It is not often that composer A.R Rahman has worked with debutant directors in recent times. This year seems to be an exception though – with Mom he has worked with Ravi Udyawar, in The Fakir of Venice with Anand Surapur and in his own pet project 99 Songs, with Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy.

Mom, however, is less about Udyawar and more about the movie’s leading lady Sridevi – this is her 300th film, and the 50th year of her acting career. And this is also the first time that Rahman has composed for a movie featuring her.

Despite the outlandish screams that punctuate the song, ‘Raakh Baaki’ is a captivating listen, largely for that pulsating rhythm combined with the intermittent use of the guitar. Jonita Gandhi’s whispery rendition adds to the song’s intrigue, and is reminiscent of the title song of Chinese action adventure film, Warriors of Heaven and Earth that was scored by Rahman.

‘Freaking Life’ starts off sounding like it might continue along the same lines, but turns out to be of a lighter listen. The umpteen repetitions of “freaking” can get annoying after a while, but the breezy nature of the song and the exuberant singing by Raja Kumari (who debuted for Rahman earlier this year with Kaatru Veliyidai), Rianjali and Suzanne D’Mello make the song worth your while.

‘Kooke Kawn’ starts with a cawing sound, which Rahman had used in ‘Petta Rap’ from the Tamil film Kadhalan (1994). The track unfortunately isn’t anywhere as interesting as the earlier composition; following a middling Punjabi-infused dance track format. This, despite Sukhwinder Singh’s energetic rendition of the track.

Shashaa Tirupathi is the star of the lullaby ‘O Sona Tere Liye’, outperforming her fellow vocalist, Rahman. The song recalls several of ARR’s older tracks, but the genre saves it from being a tedious listen. The composer’s best song from the soundtrack is Shashaa’s solo act. ‘Chal Kahin’ rides on a fabulous melody that goes through multiple unexpected yet seamless turns, all of which the singer handles with finesse.

The violins that dominate the backdrop add to the song’s allure, especially by conveying the exhilarating feel around the Chal Kahin Doora Chale refrain. Another fine vocal performance follows in ‘Muafi Mushkil’ – with Darshana KT as the singer. One of the most interestingly constructed ARR songs in recent times, ‘Muafi Mushkil’ has a cappella style first half, and the backing vocalists give way to a piano in the latter segment.

The album’s song by music composer Traditional, ‘Be Nazaara’ has an arrangement that’s offbeat (T-Series has missed crediting the arrangements for this one; so am guessing it is Rahman again) leading to a curiously pleasing electronic-classical fusion. The classical part of the equation is presented by Sudeep Jaipurwale with an incredibly nuanced rendition set against the ambient backdrop.

Coming on the heels of a sports bio (Sachin: A Billion Dreams) and a mostly remade soundtrack (OK Jaanu) before that, Mom is the best that A.R. Rahman has composed this year. The unorthodox arrangement in some of the songs is what makes the soundtrack standout.

Article by Vipin Nair for The Hindu