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Mangal Pandey: music review
It doesn’t happen often that you pick up a Rahman album that doesn’t live up to its hype. Yet this is how Rahman’s latest score for Mangal Pandey The Rising (abbreviated as MPTR for rest of this write-up), turns out to be.

Before I get into analysis of individual tracks, I must tell you why I didn’t have high expectations from this album. If my tally is correct, this is Rahman’s 77th album. Of these about 24 have been original Hindi scores (excluding dubs/remakes, give or take two). Of these 24, a good lot have been movies based on period/nationalistic/patriotic themes. Let’s count:

  • 1947 Earth

  • Zubieda

  • Lagaan

  • The Legend of Bhagat Singh

  • Meenaxi (sort of)

  • Swades

  • Kisna (agreed, majority of this was composed by Ismail Durbar)

  • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose

and now MPTR

Most of these movies demand a particular kind of music, which is bound to constrain even most talented of composers. Let me take up an exaggerated example to clarify what I mean: if you are making a historical movie documenting life of Bach, you wouldn’t use a Chopin sonata for background score. Movies set in 1850-1947, demand that a particular set of instruments be played in a particular style. The patriotic/period tinge demands that folk themes be used (if only for one or two tracks). The net result is that even before the director explains the composer situations that demand songs, our composer has been imprisoned by the movie’s settings. One can still come up with a refreshing score (Netaji Subhas Chandra is a great example IMO) but not if 7 out of these 9 period movies come out in less than 4 years!

With that background, let me take up individual tracks.

The album begins with war-cry like Mangal Mangal. Which is repeated twice in the album (Rahman fans are no strangers to track repetitions). Despite this, the album is barely 36 minutes and Yash Raj Music charge you a premium price (considering that most new albums now retail at under 100 Rs!) of Rs. 145 for it! There is very little in this track, and quite honestly Kailash Kher begins to get on your nerves by the time 2 minutes 30 seconds of it finish. Very heavy folk influence. The main melody sounds like something you’ve definitely heard before but at the end of it you are unable to place it exactly.

About Main Vari Vari I’ll only say that it sounds like one of those mujara numbers the likes of which can be found littered throughout the Hindi film music oeuvre. The melody is catchy. Nothing novel, though I’ll still rate it as one of the more hummable numbers in the album.

Holi Re brings back memories of Ghanan Ghanan from Lagaan. The opening dhol in the background is a straight rip from Daud’s title number which later changes to dhol / dholak beats from Kadhalar Dhinam’s Dandiya. Yes Amir Khan gives his voice to this number (besides Udit Narayan, Madhusree, Srinivas, Chinmaye). He is mostly restricted to saying wonderful rhyming words (that too in duplicate!) like chalak chalak, dhalak dhalak, dhamak dhamak, lapak lapak, dhumak dhumak, thirak thirak, matak matak, chanak chanak. Fortunately Udit Narayan takes charge before it becomes unbearable. Mr. Khan does make a comeback again in the middle of the song and says those inane, clichéd things about Radha and Kanha - says not sings. Stylistically, traces of Pal Pal Hai Bhari from Swades and Radha Kaise Na Jale from Lagaan are easily sought. Wonderful fragments of lyrics are to be sought too – “thodi thodi tu jo nashili hui, patli kamar lachkili hui”. Let me say it in just two words – utter tosh.

Rasiya for some reasons is redolent of Pas Aa Ja Balam Re from Mr. Romeo and Machli Pani Bina from the same movie. Richa Sharma, thanks to her contralto voice, ends up reminding you of Ila Arun; though the former definitely has much broader range. The longest track in the album - a tad too long.

Takey Takey’s snake-charmer flute opening is identical to one Rahman used in Nayak’s Saiyaan. Imagine Kailash Kher and Sukhwinder Singh in one track. No don’t.

Al Maddath Maula’s background instrumentation in the beginning reminded me of Escape from Warriors of Heaven and Earth even though the resemblance is tenuous. The intro definitely reminds you of Zikr from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Stylistically this is a kawwali but Rahman does treat it differently a little later on. (Kailash Kher can be heard again giving alaap in the background)

Mangal Mangal concludes the album. This is a longer, slower, more soulful version. The tempo picks up in the middle and crescendos into a frenzy of “Mangal Mangal Mangal Mangal Mangal ho…….”

Yes this is Rahman. Yes his music ‘grows’ over you over multiple hearings - but for that to happen, I should at least feel like going over the whole CD again. This is one CD my shelf could have done without.

Moral of this review – spend those 145 Rupees on a pizza. Better still, hold on to them till Rahman’s next movie – there is only one way he can go after this one!
posted: 20.7.05


3 points -

1. If only you could review other composers too...!

2. Are you still listening to music on your headphones? You need a good 2.1 (if not 5.1 system)

3. At the risk of discrediting myself (I like Anu...Annu? Anuu? Aanu? Malik's music too) this album was not that bad...it does tug on those patriotic chords...

By Anonymous Kawaljit, at 20.7.05  

Seems to be a let down. But, I just loved Rahman for composing the "Bombay" movie theme. That track is an absolute gem and is a must listen.

By Blogger Sharath MS, at 20.7.05  

Well... I found it to be a typical Rahman album. May be it raised the expectations (and comparisions with Lagaan) with Aamir and the East-India backdrop.

Also, Pickup 'Ah Aah'(Tamil) music and let us know how you find it.

By Anonymous Jani, at 22.7.05  

Hi Kawaljit!

1. If only there were other composers worth reviewing :-)

2. I still prefer headphones because I do listen a lot at work. At home I hook up my Hi-MD player to a pair of Altec Lansing ATP3 2.1

3. This album might not be bad for "Hindi only" audience that does not follow his complete oeuvre with zeal. For the rest of us it is but a sad pastiche which one of his assistants could have whipped together overnight. I still maintain that the best of Rahman is to be experienced in Tamizh!


Hi Sharath, Bombay will definitely remain a landmark in Rahman's career. And the theme music hasn't been matched by him yet!

Hey Jani - I would rather qualify that "typical Rahman" here. It is a typical Rahman work for a Bollywood period movie in Hindi where both the director and the actor were nosy about what the composition should be like. Now I feel better :-).

Ah Aah is superb. Some tracks are a little too much on the "techno" side but the overall structure of most compositions is unlike anything composed by Rahman before. Very refreshing indeed. Go for it!

By Blogger Deepak, at 25.7.05  

I agree with your review. I read an interview from Rehman where he mentioned that this is the last period movie he is working on. Good for him. All I can say is there are a lot of good composers out there doing a lot of good work. I am not die-hard Rehman fan and objectively speaking, his music is notches above everyone else only once in a while. Of course, I haven't heard all his Tamil work. I don't enjoy music if the lyrics don't make sense to me. I like the detail in your review though :-)

By Blogger Parth, at 26.7.05  

Hi Parth! I also came across that interview at Rediff! I am glad for his hiatus from period movies; much needed! (deserved?)

Please don't mind me correcting, but I'd rather see Rehman spelled as Rahman :-). The problems I've had with other composers is that they rarely come out with an album where all tracks are equally enjoyable. Music is about personal taste - it's a bit like having a favorite color or dish, so yes, I welcome opinions different from mine.

For me it works the other way round - I enjoy music; the lyrics are incidental. And if I understand them.. well, bonus!


By Blogger Deepak, at 28.7.05  

Thanks, I will get the pizza for the money like you suggest. I bought an entire pile of hindi cds before leaving India and was regretting not having picked MPTR. Now, I am glad

By Blogger Pooja, at 14.8.05  

The album is a disappointment except for 'Al Maddatha Maula...'. Its a great song, very similar to Zikr from Bose (by Shyam Benegal).
I feel Rahman should attempt a full fledged album of Sufi songs.
You can read about the movie: http://ajrvasuatbylanes.blogspot.com/2005/08/mangal-pandey-aamir.html

By Blogger Bylanes, at 18.8.05  

are you not missing the point here dude?? :)

zooming out also helps sometimes. give those close ups a break.


By Blogger Mridul, at 8.2.06  

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