Bombay Showcase

Traditional beats with a twist

The soundtracks for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films are special. He’s one of the directors whose work still embraces the old-fashioned idea of Hindi film music, no matter how uncool it has become over the last decade. His relationship with his music, the way his narratives are built around his imaginatively and audaciously staged songs, has remained the same (or has become more prominent) since his first film Khamoshi.

Earlier, Bhansali was known to be a filmmaker with a great ear for music. But things have become particularly interesting ever since he has started composing for his films as well – Guzaarish and Ram Leela, where he delved into the folk sounds of Goa and Gujarat.

Bajirao Mastani is special not for it being his third attempt at composing music. It’s also important because it ventures into another cultural sphere – Maharashtra. BM’s first track Deewani Mastani is a gorgeous showpiece, where Marathi folk tunes blend beautifully with qawwali. It’s not a earworm at the first go, taking time to lay its hooks with a convoluted structure, but its rich rhythm section’s playful dhol is a vintage Bhansali touch.

Aayat is a well-intentioned, earnest song but I couldn’t get over the fact that it sounded like a wannabe Laal Ishq, the divine tune from Ram Leela. Both performed by Arijit Singh, the songs have a similar structure and feel. It’s seems like Aayat is an aftermath of Laal Ishq, created out of the regret that the terribly underrated song didn’t get its due – both in the film and with listeners.

Malhari is the Tattad Tattad (Ram Leela) equivalent of the album, possessing a raucous energy with Ranveer Singh displaying his histrionics in front of a crowd in the promos. Vishal Dadlani does a fine job channeling the requisite adrenaline-pumping male voice as always, but its first impression is that of familiarity. It also lacks the easy hummability of the predecessor.

Mohe Rang do, a semi-classical number is a showcase for singer Shreya Ghosal. There’s more in store for Hindustani fans in two other songs. With Albela Saajan, Bhansali revisits himself. He had famously recreated this Ustad Sultan Khan bandish in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. While the previous one was more of a reimagination, this sounds rather plain, following the original obediently.

Aaj Ibadat opens like a morning raga – the Mangalam bhagwan Vishnu mantra is used to great effect. This is again classic Bhansali, a devotional love song bathed in the sort of purity we associate with another era of Hindi cinema. Javed Bashir’s texture and vocal artistry brings forth an ethereal quality. Ab Toh Jaane Na Doongi is Bhansali, the composer at his sublime best and my favourite from the album. The trademark shehnai, the melancholy female voice, the effect is almost ghazal-like. It reminded me of the stunning Ab Mujhe Koi from Ishqiya. The bit sung by Shreyas Puranik, initially sounds like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, but is melodious and magical. This one is a perfect representation of the new and old Bhansali coming together.

In Pinga, Ghosal brings in a slight Marathi tongue in a Hindi song, especially in the mukhra. It follows a standard format, culminating into a decently catchy but heard-before hook. Like a lot of Bhansali songs, I’m expecting this to blossom on the big screen when we watch the film. Fitoor takes off from another Marathi folk song, Vaishali Made, another Sa Re Ga Ma Pa find by Bhansali, just like Ghosal, manages to bring into a song her own personality. Sukhwinder’s robust, spirited singing in Gajanana is the kind of performance that makes or breaks a song. And it transforms Jaidev Jaidev, a popular devotional song addressed to Ganpati, into a powerful battle cry.

Bajirao Mastani is a good mix of old and new Bhansali. Its chartbusters are not its best songs, but its the subtler compositions that differentiates BM from your average Hindi film album.

Bajirao Mastani is special because it ventures into another cultural sphere — Maharashtra

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 12:16:49 AM |

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