Ponniyin Selvan 2 – Music Review (Tamil Soundtrack)

Songs and musician credits at the end (credits will be updated as I get hold of more info)

Having gotten used to the BGM version of Aga Naga from the first instalment of Ponniyin Selvan, the slight increase in tempo in the extended track took a bit of warming up to, but I am now totally besotted with this waltzy track. And one of the primary contributors to that love is the fantastic use of strings (Chennai Strings & Sunshine Orchestra). With just a smattering of percussion, it is the strings that drive the orchestration pretty much, marked by some lovely touches like the “tiptoeing” every time Shaktisree Gopalan sings Yaaradhu Yaaradhu, and the short violin solo from Sunshine Orchestra’s Vignesh towards the song’s closure. Writer Ilango Krishnan does a fine job of conveying princess Kundavai’s love for her land that exists in tandem with her affinity towards Vanthiyadevan – the short phrasing adds to the charm. In the opening verse the writer also uses the Anthaathi style of writing, where the closing phrase of one line becomes the opening phrase of the next line. Of course, all of this comes to life in Shaktisree’s voice – the singer is in sublime form here. Aazhi Mazhai Kanna comes from poet-saintess Andal’s Thiruppaavai series of poems dedicated to Perumal (Vishnu), analogising Andal’s devotion towards Perumal and Vaanathi’s feelings towards the protagonist. The original composition is in the raga varaali, but A R Rahman here goes for a more pleasant melody (shades of desh raaga I think?) – the only issue I have (which holds true for multiple tracks from this album) is that the track is done in under a minute and a half. It feels great to listen to Harini (possibly other singers involved too, uncredited on Spotify) over that duration though, singing for Rahman after ages. The bit nature of the song and the female chorus made me hark back to the lovely bit songs from Kaadhalan. Shankaracharya’s Sanskrit work Shivoham (from his Nirvana Shatakam) is another of the album’s short tracks. Rahman makes this an intense piece, akin to the likes of Shiva Thandava Stotram, seemingly setting it to Chakravakam raaga. An effective male chorus delivers this one, complemented by the chendamelam + edaykka combination that is a perfect choice for the song’s fervour.

Keerthana Vaidyanathan and Niranjana Ramanan, the two ladies who delivered the beautiful Paapam Seiyaathiru in Iravin Nizhal last year, get a similar assignment in Ponniyin Selvan – a song that, with its minimal arrangements, relies heavily on the singing, and they absolutely ace this one as well. Kudavaiyil Theerathanar’s Ilaiyor Soodaar is a lament, presumably picking up from where the first movie left off, with the supposed demise of Ponniyin Selvan. Rahman chooses an eerie silence to adorn this piece, and a fittingly dark raaga (my guess on this was between aahiri and thodi, but this thread concludes that it could be a rarely used raaga phenadhyuthi and turns out it is thodi, as confirmed by ARR in this wonderful conversation with Mani Ratnam and Baradwaj Rangan) to perfectly capture the mournful tone. At some point the mind strangely wandered off to Sigur Ros’s cover of Rains of Castamere in Game of Thrones! The composer interestingly goes for a completely different melody for this one in Hindi – a lighter, more soulful (and slightly longer) tune that is delivered by a wonderful-sounding Pooja Tiwary. Gulzar pens this track titled Mukti Do, and the arrangement remains minimal here too, the odd sarangi phrases being the only standout element. I think I still like the Tamil melody more, though. Ilango Krishnan models Chinnanjiru Nilave on Bharathiyar’s poems and therefore sets it to the same waltz-like meter (well, roopaka thaalam to use the Carnatic terminology). And the song comes in two versions, sung by Haricharan and Khatija Rahman, both quite different in their presentation – they do have one element in common though, the arrangements getting progressively turbulent (violins, the primary contributors to this) perhaps in keeping with the puyal (storm) analogy mentioned in the first stanza. Although Haricharan is brilliant in his rendition, this version carries a bit of familiarity about it and therefore it is the Marumurai (Reprise?) that I really enjoyed, despite its anachronistic sound. The piano refrain along with Khatija’s dreamy voice have quite the mesmerising effect. Finally, my current favourite – Veera Raaja Veera. What a song! Riffing off a traditional dhrupad piece in adana raaga (you can read more about the piece and hear the original piece on this thread), Rahman creates a classical flavoured piece mostly based on darbari kaanada raaga (or adana raaga, I cannot be sure), except for the little digression to a brief, seemingly hameer kalyani raaga based segment, around the midway mark. The use of vocals in this song is top notch; which isn’t a big surprise considering the three names leading the line – Shankar Mahadevan, K S Chithra and Harini, all sounding in fine fettle, but the chorus is equally brilliant, and as prominently employed as well. The orchestration is heavy on Hindustani classical instruments – pakhawaj, sarangi, sitar etc.; one of my favourite bits from the song is the sitarsarangi duel around the 2:08 mark. The Hindustani flavour of the song also makes it a seamless fit in the Hindi version (sung by Arman Dehlvi, Shreya Ghoshal and Kavita Krishnamurthy), although the arrangements have been slightly modified. A wonderfully grand paean that should be a perfect accompaniment for the climactic coronation sequence. I really hope we get to this song in its entirety onscreen!

Ponniyin Selvan Part 2. A spectacular soundtrack from A R Rahman and Ilango Krishnan, whose only problem is its length. While the first part had a terrific set of songs as well, the sound was a bit more “commercial”. This one however has the composer fully embracing that period sound and producing a classically rich set of songs.

PS: Thanks a ton to the amazing @AakriPasta for once again acting as the Ponniyin Selvan subject matter expert and giving me tons of context around the songs. She has also written a piece on the soundtrack – given that she is a passionate ARR fan in addition to being a PS fan, it makes for a great read!

Music Aloud Rating: 4/5 (this might have been 4.5 had it not lasted just 20 minutes!)

Top Recos: Veera Raaja Veera, Aga Naga, Chinnanjiru Nilave (Marumurai), Ilaiyor Soodaar

Musician Credits

Song Title: Aga Naga
Song Composed, Produced and Arranged by A.R.Rahman
Singer: Shakthisree Gopalan
Lyrics: Ilango Krishnan
Music Supervisor: Nakul Abhyankar
Project Manager: Karthik Sekaran
Score Transcription: Suprava Mukherjee

Musicians –
Chennai Strings & Sunshine OrchestraConducted by Jerry Vincent
Flute: Nikhil Ram
Tabla Tarang: Sai Shravanam
Veena: Haritha Raj
Solo violin : Vignesh ( Sunshine orchestra )
Additional Programming: Nakul Abhyankar, Srikant Krishna
Sound Engineers:
Panchathan Record inn
Suresh Permal, Karthik Sekaran, TR Krishna Chetan, Aravind Crescendo, Suryansh Jain
AM Studio
Pradeep Menon, Manoj Raman, Sathya Narayanan, Ainul, Sathish V Saravanan
Mixed by Pradeep Menon
Mastered by Suresh Permal
Apple Digital Master by Riyasdeen Riyan
Musician Coordinator: Samidurai R, Velavan B, Abdul Haiyum, T M Faizudeen

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