One of the tunes in Sridevi’s 300th film, Mom, which features towards the tail end of the album by AR Rahman, is a Patiala gharana style tappa, Be nazaara, and has been rendered by Sudeep Jaipurwala. It opens with a drone on the tanpura paired with synth and later with a thavil and violin, as Jaipurwala puts forth a complex construction of notes to spinning speed, typical of this artform. Tappa was usually sung in female voices, mostly by courtesans, as outpourings of a lover’s heart. Be nazaara is a Shori Miyan tappa in raag Desh and Jaipurwala’s voice rarely rises above a gentle rumble and yet leaves its mark. It isn’t often that tappa gayaki, in the classical sense of the word and not its folk form, makes it to a Bollywood film. The lyrics and composition are traditional and can’t be credited to Rahman but he alters the arrangements and makes the overall sound more modern and suited to a fine background store.
Mom can be called an experimental album by Rahman. These seven tracks, arguably post-midnight recording sessions in his Chennai studio, see the composer refrain from the existing style of notemaking and deliver interesting, but at times, fragmented pieces.
The album opens with O sona, where a piano and acoustic guitar prelude merges with a lullaby style, beginning in Rahman’s voice that soars along a strong string section. It’s a pleasant composition but Rahman’s voice, which sounds lovely when the it flies off to the high pitch, is problematic in the bass notes. Shashaa Tirupati accompanies him in a few lines. A thin, soft, whispery voice, its USP is its training and singing of difficult notes with much ease.
She finds her feet beautifully in Chal kahin. The composition opens with the sound of flowing water that merges with keys sans any percussion. The chord changes and so does the pace, making the piece stirring. But then comes the percussion for a few seconds and one wonders why. The follow-up flute interlude and Trupathi’s voice do wonders post this, merging pain and joy in a complicated structure of notes.
Kooke kawn opens in Sukhwinder Singh’s rousing voice as he attempts his well-known Punjabi folk format, but Rahman does not merge this with sleek pop rhythms. Instead he uses dhol, elements of Ishq bina from Taal’s tune and voices of Blaaze and Suzanne D’Mello to create a track, which is way too scattered and dissappointing. Raakh baakhi in Jonita Gandhi’s voice is another peculiar piece. One can listen to a lot of work that has been put in in terms of heavy and layered orchestration, but the result isn’t impressive. Freaking Life is an EDM track paired with bubble gum pop dealing with teenage angst. It thrums along Rianjali, Rajkumari and Suzanne D’Mello’s voices and ends up being a flat composition rich in orchestration.
Muafi mushqil is an experiment that works. It’s an acapella piece with Darshana’s operatic voice layered really well. The instruments join in the middle of the piece in a glorious attempt by Rahman, which is embedded somewhere in the middle of the album.
Mom isn’t Rahman’s finest. It is definitely a very different one though. Different is good. Different is interesting. Some of it will also get familiar with time, while some of it will live only in the oblivion. But the fact that there is a composer who has the gall to try exploring the unchartered territory, is commendable.