It was inevitable and it’s welcome. We finally have some Hindi/Hinglish films scored not by our usual Ram-Shyam composers or their hatke singleton followers. Instead, a couple of new films have their sounds composed or produced by electronica bands and DJs. So far, so fresh. How’s the music?
For the soundtrack of Soundtrack, Delhi-based electronica band Midival Punditz has teamed up with the US-based Karsh Kale. They are all familiar with the minefield between Indian traditional and Western modern. And they have brought that knowledge to this collaboration.
The opener, ‘Symphony of the Streets’, begins with the rattle of a hurtling train, probably of a Mumbai local, and then settles into a loungey groove. Anushka Manchanda shakes you out of the reverie with the next, a precipitous ‘What the F’. If the Punditz dug up Kailash Kher’s ‘Mein chala’ to conduct an autopsy, they needn’t have — it stinks of the real Kailash.
The couple of songs by Vishal Vaid, an Indian American who has sung for Kale’s band Bhoom Shankar, leave different after-tastes. ‘Ek manzil’ goes along an oft-beaten rhythmic track and doesn’t take you to any new destination. ‘Ek fakira’ makes you jhoom to its hypnotic, trancey repetition.
The Punditz and Kale have also tossed up a couple of 1970s’ Kishore Kumar hits composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal — ‘Ruk jaana nahin’ from Imtihaan and ‘Yeh jeevan hai’ from Piya Ka Ghar. The first one, in Suraj Jagan’s voice, sounds like a college anthem with spare disco cues. The second, a lament recollected in repose, has been rendered in the earthy, forceful voice of Malini Awasthy. They don’t go anywhere attractive or meaningful musically as stand alone re-dubs.
‘Banao’ and ‘Naina lagey’ are songs the Punditz and Papon have played together earlier at gigs. It’s lovely to hear the smoker’s anthem, ‘Banao’ (in the manner of ‘Roll up for a magical mystery tour’), in a film album. The latter, a raag-infused doodle, is the sort of arrangement you would want to hear out of MTV Coke Studio (but don’t).
‘Atomizer’, a Kraftwerk-like vocal sitting on top of a dholak that could lead a Ganpati procession, is the wick for their Molotov cocktail of an album. Wish we have more such scores in Hindi films.
Speedy Singhs is from the fertile corner of England that will forever be Punjab. It features — sorry, feat.s — Canadian-Brit DJs RDB (Rhythm, Dhol, Bass), J Hind (who has proclaimed himself ‘President of Desi Hip-hop’), US rapper Ludacris, bhangra popstar Jassi Sidhu, and... you get the idea.
The refrain “We’re brothers from different mothers” in ‘Chaddi wale yaar’ rocks. As does the majestic, just-behind-the-beat dhol in Jassi’s Bringham-winning ‘Veer ji viyohn’. They seem all-too-comfortable in the established idiom of British bhangra. Yes, it’s about pride and all. But can we move on, please?
You cannot even put out such a request for Vishal-Shekhar’s Rascals, which is a quintessential formula album for a David Dhawan formula film.
There’s back-from-the-dead Daler Mehndi’s ‘Tik tuk’, trying in vain to invoke the magic of his ‘Tunak tunak tun tarara’ days.
There’s also a Hinglish item number, ‘Shake it saiyyan’. Sunidhi Chauhan’s voice is alluring as usual, but when rapper Haji Springer says “I’m a potty animal” surely he means “party animal”.
Neeraj Shridhar delivers 440-volt performances with dhol-slinging back-up electricians. You may get to hear Shridhar’s ‘Pardaah nasheen’ and ‘Rascals’ at cheap, dark discotheques for a few months. But I bet you won’t be able to sing along.