“Couples Retreat”: Soundtrack by A.R. Rahman

A.R. Rahman scored big in Hollywood last year with the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire, though of course those of us who have been listening to him since the 1990s know that in fact Slumdog was far from his best work (my favorite, Dil Se… was actually my first; those songs completely changed how I thought about Hindi film music). In the wake of all the Oscar love, I was fully expecting Rahman to get some calls from prominent American directors for upcoming films.

Well, Rahman is going to make his debut with a Hollywood soundtrack this fall. But he’s not working with Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, or Clint Eastwood. Instead, his debut soundtrack is for a Vince Vaughn comedy called Couples Retreat.


The soundtrack hasn’t been released yet, but you can listen to the tracks on the Soundtrack website: here.

As a partial relief, the soundtrack sounds great. I think “Sajna” sounds especially nice, but even some of the instrumental tracks are cool (try “Undress”). Tamil-speakers might also like “Kuru Kuru Kan,” [update: track removed]. (Anyone want to do some translation help?)

I’m still trying to digest the decision to debut with what looks like a second-rate sex comedy. From what I have heard from the soundtrack so far, it sounds like Rahman has made some great music for this film. But will anyone be paying attention?

40 thoughts on ““Couples Retreat”: Soundtrack by A.R. Rahman

  1. happy for indians who can feel inspired by rahman … but to me, since the mid-90’s, he has been derivative, imitative, unoriginal … and any one song often was a pastiche of five ideas from five songs from somebody else … big fish in a very small pond … and commercial success? just means you are pandering to the lowest common denominator, wow

  2. woah! had to comment on gregorylent.

    What the Efff? rahman is unoriginal?

    He’s the one guy who always throws a curveball at you. Nobody expected Rang De Basanti from the man who made Dil Se. And what about Lagaan, not to mention Bombay. Some of the best albums of the last twenty years are Rahman albums (I was hooked with Roja).

    As for Couples Retreat, I’d like to see what the Rotten Tomatoes verdict is.

  3. Rahman’s best is yet to come, especially in what is called background music in India. There was a time when I was devoted fan of his, and am probably the last person to have met him at his home after an informal walk-in in late 1993. But after around 2002 his work has been uneven. He has been taking up too much work and has not done justice in full to anything. As a result even his “song” compositions – his staple in India – sound jaded. Yuva was good, but Guru is terrible. Background score is tough work and Ilayaraja’s work thus far remains the pinnacle in India. I am surprised at the total lack of attention paid to Raja’s work, especially is oratorio, Thiruvasakam in Symphony which was produced through much toil and treasure. Where the song compositions are concerned Rahman is no longer the one to beat. There are a great many composers churning out chartbusters, thanks in part to the many he has trained and encouraged.

  4. Amardeep — KuruKuru Kan sounds great. In fact it sounds brilliant. The commissions for more interesting and original movies will come. He just has to get his work out there.

    Lets face it, Rahman’s music is often better than the movies he composes for. That has been the case in India. He will get to collaborate with the more cutting edge soon. Personally I think its not bad that he scores a movie like this. It shows his versatility, to adapt to a rom-com like this.

    I always wondered what Rahman would do if he was asked to score a movie like Gladiator. It would be unbelievably epic. I am personally excited to watch Rahman at this next, exciting stage of his career. Its going to be great.

  5. Lets face it, Rahman’s music is often better than the movies he composes for. That has been the case in India. He will get to collaborate with the more cutting edge soon. Personally I think its not bad that he scores a movie like this. It shows his versatility, to adapt to a rom-com like this.

    I always wondered what Rahman would do if he was asked to score a movie like Gladiator. It would be unbelievably epic. I am personally excited to watch Rahman at this next, exciting stage of his career. Its going to be great.

    Bobby, all good points. You’re right, no one remembers or cares about the movie “Thakshak” anymore, but most Hindi music fans will remember at least one song Rahman wrote for it (“Rang De”). Same for “Taal,” “Zubeidaa,” “Saathiya,” and at least a dozen other films. So maybe people will remember “Sajna” or “Kuru Kuru Kan,” even if they don’t remember “Couples Retreat.”

    I also like your point that it might not be a bad way to start, since it’s clearly nothing at all like “Slumdog”. But that’s assuming the film doesn’t simply sink like a stone! Also, people usually don’t pay any attention to the soundtracks of comedies.

  6. I always wondered what Rahman would do if he was asked to score a movie like Gladiator. It would be unbelievably epic.

    He did score a Chinese Epic called “Warriors of Heaven and Earth.” I actually didn’t like it that much, although there is one notable track called “Lord An’s Empire” which is pretty awesome.

  7. Guru is terrible

    Just goes to show one man’s Rahman can be another’s Anu whatsisname. Maiya Maiya was sensational and innovative. Tere Bina wasn’t too dusty either.

    In establishing bridges with middle Eastern and Latin American sounds, Rahman truly represents a new kind of political sensibility.

  8. did amardeep just diss Roja!.. sacrilege

    second-rate sex comedy.

    little noan fact. peter jackson is well known among certain circles [aho!] for his superlative bad taste .

  9. I think many good points have been made thus far. Gregory Lent’s opinion is very valid, albeit a very western one – western audiences with a keen interest in India and Indian culture want to hear something original i.e. authentically ‘Indian’ from an artist like ARR. And for Indian audiences, he’s truly bridging the gap between the cultures. While he does put together a potpourri of different types of music, an astute follower of Indian music recognizes the constraints on one’s creativity when you have to make music for at least 15 movies (with about 5 songs and a soundtrack for each) every year – of course, he could take up fewer movies, but that’ll hurt his bottom-line. And for ARR to be acceptable for a worldwide audience, he has to produce the potpourri that he so effectively does.

    So, while I am not too excited that ARR produced the music for a movie like Couples Retreat with its (off late) cringe worthy lead Vaughn, I hope it helps him get better projects soon.

  10. authentically ‘Indian’ as in authentically ‘Indian’ film music? then they should listen to Ilayaraja

  11. lyrics by Abbas Tyrewala

    tip for the noobs: if you look like michelin man, be aspirational not representational in your choice.

  12. sorry mr. x,… ive been havving too much coofee tooday. very shaky . i wanted to pouint you to kanne kalaimane on youttube. plis to look. i need to lie down.

  13. And here’s Ilayaraja creating a three-note composition on the fly sung by SPB and Shreya Ghoshal.

    Moondram Pirai!

    I remember ARR, when I met him, making light of his early troubles with grace, “all of us have been through these things in different ways.”

    ARR ushered in a new cohort of musicians, many of whom are as a rule from Chennai, and have been schooled in the city. His friends too, Sivamani from North Madras, Suresh Peters from South Madras, and Bharat Bala from the Brahmin middle class, lent a new edge to his music. Some of them as with Sivamani come from the film music fraternity. Sivamni’s father is a drummer and weighed down by the uncertain nature of the business – living day to day – did his darned best to keep his son out of the trade, but Sivamani persisted – even when his father almost broke Sivamani’s knuckles, when he caught him practicing with his drum kit. I have a lot of tales to tell, maybe some day…

  14. Well, he himself is a married middle aged man. Maybe he thought the movie was funny? 😉 He always struck me as someone who secretly as a goofy sense of humor.

  15. hey,

    This is Stephen Marshall, a die hard fan of A R Rahman. I thank you for posting the soundtrack website here, god bless!!

    OK now to comment on the soundtracks.. there is a lot to actually say. In one word, the music is fantabulous.. There are about 15 songs there. All of them are pretty good, including some magnum opuses.

    I remember the first time i heard the kurukuru song in the movies website. I liked it a lot, and i have the mp3 with me now. The song in the movies website is somewhat different from the soundtrack here.


    my fav’s: Sajna, Kurukuru, Nana, tour of the villas, undress, sharks, salvadore, the waterfalls, animal spirits.

    The theme of the music in itself is like WOW. Though i havn’t seen the movie yet, i am sure the music will blend with the movie well. There are some themes of this film, which are magnum opuses, sure everyone will remember it even long after seeing the film.

    Nice soundtracks. But the song which Alim Rahman sang, where is it??! Thinanana theem thanana…. where?!

    Hey any queries, mail me 4u.marshall@gmail.com

  16. Stop cringing, y’all! Some of the biggest and best composers do a lot of commercial films, the likes of Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard et al. I don’t listen to a lot of Rahman, but I think this soundtrack is actually pretty cool… people should listen to it and diss it if they really don’t like it. Working within the constraints of a ‘romcom’, Rahman’s done pretty well here.

  17. when ARR started spending more time on Hindi movies Tamizh fans complained that he wasn’t giving his best in Tamizh any longer. Now his fans in India will complain that he is reserving his best for Hollywood.

  18. Jyotsana,

    Looking forward to more of your commentary on this topic. I would like to call out another up and coming composer from Chennai. I am absolutely enamoured by Harris Jeyraj. His track “Kangal Irandal” from Subramanyampuram is fantastic, melding Carnatic music, with techno. Orchestration is superb. Though I don’t speak Tamil, I can’t get enough of this song. I’m looking forward to hearing more of his work.

  19. Does anyone know where you can stream bollywood music on the web, similar to pandora? I can’t find a decent station. Thanks.

  20. @lifelong: The song ‘Kangal Irandal’ was scored by James Vasanthan, and not by Harris Jeyaraj. James Vasanthan used to score a lot for TV shows & soaps in Tamil Nadu, and that was his debut album. It’s based out of the Carnatic raag Reetigowlai which is a very amenable to film compositions. On Harris Jeyaraj, I would like to say that his work is good, though critics will argue, with some merit, that a lot of his work is recycled/rehashed. However, some of his songs make for very a soothing listen.

  21. @ajit Thanks for clarifying. Goes to show you how much I know about Tamil film music! I recognized reetigowla, and that was what peaked my interest. Did James Vasanthan compose for any other movies? I’ll have to find out. My friends and family are shocked that I could actually like a cinema paata.

  22. I saw this movie first day first show!!! the minute i heard the music i thought i would wait till d end of the movie to see who made it as it was awesome.. i had no IDEA IT WAS RAHMAN!!!! I WAS THRILLED!!!! I WAS WITH ALL MY WHITE FRIENDS AND WAS PRACTICALLY BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS>>> WEIRD BUT I WAS EXCITED… IT WAS A REALLY GOOD MOVIE>> A MUST WATCH…. AND I AM GOING TO GO HOME AND DOWNLOAD ALL THE TRACKS>>> TONITE!!

  23. If you’re going to bounce of the walls of the movie theater, please stay home. The cell phones and screaming babies are bad enough. Thank you.

  24. Regarding Couple’s Retreat, I really felt that the movie hasn’t done justice to ARR’s songs. But to think about it, this is how a Hollywood film, esp a comedy flick would turn out to be. It’s silly to expect the songs to play central roles as they would in an Indian film (yeah, I’m talking to myself!) But the fact that ARR composed amazing tracks for the film, despite knowing that they would be shabbily used in the film speaks a lot about his confidence. He knew that no matter how the movie turns out, his music would be deeply appreciated by all.

  25. @Tracey. The background music on couples retreat website is amazing!!! i just found it here…. http://www.mail-archive.com/arrahmanfans@yahoogroups.com/msg70438.html

    Just scroll down a bit and you’ll see all the links to download directly from couples retreat website! YAY!

    Who is that playing the song on the homepage? AMAZING! I’m from US and it reminds me of my honeymoon in paradise (Bora & Moorea)! Gives me goosebumps and makes me want to cry tears of happiness! Whoever is playing is a genius! Thank you!

  26. OMG! who are all these looser… who is Illyaraja and who here wants to know about him…!!?? go get a life.. this article/page is published to discuss AR Rahman and his music…

    BTW, any help for translation for the track Kurukuru Kan..?

  27. OMG! who are all these looser… who is Illyaraja and who here wants to know about him…!!??

    You need to know about Ilayaraja, because if you don’t you haven’t heard much music that is worth listening to. Or why don’t you ask Rahman himself?

  28. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5dnV-BGksQ&feature=related

    Here’s Rahman making an acceptance speech at a felicitation organized by the Cine Musicians Union. He, with the greatest humility declares that those who came before him – he names several stalwarts including Raja Sir aka Ilayaraja – have for long lived above and beyond the Oscars. Worth learning Tamizh to listen to the speech.

  29. @ jyotsana: thanks for your explanations. I am not actually from India and I only listen to Indian music for AR Rahman and his compositions… Anyways, I suppose you know tamil.. can u plz translate the lyrics for kurukuru kan…?

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