I have been making annual music lists for 14 years (since 2008, 3 years after I started Milliblog in 2005) and 2022 is my 15th year. But, in these 15 years, 2022 is the first time I have felt a bit unexcited about the year’s quality of music overall, across all languages and film industries!
I cannot put a finger on why I think so, and given my total lack of any formal musical training of any sort (which I try to compensate for with relentless interest as a common-man listener), it becomes even more difficult to explain.
But, to some extent, this lack of excitement could be tied to the fact that at least film music in India is not about music alone anymore. Music in films is a LOT more about marketing than music. Music has joined the pre-release movie marketing template that includes title announcement, title teaser, title motion poster, first look, song 1 teaser, song 1 lyrical, film teaser, song 2 teaser, song 2 lyrical, song 1 music video, and finally… film trailer.
Given this relative demotion into the marketing sphere of the movie, I believe the musical quality aspect of film music has taken a back seat. It’s pointless to rue the state of music in our films though – it is what it is and it is a kind of evolution like any other trend. Perhaps things may change at some point!
But this middling musical trend leads to at least one change in this year’s Milliblog annual music lists – instead of 30 (a severe stretch in a year like 2022, given the kind of music we were exposed to), I have made lists of top 15, across Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada + a top 10 in Marathi, and 4 Indipop lists of 10 each – Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Assorted.
The lists below are based on the individual songs’ release year (2022), and not the film release dates/year, with the second week of December 2021 as the starting point and mid-December 2022 as a cut-off period.
I had rated Hindi film music in 2021 as lackluster. 2022 is worse, lacking exciting highlights of any sort! The closest that comes to a highlight is Pritam’s Laal Singh Chaddha. Interestingly, Hindi film music’s demotion (at least by my standards) comes on the back of the Hindi film industry’s overall demotion in the movie business in India!
2022 was the year when Kannada, Telugu, and Tamil movies rocked the national box-office scene even as Malayalam movies continue to rock the OTT scene.
Barring Pritam, I cannot really imagine any composer who can headline a film individually (barring Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, who had a middling presence this year) since almost every single Hindi film seems to have largely moved to a multi-composer model. Thankfully, this is limited to Hindi films alone since most other language movie industries still believe in giving one composer the musical reigns fully (Malayalam films are pushing the rule gradually, though).
Composer of the year: Pritam
- Doobey – Gehraiyaan (OAFF, Savera)
- Tur Kalleyan – Laal Singh Chaddha (Pritam)
- Meri Jaan Meri Jaan – Bachchhan Paandey (B Praak)
- Jogan – Goodluck Jerry (Parag Chhabra)
- Baadal Se Dosti – Jhund (Ajay-Atul)
- Aafat – Liger (Tanishk Bagchi)
- Kesariya – Brahmāstra (Pritam)
- Jehda Nasha – An Action Hero (Faridkot, Amar Jalal & Tanishk Bagchi)
- Rubaaiyaan – Qala (Amit Trivedi)
- Gaya Gaya Gaya – CHUP! (Amit Trivedi)
- Main Toh Main Hoon – Mili (A R Rahman)
- Kaala Jaadu – Freddy (Pritam)
- Besharam Rang – Pathaan (Vishal & Sheykhar)
- Phir Na Aisi Raat Aayegi – Laal Singh Chaddha (Pritam)
- Rangisari – JugJugg Jeeyo (Traditional/Kanishk Seth)
Anirudh continued his impressive run in 2022 too, much like 2021. He probably has the pulse of the audiences in the most astute manner among any other composer in Tamil cinema today. So it’s no wonder every big-budget entertainer lands at this studio, including long-time Rahman associates like Shankar (Indian 2).
But the return of A R Rahman—largely middling in 2020 and 2021—was the year’s highlight. Not just any return, but a return to spaces he hasn’t previously been to, like Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu’s (VTK) Mallipoo that was almost Rahman pulling off a Deva in his own style! Along with VTK, Rahman’s run was fantastic across Ponniyin Selvan and Iravin Nizhal too.
In terms of composers I look forward to, Justin Prabhakaran and Nivas K Prasanna top the list, while Santhosh Narayanan and Yuvan Shankar Raja continue to surprise me from time to time. Gulu Gulu’s Anbarey is a case in point when it comes to Santhosh.
Composer(s) of the year: Anirudh and A R Rahman
- Megham Karukatha – Thiruchitrambalam (Anirudh)
- Ratchasa Maamaney – Ponniyin Selvan -1 (A R Rahman)
- Vikram title song – Vikram (Anirudh)
- Anbarey – Gulu Gulu (Santhosh Narayanan)
- Orr Kadhal Kanaa – Farhana (Justin Prabhakaran)
- Mallipoo – Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu (A R Rahman)
- Chal Chakka – Gatta Kusthi (Justin Prabhakaran)
- Ethikkum – Kallapart (Nivas K Prasanna)
- Naan Pizhai – Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal (Anirudh)
- Poovizhi Penne – Aattral (Ashwin Hemanth)
- Yelamma Yela – Yaanai (GV Prakash Kumar)
- Chozha Chozha – Ponniyin Selvan – 1 (A R Rahman)
- Bejara – Iravin Nizhal (A R Rahman)
- Halamithi Habibo – Beast (Anirudh)
- Pacha Elai – Love Today (Yuvan Shankar Raja)
As usual, Telugu film music continues to be unabashed fun, defining and reveling in ‘masala’ like only this language’s film industry can. But even in that masala mode, that the industry can produce a really classy soundtrack like that of Sita Ramam is a stellar dichotomy. But Telugu film music and industry have always been like that – completely over-the-top masala and stupendously classical/classy stuff… both confidently co-exist.
Devi Sri Prasad continues to be prolific – his sheer range is quite amazing! Thaman seems to have relegated himself to a few big-budget films. I’d love to hear more from Mickey J Meyer, Ghibran, Leon James, and Vivek Sagar – all of the continue to show a lot of promise.
Composer of the year: Vishal Chandrashekhar
- Kaanunna Kalyanam – Sita Ramam (Vishal Chandrashekhar)
- Tara – Shyam Singha Roy (Mickey J Meyer)
- Bullet Song – The Warriorr (Devi Sri Prasad)
- Tillu Anna DJ Pedithe – DJ Tillu (Ram Miriyala)
- Kothaga Ledhenti – Ranga Ranga Vaibhavanga (Devi Sri Prasad)
- Thandanaanandha – Ante Sundaraniki (Vivek Sagar)
- Vesaane O Nichhena – Rowdy Boys (Devi Sri Prasad)
- Kottha Kottha Gaa – Aa Ammayi Gurinchi Meeku Cheppali (Vivek Sagar)
- Papa Tho Pailam – Hunt (Ghibran)
- Paathashalaloo – Ori Devuda (Leon James)
- Oh Sita Hey Rama – Sita Ramam (Vishal Chandrasekhar)
- Emundi Ra – Krishna Vrinda Vihari (Mahati Swara Sagar)
- Heli – SebastianPC524 (Ghibran)
- Kalaavathi – Sarkaru Vaari Paata (Thaman S)
- Telusa – Ranga Ranga Vaibhavanga (Devi Sri Prasad)
Much like in 2021 (but unlike 2020), Malayalam film music was a muted affair in 2022. Hesham Abdul Wahab is the year’s clear musical star, though – with brilliant work in Hridhayam and Madhuram.
Looking beyond Hesham’s work, the other album that really worked for me was Alphons Joseph’s Sundari Gardens. Considering Prashant Pillai is taking a sort of a break from composing, I’m pinning my hopes on Sushin Shyam, largely. Govind Vasantha, of course, straddles more movie industries than just focusing on Malayalam even though he has been quite prolific this year, relatively. The one soundtrack that did not work for me this year in Malayalam is Vishnu Vijay’s Thallumala even though I so wanted to like it more than I did.
Composer of the year: Hesham Abdul Wahab
- Parudeesa – Bheeshma Parvam (Sushin Shyam)
- Pottu Thotta Pournami – Hridhayam (Hesham Abdul Wahab)
- Rum Pum Pum – Madhuram (Hesham Abdul Wahab)
- O Manuja – Djinn (Prashant Pillai)
- Madhura Jeeva Ragam – Sundari Gardens (Alphons Joseph)
- Na Na Na – Mike (Hesham Abdul Wahab)
- Mazha Pattu – Padavettu (Govind Vasantha)
- Pattuduthu Vannathum – Kumari (Jakes Bejoy)
- Enth Paangh – Padachone Ingalu Katholi (Shaan Rahman)
- Mannum Niranje – Malayankunju (A R Rahman)
- Etho Vaathil – Djinn (Prashant Pillai)
- Yaathonnum Parayathe – Vaashi (Kailas)
- Niramizhikal – 4 Years (Sankar Sharma)
- Pyali – Pyali (Prashant Pillai)
- Thathaka Theithare – Hridayam (Hesham Abdul Wahab)
Kannada films were the toast of India in 2022 – KGF 2, Kantara, Charlie 777, and Vikrant Rona are good enough examples, despite the relatively middling successes of the last two. Barring Kantara, the other 3 were planned as pan-Indian films, quite ambitiously (this applies to Benaras, as well) and this leap of ambition in Kannada cinema is so welcome. Musically, though, no other individual song made so much news as Kantara’s Varaaha Roopam, for good and bad reasons, given the song’s similarity to Thaikkudam Bridge’s Navarasam.
Of course, much water has passed, and much handwringing has been expended in explaining the raaga-based differences between both songs. But from a normal listener’s point of view, the similarity is instantly recognizable, a check used by the Judge in the Krazzy 4 Vs. Ram Sampath music plagiarism case (See point 14). But I’m not going to hold that sword over this song, or over Singara Siriye (for a similar reason) for the sake of the year-end list. No other song, in any other language film industry, in the year 2022, has been as crucial to a film’s plot (and success) as Varaaha Roopam was to Kantara. That’s the complete opposite of the premise I set out in the introduction to this year’s lists, above! And going by the number of songs by Ajaneesh in my top 15 Kannada songs, I continue to place a lot of faith in him for really good music.
I don’t hope much from Arjun Janya anymore these days (compared to his earlier days), but he does surprise me once in a while even in his prolific mainstream work. Judah Sandhy and Anoop Seelin are the other composers I look forward to, in Kannada music.
Composer of the year: B. Ajaneesh Loknath
- Varaaha Roopam – Kantara (B. Ajaneesh Loknath)
- Raaga Sudha – Monsoon Raaga (Anoop Seelin)
- Ra Ra Rakkamma – Vikrant Rona (B. Ajaneesh Loknath)
- Yennegu Hennigu – Ek Love Ya (Arjun Janya)
- Aane Maadi Heluteeni – Guru Shishyaru (B. Ajaneesh Loknath)
- Kanasallu Kaanada – Cutting Shop (KB Praveen)
- Gelathiye – Buddies (Judah Sandhy)
- Singara Siriye – Kantara (B. Ajaneesh Loknath)
- Maayagange – Banaras (B. Ajaneesh Loknath)
- Kaarana Helu – Nodi Swamy Ivanu Irode Heege (Prasanna Sivaraman)
- Meet Madana – Ek Love Ya (Arjun Janya)
- Kannu Kannu Kaadaaduta Irali – Dooradarshana (Vasuki Vaibhav)
- Baruveya – Rupayi (Anand Rajavikram)
- Bytwo Bytwo – Bytwo Love (B. Ajaneesh Loknath)
- Ninnanne Ninnanne – Saddu! Vicharane Nadeyuttide (Sachin Basrur)
As in previous years, my Marathi music listening is rather limited but I enjoyed some even in this limited range. AV Prafullachandra is the one composer I always look forward to and he doesn’t disappoint this year.
- Kojagiri – Godavari (AV Prafullachandra)
- Kaivalyagaan – Me Vasantrao (Vasant Deshpande/Traditional)
- Tu Ani Mi – Zombivli (AV Prafullachandra)
- Chaal Ka Badalaleli – Medium Spicy (Hrishikesh, Saurabh, Jasraj)
- Khal Khal Goda – Godavari (AV Prafullachandra)
- Vithala… Darshan Deun Jaa – Me Vasantrao (Vasant Deshpande/Traditional)
- Nachnar Bhai – Sunny (Souumil – Siddharth)
- Bindiya Le Gayi – Me Vasantrao (Vasant Deshpande/Traditional)
- Bai Ga – Chandramukhi (Ajay-Atul)
- Vinchu Chaavla – Zombivli (AV Prafullachandra)
Like the last 2 years, there is an increasingly good range of music available in the non-film circuit, and the fact that I was able to split it into 4 playlists is a small proof of that.
Also, it’s good to see corporate-sponsored music series like Coke Studio produce good results this year: Roposo Jamroom and ŠKODA Deccan Beats.
Indipop – Hindi
- Mohabbat Zindagi – Mikey McCleary, ft. Lucky Ali
- Main Jee Raha – Roposo Jamroom (Ana Rehman/Jam8 Studio, ft. Jazim Sharma and Shilpa Rao)
- Gagan Dhuan Dhuan – B Prasanna, ft. Bombay Jayashri
- Baaton Baaton Main – Shashwat Sachdev, ft. Anumita Nadesan
- Yaadein Wohi – Arijit Singh
- Laage Re Nain – Paras Nath (recreated bandish), ft. Pratibha Singh Baghel
- Raah Dikha De – Roposo Jamroom (Shubham Shirule and Ana Rehman – Jam8 Studio)
- Tu Na Aaya – Rahi Sayed, Nikhita Gandhi
- Ilzaam – Industry (Arjun Kanungo)
- Tera Saath Ho – Tanishk Bagchi, Ft. Zahrah Khan and Guru Randhawa
Indipop – Tamil
- Parai – Sean Roldan
- Kangal Oya – Sanah Moidutty
- Kannamma – Achu Rajamani, Ben Human
- Muruga – Ku.Sa.Krishnamurthy, Ft. Hamsika Iyer
- Moopilla Thamizhe Thaaye – A R Rahman
- Kaaka Kadha – Vaisagh
- Sellamma – PS Jayhari, ft. KS Harisankar
- En Paathi Neethanadi – Mejjo Joseph
- Edhuvum Kedaikalena – Vaisagh
- Alaipayuthey Kanna – Oottukkaadu Venkata Subbaiar, ft. Anoop Sankar
Indipop – Punjabi
- Takdaa Rawaan – Sachet-Parampara
- Ik Mili Mainu Apsraa – B Praak
- Ranjhé – Ikky, Lavi Tibbi
- Sajni – The Yellow Diary
- Summer High – AP Dhillon
- Out of Love – Raashi Sood, The Raja Kumari
- Goriye – Darshan Raval
- Duawan – Pav Dharia
- Nain Ronde Rehnde – Composed by Ahen Vaatish, Music by Gurmohh
- Vaar – Raashi Sood
Indipop – Assorted
- Tandanano – Maati Baani, ft. Shubha Raghavendra – Kannada
- Rode Rodaale Saam – Jajabori (Papon) – Axomiya
- Sivagama Sundari – Oneness (Guruprasad Subramanian, ft. Revathy Kumar)
- Vasanthi – The Anirudh Varma Collective, ft. Sowmya Gurucharan & Abhay Nayampally
- Avarisu – ŠKODA Deccan Beats (Neehar Kiran Dabade) – Kannada
- Reunion 1 – The Immersive Experience, Vol. 3 (Sandeep Chowta, ft. Abhay Nayampally, Seb Read) – Instrumental
- Aakasham – Aromal Chekaver – Malayalam
- Jhirmar – Kutle Khan – Rajasthani
- Life Ante Challenge – ŠKODA Deccan Beats (Alphons Joseph, Karthik Devaraj) – Telugu
- Mabali Vanne – Onam Song (Gopi Sundar) – Malayalam