Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya


Prologue: A while ago, Visitor asked me if I could post my take on VTV. Given that Visitor is extremely hard to refuse ;-), this is the fulfillment of my solemn promise –  a review of the Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya album, the latter, crafted ever so carefully by the wizard of Indian music – A R Rahman.  @Visitor, this one’s for you! 🙂

I want to buy a guitar.
Drive down to the shores of a beach, somewhere far, far away.
Strum the guitar, till the sun sets.
Watch the moonlight making silver patterns on the dark sea.
All the while, singing “Aaromaleee…”

These were probably the first clear thoughts that I got, after listening to this song. Someone told me “Aaromale” was close to Led Zeppelin-from-Kerala. Well, I’m not an expert on Led (and core fans would probably consider this comparison a sacrilege?!)… however, “Aaromale” is different, and really good at being so.

The song is a rocksy-bluesy alternative to Malayalees who’ve wanted to find a new-age soul in music. And that soul hits you, around 2 minutes 5 seconds into the song, when Alphonse’s husky crooning of Aaromale leads you into a venerable chorus of “Swasthi, swasthi, sumuhoortham, sumangali bhava manavaatti“. Within seconds, the chant transports you into the hallowed portals of a church, and the song becomes a tormented, rebellious soul’s prayer of love.

I won’t say the song is a classic. It is a daring, different attempt, and as a musician, ARR pulls a rabbit out of his hat. I’m not certain how many non-Malayalees will embrace it completely – the lyrics are integral to the song, and not understanding it may dilute the impression on the listener.

There is another (strange) aspect to Aaromale. Typically ARR’s songs take much listening to, for a true discovery of the song’s potential. I liked Aaromale in the 2nd and 3rd hearing, which is too soon by the usual standard. It changed to intense obsession in even a shorter while, as I had it on loop for 2-3 days.

And then I moved on to the other songs. I even went to the extent of wondering if Aaromale was just a phase.

But then, when I came back to it, the visuals did too and the crooning was back in my head. I realized that I may not always have an Aaromale frame of mind, but when I do want to listen to it, it would be to experience that feeling of pathos mixed with heady exhilaration.

The second surprise of the album is Mannipaaya. It’s the quintessential ARR romantic song ;). You never get to know what the song is when you hear it for the first time. Infact, it just appears deceivingly lowkey, esp. because it is difficult to hum the first few times. You wonder what’s so great about a romantic number that Shreya Ghoshal is singing. But wait, ARR sings it too, right?

So you listen to it a couple of times (after all, he’d have some reason for singing just that one song, right?!). And then… the brilliance of the maestro finally dawns on you, and you’re left with a side-sloped grin, grudgingly admitting to yourself that you underestimated, and he tricked you into it again.

For many people, Mannipaaya is the pick of the album. For me, it rates next to “Munbe Vaa” from SOK, and “Tu Bin Bataye” from RDB – even though the emotion of love explored in the song, is vastly different from these two.

Music-wise, ARR breaks the traditional charanam-pallavi mode, and creates a rhapsody of instruments and vocals, and your keen ear is left wondering what started when and how it all fits together, so deceptively! Sheer brilliance.

I found the lyrics of the song, a little too blasé – they were intended to convey the poetry of romance, but do it overtly, if you know what I mean. Somehow the phrases lack that heart-tugging quality in the Munbe Vaa and Tu Bin Bataye (or even Yakkai Thiri) – and that is the only aspect of the whole song that I felt cheated about.

Talking about the two songs above, reminds me, that my favorite Naresh Iyer features in the album. Kannukkul Kannai is a short racy number (3 min 53 sec), and just for featuring Naresh, a big yay to ARR. This is one guy I’ve really wanted to hear much more of, but somehow, nothing much has graced my ears post his Munbe Vaa, Innisai, and Roobaroos. It would have been nice to hear another version of Mannipaaya with Naresh and Shreya, but what the hell – since ARR does it himself, I forgive him ;).

What about the KK track? It gives me the kind of urgency that some of the tracks in Boys did. Pulsating (techno) beats, and a quality of “there’s something to be done very soon”. It is again, a different attempt – but probably the lesser known ones out of the album. And is that a violin or a cello belting out staccato sounds? *Eyes widen as the significance of this sinks in*.

“Helllooooo?”…”Yooo?”…”Hosanna

Yeah, I’m switching tracks to another song with a rather obvious Church influence. This song could easily have been done in the “Ale Ale” setting from Boys: dreamy sequence, flowers, girl dressed in a pretty-fairy like dress. Add a nice group of fairies to do the background dance to the tune of the chorus. And then put in Siddharth. *Swoons and goes off into a reverie*….

….Okay, back to acting my age.

Hosanna is a good song and achieves an unexpected marriage of two entirely different experiences – the sanctity of the church and the purity of love.  The last (and only) time I felt this was possible was when I heard “Jaana suno, hum tumpe marte he” from Khamoshi.

But, but wait. Have you been misled into thinking that you’ve already heard about my favorite from the VTV album?
If so, you’re SO WRONG!
*Waits for the initial shock to subside* …
… (*chuckles* :D)

Yes. Swallow this: Despite Aaromale, despite Mannipaaya, despite Hosanna, I’ve still gone and fallen in love with an unexpected song from the lot of VTV. Well, perhaps the drama I’m trying to create is unnecessary, but atleast I for one, was surprised by my choice.

The pick of the album for me is “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya” by Karthik.

Starting off with a strum, and almost a wispy, recital of words “Oone, uyire, unakkaaka thudithen, vinmeeney“, Karthik breathes an ethereal quality into this piece that’s almost impossible to place. The song is just out-of-this-world.

Close your eyes and listen to ARR developing the layers that bubble in the background with Karthik’s voice till they melt with his, and you know why. The notes go up and down in waves, and just when you’re thinking it’s reached a place from where it cannot return, out comes an unpredictable twist, and you’re left with your eyebrows an inch higher than usual.

Karthik, the singer, is one of ARR’s BEST finds – and another favorite of mine. Incredibly diverse and rich vocals, he’s shown himself as capable of a wide spectrum, from the “Enakku Oru Girlfriend” to “Oru Maalai” to “Ale Ale” to “Unpaarvayil/Niluvadhamu”. And now this. Top Class!

The VTV album has two other tracks – Anbil and Omana Penne. Both are pretty popular, and interesting in their own way, but for me, they come below the 5 above, and so I don’t attempt anything beyond a mention.

My rating for the album overall? Given that I feel extremely satiated (and have Visitor to thank for!! *beeg smiles* :D), I would give this a 4.25. (Warning: Rating is calculated after extensive research, regression and quantitative arithmetic jugglery, so don’t dare question me !!… ;))

What a delightful experience!!

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19 thoughts on “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya

  1. “Aaromale…..” is what it makes ARR and the rest! Title track is a gem. Expected a bit more about “Omana Penne”, which too is sweet and melodious and that Malayalam part is good. 🙂

    Thumbs Up and High five for the rating!

    • @Emms: Well, Omana Penne is nice on the ears for sure, and I know some people who really like that track. For me, it isn’t going to be one that’s on an endless loop, for sure – because I felt the other tracks were better. I was planning to write about it though, till it struck me that if I continued, the post would end up looking like the script of VTV 😉

  2. This is one of my favorite things… getting a high out reading reviews, about favorite stuff, by favorite people.

    I got my high…

    🙂 Thank you Shikha.

    PS: Would a movie review follow? 😉

    • @Dhanya: Check it out – hopefully you’ll like it 🙂 and at worst be intrigued by it ;). I had to be goaded by many many people, and finally Visitor actually *sent* me the songs, to get me to listen to it – and I’m ever so thankful :D.

  3. Awesome writing!!! I found reading your review more enjoyable that listening to VTV tracks.
    Personally I found VTV tracks so bland that it never reached my iPod! 🙂 (sacrilege?)

    • @Ajay: Naaah! Having one’s own opinion is never sacrilege – after all, if there’s one thing that has the potential to draw all kinds of extreme opinions, it is music, and when you have a composer like ARR experimenting..well, I am completely accepting of your view on it..hehe ;). And oh, thanks much! … I’m v happy that I managed to entertain, even if VTV doesn’t sell 😉

  4. Someone told me about this movie… searched on net and landed on this blog.. downloaded the songs.. and let me tell you, i was mesmerized.. watched the entire movie with subtitles and totally loved it!! The song which comes at the end, already listened to it hundred times over..

    • @Ashwin: *Sigh*, sorry my reply comes so late. I have no idea how I missed your reply :(.

      I watched the movie only recently. Do I need to tell you? I loved it too. Not just loved it, but loved it to watch it multiple times, and then have been in this phase where I’ve been listening to only these songs all over again. Rahman Rocks.

    • @Mathangi: What a lovely name. “Mathangi”. It just evokes some beautiful visuals in my mind :).

      And oh, thank you!! That’s quite a compliment, but I personally think the songs rock ;).

  5. Ok that was an amazing review…
    though i personally feel that the title song is the most complicated song but cannot match the emotional high that one achieves with aaromale….

    • @Eco: Thanks much :). Yep, that’s true. Aaromale can definitely make you want to sit atop a hill, and croon away to glory. Atleast it does make me feel that way :D.

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