Back In BeatRockstar

Rockstar by A R Rahman, Rating HHHHH, Price Rs 175

Venturing to listen to an A R Rahman soundtrack in recent years has held the same dread as watching Sachin Tendulkar walk in to bat. You always expect the master to score the equivalent of a cricketing century, if not more, but he manages to scratch a 50 or 60 and then hole out. A 50 or a 60, mind you, is nothing to be ashamed of for lesser mortals. But the standards the Rahmans and Tendulkars of the world set are so high that they end up getting condemned, and

even diminished, by their own achievements.

This dread can get a little magnified when Imtiaz Ali, the writer-director of Rockstar, introduces it as "the film wanted to get itself made. It decided when it wanted to get made, how it wanted to get made and by who". With the lead character of Ranbir Kapoor looking like, what else but a rockstar in the mould of a Jim Morrison or Bon Jovi, the senses are skeptically expecting a full-blown Hindi rock sound. But Allah Rakah Rahman, thankfully, had other plans.

Like a maestro rediscovering his magic, he soars from the depths to deliver a

soundtrack almost unparalleled even by his own exalted benchmark. Rockstar is a

musical journey that sails through classical rock,

ballads, Gujarati folk, the

almost-mandatory Islamic prayer and even a gypsy note from a unheard Czech

tradition. The scene is set with the somewhat Freudianly titled first track, Phir se ud chala, in which Mohit Chauhan's strong, bare vocals and a lone guitar build into a foot-tapping electronic crescendo fit for an opening act in a stadium.

From here on, there is no stopping Rahman as each track is bettered by the next, with loads of Keba Jeremiah's guitar and Chauhan the only constants. Chauhan, who gave us memorable numbers such as Khoon chala and Masakali, excels in each of his nine tracks, be it the slow, anthem-style Jo bhi main, the training to croon Sheher mein, the gypsy tango twang of Hawaa Hawaa, or the angst filled Aur ho.

Although classical rock is not entirely new to Bollywood, it's a genre Rahman hasn't experimented much with. Perhaps he was waiting for Rockstar. Jo bhi main, Nadaan parinde and Saadda haq are so true to the rock tradition that they could proudly be owned by any among the top international rock bands. Rahman and Chauhan team up on the vocals and with Sivamani on the drums, make Nadaan parinde a highlight of the album.

Rahman also lends his voice to the religious Kun faya kun, an Arabic phrase which means 'be, and it is', as Allah is supposed to have commanded the universe. Composed and sung in the Qawwali style, it is another addition to Rahman's earlier contributions, such as Khwaja mere khwaja and Piya haji ali. The other highlight of the soundtrack is a shehnai-guitar instrumental jugalbandi called The dichotomy of fame which is picturised on the late Shammi Kapoor as a gloomy-looking shehnai player in the image of Ustad Bismillah Khan, jamming with Ranbir. It is Shammi Kapoor's last appearance in a film.

With Rockstar, Rahman

reminds the world that genius cannot die. It perhaps just goes into hibernation. Rockstar also shows off the varied global musical influences he has imbibed over the years and has now begun catering to international tastes. In that sense, this is as much a global album as it is a milestone for Bollywood. It is very highly recommended for all Bollywood aficionados. For Rahman fans, to not own it would be a sin.

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