99 Songs: An Oscar & Grammy-Winner Launches His Latest Bollywood Endeavor

Film poster for 99 Songs.
Film poster for 99 Songs.

Is it an ode to the global music community or the life story of the Mozart of Madras: Allarakha Rahman?

A.R. Rahman is an Indian film composer, record producer, singer, and songwriter who works predominantly in Tamil and Hindi films. In 2010, he was awarded the  Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award. He has won an Oscar, six National Film Awards, two Academy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, fifteen Filmfare Awards, and seventeen Filmfare Awards South. His first soundtrack, for Roja, was listed on Time’s all-time “10 Best Soundtracks” in 2005.  He is hailed as one of the world’s great living composers in any medium.

I can understand that such a musical genius with a wide global network would like to share his story with his fans and other actors. When I hear his songs: Jai Ho, Chhaiya Chhaiya, Dil hai Chhota Sa, Tu Hi Rai, Ae Ajnabi, O Ri Chhori, and more…my heart skips a beat.

Vande Mataram, an album of original compositions released for India’s 50th anniversary of its independence in 1997 brings me back to our motherland. A.R. Rahman’s amazing repertoire of Carnatic Music, Western, Folk, Hindustani Classical Music, and Qawwali is incomparable. He is very cosmic in his outreach, incorporating birdsongs, a gurgling brook, a child’s laughter and fusing them with traditional instruments with new electronic sounds and technology. Rahman has worked as a pianist in Ilaiyaraaja‘s troupe for hundreds of movies, which may be seen in 99 songs. The soundtrack is awe-inspiring and holds a torch to Rahman’s love of experimentation with orchestra and Indian pop music.

In August 2013, A.R. Rahman announced that he will be producing a one-of-a-kind musical love story. He originally wanted to launch it under EROS  but it became his maiden stint as a scriptwriter, producer apart from composing the original score and songs. This film is Co-Produced by Ideal Entertainment, Directed by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, who is best known for the Mumbai band Scribe, and distributed by Jio Studios. The movie, 99 Songs, was finally released on April 16, 2021.

I think I perceive it to be the magnum opus of a young prodigy who has a burning desire to be a successful music composer.  The hero (Ehan Bhat) has a wager to make 99 songs before he can marry his beloved debutante played by Edilsy Vargas. Veteran actors Aditya Seal, Lisa Ray, and Manisha Koirala add depth to the narrative. 

 The film features 14 tracks including the musical talents Shaswat Singh and Bela Shende. Each song creates a different mood. Every frame has a different meaning. The film is in three languages – Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

A.R. Rahman said, “If I knew earlier that we’d do three languages, I would have only made five songs and not 14!” But I don’t believe him. He has unstoppable energy beyond human comprehension!

Songs ‘Teri Nazar and The Oracle and “Jwalamukhihave received an incredible amount of love and support. The music is the soul of the film. It is a musical but not in the genre of Broadway which supports the narrative. Here the music overpowers the story! 

One song can change the world! These words are prophetic. The maestro wants us to experience the film with high aspirations.

Rahman on the film: “At a period where we are all unaware of the future, I think this movie will definitely bring hope into your lives. It talks about dreams;  It talks about the internal struggles of a creative person. Music is the last magic left in the world.”

He goes on to talk about his experiences leading up to the film: “I’ve been working since ‘81. I worked with so many different composers doing almost two sessions a day. Though I wasn’t intending to continue as a film composer at that time, love is a magnetic force. The more you get from people, the more you want their love.”

His journey has been magical and let’s just revel in his magic. I have added the soundtrack to my playlist and I can’t wait to watch it. I am completely in awe of his extraordinary musical gift. Wishing 99 songs a grand success!


Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.


 

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