The Soundtrack of Lagaan (2001)

Lagaan - Once Upon a time in India

The year was 2001. Jhamu Sugandh and Aamir Khan Productions’ ambitious project – Lagaan, had just released its publicity material on TV. In an age of no-twitter and zero-presence of social networking sites, TV trailers and theatre publicities were the only way to go. The first trailer was indeed very intriguing. It only showed an incomplete political map of India, and a Rupee coin rolling over it. The heavy beats of the percussion filled the air, and as the short teaser concluded, the anticipation levels were soaring high. As I look back to that period of pre-Lagaan release, I feel an intense nostalgic rush filling me with smiles.

Lagaan was released and was widely loved and adored by audiences and critics alike, locally and globally. It has been 9 years since, and even then, the melody of Lagaan’s soundtrack, the drum beat and the passionate voices of the villagers of Champaner continue to linger in my head; all of them crying out – Re Bhaiyya Chhoote Lagaan!!

So, on this 9th anniversary of one of the most uplifting pieces of cinema ever, let’s celebrate the music of Lagaan – one which not just serves as a Bollywood routine element of the movie, but also a medium which translates a thousand emotions in a single line. The music of Lagaan transcends many levels and goes beyond the limits of boundaries, languages and cultural differences. A.R.Rahman scores, arguably, one of his career’s best soundtrack, and the translation to screen is equally breath-taking.

So hit the jump to experience with me, and celebrate the magic of the soundtrack of Lagaan – Once Upon A Time in India.

1. Ghanan Ghanan

Lagaan - Ghanan Ghanan

The first song which was shown in the teasers, this was certainly a crowd-pleaser. Javed Akhtar’s playful lyrics speak about  villagers who haven’t seen the rain in a while. How these villagers of Champaner react to the appearance of the clouds and their jubilance at the onset of the rain makes ‘Ghanan Ghanan’ a very different song in its own right. Bollywood has seen a lot of songs being written on rain, monsoon, rainy season etc. But nothing about the happiness and even the curing of all troubles by rain. Rain is treated almost like a healer in this song.

The lyrics beautifully weave the sounds of the thundering clouds into words e.g.

Ghanan ghanan ghir ghir aaye badra
Ghane ghan ghor kaare chhaye badra
Dhamak dhamak goonje badra ke danke
Chamak chamak dekho bijuriya chamke

It was also one of the most difficult songs to lip sync as shown in the making video. This was due to the entire ensemble cast singing portions of the song in perfect unison and in the correct order. A brilliantly simplistic choreography by Raju Khan uplifts your mood every single time you see this video; not to forget when Shambukaka, the legendary AK Hangal, dances to Kaale Megha Kaale Megha ..Paani To Barsao.

Lagaan - AK Hangal

I know you can’t resist anymore, so go hit the YouTube video link . Do check out Raghubir Yadav’s happy face when he spots the Badal :)

2. Mitwa

Lagaan - Mitwa

This song begins with a simple lesson of life in the voice of Sukhwinder Singh – Sach aur Saahas hai jiske mann mein, Anth mein jeet usee ki hoy [ One who has truth and courage in one's mind, emerges victorious in the end ]. This track oozes encouragement and positivity in every single word. And there is so much upbeat-ness in the percussions and the whole vibe of the song, that you can’t help feeling elated with joy, with happiness and feel motivated.

Iss Dharti Ka Hai Raja Tu, Ye Baat Maan Le Tu ,
Kathinaaee Se Takra Jaa Tu, Nahi Haar Maan Le Tu
O Mitwa Sun Mitwa, Tujhko Kya Darr Hai Re,
Dharti Apni Hai, Apna Ambar Hai Re

[ You are the King of this Earth, Agree to this
Face the obstacles, Don't give in to failure,
O my friend, listen to me. What are you afraid of?
This land is ours, and the skies too. ]

And when such beautiful lyrics are sung in the mountain-dew fresh voices of Alka and Udit jee, and when Aamir Khan in a dhoti does the kamariya matakna wala movie, you really can’t help fall in love with this.  YouTube video link.

3. Radha Kaise Na Jale

Lagaan - Radha Kaise Na Jale

This is as brilliant as it gets. A recreation of a mythological event – Lord Krishna’s Raas Leela with HIS Gopis, and Radha feels jealous about it. All of these emotions set against the backdrop of Gauri’s feelings for Bhuvan, and how she feels left out as she feels needy – to be loved by Bhuvan. A beautiful parallel between the flirtatious Lord Krishna and HIS naughty ways to tease Radha, and Radha’s many complaints against HIM. Sung by Asha jee and Udit jee and exceptionally choreographed by Saroj Khan, Radha Kaise Na Jale is a brilliant folk track layered with various traditional instruments viz. Pakhawaj, Veena, and a lot of accompanying strings.

My favourite bit of the song – second verse when Asha jee goes – Kaanhaa Ke Ye Jo Naina Haii.. Chheene Gopiyo Ke Chaina Haii..just before the line – Mili Najariya, Hui Baawariya. I hope you get how it varies from the first verse. Listen to it all here – YouTube video link.

4. Lagaan

Lagaan - Champaner

This is a collection of the background score which is used in different strategic points of the movie. But it is not just that. If you listen to it just by itself, as a piece of music, it has its own beautiful intricacies unveiling its different shades and colours as it grows on you. It begins with the blowing of the traditional royal trumpet. The piece has a lot of strings instruments besides the traditional Sitar. The initial humming is the tune of – Jo Suno To Kahe, Prabhuji Humri Hai Bintee … from O Paalanhaare. And then it is followed by a powerful Church Choir arrangement which cleverly switches to a Violin solo and then heavy beats as the chorus sings out – Re Bhaiyaa, Chhoote Lagaan in a loop. Get back to me if  the beat doesn’t stir you.

5. O Rey Chhori

Lagaan - O Re Chhori

My favourite of the entire soundtrack. I know it is so difficult to choose one, but I chose this for my Best of Rahman list. This one is my favourite because -
a) A.R. Rahman skilfully switches back n forth between  the village rural track and the Victorian Waltz sound and you don’t even notice because its all blended so perfectly; as if they were meant to co-exist.
b) Vaibhavi Merchant’s romantic choreography aided by an awesome special effects job.
c) Anil Mehta’s stellar cinematography. Have a look at this one.

Lagaan - O Re Chhori

d) Javed Saab’s wicked usage of rural lingo – e.g. Kaaran, Jabaan, Prem Nagar Ke Baasi :D

YouTube video link.

6. Chale Chalo

Lagaan - Chale Chalo

Quite obviously so, this is one of the cricket anthems of India now. It infuses elements from Tagore’s ‘Ekla Cholo’ into the lines – Ekaa Badhta Hi Jaawe, Chale Chalo. There’s brilliant usage of cellos in the song which give a deeper and more serious vibe to the song, rather than a yuppy or a catchy tune. In the signature Rahman vocals, the verses explode into a powerhouse song as the words go – Dharti Hilaa Denge, Sabko Dikha Denge, Raja Kya..Parjaa Kya.. [ We'll shake the earth, We'll show everyone - The King and the public..]

And as the song itself shows the unity of the Lagaan XI whilst it trains and toils for the big day, the climax of the song picks up its tempo, as the villagers sit together to celebrate. And so do we, just like normal blokes from Champaner do.

YouTube video Link.

7. Waltz for a romance

Lagaan - Waltz For A Romance

This is another instrumental piece from the soundtrack and is a brilliant classical piece by itself. It showcases why Rahman is known as the ‘Mozart from Madras’. The track is played when the British dance ballroom scenes are shown, and it also serves as the interlude in O Re Chhori, when Elizabeth dreams of dancing with Bhuvan. Poor thing, she never gets to dance with him for real.

8. O Paalanhaare

Lagaan - O Paalanhaare

And to end the soundtrack, this one is a killer. I don’t have any other words to describe it. It may have words which suggest a particular religion; words like Prabhuji, Jag ke Swami etc. And even though this song has been filmed in a temple, I have not a single trace of doubt when I say this, that this song transcends any sort of religion and names with which we call the Divine. I have always come back to this song – even though I am not a Bhajan kinda guy. Because it gives me strength, it gives me hope, and above all, it lets me release myself and just let things be – in the hands of the one who knows it all, who handles it all in his own way.

O Paalanhaare talks to me, and I am certain that it does the same to all of you who listen to this track. A brilliant Bhajan with minimal arrangement-in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar and Udit Narayan. The situation depicted is of Champaner’s villagers who are on the verge of losing, and they have nothing more to do than keep the faith and pray to the Almighty to help them, to give them the strength to emerge triumphant. And as the track progresses, when you see the crowd clapping along, you not only connect with the innate desire to win and the underlying emotion, but you also feel the labour of love of the director – Ashutosh Gowariker. All of it culminates in this one moment.

Youtube video Link.

And of course, since – Sach aur Saahas hai inke mann mein, Anth mein Jeet inhi ki howe…

Lagaan - The Victory
Hum Jeet Gaye!!!!!

Special mention to : TheBollywoodFan who is IMHO the biggest Lagaan and Aamir Khan fan there ever is :D. This is my post for the Lagaan Week 2010. Go check out TBF’s brilliant cake for the Lagaan anniversary.
Also check out these awesome Lagaan Week posts by Darshit, Shell, Sitaji and Shweta. And of course, don’t forget to pour out your emotions in the comments section, on anything about Lagaan, especially the music. Cheerio!!

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13 thoughts on “The Soundtrack of Lagaan (2001)

  1. kya todu post hai boss!! and the last collage – Wah Wah !!
    I was studying in a place where there were no TVs accessible to padhaaku like me :( so, the very first promo I got to see was the music promo. That epic capture in O rey chorri which you’ve screen capped. And the background sound was just ‘ghanan ghanan.. [the prelude, upto sitar sound]. Ah, that moment… and today, I still can’t get enough of it.

    [Reply]

    Sujoy Reply:

    Thanks Joshi jee. What is shown in the O Re Chhori’s end, is just breathtaking innit. The collage in the end oozes out victory. I really love Kulbushan Kharbanda’s absolutely emotional happy face.

    [Reply]

  2. wow!! great job. I really like how you tackled the soundtrack after all these years :)

    [Reply]

    Sujoy Reply:

    Thanks Nicki. Lagaan was, is and will always remain a monumental soundtrack in Indian cinema. BTW, really enjoyed ur Ranbir Kapoor post. Also, please suggest me some more K-movies.

    [Reply]

  3. wow!!! absolutely appreciate your deep insights and opinions to each song!! Ghanan Ghanan made me cry over its intensity of desperation and desire for rain! and yes, O Paalanhaare reaches to the deepest recessions of your heart!! AR Rahman sure knows the right chords to strike your emotions!
    kudos on a great post!! :)

    [Reply]

    Sujoy Reply:

    Thanks trishie. Glad you liked the post. Absolutely agree with your emotions on the songs. Rahman was truly phenomenal.

    [Reply]

  4. Came to your blog via TBF link. Great post espcially the write up on what are the things you like most in the various songs. After reading your post, I now want to rewatch the movies esp the songs and hear the songs too on CD!

    [Reply]

  5. Thanks so much for your entry, Sujoy. Brilliant post here, really enjoyed it from the intro all the way through. It’s as if each song tells a story of its own. After reading your post, I think it would be interesting to show the songs (and only the songs to start out with, but in sequence) to someone who hasn’t seen the film. I bet they would tell the story of the film in many ways. Each song, as you say, demands our respect, just amazing stuff by Rahman. And hasn’t Rahman said that it is one of his best?

    Cheers!

    [Reply]

    Sujoy Reply:

    That’d be amazing to see how someone would interpret the story just by watching the songs, and trying to fill the gaps. I don’t know if Rahman did declare that, but even if he didn’t, he knows it.

    You’re always welcome for awesome filmi mega-events like this and maybe some more I am late for Govinda Week, but I really wanted to write on Raja Babu

    [Reply]

  6. really!!! i thought it ws just an average movie..sound tracks were..well…least impressive to say..certainly not my piece of music…not the best of Rehman…

    [Reply]

    Sujoy Reply:

    I can be very emphatic with my emotions related with this movie. I can vividly remember how I felt the first time I watched it. And that itself shows how much I love it. So, I cannot really relate to your thoughts on this movie being just average. And to state the music to be least impressive, I think we certainly have totally different tastes. TOTALLY. Hehe

    [Reply]

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