It is an uphill task to choose the best of A R Rahman, because…well, he is considered the best. Rahman re-defined the Hindi film song, breaking away from the age-old traditional mukhda-antara-mukhda format, breaking the film song free of all conventions and rules. Here are the Hindi soundtracks that prove why Rahman rules while the nation drools.
1. Roja (1992): Strictly speaking, Rahman's first soundtrack was not a Hindi score. But the sound was so revolutionary it heralded a new era in the chequered history of Indian film music. Songs like 'Roja Jaan-E-Man', 'Rukmini Rukmini' and 'Chotisi Asha' gave an all-new asha (hope) and interpretation to the Hindi film song. Vividh Bharti was never the same again. With Roja began Rahman and Ratnam's ruminative rapport which is now 11 films old.
2. Rangeela (1995): Rahman's first official Hindi score was 'Love You Hamesha', an Akshaye Khanna-Sonali Bendre starrer which never got released. The enterprising Ram Gopal Varma got Rahman to scorch the soundtrack of Rangeela with songs like 'Ho Ja Rangeela Re', 'Tanha Tanha', 'Mangta Hai Kya' and the soft seductive love ballad 'Pyar Yeh Jaane Kaisa Hai'. Rangeela saw Rahman racing up the raga road with a sprinter's celerity.
4. Taal (1999): Subhash Ghai's last hit saw the music minded movie maker move consciously away from his permanent composer Laxmikant-Pyarelal for a raga-rich rendezvous with Rahman. The result was electric. Songs like 'Taal Se Taal Mila' and 'Kahin Aag Lage Lag Jawe' will be hummed till kingdom come.
5. Saathiya (2000): The first year of the new millennium saw Rahman blossom into a formidable composing genius. The songs of Saathiya were straight-converts of the Tamil original Alai Payuthe, but nonetheless powerhouse projections of a composer at the peak of his power. Sadhnana Sargam's 'Chupke Se' is so wrapped in a satiny melody it transports you into a land of reverberant romance.
6. Pukar (2000): A historic score where Lata Mangeshkar not only sang the moving anthem song 'Ek Tu Hi Bharosa' she also appeared on screen to sing the number. 'Que Sera Sera' with Prabhu Dheva and Madhuri Dixit dancing on screen was a trailblazer.
7. Lagaan (2000): Many believe this to be Rahman's most influential score to date. The period film throbs with the sound of era gone-bye, a glory reclaimed through the timeless sound of 'Chale Chalo' and 'Mitwa'. The use choruses to embellish the orchestral opulence of the sound was just one of the many startling components of this epic soundtrack.
8. Rang De Basanti (2005): Suffused in the sounds of a nationalistic fervor the soundtrack pulsated with a patriotic passion. If on one hand there was Daler Mehdi giving his all to the title song on the other hand Rahman got together with the indomitable Lata Mangeshkar to sing the heart-rending 'Lukka Chuppi', a mother-son song that moves you to tears every time.
9. Jodhaa Akbar (2008): A costume drama with the kind of nostalgia-laced sounds of music that recreates a long-lost era, brick by brick. The Rahman-rendered 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' is arguably the single-most divinely inspiring film song of modern times.
10. Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012): After working with the likes of Shiv-Hari for the music of his romantic sagas, at the end of his life and career Yash Chopra teamed up with Rahman. The result as heard in the numbers 'Saans', 'Heer' and 'Challa' was magnificent stunning. What swan songs for Yash Chopra!