After several months have come a couple of Bollywood albums you can put your feet up with. They take you away from the ‘just-this-song-and-that please’ territory. Today’s formula-led collections are unlikely to work as a bunch. But these two — Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s Patiala House and Pritam’s Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji — work as albums as much as individual song downloads. Well, almost.
I don’t know whether the apparent balance is the doing of the music directors or the plotlines. But let’s tune in.
A decade after he sang away his heart for a ‘kudi Gujarat ki’ and made his name despite the cheesy video, Jassi has turned to friendships closer to his Gurdaspur home. The first song on the Patiala House album, ‘Laung da lashkara’, mixes Jassi’s puréed Punjabi voice (at times you might think it’s Sukhwindar) with Mahalaxmi Iyer’s laminated dulce and Hard Kaur’s pence-a-word Southall rap. The slow-and-steady dhol, led by Aslam and Hanif Dafrani, keeps the rhythm from breaking out into a predictable frenzy.
The Dafranis strike harder in ‘Rola pe gaya’. If you strain to hear Master Saleem beyond the ruckus Iyer, Shankar and Kaur strike up, you’ll probably miss him all the more. Iyer, though, does well to fill the solo tracts cued by beat shifts.
Shafqat Amanat Ali returns as the melody king for the love-lorn with ‘Kyun main jagoon’. An agreeable tilt to the high notes and a soulful melody supported by some harmony. The second, unplugged version of the song is quite plugged in — only the bassy electronic beat is missing. The third version, remixed by Asian Dub Foundation, underwhelms. It might have worked better if Madhukar Dumal’s shehnai was woven better into the main body. Instead, we have Shafqat’s chords comically speeded up.
In the middle of the album is ‘Baby when you talk to me’ by Suraj Jagan and Alyssa Mendonsa. Seems at least partially ‘inspired’ by Irene Cara’s ‘What a feeling’ from Flashdance. Ah, well.
The pace slows to 1980s’ sugar-pop in ‘Aadat hai voh’. This was probably written for Mohit Chauhan’s voice, but Vishal Dadlani does a good enough impression of a school band vocalist.
Aided by a chorus and Jayantilal Gosher’s mandolin, Hans Raj Hans renders ‘Tumba tumba’ with an endearing zest. The more you hear the album, the more you think the beat changes are essential. In this song, too, such shifts bring in welcome unpredictability.
The gem of the album is a song without a beat: Richa Sharma’s rendition of ‘Aval allah noor upaya’. The echoing second voice — possibly by Sharma herself — rings as if bouncing around in the cupola of a place of worship.
And words too, please
Despite its variety, Patiala House misses a soul in its lyrics. Anvita Dutt, who did a decent job with the dialogues and lyrics in Bachna Ae Haseeno, is possibly too busy plotting the route from Patiala to Southall in this film.
And that’s the department Dil Toh gets right. It’s ably manned by Neelesh Misra (a former colleague and writer of ‘Khuda jaane’), Sanjay Chhel (responsible for Amir Khan’s tapori dialogues in Rangeela) and Sayeed Quadri (‘Maula mere maula’ in Anwar). But the irony is that while Patiala comes with a booklet of lyrics, this album doesn’t.
Mohit Chauhan’s ‘Abhi kuchh dino se’ is worth a star by itself. Pritam’s got the singing-while-travelling-with-a-guitar feel Chauhan is so good at evoking.
Has Sonu Nigam botoxed his vocal chords, too? ‘Tere bin’ would have you believe he has. Kunal Ganjawala seems happy at being reunited with a guitar in ‘Jadugari’. The rock-n-roll-n-ganster’s-moll feel in the ‘film version’ of ‘Yeh dil hai nakhrewala’ rings truer than the one Shefali Alvaris seems to have sung through her nose.
The balance in it all? It’s not really in the melody or the lyrics of either album. If at all, it’s in the pacing of the songs. These days even that’s rare.