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Great expectations, satisfying results

Fitoor comes with great expectations, not just because it is an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic; more relevant, it is the second outing of Amit Trivedi, Swanand Kirkire and Abhishek Kapoor after Kai Po Che. That album had just three songs, but went on to become one of the most memorable Hindi film soundtracks of the recent past. It also launched an exciting composer-lyricist-filmmaker team who seemed to have a flair for producing songs that are fresh and potent while staying very much within the contours of traditional Hindi film music.

Fitoor has seven tracks. And as in Kai Po Che, where the music emerged from its Gujarat milieu, this one infuses elements of the folk musical traditions of Kashmir, the film’s setting.

The title song, Yeh Fitoor Mera, though, has nothing Kashmiri in it musically, if one doesn’t consider the Urdu-heavy lyrics. It’s a singable Hindi-rock ballad punctuated by grand orchestral melodies; there are flashes of the sweeping Lootera soundtrack here. The choice of Arijit Singh as singer is understandable in a song where passions run high, but it comes with the programmed Aashiqui 2 feel; I’m not sure if it’s the Arijit-overkill or the seemingly conventional hook, or both. Yet, Yeh Fitoor Mera isn’t entirely conventional. The hook, that seemed so expected, doesn’t exactly land on a safe, convenient note; intead, it lands on a fine thread of melody and lyric, an expression like parvardigara. In spite of all its merits, the song is perhaps my least favourite of the album.

The central melody of the next track Pashmina is as exquisite as the rich Kashmiri wool it uses as a metaphor. Over the first few listens of the shortened promo versions, I wondered if a Mohit Chauhan would have been a better choice for the vocals rather than the over-exposed Trivedi. But listening to the entire track, I am sold on the free-flowing energy he brings in, going into slightly euphoric directions such as the falsetto as he croons .. .chalta rahoon.

The unmistakable strings of the rubab recalls Kashmir in Haminastu, with Zeb Bangash singing the famous Persian couplet Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast / hamin asto, hamin asto, haminast (If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here). And it’s not until the antara, Yeh veerane, yeh sannate, that you realise the personality that the Pashtun singer brings to the song, like a gypsy lady with a slightly foreign accent. And as the percussion pulsates, the song moves like the steady gallop of a free horse, without any of the typical elements we associate with Trivedi’s sound.

If you can’t have enough of Bangash, she’s back in the next, Hone Do Batiyaan, joined by Nandini Shrikar. They complement each other, like soul sisters singing a playful folk song. The production gives it a Coke Studio feel, but the song goes beyond that, even invoking the lilting sweetness of an obedient Lata Mangeshkar oldie.

At this point, the album shifts to another kind of mood with Tere Liye, a simple pop-rock number. Jubin Nautiyal’s rock-tinged stylish vocals remind me of the full-throatedness of Papon’s voice. It’s standard stuff but, overall, a nice easy listen and a welcome touch of variety in the album.

Next comes Rangaa Re, with two versions: in Hindi with Sunidhi Chauhan’s vocals, and in English with Carelisa Monteiro (with Trivedi being the constant). A track almost entirely made up of electronic music, it is the most pleasurable song of Fitoor . The EDM used here is in moderation, but to great, trance-like effect: a lesson to other composers who make it sound so generic, thinking flashy arrangement could substitute for melodic depth.

The EDM interlude in Rangaa Re may even make you want to move your body to the song’s relaxed, trippy rhythm, as it did to a non-dancer as me. Sunidhi Chauhan’s familiar sensuality is comforting, while Monteiro’s faint English verses are as seductive, lending it a nice, nocturnal vibe. And point as we may at Trivedi’s limitations as a singer, he makes it work with inventiveness, soul and a little bit of reverb. This one’s for the loop.

There is rarely a dull moment in the Fitoor album.

There is always a surprise around the corner, whether it is the unexpected arrival of an uncommon phrase or a vocal extemporisation you didn’t see coming. With Kirkire’s simple but rich lyrics, Trivedi’s soulful melodies and some excellent singing, Fitoor is an immensely enjoyable album that lives up to expectations.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 10:21:35 PM |

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