Ok, let me be clear. Disappointing only because this is Mani/Rahman/Gulzar. Disappointing in the same sense as Guru's music was a disappointment. After all, a Mani/Rahman album has no business having "Ek lo ek muft" and "Baazi laga" in it. Then again, every other song except those two were thoroughly deserving of being there. It is somewhat similar with Raavan too. I must say, though, that this is just the first day impressions. Chances are that a week from now I'll be posting "what was I thinking? Raavan! disappointing?"
Anyway, here is a mini-review.. just some thoughts on the songs...
1) Beera Beera : Fabulous song! The shortest song in the album, but carries the maximum punch. They thought of putting an "african" song for a maoist's introduction! well, maybe the "jungle" connection is there. The reason I call it "african" is because if I filter the lyrics and pretend that I am not listening to something in Hindi I can clearly hear something from one of the south african countries. :) The vocals by Mustafa Kutoane add so much to the song. Can't wait to hear this in ARR's voice in Tamil.
2) Behne De : Starts with a background of music that feels just heavenly. And then Karthik starts singing. wow! pretty good soft, slowish romantic song. The only drawback, if you can call it that, is that it seems to follow pretty much standard ARR soft song script. Makes me think of Bhoola Tujhe .But then that's not a bad thing. Also, I have absolutely no doubt that when I listen to it with more attention, I'll find little instrumental/melodic gems throughout that will be completely uniquely of this song. This IS the sort of song that ARR seems to "polish" a lot to satiate his thirst for innovation.
3) Thok De Killi : This is the "Ek lo ek muft" of this album. perhaps better than that, but still doesn't work for me at all. At least not till now. I noticed some instrumental turns etc that were engaging but overall this is what the cliche "situational song, will work in the movie" is used for. The song talks about this group (maoists) talking about "Dilli" thinking them as "pichhda huaa" etc. I don't see how something like this will work in the form of a song. Then again, perhaps a better song would've made it work. After all, "Chale Chalo" is such an anachronism for the time in which it is set in, yet it works beautifully because it is such a great song. This is just disappointing. I don't see it improving even in Tamil, but I hope it surprises me.
4) Ranjha Ranjha : Do I like this so much because it comes right after Thok De Killi? :) I don't know why, but I find it really seductive. Not that it is terribly original, just like Behne De. Reminds me of Taal's songs. Something in between "Ramta jogi" and "Kahin aag lage". And from recent songs, very reminiscent of Blue's "Yaar mila tha". It has something to do with the structure (female and male voices alternating... conversing in the song), but it's not just. There is something to do with the way rhythm seems just that bit off-expected lines and the way words seem to seem to follow the contours of the rhythm. Needless to say, Rekha Bhardwaj gives the song her own unique flavor. And it is always a pleasure to hear Javed Ali's silk-smooth vocals. As for my 'not terribly original' comment, that doesn't apply to the instrumentals going on here. ARR seems to be having a lot of fun playing around with things in this song. Then again, even THAT isn't unexpected. He can't help it. :D Good for us, I say! :)
5) Khili Re : Remember what ARR did to Ghazals in Tehzeeb? The singer is singing a perfectly "Ghazalish" Ghazal and ARR just adds modern instruments in the background that seemed so awkward in the first hearing. It definitely grew on me later and I actually liked what he had tried to do there. I think this is exactly the case here. Try to filter the instruments, and this seems another of his devotional melodious numbers that I have a weakness for. "Man mohana" didn't engage a lot of people but I thought it was really amazing. I could never resist its charm even though it is really such a simple bhajan. That is also true for "O paalanhaare". Trouble is, the instruments are doing something completely different here. This is ARR's Tehzeeb moment in this album, though much more subtle than that album. What that does is it makes the song seem ok, but there seems something awkward about it, something amiss. That's why what I think as of now is that it is 'sweet, but not nice enough'. However, I think there is a very good chance that this one is going to grow on me later. As of right now, the rating is..
6) Kata Kata : The start is absolutely wow! It is almost as catchy as Beera Beera! I have caught myself singing the first line of this song almost as much as Beera Beera since I heard the samples for the first time 3-4 days ago. But then, it sort of derails. And I suspect it has a lot to do with the lyrics here. Not the meaning of the words, per se, but the flow. Something tells me that this one was composed with Tamil lyrics first and they just couldn't do a good enough job of writing lyrics in Hindi that'd have gelled well with the flow of the song. If that's the case, this will gain a lot from a hearing in Tamil. in any case, i have noticed that I don't particularly care for hindi songs with "aunty ji chorus" :D Basically all the wedding type songs where some women are teasing the bride/groom. There is something about it that I don't like. But this only happens in hindi. I can think of a lot of tamil songs that haven't been dubbed in hindi which have similar chorus but I don't mind that at all. I am really hopeful that this song will gain a lot in its Tamil version. Like I said, overall, the rhythm is really, really good/catchy. It might catch on with junta. then again, it seems that this will be picturized like Ek lo ek muft, with the whole village dancing around (Mani seems to like this a lot). I don't see that being particularly junta-entrancing. Hopefully I'm wrong.
So, that's the first-day impressions. The reason i said it is disappointing is because one of the songs is just a complete let-down and two others are, as of now, not Mani/Rahman level. While the other three are really good, I think the sum of Barso re megha, Tere Bina, Ae Hairate, Jaage Hain and Mayya Mayya has to be higher than these. AND Guru wasn't even close to being one of ARR/Mani's best albums. So....