Three years ago, I had met a worried father. He was fine with the way the careers of his daughter and younger son were going. But he was dismissive of his elder son’s. “He has a band that plays here and there, earns a few thousand rupees,” he had said.
Now the son, Imaaduddin Shah, has jumped into his father’s splashpool, Bollywood, slinging his guitar and harmonica. He has composed, written and sung for a film in which he has starred, too. Wonder how father Naseeruddin — who gave Imaad his first role in his directorial venture, Yun Hota To Kya Hota — feels about it now.
Imaad brings the bluesy rock sound of his band, The Pulp Society, to the film, 404 Error Not Found. He also sloshes the lyrics with the sort of irreverence the film’s title suggests.
The words are accorded more heft than is usual in Bollywood. From ‘Kya dekh raha hai’ to ‘Chal soch le’, there’s a swagger about them. And in ‘Kya dekh raha hai’, when Imaad pipes in from behind Suman Sridhar with “Char pradeshon ki public ne/CM ko uthake feka naalein mein”, you wonder how recently the songs were written.
They sound shifts between the guitar-led rock of the 1970s and the synthesiser-lined classics of the 80s.
In the foot-tapping college ballad ‘Aisa hi hai’, the omnipotent Imaad sings, plays the acoustic guitar and the brush drums. The only other accompaniment is of Jonathan James Paul’s piano. In ‘Psycho baba’, Imaad also pitches in with the heavy bass that holds the rhythm.
I don’t know whether the spooky-feely “All in the mind” is a slight nod towards the (different) songs by Oasis and The Verve that go by the same title. But the lively harmonica-led tune of ‘Chal soch le’ is for sure inspired by the folk-rock smoke around Bob Dylan’s hair. The feel is heightened by the
backgrounding of the percussion and the bass. So far so fresh and so relaxingly self-assured. But the slightly offkey balladry has its limits. And the fresh approach to the lyrics is wasted in its too-smart-by-half tone. Some bits of storytelling would have possibly gotten a greater lift in this mode.
The film’s theme by Sameer Uddin begins with Caralisa Monteiro’s voice flickering like a candle in the wind. Then it shifts to an accordion passage very close to The Godfather theme, before slipping into a medley of ominous tunes that sound like other can’t-put-my-finger-on-it themes. But it takes away little from this album of fresh ideas.
Faiz at 100
Vidya Shah, noted for her renditions of Sufi music and her research in early-20th-century women vocalists, has joined a host of musicians who are paying tribute to poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz on his birth centenary.
Apart from three recitations by Faiz himself, the album has seven songs of which five have been set to music by Vidya herself. It’s a courageous act because some of the subcontinent’s best known singers of Urdu poetry — from Begum Akhtar to Mehdi Hasan and beyond — have etched some of the poems in indelible tune. By the same coin, Vidya’s is a welcome act, too.
But her reinterpretation is not aimed at a new generation of listeners. The poems are just reclothed in new raags. ‘Mori araj suno’, an Amir Khusro-esque prayer set in Shuddh Sarang by Vidya, is the most dazzling of the lot.
If the stridency of her voice, placed somewhere between the sureness of a Shubha Mudgal and the earnestness of a classical student, helps her in ‘Mori araj’, it detracts elsewhere. If you shout out ‘Chaman ko sajane ke din aa rahe hain’, you are not doing the lyrics a service, are you? The most daring reinterpretation is of ‘Yun sajaa chand’ because, riding an atypical rhythm, Vidya trots far from both Farida Khanum’s and Asha Bhosle’s versions.
Earlier this year, Vidya wrote about Faiz in Dawn, the Pakistani newspaper. Her introduction to the poet was through the singing of Mehdi Hasan, whose raagdaar renditions never muffled the lyrics, she observed. It’s a test most of Vidya’s compositions would fail.