Whenever there’s an AR Rahman album lined up, listeners, bloggers, Rahman fans, non-Rahman fans, other musicians and almost everyone gets voracious for listening it and also feels anxious to give their opinion on it. So, after Raanjhana, last year, the album that blew me up by its catchy, pure and innocent melodies, here comes Highway. After an enormous collaboration of Imtiaz-Rahman-Irshad, which received humongous success and won accolades, this brilliantly talented trio is back with Highway starring Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda. All films of Imtiaz are journey specific. Journey as in journey of life, journey of an incident, a small portion of life. This seems to be no different. Journey of a girl who is kidnapped by a truck driver. The main theme of the film is that how she finds freedom in bondage. Sounds interesting? Well, Songs are no less.
Music: AR Rahman; Music Label: T Series
1. Patakha Guddi (Female Version) / Patakha Guddi (Male Version) – Singers: Nooran Sisters (Sultana & Jyoti) / AR Rahman; Lyrics: Irshad Kamil
He had recently mentioned in an interview that he would now try to go to the purest form of music. Well, with this opening track, we can say that he is really doing that. It’s the purest form of Punjabi Sufi music which has folk ingredients cleverly fused into it. Nooran Sisters, early discovered by Iqbal Mahal, are pure Punjabi Sufi singers who has won many awards for their performances. It is the first time that they have sung a Hindi Film song and who’s better to debut them than Rahman. Though song is purely Punjabi Sufi, AR never compromises with his experimental fusion and hence, some grand arrangements of techno Punjabi mix have done. The Flute that is played after each time the title Patakha Guddi comes, is a notable one. Sai and Ali are used in the same song. That’s Irshad Kamil. He has written some of the most difficult lyrics ever diving deep into the typical Punjabi language ocean and coming out with some brilliant Sufi oriented words. The line Ainve lok laaj ki soch soch ke, Kyun hai aafat daali, and then the notes beautifully come down just like a swing on which children play, Tu le naam Rab ka, naam Sai ka Ali Ali Ali Ali.
Entirely contrary to the female version is the male version rendered by Rahman himself. Possibly, many won’t like this version but if you just edit Rahman’s vocals, and concentrate on the background, it is even better than the former version at some instances. Like, the Harmonium which has accompanied AR like a mousy nervous Indian bride hesitant to show her face to people. It actually has been played throughout the song if you notice but it’s hard to notice due to its shyness. Remove the word Punjabi, and it is a Sufi based song which is more inclined towards Islamic Sufi. While all these elements have been put up as additional stuffs, the arrangements of techno Punjabi mix featuring Dholak has continued. A very gentle song travels on its way and suddenly a massive dangerous turn in the highway occurs. The track turns into Heavy Metal Rock with Electric Guitars and Drums all around. I am unable to depict its purpose but it could make the listener throw off his headphone immediately. It sounds as if a disease of Fits (Mirgi Ka Daura) has attacked it and after few seconds it comes to its original form. Except the part where Rahman chants out Sai Sai Sai, his voice has completely disturbed and diverted the listeners’ attention from the adorable background. It starts and ends in the very same way and leaves a large impression on the listener. It is surely one of the most difficult compositions by AR Rahman which is also quite difficult to sing. #WelcomeSong
2. Maahi Ve – Singer: AR Rahman; Lyrics: Irshad Kamil
Beats that start the song and that are played throughout the song are ordinary but the engineering done to make it extraordinary, is fab. It’s a typical Rahman-ish composition and that’s what I didn’t like about it. Saaye, mitaaye, behlaaye, sharmaay, the tune which AR has given to these words sounds at times, a bit irritating. The best part is the tune of the so-called hook line Tu saath hai toh din raat hai. The sound of claps between every line gives the feeling of ecstasy. The backing vocals that accompanied Rahman is awesome. It’s a beautiful combination of different strings and beats. Listening a composition like this in Rahman’s voice increases its typicality. I feel it should have been sung by some other singer. I don’t know who but someone else to give the song an entirely fresh sound. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics goes well with the tune and spreads the sooth. The last part of the song Ye jeena bhi, na jeena bhi seems to be the starting of an antara but actually it concludes the song. I don’t understand why Rahman does such unusual things. Are they a part of spontaneous thoughts of his mind or he does it knowingly to make the composition experimental and Different. I felt addicted to it but then steadily it got faded away from my mind.
3. Kahaan Hoon Main – Singer: Jonita Gandhi; Lyrics: Irshad Kamil
Jonita Gandhi, remeber? The girl who debuted in Bollywood with Chennai Express title track. Though I had a thought for this song perfectly fitted for Shreya Ghoshal but when I listened to it, my thought changed. It seemed that the girl is made to sing this track. She is damn perfect in it. As she has learnt Western Classical Music, it wouldn’t have given her much discomfort to render it. It’s purely sounding a Western musical track. Rahman’s outings, his closeness with Hollywood and his understanding of Western music is clearly depicting in this track. The whole track is on Piano being played as the string and percussion at the same time. With excellent arrangements and brilliant Piano piece and thoughtful lyrics, I still feel that the tune could have been better. The highlight of the track is Jonita Gandhi’s singing. The perfect choice for choosing the singer by Rahman.
4. Wanna Mash Up – Singers: Kash ‘n’ Krissy, Suvi Suresh; Lyrics: Kash ‘n’ Krissy
Kash n Krissy are a rapper/singer duo from Singapore. They formed the duo in 2008. It’s not their first time with Rahman as he has already used them in his Irumbiley Oru Idhaiyam and Semmozhiyaana Thamizh Mozhiyaam but it’s their first Bollywood track. After a bike-raising sound start, quite massive and explosive beats come up. Simply awesome they are! The best thing is the mash up mash up part which sounds strangely cute. This track also depicts Rahman’s closure encounter with Graammy’s n Hollywood musicians. If one doesn’t tell that it is composed by an Indian, no one would imagine. Rap is nice melding with outstanding arrangements. This is entirely for EDM fans and also not at all for Rahman fans.
5. Sooha Saaha – Singers: Zebunnisa Bangash, Alia Bhatt; Lyrics: Irshad Kamil
It’s a lullaby! The last lullaby by Rahman was Aahista Aahista from Swades. That was a simple tune because it was made by a Rahman who was simple too in composing tunes. This Rahman is very complex and purer too. The simple Guitar strings overlaid by mild Flute that makes its presence felt at appropriate times. Ukele is also played beautifully. The tune is cute and soothing rendered with utter sweetness by Zebunnisa of Zeb and Haniya from Pakistan. This track was highlighted by Alia’s presence in the audio as a singer. Her cameo is superb. It adds the leftover sugar to it. Her voice, if not flawless, is innocent and ear-friendly. The best part is the line Kyun toh soye, kyun toh roye makes us feel that the old Rahman-ness is still alive in him. Lyrics beautifies the already beautiful song. Sooha saaha is a word used near Punjab-Pakistan border which means red rabbit. Mother calling her daughter her red rabbit (Sooha Saaha Amma Ka!). Being a beautiful lullaby, wouldn’t be the reason for most people to listen but Alia Bhatt singing it, would be the prime reason to attempt it.
6. Implosive Silence – Singer: Jonita Gandhi
“A musical piece that tries to capture the sounds in Alia’s character’s head” is quoted by Rahman for this track. If this is case, I am much glad about the experimentation done in the track. Some really weird sounds that has been used by Rahman depicts the humming and other stuffs in Alia’s head. Jonita Gandhi again gets an applaud for crooning these strange sounds. She proves to be versatile here and shows her immense skill. An instrumental piece that would be exciting to watch in the movie.
7. Tu Kuja – Singer: Sunidhi Chauhan; Lyrics: Irshad kamil
It again has over experimentation that dilutes the basic beautiful Indianized tune. The basic tune and lyrics seem to have devotional touch but the the sounds used here worsen the exact mood of the song. An amazing fact is that it is the first song of Sunidhi with Rahman. A big composer and a big singer hadn’t yet collaborated. Strange thing! I tried relating it with the film but I failed. The kind of movie Highway seems to be, this track doesn’t fit anywhere. But without attaching it with the movie, it’s a beautiful song. It could have been more beautiful if the tune was better and the synth elements were edited a little bit. The ending becomes a lot boring. You just wait for the song to end and it doesn’t. It must have been according to a situation in the movie but musically, all these experiments are vague. It wouldn’t attract mass and fake Rahman fans.
8. Heera – Singer: Shweta Pandit; Lyrics: Irshad Kamil
Heera adds Shweta also to this female dominated soundtrack. Her voice sounded as thin as thread. She sounded sweet and sang this beautiful lullaby melodiously. She has sung Sant Kabir’s dohe which Irshad Kamil has improvised brilliantly pacing up with the tune and the situation very well. Again I feel that the tune could have been more melodious, with more wave-like and ups & downs instead of being flat after the first line. Antara is better though it has the sound which doesn’t sound fresh and gives a stale essence to it. I guess, Shweta Pandit has also first time sung a Rahman melody. After this, I feel she would be getting more offers from him. This track is apt for taking a sound sleep at night.
Highway was one of the most awaited soundtracks of the year as the AR Rahman tag was attached to it. What everyone had expected, it didn’t turn out to be that. What it turned out to be, better or worse? I don’t think any of the two. It is just something very different from what people were expecting. But every movie is not Rockstar. It has a different story, different situations so the songs are obviously set according to those situations. Patakha Guddi is an exception here. It’s a flawless track. All it needs is praise. About rest of the songs, I feel the tune should have been better. Actually much better. It’s AR Rahman. We can’t expect anything less from him. The soundtrack has been well decorated with fresh and different sounds and arrangements but for me, if the basic tune is not impressing, rest of the elements have no value. Highway, musically is good but it isn’t the track which we would be often listening but it’s a soundtrack that has very limited age which will end with the movie. In other words, its music is just limited to the movie and it doesn’t have a good individual identity. A soundtrack which, if looked negatively, is dull and boring, if looked positively, is good for meditation.
The Final Verdict: POSSIBLE
The Verdict Order: DISAGREE < NOT A PROBLEM < OKAY < POSSIBLE < AGREE