Mammo’ for director Shyam Benegal, journalist/writer/filmmaker Khalid Mohamed suggested that they should make a film on Khalid’s mother, the late actress Zubeida Begum. Zubeida’s life had a lot of tragic moments and thus they needed a composer who could not only recreate the music of a bygone era but also could manage to bring out the emotional depth of the film. ‘Zubeidaa’ was Shyam Benegal and music composer A.R Rahman’s first collaboration which resulted in a memorable soundtrack.
The soundtrack opens with a very melodious number called “Dheeme Dheeme” sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy. In the film, Zubeidaa (Karisma Kapoor) is shown to have gone through a bad marriage. After meeting Maharaja Vijeyandra Singh (Manoj Bajpai), she feels luck is finally smiling on her and gets married to him. The song, which has a certain innocent quality about it, reflects her happiness. Rahman uses a variety of Indian instruments and creates a fine balance between a mellow and orchestral sound. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are simple but effective.
“Main Albeli” has a slightly cinematic sound to it owing to the fact that Zubeidaa, an actress, is shown to be shooting for a song in the film. But, Rahman does not let it become a regular Bollywood dance number. He infuses several different elements in the song, the most prominent of them being the Arabic sound. Kavita Krishnamurthy, whom one just heard a while back singing a romantic number like “Dheeme Dheeme”, shows a different side to her. She lets her hair down and sings in a fun and uninhibited manner. Sukhwinder Singh provides able support.
If you notice some of A.R Rahman’s earlier songs, you will realize that sometimes he depended too much on technology. The one and the only thing that works against “Mehndi Hai Rachnewali” is the electronic sound. Thankfully, the annoying electronic beats are heard only in the initial portions of the song. The track is a celebratory number in which Rahman gets the North Indian sound just right. The tune is high on emotions and is complemented by Javed Akhtar’s sensitive poetry. Alka Yagnik’s saccharine voice works very well for this sentimental number.
“So Gaye Hain” starts with a highly evocative violin piece that sets the melancholic tone for the song. And then Lata Mangeshkar arrives and you find it difficult to hold back your tears. It is a song every element of which, tugs at your heartstrings. A.R Rahman’s consummate composition, Javed Akhtar’s thoughtful verses and Lata Mangeshkar’s pensive rendition make you feel the sorrow of Zubeidaa. The arrangements are minimal. Rahman creates magic with violins as they accompany Mangeshkar almost like another voice.
The song has another version “So Gaye Hain – Part 2” which has a darker mood to it. The orchestral arrangements are, according to the mood, scarce. There is a chorus section in the end backed with violins towards the end of the song. It is the highlight of the song as it is highly evocative. The song is heard towards the end of the film and adds to the somber tone of the events.
“Hai Na” has the kind of arrangements that one associated with a traditional Rahman’s composition back in the day. He used Indian instruments, strings, a bit of techno and a bass line to create a melody that had his stamp over it. Rahman does not experiment much and creates a conventional tune that is likeable and easy on the ears. What he does is he brings an old world charm to the song that befits the film.
The earthy texture of “Pyaara Sa Gaon” (a lovely village) suits the title perfectly. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics help you visualize the idealistic village which is being talked about here. The flute, ghatam and other instruments contribute towards the ingenuousness of the song. Lata Mangeshkar sings tenderly and with a lot of care. Though one senses an underlying sadness in this track, it not as dark as “So Gaye Hain”.
Rahman remains faithful to the genre (Thumri) of music “Chhodo More Baiyyan” is based on and yet makes it accessible enough to be lapped up by Hindi film music listeners. It needs a lot of expertise to sing a number of this nature and Richa Sharma pulls it off effortlessly. The sound of tabla, sitar and sarangi creates a wonderful ambience.
‘Zubeidaa’, one of the best Hindi soundtrack by A.R Rahman, is laden with songs that carry a mélange of emotions. The songs are soulful and complement the film. In fact, the music is an integral part of the narrative of the film. After ‘Zubeidaa’, A.R Rahman and Shyam Bengal joined hands for ‘Bose: The Forgotten Hero’, a biopic on freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose. Rahman had recorded a couple of songs for Benegal’s ‘Chamki Chameli’ but that project got shelved.