When A R Rahman first scored for Roja, you could sense that he had changed things forever. And from there on, he has only baffled us by consistently churning out genius. Absolute genius.However as it usually happens when an album comes out, one song hogs the attention and some gems are lost in the process. So, we decided to put together a playlist of some of Rahman’s hauntingly beautiful songs that have been long forgotten.
1. Chandralekha – Thiruda Thiruda (1993)
Mani Ratnam’s adaptation of ‘ Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid ‘ had this beautiful dance number, which sounded quite ahead of it’s time. Sung amazingly by Anupama and Suresh Peters.
2. Spirit of Rangeela – Rangeela (1995)
Everyone remembers the rest of the album by heart – whether it was the title track, Haay Rama, Aamir Khan’s drunken songs, but this one orchestration captures the spirit of this brilliant film. Special mention for Siva Mani, who owns the theme.
3. Mil Gaye – Love Birds (1996)
Back then when Hariharan + A R Rahman were a tour de force by themselves, comes this beautiful song more than ably supported by the effervescent Chitra. Enjoy!
4. Dheemi Dheemi – 1947 Earth (1998)
Deepa Mehta’s partition saga stars Aamir Khan, Rahul Khanna and Nandita Das. However, the real star of the film emerged in the form of A R Rahman’s music, who shut all his critics up that he could do one kind of music. He nails it with the depth of Dheemi Dheemi – courtesy Hariharan’s super-smooth voice.
5. Khili Chandani – Indira (1998)
Hariharan’s brilliance again steals the show in this little-known film called Indira as he croons to ‘ Khili Chandani’ almost sounding like a ghazal. You will know peace after you’ve heard this one!
6. Nahi Saamne Tu – Taal (1999)
Subhash Ghai’s film starring Akshaye Khanna, Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai had some of arguably Rahman’s best work of the decade. In this one the magician took it to another level with western orchestrations and yet the simple song of ‘Nahi Saamne Tu’ formed a cult by itself. Widely considered un-sing-able (if a word like that exists) on a live stage.
7. Ek Tu Hi Bharosa – Pukar (2000)
In Rajkumar Santoshi’s Pukar – Rahman did really well in keeping it contemporary with Kay Sera Sera with Madhuri Dixit and Prabhu Deva dancing brilliantly. That one song stole the entire limelight of the album. This one song people later discovered was Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Ek Tu Hi Bharosa’ was a gem which few people know about.
8. Main Albeli – Zubeidaa (2001)
This particular song had beautiful flamenco and gypsy influences, with that out of the world bass work. Also you can always trust Kavita Krishnamurthy to get it bang on! Why don’t we play this more often?
9. Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna (Reprise) – The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (2001)
One beautiful film that was almost lost among the clutter of Bhagat Singh – only for the brilliance of Rajkumar Santoshi’s crisp dialogues and Rahman’s fantastic music. This particular line had been scored many a times, and yet Rahman managed to make it contemporary and still kept it idealistic enough to honor the memories of the war heroes. Sonu Nigam forever!
10. Shaka Laka Baby – Bombay Dreams (2002)
For the first time an Indian composer was working with a London Theatre production for this Bollywood-themed musical. Rahman joined hands with the famous Andrew Lloyd Webber and wrote 18 tracks for the production. This one however, stands out solely because it was unlike anything Bollywood had ever heard before.
11. Mera Yaar Milaa De Saaiyaan – Saathiya (2002)
You can’t have the album start with Sonu Nigam in his prime and one of A R Rahman’s best compositions and expect the music lovers will actually pay attention to the rest of the songs. One such song ignored in this album was the one sung Rahman himself, and it is a beautiful, haunting track about two separated lovers.
12. Warriors in Peace ft. Jolin Tsai – Warriors of Heaven And Earth (2002)
Rahman’s maiden attempt to score for a Mandarin film – Warriors of Heaven and Earth, which enabled him to collaborate with Jolin Tsai. Excellent work, if you haven’t heard it yet.
13. Dol Dol – Yuva (2003)
Blaaze has collaborated with Rahman the most number of times, and is one of the regular members when he is touring. This fun little number was mostly ignored because of the gangsta genre being still unknown then. Blaaze captures the spirit of Calcutta and mercurial temperament of Abhishek Bachchan’s character to the tee.
14. Dekho Na – Swades (2005)
Shahrukh Khan’s best intentioned film till date has some beautiful songs which did not get an audience like his other films – Om Shanti Om or Happy New Year. That doesn’t take away the brilliance of the songs, and for that you only need to listen to this one.
15. Noor Un Allah – Meenaxi (2005)
The best qawwali of the decade, by far. This song was banned by some idiots because they couldn’t stand the fact that – firstly it was M F Hussain’s film and secondly that the song compared the beauty of woman with that of Allah. It is because of this that we missed this song from our daily dose of Mtv.
16. Ghoomparani – Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2005)
A popular lullaby in the state of Bengal was given a Rahman-twist when he fused the lullaby with some composition of his own to keep the original flavor with the voice of Sapna Mukherjee and Satynarayan Mishra. Rahman lists this rare song as one of his all-time favorites.
17. Rasiya – Mangal Pandey (2005)
An album that was lost because of the film being lousy! Mangal Pandey had some really great music but no one really paid attention to because the film flopped after a couple of weeks of criticism. ‘Al madath maula’ and ‘Main vaari vaari’ was superseded by ‘Rasiya’ to make it to this list for it’s raw energy.
18. Aayo Re Sakhi – Water (2005)
Deepa Mehta’s film on the widows of Benaras featured Rahman’s music, and it is interesting to note the use of Santoor to denote the droplets of ‘water’. Sukhwinder Singh and Sadhana Sargam sing this brilliant song to perfection!
19. Khoon Chala – Rang De Basanti (2006)
The resurgence of Mohit Chauhan went largely unnoticed because of an album filled with such extraordinary music. The haunting quality of the song caused a cult following behind the song which understands the brilliance of this song.
20. I’m Alive – Provoked (2006)
This beautiful song by Canadian singer Karen David was lost among all the hoopla surrounding Aishwarya Rai doing a British film. Listen in!
21. Aye Hairathe – Guru (2007)
Rahman exploiting Hariharan’s master skills to play with a song with such disdain. Alka Yagnik plays her part to perfection. Together they make this song so beautiful!
22. Mann Mohana – Jodha Akbar (2008)
This song got lost among all the brilliance of the film – the acting, the humongous sets, costumes, and brilliant music. This song by newbie Bela Shende might be a bhajan, however what sets it apart is the western arrangement in the middle and the purity with which it is filmed. Watch out for that scene when Akbar is walking through the flying curtains.
23. Jaane Tu Ya Na Jaane Na – Jaane Tu Ya Na Jaane Na (2008)
Scoring for this young romantic comedy entailed that Rahman try out something new and fresh, after all the heavy lifting he had done all through his career. And he did it with so much panache – however, this title song didn’t find it’s way to the Indian audience because of the jazz treatment. Few people understand the brilliance of this song even 7 years after it came out.
24. Ishq Ada Hai – Ada (2008)
Rahman did this small film, which used his music alone to sell the film to the theatres. Rashid Ali sang this angsty ‘Ishq Ada Hai’ with a beautiful rhythm pattern.
25. Manmohini Morey – Yuvvraaj (2008)
Vijay Prakash owns the stage with Manmohini Morey, with the alaaps and had to share the limelight with the more palatable ‘Tu hi meri dost hai’ and ‘Tu muskura’.
26. Rehnuma – Blue (2008)
Long before Adele came out with Skyfall, Rahman composed ‘Rehnuma’ for a sucker of a movie called ‘Blue’ starring Akshaye Kumar, Sanjay Dutt, Lara Dutta and an employed Zayed Khan. You’ll find the similarities, if you hear them both with an attentive ear.
27. Taj Anthem – Ek Mohabbat (2008)
Rahman composed this song especially to raise awareness about the voting for the seven wonders of the world, for which Taj Mahal at Agra was one of the contenders. The love anthem was his tribute to the most romantic monument in the world.
28. Liquid Dance – Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
The Academy Award! The International fame! The Grammies! And yet no one cared enough to look beyond Jai Ho and Dreams on Fire in this brilliant album for a brilliant film. It is in fact the Liquid Dance which is used to perfection in several chase sequences in the film. Listen here:
29. Dil Gira Daftan – Delhi 6 (2009)
Another case of weak film casting a shadow on the beautiful film. Expertly sung by UK-based Ash King is an absolute home-run, which in my opinion takes Rahman to the next level. Even from his current status of God! Should be played more often.
30. Aaromale – Vinnaithandi Varuvaya (2010)
This psychedelic track by singer Alphons Joseph is one of the USPs of Rahman’s super soundtrack. It stands out even in the presence of heavyweights by Omana Penne and Hosanna.
31. Jaa Re Ud Jaa Re – Raavan (2010)
It is no secret that Rahman keeps the best for his mentor Mani Ratnam. He composed this song, a night before the film’s album release and finished it. He also made sure that the song was on the album – the Afro elements along with the accordion are what make the song one of Rahman’s best, even in his illustrious career.
32. Liberation – 127 Hours (2010)
Rahman’s soundtrack for filmmaker extraordinaire Danny Boyle is some amazing shizz, even by his own high standards. The use of acoustic guitar to denote pain, frustration serves the purpose of the story to perfection.
33. Tango for Taj – Rockstar (2011)
A widely appreciated album, and yet a gem that got lost in the midst of a weak film and a stellar soundtrack.
34. We Could Be Kings – Million Dollar Arm (2014)
Scoring for a feel-good Disney movie, the maestro had to keep it cheerful and at the same time include the desi-ness of the sound along with that cater to an International audience – he balanced everything with ease. Listen to this and you’ll know how:
35. Afreen – The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
Co-produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, this gem of a movie is all about the criss-crossing of the loud Punjabi cuisine with posh French cuisine. Watch out for this special gem of a song with incredible vocals from newbie Nakash Aziz, the modern qawwali song should sound like this – with beautiful bass, the western orchestration and all.