Before I delve into the post, let me state two things:
- I’d rather not make comparisons but I saw the albums being compared on social media and was disappointed at how dismissive some people were about Lootera – as if it did not even deserve to be compared with Raanjhanaa! I thought it was important that someone present an alternate view.
- This is not a comparison between A.R. Rahman and Amit Trivedi. I have the deepest respect for both and love their music. I completely agree with Amit Trivedi when he says “there can’t be another Rahman”. Based on the music he has made so far, I also believe there can’t be another Amit Trivedi.
Now, on to why I believe Lootera is a better album. The answer to that lies partly in why I like Raanjhanaa less. Many have used words like textured and layered to describe Raanjhanaa’s music and they are right, except that I found Raanjhanaa’s music to be too textured. There is a LOT going on and many of those individual elements are brilliant (like the sitar in Banarasiya and how he’s used the KMMC Sufi Ensemble in Piya Milenge), but put together the music feels cluttered. The whole is less than the sum of parts. For example, Ay Sakhi uses the following percussion instruments – tabla, ghatam/matka, drum sticks, dafli, dhol and maybe others that my ears did not catch. It’s overwhelming and not in a pleasant way. The second issue, I have with Raanjhanaa is a very basic one – except for two or three of songs (my favorite being Tu Mun Shudi), I found the songs “unhummable”. A lot has been said about Rahman defying norms (like not using traditional song structures with mukhda/antara) but it isn’t this that makes his music work. It makes his music interesting and it gives his music that unique ARR character. But, what makes his music really work – for me – is the underlying melody. I found Raanjhanaa’s music lacking in this regard.
On the other hand, I love Lootera because it is a collection of simple and beautiful songs. After Barfi, it’s the first album that I liked after a single listen (although it took a few listens for me to get over Sawar Loon’s percussions). Every song is extremely melodic, the singers do a superb job (Monali Thakur, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Amit Trivedi, K. Mohan, Swanand Kirkire and Shilpa Rao will all count Lootera amongst their best work as singers) and I can easily see myself listening to and humming these songs for years to come. A key strength of the album is it’s no fuss, no frill approach. I am not sure if all great things are simple but Lootera’s music certainly supports the adage.
That said, I encourage everyone to buy both these albums – for both albums deserve to be heard – and form their own opinion. I don’t agree with people who wring their hands and claim that the music today ’s music isn’t as good as it used to be. Every generation says that and that’s nostalgic bullshit. I think we’re lucky to be living in the times of composers like A.R. Rahman and Amit Trivedi. It is a privilege to have both of them release albums within days of each other and it is as good a time as any to be a music lover.