 10 songs from A.R.Rahman’s ever expanding, self-challenging discography. It has been a strenuous and mind-numbing process and I know at the end of it, I have succeeded to narrow down to the Top 10. In many ways, some will totally agree with me on these 10. And some will totally disagree.
The rules are simple-
1.Only one song from one album [with one exception, I make the rules, I break them ;) ].
2.Only Hindi soundtracks [I couldn't possibly go for the other languages in which Rahman composes. Although I would specially like to mention the Boys soundtrack which is in Tamil]
3.From Roja to Ada [I don't have a sneek peek into the future]
4.No remixes, no Bombay Dreams
Please let me know what did you think of this list. Do post your comments of your own favorites or your own additions at specific positions. Of course, you need not agree with me completely, but well, we Indians have never managed to reach a 100% consent ever. Anyway,so here we go.

Saathiya Title Song10. Saathiya -Saathiya
Forget Rani Mukherjee. Don’t even mention Vivek who. Okay, we can applaud Shaad Ali’s compelling cinematography with the snow caped hills, the yellow fields, the glimmering sun and the gurgling water. But the real magic with this song is when you close your eyes, and in the ethereal sound of Sonu Nigam and lively lyrics of Gulzar, the words roll out-
Hastee Rahe Tu Hastee Rahe, Hayya Ki Laali Khilti Rahe
Zulf Ke Neeche Gardan Pe, Subah Shaam Khilti Rahe

and as the chorus builds in to-
Saathiya,mm…hmm..Saathiya , mm..hmm…Madhyam Madhyam Teri Geeli Hasee
Saathiya,mm…hmm..Saathiya , mm..hmm…Sunke Humne Saare Peeli Hasee
‘Nuff Said

9.Mukkala Muqabla-Humse Hai Muqabla (Kadalan)
I remember the playback singers of this one-Mano and Swarnalatha. Many would debate wtf? This on a favorites list. YESSSS. This spawned a whole new generation of Muqabla wannabes. One each featuring Sunil Shetty -Raghuveer (Muqabla Muqabla) and Akshay Kumar (Sabse Bada Khiladi)-Mooh Kaala Muqabla. This was on the charts for the whole year, was on Chitrahaar, Rangoli and even on the Friday night Chitrahaar. Doordarshan couldn’t contain the greatness and the fan following of this song. It bursted out on the streets, on Pujo Pandals, and on Bijoya Doshomi, Speakers were exploded . No one cared what PK Mishra’s real message was when he wrote-Jurassic Park Main Sundar si Gori, Jazz Music Gaye Milke, Picasso bhi Painting mera peecha pakadke ,Texas Main Naache Milke
But who cares as long as the music gets you high. Fatboy Slim makes millions with just three words-Push The Tempo. At least this one has a full feldged chorus and verse. Add to that Mr.Elastic Prabhu Deva defying every law of physics with Nagma ( those were the days when she didn’t care about gravity, as in she wasn’t that much heavy, as in she wasn’t obese then, you get it).We have our no.9

Dil Se Title Song8.Dil Se -Dil Se
I call this Rahman’s Rock. No compromises, no adulteration. After the initial bass lines..the low scaled intro swoops in, and for the chorus lines of Dil Se Re at the sky-piercing high pitch, Rahman does what he does best. And then we have the infectious sargam of Sa Sa Nee Nee . The verse lines hit you like an arrow –

Wo Patte Dil Dil Dil The

Wo Dil The Dil The Dil Dil The….Dil Hai to Fir Dard Hoga
Dard Hai To Dil Bhi Hoga
Mausam Guzarte Hi Rehte Hai
Dil Hai to Fir Dard Hoga
Dard Hai To Dil Bhi Hoga
Mausam Guzarte Hi Rehte Hai
Dil Se Dil Se Dil Se Dil Se,..

Bravo Gulzar Saab!! and everyone bow down to the magic of Rahman’s music. For me, I am headbanging to “Wo Dil The Dil The Dil Dil The”.

7. Kismat Se Tum-Pukaar
The high point of Anuradha Paudwal’s career. Why? Coz thank God, she finally decides to walk out of the T-Series Bhajan umbrella and dares to sing this. And when you have Sonu Nigam to give you company, and A.R.Rahman scoring the music, it has to mean MUSIC with a capital M. As one of my friend (Vatsal) states, this track makes him feel as if Sonu Nigam pasted a picture of Mohd.Rafi on the wall of the recording Studio and sang his heart out. If you haven’t heard the whole track, you OUGHT to. Need I mention, that the verse (Antara) pierces you (twice). I make it a point to listen to this track every 15 days.Another great thing that this track screams out is that Mr.Rahman knows which track is perfect for which singer. In a way, he acts as he is the casting director for his scores. And this track does wonders for both the singers.

6.Ye Haseen Vadiya – Roja
S.P.Balasubramaniam and Chitra; A.R.Rahman’s ambient arrangement creates Kashmir in your ears. This is nothing less than the Phantom of the Opera or any Mozart or Bach. Fin.

5.Kya Kare – Rangeela
Rangeela is my all time favorite Rahman soundtrack, not only for the tracks, but also for the background score. The musical piece where Urmila’s character Mili dances in front of Jackie Shroff, the weirdest soundtrack-Mangta Hai Kya, and of course the Ooh Moment announcing the arrival of Urmila in Rangeela Re (and perhaps the transition of Baby Urmila to Urmila Baby in Hai Raama). But all of that gets pretty mixed in the visuals (except for the musical which is a defining musical piece when one mentions A.R.Rahman). Kya Kare stands out as a dark horse in the entire soundtrack. The intro cello riff grips you completely and when the strings of the violins hit with the vicks tazgee waali aawaaz ( mint fresh voice) of Udit Narayan, you feel the dilemma of Munna in the words of Mehboob
Roz Roz Hum, Sochta Yahee , Aaj Agar Humko Wo Mil Jaaye Kahi
To Aisa Bolega, Saala Waisa Bolega, Khullam Khulla Uspe Dil Ka Raaz Hum Kholega
Saamne wo Aati Hai, Jaan hi Atakti, Aur Ye Zabaan Jaati Hai Phisall

Haaa. to Kya Kare Kya Na Kare, Ye Kaisi Mushkil Haaye
Koi To Bata De Iska Hal O Mere Bhai,..
The rhythm is so damn infectious and the laid back vocals of Udit Narayana towards the conclusion of the track is brilliant.

O Re Chhori - Lagaan4.O Re Chhori -Lagaan
Okay, this movie had some spell binding songs and some absolutely praise-worthy lyrics from Javed Akhtar. The Ras Leela inspired-Radha Kaise Na Jale, the Rain awaiting-Ghanan Ghana, the motivational anthem-Chale Chalo and the intense bhajan- O Paalan Haare. But if you were to choose just one, it has to be O Re Chhori. Why? Just listen at the wide spectrum and scope of this one song. Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik and Vasundhara Das on the vocals. And when I said that Rahman has broken borders of genres, I meant THIS TRACK. It begins with the village sound of a typical rural track, and switches to a Victorian era waltz-Opera, and comfortably switches back and forth between the two. Now that is what is meant by genius.

3. Roja -Roja

The only exception in this entire list,which I mentioned in the rules section of this post. I am bound to include this song. Because- It is S.P.Balasubramaniam’s best. Chitra gives a haunting intro and the flute track can be best described as ethereal. Because it’s not Dil Hai Chhota Sa, but Roja (the song) which announced that Rahman had arrived.

2.Tu Hi Re – Bombay

Tu Hi Re - Bombay

Rahman shows how minimal (or perhaps accurate) sound arrangement can do wonders. Hariharan gives his career’s best vocal performance, and so does Kavita Krishnamurthy. What more do I say about this song? It is just pure in every way possible.

Maa Tujhe Salaam - Vande Mataram1. Maa Tujhe Salaam – Vande Mataram
No, it is not the cliche’ of the patriotic element associated with this track that makes it the numero Uno on this list. It is my inclination to Rock that makes this my Numero Uno. It is Rock and easily blended with Carnatic music elements like Mridangams and Veenas. Not to forget, there is only one singer who can sing this like the way it is. A.R.Rahman it is. It is a multi layered composition that keeps building on like a crescendo and it reaches zenith as it approaches its climax. And when the song switches to the higher scale, you feel the chill run down your spine, an instant goosebump and you cannot help but stand up in attention and scream out-Maa Tujhe Salaam. That is what the power of Music is. And in a way, that is when patriotism in the new age comes enveloped in a brilliant packaging from Bharatbala Productions.That is what the Genius of Rahman is. We salute Thee!!!

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22 Comments

  1. Brilliant post!!!! Rahman Sir is the best!! Fuck the facts these chimpus r complainin about. My favorite though is O Paalan Haare. Cheers m8…great job

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  2. I would agree with almost all the tracks. But for me, Taal is the Rehman’s best Hindi soundtrack. Leagues ahead of Rangeela. But that’s just me. Good list though.

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  3. Thx very much for this post. Rahman’s work in Slumdog is very good. Thanks for making us aware of his other works. Will surely check em out.

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  4. The worldwide media is taking notice of Rahman’s work now that Slumdog is a big success. But in my opinion, Rahman has had superior works. Thanks for such a wonderful list.

    Although, I would disagree with some of ur choice on this list, but then it’s a matter of personal taste.

    Good post Sujoy and keep it up

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  5. Excellent post. No matter what ur choices are, ur passionate write up does talk. I can never ever zero up on such list!

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    Sujoy Reply:

    Darshit bhai, thanks for the appreciative comments. It indeed took me ages to arrive at this list, and yes, I do agree that it has its shortcomings. Like my friend Prakash cited out: Taal wasn’t mentioned. Shall be back with more of Rahman

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  6. hi

    ALI MOHAMMAD TAJI is one of world famous QAWWALI SINGERS in Sufi Mystic/folk and semi calssical songs of PAKISTAN.
    ALI MOHAMMAD TAJI golden voice has swept audience into a trance with scintillating renderings of devotional ecstatic Sufi
    mystical Poetry with his unique style,being the only vocalist who can sing QAWWALI / AND FOLK melodies in Urdu/ Hindi/ poorvi/ Panjabi/ and Sindhi language. ALI MOHAMMAD TAJI till now perfromed EUROPE/INDIA/UAE/ SOUTH AFRICA AND UK. His beaufiful uplifting music transcends all linguisitc boundaries.
    THANKS
    yours very trully
    ( AHSAN ALI TAJI )
    resarch and media Manager,
    http://www.qawwalalimohammedtaji.com

    [Reply]

  7. Its definitely tough trying to fit 10 best songs of Rahman in a list. Great compliation, and one is bound to miss out on many awesome tracks in the process. (Read: RDB, Taal, Zubeidaa, Bose .etc :P )

    Nevertheless, great write up and a great compilation.

    Cheers.

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  8. Hey Sujoy,
    You said it man… really miss Anuradha Paudwal and those 90’s singer(spare me the Alka Yugnick)..Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sadhna Sargam, Poornima(her husky voice)..the ladies surely were leagues ahead…I specifically omitted Alka Yagnick because she sounded same mundane and definitely could not scale up to these singers who were classically giving their best. Hope A.R.Rehman uses them more.
    chill

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    Sujoy Reply:

    I really miss Poornima. Her voice was so peppy and so pop. I like Alka jee, but yeah, she gets a bit repetitive.
    Of the new ones, I really love Shreya Ghosal’s voice the most. What do you say?

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    Daniel Reply:

    Dear Sujoy,
    Shreya, Anuradha, Sadhana all follow the Lata Mangeshkar school of learning and what anyone says they are miles ahead of their contemporaries….(include Kavita Krishnamurthy in that as well) … I think a post on theses ladies deserves a mention… at present listening to
    1. Anuradha’s Pukaar song…Kismet se … must listen every 15 days as said by you….
    2. Sadhana ‘s Tamil song from Rythm…Anbe… blows me with her voice control….
    3. Shreya’s song from Yahaan….Puche jo koi …rang heena likhna…
    4. Kavita’s song from Taal….Ishq Bina…the final song…

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    Sujoy Reply:

    Sure ..sure.. point noted. And I shall try to compile a plalylist with their best songs

  9. It must have been very tough to short list just 10 out of the infinite number of beauties that Mr. Rehman has produced (the statement does sound weird :P).
    The list is really good except that I’m a bit too emotional about the “Dil Se” album which is at a relatively low spot in this list but like I said it’s tough when you talk about Mr. Rehman… and yes like a few others pointed out…Taal is missing and so is One 2 Ka 4.

    Good to see that you did not forget Mr. Gulzar while writing about the Dil Se track. Rehman + Gulzar = Killer combo… probably better than Pancham + Gulzar… only a bit better though. How about creating a list for such killer combos?

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  10. Channel V Jammin produced the most amazing indipop collaborations ever! The Agni-Parikrama feat. Shilpa Rao – ‘I believe’ from the Dewarists is also an amazing collaboration!

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  11. Hi! Great write up (yet again) and a BIG BIG thanks to you for including Kismat Se Tum in the list. Listening to it is simply an inexplicable delight. In fact, the whole composition is just SO transcendental in itself. :)
    However, the fact that no song from Zubeidaa found a place in your list, really surprises me. Also, why didn’t you include Lukka Chhuppi from RDB ? :O

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