Thamizh Talkies: Magic of the Mozart
The writer is an art curator and producer
September can be described as a unique month for AR Rahman, who has three films split across every fifteen days (Cobra released on August 31). His other two big releases happen to be helmed by two directors separated by a generation. Both Ponniyin Selvan (PS1) and Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu (VTK) are turning out to be landmark films even before their release for Mani Ratnam and Gautham Menon respectively. Rahman’s music is key to their labour of love. While VTK had its music launch recently, PS1 is having its event on September 6. Apart from the music, Rahman’s singing in both albums is a striking feature, and he has hit it out of the park as a singer in both ‘Marakkuma Nenjam’ from VTK and ‘Ponni Nadhi’ from PS1; his rendition is a salute to the immense collaborative synergy he has with both Mani Ratnam and Gautham Menon. The soundtrack of PS1 is also much awaited as it marks 30 years of collaboration since Roja, since we have enjoyed the unique aural waves from this magical combination which cuts across generations and claims the top slot in music charts instantly.
The Gautham-Rahman combination is relatively young but robust, and their chartbuster ratio is currently at its peak with VTK. The album is a ‘slow burn’ (most people say a Rahman song grows on you, but I’ve always found his music appealing from the word go!), because the songs feel like they are meant to take the story forward and hence, the genre of music is rustic and earthy, which is clearly a world apart from what we have heard from this combination earlier. Add Simbu and Thamarai to the mix and VTK’s music becomes its calling card, which is set to give the film a massive opening when it releases on September 15. The good old days of a film’s soundtrack adding value to an opening weekend, is back! And what’s super-impressive is how Rahman has remained on top for the last thirty years and has ensured he gives his musical muscle to lift films he works on. There are music directors who belong to a generation and remain entrenched within that era and fade away. And then, there is AR Rahman who heralded a ‘new sound’ to film music in 1992 and becomes the G.O.A.T, in whose red carpet, present generation favourites like Anirudh walk on.
This is pretty much like how Mani Ratnam changed cinematic tropes when he entered cinema in the early 80s—especially when it came to portrayal of women and usage of minimal dialogue and blissful cinematography. Ratnam’s red carpet became the ground for directors like Gautham Menon, Vetrimaran, Karthik Subbaraj and others to walk on. Following his footsteps is not a cakewalk because his milestones keep reminding filmmakers of how far they need to jump to keep up! The importance a filmmaker gives to content should also be given to form and this became a standard only because of Mani Ratnam and his films.
Mumbai seems to be a key location for VTK, and it remains to be seen if this burgeoning metropolis is shown as uniquely as we have seen in Mani Ratnam’s Bombay/Guru but as Rahman mentioned in the VTK audio launch, when speaking about why he repeatedly works with Gautham Menon, “Trust. I know that no matter what he will steer the ship (the film) to the shore, and he loves music…” This trust is the hardest to gain for a filmmaker. More often, it is given simply because a person occupies the director’s chair. What’s to be noted is how well a filmmaker stakes their claim to that chair. Mani Ratnam set the standard, and all one needs to do is watch, imbibe, equip, and march on.