Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kaatru Veliyidai: Celebrating 25 years of Mani Ratnam, A R Rahman's musical partnership

It’s time to roll out the red carpet. 

We already know that the Maniratnam and A R Rahman combination conjures up nothing short of sheer magic. They have between them a historic silver jubilee year of their association (from 1992 till 2017) and an iconic bunch of 15 films, including the much awaited Kaatru Veliyidai (Cheliya in Telugu).

The pre-teaser has warm and cold tones, a man and woman in close-up and wide shots, where icy hills stand in contrast to the light brown desert. Karthi’s sensuous rendering of Bharathiyar’s lines "Kaatru Veliyidai Kannamma Nindhan Kadhalai Yenni Kallikkindrean (In the breezy outdoor wind my dear, I reminisce your love)" lend a certain masculine panache to the whole feel of the film, which releases in the summer of 2017. 

Kaatru Veliyidai is Maniratnam’s 25th film as director, and this is his 33rd year in the movies (his first film Pallavi Anupallavi released in 1983). This much of numerical pressure hypes up expectations from his current release, but then, why not celebrate that very fact?

The Rahman, Ratnam combination reminds one of an international parallel, Steven Spielberg and John Williams. How defining was it that Mani Ratnam’s Roja was A R Rahman’s first feature film as a music director? Had it been Shankar’s Gentleman for example (a terrific album) would Rahman have made a successful but different start to his glorious career? Does Mani Ratnam become that much more relevant to Rahman’s career?

Left to Right: Bombay, OK Kanmani, Dil Se and the first look from Ratnam's Kaatru Veliyidai.
The answer is a stunning yes. 

To reinvent the wheel each time, they sit for a composing session to churn out close to six songs as chart-busters in every album. Their music caters to tastes of over two generations. They straddle different genres, like a period film (Iruvar), action (Thiruda Thiruda), politics-terrorism trilogy (Roja, Bombay, Dil Se), love stories (Alaipaayuthey, Kadal, Ok Kanmani), issue based films (Aayitha Yezhuthu - Yuva, Kannathil Muthamittal) and heroic tales (Guru, Raavanan) and that is no common feat. To match each other’s creative collaboration, the way Mani Ratnam and A R Rahman have been doing, is a record in itself.

Director Shankar also has a great track-record with A R Rahman, while Shankar's cinematic outing with Harris Jeyaraj are two - Nanban and Anniyan.
Mani Ratnam however has not wavered in his choice of music director from 1992 — when he introduced Rahman as his composer replacing his staple favourite Ilayaraja in RojaAnd thus a new “sound to cinema” was born.
Rahman reserves his very best for his alma mater – Mani Ratnam. Both of them have only their own films to hold as a standard/ benchmark, which they keep elevating with every new release. Kadal’s fate at the box-office notwithstanding, the music album was a runaway hit. 'Mental Manadhil' and 'Naaney Varugirean' fromOk Kanmani were brilliant masterpieces. When it comes to background music, the score of Iruvar is in a separate hall of fame.

Rahman has also sung many times in Ratnam's films: 'Dil Se Re' (Dil Se), 'Endrendrum Punnagai' (Alaipayuthey) and 'Eley Keechaan' (Kadal) apart from the anthem-like soulful track 'Vellai Pookkal' from Kannathil Muthamittaal.

The to-be released single on 2 February, from Kaatru Veliyidai is creating massive curiousity, given the history of Rahman’s music for Mani Ratnam. 

Before skeptics jump the gun, let me address the sole criticism leveled against Rahman – the belief that one has to tune into his song multiple times to begin to like it. How many times have you heard someone say this? “A Rahman song has to grow on you”. 

If that is so, just enlist his compositions for all Mani Ratnam films (and non-Mani Ratnam films right up to Gautham Menon’s Thallipogathey). Listen to these top-of-the-chart numbers and draw your own conclusions. It won't be long before you realise that Rahman’s songs for a Mani Ratnam film are nothing short of an Oscar/Grammy award winning work. 

What magic, passion, and romance lies in store on the Kaatru Veliyidai soundtrack? We'll know soon.

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