99 Songs Review: Ehan Bhat, Edilsy Vargas' romance musical is visual spectacle of AR Rahman's inimitable music

99 Songs is A.R. Rahman's visual love letter to music and the magic it invigorates within all of us while Ehan Bhat and Edilsy Vargas instil visual depth with their earnest performances and effervescent chemistry. Read Pinkvilla's full review below.
99 Songs releases today, i.e. April 16. 99 Songs Review: Ehan Bhat, Edilsy Vargas' romance musical is visual spectacle of AR Rahman's inimitable music
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99 Songs:

99 Songs Cast: Ehan Bhat, Edilsy Vargas

99 Songs Director: Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy

99 Songs Stars: 3/5

I recently read a comment on YouTube that perfectly summed up A. R. Rahman's other-worldly music; "A.R. Rahman is not a name, it's an emotion." Over the past few decades, music lovers have been blessed with Rahman's intricate love letters to music and what if the tunes were given a visual stimulus, spearheaded by the legend himself, on his own terms? You get 99 Songs.

Along with the music, Rahman's prose talent takes center stage in this musical love story whose king as you'd expect lies heavily in the carefully curated soundtrack. You witness a glimpse of all Rahman classics fused into this delightfully soothing musical journey which taps into traditional roots like jazz as well. Whether it be the soulful innocence of young love in Sofia or the tantalising A Bullet To Your Heart, every song has a story to tell. Why I mention music first is because that's what the motto of 99 Songs is; an ode to the magic instilled within us through music. You clearly see that in the piano sequence as The Oracle reels you in and visually depicts the feelings one envisions when listening to one's favourite tune.

Shifting gears to the storyline, 99 Songs follows the stereotypical musical route where there's young lovebirds irrevocably enamoured by each other but a stern father plays spoilsport in their magical love story. Jay (newcomer Ehan Bhatt), is riddled with his tragic past as his father was staunchly against the very idea of music while navigating his way through the treacherous world in a truthful manner. While Jay is the personification of the art of music, Sophie (Edilsy Vargas) is the very embodiment of visual art, through her paintings and as a fashion designer.

Giving this writer Vijay Mallya doppelganger feels is Ranjit Barot, as Sophie's dad, who's over the top theatrics as the rich father who looks down upon struggling artists like Ehan distracts us from Ehan and Edilsy's earnest takes. Nonetheless, credit is to be given to both these talented individuals as they breathe life into Rahman and director Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy's ambitious outlook. Being summoned off with the challenge of writing 100 songs to win Sophie's heart and more importantly, her dad's approval, Jay travels to Shillong with his college friend (Tenzin Dalha) and trouble quickly follows.

Bhat is truly a revelation as most of the acting heavy lifting lies on his shoulders and he does so with utmost grace. As Jay's voice, Sashwat Singh is the perfect counterpart to Ehan's heartfelt performance. On the other hand, Edilsy makes an honest effort in relaying Sophie's handicap and changing emotions through her facial expressions and movement alone. Bhat and Vargas' chemistry is especially effervescent and smooth on the eyes. Tenzin is also a knockout in the supporting role and adds a quirky flavour to the larger than life visual palette. While Lisa Ray is tailor-made for her role as a jazz singer who encounters Jay, Manisha Koirala makes a brief but poignant appearance as well.

ALSO READ: I don’t have any musical elitism: AR Rahman on 99 Songs, Heropanti 2, Life of Pi and more

Using suspension of disbelief, 99 Songs is pretty reminiscent of La La Land, though the VFX could have been miles better. However, that's where Rahman's music plays key and you can almost forgive the visual glitches. The cinematography of Tanay Satam and James Cowley and the production design by Aparna Raina are aesthetically in tune with Rahman's soundtrack and in particular, I loved the colour scheme used throughout the movie with reds and blues getting major composition.

At the end of the day, it's not about 99 Songs but that one song that can change someone's life. We all have that one Rahman song that has influenced us and now, we have a whole movie to make us fall in love with the concept, i.e. music.