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Production: Ideal Entertainment, YM Movies Cast: Edilsy Vargas, Ehan Bhat, Manisha Koirala Direction: Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy Screenplay: AR Rahman, Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy Music: AR Rahman Background score: AR Rahman

2020 was an unforgettable year for so many reasons and we all learnt and evolved as individuals. Musically too, it was a fantastic year as new faces and voices emerged and music was no longer left to the domination of a few. Having said that, it was thankfully a year which saw some amazing comeback trails by legends and "99 songs" is a testament to that truth. AR Rahman has conquered every musical peak and he has nothing to prove to anyone, yet he comes up with an album of more than a dozen songs and that too of enviable quality, reminding us of his hey-days.

In fact, when the album was released back in March 2020, it turned out to be a great tonic against the monotony and the dejection of COVID-19 and lockdowns. Now, the whole album has been recreated with songs written and sung in Tamil and the first thing we notice is that unlike in Hindi, where it was Shashwat Singh, who had a lion's share of the vocal duties, here, there are more than six male vocalists. The next important credit to pay is to lyricists Vivek, Madhan Karky, Kabilan, Thamarai, Pa. Vijay, Kutti Revathi, who have done a fabulous job of recreating the original magic as it is never easy to write for a song, let alone an album, which is hugely popular in another language.

Oor Ayiram Vaanavil
Singer: Vijay Yesudas
Lyrics: Vivek

Easily one of the most memorable songs of the album, this is sung by Vijay Yesudas. This is a very interesting pick because the voice texture of Shashwat and Vijay aren't very close, and Vijay in fact matches the original performance. There is an element of longing, yearning and sadness attached to the tone and lyrics and not many can emote this out, so well in the vocal delivery like Vijay Yesudas. The arrangements and programming all remain the same as the original, yet this is more relatable, thanks to our native tongue. Vijay is excellent in the higher scale when he sings "Amma, un madi podhum". The use of harmony is spot-on and sounds soothing to hear while the drop in tempo midway makes for some creative composition.

Naalai Naalai
Singer: Benny Dayal
Lyrics: Vivek

When we had done the musical review of the best Indian songs back in March 2020, Nayee Nayee was in the top five in the country and was picked as a favourite from the album. The song had something about which sounded relatively fresh compared to the others. The stanza was lovely and how it uses tabla amidst all the western instrumental pieces and style. Singing by Shashwat was definitely a highlight and the track reminds us of a song from the album "Jaane tu ya Jaane na". This version is sung by Benny Dayal and who better to pick when you want the output to have some grooviness and oomph. Somehow the Hindi version felt better sounding but that could be simply because we have all heard the original way too many times. The highlight of the track is when the guitar leads the beginning of the stanza and the tabla sounds off in the background layer. This is sure to keep playing in college fests as a mind-blowing anthem especially as the lyrics glorify those years.

Singer: Sreekanth Hariharan
Lyrics: Karky

A romantic ballad is what you can call this track and here we have a regular from AR Rahman's repertoire in the form of Sreekanth Hariharan. His voice is something that oozes romanticism and he employs that to perfection in the delivery here. The slow acoustic guitar with the beats adds charm without disturbing the eloquence of Sreekanth and he just adds an element of Jazziness. This version is definitely as good if not better than the one sung by Shashwat Singh.

Poyisonna Posikiduven 
Singers: Shashaa Tirupati, Nikhita Gandhi
Lyrics: Karky  

Shashaa Tirupati and Nikithaa Gandhi are amazing singers, while the former can turn on the heat with her glamorous westernised style of singing, the latter has got the mellifluous nature to serenade us all and her diction of Tamil is exemplary even though it’s not her mother-tongue. It's a supreme Jazz composition taking us to the 1960s when Jazz as a style dominated the global scene, as the keys, bass, strings and trumpets and trombones decorate the track with great embellishments just to add whatever magic Nikithaa creates through her vocals.

Singers: Poorvi Koutish, Sarthak Kalyani
Lyrics: Karky 
Here AR Rahman doesn't want to experiment with a new singer and why would he when the song is entirely owned by Poorvi Koutish no matter what the language. She reaches scales and uses vibrato that not too many would be comfortable with and it is Sarthak Kalyani instead of Shashwat Singh here in Tamil. The vocals are the highlight period. Rahman employs his famed creative ways of upping the scale at the end of fag end of the track and it always works for him.

Punnagai Maayai
Singers: Abhay Jodhpurkar, Shashaa Tirupati
Lyrics: Thamarai, Kabilan  

Abhay Jodhpurkar can elevate the quality of the song, thanks to his great vocal texture and that is precisely what he does here, in this slow ballad and although it is not the best track of the album, it has its moments where it touches your heart deeply, thanks to even the beautifully structured and performed humming by Shashaa.

Nee illa Naanum 
Singer: Haricharan
Lyrics: Kabilan

The perfect choice and thus us why AR Rahman is a genius for he can make the right decisions every time he has to pick the singer for a given track. Haricharan is the best we have in the business, blessed with a gentle yet impactful voice and the technical abilities to match that. This track is way better than the original and the credit must go entirely to the singer for he emotes the feeling of a "man crazy in love" to perfection. The track reminds us of Rahman's great works in Lagaan and to some extent, RD Burman’s "Ek ladki ko dekha".

Vaa Vengaiye
Singers: Sarthak Kalyani, Swagat Rathod, Srinisha Jayaseelan, ThoughtsforNow
Lyrics: Pa Vijay, ThoughtsforNow 

This is a short track that is sung by the same performers as in Hindi and reflective of a Bhangra style song mixed with some synth pop. Srinisha Jayaseelan comes on board in the Tamil version along with Sarthak Kalyani, Swagat Rathod and thoughts for now. Rahman fuses some rap bits as well and in certain segments, the track reminds of that that track "Dol dol" from Ayutha Ezhuthu.

Jwalamukhi (Reprise)
Singer: Sid Sriram
Lyrics: Karky

Just like Arijit Singh was picked to sing the Hindi version, here it is South India's busiest male singer doing the honours in Sid Sriram. There is a world of difference in the two versions in the same album itself, as Poorvi sings with high energy and passion almost like ripping her heart out, Sid delivers a more composed calm version like a man in pain. Sid also explores his lower scale singing something that he's not offered to do by most composers. Music lovers might pick Poorvi's version any day, purely because of the energy and the superlative singing.

The Oracle 
Looking at the name, this beautiful inspiring instrumental piece would have been such an apt score for the "Matrix" which had this character who called herself the Oracle. This is like AR Rahman's answer or probably a tribute to the master musician Yanni and the keys here are simply outstanding, playful at times and being imposing at others. The strings section follows in the background.

Singers: Jonita Gandhi, Sharanya Srinivas, Sireesha
Lyrics: Kutty Revathi

Here we have another brilliant track from the album and we have Jonita Gandhi, Sharanya Srinivas and Sireesha donning the roles of vocalists and they have done a tremendous job, considering the original was delivered by three stalwarts in Shweta Mohan, Anuradha Sriram and Alka Yagnik. The track has some influences of the Bageshree raga and Jonita is another professional who can make you believe that she is a proficient in the Tamil language. It is sung amazingly with a little bit of a tease in her voice and this sounds so refreshing. There is a part in the opening lines where we are reminded of the charanam of that humungous hit called "Singalathu Chinna kuyile" by Ilaiyaraja and that is because this also was set in the same raga. The use of Sitar, Shehnai and tabla is just adding great classical quality to the track and when the three women lead singers sing in unison, it feels like an endless cadence of joy and love. The second interlude has an additional flute interlude intervening which is wonderful to hear in this huge symphony.

Aagaaya Neelagalil 
Singer: Shreya Ghosal
Lyrics: Tamarai   

How can you not have a huge galaxy of singing stars assemble for an album like this by AR Rahman and not have Shreya Ghoshal in the roster as a performer? Incidentally, she couldn't perform in the Hindi version and hence this was befitting of her stardom and abilities. This was sung by Bela Shende in the Hindi version and here Shreya brings her own style to the fore. An acoustic guitar and Shreya are good enough to do all the sorcery as the simplicity of the track does enough in terms being an earful. The flute solo in the interlude is something solid that we are used to hearing in an ARR arrangement. The track kind of touches a nerve and reminds us of "Kuch na Kaho" again by RD Burman and probably the tempo, and the flute all add to that similarity.

Sai Shirdi Sai 
Singers: Bela Shende, AR Rahman
Lyrics: Mashook Rahman, AR Rahman

Just like the female version of Jwalamukhi, there is no point making unnecessary changes to the crew especially when Bela Shende knocks this one out of the park. Her diction is top-draw and a lesson to many young singers when it comes to singing in languages you cannot speak. It is all hard-work and dedication that gets reflected in the final outcome of the song. Her high-scale singing is uplifting just as here vibrato in the middle segments is inspiring. The use of synth, tabla and the harp some together so well. One can feel the devotion and love for Shirdi Sai when she sings it and there can be no better demands from a composer. Look out for the flute in the second layer between Bela's vocals and the tabla right towards the end of the track. The male-female harmony is wonderfully done in the outro.

The Voice without words
Singer: Poorvi Koutish
Lyrics: Navneet Virk. 

This track is just a repeat version used unchanged like the way it appeared in the original in the voice of Poorvi Koutish and lyrics are by Navneet Virk.

Verdict: 99 songs might be one short of a century, but its nothing short of a genius back to his best.


4 ( 3.5 / 5.0 )



Entertainment sub editor

பிரேக்கிங் சினிமா செய்திகள், திரை விமர்சனம், பாடல் விமர்சனம், ஃபோட்டோ கேலரி, பாக்ஸ் ஆபிஸ் செய்திகள், ஸ்லைடு ஷோ, போன்ற பல்வேறு சுவாரஸியமான தகவல்களை தமிழில் படிக்க இங்கு கிளிக் செய்யவும்      

99 Songs (Tamil) (aka) Ninety Nine Tamil Songs

99 Songs (Tamil) (aka) Ninety Nine Tamil Songs is a Tamil movie with production by Ideal Entertainment, YM Movies, direction by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy. The cast of 99 Songs (Tamil) (aka) Ninety Nine Tamil Songs includes Edilsy Vargas, Ehan Bhat, Manisha Koirala.