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2015 music

2015 was a more satisfying year for my musical tastes as compared to 2014.  There was a good mix of sounds and genres – Jazz: Bombay Velvet, Semi-Hindustani Classical and Marathi folk: Bajirao Mastani, the sound of the 90s: Dum Lagaa ke Haisha and Tanu Weds Manu Returns, etc. Two of my favorite composers produced albums so rich and flavorful, that I was drenched in their compositions for months – Amit Trivedi’s Bombay Velvet and A R Rahman’s Tamasha. The year ended on a stellar note with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s exquisite compositions for Bajirao Mastani! Every song from this album (yes, including the much maligned Malhari) is replete in creating an atmosphere that is suitable for the tonality of the movie.

With that, here’s the list of some of my favorite songs of the year, not in any particular order.

Legend: Song/Movie/Composer(s)/Singer(s)/Lyricist

Maati ka palang/NH 10/Samira Koppikar/Samira Koppikar/Neeraj Rajawat

I had never heard this song until it made its presence felt while watching the movie, and does it make an impact – a perfect cathartic outlet for the scene where Anushka is mowing down the goons who have tormented her until then. I was screaming inside “kill the fuckers”!

Moh moh ke dhaage/Dum Lagaa ke Haishaa/Anu Malik/Papon, Monali Thakur/Varun Grover

A wonderful throwback to the sound of the 90s, and who is better equipped than Anu Malik for it? I especially loved the use of flute and shehnai in this song.

Journey Song/Piku/Anupam Roy/Anupam Roy, Shreya Ghoshal/Anupam Roy

The music of Piku had a feel of life passing by along with all of its mundane details and occasional smiles and tears! This song evokes a sense of journeys complete and incomplete, of an open endless highway and the warmth of a cozy home, of dreams realized and the ones that weren’t.

Mann Kasturi/Masaan/Indian Ocean/Amit Kilam, Rahul Ram, Himanshu Joshi/Varun Grover

The sound is quintessential Indian Ocean, and works mighty well for one of my favorite movies of the year set in Benares. Varun Grover’s writing for the movie and this little song left me longing for more. The poetry digs deep in the existential dilemma (no breaking news that this is a topic that I mull over quite a lot) with lines so achingly beautiful, they literally made me weep the first time I heard them:

Khoje apni gandh na paawey
Chaadar ka paiband na paawey….

Agar tum saath ho/Tamasha/A R Rahman/Alka Yagnik, Arijit Singh/Irshad Kamil

Two words: Alka Yagnik. She was everywhere in the 90s and early 2000s, I liked a number of her songs but really started to look forward to her songs once she started singing for Rahman. To me there is an Alka before Rahman and another Alka after Rahman. Taal, I think was the first time she sang for Rahman. Taal, Lagaan, Swades, Yuva, Meenaxi, The legend of Bhagat Singh, Guru – she brought to life a number of Rahman’s compositions. Hearing her again after many years in this heartbreaker of a song gave me goosebumps. I must have listened to this song at least 20 times in a row. Her voice has aged but her singing is as ethereal as it was in Taal or Guru. Not to mention the lyrics – meri taraf aata har gham fisal jaaye, agar tum saath ho – you could almost touch Tara’s pain (the name of the character played beautifully by Deepika Padukone).

Safarnama/Tamasha/A R Rahman/Lucky Ali/Irshad Kamil

Aah another singer who hasn’t been heard in ages, whose voice is suited for only a few kinds of songs – Lucky Ali. Safarnama is a Lucky Ali song! His voice evocatively conveys wide open spaces, and has an illuminating quality to it! And tired as it may sound, the song spoke to me also because the poetry talks about the journey of life and existence  – jisse dhoondha zamaane mein, mujhi mein tha.

Aayat/Bajirao Mastani/Sanjay Leela Bhansali/Arijit Singh/A M Turaz

There is poetry, then there is grandiose poetry. This song is dripping with delicate yet epic declarations of love – the kinds of which was heard quite regularly in the poetry of the songs from the golden age of Hindi cinema – the 50s and 60s – for example the songs and poetry of the likes of Mere Mehboob and Mughal-e-Azam!

Tujhe yaad kar liya hai aayat ki tarah, Kaayam tu ho gayee hai riwaayat ki tarah..

Sanjay Leela Bhansali brings back the ethos of this era in his music for the entire album whether it be Mohe rang do Laal, Deewani Mastani, or Ab tohe jaane na doongi – every one of them are rooted in an Indian-ness which has become a rarity in today’s film music.

Albela Sajan/Bajirao Mastani/Sanjay Leela Bhansali/Shashi Suman, Kunal Pandit, Prithvi Gandharva, Kanika Joshi, Rashi Raagga, Geetikka Manjrekar/Siddharth-Garima

Now this one is not an original, the song was used previously in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. The reason I chose it, is for its arrangement, for its synchronous singing by all the singers and above all the way it has been shot. The overhead shots of women with pooja thalis, Kashibai brimming with excitement of her Rao coming back to Shaniwarwada after years on the battlefield, and the image of her waving a gigantic saffron flag is a sight that I won’t forget for a long time. This song is a rare combination of all parts coming together to create an intensely pleasurable sensory experience.

Dhadaam Dhadaam/Bombay Velvet/Amit Trivedi/Neeti Mohan/Amitabh Bhattacharya

Bombay Velvet is my pick for the soundtrack of the year. I had the opportunity to meet Anurag Kashyap this year, and in a Q&A session he mentioned how difficult it was for him to digest the mega failure of this film which he has been a dream project of his for over a decade. With Bombay Velvet, for the first time, he was working with big stars and a big budget, a massive canvas, a period film, only to crash and burn quite spectacularly at the box office. The failure of the film has done a dis-service to its music, which in my opinion is one of the best soundtracks to have come out in the recent years. Just like Anurag has been working on this film for years, Amit has been at the helm of its music for an equally long time. I won’t say that he transported me to the 50s/60s Bombay Jazz clubs, since I do not know what that felt or sounded like, BUT he successfully does manage to create a sound which ‘may’ have been the sound of that era, that place, that time. Neeti Mohan gets to do most of the crooning and while I loved all songs, I am picking Dhadaam Dhadaam merely for the way it conveys the pain of longing and the despair for a love lost. Singing aside, just read the lyrics of this song and they sound un-composable. Not entirely in the same league as the lyrics of Mera Kuch Saaman from Ijaazat, but close enough.

Darbaan/Bombay Velvet/Amit Trivedi/Papon/Amitabh Bhattacharya

The entire album has only two songs sung by male singers, this one and Mohit Chauhan’s Behroopia. Darbaan is all about broken dreams, of dashed hopes, of defeat! The slow guitar, piano and clarinets combined with Papon’s defeated, drunken voice compliment each other tragically.

Move on/Tanu Weds Manu Returns/Krsna/Sunidhi Chauhan/Rajshekhar

What a refreshing turn on the tropes of dard bhare songs of yore, where the protagonist used to mull over his/her lost love until eternity. The opening lines of the song announce this anti-dard-bhara-ness with aplomb:

O re piya re ghis gaye saare dard bhare nagme, ab rap-wap sa rock-wock sa bajdaa rag rag mein…Move on move on move one move on..

It’s basically saying “fuck the past and move on”! And to declare this we need a voice with energy and rebellion. Well, only Sunidhi Chauhan can rock this sentiment, and as expected she delivers. In the film, the song is picturized on Tanu when she receives a divorce notice from Manu and in a moment of snap defiance goes on a spree of meeting her lovers of a pre-Manu era – signifying her desperate attempts to “Move on”. Much later in the movie we see a devastated Tanu walking alone with a glass of whisky on a deserted village lane in the middle of the night to the background of “Ja ja ja ja bewafa” (from the 1954 film Aar Paar sung by Geeta Dutt) – the very kind of dard-bhara song that “Move on” mocks at! A wonderful way to show us the bravado of Tanu in the “Move on” song. She is nothing but a skin-deep rebel!

O Saathi Mere/Tanu Weds Manu Returns/Krsna/Sonu Nigam/Rajshekhar

Tanu Weds Manu Returns has an innovative song with lyrics entirely in English – “Old School Girl” which is sung in an Indian and a Western accent. While the song is topical and beautifully shot in the movie, I didn’t find myself tuning to it without the visuals. The Old School Girl song speaks about the old school-ness of the Kusum character. O Saathi Mere echoes the old school sentiments of eternal/forever companionship woven to an old school melody. I guess when it comes to old school-ness, I prefer the music, the lyrics and the singing to be actually old-school.