There is barely a 10-day gap between the January 13 release of the film OK Jaanu, and its music album, which was released on January 4. As the duration of the promotion of soundtracks reduces, so does its impact on listeners. Or could this be a marketing strategy since we are familiar with the tunes composed by AR Rahman for the original film, Mani Ratnam’s Tamil-language O Kadhal Kanmani (2015)?
Rahman repackages the tunes with lyrics in Hindi by Gulzar for OK Jaanu, directed by Shaad Ali and starring Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor as a live-in couple.
The title track borrows its techno sounds entirely from its predecessor Mental Manadhil. Singer Srinidhi Venkatesh accompanies Rahman on vocals for the high adrenaline fast-paced track that zooms over to “mangal pe dangal” (havoc on Mars). Kaara Aattakkaara becomes Kaara Fankaara, a medley of rap, synthesized sounds and frenetic shifts between hip-hop and pop genres.
Rahman’s son AR Ameen recites the nasheed (Arabic chant) Maula Wa Sallim, accompanied by a faint beat on the daf. There is a beautiful, meditative quality to the humming chorus in the background. Ameen made his debut as a singer when the track was first featured in the O Kadhal Kanmani soundtrack.
Theera Ulaa becomes Jee Lein, sung by Arjun Chandy, Neeti Mohan and Savithri R Prithvi. It alternates between their vocoded vocals and a galloping rhythm, creating an ambient sound that is pleasant on the ears.
Shashaa Tirupati sings the raag bihag composition Sunn Bhavara. Her ethereal voice and vocal ornamentation elevates the melody. Another composition, Saajan Aayo Re (Naane Varugiraen in Tamil), in raag darbari kanada, is sung by Jonita Gandhi and Nakash Aziz to great effect. Gandhi displays splendid vocal control in the track.
Arijit Singh renders the acoustic-driven Enna Sona, as a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Kinna Sona. It is the least imaginative track on the album, lazily drummed up with a syncopated beat and uninspired vocals. The album’s chartbuster The Humma Song can divide listeners, but should not be entirely dismissed.
The imagery of Gulzar’s words – a bee arriving in an “udan khatola” in Sunn Bhavara, or the setting sun as a “tikli” in the title track, are lost in the din of the hurried pace of the melodies. Rahman delivers on the tunes, unheeding of the lyrics in conversion.