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Love Aaj Kal’s songs belong to a blockbuster

Even as the film tanks at the box office, the soundtrack by Pritam is even better than that of Imtiaz Ali's 2009 original

February 18, 2020 07:43 pm | Updated February 19, 2020 01:17 pm IST

Listening to the Love Aaj Kal soundtrack the first time without actually seeing the song titles, it was a pleasant surprise to hear the phrase, “ Yeh Dooriyaan” pop up in the middle of one of the songs, accompanied by that mock-whistle hook. In a recreation-ravaged Bollywood scene, this was one repetition I didn’t mind. Firstly because, the phrase used, has an actual relationship with the director’s older film of the same name. And secondly owing to its tasteful execution, the composer has restricted the repeated phrase to the above-mentioned refrain. Of course, there’s the odd lyrical reference, like “ aa raha paas main ya door main jaa raha ” becoming a more affirmative “ zyaada paas aana hai asal mein door jaana .”

Despite the tasteful execution, the song is still not a match for the original, despite positives like Mohit Chauhan sounding as good as he did ten years ago. There isn’t a lot happening in the main melody, a large chunk is made up of repeating bits, with the effect that the most memorable part of the song remains the part it borrows from the 2009 song. ‘Yeh Dooriyaan’ isn’t the only throwback song of the album – there is also ‘Haan Main Galat’, the ‘Twist’ redux built around that refrain it originally borrowed from the 1954 film Nagin. The latter is a more engaging number than ‘Yeh Dooriyaan’ – an aptly contemporised and equally groovy take on the piece.

There are repeats from the earlier soundtrack: KK who sang ‘ Main Kya Hoon ’ back then, gets an absolute belter here in ‘ Aur Tanha ’. The atmospheric sound with the pensive tune and rock-flavoured arrangement, along with the KK’s evergreen voice (why does he not get to sing more often?) evokes welcome memories of Pritam’s Life In a Metro . Also beautifully employed, are almost gospel choir-esque backing vocals that add to the song. Lyricist Irshad Kamil is in spectacular form with his writing, capturing love’s pain in vivid hues. The chorus comes into play in ‘ Dhak Dhak’ as well – but in a more outlandish fashion, that along with the folk arrangement would make this song a great fit in Jagga Jasoos ’s ‘Mombaka’. It definitely sits at odds with Love Aaj Kal ’s dominant soundscape. ‘ Parmeshwara ’ (or parmesara as the singers pronounce it) is the final song in that category, led as it is by rapper Raftaar. The “anti-commitment” hip-hop piece sees some smart writing. But the number’s highlight is the title hook which is built on an aarti -style tune.

The rest of the soundtrack is Pritam showcasing his talent for immensely hummable melodic pieces or his love for alternate song versions. First up is ‘ Shayad ’ that sees Arijit Singh deliver in his dependable fashion, in both the original version and the more ambient ‘Reprise’. I like the first version better though, for its acoustic guitar-laden arrangement and the flute refrain, neither of which makes it to the other version. Singh is in finer form delivering ‘ Rahogi Meri ’ – but Pritam embellishes the tune with so much more in its second version titled ‘ Haan Tum Ho ’ (the esraj/sarangi in the first interlude is a fabulous touch), and the icing on the cake is Shilpa Rao joining Singh in the song’s second half with a lovely improvisational bit. The duo ends with a harmonised rendition of the opening verse. Darshan Raval and Antara Mitra lead ‘ Mehrama for both its versions. The longer version consists of one added verse rendered by Raval. There is a repeating viola phrase (played by Shirish Malhotra) that deserves a mention, not for the playing brilliance, but for the way it contributes to the wistfulness and is likely to stay in your mind long after the song is done.

There is no question that the 2009 Love Aaj Kal soundtrack has aged wonderfully, and will always be counted among Pritam-Irshad Kamil’s best works. However, for sheer number of quality songs (and fewer Punjabi influences) in this album, I’d rate the new soundtrack higher. It remains to be seen how well , my verdict will stand the test of time. The song release pattern and the movie’s general performance are not likely to help its cause. It’s sad to see Imtiaz Ali gradually enter the league of the likes of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Shaad Ali whose movies get looked forward to purely for their music.

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