Saturday July 22, 2017


Having completed writing music reviews for 12 years, I was almost facing an existential dilemma. Thanks largely to Jagga Jasoos. Here’s a film that’s a true-blue musical (with a very pointed cue to why it is one, in the script!). And the musical doesn’t release its soundtrack as a single entity even a week before the film’s release.

The days of using a music soundtrack as a promotional tool, and hence release it a month in advance, are gone. Or, at least from the Hindi film industry’s perspective, they are over. Rahman’s Mom soundtrack released just a week before the film. I believe Jab Harry Met Sejal’s soundtrack, with 10 songs no less (4 singles are out so far) will be out in the coming week – a week before the film’s release! Tubelight’s soundtrack released as a full entity, a day before the film’s Friday release.

I have had tons of people asking me to start reviewing singles and get on with it, instead of waiting for full albums to be released. I did consider that, but the ensuing duplication—of writing about the same songs when the albums release too—seemed cumbersome and repetitive.

Plus, barring the Dharma/Yashraj/Bollywood machine, the rest of the country seems to be still sold on the soundtrack model, except that the audio release isn’t a glitzy function and is released fairly close to the movie’s release. I’m ok with that – I’m not part of any film’s propaganda machine so I couldn’t care less when the release happens as long as I get to form my opinion on a complete/full album.

And, if you will kindly allow me a brief moment of vanity, the one thing… or the other thing (besides inculcating a multi-lingual interest in music amongst a reasonable number of people) that I seem to have helped is continuing to showcase composers’ progress over a period of time, by betting early and being very happy when they turn out to be as per my yardstick of quality and make it big.

In the last few years, I have consistently bet on the following:

Sam CS
Ajaneesh B Loknath
Afzal Yusuff
Sunny MR
Achu Rajamani
Leon James
Sean Roldan
Midhun Mukundan
Manoj George
Justin Prabhakaran
Joshua Sridhar
Nivas K Prasanna
Vivek Sagar
Charan Raj
Manikanth Kadri
Sooraj S. Kurup
(I’m sure there are more that I may have missed)

Some of them have finally made it big. Like Sam CS, for whom I rated his completely unknown and unheard ‘Kadalai’ very high, made it visibly big with Vikram Vedha. Or a Vivek Sagar, who is composing for an upcoming biggie starring Naga Chaitanya (whether that is good or not is a different question, given how Sunny MR did for his Dochay!). Or my consistent bets on Ghibran, Sean Roldan, Justin Prabhakaran, K, Ajaneesh Loknath, among others.

Some of them haven’t worked out… yet. Like Shravan, who I feel is on the cusp of big things – his last, Chandamama Raave is exceptionally good proof of that, though I have no idea who heard it or if the film released. Or a J.B, who is still on the periphery of Telugu music. Or a Joshua Sridhar who is on the periphery of both Tamil and Kannada music! Or a Krsna, who is on the periphery of Hindi music. Here’s hoping all these folks do get their big breaks and flourish and continue to produce great music that I can gladly offer a #200.

To year 13!

Thank you for reading.

Zindagi na milegi dobara is the usual Thaman bag of tricks – glitzy music that evokes a generous dose of ennui. Divya Kumar shines in the foot-tapping, energetic Black & White. In Basthi dorasani, Thaman hat-tips Pritam’s R Rajkumar number Gandi baat in a more-than-obvious way, in a similar kuthu package. Bole Ram works on its repetitive hook with nothing much to hold on to in its generic tune that harks back to early Rahman, in terms of the interludes. The film’s theme is a mish-mash while also alluding to Anirudh’s Kaththi theme! Thaman is scraping the barrel’s bottom now.

Keywords: Goutham Nanda, SS Thaman

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Mazha paadum‘s melody is highly tuneful. Deepak’s choice of singers, Aravind Venugopal and the film’s leading lady, Aparna Balamurali amply help the song, while Deepak’s soft and pleasant orchestration takes on a lovely strings-led high in the anupallavi. Karthik is the soul of Oru nokku, a likeable ballad of sorts, while Aaro kude has a lovely trumpet layer that props the spriteful melody. Kando ninde kannil falls in the long list of recent Malayalam songs recreating 80s funk and in Anwar Sadath’s cool vocals, this one works effortlessly. The recently (since end 2015!) missing-in-action Deepak’s form seems to be intact!

Keywords: Sunday Holiday, Deepak Dev

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Vineeth Srinivasan invests a lot in Janah meri janah, a wonderfully calming melody by Hesham. The song’s reprise sees Adheef Muhammed’s expression of the same melody in a lovely new light. Roopa Revathi’s violin stands out in both versions. Engane padendu njan is an outstanding semi-classical melody beautifully rendered by Jayachandran and Manjari, with nuanced strings by Cochin Strings and Kammath’s mridangam. In the song’s Electro Dream Version, Hesham turns it on its head, re-imagining it on an ambient soundscape. Nivas’ singing gives the expansive pathos of Kathorthu added weight. From Salt Mango Tree, Hesham makes a giant leap forward!

Keywords: Cappuccino, Hesham Abdul Wahab

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

The title song is a heady, foot-tapping number, stringing together Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan film titles! Vijay Prakash is expectedly fantastic. Arjun infuses manic energy in Dhool‘s rhythm, though the actual tune is more gimmicky. Tea angadi munde is typical Arjun Janya; an intentionally corny tune riding on a foot-tapping, faux-classical base… Vyasaraj does the honors darn well. Lavanya kai kottbitta could easily be mistaken for Imman’s material – similar rhythm and tune combo. Indu Nagaraj closes the soundtrack in style with Suruvana suvvanaari, a possibly Senjurutti raaga melody that Arjun adorns perfectly with nadaswaram. Arjun’s great form for Sharan continues!

Keywords: Rajvishnu, Arjun Janya

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Much of Vachinde‘s buoyancy is from Madhu Priya’s fantastic singing. Shakthikanth’s folksy backgrounds include lovely dollops of sitar and harmonium. Edo jaruguthondi is equally spirited, with its easy-on-the-ears dance-pop sound, and involved singing by Renuka and Aravind Srinivas. There’s a generous dose of A R Rahman in Hey pillagaada, and Shakthikanth’s melody, on a jaunty folk rhythm, is excellent. Hemachandra does well in Oosupodu, with a pensive, engaging melody, though the title song is largely standard-issue. In Hey Mister, riding on Martin’s sax and Godfrey Emmanuel’s guitar, Deepak delivers a cool, catchy song. Shakthikanth delivers mighty well for Sekhar Kammula!

Keywords: Fida, Shakthikanth Karthick

PS: As Karthikeya Sharma mentions in the comments, Hey Pillagada seems to be a creatively rehashed version of Malliswari’s Parugulu theeyali, composed by S. Rajeswara Rao.

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Of the 2 songs by Vickey Prasad, Hans mat pagli is an easy winner, with its folksy, breezy melody that evokes composer Krsna’s repertoire and winsome vocals by Sonu Nigam and Shreya Ghosal. In comparison, Vickey’s other song, Bakheda—and Sachet-Parampara’s Shuba ki train—are standard-issue, familiar materials. Manas-Shikhar’s Gori tu latthmaar is a complete joy! The mix is excellent, blending an upbeat hook (with that Radhe Radhe chorus) with a lilting base melody. Sonu Nigam digs into it with superb verve, with Palak Muchhal handling the melodic parts with equal poise. Pagli and Gori make this trip to the toilet enjoyable.

Keywords: Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Vickey Prasad, Sachet-Parampara, Manas-Shikhar

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Zeb hands over her Sandara number (originally by Haji Saifuddin)—re-written by Anvita Dutt as Jigi jigi—to Malini Awasthi. Malini folksy raunch gives it a new twist, with Zeb’s brilliantly mounted brass. Ishquiya‘s groovy disco funk is handled with perfect oomph by Neeti Mohan, with excellent support by Ankur Mukherjee’s guitar. In Le li jaan, Zeb converts Ahmad Zahir‘s original, slow lilt (closer to Rohail Hyatt’s Coke Studio 3 variant sung by Zeb) into a racy, electro-swing number that comes stunningly alive in Zeb’s vocals, backed by Michael Winograd’s clarinet and Siddiq Sameer’s rabab. Immensely likeable and eclectic mix by Zeb!

Keywords: Zebunnisa Bangash, Lipstick Under My Burkha

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

Nallani kanulalo and Ye piduguki both start with whistling but they turn into dramatically different songs. The former moves on to a neat Russian-folk like prelude, to eventually a lilting Keeravani’ish base with Ashwathi’s child-like voice expressing her Princess wishes. The latter has Arunraja Kamaraj… enough said – another vocal-cord busting Kabali derivative. Vishal offers a wonderfully immersive, almost Raja-like melody in Manase thalupe, with splendid strings accompanying Haricharan and Sindhuri. The sound takes on a fantastic waltz-like quality adding a new dimension. Vishal does wonders in the disappointingly-too-short Marala raaa. Nithyashree Venkataramanan totally aces the rendition, starting off slow, in a dreamy manner, but makes the brilliant rock transition in grand style! That brings us to Ilayaraja’s two songs in the film! Naa kadhalo yuvarani is trademark Raja in every conceivable way – the gently lilting sound, the familiar, comforting interludes and the delightful melody that gets even more likeable in the anupallavi, perfectly handled by Vibhavari! She sounds completely different in Thikkalodi vesham, a lovely throwback to 90s Raja invoking classics like Michael Madana Kamarajan’s Ram bum bum with its swinging jazz influence! Kathalo Rajakumari is a lovely soundtrack, with Ilayaraja and Vishal Chandrashekhar producing highly enjoyable music!

Keywords: Kathalo Rajakumari, Kadhalo Rajakumari, Ilayaraja, Vishal Chandrashekhar, 200, #200

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs (only 4; for some reason the 2 Ilayaraja songs are not included!)

There’s so much to like in Ullu ka pattha – Vivienne Pocha’s ‘Ulule’ hook—with a clever yodel effect, Daniel García Diego’s scintillating Flamenco guitar, and the way multiple streams converge when Nikitha Gandhi starts, ‘Be sar pair ki…”. Arijit and Nikitha are fantastic, handling the energetic tune. Plagiarism allegations notwithstanding, there is definitely a Bihu/Assamese twang—with a lilting pop rhythm—to Galti se mistake. Amitabh Bhattacharya amusing lines get the perfect expression in Arijit and Amit Mishra comical delivery. Pritam’s melody in Jhumritalaiyya has a meditative quality. But Neelesh Misra’s lyrics are as vibrantly whimsical as Ranbir’s hair-do… and that helps Arijit breathe life into it like only he can. After a lovely guitar phrase and a brilliant chorus, Pritam brings back things in style with the ‘Guzra sarfira’ part! Nyzel Dlima and Roland Fernandes’ guitar adds considerable charm to the somber Phir wahi, with Arijit laying out Amitabh Bhattacharya’s plaintive verse in his inimitable style. Musafir, with the surprisingly non-Arijit voice of Tushar Joshi joins other Ranbir-featuring travel songs like Safarnama and Phir se udd chala, and makes for a very hummable melody with a lovely Coldplay’ish ending. Pritam showcases a tremendously enjoyable range over the 5-song Jagga Jasoos soundtrack.

Keywords: Jagga Jasoos, Pritam, 200, #200

PS: This is the 5 ‘straight’ songs set of Jagga Jasoos. There are 20+ more songs that are ‘screenplay’ songs, that help propel the narrative like a musical. ‘Khaana khaake‘ is the first of such songs and there are a lot more to come. Will do a separate review of those songs, once they are all released.

Listen to the songs on Saavn:

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

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