Thoughts on AR Rahman’s gloriously fun and wholly individual soundtrack for the new Shankar film.
You know that familiar Tamil-cinema contrivance where a prisoner in handcuffs is being led away in a police van, and the van stops at a crossing, and the prisoner looks around furtively and sees a chance, and as the cops are looking the other way (or maybe after a scuffle) he slips out and runs into the forest, and he runs and he runs, and then, in a clearing, there’s a conveniently located shack where a sweaty smithy is pounding away on an anvil, and he looks up and sees those handcuffs in front of his nose, and he brings his hammer down and frees the prisoner? That’s the picture that kept coming to mind as I listened to AR Rahman’s soundtrack for Shankar’s I. Free. That’s what Rahman sounds like here. Free from the constraints of Tamil cinema. Free from hewing to situations. Free to leap off a cliff and land on a passing cloud and float away for a while. Whatever you think of Shankar’s filmmaking, you have to give him this: he wields one hell of a hammer. He liberates Rahman.