Those of us who faced the tyranny of HMV’s (now Saregama) monopoly in the bad old days of audio cassettes were happy with the advent of CDs. We thought we had entered a shiny plastic age in which recordings wouldn’t be mono-posing-as-stereo, song lists wouldn’t be jumbled, and sleeve notes wouldn’t be shorter than singers’ names. All of the above are still with us, in version 2.1 — CD technology can’t cover for the sloppiness of humans.
We now have a new kind of bungle. The CD of Bhindi Bazaar Inc, despite all its green Matrix-like sleekness, does not once mention the name of the music director(s) or the lyricist(s). And this is an album that mentions even the accompanists who have solos on each song! Are we in a Satya Yug where never-lying producers admit the irrelevance of composers? Or is it a Kalyug where intellectual property rights get slammed out by the studio’s door?
Either way it’s a shame, because this is an album that resolves a new equation off the tired Bollywood formulas — with words, voices and instrumentation. Thanks to the film’s website, we know that Sandeep-Surya (two persons or one, really?) is the composer and Navin Tyagi the songwriter.
The first song, Suraj Jagan’s ‘Akkad bakkad’, lights up the 1970s’ dhan-ta-raa ring that Vishal Bhardwaj played in in Kaminey. The playfulness in this pickpocket’s creed is underscored with the refrain “gili-gili-akka” borrowed from RD Burman’s ‘Yeh jawani’ and the frilly vibrato of Joseph’s trumpet.
Another vermin’s-eye-view of the world is Tochi Raina and Prashant Narayana’s ‘Maaldaar ki jeb’. Sharafat Hussain’s cascading tabla sets the base on which the duo launches its multi-pitch pyrotechnics.
Hussain’s tabla is a differentiator in ‘Aaja re piya’, too. It’s first presented as a duet between Sandeep Goshwami and a heavy-breathing Shweta Pandit. The song’s ‘Sufi version’ is rendered in the unmistakable but unusually underwhelming voice of Kailash Kher.
After the lovey-dovey respite, the cynical worldview of the film takes over again with Shibani Kashyap’s ‘Taan ke seena’. But riding on a retro Latino cabaret beat, the delivery is done in style: “Laalach ki kabhi bhi jo, aazmayish hogi/Tab lap-lapati subah ki be-rab numayish hogi.”
In ‘Kitni baatein’, Roop Kumar Rathod’s open voice leaves ample space for brilliant sketches by Jeetendra Thakur and Sanjeev Rao’s violins. It ends in a crescendo that few apart from Rathod could have executed.
The album jacket has a number of asterisks against songs that link up to nothing. It’s another baffling omission encasing quite a brilliant album.
Rewind, stop, fast forward
First, a statutory declaration: Neelesh Misra, ‘creative director’ of Band Called Nine, was a colleague of mine. He was working at the Hindustan Times while churning out hits such as ‘Abhi kuchh dino se’ and ‘Kya mujhe pyaar hai’.
So it’s no surprise that Neelesh’s band would have the unique distinction of being ‘writer-led’. Their debut album stitches nine songs with 10 episodes of the story of a boy from Nainital who grew up at a time Chitrahaar was the week’s high tele-entertainment. He falls in love, elopes and then sees his love dissolve into the bright lights of Delhi. A tale well recited by Neelesh himself, with a few nods to his guru Gulzar’s readings in albums such as Dil Padosi Hai, and a few bi-lingual turns of phrase — such as “yaadon ke idiot box”, “mohabbat ka Mother Teresa” and “shaadi ke fixed deposit” — that will, inshallah, have a longer life than this album.
The problem is the music. Shilpa Rao’s husky voice is as sure as ever, but Suraj Jagan’s solos slip up now and then. Just when you think the compositions are moving from schoolboy rock to the bluesy ‘Roobaru’ and ‘Shayad’, they slip back. The kitchen department is mostly led by a metallic, uninspired octapad.
The album is a powerful engine chugging rusty carriages. But then, this is just the beginning of the journey.