Monday July 27, 2020

Bandish Bandits (Music review), Hindi – Shankar Ehsaan Loy

Posted by Karthik

After Rahman went ‘youth’ all over again recently with ‘Friendzone’ in Dil Bechara, it is heartwarming to see more 50+ years dudes go ‘viral’, ‘selfie’ and more, courtesy Divyanshu Malhotra’s competent lines in Sajan Bin. The song’s highlight is, however, the trio’s excellent jugalbandi of sorts, blending the lead characters’ musical preferences, clearly delineating the girl’s music as ‘pop’ and the boy’s music as ‘classical’, by blending Shivam Mahadevan’s classical portion over Jonita’s. The girl’s music has an upper hand, though, since Shivam sings within the catchy, pop rhythm that stays on and the fact that Jonita doesn’t enter the classical territory for her part. It’s a superb blend, overall, and is the only song in the entire soundtrack to attempt this fusion. Shivam is phenomenal in his brief classical portion that sits on top of the pulsating pop song like a crown, even as Jonita’s segment is wonderfully lively.

Shivam gets down to the non-classical, filmy sound in the next song, Chedkhaniyaan – he is excellent, once again. The frothy and highly rhythmic sound continues here too, as Pratibha Singh Baghel joins Shivam in the second half of the song.

Couple Goals is the trio’s comfort zone, with that amped up folk sound that they excel in. The song features Armaan Malik and Jonita Gandhi in great form, feeding off each others’ energy, and here Jonita does what Shivam was doing in the earlier song, enter the boy’s musical zone, albeit for a brief, classical closure.

Mastiyaapa is the last of the non-classical songs in the soundtrack, with a sound harking back to the trio’s Karthik Calling Karthik number Uff Teri Ada. Immensely catchy, with a zingy sound and a bouncy hook, handled impeccably by Jonita.

The soundtrack’s stunning highlights are the classically oriented songs.

Javed Ali is force behind the highly melodic Labb Par Aaye, backed by a beautiful harmonium layer. The song is in line with the sound the trio produced for their fantastic Marathi soundtrack, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli.

The 2 songs in which Shankar Mahadevan takes center-stage, the results are spellbinding!

In Virah, he takes on what sounds like Purya Dhanasri raaga, with a deeply affecting and poignant melody, magnificently. The absolute desolate nature of the melody evokes Ismail Darbar’s Tadap Tadap (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), though Shankar’s vocal prowess considerably turns this one into a classically rooted tune.

In Dhara Hogi, Shankar is in absolutely stunning form! The melody seems like Megh and/or Madhmad Sarang raaga to my untrained ear, and also works on the premise of invoking the rain. The jaunty rhythm provides a splendid canvas for Shankar to unleash his delightful singing. The trio’s music is particularly brilliant in the 2nd half when they aid Shankar with the classical exposition, leading to an ecstatic ending!

But Garaj Garaj Jugalbandi is easily the song of the soundtrack! Farid Hasan and Mohammed Aman completely run riot with their stellar singing all over the song. The song continues with the rain theme, and seemed like raaga Mian Ki Malhar, to me. The trio let the music help the two hugely accomplished singers at the top of their game. The way they complement each other is a joy to listen to! The final 2-odd minutes of the song is goosebumps-inducing, with the singers demonstrating absolute mastery over their voices, bending it to will to flow like the water they are invoking from the rain! This is music that brings tears, in the sheer joy of hearing such a profusion.

The song’s other version, even if it could be called the ‘Lite’ version of the jugalbandi, is still a very, very good listen given the source tune is so very impressive. Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty and Javed Ali are no lesser singers either, but within the brief they have been given, they produce a lighter, common-man variant of the song, that too, is aptly enjoyable.

Shankar’s handling of the traditional Gujarati Rajasthani folk melody, Padharo Maare Des, is highly evocative, with that lovely, authentic backdrop. The Bandish Bandits Theme closes the soundtrack on a haunting note, though too short.

The first surprise is that the trio composes music for a ‘TV series’, though that phrase has become very respectable with the onset of OTT platforms. Just 2 weeks ago, I had written about another classical-music based TV series in Bangla, Tansener Tanpura, with outstanding music by Joy Sarkar. It is so heartening to see the return of classical music in the mainstream, and that too at the hands of such accomplished musicians like the trio. They had already proved beyond doubt what they can do with a classical music base in Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, and produce an effortless encore here! This is the kind of music where age helps, and with their exposure, they bring gravitas to the songs, and the soundtrack. This is one of the best soundtracks in Hindi in recent times.

Listen to the songs on YouTube:

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