'24' Music Review: Rahman's most confusing album to judge yet?

There’s a certain type of anticipation when you’re awaiting the release of new music from your favorite band, singer or composer. That feeling is usually most heightened for me when I am awaiting the release of new music created by the singular A.R. Rahman. For a Rahmaniac like myself it’s like the feeling of waiting to unwrap your beautifully packaged gifts from under the Christmas tree. And when the new music from Isai Puyal happens to be for a much-hyped movie whose initial visuals have already set the bar at an all time high amongst this year’s Tamil movie releases …well, it’s like Santa himself decided to hang back and hand you the presents personally, knowing he outdid himself this year. And yesterday, Santa gave us the soundtrack to 24, and brought us Christmas in the spring.




A genre rarely explored, in more ways than one

Whether it’s the sweet melody of “Naan Un”, the grandeur of “Punnagaye”, the funky notes of “Mel Nigara” or the curious marriage of rock and electronica that is “Kaalam En Kadhali” – A.R. Rahman’s 68th Tamil soundtrack does not fail to disappoint. After almost a full day of the songs on loop I can safely say the album, much like all work of Rahman, stands apart with grace and ease, in my opinion, from all other soundtracks our ears have been subjected to in Tamil cinema over 2016. But like there’s a distinctive feeling when awaiting music from your favorite artists, there was a distinctive anticipation for me to hear the music Rahman would concoct for a futuristic film that ventures into the realm of time travel. And I’m not quite sure the itch for an album that exudes a futuristic or science fiction genre was scratched; and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


In that 68th film record it was quite surprising for me to reflect back and see that ARR has not composed music for many films of the science fiction genre. To be fair, there haven’t been many Tamil films of that genre in general over the years. But it still seemed strange to me that the man who has always been modern in musical instrumentation has not composed for a greater number of ultramodern flicks.


Comparisons galore

So, as my analytical and overly organised mind that operates much like a tedious computer tends to do, I began scanning my own mental database for proper comparisons for the music based on the film’s futuristic genre even before the music released. What came to mind was S.J. Suryah’s provocative “New” of 2004 and Shankar’s magnum-robotic-opus “Enthiran”, of course, but not much else. Was it fair to compare the musical backdrop of Vikram Kumar’s apparently jaw-droppingly detailed multi-narrative on the delicacy of time travel with a superstar blockbuster, for example?


And then my circuitry re-calculated and I realized – there is no use in comparing albums or songs across Rahman soundtracks for the few innovative science-fiction Tamil films he has worked on so far – because time and time again Rahman proves that each of his works are as unique as the films he chooses to participate in, whether they’re about time travel or any other topic under the sun.


But that’s not to say one cannot compare moods. So when contemplating Rahman’s music for those few Tamil films that have dared venture into little explored subject matter, like the robotics of artificial intelligence and love in “Enthiran”, or the strife of civil war in Sri Lanka in “Kannathil Muthamittal” or even the drama of Tamil theatre artists during the British rule like in “Kaaviya Thalaivan”, I began to listen to the soundtrack of “24” with new ears. And then I began to feel the similar grandeur Rahman reserves for films that are bound to make a big impact for being bold in general, regardless of their genre or topic.



A heady dose of newness

The electric guitar in “Kaalam En Kadhali” started cutting through my earphones and reminding me of the fantastic action sequences and overall fast paced excitement that jumps out in the trailer as some of the slickest we’ve seen in recent times. The nostalgic sweetness of “Naan Un” connected with Nithya Menon’s saccharine face and her adorable new chemistry with a seemingly timid scientist avatar of Surya, to me, rather than smouldering Samantha, for whom I imagine the jazzy “Mel Nigara” is devoted to. And the ostentatious “My Twin Brother” links to the entire feeling of the haunting urgency of an aged, menacing looking Surya seeking to change history. In other words, my ears started to hear the uniqueness of the album and imagine with greater detail, hope, and excitement, the magnificent visuals it must be accompanying. I stopped listening for ‘more futuristic’ beats, or traces of EDM that would greater characterise the album as a science fiction one. And I began to realise the versatility of the album, the grand choruses heard proclaiming in unison in parts, and the fact that no part of the soundtrack particularly screams that it was made for a science-fiction film alone is probably hinting at a grand and richly varied film in general; and perhaps we should take this to mean that 24 as a film may not be that easy to categorise. So, why try?


Let’s wait and see (and hear) what Vikram and Rahman still have in store for us, and then decide. There’s still some time (get it?).


Written by Dilani Rabindranjust another average Canadian born & raised Tamil girl with an MBA, a spunky attitude & love for all things cinema, comedy, music, dance, pop culture and chocolate-based. She bring Indian cinema to the world full time, and takes selfies part time. She talks a lot, and sometimes writes a lot. You can read some of that writing right here on www.fullyfilmy.in.


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