Musical Exploration: Ponniyin Selvan – I Tamil Music Review

The recently released movie “Chup” directed by Balki includes various elements that pay tribute to legendary director Guru Dutt. One notable homage is the use of songs by SD Burman from Dutt’s films “Pyaasa” and “Kagaz Ke Phool”. One unforgettable sound from the movie, which was also featured in its promos, is a cricket chirp-ish wooden percussion from the song “Jaane Kya Tune Kahi”. It’s quite remarkable that this instrument, which hasn’t been heard in mainstream music for a long time, finds its way into two unrelated movies around the same time. Though I’m not certain about the exact instrument, it could be Chinese temple blocks or something similar to the one shown in this song.

Another film that features the same percussion is “Ponniyin Selvan” in the backdrop of my favorite song, “Alaikadal”. Composer A R Rahman seems to have drawn inspiration from traditional boat songs for the melody, as the song is pictured on the character Poonguzhali, who is a boat woman. Rahman’s melancholic yet occasionally happy melody perfectly complements Siva Ananth’s lyrics. Antara Nandy, a debutante (I believe), delivers an exceptional performance, and the understated backdrop, consisting mainly of percussion, Lydia Stankulova’s harp, and subtle strings, adds to the song’s atmospheric feel.

The album also includes another song focused on water/boat themes titled “Sol”. The arrangements of this song are full of sounds reminiscent of rowing and bubbles. The singer, Rakshita Suresh (credited for multiple tracks), seems to almost mimic the sound of bubbles in her delivery. The song is lovely and has a charming retro feel due to the humming that alternates between the foreground and background.

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Moving on to “Raatchasa Maamaney”, a song dominated by percussion and driven by the energetic performances of Shreya Ghoshal, Palakkad Sreeram, and Mahesh Vinayakram. Kabilan’s lyrics are flawlessly rendered by Ghoshal, with Palakkad Sreeram and Mahesh Vinayakram providing fittingly “demonic” chants. The song features a distinct change in the instruments used to accompany the female and male portions, with the lead percussion for Ghoshal’s segments resembling a khol. Additionally, the kids’ chorus that accompanies Ghoshal in both her verses adds a special touch. Towards the end of the song, there’s a frenzied give-and-take between Sreeram and Mahesh, who showcase their skills in konnakol, vocalization of percussion. This explains why Rahman chose two percussionists as male vocalists. Interestingly, a song that came to mind while listening to this track was not by Rahman but by Anu Malik – “O Re Kanchi” from the film “Ashoka”.

“Devaralan Attam” begins with a soulful flute prelude by Kamalakar, creating a contrasting introduction to the lively and playful track that follows. This song is said to depict a dance drama and features a dialogue between Krishna and Kamsa. Shreya Ghoshal shines once again, delivering a flawless rendition of Kabilan’s lines, while Palakkad Sreeram and Mahesh Vinayakram provide the “demonic” chants. The song’s percussion-driven nature features a notable change in instruments accompanying the female and male portions. The lead percussion for Ghoshal’s segments sounds like a khol, and the kids’ chorus that accompanies her adds to the track’s appeal.

The album’s weakest track is “Chola Chola”, which comes across as a standard heroic anthem. However, lyricist Ilango Krishnan deserves credit for adapting Kalki’s prose effectively.

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Overall, “Ponniyin Selvan” features some of the best songs A R Rahman has produced for Mani Ratnam in recent times. I’m excited to see how these songs are utilized in the film and hope that there are more background tracks like the ones mentioned here.

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