Bhardwaj at his best

January 23, 2017 12:30 am | Updated 08:53 pm IST

Director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon based on the life of Fearless Nadia finally hits the big screen nearly 10 years after it was conceptualised. During that period, Bhardwaj has directed four movies, composed for many more, and snagged a couple of National Awards. So it’s no surprise then that hopes ride high on the soundtrack too, which as usual is composed by Bhardwaj and written by Gulzar, with an unlikely guest lyricist for a couple of songs: actor Lekha Washington.

‘Bloody Hell’ has a lot of things going for it: the whip lash indicative of Kangana Ranaut’s Hunterwaali redux, Sunidhi Chauhan’s energy, Gulzar saab’s lyrical motif (angrez mein). The song still comes off as a tad underwhelming. ‘Julia’, which supposedly was the original title proposed for the film, fares better. It’s a song that goes through multiple mode shifts like Haider’s ‘Bismil’, and brings to mind the grand visuals of 90s Subhash Ghai songs. Sukhwinder Singh, Vishal Bhardwaj, Kunal Ganjawala and KK handle the vocals with a brilliantly employed chorus supporting them. Rekha Bhardwaj’s ‘Ek Dooni Do’ is foot-tapping fun. Rekha also leads ‘Chori Chori’, a similarly folksy dance track that carries a more European flavour; the accordion is almost a second voice here.

‘Mere Miyan Gaye England’ is a filmy qawwali that picks up snatches of the ‘Piya Gaye Rangoon’ melody. Rekha is in top form here too, delivering Gulzar’s flippant description of the flight to fight the war. Bhardwaj’s arrangement sounds almost A.R. Rahman-esque at times. The second interlude with the shehnais doling out a seemingly raag Bhimpalasi-flavoured solo is beautiful. ‘Yeh Ishq Hai’, a pensive piece sung by Arijit Singh, is evocative of ‘Dil Se Re’ and is one of the best songs of the soundtrack. Arijit’s fab and the guitar-laden arrangement is haunting. Bhardwaj takes the qawwali route for the female version sung by Rekha. It’s less effective due to a change in arrangement, but it does regain the goosebump-inducing quality in its quieter moments. The ‘Allah Hoo’ segment is the song’s high point. Arijit gets a second, more intense solo act later in the soundtrack with ‘Alvida’. It has almost the same impact as Haider’s ‘Jhelum’, though the song is not as dark. Arijit is at his soulful best.

The background elements are quiet, even uneventful for the first half (barring the unexpected twist of a saxophone solo), but get louder, adding to the song’s intensity.

Bhardwaj and Gulzar pick up ‘Tap Tap Topi Topi’, which they created for the Indian adaptation of the Japanese cartoon series on Alice in Wonderland, and expand it into the whimsical sounding ‘Tippa’. Gulzar retains a large part of the original lines, adding to the song’s quaintness.

In recent times, Bhardwaj has been making more use of jazz in his soundtracks. In Rangoon, he presents two retro pieces, both written by Washington. ‘Be Still’ is a slow burner, riding on Dominique Cerejo’s sensuous voice, while ‘Shimmy Shake’ goes the rock ’n’ roll way and Vivienne Pocha delivers it in style. The short instrumental theme is dominantly Chinese, something that was missing in all the other songs. It’s effective as a theme song, nevertheless.

Call it selfish maybe, but the Bhardwaj-Gulzar team has always reserved its best for Bhardwaj’s own movies. Rangoon is another such work of brilliance.

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