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Riding on expectations

Vintage Ajay-Atul folk and a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy soundtrack in want of quality singing

It has been a week of a double bill of expectations: two talented sets of composers, fresh off the success of some exceptional recent work. Just a fortnight ago, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy (SEL) had come up with the brilliant Mirzya. This week, it is the trio’s soundtrack of Rock On!! 2, a sequel to the widely successful 2008 film. Then there’s Marathi composer pair Ajay-Atul who’s back with Jaundya Na Balasaheb, after having delivered one of their most successful soundtracks ever, earlier this year with Sairat.

Rock On!! 2

As with the first film, here too it is all about the movie’s main man, Farhan Akhtar, singing multiple songs. While his singing worked as a novelty factor back then, it weighs the soundtrack down in Rock On!! 2. One of the songs where he does relatively better is ‘You Know What I Mean’, a track reminiscent of ‘Socha Hai’ from the first Rock On!! It is as effective thanks largely to the guitar work. Akhtar manages nicely in ‘Jaago too with Siddharth Mahadevan on harmonies. However, the rest of the track isn’t as impactful, despite the energetic arrangement. The composers’ lovely melody and an equally gorgeous guitar-laden arrangement had the potential to make ‘Manzar Naya one of the soundtrack’s best, but for the lacklustre singing.

Akhtar’s last song is a duet with the movie’s leading lady Shraddha Kapoor, another prominent vocal presence in the soundtrack. She does a pretty decent job of delivering ‘Wo Jahaan’. The song also features, in its interlude, a brief Raag Bhimplasi-ish cameo by sarod player Soumik Datta, whose absence to me was one of the biggest disappointments regarding the soundtrack. Given that the film’s teaser had one of the band Magik’s members introduced as a sarod player, I expected to hear a lot more of the talented British-Indian classical musician.

Kapoor sounds better in her other two songs: ‘Tere Mere Dil’, which is only marred by its heard-before feel and the excellently executed ‘Udja Re’, where the lady’s singing is punctuated by Shankar Mahadevan’s nuanced repetition of the title phrase, in an interestingly processed voice.

Ishq Mastana and ‘Hoi Kiw Chalo Chalo are the soundtrack’s most richly orchestrated songs. ‘Ishq follows on the lines of SEL’s ‘Bol Beliya’ and the like, carrying a similar dark vibe and Punjabi elements, but more of rock. There is some excellent singing by Digvijay Singh Pariyar, who sang earlier in ‘Katti Batti’ for the trio. ‘Hoi Kiw’ is the soundtrack’s best: SEL collaborating with Shillong band Summersalt, infusing Hindi lyrics (sung splendidly by Usha Uthup) into their highland music from Khasi hills, which could very well pass off as an Irish drinking song!

A soundtrack that would have worked much better if it had more quality vocals.

Jaundya Na Balasaheb

Nagesh Morwekar is outstanding in ‘Dolby Walya’, matching the song’s craziness and energy perfectly, even as Ajay-Atul concocts a heady mix of percussion-heavy folk music and electronic elements in the backdrop. The accelerated electronic coda with the chipmunk-ish voice is an overkill though. ‘Bring It On’seems to be a sort of reprise to ‘Dolby’: the melody and percussion-laden arrangement are both similar.

The pacing here is even crazier, at times lending the song an almost unsettling level of energy! Ajay Gogavale handles the vocals, doing a fine job of it.

Gogavale lends his voice to two more songs: ‘Gondhal and ‘Vaat Disu De’. As is obvious from its title, the former is set to the format of the Marathi art form, and is very folky with the Ajay-Atul trademark orchestral diversion during interludes. Gogavale is in great form here too delivering the raag todi-flavoured devotional piece, with able support from the chorus.

In ‘Vaat Disu De’, we have the song of the soundtrack, a melodic piece that once again bears testimony to the composers’ love for folk. The melody here carries a slight south Indian flavour (a whiff of Carnatic ragam Ananda Bhairavi at times, it seems) and the sprawling soundscape features some beautiful violins, which in combination with the percussion at times takes one back to ‘Sairat Zaala Di’. The singing is once again top notch; and Gogavale is joined by Yogita Godbole here.

The retro-styled ‘Mona Darling’goes through multiple mode shifts in four-and-a-half minutes. The first of it is handled by Suman Shridhar, a sprightly segment that starts in an almost O.P. Nayyar-esque fashion.

The baton is then passed on to Shreya Ghoshal and then Sonu Nigam turns the track into a filmy waltz piece, delivering it in style. Kunal Ganjawala brings the song to a close amid an explosion of horns. In fact the brass section is put to good use throughout the song.

Ajay-Atul’s music here is largely on the lines of what they are known for, and the result is once again supremely engaging.

Vipin Nair writes about music on his website MusicAloud.com and curates music on Apple Music as MusicAloud

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 1:26:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/Riding-on-expectations/article14648716.ece

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