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Time for the yearly list of my favorites in film music. They are listed in no particular order and are drawn from what I managed to get my hands on.

Mirzya/Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy/Gulzar

Mirzya is my favorite album of the year. The year was full of pedestrian music from the likes of Ankit Tiwari, Mithoon, Amaal Malik, Badshah, etc. It’s unable to tell one song from another – be it in composition or the vapid poetry. With Mirzya, Shankar Ehsaan and Loy redeemed the year with an album full of grandiose and daring compositions. Aided by Gulzar’s sublime poetry every song shines uniquely. Sounds that blend in Rajasthani folk with techno (Chakora, Hota hai), Hindustani Classical with Western symphony (Kaaga). The overall effect not only brings an auditory bliss but also paints a visual with its soundscapes. While I like all songs from the album, a few of my favorites are:

Doli re doli: Shankar Mahadevan spills his heart out in this take on the girl-leaving-her -father’s-abode genre song. Set to a New Orleans jazz/brass sound, the song tugs at my heartstrings. And then there is this poetry,  just makes my heart bleed dry:

बारा मास खिलायो बाबुल
सावन झूला झुलाओ बाबुल
नैना रैना काटी मैया
लोरी गान सुनाओ बाबुल
चौखट पार जो पैर धरे तो
तो मैं लेन-देन चुकाओ बाबुल ..

Gulzar saab – Never stop writing, please!

Hota hai: The energetic singing by the Nooran sisters had me literally jumping out of my chair the first time I heard it. Sarangi, Dholki, & Ghungroo meet techno for an hypnotic effect.

Ek Nadi Thi: Opens with the Nooran sisters’ alaap, followed by Mohan Kannan’s voice which fills the room and then the a cappella joins them. The three sounds play with other deftly to create an effect of three rivers gushing into each other. The “nadi(river)” is a metaphor for Sahibaan who was torn because she wanted to hold on to her family and her love (which her family was against) at the same time: एक नदी थी दोनों किनारे थाम के बहती थी…

Aave re Hitchki: Shankar’s voice along with the chorus, guitar, and sarangi create an ecosystem of their own in this addictive melody. Gulzar’s poetry is a throwback to that now forgotten notion that a hiccup (hitchki) is an indicator that someone (someone beloved) is thinking of you! This song takes me to places and times I had forgotten (and that to me is the success of any art-form: transport me somewhere away from my current state).

Sairat/Ajay-Atul

Sairat zala ji:Chinmayi Sripada-Ajay, Attach baya ka:Shreya Ghoshal, Yad lagala:Ajay

These three songs of Sairat had me in raptures. Ajay-Atul have always shown a penchant to using Western Symphonies in their music in the past, but the way they have used them in Sairat is unprecedented – strings, woodwinds, brass, horns & percussion – all of them blend in seamlessly with the Marathi-ness of the lyrics and the base melodies. The soundtrack is an example of the “language” of music . Each track is tender and rousing at the same time. Also, the production design of this soundtrack is astounding: listen to the original tracks with decent headphones and I swear to Mozart, if you aren’t swept away in the interludes of “Sairat zala ji” or “Yad lagala”, you are dead inside, DEAD!

Fitoor/Amit Trivedi/Hone do Batiyaan: Zeb Bangash, Nandini Srikar/Swanand Kirkire

Two estranged lovers or two estranged nations, Swanand Kirkire’s poetry applies to both situations. Nandini and Zeb lend a conversational quality to this delicate melody – which is what Swanand’s words are all about: होने दो बातें होने दो बतियाँ. Amit blends Kashmiri/Pakistani/Afghani musical instruments like Saz, Santoor, Rubab to create an atmosphere relevant to the situation in the film (the song is filmed at a Indo-Pak unity concert).

Ikk kudi/Udta Punjab/Amit Trivedi/Shahid Mallya/Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Thanks to the makers of Udta Punjab to breathe new life into Shiv Kumar Batalvi‘s work and remind the youth of today about this forgotten poet. Ikk kudi has been one of his most recited/recorded poems and it worked beautifully in the narrative of Udta Punjab. Amit’s composition has tranquility and Shahid Mallya sings Batalvi’s beautiful words with great sadness and passion.

Channa Mereya/Ae dil hai Mushkil/Pritam/Arijit Singh/Amitabh Bhattacharya

Arijit Singh is everywhere! 9 out of 10 of his songs sound the same, the texture of his voice is the same and the lyrics are more or less the same. Not his fault, all popular singers have at one point in time made the most of their popularity (or the lack of it) by singing most anything that came their way – Lata, Rafi, Asha, Kishore from the golden era to Kumar Sanu, Alka Yagnik, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan in the more recent past. So kind of unfair to call him out, but it is so.

Once in a while, however comes a song that is not merely an Arijit song, but is elevated by beautiful words. In Channa Mereya, Amitabh Bhattacharya’s poetry towers over everything else. Amitabh, in a short span (he started with Aamir in 2008), has written an immensely diverse set of lyrics and has become a leading filmy poet of this decade (in my opinion of course).

Channa Mereya is about unrequited love – it reeks of the songs from yore – the kind that were once mouthed by the likes of Guru Dutt or Rajendra Kumar – full of self pity and the stabbing aches of a love that has slipped away.

अच्छा चलता हूँ, दुआओं में याद रखना
मेरे ज़िक्र का जुबां पे स्वाद रखना

दिल के संदूकों में मेरे अच्छे काम रखना
चिट्ठी तारों में भी मेरा तू सलाम रखना

अँधेरा तेरा मैंने ले लिया
मेरा उजला सितारा तेरे नाम किया, चन्ना मेरेया मेरेया

Pritam’s composition opens with a melancholic mood in the above lines and traverses into full on ecstatic pain mode in the end:

तेरे रुख से अपना रास्ता मोड़ के चला..
चन्दन हूँ मैं अपनी खुशबू छोड़ के चला..

मन की माया रख के तेरे तकिये तले
बैरागी का सूती चोला ओढ़ के चला…..चन्ना मेरेया मेरेया

Massive emosional ride this one!

Haanikaarak bapu/Dangal/Pritam/ Sarwar Khan & Sartaz Khan Barna/Amitabh Bhattacharya

In the same season that Amitabh writes Channa Mereya, he writes these words:

टॉफ़ी चूरन खेल खिलोने
कुलचे नान पराठा
केह गए हैं टाटा
जबसे बापू तूने डाटा
जिस उम्र में शोभा देते मस्ती सैर सपाटा

उस उम्र को नाप रहा है
क्यूँ घडी का कांटा!

तेल लेने गया रे बचपन
झड गयी रे फुलवारी
कर रहे हैं जाने कैसी
जंग की तैयारी
सोते जागते छूट रही है
आंसू की पिचकारी
फिर भी खुश ना हुआ मोगाम्बो
हम तेरे बलिहारी

तेरी नज़रों में क्या हम इतने नालायक हैं

रे तुझसे बेहतर तो अपनी  हिंदी फिल्मो के खलनायक हैं
बापू सेहत के लिए…तू तो हानिकारक है

If you have’t seen Dangal, these words may not make a whole lot of sense. But if you have, these words neatly summarize the predicament of the Phogat sisters. It would have taken miles of film-stock to explain their condition. (Ok, Nobody uses film anymore, but you get my point!) Amitabh gets  into a child’s head and uses words that are very much from a child’s world, and then adds the local flavor of Haryana by using the lingo of the region. The song combines wit (fir bhi khush na hua mogambo), innocence (churan, toffee, sair-sapata, paratha, etc.) and yet maintains a natural poetic meter. Pritam’s composition and the singers compliment Amitabh’s words to create an overall satisfactory listening/viewing experience. I find myself with a smile on my lips and my heart every time I listen to this one!

Gilehriyaan/Dangal/Pritam/Jonita Gandhi/Amitabh Bhattacharya

What a departure this song is from Hanikarak or Channa Mereya in which Amitabh tackles the feelings of an adolescent girl who is discovering the joys of being a normal/free girl.

रंग बदल बदल के क्यूँ चहक रहे हैं दिन दुपहरियां?….मैं जानू ना जानू ना जानू ना जानू ना
क्यूँ फुदक फुदक के धडकनों की चल रही गिलहरियाँ?….मैं जानू ना जानू ना जानू ना जानू ना

The song is shot on the older Geeta Phogat who is living away from her strict father’s watchful eye for the very first time. She is seeing the world around her in a whole different perspective. Amitabh’s choice of words are delightful  – gilehriyaan, maskara, teheniyaan, zayka, kechehriyaan – which demands Pritam’s composition to have a lilting inquisitiveness to it. Jonita Gandhi’s soft vocals complete the overall effect – you can sense Geeta’s freedom, longing, joy, skepticism, and effervescence. Maan gaye Amitabh!

Kho gaye hum kahaan/Baar Baar Dekho/Jasleen Royal/Jasleen Royal, Prateek Kuhad/Prateek Kuhad

Jasleen Royal owns this simple melody with her textured voice and a simple composition. I first noticed her voice in Preet from the under-rated Khoobsurat from 2014. Her voice has a feel of stark honesty to it – hard to explain what I mean by that, but it’s like she is singing (or rather humming) right next to you without any technical aids. In Hindi it can be explained as “Gaati nahi hai bus gungunaati hai“. In Kho gaye hum kahaan, it’s this gungunaane waali quality that won me over.

 

Mai ri Mai/Parched/Neeti Mohan, Harshdeep Kaur/Hitesh Sonik/Swanand Kirkire

Neeti Mohan, who rocked 2015 with her full-throated singing in Bombay Velvet is a different singer in this delicate composition by Hitesh Sonik. Harshdeep Kaur, also known for her vocal heft (Katiya karoon from Rockstar, Heer from Jab tak hai jaan, Nachde ne saare from Baar baar dekho), joins her with the same cadence. An interesting choice of singers by Hitesh Sonik (who is  Sunidhi Chauhan’s husband and an assistant/arranger for a number of Vishal Bharadwaj’s albums).