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Ra-Ra Rahman!

Whenever A R Rahman composes music for a Mani Ratnam film, expectations are sky high. Nothing short of brilliance is expected from this gifted duo. After all, they have given us mind-blowing soundtracks in the past. And throw acclaimed wordsmith Gulzar into the mix, fans get into a jubilant frenzy.

Their previous collaborations Dil Se and Guru lived up to the hype. It’s time to find out if their third outing Raavan matches the excitement surrounding it.

In the opening track, Beera, Rahman uses a vibrant amalgamation of African tribal and desi sounds. This spirited number, possibly the introductory song of the protagonist, hooks you instantly. An unlikely choice for a rustic folksy song of this nature, Vijay Prakash is impressive, but its newcomer Mustafa Kutaone who charms you with his African style of singing. Beera is an untamed ethnic melody that will mesmerise you for days.

In complete contrast is the next song, Behene de (Karthik, Mohammed Irfan) – soft, intense and dramatic. Gulzar’s powerful lyrics and Karthik’s passionate rendition make this song another highlight of the album.

Thok di killi (Sukhwinder Singh, Am’nico) is an upbeat, racy number (more like a war-cry) and in the same space as Rahman’s earlier composition Dhakka laga bukka for Yuva. Sukhwinder lends his trademark energetic style to the song and newcomer Am’nico does a fine job too but the peppy song somehow fails to rise above the average.

The next track, however, is a complete winner! It’s difficult not to sway to the intoxicating rhythm of Ranjha ranjha (Rekha Bhardwaj, Javed Ali). From the moment Anuradha Sriram’s hypnotic backing vocals kick in, this Sufi-esque melody grabs you. Only Rahman can think of contrasting Rekha Bhardwaj’s earthy vocals with the refined softness of Javed Ali’s voice. While both singers are remarkable, it’s the instrumental arrangement in this composition that’s truly outstanding. Though the opening lines are picked from legendary Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah’s poem, Gulzar’s lyrics for the rest of the song are equally compelling. This could possibly become one of the biggest songs of 2010.

Reena Bharadwaj, who made her debut with Yeh rishta in Meenaxi – A Tale Of Three Cities – returns with a solo song Khili re. Rahman’s use of classical instruments like the tabla, flute and sitar in this composition gives it an old-world charm. Reena’s mostly good with her rendition though there are portions where she sounds high-pitched. The soothing number is semi-classical in nature and that may restrict its appeal.

The last track in the album Kata kata by Ila Arun, Sapna Awasthi and Kunal Ganjawala is a pre-wedding song. While Gulzar’s lyrics are fun and folksy, the composition is noisy and not so celebratory – disappointing stuff.

But Raavan is still one of the most interesting albums to come out of Bollywood this year. And just for Beera, Behene de and Ranjha ranjha, it’s worth a buy!

Verdict: Buy!

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