Nov 5, 2002

OK, so Saathiya is out and is not making too much of an impact. I've always had a bad feeling about it right from the word go. Or rather from the word "Saathiya". I didn't quite like that, especially for a remake of something beautifully titled Alaipayuthé, which for many Tamilians is very familiar, being the name of a famous krithi composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subbier as a paean to Lord Krishna.
Alaipayuthé had some great songs, but hearing that most songs in Saathiya were to be remade from the original, I didn't think it was going to be a good idea, based purely on past experience. I can't think of too many songs that scored well in remakes, in either South to North or vice versa. It's usually because the lyrics don't gel at all. If the songs of Bombay, Roja did well, they were probably because the lyrics didn't at least take away from the music. But in Saathiya, that's exactly what seems to happen. And what's worse, it happens to the cult Pachai Niramé. Believe me, this is a great song! And to know why, one needs to watch the song along with hearing it. It is probably one of the best songs *ever* filmed, with Mani Ratnam's trademark slow-motion choreography, the amazing visual treat swaying in step to some stunningly creative lyrics by Vairamuthu embellishing the music. It simply makes you rave, really (and knowing what the lyrics mean makes a huge difference).
But the Gulzar-ShaadAli-SonuNigam replacement is a poor one, especially to one who has cherished the original. It sort of breaks one's heart and one never really recovers from then. Stumbling onto Adnan Sami's re-mess of Kaadhal Sadugudu and a few sputters here and there. Interestingly, a host of new singers will be seen in the credit lists, which always has been a commendable aspect of Rahman's work. Sadhana Sargam (whose Snehithané in the original Tamil is also quite remarkable for the good pronunciation she achieved) is the lead female singer in this album. But the lyrics, aah, they're as perfect as a square peg in a circular hole: what's more, they give one the prickly feeling.
And then from nowhere, you hear a saarangi play amidst Bhojpuri words sung by Sadhana Sargam and Madhushree. The first thought is that the wrong song landed onto the playlist, a copying error. It is a very conventional Hindi track, more fittingly something that makes one feel like Farooque Sheikh amidst the Umrao Jaan sets with the hookah bubbling while richly sequinned skirts twirl to Kathak moves. How can Naina Milaiké ever come out of the synth-saturated studios of Rahman? Well, it has. When you get used to listening to Rahman (at least in my case) you look out for the interesting interlude, the teasing but catching innovation. There is nothing novel about the orchestration of Naina Milaiké. But that is new for Rahman, and it went on to add weight to my remake-with-care thesis: this is not one from the original obviously, and hence it scores. I cannot for the world of me think where this fits in with the urban setting of the film, but this is the song I'd recommend. Saathiya is not the album to convert non-admirers with, but Naina Milaike may serve as a welcome sign to the fan that the magic and variety still exist.

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