Begum Jaan's music fails to make an impression

In the last few years, composer Anu Malik had practically been written off mainstream Bollywood despite consistently composing at least one soundtrack a year. Since then Malik made his comeback with that whopper called ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’ from the 2015 Dum Laga Ke Haisha. Now after a year’s break, the man returns with Srijit Mukherji’s Hindi debut, the Vidya Balan-starrer Begum Jaan which is set at the time of India’s Independence. Mukherji’s Bengali version of the film, Rajkahini had been worked on by one of our finest contemporary composers, Indradeep Dasgupta. It’s a bit of a mystery that Dasgupta hasn’t made his foray into Bollywood like Anupam Roy has done with Piku, Pink and Running Shaadi.

But let’s get back to Malik’s work on Begum Jaan. Asha Bhosle’s presence behind the mic is the nostalgic touch to the melodic ‘Prem Mein Tohre’ (seemingly based on raag yaman, just like ‘Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’), but her voice, ripe with age and experience, takes away from the experience of listening to the track. Given that Kavita Seth is generally great with ghazal-flavoured songs, there’s an unsaid expectation from her to ace the track’s reprised version. The two are pretty much the same, with just different vocalists. The song does have a nice melody though, and a neat job on the arrangement front by composer Malik and arranger Hitesh Modak – particularly with the use of the rabab/oud – makes sure the song doesn’t sound dated. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of the soundtrack.

The high point in ‘Aazaadiyan’ is the shehnai in the backdrop that produces some excellent solos, but the song is a daunting listen otherwise. Its length, which is nearly seven minutes, only stacks up against the track. Even Sonu Nigam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s singing, while on point, only adds to the ennui (Khan, especially). ‘Holi Khelein’ ought to be celebratory, but it too offers nothing special. Shreya Ghoshal is brilliant for her part, joined by composer’s daughter Anmol Malik. Despite a layered arrangement with multiple folk instruments, the song fails to make a mark. Kalpana Patowary and Altamash Faridi’s ‘O Re Kaharo’ fares relatively better – the melancholic tune carries some appeal in spite of sounding familiar.

Begum Jaan’s soundtrack is quite plainly inadequate and that’s without making a comparison with its Bengali counterpart.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 4:38:53 PM |

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