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Monday, May 30, 2005

[Song Watch] Roja

Roja by Mani Ratnam, starring Arvind Swamy & Madhubala.

Many people, including yours truly, were awestruck when we first saw the song on Independence Day, 1992. DD telecast this song, which had a sound that was *totally* never heard before and had 'ad'ish tinge to it. I still remember where i was when i first heard that song, and all the images are etched like 'pasumarathaani', heard the song couple of more times that day and was like 'IR rocks' :-D. Yes, at that time IR did.

Little did i know that the music director (ARR) would take the cherished spot in millions of hearts with his lilting and soulful music.

ARR's Roja has been included in TIME Magazine's Best SoundTracks of All Time (Thanks Ganesh for breaking the news :-)

I decided, i'd give the other planned reviews a short-circuit and write about Roja instead.

Chinna Chinna Aasai - Minmini

Opens with a cool flute/guitar combo that sets the 'youth' in you jumping to the cute rhythm. This opening reminds you of jingles in those days. (by ARR ofcourse). Minmini opens the song (used to sound like younger day Janaki) nicely picturised, awesome lyrics.

The chimes of the bell are cute.

Interlude has a nice violin like instrument belting out folk notes. Listen to 1.55-1.58 -it simply has a 60's musical touch to the flute.

The stanza is simple, with flute & chords doing a stellar job of conveying the joy of the young girl. Before you know, the stanza is over and you end up at chinna chinna

Second interlude has 'dandiya' to setup the rhythm and our man ARR adorning filling in with a nice alaap...what a dreamy simplicity to it !

The second stanza is no different from the first. The beauty of the song is its recording. I don't know what it is called 'technically'. But, you hear the 'overlap' of minmini's voice i.e like an echo effect. This produces a 'dreamy' texture to the voice. Since ARR started using this mechanism, it has since been commonly followed.

Overall nice and cute song, but broke traditions & set the stage for announcing the new genius.

For the raga lovers, nothing fanciful found...notes of Harikambhoji :-)

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Kadhal Rojave - S.P.B

A melancholic hum of melody in raga 'Desh' starts the song. The 'bass' guitar sets the 'serious'ness of the mood. The sounds of the instruments were (are) all new. The 'kaapi'/'desh' combo of the tune is excellently intonated by SPB the master. The tabla thrown in is clearly reminiscent of the 'Loy Mendosa' days.

Naveen on flute is so loveable in the interlude. With the hum and flute combo improvising on the initial intro, the stage for the first stanza is set. The soulful rendition by SPB is out of the world and the chords (power chords one should say) ooze melody & do a wonderful job of conveying the sadness.

Second interlude is the same as the intro music. This was actually a style that ARR used till 97-98 i.e. the intro piece being developed upon as the second interlude. He still does that occasionally.

Beautiful, top-class melody spoke of ARR's abilities.

On a related note, there was a imitation of this song, ('Tere liye janam', Ajay Devgan) which imitates every aspect of the song, including ragas, instruments, picturization etc.

Rating 5 out of 5

Pudhu Vellai Mazhai - Unni Menon, Sujatha

A battalion of talent, that had been ignored erstwhile, was resurrected at the advent of ARR. The classic example was that of Sujatha. She had debuted long time back but never clicked and always shadowed/left behind by Chitra.

These had a neo-age feeling to it. It reminded one of the opening music of the tv version of writer Sujatha's 'Geno' (Nee Nila Naan Sibi anyone ?). The use of instruments conveys perfectly the ambience and location of the song and would be picturized superbly well.

Sujatha opens the song with pudhu vellai mazhai Unni joins in for the duet. nadhiye nee takes the song to a different plane before bringing it back to the opening of the song.

The interlude continues its work on the lovely sounds. Lyrics have to be noted here.

male : penn illadha oorile adi aan poo kaetpadhillai
female : penn illadha oorile kodi dhaan poo poopadhillai

male : men don't buy flowers in a place that has no women
female : in a place that has no women, flowers don't bloom

As remarked since, Vairamuthu and ARR have worked towards bringing some 'sanity' in the quality & lyrics they use. I would'nt label them as 'leaders of the lyrics revolution' but they are at the fore-front.

The stanzas are simply superb. All you have to do is close your eyes and you will feel like in you are in some sci-fi mission with a therapeutic audio massage ;)

Everytime it snows in this area, this song comes to ones mind :-)

The song has kAnada flavor to it. Excellently done.

Rating 4.5 out of 5

Thamizha Thamizha - Hariharan

The voice till then heard on Bajaj ads all over India, had now a public face to it :-) Hari it was.

Everytime i listen to this song, i get goose bumps. The way the song fires you up is unbelievable. It is only ARR, that can move from a pallavi that sounds like a lullaby to a patriotic cry and rousing one's senses. Lyrics by vairamthu have to be noted yet again.

Chords are out-of-the-world . The violin piece at 2.02-2.05 is so cute as if to to singing to a child. That section alone clinches the song for me ;)

It can be counted to be one of the best emotion-evoking songs of ARR (also Ruk Jah from Bombay)

Rating 4.6 out of 5

Rukkumani - SPB & Chitra

This song is ample show case of ARR's rhythm skills. The amazing change of pace from the roll of drums to simple claps and then back to the neck-breaking pace is excellent.

The tune of the song itself is very simple and the stanzas don't live upto the promise of the pallavi. The song's public relation is carried out entirely by the foot-tapping the nature of the song and thankfully SPB & Chitra do a good job of the song.

The tabla piece in the second interlude was a pre-cursor to, what we have now come to know of as ARR's standard experiments with rhythm. (like Chikku bukku, Thillanna etc)

Interestingly enough, this song became the chart-buster when Roja was released in Hindi. Well, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder apparently.

Rating 3.9 out of 5

Chinna Chinna Aasai (Short version) - Minmini

The only thing different from the longer version of the song is intro 'nadhaswaram' piece which is superbly done in kalyani to merge with the mainstream song.

Rating 4.5 out of 5

The album paved way for region-neutral music i.e. the same tune appeals to 'masses' from all over the country as opposed to specific treatment in the past. It brought new direction the Indian music scene. All music directors changed their style, reluctantly though, to not be left-behind by the new phenomenon.

Looking at where we are right now, almost 13 years from the day ARR surfaced on the celluloid map, he has rightfully annexed the title of 'The Emperor' of the Indian film music for the past decade. Only time will tell how/whether ARR can keep reinventing himself to live up to the challenges of the ever changing cine world.

One only hopes that he gets to spend more time in the Tamil cine industry and bring us more haunting melodies for many more years to come.

Who would not want to have Roja in their collection ?
Overall Rating 4.5 out of 5


Anonymous said...

Roja did everything for ARR.. but there was disappointment when everybody started saying that he was using the same style in the other movies like puthiya mugam, thiruda thiruda... to name a few. But he proved the critics wrong by giving hits after hits..

Thumbs up for ARR!!


In love with Assidy said...

fantastic review!

Arvind said...


I will reserve the comments about oft repeated accusation against ARR's repeat-music to later. It deserves a separate blog ;)

Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

ARR changed the face of Indian film music starting with his tunes in Roja. After Roja, there were numerous attempts by other music directors to produce something similar or comparative which in my opinion is a compliment to ARR's brand of music. Even today, we can see so many songs which sometimes can be mistaken for ARR's brand of music if not given a ear full.
Accusations of being repetitive can hit any music director, not even maestroes such as Illayaraja are spared. Each has his unique style of composition and to be able to churn out hits consistently is the mark of a genius.

One other song which stirred similar emotions as Roja was the "Vande Mataram" which he composed in 1997.

We will hopefully see many more hits and many more reviews to follow on your blog.


Arvind said...


Can't agree with you more more !

Shiva, Aishwarya : Thanks for your comments

dinesh said...


Very nice review ! You are right about the "totally unheard of sounds" part. For a long time, by sheer superiority of talent, IR was holding the tamil music fort. The baton had to wait for the right hands. ARR'S music has the ability to transcend languages and cultures ! He has a natural feel for different kinds of music and the brilliance in recording and sound quality happened only after ARR ! Lucky us !

dinesh said...


I am sure you'd have listened to "Kaadhal". I felt it was the most promising start by a music director since "Roja". Minnale was awesome too..but I thought kaadhal was one step better ! How about a review for kaadhal ? :)

Arvind said...


Lucky us indeed !, can't agree with you more on that. !

Regarding the music review request, i hate to admit that my review management system is not yet in place...(can you pass the word around for opensource change request management system ;) )

Will put one in place to keep track of the review requests.

:-) Thanks for the comments and keep them coming.


Subha said...

awesome review! Your observations are spot-on and enlightening..:) For someone who doesn't pay too much attention to instruments, your review made me go back and listen to the songs again keeping in mind what you've written...:)

Arvind said...


Thank you !

enlightened :-) ...too much philosophy huhh ?

Adi said...

Thank you for sharing.
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kumars knk said...

Thank you for sharing.
watch telugu movies