Vikas Svarup’s acclaimed novel, Q and A has now been made into a motion picture titled Slumdog Millionaire. Directed by Danny Boyle, it stars Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, and Irrfan Khan in pivotal roles. Slumdog Millionaire is currently bagging countless awards at International Film Festivals, recently named best picture for the National Review Board and is rumoured to be a likely candidate for an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. However, this is not the only reason why this movie has become the talk of the town. A R Rahman, one of India’s most acclaimed music directors has composed the musical score of Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog Millionaire is Rahman’s most sought after international soundtrack since Shekar Kapoor’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age. While the first was a period piece, Slumdog Millionaire promises to be a contemporary rhythmic soundtrack that reflects the life and times of the movie’s protagonist, Jamal, who gets accused of murder once he wins a million dollars on a game show akin to Who wants to be a Millionaire (Kaun Banega Crorepati).
The album kick starts with O…Saaya which features vocals of International artist M.I.A (Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam). It is a fast-paced track, with loud drum-like beats that reflects the modern world, its hustle and bustle, the struggle to survive and the pursuit of happiness. M.I.A’s unique vocals give the track personality and edge.
Next is, Riots, a short, eerie and sinister instrumental piece. The drum-like beats are heard once again but are somewhat subdued this time round.
After ‘O…Saaya’ and ‘Riots’, comes Mausam-Escape. It starts of with a soft melody and one expects a lovely melodious tune to follow. As soon as the listener contemplates this, the track swiftly transforms into fast-paced mix of classical Indian and modern instrumentation. While, ‘Mausam’ is distinct from the first two tracks, it stills bears the pulsating feel of the album.
M.I.A’s international hit single, Paper Planes from her album Kala appears next. A unique track in its own right, the sounds of the gunshots, a trigger lock and a cash register clinging cleverly interwoven with the music and lyrics is a somewhat disturbing but nonetheless gives the song an interesting touch. The track is infamous for the controversies it generated, namely the perception of some, including MTV, that the track was too violent and thus censoring it accordingly. M.I.A defended the song by saying that the gunshots and cash register clinking was a political satire on the Iraq War demonstrating how the arms industry was cashing in on the war.
Despite the controversies the song was nominated for the Record of Year at the 51st Grammy Awards. Furthermore, the song went on to remixed and covered by artists such as Rihanna and made appearances in the soundtracks of Hancock, Pineapple Express and ultimately Slumdog Millionaire.
Paper Planes also appears as a remix version where the gunshots have been censored and replaced by harmless pop and clap sounds. The vocals in the remix are relatively overpowered by the music, however, the absence of the gunshots do make the song more appealing. Musically, the track retains its unique nature and does not succumb to commercialism.
After ‘Paper Planes’, the much talked about Ringa Ringa makes an appearance. Inspired by another somewhat controversial 90s chartbuster, ‘Choli Ke Peeche’, ‘Ringa Ringa’ features the original vocals of Ila Arun and Alka Yagnik. An obvious dance number to be picturised on Jamal’s love interest Latika, ‘Ringa Ringa’ is a typical Bollywood dance track that might give the international audience an insight into Bollywood musicals. As a musical track, its rather unimpressive as it is reiterates the musical styling of 90s Bollywood musicals in an era where Bollywood musicals have clearly evolved. Also, the innuendo in the lyrics are a far from what ‘Choli Ke Peeche’ had to offer. It is a surprise that ‘Ringa Ringa’ has been closely tied with ‘Choli Ke Peeche’ because but for the singers, the track is quite distinct from the yesteryear hit.
Then comes Liquid Dance, a brilliant amalgamation of classical vocals, modern and orchestral instrumentation. The vocals provided by Palakkad Siriram and Madhumita are fantastic. While Palakkand’s invoke a sense of urgency, Madhumita’s vocals are have a subtle devilish playfulness to it, giving one the impression of things not being what they seem to be.
Easily, the most soulful and beautiful track is Latika’s Theme. It is melodious and will make anyone’s heart soar. Suzanne D’Mello, who is usually heard in hip-hop, energetic and over-the-top numbers, merely hums a melodious tune throughout the track and the effect is magical. While being a soft and slow track, ‘Latika’s Theme’ has a lively quality to it and just before it ends there is a subtle air of sadness that sums up the whole piece beautifully.
Next up, is Bollywood favourite, Aaj Ki Raat from Farhan Akhtar’s Don, composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and sung by Sonu Nigam, Alisha Chinoi and Mahalakshmi Iyer. Selecting this track for the soundtrack was definitely clever because while ‘Ringa Ringa’ gives an idea about what a typical Bollywood track was like in the 90s, ‘Aaj Ki Raat’ gives an insight into Bollywood dance numbers of the 21st century. The fast-paced mysterious ‘Aaj Ki Raat’ keeps the rhythmic journey of Slumdog Millionaire alive.
Then comes Millionaire an entirely modern, short, instrumental number with a subtle touch of classical vocals by Madhumati. The latter commercial portions of the number have a very like game-show-like quality to it.
Blaaze and Tanvi Shah are up next with Gangsta Blues, a hip-hop, trendy and carefree number. It is definitely the lowest the point in the album. Blaaze who is usually quite entertaining (‘B ‘n’ B’ – Bunty aur Babli) fails to impress big time.
Next is Dreams on Fire by Suzanne D’Mello in a very Celine Dion meets Sunidhi Chauhan persona. It’s definitely her most credible rendition til date. Musically, the song is magnificent, especially the flute just before the song ends.
The best is saved for last as Jai Ho closes the album on a triumphant note. The immensely talented Sukhwinder Singh, who is well supported by Tanvi Shah and Mahalakshmi Iyer, sings it enthusiastically. The victoriously lively music will surely lift anyone’s spirits. ‘Jai Ho’ will surely make viewers sit through the rolling the credits at the end of Slumdog Millionaire. The track is a winner all the way and the will appeal to both Bollywood and Hollywood audiences alike.
A R Rahman made Bollywood’s top stories this year with releases like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, Ada, Yuvvraaj, Jodha Akbar, and Ghajini. With Slumdog Millionaire, he has surely made waves in the international musical arena. International critics are already hailing him to be Michael Jackson and John Williams rolled into one (Film.com). With Slumdog Millionaire, he has brilliantly demonstrated his ability to musically narrate a movie. Rahman can no longer be typecast as a Bollywood composer or even as a composer of Indian music. He has truly surpassed those boundaries with Slumdog Millionaire. Despite its shortcomings, namely ‘Gangsta Blues’ and ‘Ringa Ringa’, it’s still a tour de force of a score with ‘Jai Ho’ being the crowning glory of the soundtrack.