Sujatha Narayanan writes about the entity called 'hero-introduction song' in Tamil cinema
Aalaporaan Thamizhan, A R Rahman's single from Vijay's forthcoming film, Mersal, has already garnered views in excess of a million, and it is really no surprise because the song catches your attention in a snap of a finger. Contrary to the misconceived perception that a Rahman song needs multiple tune-ins, this is instantly catchy. The song draws you into its colorfully layered orchestration and the seamless changeovers which progress from rhythmic beats to melody, and settles back on a differently pitched chorus. It's possibly one of the best hero introduction songs Vijay can get in his career, and let's remember that the earlier favorite one of his came from Rahman's keyboard as well. I'm talking, of course, of Yella Pugazhum Oruvan Oruvannukkey from Azhagiya Thamizhmagan. Vijay's excellent dancing skills have enough and more work to do in this high octave number from Mersal. A song's appeal gets enhanced only when it is matched with elevating visuals.
A poll I ran on Twitter and Facebook gave the following results, which is proof that a song is not standalone in its appeal. The best hero introduction song which won by a whopping 62% margin was Gautham Menon's Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. After the powerful introduction scene featuring a cool yet terrorising cop, Raghavan, played to perfection by Kamal Haasan, we get a stylish stunt sequence which ends in the character-building song by Harris Jayaraj. Karka Karka's lyrics by Thamarai also contribute immensely to our understanding of man Raghavan is.
Thuppaakki matrum thottavaithaan kaadhalithaan
Yennaalum khakisattaiyaithaan kaipidithaan
Thann saavai sattaipaiyil kondu
(He loved only the gun and its bullet,
Adopted the khaki as his life partner,
He goes everywhere carrying death in his pocket)
Rajnikanth, it has to be said, has the best hero introduction numbers. They are upbeat, and rise to a crescendo... like Ballelakka (Sivaji), Autokaaran (Baasha), and Oruvan Oruvan Mudhalaali (Muthu). Yet, the stylised cuts and combination of stunts which match the rhythm in Karka Karka is what makes the song stand as a favorite till date. There is a certain cinematic honesty which makes this offbeat hero introduction song integral to the story.
A 'hero introduction song' as the name suggests, eulogizes the protagonist and his virtues. This trend harks back to the days of MGR, who had Kannadasan and later on Vaali pen his ideological numbers which presented him as the evergreen do-gooder to the voting public. Rajinikanth got his first hero-worshipping song after his character Kaaliayan wins a rekla race in Murattukaalai (the song, Podhuvaaga Enn Manasu Thangam, kicks in). Later on, formulaic films began treating such songs as one meant just for fans to stand up and rejoice over their hero's presence on screen, with little care for its relevance to the story. It takes, however, a Rahman to rise above a brief like that and give us a song like Aalaporaan Thamizhan which is a delight to listen to, on its own merit.