Filmmaker Mani Ratnam has been collaborating with composer AR Rahman since Roja (1992), producing some of the most memorable soundtracks in film music. Their partnership continues in Ratnam’s latest movie, Kaatru Veliyidai, starring Karthi as an Indian Air Force pilot and Aditi Rao Hydari as a doctor. The April 7 release has six songs written by another of Ratnam’s longtime collaborators, Vairamuthu, along with the lyricist’s son, Madhan Karky, and Shellee.
The soundtrack has a mix of mellow and peppy numbers that aim to lull listeners into a romantic mood. Musically, the soundtrack does not cover any new ground. Rahman’s genius has increasingly come to lie in the familiarity of tunes that no one can turn around but him.
Nallai Allai, sung by Sathya Prakash and Chinmayi, with lyrics by Vairamuthu, describes the agony of separation between lovers. The structure is similar to numerous ballads composed by Rahman – a simple arrangement and an acoustic guitar blends with an alaap by Chinmayi.
Vaan Varuvaan, sung by Shashaa Tirupati, continues to follow the romantic theme, but conveys a different mood. This song shows a gradual shift from sad to happy with the help the flute and the lower octaves of the piano, ending with a touch of kettle beats that uplift the spirit. Vairamuthu writes about a woman waiting for her secret admirer.
Things lighten up with Azhagiye, sung by Arjun Chandy, Haricharan and Jonita Gandhi, with lyrics by Karky. Like Pachai Nirame from Ratnam’s Alaipaiyuthey (2000), Azhagiye celebrates the experience of being truly, madly, and deeply in love. The incredibly catchy song includes a capella and Tanglish (or English mixed with Tamil), marking it as bait for young listeners.
The pace increases with Jugni, a multilingual punchy paean to freedom. The track has been sung by Rahman and Tejinder Singh, along with rap vocals by Raja Kumari and Shikara (the lyrics are by Shellee). Jugni is built on the same beat pattern and fast-paced rhythm as Patakha Guddi from Highway (2014), and could almost be considered an extended version of that tune.
Tango Kelaayo by Haricharan and Diwakar is a waltzy number with lyrics that will be out of place in a ballroom: Vairamuthu writes, “Nee ennai marandhal kaatru kadharum, kadalil mele ottagam nadakkum” (If you forget me the wind will cry and camels will walk above the sea).” The symphonic arrangements of the bandoneon, piano and flute build to a crescendo, but there is little here hasn’t been heard before from any such song placed in a similar setting.
The loose English translation of Sarratu Vandiyila is “Riding the chariot”. The song is a joyful tribute to Tamil folk music with the beat of the melam (drum) and the santoor. The song exhibits Rahman’s ability of combining instruments from various music genres into a great fusion tune. The three singers, AR Raihanah, Nikhita Gandhi and Tipu, underscore one of the most important features of Rahman’s music – the use of different voices in one song to create a perfect harmony.