People talk of the pressure of expectations on Sachin Tendulkar whenever he steps out to bat in Indian colours. But spare a thought for A R Rahman too. The Mozart of Madras is in no less unenviable position. Every time a film's audio for which he has scored music is out, the whole world sits up to listen. And for Sivaji, the pressure is three-fold, as he has to satisfy his own fans, that of Rajinikanth and Shankar too. In such a situation, when you have constituencies to live up to, the music inevitably is populist.
In Sivaji, Rahman's music works at two levels - as he shows glimpses of his own splendid arrangement-orchestration skills. The second is in smart packaging in an effort to live up to the myriad demands of diverse sections.
The seven tracks in the album don't fit in a particular genre. And that is to be expected. Some of them appeal instantaneously. And some, like many Rahman numbers, take time to settle down. Mass elements are inevitably there. It is to Rahman's credit (and genius) that he has managed to incorporate melody within the ambit of rhythm-based numbers.
Balelakka: SPB, Raihanah, Benny & Chorus
Lyrics: Na. Muthukumar
A Rajini introduction song is a non-negotiable instrument of sorts. It has to have SPB belting it out with his unmistakable gusto. It has to have some pulsating beats. It must make you snap the fingers and tap the foot. This song makes you do all that and plus some more. SPB is amazing with his breath-controlled rendering. This man never ceases to amaze us. He might be over 60. But who would say that after listening to this number. The interludes and the rhythms give an extra pep to the proceedings. Raihanah (Rahman's sister) and Benny also chip in with their best. Muthukumar's lyrics set out in typical fashion.
Style: Rags, Tanvi, Suresh Peters, Blaaze
Lyrics: Pa Vijay
The song works in many ways as it has a variegated pattern to it. As the initial words suggest, the song talks of style, which is the essence of Rajini. But Rahman, as he is wont to, has worked the tune in a slightly recondite way, in that it moves around an attractively bewildering manner. You have Blaaze letting out his typical staccato rap bits while Suresh Peters bungs in his anglicized rendering. And suddenly, almost catching you unawares, you have Tanvi chipping in with a beautiful morsel in traditional Tamil. Though the song is multi-dimensional, it works, especially with its surprise swerves and Rahman's mastery over arrangements. Style is in Rajini and Rahman too.
Vaaji Vaaji: Hariharan, Madhushree & Chorus.
Perhaps this will be the anthem of the State for some time to come. Musically, the song may have nothing new. But Rahman's genius lies in packaging. Building layer by layer, he lets the song rise up like a beautifully created skyscraper that is high on both aesthetics and utility. Rahman has made Hariharan croon in a un-Hariharan-like manner. Perhaps that maybe the trick that makes the song work and makes Vairamuthu's lyrics stand out in beautiful relief. Madhushree is adequate without being anything extraordinary. The tempo and the beats make this a good mass song.
Athiradee: AR Rahman, Sayanora
This is straight away Rahman turf. The man knows which song to pick and sing. His nasal twang may not appeal the first time. But they just take control of you over a period of time. Athiradee does. The lyrics are unabashedly Vaali as he plays to the gallery big time. But his smart mind chisels out interesting lines. Vaali deserve