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In the past A.R. Rahman has worked on international collaborations but other than the fact that his soundtracks make big news, they haven't been known much amongst the Indian audience. This is the first time ever that one is hearing a lot about this project of his because a) it has been set in India, b) all the actors in the film are Indians, c) the film is getting a mainstream release and d) there are awards and more awards that are coming the way of not just the film but also the music. A score which was relatively unknown till a few months back, has certainly become big due to which one picks up the CD of Slumdog Millionaire with great expectations.
This one is not just a versatile album but also a teasing one, as can be witnessed from the opening number 'Ringa Ringa' which is based on the the rhythm of 'Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai'. Set in a brothel, 'Ringa Ringa' hardly leaves anything to imagination and one wonders that if not for an A-grade project set-up as that of Slumdog Millionaire, the song would possibly have not gone beyond the censors. In the league of 'Choli Ke Peeche' [Khalnayak] and 'Mujhko Raana Ji Maaf Karna' [Karan Johar], 'Ringa Ringa' is as raunchy as it gets.
'Jai Ho' is the flagship number of Slumdog Millionaire and Subhash Ghai may certainly have been cursing his luck that he allowed this superb track from Yuvvraaj to be handed over to Slumdog Millionaire after he felt that it didn't suit the mood of his own film. Boasting of an amazing mix of melody and rhythm, 'Jai Ho' remains Indian at heart and is instantly catchy. No wonder, it is the lone promotional song of the film and also sees a music video being dedicated to it. Gulzar saab celebrates the spirit of love and life with 'Jai Ho' and infuses enough power in it that justifies all the nominations it is receiving today.
A background theme piece that should help speed up the pace of Slumdog Millionaire with the sheer energy it brings with it, 'O Saya' has an African sound to it. Heavy on orchestra, 'O Saaya' moves at a fast paced and is the kind that has to be heard on a high volume on a good music system to get the right effects. A few theme pieces follow next with 'Riots' getting the scare factor on. Years back, Rahman had composed 'Bombay Theme' in Mani Ratnam's Bombay and here in Slumdog Millionaire he makes it dark and depressing all over again.
On the other hand, 'Mausam - Escape' is mainly a fusion piece that amalgamates Indian and Western classical. A track which takes has quite some range to it with the kind of ups and downs that it sees; it should heighten the impact of the narrative. Same is the case with 'Liquid Dance' which lasts for three minutes and has unpredictability written all over it. Yet another exciting piece that makes you check out the film to know how exactly is it placed in the film.
What makes for one of the most beautiful theme pieces in Slumdog Millionaire is that of the leading lady Latika though. Titled 'Latika's Theme', you want this piece to go on for longer than it's three minute duration due to the lively manner in which it unfolds. From being lively, the mood shifts to that of euphoric with the track 'Millionaire' coming next. With a hint of 'Jai Ho' to it, it is a club track that you could play out loud and jive along with all the fancy lights surrounding you.
'Gangsta Blues' is a haunting yet intriguing number that reminds one of the soundtrack of lesser known film Snip which was made close to a decade back. However, though not much is remembered of Snip today, Rahman ensures that his 'Gangsta Blues' would be identified well by those who have been exposed to this genre of music, courtesy MTV and Channel V! The concluding track 'Dreams On Fire' is a soft and sensitive number and Rahman shows once again that why he is a preferred choice for many international filmmakers!
It would certainly have been the Rahman factor that would have prompted Alka Yagnik to come behind the mike for a number like 'Ringa Ringa'. Even though she has sworn off singing any number that has a hint of vulgarity to it, Alka Yagnik doesn't mind going ahead with 'Ringa Ringa' and comes up with good results all over again in company of her 'Choli Ke Peeche' partner Ila Arun.
Sukhwinder Singh is energetic and effortlessly goes ahead rendering 'Jai Ho' where he is accompanied by Tanvi Shah, Mahalaxmi Iyer and Vijay Prakash. The singer can comfortably add on another big chartbuster to his name. Rahman himself comes behind the mike for 'O Saaya' along with M.I.A and sings as per the mood and setting of the situation in which it is placed.
One of the most difficult tasks behind the mike is to get the right pitch on when all that you are required to do is hum throughout. Suzanne does it well as the crooner for 'Latika's Theme' and deserves applause for the way she approaches the three minute long piece and keeps it all subtle yet so full of impact. For the English number 'Dreams On Fire', she is yet again in her elements and goes about singing it the way a girl would in an up market night club with dim lights around and no disturbance whatsoever. On the other hand, Blaaze and Tanvi Shah are just so right into the groove for 'Gangsta Blues' which has to be one of the very few 'gangsta' genre of tracks that have been composed by an Indian composer.
Slumdog Millionaire is an excellent album that deserves all the applause and accolades it has been collecting internationally. Basically, a theme album with most of the tracks being background pieces, it never makes you miss the need of any spoken words for most of its duration. And even for those who look want their music to have full song and dance routines, there are numbers like 'Jai Ho' and 'Ringa Ringa' to keep them entertained. Play this one on for a long ride you would certainly enjoy the sheer variety that comes along with it!