On Jodhaa Akbar, Ashutosh Gowarikar's attempt to romanticize a nebulous piece of Indian history, I am happy to say that A. R. Rahman balances art and commerce elegantly.
Jodhaa Akbar contains five songs and of note is the fact that in keeping with the theme of the movie A. R. Rahman has balanced Hindustani music with its more middle eastern influences. He creates playful interludes between the two genres to constantly remind us of what the movie is about. And he gives some exciting vocal talents big breaks on the soundtrack.
On the rousing opener, Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah, Mohammad Aslam and Bony Chakravarty praise and pray for the well being of Akbar. It is a song that is driven by a strident big drum beat with the sound of whips cutting air, chain jangles and clashing metal thrown in to paint a picture of a battlefield. And because Rahman breaks the vocals and beats in interesting ways and creates hugely catchy verses, its a song that is easy to get into.
Rahman hires Javed Ali to sing the traditional ballad Jashn-E-Bahaaraa and here let me pretend to be a judge on SRGMP. "Javed, sing something like KK. Ok now quick, sing something like Sonu. Hunh, meaning your tonal quality is a mix of the two. Now in this song Rahman saab has hurried you a little, no? Tumne yeh song ko poori tarah pukda nahi. Thoda mechanical ho gaya. Aur achha ho sakta tha! Lekin don't worry. Maa Saraswati ki krupa hain tum par. God bless!"
If there is one indubitable winner on the CD, its the sweeping Inn Lamhom Ke Daaman Mein which brings together terrific lyrics (Javed Akhtar writes), some fine vocal work by Sonu Nigam and beautiful changes of pace. Inn Lamhon is about a monarch discovering a love that is taking him by surprise and possibly going wrong by the minute.
Terrific as Sonu's voice is, it comes with some limitations. Sonu has a soft, flexible voice but can't lift a line by sharpening it mid-stream to give the song a rousing edge. This is worked around neatly by Rahman who adds a male chorus to do some of the more somber lifting in the track. He further works in some variety by giving a brief verse to Madhushree (who I dig quite a lot ever since watching her winning presence in a Rahman concert)
Finally Rahman surprisingly gives the gorgeous Mann Mohanaa to Bela Shinde - a song on which one of his favorites Sadhana Sargam would have killed. Bela has a misty classical-lite voice that thins a bit on the high notes but she carries Radha's lament at missing Krishna (analogy alert!) rather well. Rahman makes clever use of violins to fill out the sound and give it an edge of rising desperation.
I'm a sucker for songs that feature peti licks and are made for fakirs to sing (ok fine, call it sufi). One such song arrives in the form of the qawwali Khwaja Mere Khwaja on which the composer does vocal duties. I loved it, but I recognize its broad appeal might be seriously constrained by its genre.
The music of Jodhaa Akbar is by no means timeless, but given time its highly entertaining.
Click on any song title to play
- anu g loved the songs but is unsure about its commercial viability
- Megan reviews the best Bollywood soundtrack in years
- AR Rahman's music grows on you, says Bella
- Payal links to Madhushree singing her signature song
- H&R notes that Madhushree is the voice of Rani Mukherjee
- Hey what if Hrithik goes bald wonders Bella
- Not a chance says Megan
- Sidekick's review of the CD, why "Khwaja" is rising to the top of her list and why Mann Mohanaa might be ahead of its time
- Why the music has heightened headmistress' anticipation of the movie