Turning in a widening gyre

Given that we Indians have a disproportionate love for records of the longest-oldest-weirdest kind, we should find the music album of Ra.One pretty interesting. The centrepiece of the album, 'Chammak Challo', has been rendered in a rarely-before and hopefully-never-again five versions. 

One hand on the ear and the other on my heart, I have to say it's a catchy tune that stands out in our Bollyjungle. But to be able to sit through all the versions, you will have to love the pitch-perfect pop-squeak of Senegalese American singer Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam. If you do (as millions around the world seem to do), you can enjoy the bonus Akon track, 'Criminal', too. If you don't, listening to the unending DJ remixes could be about as exciting as watching clothes turn in a front-loading washing machine.

Whichever way we cock our head, we should take note of one thing: the inclusion of singers from abroad, especially those at the height of their popularity. It's not only welcome, but, purses permitting, should be indulged more.

To their credit, music directors Vishal and Shekhar (or the other producer credited for the song, Giorgio Tuinfort) haven't given in to the urge of drowning the street-smart melody of this superhero flick in a power-jet of all-out instrumentation. The hook is accompanied by a beat worthy of a few kathak pirouettes. The swooning strings come in at the choral intervals. And just to taunt the superfans of the other superhero-superstar, Rajnikant, there are a few lines in Tamil sung by Hamsika Iyer.

Shafqat Amanat Ali's 'Dildaara', an acknowledged copy of Ben E King's 'Stand by me', is the most disappointing track. Most versions of the song - and this one has had a dozen too many - have tripped up on the original's tappy rhythm dotted by its almost-silent punctuations. This cover doesn't learn from the failure of the previous ones.

Another pop song in the album seems to be set on the same theme, just with a reverse power equation. Rather than asking the other to 'Stand by me', the one sung by Sidd Coutto promises: "Don't worry about a thing now/ 'Cause I'll be right by your side."

Nandini Srikar's 'Bhare naina', introduced by a Prague Philharmonic Choir chant, starts off with a lovely folksy mukhda before rising to a crescendo. The daf-lined interludes sit well with this slightly lazy beat. Srikar doesn't let her classical training overtake the spirit of the melody.

For me, the album gets to its best when it enters the dhan-ta-raa territory of 'Raftarein' and 'Jiya mora ghabraaye' (subtitled 'The Chase'). The first, sung by Vishal and Shekhar, is a nod to the classic action sequences of the 1970s. The second, led by Sukhwinder Singh's slippery Rajdhani-speed taans, has been spun around and rubbed in on a smart machine. And this is where the album's brilliant mixing and mastering gets full play.

While his guitar gently...

A refreshing difference from the superhero stuff is the sound of acoustic guitars accompanying Kunal Ganjawalla's handsome voice in My Friend Pinto. The overall tone of the album can be summed up in a line from the first song, 'Take It Easy': "Hai kurmuri, kabhi kabhi geeli."

The second song, 'Yaadon ki album', is a college anthem sung by the person you remember the most while listening to Kunal Ganjawalla - KK.

'Intezaar' is another lollipop, offered by a 20-something quartet from Mumbai University, the Nirmitee Group (spelt Nirmatee on the album).

'Tu' is a lover's lament by Sunidhi Chauhan. It makes you wonder why composers don't use her voice for conveying such emotions more than the raunch that usually goes her way.

The most raucous, jiving song is the final one - 'Dhinchak zindagi', a lively mambo tune that makes you want to take to the dance floor. It counts for one whole star in the album's rating.

We know from the notes that Karl Peters was on the bass guitar and Kishor Sodha played the trumpet. But in an unexplained lapse, we don't know the name of the drummer, who gives us a fitting finale with his drumroll.


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