So here’s wishing A R Rahman on his 52nd birthday (January 6, 2019). He has kept a low profile over the past few years, at least on the Hindi film music circuit, but his contribution in the 1990s and early 2000s has been immense, mainly in changing the genre’s sound.
Here, we choose 10 songs that are very typical Rahman – each commercially successful too.
Let’s get nostalgic.
1 Chhoti Si Asha – Roja
Rahman hit the big time with the Tamil version of Mani Ratnam’s Roja, which was dubbed in Hindi. ‘Chhoti Si Asha’ remains an evergreen number, sung by Minmini and Rahman himself.
2 Kehna Hi Kya – Bombay
One of the music director’s greatest hits. This song, sung by K.S. Chithra and Rahman, has some amazing choruses and arrangements, and is picturised on Manisha Koirala. Lyrics are by Mehboob.
3 Rangeela Re – Rangeela
Rahman and Mehboob combine in this 1995 Ram Gopal Varma film to create hit music. This song, sung by Asha Bhosle with Aditya Narayan, has some brilliant dance moves by Urmila Matondkar.
4 Chaiyya Chaiyya – Dil Se
The train song featuring Shah Rukh Khan and Malaika Arora, it gave singer Sukhwinder Singh a platform, with Sapna Awasthi chipping in. Gulzar’s lyrics were inspired by Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah’s ‘Thaiyya Thaiyya’.
5 Taal Se Taal Mila – Taal
An immensely catchy number by Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan, filmed on Aishwarya Rai and Akshaye Khanna. Anand Bakshi’s lyrics and the catchy rhythms complete the magic.
6 Mitwa – Lagaan
The Aamir Khan cricket film had some great music by Rahman, with lyrics by Javed Akhtar. If ‘Ghanan Ghanan’ set the pace, ‘Mitwa’ is a gem by Udit Narayan, Sukhwinder, Alka Yagnik and Srinivas, pepped by amazing percussion.
7 Yun Hi Chala Chala – Swades
The deadly combination of Udit Narayan, Kailash Kher and Hariharan get together on this 2004 hit, written by Javed Akhtar. The outdoor shots on a road journey are well-captured.
8 Rang De Basanti – Rang De Basanti
With its heady bhangra-pop flavour, this song picturised on Aamir Khan became quite a rage. Daler Mehndi’s voice goes perfectly with the tune and Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics are apt. Add to that some great choreography.
9 Pappu Can’t Dance – Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na
Rahman attempts a fun song with a club ambience, and does it well. The tune, filmed on Imran Khan, was huge on the dance floor in 2008. It was sung by a variety of singers, including Anupama, Benny Dayal and Blaaze.
10 Kun Faaya Kun – Rockstar
Rahman has done some neat Sufiana numbers in his career. This one, filmed on Ranbir Kapoor and others, is a treat. Sung by Rahman, Javed Ali, Mohit Chauhan and the Nizami Brothers, it has been written by Irshad Kamil.
Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon (okay, doesn’t fit, but you get the drift), Naren, NK, Kusnur, Narender, Kaansen, Jahanpanna… however else many call him, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier. If ever there is an Ustad given for music writing, NK, would be among the first to receive one. Narendra Kusnur writes weekly on Xyngr. Don’t ask us when.