Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Top 10 favorite A R Rahman songs

On the day A R Rahman received the Golden Globe Award, I decided that, if Rahman went on to win the Oscars, I would blog about My Top 10 Favorite A R Rahman tracks. So here they are.

The first comment I received from most of my friends, is that, Top 10 is too small a thing to contain the full Rahman. Even the Oscars had to catch up so late, so what can you say about an upstart blogger's ad-hoc listings ? So so true, I knew it before I listed them. When I pulled a piece of paper and went on to scribble 'top-of-mind-recall' tracks, the list came to 35, in the first two minutes. Yet, there are so many Top 10 lists, let me just add one more. Not that my list matters, particularly since my music sense is well-documented on this blog before. But after all, as Munnabhai put it, apun public hai public, kya ?

If you don't like Rahman, simple, I don't like you. :) :) . But, since the world is so vast and has unnecessary room for all of us, and I also want to pride about balanced perspectives even when they are irrelvant, I still have stuff for people who don't like his music: I'll make a mention of the few things that I don't like about ARR's music, towards the end. It so happens, some of my favorites in this list are from Tamil, because I also relate to the lyrics. But, I am sure, most of these are equally enjoyable in their Hindi and Telugu or even Swahili equivalents.

Most links point to : Wikipedia/Youtube/Dhingana

10. Kannum kannum kollai adithal... The Artham Song from Thiruda Thiruda....

I can only start from the time I started listening to A R Rahman's music. Unlike so many others who proudly mention today that they knew him from the good old days when he was known as Dileep, like this movie director I had dinner with. I arrived rather late into that world. Life had been busy, juggling between college, part-time/summer jobs, service activities and competitive exams. I hadn't watched movies for the previus 7 years. The comfort of touching a 4-digit salary for the first time (particularly when you started with 2-digits) allows you certain indulgences. Roja, in all its glory, had come and gone, taking the music world by storm while I was busy in chinna chinna velai. I would catch up with it later.

I was staying at my friend's place, who was preparing for PG Medical Entrance and I was surprised to see that, about once in two hours or so, he would, take a break, play a couple of songs, jump around and get back to serious study. One of them was, Kannum kannum kollai adithal. It's exam time, try it out, may be with companion track, Putham pudhu bhoomi vendum. When I last heard, my friend had made it big, both in medicine and in music. :) :) If you try it with some other song, I am not responsible. (As if otherwise I am).

9. Radha Kaise Na jaley.. from Lagaan...

There are some tunes which infect you and infect all others who come in contact with you all through the day. Because, you began your day singing it when you came out of the bathroom, having taken your cool time, insensitive to the subtle needs of the waiting roommates. It used to be Hariharan's 'Pachai Niramey' for one of my friends, and the hum for him and haunt for the others used to be so much that, others would cry out and plead for change of track or change of bathroom ... 'hey.. please da.....' . For me, it is Radha Kaise na Jaley.. Oh, how many times, I have looped and looped and listened to this....

8. Nilaa Kaaykiradhu... from Indira

If you are still under the myth that Rahman is all about Shivamani's drums and western-sounding music, you should hear this kiddu song from Indira, almost carnatic piece. So melodious, so soothing, so relaxing, you won't read the rest of this post because you will fall asleep. If you are the fast-track type, replace this rank with Kannodu Kaanbhathellam from Jeans.

Pachai Kiligal Tholodu... from Indian...
There was a time, for 10 months, when I was (literally) jobless, and if carrom board can be considered keeping busy, one of my hobbies (?!) was to re-write the lyrics of my favorite Rahman tracks to my favorite devotional themes and share it with friends. One from that time, is this, rendered by Yesudas, who, well, actually knew ARR from the time when he was Dileep. I would love to give this remix-friendly slot to Oruvan Oruvan Mudhalali, which even the Japanese liked, but, no, this is not about Kamal vs. Rajni or about SPB vs. Yesudas, its ARR vs. ARR.

6. Bharat humko jaan se bhee pyara hai.... from Roja

It's now well-known that Patriotism is Rahman's best and favorite forte. No cultural event or a programme on patriotism would be complete without this piece from Roja. For a change, I like the Hindi version much better, because it sounds much more unifying. I have heard it being used and re-used again and again in patriotic plays and everytime it sounds as inspiring as it did the first time.

Bombay - Theme Tune - Instrumental :

There are some tunes for which you don't need lyrics. It's as if the tune can convey the context and the sentiments of the moment. The theme tune instrumental of Bombay is one such. Less luck for Kadri Gopalnath's saxophone, because I had to push out Mettu Podu from Duet and make way for this popular choice for the instrumental slot.

4. Yeh Tara Woh Tara... from Swades...

If there can be a very simple-sounding tune, as if straight out of a school annual day programme, yet one that flows gentle and cool like a river into your ears and make you forget those 7 minutes and 53 seconds, and bring with it a message for change, you need a track like this.

3. Maa Tujhe Salaam from Vande Mataram :

If someone could re-ignite the interest of youth in patriotism through modern music, ARR would be sure on the list. The rendering of Vande Mataram, should make you join the crowd and hum or sing out aloud. If it doesn't, you could have been born anywhere, not necessarily in India. :) :) Even the halls in Los Angeles do it, when ARR performs it live, though he mostly does it as Maa Tujhe Salaam instead of Thai Manney Vanakkam which has equally inspiring lyrics.

2. Iswar Allah Tere Jahan mein.... from 1947 Earth...

This is one song that mesmerized me when I heard it the first time, introduced by a friend. It was much before I saw the movie, even before I knew it was composed by A R Rahman. It still has the same effect on me.

And the Nams-car award goes to... :)

1. Pray for me, Brother

The best track, gets the least number of words in tribute, because, when you listen to good music, you don't talk about it, you don't blog about it, you don't go gaga about it and jump about it. You just listen. If you have done all that, you come back and listen once again. And may be pray thereafter. Silence can bring out the music in you, and, such music, can bring about a silence in you. This is one such piece.


Irony, no ? Jai Ho is not among the Top 10. I think, far greater music has been composed by A R Rahman, and the worldwide recognition was long due. It had to happen through Jai Ho, and it did, because of the movie's Englishwala visibility or whatever. I do like the track a lot, however. I agree once again with the many-faced blogger, who is attributed to have said, that if ARR gets the Oscar for Jai Ho, it would be like Einstien getting the Nobel Prize for explaining Photo-Electric effect.

Even for my own favorites, the list is grossly incomplete. There is no Sapnay, no Rhythm, no Taal, no Water, no Jeans, no Guru, no Yuva, not even Alai Payudhey? What kind of a funny list is this, without Chikku Bukku Railey, Muqabla and Masti-ki-Pathshala ?

Change the topic....

Jaane Tu is not there, because I was put off by the accidental, but obvious, resembling in the first few seconds of the song had with 'Appudo Eppudo' from Bommarillu. That the rest of the song follows a totally different tune should, of course, be mentioned in the same beat.

I don't like when the excellence of lyrics in one language gets diminished when it's re-written in another language. Vennilave Vennilave's is way better than Chanda Rey
, but no other language could match Rangeela Re in Hindi, with which Rahman made his Hindi debut. I also don't like it when Rahman, re-uses one of his earlier tunes in a different context, for the sake of adapting it to Hindi or English, particularly when the earlier version was so wonderful. 'Poraley Ponnu thaayi' in Karuthamma was so beautiful, demonstrating ARR's music for a rural setting. Gurus of Peace in Vande Mataram is good, but I think the Karuthamma song was better though it may not have had the same reach as Vande Mataram. Taal's famous Ishq Bina ,reworked for "Love isn't so easy" in Bombay Dreams, made it only worse...

I also like it better when old friend Shivamani is felt but contained, like in Roja jaaneman, though the roaring success of a lot of songs including Azeem-o-shan-shahenshah and Chaiyya chaiyya, is precisely because of the domination and flawless delivery of drums.

Put your agreements and disagreements, your choices that were left out, and my choices that look like eccentricities.... May be we should have a commenters' (or dissenters' ??) Top 10....


  1. A.R. Rahman's music is non-pareil, yes having no equal. I can understand you going gung-ho on his musical achievements. It is like Saint Thiruvalluvar saying those who are not in the habit of using snuff, they are bound to get cold and cough. And those who don't listen to A.R's music, one can say, he does not have taste for anything in life.

  2. Hmmm....Pudhu Vellai Mazhai did not make the list. In fact I feel that Rahman's work in Roja has not been surpassed. Riverside Walker's appreciative eye seems to have landed on Bharat Humko Jaan se Pyaara Hain seemingly be more out of popular sentiment. He has also ignored the quaint melody Chinna Chinna Asai. Yes..yes, I did read the documentation of river side walker's music sense. So would prefer to just point out and rest in peace. ;)

  3. My best is Ar's instrumental bombay theme followed by rest others it hardly matters, but i too like pray for me brother the best of his compositions.

    when i had written "the president is coming" i.e about obama's getting elected at that time I had a feeling that rehman too would get selected for the oscar's ( by then he had already won the golden globe awards and many more)once you get selected for the globe awards it is a cake walk to oscar's. At that time i wanted to write a post about both rehaman and obama having a common theme " pray for me brother" praying for rehman so that he will get ateast get an oscar's and praying to God to help obama to get ovet the tough times.

    nice post
    jai ho

  4. the jaane tu song u mentioned resembles the oud like instrument lead in the mustafa mustafa which predates appudo ippudo

  5. Good compilation Namaji. I totally agree with you that "Jai Ho" is no way looks like a piece from Rehman. But well... the world recoginizes the talent by the OSCARS & awards , not by the worthiness of the music.

    - talpak

  6. Surprised with existence of 'Radha Kaise Na Jale' in top ten. No, not that I do not like that, but when it comes to ARR's addictives, there are surely better ones, one of them being 'Suntha Hain Mera Khuda..' from a movie of Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit.

    Bombay Theme is an all-time favourite, no doubt it exists here.

    Pardon me for my ignorance on Tamil songs of ARR, so cannot comment much.

    Atleast one major credit that needs to go to ARR is his originality and experimenting nature. He is one music director who has never been afraid of trying out something new or never been short of showing a different version of music than popularly existing. One easy choice of such type is: 'Ru Ba Ru' from Rang De Basanthi. One song where there has been no minor chord used, instead all major chords were screaming, for a sad song!!!?

    Yeah, we all do understand the pain taken to create this list. Sure, everyone would suffer listing only best ten of ARR.

    Could you try creating a similar list for ARR's Advertisement jingles?

  7. Advertisement jingles? Leo coffee rules the roost hands down. :)

  8. Then Airtel and WorldSpace should be ready to be runner-ups...

  9. I accept that AR Rahman is definitley a good music director but now-a-days I think,he lost the charm in his music and for me my ever fav is Ilayaraja because AR Rahman does not give much importance to singers like Ilayaraja does.

  10. Brother, Excellent post!...especially enjoyed the 'Einstein' analogy :)

    Personally, i would have included Ishq bina kya jeena yaaron (Taal), Maula Maula (Delhi-6), Yun hi chala chal raahi (Swades), Uyirum Neeye (from Pavithra for the soulful music as much as the senti lyrics) and Malargale Malargale (Love Birds) in the shortlist...but very hard to say which ones from this list i would have dropped... :)

  11. Have you heard the music in Chikku bukku chiku bukku raile.... The composition of this song was a trend setter and very unique. It was during the early days of his career.


Thank you for your comments....

THANK YOU: These reflections draw sometimes from readers and friends who initiate ideas, build up discussions, post comments and mention interesting links, some online and some over a cup of coffee or during a riverside walk. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this blog are the blogger's personal opinions and made in his individual capacity, sometimes have a story-type approach, mixing facts with imagination and should not be construed as arising from a professional position or a counselling intention.