2014 was an average year, musically speaking (of course in my non-academic-no-formal-knowledge-of-music opinion). There wasn’t a whole lot of experimentation or “newness” in the compositions or arrangements. Almost all the usual names played it safe and stuck to their respective strengths (does not automatically indicate that their music wasn’t good). If I had to choose one soundtrack that stood out in experimentation and mixing different genres to a mild success was Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s Kill/Dil (punjabi rock, spaghetti western sounds, Haryanwi folk).
Here are some of my picks of the year.
Zehnaseeb/Hasee toh Phasee/Vishal-Shekhar/Chinmayee, Shekhar Ravijani/Amitabh Bhattacharya
A dulcet tune sung with an equal dose of sweet-ness by both Shekhar and Chinmayee. Vishal-Shekhar leave the instrumentation to a minimum (compared to their other compositions) and Amitabh’s lyrics convey direct emotions, which is unusual for a mushy romantic song such as this. His use of “ameer/garib” reminded me of one of Gulzar’s forgotten compositions from Khatta-Meetha: “tumse mila tha pyar kuch acche naseeb the, hum un dino ameer the jab tum kareeb the“.
Patakha Guddi/Highway/A R Rahman/Jyoti & Sultana Nooran/Irshad Kamil
Earthy singing, earthier poetry, and a soaring tune – this song is a thing of timeless beauty. After a few meddling soundtracks (Lekar Hum Deewana Dil), Rahman struck back with a soundtrack which grows with repeat listening (just like the movie, which remains one of my favorite movies of the year). Irshad Kamil’s words are lit with a sense of wild abandon – his metaphor for a firefly as “patakha guddi” (firecracker doll – damn it the translation shits on the essence once again) is brilliant. I love the song in its entirety but the lines that have me in a tizzy are:
Rasta naap rahi marjaani,
Patthi baarish da hai paani,
Jab nazdeek jahaan de aani,
Jugni maili si ho jaani..
(this damn girl wanders a lot,
this naughty one is like rain water,
as soon as she gets near the world
this firefly of a girl will be dirtied..)
Now, if you haven’t seen the movie, these lines are the definition of the Alia Bhatt character – Heera.
Heera/Highway/A R Rahman/Shweta Pandit/Sant Kabir
Santoor, flute and Oboe and Sant Kabir’s beautiful words. Listen to this with your headphones on, it sends me in a trance everytime. Who knew we would listen to Kabir in a hindi movie in 2014?
London Thumakda/Queen/Amit Trivedi/Labh Janjua, Sonu Kakkad, Neha Kakkad/Anvita Dutt
The entire soundtrack of Queen is exquisite, regardless of the fact that some songs remind you of Amit’s previous work (such as Kinaare = Naav from Udaan). While his music stands on its own merit, I am surprised how he teams with film directors who weave his music seamlessly in their films, and Queen is no exception. Every song flows with the narrative and establishes a mood for the characters and the situation they are in. This boisterous song right in the beginning of the movie creates a personality of Rani which no amount of dialog and scenes would have : she is giddy about her upcoming wedding, she is shy but open to a bit of mischief, she adores her family (watch out for the glances she throws at her parents). Anvita Dutt’s lyrics are fun and inventive where she blends London landmarks (Big Ben, Trafalgar, Southhall) with earthy Punjabiyat, effortlessly. I swear, if this one doesn’t get you shaking your hips, well then I must say, you are not invited to my party.
Raanjha/Queen/Rupesh Kumar Ram/Rupesh Kumar Ram/Raghu Nath
A minimalist song, about heartbreak and that crushing pathetic feeling of having been chewed and spit out by the one you loved the most! The lyrics, the singing pack a massive emotional wallop on their own but are also mighty effective on the screen as well when Rani is dumped by her fiancé and her whole world has been turned inside out. I do not know who this Rupesh Ram is, but I hope we get to hear more of him. On an aside note, watch Kangana go through the stages of an emotional breakdown in this song from a state of shock to utter despair – she has her lips slightly open and a blank stare at the beginning of the song – she is still digesting the shock of being dumped – and then gradually her eyes well up and her grief comes out in uncontrollable spurts in the rickshaw, but she holds it in since she is not the kind to have a breakdown in a public space, then she arrives at her home where the wedding decorations are now almost mocking her and seeing her family she is at once engulfed in self-pity, shame, embarrassment (for them and then for herself), and not to mention a bleeding heart which is about to explode any second. This song to me is the “hook” scene of Queen, this is where we as the audience undergo the pain that Rani is going through and want her to come out of this, the rest of the movie is all about us rooting for her. A false note in this scene would dampen the impact of her tragedy, and Kangana hits all the right notes. After this scene, we are on Rani’s team all through the end – cheering her through her adventures.
Aaj laagi laagi nai dhoop/Ankhon Dekhi/Sagar Desai/Kailash Kher/Varun Grover
A small song from a small film that went unnoticed. If I had to choose my favorite film of 2014 – it is this. This song is a perfect summary of the journey of the central character of the film – Babuji. Babuji decides that in this duplicitous world, he is only going to believe things that he sees with his own eyes – literally. Everything else he considers as fictional. In such a state, all attached and perceived meanings from all objects are erased and what remains is matter in the purest form. The song is an allegory for Babuji’s transformation in “seeing” the world with a renewed sense of truth.
ke deekhe dhuli saaf man ki chadariya,
bina daag sari dagariya,
duson disha aaj sawariya liye naya roop,
aaj laagi laagi nayee dhoop..
Bismil/Haider/Vishal Bharadwaj/Sukhwinder Singh/Gulzar
At the outset, let me say, this is my favorite soundtrack of the year. The Gulzar-Vishal team delivered after the not-so-great-but-still-decent soundtracks of Ek thi daayan, Matru ki bijalee ka mandola, and Dedh Ishqiya. Haider is based on Hamlet and this song is a play within the play where Hamlet(Haider) enacts the murder of his father to an audience of his Uncle Claudius (Khurram) and mother Gertrude(Ghazala). It cannot get any more meta than this! Gulzar’s lyrics narrate the story with all the violence and melodrama but with a Kashmiri core, since Vishal’s adaptation is set in war-torn Kashmir (yes, I choose to say “war” and not “terrorism” – why? that’s for another time). Vishal’s composition is also laden with Kashmiri sounds and instruments and Sukhwinder sings with the required gusto, angst, and pathos. On a completely aside note, if I had to ever choose a top 10 list of best choreographed and directed song sequences of Hindi cinema, this one will certainly be on the list.
Khul Kabhi/Haider/Vishal Bharadwaj/Arijeet Singh/Gulzar
Arijeet Singh is going from strength to strength. In another year, Vishal would lend his own voice to this trademark slow burning jazz song, but I am glad he let Arijeet sing this one, and boy does he deliver. The melody and his voice are like soft snow-flakes falling lazily without so much as a whisper.
Gulon mein rang bhare/Haider/Vishal Bharadwaj/Arijeet Singh/Faiz Ahmed Faiz
This old classic ghazal penned by Faiz and sung in the past by such stalwarts such as Ghulam Ali and Mehendi Hassan is reimagined by Vishal in his own style and sung once again by Arijeet Singh without feeling burdened by the history of this ghazal.
Aao Na/Haider/Vishal Bharadwaj/Vishal Dadlani/Gulzar
A grunge rock song in the same soundtrack that delivered Bismil, Khul Kabhi, and Gulon mein rang! Vishal Bharadwaj – you can write, you can sing, you can work the camera, you can compose in almost every genre – what the fuck man? Is there anything you can’t do? Oh yes, you can’t sing rock – that’s when you get Vishal Dadlani to fill that handicap. And sure this other Vishal can open up his throat for this kind of a sound without breaking a sweat.
Kill Dil/Kill/Dil/Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy/Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam/Gulzar
S-E-L, Shaad Ali, and Gulzar team up once again quite successfully with their third outing after Bunty aur Babli & Jhoom baraabar Jhoom. Just like the previous soundtracks, here too they manage to create an environment and imagery with their sounds and words. I have not seen the movie, so can’t comment on how the songs flow with the narrative. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t say that this is a stellar soundtrack, but it is interesting and daring enough to make me revisit some songs. The title song is definitely one of the tracks I play often – Shankar and Sonu Nigam seem to be having a lot of fun with this one.
Sajde/Kill/Dil/Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy/Arijeet Singh, Nihira Joshi-Deshpande/Gulzar
Arijeet had hit it big with Ashiqui 2, but honestly I thought those songs were inundated with sounds and words to force feed an emotion – a very 1990’s approach to film music. With 2014, he got to sing with long established composers like Vishal and S-E-L. Two very different camps of composing and he excelled in all the songs that were dished to him. While he sang Vishal’s slow songs with aplomb, he hits the high & low notes in this excellent composition by S-E-L. He is ably supported by Nihira Joshi – the last I heard her was in Salaam-e-ishq where she sang the remixed version of Babuji Dheere Chalna. BTW, that sound of hitting a tennis ball in this composition is a quite innovative, no?
Before I wrap this post up, let me talk about Gulzar. This year he wrote songs for three movies – Dedh Ishqiya, Haider and Kill/Dil – movies that could not be any farther apart from each other and, in all of them his poetry adapts to the starkly different worlds of these movies. This man has been writing for Hindi cinema since 1956, that’s just 3 years short of 50 years . Think about that for a minute. This consistency and commitment to ones art at the ripe age of 80 is remarkable – that he manages to convey the emotions of the characters (less than half his age most of the times) is miraculous. Gulzar-saab, I am lucky to have lived in the times when you have been around. Your words bookmark events of my adult life. Wrapping up 2014 with these lines from one of your creations :
kuch bhi nazar na aawe
ankhiyon mein jaala lage re
dil waali naukari ne maara….
zindagi uljhaa hua sauda hai,
umrein leta hai ek pal dekar,
I can’t see anything (without you),
my eyes are covered with cobwebs,
this job that my heart does (of loving) has ruined me..
life’s such a tangled transaction,
it takes away a lifetime from you by giving a single moment….
i have gone insane..insane..completely insane!